Astronomy for kids: A guide on how to choose the best telescope5 min read

Choosing the right telescope for yourself or someone else can be a tricky task. The matter becomes even more complicated when it comes to kids because you will have to take into consideration factors such as their age, height, experience and, most importantly, level of interest.

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Ideally, you should choose a telescope that is not simplistic to the point that they might feel insulted, and not as complicated as to put them off of stargazing. In this short buying guide, we will highlight the key elements that you will need to consider.  For a selection of the best telescopes for kids, details on prices, dimension, and focal length, check the linked article compiled by the experts at Telescope Reviewer.

Types of Telescopes

Generally speaking, there are three types of telescopes: compound, refractor, and reflector. While there are many differences between them, they all are designed to accomplish virtually the same role: gather as much light as possible from stars and other faraway celestial objects. To help you out, we have made a summary of each type’s advantages and disadvantages. Here is what you should know:

  • Reflector telescopes have a mirror at the end of their tubes whose role is to gather light before sending it through another mirror and then into the eyepiece. They are ideal for viewing faint objects, have an excellent image quality, and are generally compact and lightweight. However, they have an annoying tendency to collect dust in the open tube, so you will have to either teach your kid how to clean it or handle the issue yourself.
  • Refractor telescopes are the most common telescope types. They feature a big lens in the front of the tube whose role is to send the light directly into a mirror positioned at the back of the telescope, and then back into the eyepiece. When it comes to advantages, refractor telescopes are simple and straightforward to use, and they are great for viewing objects on earth. Unlike the reflector telescopes that we have mentioned above, these feature a sealed tube that protects the optics, a sturdy design, and require no maintenance. However, they are not very good at rendering faint objects, tend to be bulky and heavy, and are less valuable than other telescope types.
  • Compound telescopes also called ”Schmidt-Cassegrain” or catadioptric telescopes, come with two mirrors – one in the back, one in the front – as well as a lens. Objectively speaking, these are the best pieces that the market has to offer, as they are excellent for viewing both faint, faraway celestial objects, as well as earth objects. They also feature sealed tubes that do a great job of protecting the optics. If you are into astrophotography (and want to pass down your passion to your kid), this telescope type is ideal in this sense. However, the catadioptric are more expensive than the other types, have a bulky appearance, as well as a second mirror that degrades the brightness.

Do not buy toy telescopes

If the kid shows an interest in astronomy, many parents might be tempted to buy a toy telescope and call it a day. However, most toy telescopes are aimed at kids under the age of six, not to mention that they are of a low quality, and do not hold up to multiple successive uses. They might be a fun toy for small children, but if your kids show a true, genuine interest in astronomy, they would surely want to actually see something in the night sky instead of an amalgam of fuzzy and grainy images.

As a result, it is a good idea to look for a brand that is known for producing high-quality items. You do not have to necessarily drop hundreds of dollars – getting a low to mid-tier model from Nova, Carson, Celestron or Meade should suffice.

Buy Upgradeable Telescopes

Circling back to our previous point, you should avoid spending a lot of money on a high tier telescope right from the get-go. If you are not sure if your kid’s interest in astronomy is just a fad or the beginning of a fruitful career in astronomy, you should invest in a mid-priced unit. The idea here is to get a functional device that will satisfy your kids and encourage them to pursue this hobby further, rather than a cheap, weak telescope that will cause them to lose interest out of frustration and poor performance.

One of the best things about mid-tier telescopes is the fact that they are compatible with higher quality accessories, such as mounts and eyepieces. So if your kid wants to take his hobby to the next level, instead of buying an entire new telescope, you can just attach a better accessory.

Choose A telescope that Your Kid Will Grow Into

The telescope that you choose should challenge your kid’s skills, intellect, and patience, but not so hard to the point that they will not be able to use it without your assistance. Ideally, you want your kid to pursue this hobby further, and not get discouraged by factors that have nothing to do with him.

Conclusion

Astronomy is enjoying an increasing amount of popularity, and it is no wonder why so many kids want to pursue this hobby. Choosing the ideal telescope is tricky, but not impossible. As long as the telescope is upgradable with higher quality accessories, is not excessively hard or easy to use and it is not specifically designed for kids, you will know you have made a good choice.


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Lauren Ray John is a Senior Editor at TelescopeReviewer.com. She writes reviews for different types of telescopes. Lauren has always loved the astronomy field, so she decided to take life into her hands and follow the career she has always wanted.

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