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Understanding Your Telescope
Even if you have limited financial resources to devote to astronomy, you can purchase a reasonably good pair of binoculars (magnification 7X, field of view 7 degrees) or a low-field, low-magnification refractor for less than £100.
With such an inexpensive instrument, you can begin your astronomical experience. You will be able to see craters and other large features on the Moon's surface, keep track of the phases of Venus, and observe the large satellites of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn. Many more stars will be visible through such an instrument than can be seen with the unaided eye. But with a bit more money, you can purchase a superior instrument.
When you shop for a Newtonian reflector, or any other telescope, the mount is almost as important as the optics. Some telescopes have alt-az mounts, which makes it quite easy for a novice astronomer to locate sky objects. But if you want to track a particular sky object as the Earth's rotation causes that object to move across the sky, an equatorial mount should be your choice. One versatile type of Newtonian reflector with an alt-az mount is the wide-field Newtonian. It is of special value to the observer who requires a rugged instrument that can be easily taken to observing sites.
Some of these instruments weigh less than 15 pounds (7 kilograms), have a field of view of 3 degrees, have an aperture of more than 10 centimetres (4 inches), and cost less than £250. The magnification for these instruments, however, tends to be less than 20X unless you purchase optional eyepieces or lenses.
A wide variety of less portable and more expensive Newtonian reflectors are on the market. Generally, more capable instruments are both larger and more expensive. If, however, you do not mind sacrificing portability and would still like a truly large and inexpensive Newtonian, one also on an alt-az mount, you might try a Dobsonian. Although this type of Newtonian reflector allows you to see many faint celestial objects, the latest instruments of equal aperture will usually produce better images. In certain locations, the low weight tube structure of some Dobsonians may also be more buffeted by winds than the tubes of more modern instruments.
For most viewing purposes, many astronomers prefer midsize (114mm-130mm) Newtonian telescopes on equatorial mounts. Such telescopes are fairly portable and not too expensive. You can find a celestial object without too much difficulty and then track it across the sky. As aperture size increases, however, the portability the Newtonian begins to suffer.
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