With that magical time of the year approaching, some people are already turning their attention to what they’ll be purchasing for their families and loved ones this holiday season. Most of us want to give our family members gifts that they’ll cherish, use all year long and not be easily forgotten. A gift that fills that role, along with many others, is a telescope.
Why Telescopes Make a Fantastic Holiday Gift
Telescopes are more than just mere toys. They are scientific instruments used to explore the cosmos, the depth of our solar system and the galaxy at large. For a young child with a strong sense of curiosity, a telescope can bring the distant and remote wonder of the surface of the moon or the rings of Saturn into their immediate presence and provide an incredible learning device and social activity with other family members.
The general concept of a telescope is easy enough, but there is a wealth of knowledge provided through various astronomy magazines and books. Through the use of a well-written astronomy guide, teaching a child the fundamentals of how to use a telescope can be an easy process. It is with guides and literature that not only can a child be taught how to use a telescope, but you can show them the distant wonders of our solar system. With the right telescope, you can spend hours during the evenings with your family, sharing in the sense of exploration and curiosity that has driven generations of hobbyists and future astronomers to explore the darkness of space from their own backyards.
As with many things in our world, there is a lot of room for your family to grow into and further explore this hobby. Use it as an opportunity for learning and personal enrichment. Starting out with a smaller, more economical model telescope will allow you to ease your loved ones into the hobby. If they take to backyard astronomy quickly, investing further can increase the joy and use you get out of a more advanced model.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Purchasing a Telescope
Here are some things to consider when purchasing your first telescope. First, buying the most economical model is not always the best idea. Any beginner will be able to walk into a big box department store and pick up a cheap telescope- both in price and quality. It’s much better to set yourself a budget near a hundred dollars, as this will eliminate a lot of the worst examples of telescopes as a purchasing option.
Secondly, consider looking for a model with an alt-azimuth mount. This type of telescope mount allows you to move the telescope in four directions (up, down, left and right) and is considered more new-user friendly. The other major option is what’s called an equatorial mount, which tend to be used by people looking to add photography to their stargazing. If you’re looking to purchase a telescope for a beginner, an alt-azimuth mount scope should be your go-to choice.
Lastly, all buyers beware: there is such a thing as too much telescope. It should go without mentioning that if you need a truck and trailer to move your telescope, it’s probably not something you want to invest in. Don’t be swayed by numbers and how much “power” a telescope has. For the smaller, lighter and more portable models, those numbers don’t really matter.
If you’re looking to break the mold and buy something truly wonderful for this holiday season, take some time to consider purchasing a telescope. While the cheapest of telescopes can often be outdone optically by a pair of quality binoculars, a high quality, entry-level telescope can provide hours of entertainment, education and close family time. A night spent outside, surrounded by the people you love, staring up at the majesty of the Milky Way cannot be compared to anything else. A telescope truly is a gift that will find its way into the hearts and memories of the people you love.
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