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Amateur telescope reccomendations?

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ThirstyBarbarian

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Most scopes come with a finder scope attached. I assume you will have a small finder scope attached. If not, it would be good to have one. Without a computer go-to system (and even if you have one) you would be surprised the difficulty of targeting something, even as big as the moon or the sun. The real area of focus of the human eye is about 55 degrees. If the power of the telescope is for example 55, then the field of view (FOV) will be only 1 degree, which means that the telescope has to be aimed pretty good on the target. A finder scope with a larger FOV comes in pretty handy.
My finder scope broke at one point, and I replaced it with a green laser, which I really liked a lot. Honestly, I liked it better than the finder. I loved just pointing the laser at something, then looking through the eyepiece, and there it was.
 

Mike Helm

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If you can build a rocket you can build a really nice telescope. I was lucky enough to attend an event (StarFest?). Anyways a bunch of folks from the Sidewalk Astronomers were there. I spent much of the time in the courtyard with builders who could put together a decent scope out of found items...meanwhile my wife and daughter were inside attending a lecture by John Dobson himself. http://www.sidewalkastronomers.us/
Read a lot and be informed before jumping in because there is a lot to know. Decide how much space you have that your willing to dedicate in both your home (storage) and your car (transport). I would also suggest that you seek out and attend a local star party where you can meet others and experience their equipment. I live near Los Angeles and Griffith Observatory hosts a star party once a month and you can walk from scope to scope and get a real good feel for each one and talk to the owners who are very passionate about sharing their knowledge and experience.
 

Senior Space Cadet

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I have three astronomical telescopes and several spotting scopes and a boatload of binoculars. The spotting scopes are much more useful and the binoculars more useful than either. You can use spotting scopes and binoculars for more than just looking at planets and stars. You can get really big, powerful binoculars with a tripod mount and it is pretty amazing what you can see. There are 75X spotting scopes and I think they are worth a look. I get my stuff from B&H photo and video.
One of the scopes I have is the Celestron Astromaster 114EQ or something like that. It is the cheapest and best astronomical scope I have. I have a pretty big refractor and a pretty big newtonian reflector and I'm not impressed with either one. The 130EQ is probably pretty good.
If you really want to see anything, I'd spend the money and get a cassegrain type scope.
In my opinion there really isn't that much to see, in the night sky, that's very interesting, unless you spend a fortune. Jupiter, Saturn, Mars and the moon are about all that's worth looking at. After I looked at them a few times, the scopes have just collected dust. You can use spotting scopes or binoculars to look at waterfowl or see what that is in your neighbors yard.
 

Senior Space Cadet

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Oh, and I don't recommend Barska. They make some good things, but I bought a pair of Barska binoculars and it's one of the few things I've ever returned. I have a Barska spotting scope. It's supposed to be 125 power, but it's more like 75, at best, and not very sharp at the high end.
 

PXR5

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I second an 8 or 6" Dobson.
The 130 is not a bad scope, but the mount lacks.
The Dob will be rock solid.
 

Senior Space Cadet

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Dobsonians(?) are a good value. I've considered one. I assume they need to be aligned, like a newtonian, which is a pain.
Easier or harder to transport than a Newtonian with equatorial mount?
 

mooffle

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I thought of one other thing, if you don't get a starter pack of sorts and go with a dob then get a nice atlas like the sky and telescope atlas.
The objects in it will keep you busy for quite a while but are also generally bright enough to be findable with a decent scope and not a ton of effort.
 

gdjsky01

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I have more telescopes than rockets... well not really... but I have at last count 10.

I have scopes from a 60mm Japanese made refractor to a 55cm with computer control.

Where do you live? Where will you go to get dark skies? Will you learn how to find things?

The first telescope I would get would be a 15cm to 20cm dobsonian. $500CAD is tough.

Something from Orion or the ilk. Khan in Toronto if they are still around can help.

IT IS NOT AN EASY QUESTION TO ANSWER! Because expectations on what new people will see always exceeds reality. Especially if not under dark skies. And most people buy gee whiz cheap (and $500CAD I am afraid is cheap for a great scope - but not impossible) motorized garbage. The gears are plastic, tracking and finding things is suspect, and the optics are where the manufacturer cheap out. There is one thing that matters. Stability and optics. I know, thats two. ;) But for what you are willing to pay, IMO, find a astronomy club near you and join. Then ask.

