Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Return of the Garbage Scopes

It wasn't too long ago that the market for telescopes wasn't too bad. There were still garbage scopes being sold, but the general quality of telescopes being sold under brand names wasn't very bad. At least, they weren't selling scopes so bad that they should be treated as a violation of the customer's trust in their name.

That time has come to an end.

Lately I have finally had a chance to re-engage with beginning astronomers. I was "away" for a few years because I made a cross-country move. Now, I am back to being active in community astronomy. I am in a great astronomy club, I am working with beginners in selecting and using new telescopes, and looking forward to the end of the pandemic so that we can start doing things in groups in person again--right now it's practically all via Zoom or other virtual meetings.

When I started looking at what is being offered at the low end of the price range, I will admit that I was shocked. Telescope designs that have no business being sold as astronomical telescopes are everywhere. They are being sold under brand names. They are being sold by what were formerly reputable dealers. There are dealers I used to send people to because I felt safe that those dealers wouldn't sell the people a piece of junk, who are now featuring absolute crap among their products. Not only has the garbage come back onto the market, much of what is being sold now is worse than the garbage that was being sold 30, 40, even 50 years ago.

The junk is not even being confined to a single line.
I can't tell someone "buy one of the Celestron XYZ scopes, they're all OK", or, "Meade's ABCs are all pretty good for the price." There are no safe product lines among the low end scopes.

So, I have felt motivated to start posting to this blog again to try to combat the tsunami of garbage on the market. New astronomers are the most vulnerable to the disgusting and predatory sales practices that foist worthless, unusable junk upon them. Their interest is honest, but their skills to use the tools of astronomy, and their ability to evaluate them, are very limited. They rely on things like brand names to let them know they're buying a decent product. They rely on product descriptions to tell them what an instrument is capable of. Current products, and the ad copy and "specifications" published for them are not just misleading, they pervert the very intent of having published specifications. They ignore the inadequacies built into the telescopes being touted to pretend that they can achieve some abstract level of performance used for the published capabilities and specifications.

I'm angry. And I'm going to call out their crap.

Stay tuned. But...trust no vendor selling a scope under $500 U.S. unless you know enough that you don't need someone on the internet to tell you what works and what doesn't.
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