You can get great quality telescopes without spending a lot of money but the more you can spend the deeper into space you'll be able to see. The price differences from model-to-model are so small you'll have to set your cap early on.
Step 2. Refractor vs. Reflector.
Refractor telescopes, like the one used by Galileo, use lenses to do the magnifying. Refractors that have high quality glass lenses, such as the Meade and Celestron brands, have great color quality and can view great distances. They are also the best choice for land viewing because, unlike the reflector telescopes, refractors will not flip the image upside-down. However refractor telescopes will cause a mirror image but there are lenses made to correct it. Refractors are also very durable and can easily be thrown over your shoulder to take camping.
Reflector telescopes use mirrors instead of lenses to magnify the image. One example is the Hubble telescope which is a giant reflector. Mirrors are less expensive the manufacture so you can get greater magnification for less money. However they do flip your image upside-down which makes them a poor choice for viewing across land. It is also possible to knock the mirrors out of alignment if handled roughly so they do better being used from home.
Step 3. Computer or Manual Control.
One complaint we hear from customers is they can't find anything in space to look at. That's where computer-aided telescopes have made a great improvement in the hobby. With a computerized telescope you take 2 minutes to calibrate the telescope to where it is looking at the sky, then you simply tell it what you want to look at and it does the rest. This also makes space photography come out a lot better.
The decision to purchase a computerized telescope is mainly a financial one. If you have the extra money, a computerized telescope is one of the best investments you can make. If you've got $500 to spend, for example, you'll have to go to a slightly smaller telescope to afford the computer system for it. The choice is yours.
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