Should I Get A Telescope? (+ Pics of the Griffith Observatory, US)

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You can’t predict how much you will like astronomy. This is a very common dilemma for our customers who are unsure about whether they should buy the more expensive scope, the cheaper option or to even get a telescope at all. Some people feel reluctant to purchase a telescope because they fear themselves or their kids may ‘grow out of it’ or they may think that their child or themselves has simply not been exposed to astronomy enough to form a passion. These problems are completely understandable as you really cannot predict it! However, there is a surefire way for you to find out and at a nominal cost – public observatories.

Why are public observatories so great? Simply pay a small amount for a public viewing session and you can explore the night sky with a little assistance from the staff and test out a wide variety of different telescopes. It’s a hands-on activity that is fun for the family and helps inform your ultimate decision – which scope to buy, what to avoid, and whether you are interested enough to get your own scope.

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory Entrance

The idea of this article originated from the Griffith Observatory in California, US. In case you do not know, the Griffith Observatory is an iconic tourist destination visited by people of all ages and varying interest levels in astronomy. Perched on Mount Hollywood, this observatory it is a completely free admission and open-to-public that was originally donated to the City of Los Angeles with a vision of ‘making astronomy accessible to everyone, not just scientists who practice astronomy’. This vision incorporates a range of free public telescopes are available every evening for visitors to use and is ultimately why going to an observatory to test out telescopes such a great idea for those undecided. You can try out telescopes, test out your passion before investing your money into! While unfortunately we do not have an observatory as magnificent and famous as the Griffith Observatory, Australia prides itself on several observatories nation-wide that are open to the public. 

A Tour of the Griffith Observatory

The First Astronomical Telescope of Los Angeles

The first astronomical telescope of Los Angeles –  A large refractor telescope on an equatorial mount featuring a sleek brass-coloured design.


The Gunther Depths of Space Hall

The Gunther Depths of Space Hall is the lower level of the observatory, dominated by “The Big Picture,” and scale models of the Solar System. The planets (including dwarf planet Pluto) are shown relative to the size of the sun, which is represented by the diameter of the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater. Below each planet are listed facts, as well as scales indicating a person’s weight on planets having a solid surface (or weight at an altitude where atmospheric pressure would equal one bar otherwise). In addition, beneath the Earth’s model, there is a small room containing a large model Earth globe, an older Zeiss planetarium projector, and a set of seismograph rolls, including one tracking room motion caused by occupants. The other rolls are attached to seismographs monitoring movement at the bedrock level, and indicate actual seismic activity.

On the north wall of the Depths of Space is “The Big Picture”, a 150 feet (46 m) by 20 feet (6.1 m) photograph (the largest astronomical image in the world) showing a portion of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies. This image was taken over the course of 11 nights by the 48-inch Samuel Oschin telescope at Palomar Mountain. There is also a bronze statue of Albert Einstein sitting on a bench in the Depths of Space. Einstein is holding his index finger about 1 foot (0.30 m) in front of his eyes, to illustrate the visual area of space that is captured in The Big Picture.

Depiction of a Telescope's Internal Design Internal design of a Refractor telescope

The image above reflects an exhibit including a depiction made available for the public of a Newtonian reflector telescope and a refractor telescopes’s internal design, respectively.

Open to public viewing spaces

Celestron Telescope

Celestron has kindly donated CPC telescopes that are put on display throughout the observatory every night for the general public to view through.

The iconic Zeiss 12″ Refractor

Zeiss 12" Refractor Telescope with a Celestron Cassegrain Finderscope Depiction of a Telescope's Internal Design

Zeiss 12″ Refractor telescope with a Celestron Cassegrain finderscope. This telescope has mostly remained the same and despite modern technology, it is still driven by a clock drive.

The Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory was originally placed in the hills of Los Angeles away from light pollution. However, over the following years, the growth of Los Angeles has meant significant increases in light pollution around the observatory.



Featured Observatories in Australia

You don’t need to go to the US to test out telescopes. There are observatories scattered around Australia-wide which you can visit to learn a few tricks and tips about astronomical viewing, join a membership and meet a few like-minded people and enjoy members-only observing sessions. To find your local observatory, do a quick search of public observatories and you will soon be able to reak the benefits of being a member or visitor of an observatory! To begin your search, here are just a few notable observatories that you may be interested in.

Mount Burnett Observatory (Link)

Mount Burnett Observatory

The Mount Burnett Observatory is a large-scale observatory that features both public viewing programs and members only programs. Public viewing programs allow members of the public to come together and explore the night sky using the available telescopes at the observatory at a nominal cost. Throughout the year, the Observatory is also home to several educational programs that target your particular interests or objectives (eg. observing Nebulae) and there is even an exclusive young observers group for young budding astronomers.

Photo Credit: Roslyn Gupta, extracted from link.


Ballarat Observatory (Link)

Ballarat Observatory

This observatory features various modern and historic telescopes that will interest any casual or serious observer. The people at Ballarat Observatory take their observations very seriously. Take their Baker Great Equatorial Telescope for example. Featuring a 65cm (26” inch) aperture, originating from 19th century, this telescope is a sight to see! The observatory is also home to several learning programs several nights per week that are informative, educational and fun! 

Perth Observatory (Link)

Perth ObservatoryLocated 35km from Perth, the Perth Observatory is Australia’s oldest observatory which has been related to several astronomical discoveries. Nowadays, it is heavily involved in public education with day tours for schools and night tours for the public. For more information about their several tours, visit the Perth Observatory website here.






What are your ideas for testing out telescopes before you buy? It is also better to visit a retail store or an observatory before purchasing a telescope because there are so many factors you may have not considered. How large is the telescope? What really is the difference between 130mm and 150mm aperture? Am I really getting the best value for money? Do I really want a telescope?

If you have any questions about what you have read today, feel free to drop us a line below. We would love to hear your thoughts!

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