Is it worth buying an astronomy telescope for under £150?
Tuesday, 14 November 2017 | Sam Lancaster
You may have experienced the same as a child; receiving a cheap telescope for Christmas, being unable to contain your excitement for it, but when it comes to using it, the furthest that you could see was the nearest streetlamp. On the flip side, stargazing has taken television by storm in recent years, thanks in part to BBC programme Stargazing Live, but the majority of the images broadcasted are from national observatories, worth billions of pounds. It makes you wonder, whether it’s possible to see anything of worth without splashing out on your very own Hubble telescope.
I’ve chosen to look at the Celestron Inspire 70AZ Refractor telescope, an entry level telescope from a leading optical manufacturer Celestron.
The telescope’s barrel is the diameter of an ordinary mug, and is approximately 750 mm in length. The focussing mechanism was very smooth, with the controlling handles on both sides of the eyepiece. A good design. Two different eyepieces came with the scope, at 20mm and 10mm. The maximum magnification possible is an acceptable 165x, and its light gathering power is ‘100x the unaided’, which is up there for something within the price range. The light gathering power was so ‘up there’ that I had to wear sunglasses on one occasion, to focus in on the new moon, perhaps I'll need to invest in a Moon Filter.
Bundled with the Celestron Inspire 70AZ Refractor Telescope is a sturdy steel tripod. Mounted on top of the fully-extended tripod, the telescope was around 1.2m off the floor. It was quick to stand up, after extending the legs, fastening the tray-table and forcing the tripod’s pointed, plastic feet into the ground. Then it was simple to mount the telescope on top; sliding it into a frame and bolting it into place. The tripod’s hinge was too sturdy. I had to hold on to the tripod so that I wasn’t tipping it over every time I rotated it into a new position. It kept things nice and steady though.
Celestron have brought telescopes into the modern age by making it possible to bind your smartphone to the eyepiece. Yes, that’s right, now your Instagram feed can contain pretty pictures of the night sky alongside your selfies and the photos of your salad. It was a little tricky to set up but I managed to find a position comfortable with my phone and get some shots. Sticking out of the side of the telescope sits what Celestron dubs the "Starpointer Pro", which is the Hollywood name for an illuminated reflex sight, that can be used to quickly centre on objects that can already be seen with the naked eye. A nice addition; it made me feel like I was aiming a bazooka.
An entry level telescope for the prospective astronomer packed with fun extra features, worthy optics and unparalleled ease-of-use, making a Celestron telescope for under £150 definitey worthwhile.