Giving a Telescope for the Holidays

Recommended:  Orion SkyQuest  and  Orion StarBlast

President’s Paragraph, December 2019

Recently I’ve been asked more than once what telescope to buy for someone who wants one as a holiday gift, and the giver doesn’t know what to get. If you’re a recently-joined member or a parent or partner in the same situation, this article is for you.

Ask yourself a series of questions before you spend money on a scope. 

  1. What kind of vehicle do you have for hauling it around?

  2. Do you want to take it apart each time you put it in the car and take it out, or do you want it in one piece?

  3. How much weight can you pick up at one time?

  4. How tall is the person who is going to use it?

  5. What kind of budget do you have?

  6. How serious is the potential user about taking it out into the cold and dark to use it?

  7. How many accessories, like eyepieces and tripods, can you afford? Can you pack them into the same vehicle and remember to bring with you?

  8. Do you have a lot of warm clothes that also fit into the same vehicle?

  9. Do you have a table and a chair? A clock, a sky atlas, some notepaper and pens for taking notes? A planesphere? A thermos? A red LED flashlight? Extra batteries?

And so forth.

The Best Advice: Check Out a Star Party and the Telescope Library

The best advice is not to buy a scope right away, but to come to some of our star parties and look around at everyone else’s scopes and ask a lot of questions. Then check out some scope from our library to see what you like.

But since the giving season is rapidly coming upon us and people want to fulfill a wish list, I would recommend a simple and fairly small and cheap reflector. For someone under about ten, I would recommend a table top such as the Orion Star Blast, and for someone under about fifteen, I would recommend something like the 8” Sky Quest. Then almost immediately you will have to replace the finder on these scopes with something better, and purchase better eyepieces than come with the scopes. But that’s okay. Save those upgraded bits of equipment for the next scope you get, because you’re on your way now! The answer to the question “what’s the perfect telescope” is “my next one.”

Have a great holiday everyone, and don’t forget to bring warm clothes that are still in good shape but are no longer needed for our clothing drive for Transitions Project to the Dec. 17th holiday potluck.  Last year we got food for Food Bank, but no clothes at all, so let’s not forget this year. Let’s do better this year. We all know what it’s like to be outside at night in the cold!