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Am new to this field. My son is 9 years old and extremely interested in viewing the Solar system. I do not want to buy a low quality one. I have no idea what to buy, I will have to buy it from Dubai as good quality telescopes are not available where I live.

Please can you help me to choose the right tool. He wants to view as many planets as possible. What would be the right amount to pay in US dollars ?

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Using an astronomical telescope is hard work, and the results are nearly always disappointing. Planets are very small targets, and through a small telescope they look like a little circle. You are lucky to see any detail at all.

First just get used to watching the night sky, learning the constellations and asterisms. Watching the motion of the planets against the stars. See Venus brighten then disappear behind the setting sun, only to re-appear as a morning object. Look for pleasing alignments and syzygy. Visit some dark sky locations and see the milky way. Point a camera at the sky and let it record star trails around Polaris.

Then a pair of binocular or a spotting scope is useful to see some detail on the moon and deeper into star fields. These are general purpose instruments, good for birdwatching as well as stargazing.

Sign up with the Bradford Robotic telescope, then you will have shared use of a 34-inch photographic telescope, in a dark location. You will get better photos of the planet than you could ever hope with backyard equipment.

Join up with a local astronomical society, you will see what is possible with an amateur 'scope.

And when you find this equipment limiting you can look to purchase a decent sized reflector, but by then you will know what you get for your money, and how much you are willing to spend.

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  • $\begingroup$ Unfortunately the Bradford telescope is offline now and may be so for some time, $\endgroup$ – James K Jun 5 '17 at 19:00
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  • Magnification. Since your wish is to view planets, you will want sufficient magnification to see them somewhat clearly. I'm afraid that what you will see looks nothing like the spectacular photos in the media (and on telescope packaging). Your son may be disappointed and lose interest in astronomy. I recommend getting a plan of other things to view, such as nebulae. Magnification is mostly important for planets and deep field observations; the latter will exceed your budget. Perhaps mapping features on the moon could maintain his interest for a while (I don't recommend the full moon; it's very bright unless you do something about that).
  • Aperture, aperture and aperture. Your eyes care more about how bright something is than how big it is. Also remember that magnification reduces makes the object fainter, so you need more aperture for more magnification.
  • Mounting. This is very, very important and usually overlooked by beginners. If you are not able to keep the telescope still and pointed at an object, you will not be able to make out any details. Unfortunately you will not be able to view the telescope before buying. Get a reputable brand name and ask around about the specific models that you're interested in. A polar mount is harder to set up to start viewing but can track stars more easily than an alt-azimuth mount.
  • Filters. You can get filters that assist with viewing certain features in the sky. For example light pollution filters will reduce the glare from older-type artificial lights when you're near cities.
  • Optical quality. Once again, you will not be able to check in advance if the scope was properly built. The same factory in China may produce anything from garbage to perfect scopes which is why it is a good idea to buy from a reputable brand (good resellers do most of their own quality control).
  • Size. Despite the importance of aperture, the scope must be small enough that you can move it to where you will use it regularly enough or you will just waste money on a white elephant.
  • I cannot give a good answer in dollars as I'm not up to date and have no idea of your budget.
  • Personally I recommend a good binocular as a starting point before you get a telescope. Stay away from fancy coloured coatings on the lenses, get one of the simpler ones where the objective lenses are not in line with the eyepieces (Porro prism, not roof prism) and also stay away from things that zoom.
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  • $\begingroup$ Magnification is the last thing you want to bring into the discussion when advising a beginner. It's the most misleading parameter of a telescope, for a beginner. $\endgroup$ – Florin Andrei Mar 1 '17 at 20:04

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