If you’re interested in astronomy and celestial objects, a telescope is an excellent investment to make. Not only do you see stars and planets but also indulge in some nighttime photography with a good telescope.
So how much does a good telescope cost? In this article, we discuss the prices of telescopes and the things you should look for when making your choice.
How Much Do Telescopes Cost
A good telescope can cost you as low as $200, while professional ones can be as high as $5,000. A sweet spot for intermediate astronomy enthusiasts can be around $2,000.
The reason why the price range for telescopes is so wide is due to the different types of lenses and overall optical quality. Brands like Celestron are popular names in the optical industry, and also manufacture similar products like binoculars.
Why Are Telescopes So Expensive
Telescopes come with huge price tags for a reason. These devices come with extremely sophisticated and accurate engineering, designs, and measurements to give you the best possible viewing experience.
Since you’re going to be looking at objects that are millions of miles away, the lenses on these telescopes need extremely high magnification powers. Keeping these objects in focus is as important as magnifying them.
To put things in perspective, the Hubble telescope, which is around 8 feet in diameter, costs more than $2 billion. If you’re looking for a home telescope, there are different types that you can choose from. The model you choose will also determine how much money you spend on it.
Types of Telescopes
When you think of a telescope, the simplest image that comes to mind is a tube with lenses on both ends, though there is a lot more that goes into making a telescope.
There are four different types of telescopes that you can find on the market: refractor telescopes, reflector telescopes, Dobsonian telescopes, and Maksutov-Cassegrain telescopes.
Refractor telescopes are excellent options for beginners. They are also easier to maintain, making them a good fit for people who are new to the field or are casual enthusiasts.
As suggested by the name, refractor telescopes work on the concept of refraction. The light is bent to give you a magnified image of a faraway object.
There are advantages and disadvantages to this telescope type:
- Refracting telescopes come with a lot of power per square inch of aperture. This means that smaller lenses can be used to provide a clean image
- The stability and steadiness of the image you will get from a reflecting telescope are quite high. If you’re a beginner, this type of telescope will be easy to set up
- Since these telescopes work on the principle of refraction, your image will not have any reflections and interruptions when you’re looking at the night sky
- Refractor telescopes come with focal ratios that make it easier for you to have longer focus times. This keeps the design of the lenses and the eyepieces simple
- These telescopes are easy to align. The optical alignment doesn’t need frequent modifications.
- Because of the long focal ratios, the device can be bulky and inconvenient to use
- If you’re on a strict budget, reflector telescopes might be a cheaper option
- While reflector telescopes are completely free of extra colors of the secondary spectrum, the refracting design makes them subject to chromatic aberration. Chromatic aberration is also known as color fringing and is the event of unwanted colors appearing on the edges of objects in the final image
While refractor telescopes use just lenses to provide you with the necessary magnification, reflector telescopes come with concave parabolic mirrors. The use of mirrors in reflector telescopes gives them certain advantages and disadvantages.
- Lenses are quite difficult to construct and require very accurate measurements and designs. On the other hand, mirrors only have one reflective surface, which makes them easier to construct, giving reflector telescopes an edge over refractor telescopes
- Mirrors do not cause color fringing in the final image, as the light from faraway objects is being reflected and not passed through a lens. This means that the image quality from reflector telescopes is sharper
- Mirrors can be set up more easily against a supporting surface compared to a lens, which has to be open at both ends for the light to pass through. Therefore, reflecting telescopes have a distinct size advantage. Making a larger reflecting surface means that more light can be collected to give you a clearer image
- Reflector telescopes are cheaper than their refractor counterparts, as mirrors are less expensive to make than lenses because of their single reflecting surface
- Maintenance of reflector telescopes can be quite a hassle. Since the mirror is quite large and the telescope comes with an open design to collect maximum light, it needs to be cleaned often to keep the image clear
- The alignment of reflector telescopes has to be carried out more often than refractor telescopes. Since the mirrors have to be cleaned periodically, you also need to carry out optical alignment every time you clean them. This can take up a lot of time and effort
- The open-air design of reflector telescopes leaves the mirror not only vulnerable to dust and foreign particles but also to environmental factors like oxidation. Mirrors come with a metal coating to reflect the maximum amount of light, and you might need to thoroughly polish them after a few years of use to experience the best possible image quality
Dobsonian telescopes are named after their designer, John Dobson. These telescopes are easy to use and not as expensive as refractor telescopes. Similar to reflector telescopes, Dobsonian telescopes use mirrors to focus light from faraway objects into the eyepiece, giving you a clean image.
