In my last article, I established some guidelines for the instruments that I am selecting as my favorite picks for a good first telescope. I am picking these instruments as good first time instruments because I feel that they are worthy of owning both in the beginning and long term. I want to pick equipment that I think will give the greatest rewards both today and on down the line. There is no particular order of ranking of these telescopes, these are just instruments that I feel comfortable recommending to others. Once people begin to grow in this hobby, their interests and needs change, and they may find other instruments suit their purposes better. This is normal and a natural part of growing in the hobby.
2. The Orion XT6
For many years the standard amateur telescope that many used was the old 6” f/8 Newtonian reflector. This old fashioned choice never goes out of style but what has evolved over the years is the mount that carries it. Years ago the German Equatorial Mount was the standard and it has been replaced with a modified alt-azimuth mount made famous by John Dobson in the late 70’s and early 80’s. This mount is very stable and surprisingly smooth and easy to use. This telescope is not large and unwieldy, it’s actually quite transportable and fairly rugged, and dare I say, simple. It’s f/8 focal ratio allows for easy collimation and it is very forgiving with eyepiece choices. The 48 inch focal length allows for plenty of magnification for viewing the moon and planets, and it will fit inside many small cars to transport to darker sites. It will deliver years of viewing experiences. This is a good budget happy entry into serious observing. It’s a real steal of a deal at only $279
3. The Celestron NexStar 6SE
Here is a nice compact telescope with plenty of aperture to keep a person happy for years in a design known as a Schmidt-Cassegrain, or SCT. It is an f/10 instrument that sits on a computer controlled GoTo alt-azimuth mount. The Celestron brand has been around for years and as such has a lot of support and accessories to enhance the ownership experience. Aligning the telescope is as simple as centering a couple of brighter stars and it can direct you through its large database of objects via the hand controller. Because the eyepiece is in the back, viewing heights and angles are suited for seating or standing without a lot of neck craning, so it is a very comfortable telescope to use and enjoy. It is a bit pricier than other models, but it holds it value well, and should you decide you want a larger telescope down the road, it makes a very nice portable scope to own. It is presently selling for $799