HMNS Explains | Telescopes 101


April 12, 2022
805 Views

Written by Leonard Ferguson, George Observatory volunteer

Have you ever gotten a new telescope? Are you possibly frustrated with not being able to figure out how that new ‘scope works? Next is figuring out how to really “see” those objects once you find them! While a discussion of the many different telescope designs is far beyond the scope of this space, we can discuss some very basic telescope pointers that will hopefully avoid some frustration and make it easier to get started.

A person stands at a telescope underneath the stars
Image from Pixabay

First, let’s clear up a common misconception about telescopes:
A telescope’s primary purpose is not to magnify. Its primary purpose is to gather light.

Magnification is important, but a telescope’s true power lies in the size of its aperture – the diameter of its primary mirror or lens. Larger apertures gather more light, allowing you to see fainter objects. A common mistake new telescope owners make is to go straight for the highest magnification available. What they don’t realize is that typically in a telescope, as magnification increases, the field of view through the eyepiece decreases.

Focus becomes critical, too. So, they end up pointing an unfamiliar instrument at an unfamiliar night sky and trying to find some fuzzy object through the smallest field of view. Even experienced observers can’t find anything this way. Take your time and ease back on the magnification. You’ll be surprised at the number of star clusters and nebulae you can observe at low power.

Something else most people don’t realize is that looking through a telescope is a “learned” skill just like anything else. A skilled observer can look through the same instrument and see far more detail on the moon and planets than a beginner can, so once you spend the effort finding, centering, and focusing that object, reward yourself…spend some time observing it!

A man wearing a medical face mask sits at an outside computer and telescope setup at The George Observatory in the evening time.

Should you find yourself bitten by the astronomy bug and really wanting to get ‘serious’ about this wonderful hobby, learn about the night sky, or just have a few more questions about that new telescope then get in touch with one of your local astronomy clubs, or come see us at the George Observatory. Our expert astronomers can answer all kinds of questions about telescopes, observing, and that wonderful night sky we all share!

More with telescopes:

The James Webb Telescope has Arrived!

Exploring the Night Sky with Astrophotography

Authored By Guest Contributor

From distinguished lecturers to scientific scholars to visiting curators to volunteers to leaders in their respective fields, we often invite guest authors to contribute content to our blog. You'll find a wealth of information written by these fascinating individuals as we seek to expand your level of knowledge with every post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Become An HMNS Member

With a membership level for everyone; Don't just read about it, see it.

View All Membership Levels

Editor's Picks The Real Moon Hoax That You Haven’t Heard Of Is Darwin relevant today? Oh The Hermannity! The Story of Houston’s Most Beautiful Green Space A Few Member Benefits Most HMNS Members Don’t Know About What The Loss Of The Museu Nacional in Rio de Janeiro’s Collections Means To The World What Is The Deal With Brontosaurus?!

Equally Interesting Posts




HMNS at Hermann Park

5555 Hermann Park Dr.
Houston,Texas 77030
(713) 639-4629


Get Directions Offering varies by location
HMNS at Sugar Land

13016 University Blvd.
Sugar Land, Texas 77479
(281) 313-2277


Get Directions Offering varies by location
George Observatory

21901 FM 762 Rd.
Needville, Texas 77461
(281) 242-3055


Get Directions Offering varies by location

Stay in the know. Join our mailing list.