With the end of the year fast approaching, it is certain that some children will receive a gift of a telescope this Christmas. Whilst a decent telescope is a wonderful gift, that can fire the imagination of a child, filling them with wonder and appreciation for the world around us, a poor quality telescope will achieve nothing but frustration. Unfortunately, this time of year there will be many poor quality telescopes,masquerading as the real deal.If the telescope packaging contains promises of “astronomical telescope” and claims like “up to 500 x magnification”, exercise extreme caution. Telescopes with descriptions like this are often not suitable for observing the sky, and if presented as a gift, may kill any budding curiosity about the night sky. A good telescope on the other hand, need not cost the earth, and can give many years of pleasure.
Here are some simple rules to follow when shopping for a telescope.
1. If it looks like a toy it probably is.
2. If the packaging makes claims like “up to 500 x magnification” and “astronomical telescope”, exercise extreme caution.
3. The tripod or mount is as important as the telescope. If it’s any way flimsy or unstable, leave it in the store.
4. Don’t rush into a purchase, talk to someone who knows about telescopes or astronomy. If you don’t know anyone, then feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org for advice. Do send a picture or link to the telescope.
5. If buying for a child, will they be able to operate the telescope themselves? WIll an interested adult be available to help?
6. Do buy a guide book or download a sky guide/ planetarium app.
A decent starter telescope will offer wonderful views of the Moon and it’s craters, will show the phases of Venus, the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn as well as numerous star clusters, galaxies and nebula. What a wonderful gift to give to a child. Keep an eye out on the supermarkets that offer weekly specials. Often they can bring in decent telescopes at good prices.