Calling All Astronomers

During the past few years I have begun to feel a growing urge to gaze upon the planets and stars with more than my naked eyes.  While I like watching the occasional meteor shower if I so happen to be up at 3AM (which is a rare occasion for a boring 30-something like me), the idea of stargazing with a telescope has become less of a fascination and is now about to transform into reality.

Admittedly, I have never owned a telescope beside the Fisher Price model I had as a child.  I suppose I was always too intimidated every time I heard many of the big words associated with telescopes.  And being intimidated made me remember why I barely passed math in high school, let alone the most recent college math course which I barely passed with a 71% (D=Degree).  Yet, I think I am now able to move past the intimidation phase and finally purchase a telescope even though I will have the deer in the headlights look for some time to follow when it comes to terminology.

As a beginner, I would like to have a first telescope that is light and flexible enough to fit in a camping backpack but, at the same time, isn’t too flimsy.  Part of me is always tempted to go for the giant telescope that is stationary and requires a 2-human lift; however, what if I use it once and decide amateur astronomy is not for me?  I don’t want to waste all the money on a $2k doorstop that might make any future astronomy friends angry or jealous.  Therefore, I suppose $500 is a good amount for starters like my wife and I to get our feet wet.

The above telescope, Meade’s ETX-80AT-TC BB (f/5) Achromatic Refractor Backpack Version, is our first choice as it retails around $300 and is portable enough for backpacking.  The reviews were somewhat good but most of the feedback was from people like me that have no clue what the word ‘Dobsonian’ means.  So I guess the ultimate question we have for Nerd Trek readers is this: which type of starter telescope should we purchase that is under $500, light-weight and portable, rigid and sturdy, and is tailored to an inexperienced Galileo wanna-be like myself?

This is a great chance for experienced star-gazers and seasoned astronomers to chime in for suggestions.  Your feedback is always encouraged and appreciated more than you would realize.

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About Manny Garza

After serving 8 years in the U.S. Army as an Intelligence Analyst, Manny departed the military in order to pursue his B.A. in Philosophy from American Military University. Aside from college, he writes short stories and essays in the realm of philosophy and science fiction. Manny's short stories are heavily influenced by who he refers to as The Trinity: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Jack Williamson. He is married to his lovely wife, Melissa, and has two dogs named Koopa and Goomba. Aside from being an editor and contributor of Nerd Trek articles, his hobbies include playing guitar, singing, and both tabletop and video game RPGs. Manny currently lives in Charlottesville, VA.