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Beginning Astronomy Please Help

  1. Oct 26, 2005 #1
    In a few days (pay day) im hoping to buy a telescope as ive always been interested in the stars but i really am clueless as how to begin. I am hopeing to spend £150 max but would prefer if it cos a little less. I saw this on ebay but all of the specifications are beyond me.

    http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/NEW-6-NEWTONI...7554875161QQcategoryZ3636QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

    If i were to buy a similar telescope what kind of things could i see bearing in mind i live in england which i know isn't the best place for astronomy. I would really appreciate any tips, thanks
     
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  3. Oct 26, 2005 #2

    turbo

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    Please don't buy a telescope yet. That is the worst way to get your feet wet in astronomy, and most people who start out that way end up wasting money based on far-fetched advertising claims. The best way to start out is to find an astronomy club in your area and attend a few meetings. You will get to know some folks who have been down the path you're ready to take, and they can advise you. Attend their next star-party. If the skies are cooperative, you will get to look through a variety of telescopes and see how they are controlled. Get there early so you can watch people setting up their equipment, and see how much space they need to transport their gear. These things will impact on you when you buy your first scope and you should take them into account NOW before you spend your hard-earned cash.

    One big plus is that you will probably meet at least one or two people who are saving up for their "dream scope" and might be willing to give you a good deal on their old one, AND you'll get to try it out first. Most commercial telescope manufacturers prey on the impressionable and inexperienced by promising unrealistic viewing magnifications, optical quality that they aspire to, but rarely deliver, etc, etc. They are building their scopes to meet competitive price points, and they often cut corners in areas that adversely effect the performance of their scopes (like flimsy undersized mounts). You need to make friends with some experienced astronomers and gain from their experience before you make an expensive mistake.
     
  4. Oct 26, 2005 #3
    When you do buy your first one, buy cheap because in one year you'll either be bored with it or you'll be an astronomy snob and want a new and better telescope anyway. There is no middle ground it seems.

    Forget lens power too (all that 1000x nonsense). You want the biggest aperture for your money. Aperture is the single most important feature. And don't be afraid of mirrors.
     
  5. Oct 26, 2005 #4
    Well it looks like a very nice scope, but let me provide you with a little info. on scopes that might help you decide better.
    You can buy either equatorial or altazimuth telescopes, the difference is that an an altizumuth is a simple mounting on which a telescope can be moved freely in any dirrection, an equatorial mount is more complicated and means that only one motion is necesary (east/west), also altizimuth are more intuitive and better for beginning star gazers. Now if you are looking to attach a moter clock drive or do long astrophotography exposure, equatorial mounts are necesary. There are two main telescopes a refractor and a reflector. In a refractor, the light from a star is collected by a lens (object glass) and brought to focus. Here a second lens, knowned as the eyepiece magnifies the image. In a reflector the light is collected by a specially shaped mirror and reflected back up the tube. Then the light is brought up to focus and as before, magnified by an eyepeice (this is the Newtonian form of reflector although there are other variants). With a reflector try to go for a large apeture meaning, the diameter of the front object glass, which is the light collecter, although the eyepiece does all the actual magnification, the bigger the apeture the greater is the amount of light available to the eyepeice and a high manification can be used.
    If you want to buy a telescope, dont pay a large sum of money for a refractor with with an object glass of 60mm diameter, or a Newtonian reflector with a 4.5 inch mirror. small telescopes dont gather enough light to be really useful astronomically.
    I can also recomend that you use skycharts they are available in software or on the internet. They are really helpful because they show you exactly what can be seen over the sky in your area. I personally have the Cartes du ciel skychart sofware on my computer which has helped me alot and can be downloaded for free. But if you perfer it through the internet you can find them here www.heavens-above.com
    If you perfer the free version of Cartes du Ciel you can download it here:
    http://www.stargazing.net/astropc/index.html
    Galaxy............:smile:
     
  6. Oct 26, 2005 #5
    i have to agree with what trubo said. First join a club.

    There are many clubs here in the uk check out ...
    your local club

    Until then your best piece of equipment is the mark one eyeball. You don`t need expensive equipment when you start off.

    A lot of people become disalutioned with astronomy because all the really beatuifull objects like planetry nebula and galaxies can only be resolved with high powered telescopes, most stars don`t look any diffrent through a scope to how they look with the naked eye.

    If you are determined to buy a scope then then reflectors will get you a larger primary for your money over a refractor since it`s easier to polish a mirror than to grind a lense, and a good quallity mount is a must, you need to reduce as much vibration as you can, especially if you get into the (very fustrating) feild of astrophotography.

