After this brief introduction, we get to the actual instruments used to observe with, but first take a moment to imagine the following scenario:
Kurt, a 35 year old man (I'm assuming a man because, unfortunately, there are still more men than women interested in astronomy), has become interested in astronomy. When he was recently on holiday in Spain in Tenerife, he walked a few yards into the ‘Pampa’ next to his hotel. When he looked upwards, it took his breath away: He couldn’t get over his astonishment, as he had never had been able to see such a beautiful dark star-filled sky. He could see thousands of stars and accidentally walked into a cactus, which he hardly even noticed. Back home in Germany he immediately bought a book on astronomy and devoured it outright. Of course, he soon decided he needed a telescope. A few days later some a leaflet from a well-known supermarket chain came through his letterbox which included details of an offer for a telescope with a 50mm aperture and 600X of magnification. Wow! He quickly went and bought one, admiring the superb photos of Saturn and Jupiter on the telescope’ packaging (so that’s what they would look like!). He put it together. It did, in fact, seem a bit wobbly. But probably it was supposed to be like that. On the next clear night, he rushed outside to set up the telescope and tried to find an object. He wrestled with it unsuccessfully for ages...
Then he finally found something. It was Saturn in the field of view, but it wobbled if he tried to get a better look and somehow he couldn’t get it properly in focus. Frustrated beyond belief, he threw everything together and left the telescope on his balcony. He buried it next day in the garden, along with his astronomy book. For him, astronomy was dead and buried.
To avoid you having to go through a similarly frustrating experience, please use the following pages to learn about the different types of telescope systems available - with all their advantages and disadvantages. Every telescope has its use, but you must also consider many other factors before finding just the right telescope for you.