Not long ago, the modern world celebrated the 400th anniversary of Galileo Galilei's invention of the telescope. While telescopes have come a long way from the original eight-powered telescope, the purpose is still the same — to gaze out into the universe and see what's new, what's present, and contemplate just exactly how a person fits into the puzzle.
If you are reading this post, chances are, you're looking for a good, economical telescope with which to gaze into the night sky from your own backyard. Maybe you want to learn more about astrology so you can impress your geek friends with your knowledge; maybe you are envisioning fun family evenings teaching your kids about the constellation Draco while sipping hot chocolate; or maybe you just want something to do.
While you may think that stargazing as a casual hobby necessitates only a very small, very inexpensive telescope, it's probably worthwhile to spend a bit more money on a better model. The better the telescope, the more enjoyment you are likely to get from the experience.
The Orion SpaceProbe 130ST EQ Telescope ($299.95) has received positive reviews, and the Orion company is heralded for great customer service, easy to use telescopes, and an informational and educational Web site.
The Meade 90 Az-Adr 90mm A-Series Alt-Azimuth Refractor Telescope (list price $299) features a 3.5 inch/ 90 mm aperture, which is really the minimum aperture you want, especially for backyard viewing where you will be contending with light pollution. Online reviews indicate that this telescope is also easy to setup, a must when you are anxious to get out and start gazing.
For just a little more money, you can get a Meade 114EQ-AR Equatorial Reflector Telescope ($199) with a 4.5 inch/ 114 mm aperture. Plus, the Meade Web site makes it easy to find and purchase additional accessories as your hobby interest blooms, meaning you're more likely to get more use out of this beginner telescope.
Local astronomy resources
If you are still nervous about choosing a telescope, or would generally like more information about stargazing, I recommend hooking up with your local Astronomy Club. You're sure to find helpful people who are eager to help a newcomer enjoy the world above us, with none of the heretical stigma that Galileo suffered.
If there's a telescope that you recommend for backyard stargazing, please tell us about it in the discussion.
Nicole Bremer Nash is Director of Content and Social Media for HuTerra, where she uses SEO and social media to promote charitable organizations in their community-building and fundraising efforts. She enjoys volunteering, arts and crafts, and conducting science experiments at home. Nicole has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Transylvania University, and has experience in copywriting for education, print, business, and the web. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter via @HuTerra.