What is a telescope? how it works, and what to look after when choosing a kid's telescope?
The telescope is an incredible instrument. It can be a gift and a great educational hobby. There is no doubt that your kids will find it fun and interesting. Alas, you probably don’t know much about it... there are so many different types and kinds. how will you know which of them is fit for your children use? what is a reasonable price of a good telescope for kids? One thing I can assure you already know - after reading this article you won't have any questions.
Over the next few paragraphs I plan to give you a glimpse into the beautiful world of telescopes in general, and of telescopes for kids in particular. Forget everything you know about telescopes, follow me and you will be able to make a well informed purchase of your children's telescope.
Lesson #1: no compromising!
Before we begin, you must understand - a telescope is not a toy! Even if it’s a gift for your children. Your children are developing their curiosity, they are now exploring their hobbies and interests. Now it’s all up to you, you can either make the worst choice, go to the closest department store and buy a cheap toy telescope that will be boring and teach your child nothing. Or, you can invest some time and money, learn which telescope is most appropriate for your child, buy from a trustworthy brand, and own an instrument that will be fun and educational for the whole family
Lesson #2: you may find it interesting too!
From this moment on you are your child's expert. You must lead them hand by hand throughout the whole process, from assembling the telescope to the observation itself. This shouldn't be any big deal for adults, since the telescopes in this site are aimed for children. But, I highly recommend that you learn the basic principles of the branch before the whole process, in order to prevent unwanted frustration from your children. The next few paragraphs written specifically for this reason.
A short theoretical introduction:
The telescope allows us to view distant objects by collecting as much light as it can. Each telescope has it’s own light collecting component - either mirrors or lenses. The factor that determines the light obtaining ability called the aperture diameter. A bigger aperture will provide a better image with more detail.
Then what is the component that determines how “strong” is the telescope, or how “far” it can look? It's not a factor that should interest you, first because it's depends on the eyepiece that we use, and we can put any eyepiece we wish, and secondly, because the magnification is eventually limited by the size of the aperture. In other words, we can increase the magnification as much as we want to, but if the light collecting ability of the telescope (the aperture diameter) won't be big enough, we will get a blur image.
In other words, we need to adjust the magnification to the aperture limits.
There is a simple formula to calculate what is the biggest magnification we can get for a given aperture diameter and still get a clear image:
The maximally effective magnification=the aparture diameter in millimeter×2
For example, for a 70mm telescope, the maximally effective magnification is 140. Very simple.
As we said, the aperture eventually determines the “quality” of the telescope,but even a big aperture is useless when combined with a bad tripod. When you observe a distant object with high magnification, every little vibration is very magnificent. When using a bad tripod in large magnifications, the natural vibrations may be very frustrating and it will be very hard to focus on your object.
The last factor that the observation quality depends on, is actually an external one, and that is the atmospheric conditions, or the “seeing”. Air pollution, or light pollution are both bad for observations. How can we deal with that? just by getting far as we can from city lights, and pollution. Moreover, most of the stargazing sites located in high places for their thin air.
As we can see, the aperture is very important, but there are external factors that we can’t ignore. I think that dealing with every little factor can be very pointless, but it is clear that we have few factors to consider always when choosing a telescope, and planning stargazing. In conclusion:
Mount and stabilization
Those are the most important factors. A good observation done with a large aperture,on a stable mount under good seeing.
When regarding children's telescopes we have few more requirements that also very important to consider like portability and ease of use. But do not panic - all the reviews in this site built in attempt to answer all the requirements and do this job for you.
How much to invest on a telescope for kids?
I insist not to disparage a telescope purchase. You can find many cheap telescope models within under 20$ at any toy shop, but listen to me - don't waste your money on a useless toy.
On the other hand, buying a too expensive telescope is a big mistake as well. Children tend to change their hobbies very often, and more over - an expensive telescope usually is very hard to assemble and it's operation is very complicated.
A reasonable price range, is between 50$ to 150$, depends on the age of the little user, his passion to astronomy, and his tendency to persist with his hobbies.
Now, when you know what to seek for in a telescope, what makes a telescope good, what is necessary for observations except of the scope itself, and how much to invest, there is still something missing - there are many kinds of telescopes, some are long and narrow, and some are short and thick. Some use mirror arrays, and in others types few lenses do the magic.
In order to learn more about the different types of telescope, please skip to the next part of this guide - Refractor or Reflector?
If you wish to start seeking for your kid's telescope, skip to all the reviews!