This may be a good compromise. https://optcorp.com/collections/sta...rsense-explorer-dx-102az-smartphone-refractor
 

Voyager1

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Dobsonians(?) are a good value. I've considered one. I assume they need to be aligned, like a newtonian, which is a pain.
Easier or harder to transport than a Newtonian with equatorial mount?
A 6” or 8” Dob is very easy carry around, set up and use. Alignment is very easy once you’ve mastered the technique, particularly with a simple laser alignment tool. This only needs to be done occasionally if the scope doesn’t get bumped around too much.
 

Mike Haberer

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I would highly recommend a decent pair of binoculars to start with a good star chart and a bino book. I would spend between $150 & $300. If you really think you are going to enjoy the hobby, learn the night sky first - constellations, bino capable deep-sky objects, some of the wider double stars, planets, open star clusters, a few of the larger globular clusters, a few galaxies. That will take you a year of fairly regular observing. If that whets the appetite for more, then get a 6" or 8" dob and you'll be able to go deeper. You'll need to know the night sky to use it effectively, which the binos will do for you. If that doesn't satisfy your urge for more, then be prepared to decide how to split your hobby dollars between rocketry and astronomy. Like any hobby, the sky is the limit (aka, $$$$). Astronomy does have a significant advantage over rocketry, however. When you spend $300 on a quality eyepiece you can use it more than once. When you spend $300 on a motor, you use it once and it's gone. If you're lucky you get your rocket back.
 

Voyager1

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I would highly recommend a decent pair of binoculars to start with a good star chart and a bino book. I would spend between $150 & $300. If you really think you are going to enjoy the hobby, learn the night sky first - constellations, bino capable deep-sky objects, some of the wider double stars, planets, open star clusters, a few of the larger globular clusters, a few galaxies. That will take you a year of fairly regular observing. If that whets the appetite for more, then get a 6" or 8" dob and you'll be able to go deeper. You'll need to know the night sky to use it effectively, which the binos will do for you. If that doesn't satisfy your urge for more, then be prepared to decide how to split your hobby dollars between rocketry and astronomy. Like any hobby, the sky is the limit (aka, $$$$). Astronomy does have a significant advantage over rocketry, however. When you spend $300 on a quality eyepiece you can use it more than once. When you spend $300 on a motor, you use it once and it's gone. If you're lucky you get your rocket back.
Good advice! I regularly use a pair of 10 x 50 bins before I wheel out the 8” Dob.
 

Joel Shepherd

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Another vote for starting with a 6-8" Dobsonian: good bang for the buck, very stable base, and usable field of view. If you get something with a tripod base (which, by definition, Dobsonians don't have), plan to spend at least $400 or so on the mount and tripod alone. A cheap tripod will just kill any interest you have: the slightest touch to the telescope or mount will cause it to jiggle for many seconds, making just focusing very difficult, let alone actually enjoying a view. A Dobsonian or table-top mount is much less expensive and much more stable.

As others have mentioned, avoid spherical mirrors.

Astrophotography, beyond mounting a cell phone on an eyepiece and clicking away, is more specialized. The requirements for the scope and mount are higher, the rig you'd use for photographing planets is quite different from what you'd use for nebula and galaxies, etc. I wouldn't discourage you from trying it once you get your feet wet with observing: it is simply mind-blowing what a sensitive camera can detect. But it's definitely one of those pursuits where an ounce of education is worth a pound of equipment ... and the equipment ain't cheap!
 

prfesser

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Dobsonians(?) are a good value. I've considered one. I assume they need to be aligned, like a newtonian, which is a pain.
Easier or harder to transport than a Newtonian with equatorial mount?
Yes, a Dobsonian (mount) has a Newtonian optical system---concave paraboloidal mirror and flat secondary---and it has to be aligned. It's actually not that difficult, just time-consuming if you're doing it by yourself. With a helper it's much easier; you look in the focuser and tell the helper to turn the alignment screws. And if the scope is transported carefully you shouldn't need to realign it very often, if at all. Just check the alignment periodically.