Dobsonian telescopes allow movement in both the vertical and horizontal axes, making them quite effective for viewing celestial objects. Despite being very affordable, these telescopes are not devoid of disadvantages as well.
- Dobsonian telescopes are quite simple to use. While reflector and refractor telescopes need some setting up, Dobsonian ones require minimal upkeep and can be set up easily
- The alignment of telescopes is not a cheap service. If you’re paying a professional for the polar or optical alignment of your telescope, you might end up spending a few hundred dollars every time. This will not be a problem with Dobsonian telescopes
- The simple design and less complicated elements used in a Dobsonian telescope make their price quite pocket-friendly
- Dobsonian telescopes sit on mounts instead of on a tripod. If you’re trying to watch the night sky or take a look at some planets (for example, the rings of Saturn), you have to point the telescope in exactly the right direction. Even half an inch of movement can completely ruin your image and have you staring into the icy blackness of space. You will need to set up a tripod on stable, level ground. This is not a problem with Dobsonian telescopes, as they are extremely stable and do not wobble when touched
- Dobsonian telescopes are quite heavy. While reflecting and refracting telescopes can be carried in your car and set up in remote places with relative ease, Dobsonian telescopes are quite cumbersome and not very transportable
- Dobsonian telescopes are great for beginners but are not fit for people who participate in astrophotography
- There are added expenses that come with a Dobsonian telescope. One example is a collimation tool. In this process, all the components of a telescope are aligned properly to bring maximum light into the viewing surface. You can learn more about this by checking out this article on how to collimate your telescope
- Reflecting and refracting telescopes often come in a foldable or collapsible design, making them easy to carry around. Dobsonian telescopes are not compact, and it might not be easy to move one around once you have set it up
Maksutov-Cassegrain telescopes, also called Mak-Cass telescopes, use a folded design to stay compact. They come with a primary and a secondary mirror along with a corrector plate to offer high-quality images of celestial objects that are relatively closer to the Earth. These telescopes use a combination of refraction and reflection in their designs., including both lenses and mirrors.
- Mak-Cass telescopes are great for photography. The presence of two mirrors and a corrector plate offer high-quality images of the moon and planets
- Because Mak-Cass telescopes come with folded optics, they are quite transportable and shorter in length compared to reflector and refractor telescopes. They are also much lighter, easier to carry around and set up
- Beginner kits for Mak-Cass telescopes are cheaper than other options on the market
- The use of both lenses and mirrors on Mak-Cass telescopes means that there is no color fringing in the final image, becoming more appealing for photographers
- Mak-Cass telescopes are great for viewing the moon and planets of the solar system
- Mak-Cass telescopes come with long focal ratios. While they can offer high-quality pictures of nearby objects, they are not ideal for deep sky imaging. You cannot look at galaxies and nebulas with Mak-Cass telescopes
- These telescopes come with a single, fixed focal length, reducing their versatility of use
- Mak-Cass telescopes can be quite tricky to collimate. Although the fixed focal length means that collimation and alignment do not have to be carried out for long periods, it will certainly take a lot of time and effort to complete the procedure
Making a Choice
When it comes to picking a telescope, you have to consider a few factors:
Aperture: The most important aspect of any telescope is its aperture, which is the diameter of its reflecting or refracting surface (mirror or lens). Larger apertures will give you brighter, sharper images.
Eyepiece: The magnification power of a telescope is decided by the eyepiece that you choose. This does not mean that more magnification is always better. You need to find the right balance between the clarity of the image and the magnification power. Otherwise, you might end up with large, blurry images.
Price: How much are you willing to spend? If you’re working with a tight budget, you might not want to spring for a refractor telescope. Your level of interest and information regarding telescopes should also play a part in picking the right one.
Portability: How are you going to use your telescope? If you want to set it up next to a window and not move it often, you can go with Dobsonian telescopes. If you plan to carry it around and set it up in different places, you should look at more portable and lightweight options.
If you’re wondering how much does a good telescope cost, the answer is that it depends on what kind of telescope you’re looking for and what image quality you’re expecting. Telescopes that are useful for both stargazing and astrophotography will be a lot more expensive than simple lens-based telescopes.
Another thing you have to keep in mind is that they’re seldom a one-time expense. Polishing, cleaning, and alignment of telescopes will all cost money. Consider these factors when making your investment.
Check out our other posts on Stargazing Studio to learn more about similar topics!