(Frequently Asked Questions)
Q: I'm looking to buy an inexpensive telescope. Which one should I get?
A: Purchasing a telescope is a personal preference. It all depends what kind of observing you'll be doing. If you will be using it for planetary, then a refractor is the best bet. If you want to do deep-sky observing then a reflector is your best bet. The brands that I recommend are Meade and Celestron. There are other telescope manufacturers but these two are able to handle the casual users as well as the hard-core observers. I would also suggest that you join or visit a local astronomy club. Many colleges have clubs or can guide on where one might be. Clubs can be very helpful in you choosing the correct telescope. Please follow this link for some VERY good advise about purchasing your first scope or purchasing a scope for a child.
Q: Where do I look to watch a meteor shower?
A: Meteors appear ALL over the sky not in just one place. The best advise I can give for watching a meteor shower is to look UP. Take a blanket or lounge chair and lie on your back watching the sky. You'll see meteors shooting across the sky from all different angles. Just remember to stay warm.
Q: What is the maximum magnification for my telescope?
A: The magnification, or power, at which a telescope is operating is a function of the focal length of the telescope's main (objective) lens (or primary mirror) and the focal length of the eyepiece used.
The focal length of the objective lens is the distance between the lens and the point at which it brings light rays to a focus; this focal length (in millimeters, or mm) is printed on a label affixed to the optical tube of most telescopes. The focal length of each eyepiece (which typically ranges from 4mm to about 40mm) is printed on the upper surface of the eyepiece. To calculate power, divide the focal length of the eyepiece into the focal length of the objective lens.
Example: If a telescope has an objective lens focal length of 1000mm; when this telescope is used with a 25mm eyepiece, a power of 1000 / 25 = 40 power (written as "40X") results.
When buying a telescope one of the least important factors to consider is the power, or magnification, of the instrument. The key to observing fine detail, whether on the surface of the Moon or on a license plate one mile in the distance, is not power, but aperture - i.e., the diameter of the telescope's main (objective) lens or primary mirror. The power at which a telescope is operating is determined by the eyepiece used. Within reason power is useful, [but the most common mistake of the beginning observer is to "overpower" the telescope and to use magnifications which the telescope's aperture and typical atmospheric conditions can not reasonably support.] The result is an image which is fuzzy, ill-defined, and poorly resolved, through no fault of the telescope. Keep in mind that a smaller, lower-power, but brighter and well-resolved, image is far superior to a large, high-power, but dim and poorly resolved, one.