Throughout the year, especially around this time, I receive many emails about purchasing a telescope, either for oneself or that special someone. Every year I try to provide a telescope buying guide for the Christmas shopping season. I certainly don’t consider myself a great expert, but I’ve had lots of experience purchasing telescopes. I also have a very understanding spouse who lets me indulge my passion! There are so many telescopes out there and trying to choose the right one can make your head spin faster than a pulsar!

My strongest recommendation is to avoid telescopes at retail stores and general shopping websites. I don’t have anything against them personally, but I’ve seen many cheap telescopes out there. In my opinion, many of them are just glorified toys. If you’re buying a scope for a young person with the hope of turning them on to the hobby of amateur astronomy, a cheap telescope on a flimsy mount could really backfire on you. It’s best to stick with major telescope brands. I think the best brands are Orion, Celestron, and Meade. You can purchase scopes from their websites, but it’s even better to buy one of these brands from a specialized telescope dealer who can help you make the right decision.

Mike Lynch is an amateur astronomer and retired broadcast meteorologist for WCCO Radio in Minneapolis/St. Paul. He is the author of “Stars: a Month by Month Tour of the Constellations,” published by Adventure Publications and available at bookstores and adventurepublications.net. Mike is available for private star parties. You can contact him at mikewlynch@comcast.net.

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