So you've decided to take the plunge and get a telescope. Congratulations! That alone is a big step. But what comes next? Not an impulsive shopping trip to the nearest mall! Buying a telescope is very different than buying a television, and department-store salespeople rarely understand what amateur astronomers need. Rule Number One: shun the flimsy, semi-toy, "500 power!" department-store scopes that may have caught your eye. The telescope you want has two essentials: high-quality optics and a steady, smoothly working mount. You may also want the telescope to be nice and large, but don't forget portability and convenience. Your first telescope shouldn't be so awkward heavy that you can't tote it outdoors, set it up, and take it down reasonably easily.