Free telescope: Just explain why you want one

Update: The telescopes have already been given away.

Night Sky columnist Bob Berman last year at Overlook Observatory.

Longtime readers will know that I’m a big advocate of naked-eye and binocular astronomy – meaning, no telescope. This may seem odd, considering that I love optics and adore the unbelievable instruments at my Overlook Observatory. Some of you – over 2,000 in all –  have been there since it opened in 1982, as part of the twice-yearly classes for people in our area that I conducted for 30+ years, or perhaps as a child in one of the many school, UCCC, scout or church groups who came for an evening.

On the other hand, I’ve watched too many people purchase telescopes, and maybe contact me to collimate the optics and give a lesson in its use, only to learn that they used the instrument once or twice and then never again.


That’s because most folks are not “hands-on” when it comes to the sky. Ours has become a smartphone and iPad age, when folks stare at screens. Many of us old-timers lament that young people are not doing kayaking, birdwatching, telescope-making or any of a myriad of hands-on hobbies that were prevalent when we ourselves were kids. Moreover, if you have a ‘scope, you need to know where to point it, or else you’ll just look at the Moon and maybe Jupiter and that will be the end of it.

Also, the better telescopes, like any tool, require that one learn how to use them. There are setup steps. They’re not instant point-and-shoot items. Not everyone has the patience.

All that said, surely there are youngsters (or adults) who have come to study the sky and would love a decent telescope. “Decent” means a sturdy tripod that will not wiggle, and optics that are larger than the common cheap 60mm refractor – preferably at least four inches – and even a motorized mount that tracks the object so that it stays in the field of view. Such instruments cost upwards of $400, sometimes much more.

I have two that I want to give away to someone who needs one. They both came because the widows of guys who either took my class or read my books and were serious amateur astronomers have passed away. The family members want the instrument to go to a worthy recipient. I receive such offers periodically, but only accept good telescopes that I can personally vouch for. So my question is: Who wants one?

Are you a teacher, or member of an astronomy club, or parent of someone who’s really into astronomy, but doesn’t have a telescope? Or are you a library trustee, or afterschool club teacher? Or maybe it’s you yourself.

In concert with two teachers, the three of us will read letters from anyone who wants one of these telescopes. It will be free, but we want to know: 1. How long have you been into astronomy, or been in an organization like a library that might want a telescope for members to borrow? 2. What kinds of sky observations have you made? 3. Do you know the names of any stars or constellations? And, 4. Why do you want a telescope?

That’s it. We are simply trying to find people who have a serious and continued interest in astronomy, as opposed to someone for whom it’s just a quick passing fad. One of the donors specifically asked that if the person does not continue with the hobby, please to return it. Well, I’m not going to hassle the recipient periodically and make them pass any tests on their usage. But I do want to know at the outset that this is a person who is deeply involved and is likely to continue to be, or a member of some organization that will supervise its utilization. I definitely don’t want to hand it over to anyone who will simply sell it on eBay.

Bottom line: Write to me at and answer the four questions. Before Thanksgiving (2017), we’ll notify the winner(s).


There is one comment

  1. Gerald Whyte

    i was born in 15th august 1969, just after they landed on the moon. every nite i gase at the stars, always wanted a telescope, but never got 1, Gerald Whyte. Seaside caravan park. Cappaclough, Camp. Tralee. Co. Kerry. Republic of Ireland.

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