Links from “A practical guide to visual astronomy”. You can find a recording of my presentation at the Astronomical Society here:

Enjoying your Time at the Eyepiece by Matt Harbison- BAS of Chattanooga Presentation, September 8, 2022

I’ve linked the helpful details from tonights talk here:

Settle Videos:

Sky Safari 101: Sky Safari walk-through

Choosing a Telescope Mount:

Achromat and Apochromat – What is the Difference?

Eyepieces- 2” vs 1.25 eyepieces Optics Planet . com

What’s a Hobby-Killer

A few years ago, Sky and Telescope ran an article called, “HOBBY KILLERS: WHAT TELESCOPES NOT TO BUY” and it stuck… these are the telescopes that generally cause frustration and end up at a thrift store in a short time. Here is the article if you want to understand my reasoning behind my recommendation:

Sky & Telescope: Hobby Killers: What Telescopes Not to Buy

Visual Kit Suggestions:

A nice refractor to consider for VISUAL or PHOTOGRAPHIC use – Astro Tech 72mm ED w/ FPL 53:

Another nice refractor to consider for mostly visual and some Astro-Photography- Sky Watcher 72mm Evostar ED (non disclosed glass, but a lovely instrument) :

An affordable Alt/Az mount for Visual Use – ScopeTech Zero:

ANOTHER affordable Alt/Az mount for Visual Use- Sky-Watcher Alt-Az Mount

A Nice tripod to work with the above Alt/Az Mount (Visual Use) – LeoFoto LS-324C (comes with great ball head, and center column):

If all you want is a daytime spotting scope for birding or long-distant viewing and you really have no interest in night time viewing (AND if you already own a tripod) you might consider a simple daytime spotting scope.

This is the one I’ve used frequently and it’s as sharp as they come.

Daytime spotting scope only – $333.99  Vanguard HD 82a on BH Photo

Imaging Kit Suggestions:

A Nice refractor for mostly PHOTOGRAPHIC and some VISUAL- Sharpstar 61 ED:

A Nice mount to start astrophotography/imaging with- iOptron 28 Gem:

My Recommendations:

I want to preface all this information by saying, I don’t get a kick back from any of these people, this is all equipment I’ve used and enjoyed or at least thought, “This is decent equipment”. Always do your research as you may have an “idea” of what you want without my help.

So, here’s my recommendations for a great telescope experience- Never buy twice what you can buy once. 😊 Haha. 

$680.00 Full goto; telescope, mount, and tripod- Mak-Cas system and 102mm (controllable from an app on your phone- free app).  This recommendation comes with a caveat- you have to collimate this scope, meaning it’s not figured like a lens that will always be precise… it’s aligned with mirrors which can shift or twist.  But, it is the  BEST VALUE/QUALITY.  It’s System in a kit, not a refractor but a Mak-Cas meaning it uses mirrors instead of lenses.  Can be great, but has to be collimated (as I mentioned) and that can be frustrating.  However, many of our members in the society have this scope and love it, on the same note, a few members have received scopes out of collimation from the factory leaving everything blurry and needing collimation- which is easy enough to find someone who can do it for you (provided you are a member of a society somewhere!) , but some scopes are better at “holding” collimation than others.  Just like cars, telescopes can be “lemons” also.  The system is light, portable, easy to use- but does require technology with a cell phone and that can get frustrating depending on your comfort level with technology.  One of the greatest benefits to this system is that it’s sync-able to a fantastic app called SKY SAFARI that allows you to instantly find the best things up in the sky each night… it’ll even send you messages alerting you to conjunctions, eclipses, or occultations.  Even ISS transits if you so desire.

-Full Go-To
-Controllable with the phone/tablet
-Good optics
-Great Mount

-ONLY 1.25 eyepieces

And FULL MANUAL, with slow motion controls, meaning you turn the lever and it scoots left and right.  If you are unsure of using an app, this is as easy as it gets with good optics that won’t frustrate you… upgradable as well as I said.

$400.00 BEST OF THE CHEAPER OPTIONS… – Refractor System, although it’s an ACRHOMAT meaning it has a single focused lens and sometimes produces some false color- you won’t notice it at first but as you observe, you’ll notice it and you’ll do one of two things, 1- purchase a doublet (listed below as it shows NO false color)  or 2-live with it as some folks can block it out ( I can’t… it annoys me because when I’m making observations, I can’t often tell the actual star color in an Achromat because of the purple/blue fringing.  In cameras lenses, this is a kin to CA (chromatic aberration).

-Full Manual, Slow Motion Controls (twist knobs to go up, down, left, right)
-Controllable with the phone/tablet
-Good optics
-Great Mount
-UPGRADABLE to 2” eyepieces **THIS IS IMPORTANT as you progress, you’ll want the use of modern 2” eyepieces**

-False color introduced by the lens

BEST QUALITY – Purchasing the Telescope in pieces – (actually a BETTER system than is in the kits above… optics wise).  This is the best technology has to offer for a beginner telescope.  Super portable, NO false color and 2” eyepieces which give you that “PORT-hole” to space feel.  Being an apochromatic ( two focused lenses- referred to as a doublet) give it outstanding color correction and excellent build quality.  This is the scope most people who start with a cheaper scope move to. It’s fantastic in every regard. 

$449.00 Scope-

-Just the scope, but easily the best “heirloom” quality beginner scope made today.
-Great Optics
-2” standard diagonal and eyepieces out of the box adding to both the beauty of the views and excellent optics (this is a $200 upgrade for any scope you purchase and it is included out of the box)
-Comes with hard aluminum case!


Now you can choose to go full manual, or full go-to (controllable with the app)

Full Manual- $420.00 Manual enjoyable Mount-

-Stable and easy to use
-Some heft which is nice for settle time (how the image bounces and shakes after movement)


After you master the manual control you can upgrade to this-

GO-TO – $475.00 And the upgrade for the Full GOTO and controllable with the app – This is the same mount that comes with the MAK cass system above that is sync- able to a fantastic app called SKY SAFARI that allows you to instantly find the best things up in the sky each night.  –

-Full Go-To
-Controllable with the phone/tablet
-Good optics
-Great Mount


My recommendation for a lifetime scope that you would absolutely love would be the $449 APO (apochromatic) doublet scope with the $420 manual scope… unless you want to be able to use the app, then splurge for the $475 go-to mount. This system out of the box would be a joy to use with only the learning curve providing frustration.  I’ve convinced many people to upgrade to this system, and they’ve LOVED it, but I’ve also had many people buy the beginner $400 system, only to sell it a few months later once they realized it’s limits – mainly and chiefly the 1.25 eyepieces and achromatic false color.   

Mentioned Accessories:

Astronomy Chair Vistil Ergonomic Work Seat:

Zebra Red Flood Light:

Portable Table/Music Stand:

Beginning Observer Basics:

The BASIC basics, a four series presenation from the BAS of Chattanooga.

FB Page:

YouTube Channel:


Part I – Beginning Observer Basics – You Don’t Need a Telescope to Start in Astronomy –


Part II – Beginning Observing Basics – Telescope Basics –


Part III – Beginning Observing Basics – Beginning Observing


Part IV- Beginning Observing Basics – Beginning Star-Hopping – Coming Thursday, May 12th @ 7pm EST

Check back For More to come…