Four centuries ago, Galileo Galilei first used the telescope to study the heavens, which led to an earth-shaking discovery – contrary to long-held Aristotelian claim, the Earth is not the center of the universe. It just revolves around the Sun.
The revelation led to his persecution by the Catholic Church, whose current pope, Benedict XVI, now praises Galileo for setting the astronomical facts straight. Thanks to the telescope and the Italian who had the idea of seriously pointing it to the night sky, we now distinguish astronomy from astrology and cosmic myths.
To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the first time Galileo used the telescope, the United Nations declared 2009 as the Year of Astronomy. Perhaps it’s time for more individuals to take a better look at the sky too. And for that you need a telescope.
Some observatories are kind enough to let laypeople have a short peek into their telescopes. And we’ve all seen photographs of colorful, awe-inspiring images of galaxies made possible by the Hubble telescope. But nothing beats the convenience of having your own telescope right at home.
You don’t need the Hubble or the Kepler telescope to make an amazing discovery. Amateurs in a less-known neck of the woods (in Cebu, Philippines, to be exact) have discovered that Jupiter doesn’t only have one red spot; it has two other smaller ones in fact. And they saw those spots using telescopes no bigger than their own bodies.
Let us take a look at the two basic types of telescopes amateurs use: the reflector telescope and the refractor telescope.
The reflector telescope is ideal for beginners. This is because it doesn’t give distorted images. It uses mirrors that are opposite to the lenses that collect, reflect, and focus the light for better viewing. It is also known as the ‘Newtonian reflector,’ in memory of the great Isaac Newton.
The refractor telescope, on the other hand, uses lenses to refract the light. It is reliable and easy to use for terrestrial viewing at daytime.
Speaking of the price, reflectors are cheaper than refractors. If you’re a newbie, you can try the cheaper kind first. But generally, it’s not an expensive hobby. Commercial telescopes cost just around $500. A pair of powerful binoculars makes a good alternative if you only have $200 in your pocket.
The latest design in amateur astronomy telescopes offers the best of both types. The catadiotrophic telescope is scientifically and commercially designed with the characteristics of both the reflector and refractor. It uses both lenses and mirrors to help you magnify distant and small space objects with ease.
And which telescope brands will you choose? Most amateur astronomers suggest these manufacturers: Meade, Bushnell, Orion, and Celestron.