Are Telescopes Hard To Use? (Here’s What To Expect)

Your first telescope is an exciting moment, and might be the beginning of a lifelong and rewarding hobby. But exciting doesn’t mean easy, as all too many novice astronomers have discovered!

Plenty of people get hooked on naked-eye stargazing and pick up a telescope only to find their enthusiasm dampened by frustration with the instrument. So, all in all, what should you expect? Are they fundamentally difficult to use?

Here’s whether telescopes are hard to use

Beginners often find telescopes difficult to use effectively. Spotting objects is especially hard at first. It can also be difficult to understand the optical concepts involved and the specific telescope components you’ll need to adjust. Certain aspects of maintenance can also be challenging, especially with reflector scopes that need frequent collimation. However, all of this becomes intuitive with consistent practice and study.

In this article, we are going to discuss the hardest and easiest parts of using a telescope, whether telescope maintenance is easy, and what type of telescope is easiest for beginners. So sit back, relax, and read on to find out more.

The hardest parts of using a telescope

New telescope users run into a few things fairly consistently. You probably will, too, so don’t be surprised! Rather, stick with it and trust that it will start feeling familiar with time.

Spotting an object

When you set up your first telescope, you’ll notice immediately that locating (also known as “spotting” or “finding”) an object is surprisingly difficult. Even the moon, as huge and obvious as it is, can be elusive.

That’s because the high magnification of most telescopes creates a narrow field of view (compared to the naked eye) and also means tiny changes in aim will move the image drastically.

By the way, wider apertures will reduce this problem as well as improve image detail, in many cases. Just make sure it’s not so wide that the telescope becomes hard to transport or carry. Here is a more detailed overview of the telescope specs you need to know–and why they matter.

Inverted images

It can also be a little tricky to get used to viewing an inverted image, which telescopes inherently do. (Believe it or not, our eyes do this as well! But the human brain compensates for it, so we don’t consciously notice the effect.)

If that’s unfamiliar, then read this article for background on why that happens and more info on what you can do about it.

Adjusting a mount

Unfortunately, some beginner-oriented telescopes still come with an equatorial mount. They’re useful in very specific situations, but neither intuitive nor helpful for most new stargazers (or many experienced ones, for that matter).


Most telescope maintenance is simple and infrequent. But all telescopes require collimation at some point (here is why), and reflector scopes require it relatively frequently.

It’s not rocket science, and countless backyard astronomers do it without issue. But be prepared that collimation will have its own learning curve–and consider a non-reflector scope (more on that below) to minimize its frequency.

Fortunately, many of the physical components of the telescope are quite easy to use, at least once you’ve aware of what they do and why their adjustment matters.

Now, this assumes you haven’t bought a bargain-basement telescope. Cheap ones can be decent–even good–as we’ve explained in this guide. But ultra-cheap models, like you’d find at department stores and toy shops, are more trouble than they’re worth. From tiny eyepieces and apertures, to shoddy optics, to wobbly mounts, they’re bound to create myriad frustrations that even slightly spendier models will avoid.

Is Telescope Maintenance Difficult?

Unlike so many products on the world today that have built-in obsolescence, telescopes often last longer than you would believe. With just a little common sense on your part, a telescope can provide you with a lifetime of fascination. They require very little care and attention. They also cost nothing to keep.

So to answer the main question, no! Telescope maintenance is not at all difficult. But if you neglect and abuse it, it may not make it to the next full moon viewing. Maintaining your telescope is relatively easy. Follow these tips and you’ll be good to go.


How and where you store your telescope is what mostly affects its lifespan. It should be stored in a dry, dust-free, and moisture-free place. The best place to store your telescope is an observatory. Closets in unheated garages, as well as wooden tool sheds, share many of the advantages of an observatory for storing a telescope.

Regardless of where you store your telescope, you should always cover the optics. Ensure all it is completely dry.


There may come a time when you feel that cleaning your telescope is in order. This is a relatively easy affair though you should note that you need to take extra care. You can do it on a clean kitchen table under a bright lamp.

Cleaning a mirror in a reflecting telescope is easy. It can be cleaned in a washing-up bowl filled with warm tap water and a few drops of washing liquid. After cleaning, you should rinse with distilled water and leave it to dry.

Clean the mount as well. You can use a spray such as WD-40 for this.

For refractor telescopes, cleaning the lens is a whole different affair. These lenses are usually quite delicate and the wrong move could damage them. They shouldn’t be cleaned regularly, at least once a year is okay.

All in all, telescope maintenance is a simple affair. You should however take extreme care when doing this to avoid any damages.

What type of telescope is easiest for beginners?

If you are a beginner and are on the search for a telescope, it can be an overwhelming job for you. This is because there are several choices to pick from and without the right guidance, you are likely to pick one that is hard for you to use.

There are 3 types of telescopes. These are:

  • Refractor telescopes- These use lenses to focus the image on the eyepiece.
  • Reflectors telescopes- These use mirrors to focus the image into the eyepiece.
  • Compound (catadioptric) telescopes- These use a combination of both mirrors and lenses to focus the image into the eyepiece.

So which among these types of telescopes is the best for a beginner?

The answer is the compound telescope. It has grown in popularity because it combines the best of a reflector and a refractor telescope.

It is quite portable and the tube isn’t as long as that of a reflector telescope. It has an ease of use that is unmatched by other telescopes. They have stable and sturdy tripods to support them.

We’ve written a much more comprehensive guide to understanding and choosing a compound telescope, so read it next for some insight on choosing an intuitive and rewarding scope!