Introduction to telescopes
Telescopes allow you to do two things: Zoom in to see details in objects, and to see things that are too faint to see with the naked eye. Although it's obviously important to be able to zoom in to celestial objects, you'll find that increasing the brightness is equally (if not more) important.
If you're thinking about buying a telescope, you'll need to think about spending a reasonable amount of money. Second-hand telescopes are fine if you can't afford a good new one. Just don't go for a cheap new telescope—you’ll almost certainly be disappointed.
Learning to use a telescope is a process, sometimes a long one. You don’t just read the instructions and start discovering new comets. You'll begin by trying to find the easiest objects, then working your way from there to the more challenging ones.
Many people struggle and get frustrated when they first try to use their new telescope. Don't worry when this happens to you, it's quite normal. Be realistic and start by trying to the find the Moon—it may be harder than you think. If you can get a nice view of the Moon, you've taken the first step. From there, try to line up the brightest stars and/or planets. Be patient with yourself, and don't be scared to ask your local astronomical society if they offer practical help.
Once you get a bit of confidence, here are some things you can do with a backyard telescope:
- See lots of details on the Moon.
- See planets as disks rather than points of light.
- See the phases of Venus.
- See the Rings of Saturn.
- See some of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.
- See nebulae and galaxies.
- Discover new comets and asteroids, and get them named after you.
- Undertake a variety of serious astronomical research.