Where can you use the scope you chose?

You also need to juggle two more Ps – the P of a scope's Portability and the P of light Pollution. A 16" Dobsonian "light bucket" might be appealing if you're interested in deep space observing – but not if you livein a tenth floor apartment in a light-polluted city. Hauling the 170 pounds of a66" long Dobsonian downstairs and then out to the dark skies that it has to have in order to work best can be a major undertaking.

So match your astronomical ambitions to the light pollution and seeing conditions where you’ll be observing most often; to the accessibility of the dark sky observing sites you can get to; and to your strength and transportation (vehicle size) limits. Don't overbuy – either in size, weight, or price. Choose a scope you can carry and set up by yourself in case your spouse or significant other can't or won't go with you. See our FAQ on "How big a scope do I need?" for some insights on telescope size.

A smaller telescope that sets up quickly for an hour of backyard observing – instead of watching another Star Trek rerun or Monday Night Football – can satisfy your astronomical interests for years. There's a lot of sky to see, even with a modest aperture scope. And be sure to observe favorite objects frequently. The more you look, the better trained your eye will become, and the more you'll see in those old friends every time you look. A better-trained eye can also find unfamiliar objects more easily and will see more detail in those objects once they’re found.

Use the charts covering the Ps of Purpose ( What Telescopes Are Suitable ) and Performance ( What Can You Expect To See ) to pick the telescope types and sizes that match the kind of observing you want to do most. Then use the Where Can You Use The Scope You Choose (Portability and Light Pollution) chart below (plus your own common sense) to see which of those scope sizes and types rates the highest for ease of transport so you can easily get it to the observing site you'll use most often. You can print out hard copies of the charts by clicking on the “Printer Friendly” icon at the top right of each page to make referring to them easier.

Be realistic – about how much time you can spend setting up or maintaining a scope, about how convenient (or inconvenient) it's going to be to get your scope to your observing site, and about how important photography or other specialized requirements are to you. The tabs above that will take you to sections on “Why buy a reflector . . . refractor . . . catadioptric” scope that will give you much more detailed information on the pros and cons of the various telescope types once you’ve made your preliminary choice.

PORTABILITY AND LIGHT POLLUTION – WHERE CAN YOU USE THE SCOPE YOU CHOOSE? AND HOW EASILY CAN YOU GET IT THERE?

Refractors and Reflectors Will the instrument usually have to be transported to the observing site? Will your observing mainly be done from a light-polluted city or suburban location? Will your observing mainly be done from a dark sky rural or country location?
60mm (2.4")
or 70mm (2.75")
to 7" refractors
Usually easily transportable under 4" in size; increasingly less so above that size. Good lunar/planetary performance 5" and under if a glare-reducing filter is used, 6" and up require light pollution filter for deep space observing. Excellent all-around scopes, particularly in 4" and larger apertures. Lunar and planetary observing will usually require eyepiece filtration in larger apertures.
4.5" to 8" equatorial and Dobsonian mount reflectors Easily one-person transportable. 6" and 8" are a tight fit in compact cars, except hatchbacks with a fold-down rear seat. Good lunar/planetary performance, but limited deep space performance without a light pollution filter. Excellent all-round performance, particularly in 6" and 8" apertures. Lunar/planetary observing usually requires filtration.
10" and larger equatorial and Dobsonian mount reflectors Transportable, but often two people and an SUV or minivan are needed to cope with the larger sizes. Light pollution limits performance. Not recommended if you must observe from a light polluted site, unless you can justify the purchase by taking it frequently to a dark sky site. Superb deep space performance under dark skies. Lunar and planetary use requires filtration.
Catadioptric Telescopes Will the instrument usually have to be transported to the observing site? Will your observing mainly be done from a light-polluted city or suburban location? Will your observing mainly be done from a dark sky rural or country location?
3.5" to 7" Maksutov-Cassegrains
and 5" to 9¼" Schmidt-Cassegrains
Transportable in any size car, although larger sizes may be a heavy and inconvenient lift for one person. Good all-around performance, but a light pollution filter needed with larger sizes for deep space observing. Very good all-round performance under dark sky conditions. Lunar and planetary use requires filtration.
10" and larger Schmidt-Cassegrains Transportable in an SUV or minivan. Often will fit in a sedan, but may be difficult to fit into a car trunk and may need two people to set up. Light pollution limits performance. Not recommended if you must observe from a light polluted site, unless you can justify the purchase by taking it frequently to a dark sky site. Superb deep space performance under dark skies. Lunar and planetary use requires filtration.
Binoculars and
Spotting Scopes
Will the instrument usually have to be transported to the observing site? Will your observing mainly be done from a light-polluted city or suburban location? Will your observing mainly be done from a dark sky rural or country location?
35mm to 77mm
binoculars
Easily transported. Adequate deep space and lunar performance from most locations. Adequate deep space performance in 50mm to 77mm sizes. Less useful in 42mm and smaller.
80mm and larger astronomical binoculars Easily transported. Adequate deep space performance in cities, but best under dark skies. Good deep space performance, particularly on open clusters and larger nebulas.
Refractor spotting scopes on a photo tripod Easily transported. Limited astronomical use, primarily lunar. Limited astronomical use, primarily lunar. Deep space use very much limited by aperture.
Catadioptric spotting scopes on a photo tripod Easily transported. Limited astronomical use, primarily medium power lunar and planetary. Acceptable lunar and planetary, but deep space use limited by aperture.

Once you've finished juggling all the Ps and selected the telescopes that suit your Purpose, Performance, Portability, and Light Pollution requirements best, then the fifth P comes into play – the very important P of Price. There, juggling your budget – and our discount prices – may well make the final choice for you. Since you will probably want to add some extra eyepieces and accessories to start with, be realistic about your total budget, as well. Don't spend it all on a scope and leave yourself with no money for a much-needed second eyepiece, Moon filter, AC power supply, etc.

If you have trouble deciding on a scope or accessory, or you have some requirements not covered in the charts and the information pages on this web site don't give you all the answers you need, write us or give us a call toll-free at (800) 422-7876. We'll be happy to answer any questions you might have.



. . . our 34th year