A reflector on a solid equatorial mount is going to be significantly heavier than the same size reflector on a Dobsonian mount.

An equatorial mount makes tracking an object easier, you only need to use one of the two slow-motion knobs. A Dobsonian mount is the type called altazimuth--motion is up-and-down and back-and-forth, so tracking takes two motions. However, if it's properly constructed the motion has been described as "buttery smooth".

Finally, for looking at large clusters and nebulae, a low power is much better than a higher power. And it's easier to find an object and keep it in view, too.

Best -- Terry
 

Blast it Tom!

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So can you put a Newtonian scope on an equatorial mount? My very limited experience was just as you said, once you had your object in view, you could easily track it, even with my cheapo scope - and it's just as easy to go to a declination/RA as it is to an alt - azimuth. How does one follow an object with Alt-Azimuth?
 

Joel Shepherd

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So can you put a Newtonian scope on an equatorial mount? My very limited experience was just as you said, once you had your object in view, you could easily track it, even with my cheapo scope - and it's just as easy to go to a declination/RA as it is to an alt - azimuth. How does one follow an object with Alt-Azimuth?
You definitely can: my first "grown-up" scope was a 6" Newt on a CG-4 equatorial mount (RA/Dec). Those mounts tend to be heavier (equatorials require counterweights for example) and as I mentioned above, you really need to spend enough to get a solid, stable tripod, or else the jiggling will just ruin the experience for you.

Tracking can be easier with a RA/Dec mount. If it is reasonably well polar-aligned then it just needs to track on the RA axis: that's the primary advantage to that design. Alt-Az mounts need constant correction on both axes and (if you're imaging) suffer from field rotation as well. Polar alignment is one more thing to learn though ... i.e., one more thing to get in the way of a beginner who really just wants to see what's up there.

On the other hand, for most people manually positioning an Alt-Az mount is much more intuitive than wrastling with RA/Dec. Not that it can't be done, but it can be confusing. And a cheap plywood Alt-Az mount (i.e., a Dobsonian mount) will easily beat a cheap RA/Dec mount in terms of stability, hands down.
 

prfesser

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Newtonian, Schmidt-Cassegrain, and Maksutov are different optical systems. All have a concave mirror ("primary") at the back. A Newt has a flat secondary mirror near the front that bounces the light to the side of the tube, so you're looking at right angles to the line of sight of the object.

Schmidt-Cassegrain has a short-focus primary and a small convex secondary mirror at the front. Light is bounced back thru a hole in the primary to the eyepiece, so you're looking in the direction of the object. The secondary is held by a carefully shaped thin "corrector plate" at the front, so the optical system is more or less closed to dust and such on the inside.

A Mak has a thick corrector lens at the front; front surface is concave, back one is convex. The secondary is a spot on the back surface that's coated with aluminum.

There are some other types but those three are most common.

To follow an object in an altaz mount, you have to move the scope both up and to the right, or up and left, etc., because the stars follow a curved path. Two motions instead of one. It can be a bit of a pain at higher powers, but take my word for it, you'll use lower powers far more often than higher ones. (Magnifying a small, slightly fuzzy object gives a large, very fuzzy object...)
 

Blast it Tom!

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Well, seeings that the crudy scopes I've always had or been exposed to see Jupiter as only a bright round white dot with the four Galilean moons hanging about, and one is is barely able to tell that Saturn has rings (and not meaning to threadjack here), I don't think being too high-powered is a problem for me yet! Lately I was in Montana for a month and had quiet a bit of dark (as in moonless) very clear sky, with Milky Way from horizon to horizon. A fellow had rec'd a Celestron 130 mm refractor, alt-az with the cell phone aiming attachment. It was quite a pain to aim and track, but after looking at Jupiter, Saturn, and the comet I got the idea to try for the Andromeda Galaxy, and it was as you say, a faint blur. So more light admittance (i.e. bigger diameter tube), better quality optics, a steadier mount, and more magnification (longer focal length) I think all would have helped! Thanks for the rundown on the optical systems!
 

