Planning to buy a first telescope?


by turbo
Tags: planning, telescope
russ_watters
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#37
Dec10-10, 05:57 AM
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The two scopes you picked look pretty good for a beginner/first scope.

I think it is worth getting a motorized (computerized) scope, though others here will disagree because it alleviates the need to learn the night sky. For your budget, though, the quality of the optics won't be as good as with the two you are looking at now, if you go for a motorized one.
northern lass
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#38
Dec10-10, 09:42 AM
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thanks russ, do you have any thoughts on one over the other celestron or skywatcher?
turbo
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#39
Dec10-10, 10:24 AM
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Quote Quote by northern lass View Post
thanks russ, do you have any thoughts on one over the other celestron or skywatcher?
The mount on the Celestron appears to be a bit sturdier, judging from images of the 'scopes. Flimsy mounts can make telescopes shaky and hard to use. In your price range (especially for a beginner) I would suggest a Dobsonian. They are very solid and sturdy, and the money that you didn't pay for a complex mount goes toward the optics, which is the heart of the telescope. Often, the mirrors of cheaply-made newtonians are figured spherically, which results in distortion of the images (you can look up spherical aberration). Generally, Dobsonians feature parabolic primary mirrors, decent coatings, etc. You don't get a fancy mount, but you end up with better optics at any price-point.

Just a suggestion: Can you give your husband and son a nice card authorizing them to buy a 'scope as their present from you? You could do some research and include information about where and when the nearest astronomy club will be holding their next star-party. It would be great if they could attend one and get to look through a lot of different members' scopes. Then, they would have a better idea what 'scope might be best for them. If they tell the members that they are in the market for a 'scope, they might get a great deal on an instrument that's just collecting dust in a member's closet. I know that surprising them with a brand-new scope would be more exciting, but look at this as an investment.

I know that if you have read this thread through, I sound like a broken record, but for your budget, a Dobsonian is probably the best bang-for-the-buck. The mount is simple and sturdy and easy for a kid to use. The optics will be better than scopes on cheap German equatorial mounts, and those two features alone will add up to a better experience for your son.

Since your husband and son will be relatively new to this, I suggest buying them a cardboard planisphere, so that they can find what constellations and extra-galactic objects will be visible at any time on any night, AND spring for the $40 or so for the complete 3-volume set of Burnham's Celestial Handbook. Burnham's has a lot of very handy information, and it is arranged by constellation, so if Orion is going to be visible tonight (for example) you can find out about what nebulae, double-stars, interesting color-contrasting star pairings, etc you might find there. Planning an observing session can be as fun as actually getting out to observe, especially if the weather is not real cooperative where you live. Make lists of the objects you want to observe, and make notes as you check them off. Is object "A" very prominent in your 'scope? How about at different magnifications? What was the sky condition like? Observing logs can be fun, especially on cloudy nights when you want to review. It's interesting to see how "difficult" objects can get easier and easier over time as you learn to become a better observer.
Chronos
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#40
Jan8-11, 11:40 PM
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Personally, I prefer the Celestron, but, that is strictly my opinon. Turbo gives sound advice.
mistergrinch
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#41
Feb19-11, 03:54 PM
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What do people think of astronomy binoculars like the Celestron Skymaster 20x80? Are these too big for casual use, for example to take camping? I'm going to Arizona soon and I'm looking for something portable that gives me the most bang for my buck. Should I just get some smaller binoculars? Thanks.
turbo
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#42
Feb19-11, 04:38 PM
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Quote Quote by mistergrinch View Post
What do people think of astronomy binoculars like the Celestron Skymaster 20x80? Are these too big for casual use, for example to take camping? I'm going to Arizona soon and I'm looking for something portable that gives me the most bang for my buck. Should I just get some smaller binoculars? Thanks.
Large binoculars - especially with magnifications above 10x - can be very cumbersome and difficult to use unless you have a decent tripod for them. That's another piece of gear to pack and lug around.

For camping, casual viewing, and general hand-held astronomy, it's pretty hard to beat 7x50s. My advice is to get a pair of basic 7x50s made by a company that markets high-end gear. You don't get the bells and whistles, but generally, the quality optics, coatings, etc, filter down into the lower-priced models. I have a pair of very basic Nikons, and they are always with me when I'm observing.
mistergrinch
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#43
Feb19-11, 04:55 PM
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What about 10x50's vs 7x50's? Are there any other brands besides Nikon that you recommend for a reasonable price? Thanks.
turbo
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#44
Feb19-11, 05:03 PM
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I bought a pair of Celestron 10x50s to keep in my vehicle. They were very inexpensive, with better quality than I had expected. I don't want to leave my Nikons in an unattended vehicle, but the Celestrons are fine for that.
Dr know
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#45
Feb20-11, 02:09 PM
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i think everyone should have the pleasure of owning a telescope a telescope can clearly put a lot of things into perspective
turbo
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#46
Feb20-11, 02:27 PM
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Quote Quote by Dr know View Post
i think everyone should have the pleasure of owning a telescope a telescope can clearly put a lot of things into perspective
That's true, of course, though "clearly" might be in question, depending on the observer. When you look at the Orion Nebula, it's easy to say "pretty" and move on if you are incurious. If you spend time on that object with the idea that it is a really active stellar nursery, and imagine the view if our Sun and solar system were embedded in that nebula, it can blow your mind.

