How to Choose the Right Accessories for Your Telescope
Choosing the right accessories for a telescope is one of the harder things for the first-time buyer to get right. When you buy your first scope the range of equipment, names, bits and pieces and all that other craziness can seem very arcane and confusing. Altazimuth? Wasn’t that a character in an H.P Lovecraft story? What does an equatorial mount do? And why is a rack-and-pinion focuser only used on Newtonian telescopes?
If all this jargon is enough to give you a headache, then it’s best to remember that as an amateur astronomer, the basics will suffice. Pick a good mount, a decent viewfinder, decide if you want to add a drive system in to the mix, and select the best eyepiece for you. Of course, if you’re somewhat more advanced, then use your own discretion. The most important thing is to find piece of kit that works for you, try before you buy wherever possible, and always buy from reputable retailers.
So, back to choosing the correct kit. First up is the mount. A mount is absolutely vital to operating a telescope, unless you like resting it on your shoulder like a child pretending he has a bazooka. Be it a camera tripod or a proper altazimuth or equatorial mount, it needs to have some basic features.
First up, the heavier and more stable the mount is, the more it will prevent image bobble, the astronomers’ bane. Some mounts are so flimsy that even walking in their general vicinity is enough to cause bobble. Secondly, make sure it is easily portable, and can be stored in whatever storage space you have available. Some tripods can be excessively bulk and hard to manage.
Equatorial mounts allow for drive motors to be fitted, but require a lot more skill and patience to align than the more freehanded altazimuth mounts. Ask your local dealer for a demonstration to really get the gist of how they operate.
Viewfinders allow the operator to locate the general area of space in which he wants to focus, making it easier to find the exact object he is looking for with the main scope. Look for anything with infra-red capabilities, as these can make a huge difference to visibility on a poorly-lit night.
Lastly, when picking an eyepiece, remember that the longer the focal length, the wider the field of view but the weaker the magnification. Avoid just about anything shorter than a 1.25-inch eyepiece, as these tend to be shoddily made and not very accurate.
Remember, if you get stuck, never be afraid to look around a few telescope shops and ask for advice.
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