When you buy a copy of a magazine such as Astronomy, you will find within its pages a dazzling display of telescope advertisements. Huge Dobsonian light buckets of 17 or even 24 inches, and expensive fluorite refractors are presented as a must for any real astronomer to have.
Not to be outdone, the Questars and the 8-inch Schmidt Cassegrains offer the budding observer astronomical marvels - and at an astronomical price, too. Other advertisers disagree, saying that a 60-mm refractor is the thing to start off with.
Somewhere along the way the 6-inch Newtonian reflector seems to have dropped out of the reckoning. This is a shame because it is such a wonderful telescope. It is quite easy to handle even for a beginner using the standard f/8 version with a focal length of 48 inches. With an altazimuth mount it is simplicity itself and in terms of price not that much more than many 60-mm refractors.
It is usually the equatorial mount that drives up the price, but these are not necessary except for photography or very high-power work on the planets. If you feel that f/8 is too bulky it is possible to buy an f/6 or even an f/4 - the type of telescope that I have.
The 6-inch reflector is the great all-rounder of astronomical telescopes, being good for most kinds of serious work as well as being a good beginner's telescope. There is no need to put this instrument in a cupboard after a few months in favour of something bigger. It would take you years to exhaust the possibilities for astronomical exploration that this powerful telescope will give you.
Why this fine workhorse of the astronomer has gone out of fashion is somewhat of a mystery to me. Compared with my first telescope (the usual Japanese 60-mm) the 6-inch I now own is much easier to set up and is six times more powerful.
If you wish to make your own telescope, again the best choice is the good old 6-inch. May I suggest that we start a campaign to restore this great classic of astronomy to its rightful place. Long live the 6-inch Newtonian!
David Fletcher Popular Astronomy April 1994
For July2001 Popular Astronomy article click here [Choosing_a_first_telescope.pdf]
This page was created by SimpleText2Html 1.0.2 on 2-Feb-102.
Top of Page Return to Home Page