    Hope this helps
     
  7. Oct 27, 2005 #6

    turbo

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    Please do not encourage people to buy cheap telescopes. They are an absolute waste of money, which cannot be justified. Beginners should purchase things that are useful and valuable, and that retain their their usefulness and value. These include things like charts/star maps and binoculars. I mention binoculars because they are portable and very useful, even if you already own any other viewing instruments.

    A tip: If you will buy a standard design (7x50 porro prism is great) binocular from a manufacturer that makes very high-end optics, you will usually get a very fine instrument for a modest price.
     
  8. Oct 27, 2005 #7

    Chronos

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    Another vote for Turbo. Test drive before you buy. Personally, I like wide fields [like Turbo's binoculars]. They give astonishing views. Short tubes are also more user friendly..., ever tried to erect a 12" f10 tube and mount in an open field in January? It's not unlike teaching a hog sign language.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2005
  9. Oct 27, 2005 #8

    russ_watters

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    While I tend to agree with the advice so far, I worry about how realistic such advice is. How many beginners are actually going to join an astronomy club? How many are going to jump right in with a $1500 scope?

    The scope on that page looks good. This month's Sky and Telescope has a review of several sub-$200 scopes. They stress aperature, accessories (make sure you get two eyepieces), and alt-azmuth mounts. The last one surprised me, but they recommend alt-azmuth for its simplicity. My first scope was equatorial and it forced me to put a little extra effort into using it, but it made it much easier to follow objects through the sky.
     
  10. Oct 27, 2005 #9

    turbo

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    Most astronomy clubs are very accomodating, and encourage non-members to audit the meetings/presentations and attend their star parties. Community-building and outreach is critical if we are going to ever ramp back the light pollution that plagues our skies, and astronomy clubs are keenly aware of this. A beginner need not become a member of an astronomy club to take advantage of their resources, but if the club is well-run with lively presentations, it will be hard to resist the temptation to join.

    There is no better way to find the 'scope that is right for you than to attend a large star party and look at (and through) a lot of them. To many 'scope owners, their primary instrument is their "baby" and it doesn't take much more than a polite question or two to get them talking about the advantages and disadvantages of various designs, and why they chose their scope above others. This is the most valuable advice a beginner can hope to get. These scope-owners voted with their pocketbooks. They will also tell you things like "I used a 5" JSO SCT for years until I could afford my dream 'scope - a 6" f:8 APO with a massive mount" :smile: "and I would love to own a 14-16" R-C, but that is beyond my reach" A friend of mine bought a small Meade SCT simply because he wanted a telescope, and intended to use that until he could afford an 8" Meade SCT. This kind of advice (ideal world vs paycheck-based reality) is very useful, and I wish I had had more of it earlier on.

    I would rather see a beginner defer buying a cheap 'scope until he or she can afford one that is more appropriate for their needs, and it does not have to be expensive either. There are many low-cost dobsonians out there, and there are lots of used SCTs gathering dust in people's garages. Networking with amateur astronomers at a club is fun and it can save a newbie a LOT of money and frustration.
     
  11. Oct 27, 2005 #10
    Do not buy an expensive instrument. If you must buy at all, pay closest attention to size of the aperture.
     
  12. Oct 27, 2005 #11

    russ_watters

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    As with most people, my first telescope was a junk 60mm refractor that I got for X-mas ($150 in 1993 money). It was good enough to see the moons of Jupiter, the great red spot, and rings of Saturn, which was enough to fan a serious interest in astronomy. Low-end scopes have improved considerably since then, and you can now buy, for under $200 a scope with much more aperature, 1.25" eyepieces, etc. The article I mentioned had an Orion dobsonian as the top rated, and seveal other Orion scopes got very good reviews.

    One way or another, everyone needs a "first" telescope, and it just isn't feasible for most people for it to be an $800 scope.
     
  13. Oct 27, 2005 #12

    turbo

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    People do not always need a telescope as their first instrument, nor do they need a telescope that costs $800 or $1500. And I don't know where you got those numbers as baselines.

    The companies that build "consumer grade" telescopes hammer the newbies with lots of inaccurate (let's be honest - the ads are absolutely dishonest!) claims and illustrate their ads with photos that might be more likely to have been produced by the HST than by any ground-based amateur scopes. This is wrong. You know that except in the case of a bright object viewed through a VERY large telescope, your eye will see variations of grey, and you will not see color in the Orion nebula , etc.

    Time for a reality check....newcomers should look for local astronomy clubs and try to attend a few meetings and talk to some of the members. It will save you a ton of money and disappointment.
     
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