prfesser

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Well, seeings that the crudy scopes I've always had or been exposed to see Jupiter as only a bright round white dot with the four Galilean moons hanging about, and one is is barely able to tell that Saturn has rings (and not meaning to threadjack here), I don't think being too high-powered is a problem for me yet! Lately I was in Montana for a month and had quiet a bit of dark (as in moonless) very clear sky, with Milky Way from horizon to horizon. A fellow had rec'd a Celestron 130 mm refractor, alt-az with the cell phone aiming attachment. It was quite a pain to aim and track, but after looking at Jupiter, Saturn, and the comet I got the idea to try for the Andromeda Galaxy, and it was as you say, a faint blur. So more light admittance (i.e. bigger diameter tube), better quality optics, a steadier mount, and more magnification (longer focal length) I think all would have helped! Thanks for the rundown on the optical systems!
Hmmm... even in binoculars I see Jupiter as a round dot with four (usually) dots around it. Even my crappy 130 mm Mak from Orion shows bands of color and the red spot on Jupiter, and the Cassini division in Saturn's rings. FWIW as I said earlier, the atmosphere is the worst part of any telescope. Out of a dozen clear nights (spring, summer, or fall, usually) you might get one that has seeing of 8 on a scale 1-10. Rest of the time you can expect wavering images. Sort of like film photography used to be. Take a 36 exposure roll, throw away 35.

PS: For a youngster with good eyes, 7x50 binoculars are pretty decent. But for us old farts the pupil just doesn't open wide enough anymore to get the entire cone of light from 7x50s. Even then the eyes have to be dark-adapted for an hour or more. 7x35s are lighter and for all practical purposes, just as powerful.

PPS: If ever you go to BALLS...bring a telescope if you can. Get up around 3AM (or don't go to bed). When the closest manmade light is 12+ miles away, the skies are friggin' unbelievable!!!

Best -- Terry
 

PXR5

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If you can build model rockets, you can easily collimate a DOB/Newt ;)
Nothing to be afraid of.

If you get into Astronomy, you will end up with a bunch of scopes :)
Oh and eyepieces, they multiply like rockets :)

The key to chosing a first scope is basically, not too big and not too small.
Don't fret over your first scope too much, just pull the trigger.

Avoid:
127 newts, (Bird Jones) the 130s are great and
Refractors under 80 mm

Most all of my scopes are SCTs and Maks, YMMV

Have Fun :)
 

Blast it Tom!

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Hmmm... even in binoculars I see Jupiter as a round dot with four (usually) dots around it. Even my crappy 130 mm Mak from Orion shows bands of color and the red spot on Jupiter, and the Cassini division in Saturn's rings. FWIW as I said earlier, the atmosphere is the worst part of any telescope. Out of a dozen clear nights (spring, summer, or fall, usually) you might get one that has seeing of 8 on a scale 1-10. Rest of the time you can expect wavering images. Sort of like film photography used to be. Take a 36 exposure roll, throw away 35.

PS: For a youngster with good eyes, 7x50 binoculars are pretty decent. But for us old farts the pupil just doesn't open wide enough anymore to get the entire cone of light from 7x50s. Even then the eyes have to be dark-adapted for an hour or more. 7x35s are lighter and for all practical purposes, just as powerful.

PPS: If ever you go to BALLS...bring a telescope if you can. Get up around 3AM (or don't go to bed). When the closest manmade light is 12+ miles away, the skies are friggin' unbelievable!!!

Best -- Terry
Ok, I had to check... The scope I helped use in Montana was only an 80 mm diameter refractor, a Celestron StarSense Explorer LT80AZ. f/11 with about 131x the light gathering capability of the human eye, and 90x magnification with the shorter eyepiece. I think the red spot might've shown up slightly as a gray spot, but my recollection of the image was all white beyond that. And like I said, we had a very dark sky, wall-to-wall Milky way and Jupiter was brilliant to look at.

Don't know if I'll ever make something like BALLS - I can guarantee you my dear beloved has almost zero interest in being out in the middle of the desert, 12 miles from the nearest man made light watching rockets, much less at 3AM with a telescope, so it'd be a solo venture - I suppose y'all are in campers & RV's?
 

