| What you can see...
...and what you WON'T see!
|Back to scope choices.....|
Secondly, there's a "rule" you must remember: 'Size matters!' Aperture-size, not power, determines how well a telescope will render an image. The quality of an image that you see in the eyepiece depends on a telescope's light gathering ability, which in turn is dependent on aperture size. The amount of power that a telescope is capable of has virtually nothing to do with the quality of the image it delivers, except to say that higher power has a way of actually spoiling an image at times, especially in smaller apertures.
Even with a small aperture you can see quite a lot at moderate power. In fact, a 70mm telescope will put you in touch with a surprising number of celestial objects, including dozens of the Messier's, all the planets out to Jupiter and Saturn, and some very pleasing images of the moon. There are several dozen good small telescopes available, running from a hundred dollars to about $800 for a computerized scope equipped with a GOTO remote. Meade manufactures several popular 70 to 90mm telescopes that are both manual and computerized. Orion offers several also.
As aperture size increases the price of course goes up, along with the ability to see even more objects. The next popular size over 90mm is 102mm, then 120mm, then 6-inch, 8-inch, etc... all the way up to... well, you name it!
Remember: deep space objects will NOT appear in living color, but instead will be rendered in 'black and white'. Human eye color sensitivity is more suited for the bright surface tones of planets, and the spectral colors of stars. At times, some nebulae will appear slightly tinted (sometimes green). The color pictures you've seen in magazines are the result of photographic film absorbing light over extended periods (or through CCD processing) - which the human eye is not capable of detecting in darkness.
Also, you should know that stars will always look like points of light, no matter how much power you use. This is because they are so far away. You can't compress all those light years of distance with an eyepiece.
The colorful bands and belts of Jupiter, as well as its four major moons, and the rings of Saturn are clearly visible in a 70mm telescope. Mars, Venus and Mercury are visible in a small scope as well, but are extremely reluctant to give up any detail because of their overwhelming brightness. Also, a small telescope will do very nicely on the Orion Nebula and some other prominent Messier objects plus scores of double stars. So it naturally follows that a larger telescope will do even better.
Uranus and Neptune are also reachable with small telescopes. At opposition, Uranus shines dull green at magnitude 5.6, so that it can actually be seen with 7x50 binoculars and a 3-inch telescope. Neptune - at magnitude 7.7 - is obtainable with a slightly larger telescope in dark skies, but is very difficult to discern against a busy starry background. Both these planets however, can require a great deal of skill and patience to pick out and identify. Pluto, at magnitude 13.7 is visible only in 8-inch or larger apertures (it's almost 40 times farther from the Sun than the Earth is - about 4 billion miles out - and is very small).
An aperture of 120mm will grab tons of objects. Beyond that, (6-inch, 8-inch, 10-inch, etc) you will begin to see those objects that are referred to as "faint fuzzies", i.e.: - the more difficult nebulae, and many more distant galaxies. At this stage you are limited only by the darkness and clarity of your skies and the quality of your optics.
An amateur in Australia discovered a probable nova amongst a star cluster in M16 with an 8-inch Newtonian reflector. That's fair proof of the "power" of amateur astronomy! And more recently, Canadian amateur Jack Newton has captured the optical jet of 13th magnitude quasar 3c273 with CCD equipment on a homemade Dobsonian!
Nomenclature - the typical Dob
What's an f/number? - Fast vs slow
The Cost of Amateur Astronomy
Finderscopes, Telrads, etc.
What is "GO-TO"?
Recommendations - GO-TO Systems
How things REALLY look in the eyepiece