A telescope is an instrument designed for the observation of remote objects by the collection of electromagnetic radiation. Telescopes can make things look bigger and they also help astronomers to see things that are very faint. A good telescope must have desirable features which make its use achieve the purpose for which it was intended.

Important features of good telescope:

An important feature of a good telescope is that, it must have good optics. This directly relates to the telescope's ability to collect light. The telescope must be able to aid in good viewing of the objects that are being viewed.

Another important feature of a good telescope is its maintainability. A good telescope must be easy to maintain. Spare parts must be available in case a part breaks down. There must also be support in terms of technical and training for a good telescope. It must also be easy to upgrade by just adding new parts, for a wide range of scientific usage.

The size of the aperture

The aperture size is another feature to look out for in a telescope. This is the diameter of its main lens or mirror. A large aperture collects more light and produces a better-focused image. The aperture size of the telescope must be chosen depending on what the telescope is being used for. When using a 4-inch telescope you will see star clusters as fuzzy spheres of light. If you use a 6-inch telescope, the fuzzy spheres become individual faint stars. With a 12-inch telescope the stars become clearly defined.

The wavelength of a telescope

The wavelength is another feature to look out for in a good telescope. The wavelength is an indication of how well the mirror or lens was ground compared to an ideal surface. While the absolute minimum acceptable wavelength is one-fourth, good telescopes generally have wavelength of one-eighth or less. Wave numbers are expressed as fractions of a wavelength. Also, the overall performance of the telescope is an accumulation of the wavelengths of each optical component. For example, a telescope with two mirrors (each with a one-eighth wave number) will have an overall wave error of one-fourth.

A good telescope must have good magnification per inch of aperture. For best viewing, the maximum magnification of a telescope should be no greater than 50x per inch of aperture. If you have a 3-inch telescope, 150x should be its maximum magnification. For a 4-inch telescope, 200x should be its maximum magnification. Magnification beyond the range of 50x per inch results in fuzzy imaging.

The cost of a good telescope must match its features. In buying a telescope, there is the need for some form of cost benefit analysis. The cost includes the acquisition costs as well as maintenance costs. If the costs exceed the benefits, then that is not a good telescope.

User friendly telescopes

A good telescope must be user-friendly. This is very important, as a telescope that cannot be used is useless. An average user must be able to use the telescope after a very short period (ideally two weeks) of learning to use it. It should not take extreme technical knowhow to be able to operate the telescope.

Take your time to look at all these features before purchasing a telescope for your institution or company.

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