NOLA_BAR

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Ok, I had to check... The scope I helped use in Montana was only an 80 mm diameter refractor, a Celestron StarSense Explorer LT80AZ. f/11 with about 131x the light gathering capability of the human eye, and 90x magnification with the shorter eyepiece. I think the red spot might've shown up slightly as a gray spot, but my recollection of the image was all white beyond that. And like I said, we had a very dark sky, wall-to-wall Milky way and Jupiter was brilliant to look at.

Don't know if I'll ever make something like BALLS - I can guarantee you my dear beloved has almost zero interest in being out in the middle of the desert, 12 miles from the nearest man made light watching rockets, much less at 3AM with a telescope, so it'd be a solo venture - I suppose y'all are in campers & RV's?
I have seen the GRS clearly in my 72mm ED refractor. A dark sky isn’t as critical for planets as good optics and a steady atmosphere. Basically you keep looking for those moments of clarity in the atmosphere when the details pop into view. A lot of planetary imagers will use a Schmidt-Cassegrain on a tracking mount with a video camera. The capture hundreds or thousands of frames, then use software to pick out the best and stack the images. A great amateur planetary imager is Damian Peach. I’m sure there are others, but he is the one I am most familiar.
 

Blast it Tom!

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I'm going to go with the suspicion that said scope is not among their "top of the line" optics; that scope's list price is $180. But I wasn't getting a lot of atmospheric effects, at least as far as I could tell. The image wasn't out of focus or wavering, there just wasn't any color in it.
 

prfesser

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Ok, I had to check... The scope I helped use in Montana was only an 80 mm diameter refractor, a Celestron StarSense Explorer LT80AZ. f/11 with about 131x the light gathering capability of the human eye, and 90x magnification with the shorter eyepiece. I think the red spot might've shown up slightly as a gray spot, but my recollection of the image was all white beyond that. And like I said, we had a very dark sky, wall-to-wall Milky way and Jupiter was brilliant to look at.

Don't know if I'll ever make something like BALLS - I can guarantee you my dear beloved has almost zero interest in being out in the middle of the desert, 12 miles from the nearest man made light watching rockets, much less at 3AM with a telescope, so it'd be a solo venture - I suppose y'all are in campers & RV's?
Last time I was at BALLS I lived in a tent for three days. I'm told that it can be iffy, but I was lucky; no serious wind, earlier rain had dried up. Only real downside was the two foam pads weren't enough to counteract the lumpy playa. Air mattress next time.

BTW some of the Pittsburgh TRA folks go to BALLS every year. You might be able to hitch a ride...

Best -- Terry
 

Blast it Tom!

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Oh an air mattress is infinitely better, even in here in Pennsylvania. But a tent - any tent - in the rain is simply the pits; it's nearly impossible to keep the mud out. My wife's thoughts on tent camping: "Pick my up at the nearest Holiday Inn when you're done playing Daniel Boone!" Her primary thoughts on deserts revolve around snakes and scorpions, guaranteed she ain't sleeping in a tent out there!!!

But who knows, I may just try that sometime, esp. if we can carpool!
 

NOLA_BAR

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I'm going to go with the suspicion that said scope is not among their "top of the line" optics; that scope's list price is $180. But I wasn't getting a lot of atmospheric effects, at least as far as I could tell. The image wasn't out of focus or wavering, there just wasn't any color in it.
Color can be quite subjective too. I was at our clubs observing site looking at Jupiter and another member was there with a high end refractor (TEC 140mm). I thought I could see the GRS but it was washed out. I went over to his scope, 😮 the GRS was right there! The best I’ve ever seen. It was also a $7K scope! That’s why astronomy clubs are great you get access to lots of different equipment.

You can expect to see color in planets and stars. I see green in Orion Nebula. Some claim to see faint colors in Orion with larger scopes. Galaxies are always gray smudges even in larger telescopes for me. A lot of deep sky astronomy is in the “minds-eye”. That photon may have traveled millions or hundreds of millions of years to reach your eyeball.
 

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I get a lot of mileage out of my old vintage 1986 Japan-made Celestron 11x80 binocs on a solid Manfrotto tripod. Good contrast and pretty decent light gathering, drastically better than 8x50's. You can cruise ebay for vintage giant binocs, right now there is an Orion 11x80 for $200 that would probably not suck. 8"+ dob is not a bad idea either. Make sure you get a decent finder.
 
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