Updated: Aug 17
The best telescope is the one you will use the most
Your kids are showing a lot of interest in astronomy and stargazing. You think that a telescope could help grow their curiosity and ignite their passion for science and technology. Unfortunately, there are many choices in the market, which can make finding the right telescope very confusing.
How much should I spend?
What objects am I going to be able to see?
Will it be easy to use for my kids or even for myself?
How easy will be to find planets and deep-sky objects, like galaxies, nebulae, or globular clusters?
How much space will take at home when I am not using it?
Will it fit in my car when I go camping?
I’m going to provide some directions to identify the most suitable telescope for you and/or your kids. Before getting into many details, you should know that the best telescope is the one you will use the most.
Observing the Moon and the planets
If you want to see the Moon and the planets, a small refractor will reveal a nice image of the craters of the Moon and some details of Jupiter and Saturn. If you have more budget, you may want to consider a larger refractor or a compact catadioptric like a Maksutov-Cassegrain or a Schmidt-Cassegrain. Those telescopes are more expensive and can deliver a much higher magnification, which makes them ideal for solar system observation.
Be aware that the maximum magnification that you should consider is 2 times the diameter of the telescope aperture in mm. For example, a telescope with 90mm of the aperture will deliver a magnification of x180. Very cheap telescopes are usually advertised by really high magnification rather than by the aperture. Stay away from those telescopes!
Observing Deep Sky Objects
Planets and the Moon are very cool, but soon you and your kids will get bored of observing just a few objects. The next natural step will be to explore a list of Deep Sky Objects (DSO), which is almost endless. My recommendation for DSO (and also suitable for observing planets) is to consider a Newtonian telescope with at least 150mm of aperture, ideally 250mm. If you have more budget, you can consider a catadioptric like a 180mm Maksutov-Newtonian or a 250mm Schmidt-Cassegrain with a focal reducer.
Ideal telescope mounts for beginners
The ideal telescope mount for a beginner is alt-azimuth. That is because the eyepiece always stays in a comfortable position. With an equatorial mount, the eyepiece’s position can be challenging, especially for a Newtonian telescope. Equatorial mounts are mandatory for astrophotography and, from my point of view, are not the best option for beginners.
The most popular type of alt-azimuth mount is Dobson because it is cheap and easy to manage, even for a kid. Unfortunately, a Newtonian telescope with a Dobson mount (a.k.a. Dobsonian) can be quite heavy and bulky. The 250mm Dobson teles