You Get What You Pay For

You Get What You Pay For

Or, how to crush your child's dreams.

My tenth birthday coincided with the appearance of Halley's comet in 1986. With my then aspirations of one day becoming an astronomer (before the writing bug bit me), it was one of the most exciting events of the year. I was gifted with a beautiful deep blue telescope so I could ring in my birthday in style with my parents and closest friends.

After my dad fumbled and cursed for a bit, we were finally able to focus on the comet, if you can call what we did focusing. My 10 year old self was suitably impressed that night, and on a few subsequent nights of moon viewing. But the thrill eventually wore off, not because I lost interest in the stars, but because of junky equipment.


The telescope was shaky on its mount, for one. The legs would collapse under the lightest touch, or the entire scope body would shudder if I twitched a muscle. The dew shield cracked the second time I had it out. I eventually gave up on it and it gathered dust until it finally ended up in a garage sale.


Discount store telescopes are nothing more than overpriced toys. They are cheaply made and often give poor views. Kids become frustrated with them and usually move on to other pursuits. To make matters worse, the manufacturer's cash in on the fact that most people think bigger is better by throwing in impossibly strong eye pieces for a scope that would perform better with lower strength viewing.


Take my advice. Get your star-happy kid a great pair of 8x42 binoculars instead (skip the ruby coating, though) or spend at least a couple hundred on a quality scope. Do some research first and your little one may grow up to someday work amongst those stars she holds so dear now.