Look at M13 in Hercules. It's a very dense globular cluster orbiting the MW. What would our night-time skies look like if our solar system were embedded in that cluster? And these are just local objects. Even modest 'scopes can show you M51, M81, M82, etc - whole "island universes" with their own special characteristics and properties. Once, astronomers had to rely on published catalogs and survey photos to reference extra-galactic objects. Now, we have access to so many on-line resources (NED, HyperLeda, SDSS, IRSA) that it's just mind-boggling. And that doesn't count the imaging done in infrared, ultraviolet, X-rays, etc.

I used to plunk myself down with a planisphere and my Burnham's handbooks to plot observing sessions. Nowadays, people can not only consult planetarium software adjustable for their latitude and longitude; they can go on-line and access huge databases of images, spectroscopy including redshifts, angular dimensions, etc, so that when they go out to observe, they have a lot of background on the objects they plan to see.
Chronos
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#47
Apr4-11, 12:35 AM
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A small scope on a decent goto mount is more enjoyable than a giant dob with star charts. I tried it both ways. It's like driving a BMW after riding a horse. You can get there either way, but ...
Who Am I
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#48
Apr14-11, 11:43 AM
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Well, I have a Zhumell Z8 Dobsonian. 8 inch reflector.

It's kind of heavy, but is easy enough to transport. It didn't cost me much, under 400 I think. I am a big fan of it. I personally wouldn't ever choose portability over viewing quality, as long as I can move the thing. I'd always feel like I could do better for my money if I bought portable over image quality.

I took the thing to northern Arizona. It was actually up by snow bowl, a ski hill near Flagstaff. Since northern AZ boasts some of the darkest skies you can get, coupled with the altitude giving you excellent clarity and less obstruction from surroundings, I had the best night viewing that I've ever had. I was using my cumbersome Zhumell, yet I still take it out in the back yard when I go back home, and I still managed to put it in the back of my car and take it up the mountain.

So, my take on portability is get something that you can still move and set up without it being a major ordeal.

For newbies, I never really had a chance to go to a star party, so if you don't get that opportunity (though I would still highly recommend it since you can usually test out a wide range of equipment), I'd go for a Dobsonian mounted telescope, since you can usually take it in two pieces.
DaveC426913
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#49
Apr14-11, 12:29 PM
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Quote Quote by Who Am I View Post
I personally wouldn't ever choose portability over viewing quality, as long as I can move the thing. I'd always feel like I could do better for my money if I bought portable over image quality.
The factor to consider here is: the skywatching with a medium-quality scope is still a far better experience than that of a high-quality scope that never gets taken outside.


One of my favourite sayings is actually a boat saying, but it is a similar sentiment:

Q: It's 200 miles from here to Kingston. Between a $5,000 boat and a $10,000 boat, which one will make it to Kingston faster?
A: The $5,000 boat, because it can leave a several years earlier!
Who Am I
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#50
Apr14-11, 02:25 PM
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Well if it is too big to take outside then you ought to not get it. But I can still move mine outside since it sits next to the door. I just grab the stand, then the tube.

One of these days I might make a dolly and get a larger mirror scope.

But this is my personal preference, anyways.
DaveC426913
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#51
Apr14-11, 03:45 PM
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Quote Quote by Who Am I View Post
Well if it is too big to take outside then you ought to not get it.
Precisely, so there is a limit at which you will (and anyone else should) choose portability over quality.
turbo
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#52
Apr14-11, 03:58 PM
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Quote Quote by DaveC426913 View Post
Precisely, so there is a limit at which you will (and anyone else should) choose portability over quality.
That limit is getting stretched by some manufacturers. Orion is manufacturing a line of truss-Dobs that break down into several packages. Rocker box, mirror box, secondary mirror/focusser assembly, truss rods, and shroud. This puts very large 'scopes within the handling abilities of almost any fit person.
Who Am I
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#53
Apr14-11, 04:27 PM
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Isn't someone doing something like that with 16 inch mirrors? I'd absolutely love to have one of those.

http://www.google.com/products/catal...wAg#ps-sellers

I'd buy that eventually and use it frequently. I'd probably make a dolly for it before purchasing it though.

If I made some really good money I'd maybe get one of these suckers and make a custom trailer for it:

http://www.google.com/products/catal...wAQ#ps-sellers

I don't know exactly how I'd go about doing that, but I'd definitely do it if I knew how and had the money. Then I'd take that up to northern Arizona. I almost can't believe that that thing exists for anyone to purchase.
erok81
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#54
Apr26-11, 10:08 PM
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Would one notice a huge difference between a 6" dobsonian and a 10"? I've used a 6" and liked it and have about 500 for a new 'scope. The 10" from Orion is about that much. But of course if there isn't a massive difference, I could get a smaller one with an optics kit. Or in the range of 500 is there something better than a dobsonian? I am fine without the tracking systems. I'd honestly almost rather a manual one. Which would be better - a 10" and the lens it comes with or a 6" with an optics kit?


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