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Best Telescopes for Kids and Adults: Buying Guide for Beginners

Updated on December 12, 2014
Celestron 21045 114mm Equatorial PowerSeeker Telescope - Available at Amazon
Celestron 21045 114mm Equatorial PowerSeeker Telescope - Available at Amazon

Buying the Best Telescopes for Kids and Adults

Telescopes for kids and adults make the ultimate gift for those who love to star gaze.

What better way to cultivate a hobby and lifelong passion for the science of astronomy than to present someone you care about with their very own telescope!

Now if you've spent any time searching around for telescopes, you'll know that they are not exactly cheap to buy. However, they will become one of the most prized and treasured possessions for any astronomy fan.

If you're buying a telescope for a child, you can take reassurance in the fact that you are making a one off investment into that child's education.

Another benefit of buying a telescope as a gift for a child is that it opens the doors for parents to spend more precious times sharing an activity and fun hobby with their children. This sure beats kids zoning out in their rooms with video games or other electronic toys.

While it is tricky finding the best telescope, you may find this guide as a useful resource to help you make the right choice.

This guide will focus on 2 of the most popular types of telescopes - the reflector telescope and the refractor telescope; both of which are suitable for beginners both young and old.

Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro Telescope - The best starter telescope for kids

Orion 10015 StarBlast 4.5 Astro Reflector Telescope (Teal)
Orion 10015 StarBlast 4.5 Astro Reflector Telescope (Teal)

A good inexpensive telescope for children or adults who are just starting out in astronomy.

The telescope is powerful enough to get a good view of lots of planetary objects including galaxies, nebulae and star clusters.

It has a 1.25" eye piece and comes pre-assembled - making this a great starter scope.


The Reflector Telescope

Buying a telescope

This type of telescope uses curved mirrors which are located at the rear of the scope. The mirrors used in these scopes are thin in the middle and thicken out towards the edges.

This scope works by collecting light via large aperture 'tubes' reflecting it down the shaft of the telescope and onto the mirror. These rays of light bounce of the mirror to create an image which is seen by the observer.

While reflector telescopes are great beginners scopes they tend not to be as powerful as the refractors, although they do make the best types of scope under certain circumstances.

If you or the person you're buying for live outside the City where planetary objects appear dimmer, your best option is to buy a reflector scope. This is because reflector scopes have a larger light gathering source than refractors and as a result their performance excels under dimmer viewing conditions.

Another thing to consider before buying one of these types of telescopes is that there is very often more maintenance involved. ie. mirrors need to be aligned and cooled to a certain temperature before seeing optimal results.

Budget Telescopes for Children

Telescope kids

When shopping for a child, it's often tempting to opt for a 'toy' telescope. Try to resist this urge.

They'll only get frustrated at not being able to see anything through the scope and ultimately think that all telescopes are lame. This may very well result in their interest in astronomy coming to a grinding halt. Try to get them the best 'real' telescope that fits within your budget. Or perhaps start them out with a pair of kids binoculars.

It's understandable that you'll be little hesitant to spend a lot of money on an item when you're not sure whether their interest is just a passing fad that will be short lived.

If that's a concern, you may want to take a look at the following selection.

These are very basic first telescopes for kids that will give them a good taste of astronomy, without breaking your bank balance.

Things to Consider When Buying a Telescope for Kids - Best telescopes for kids

  1. Age appropriateness and manageability - Make sure you get something children can handle, move, assemble and carry by themselves. If you buy a telescope that is too bulky or heavy to carry, the child may feel as though they aren't capable of working the scope themselves as they'll constantly need your assistance.
  2. Durability - Will the scope withstand bumps, knocks, scraps and falls? If you're going to spend money on an expensive piece of kit for a child, make sure it's durable and rugged enough for the job. Get the right telescope and it will last many years.
  3. A good eyepiece - You'll want to buy a scope with an eye piece of 1.25".
  4. Secure mount - The scope needs to be held steady in order for effective viewing. A mount that is unable to support your scope will limit the viewing capacity and enjoyment your child has with their telescope.

The Refracting Telescope

Telescope buying guide

Refractor telescopes are renowned for capturing high quality images of the moon and other planetary objects. They're also great telescopes to use by day for terrestrial viewing.

These scopes work by bending light through a convex glass lens (thick in the middle, tapered out towards the edges) which is located at the front of the telescope.

The light rays are forced to pass through the lens and converge at a main focal point which is then viewed as an image through the scope.

Refracting telescopes do make excellent starter scopes, although when comparing like for like models with reflectors, the refractor scopes often work out to be more expensive.

If you live in built up urban areas with lots of light and don't want to drive too far out of the City to enjoy the scope, then these would make the best telescopes for you.

Telescope Buying Tip

The ability to gather light is affected by the diameter of the telescope's lens or mirror (the aperture).

A 70mm objective lens collects 100 times as much light as the human eye. An 8 inch telescope boosts the vision by nearly 1000 times.

The larger the telescope aperture is, the bigger, brighter, and sharper the image.

So go for as much aperture as your budget will allow!

Buy Discounted Telescopes on eBay - Buy telescopes cheap

Sometimes you can find a cheap telescope on eBay.

Buying a telescope is an expensive affair, so do make sure you have done your research on the scope you want before placing a bid on something that 'looks' like a good deal on eBay.

As a beginner try to stick with recognizable brand name scopes such as Orion, Meade, Celestron, Tasco and Zhumell. These brands have a solid reputation for producing quality, ensuring that you're not left with some unknown, inferior 'dud' scope.

Buy Astronomy Books for Kids and Adults - Great paper resources for stargazers

Have you ever bought a telescope for kids? Are you an adult who is interested in astronomy and thinking about buying your first telescope?

Share your experiences here.

Do you have an astronomer in your family?

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