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How to choose a telescope to look at the Moon

Posted by Jonathan Milnus on



When I was a boy, watching the moon from my attic room was like taking a peek at an almost reachable neighboring kingdom. It kept me dreaming and gave color to the duller things in life. I guess for most astronomy fans the first and strongest fascination for the objects in the night sky started with the Moon. Some of them were way past adolescence when they drew, measured and named lunar landmarks.

Trying to reach for the moon with a telescope is both ambitious and instructive for a beginner, or at least it was for me. You get a satisfying feeling as you identify lunar surface features and learn things in the process, helping you become a professional amateur, to say so.

So if you want to chase the moon, you should start by getting a map of our beautiful satellite. There are a few lunar maps that have normal and reversed versions. That’s because many astronomical instruments provide you with an inverted (things are upside down) or a reversed (mirrored) image of the objects in the sky.

I won’t give you a full description of all possible telescopes; you don’t need all that. But there are a few things that could help you to reach a decision and it’s good to get acquainted with them from the start.

There are three basic types of telescopes: refractors, reflectors, and catadioptrics. The refractors are the ones you probably saw in movies and cartoons, and it’s basically a pirate’s spyglass with a larger glass lens. They have a longer tube with a lens that collects lots of light and an eyepiece that brings the sharp, detailed image to your retina.

The reflector was Sir Isaac Newton’s invention. He didn’t like the colors in the refractor (actually, I think he didn’t have enough money), so he scrapped the lens and used mirrors instead. They usually have larger apertures, so you’ll have a better image of the planets or deep space and finer tunes.

Catadioptric telescopes are a combination of lenses and mirrors, much more compact thanks to that, but the image isn’t the best you can get.

Considering that you can see the rings of Saturn with a 75X magnification, observing the moon or the planets doesn’t require anything fancy.

In my opinion, you should choose a refractor telescope. It doesn’t need cleaning or realigning and provides you more details and contrast. That’s what matters most when you are trying to get familiar with ridges and craters on moon’s surface.

In fact, you can even go for a binocular, given that it has a compact design, it’s lighter and easy to carry and offers steadiness for the untrained hand of a beginner. Plus, who knows, you might get to see some uncharted territory in your own neighborhood. A 7×50 gives you enough magnification power to go to the moon and back.

I hope this post is helpful and makes it easier for you to decide on the instrument you want to begin your quest with.

Enjoy your journey!