Re: (IAAC) FWD: What should I buy?

>I am interested in deep sky observing. I have about $400 dollars to spend
Hi, Netzer, and thanks for writing! I can give you my answers to your
query, but you'll also benefit from other opinions! So I took the liberty
of forwarding your email to the 'netastrocatalog-announce' discussion list.
You should get more replies from other subscribers soon.
Now to answer your question: the first thing I'd invest in just starting
out is a decent pair of binoculars, and a good bright-star atlas. These
between them will give you years of enjoyment. (I still use my binoculars,
more often than I use any telescope!) More importantly, they'll help you
learn your way around the crowded sky season by season. Then when you do
invest in a larger instrument, you'll know exactly where to point it, and
you'll also be wonderfully surprised at the improved views a larger
aperture gives you.
As for which binoculars to buy, there are actually several sites on the Web
with information (websearch for "telescope faq" and "binocular faq"). There
is also an article from one of last year's Sky & Telescope issues (if you
don't already subscribe to S&T, do!). And of course you should always seek
the advice of more experienced local amateurs... And by the way, if you
DON'T already belong to a local astronomy club, join one as fast as you
can! I know there are several active, friendly groups in the Toronto area.
In a club you can try out other people's equipment, learn the sky with
them, and enjoy doing it!
Still, if you think you already know the sky pretty well, and would like to
jump to a larger instrument, you should think about the following things:
how dark are the skies where you most often observe? How often will you be
able to get away from home after dark, to see fainter objects at darker
sites? Are you interested in other things besides galaxies and nebulae:
star clusters, multiple stars, variable star observing (for science or
fun), planetary observing, solar, etc.? How comfortable will you feel
taking care of your telescope (cleaning, mechanical, collimating the optics
if necessary)? How much help will you have using your telescope (from
family or fellow amateurs)? How portable will you find each of the scopes
you're considering, if you have to break them down, transport them, and set
them up by yourself?
All these questions should go into your decision of which scope as best for
you. As for my personal preferences, the answer is always first portability
(because the BEST scope if the one you use the most!), and then Aperture
Aperture Aperture (because no amount of optical quality can make up for a
small primary - just my opinion!)... But your interests and needs may be
totally different, so think hard: be sure that your first start with
optical aids will open as many windows as possible onto that spectacular
universe out there.
Clear skies, and PLEASE write us back with any questions! Just email:
(Later, maybe you'll enjoy subscribing to the list too.)
Lew Gramer
Medford, MA, USA