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Beginning Astronomy

  1. Feb 22, 2009 #1
    Hey everyone, I was hoping if any experienced astronomers could help me out here. I'm looking to buy my first telescope, my main interest is in observing the planets, the moon, I don't know if this is too much or not, but I would maybe want to see some moons of the other planets and maybe get a decent look at some nebulae and possibly, a few galaxies.

    One website pointed towards the Orion Skyquest XT8 as a good beginning telescope. I am looking very much towards this one, it is only $329, which is probably around my limit, I'm only a ninth grader so I don't have too much money available to me, when I showed my parents they said they were willing to go for the price but the look on there face told me that it would be best not to go any higher. According to a website, 3" apperatures are a must, this one is 8, so it sounds pretty good, though I can't say for sure becuase I have no clue how much a 5" increase in apperature would change the veiw.

    Also, the site told me to subscribe to either Sky and Telescope or Astronomy magazine. Could anyone tell me which one is more helpful for a beginner. They cost about the same so I am not sure on which to choose.

    Could anyone clear me up on what I should be looking for and whether or not the telescope above is a good choice, I would really appreciate it.

  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 22, 2009 #2


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    Science Advisor

    Glad to see you're interested in starting up the hobby of astronomy!

    There are a few things that depend on your individual situation in regards to what you should buy for your first scope (if it's a scope). First off: Have you ever had the experience of looking through a telescope? If not, it is a very good idea to attend a local star party and have some of the people there show you around their equipment. Likely it will be a lot more expensive than what you're in the price range for, but nevertheless it is great to get first hand experience with telescopes.

    Second, the point most often mentioned for people wanting to get into astronomy is that your first scope shouldn't actually be a telescope, but rather a pair of binoculars. A decent pair of binoculars will cost less than $100 and will offer great views of star clusters, the moon, planets, and nebula if properly mounted. Not to mention the fact that they are much more portable than a telescope, which brings me to my third point:

    Size. an 8 inch scope is significantly more heavy and bulky than a 3 inch scope, which is much bulkier than binoculars, and in general, the larger the scope the less often it is used. Now obviously this part is particular to your situation but if wherever you plan on observing is far away, it's unlikely that you're going to want to haul a large scope over long distances (especially in the cold!) to do some observing. That being said, as a general rule bigger is most certainly better and an 8 inch scope collects loads more light than a 3 inch scope. Again, this is something that is particular to your environment, but if you live in a very light polluted location, this is not that important. In general, the amount of light from whatever you want to look at increases with aperture, but so does the light pollution, so the effects roughly cancel each other out (the larger scope has much better resolution, however, but light pollution certainly works to equate the two scopes).

    The orion scope you mentioned above is a great starter telescope if you have an observation site nearby (such as your immediate back yard). At 41lbs, it's not exactly a pushover to haul long distances, so you're going to want to keep your site nearby. Because it's a dobsonian, you get the advantage of a much larger aperture for a much smaller cost, but the price you pay is tracking. The dobsonian mount is very... primitive, in that you point the scope at what you want to look at and as the object drifts out of view you have to manually push the scope the direction you want to adjust the view. But, assuming you don't want to get into astrophotography (fun sounding, I know, but incredibly expensive and time consuming) it's a great first scope for observation. My first scope was the Celestron's equivalent, and I was not let down.

    Well that's all I'm going to say for now, and after you've read all this and can comment on your current situation with regards to light pollution, observing location, etc. I can give more specific advice.

  4. Feb 22, 2009 #3
    Thanks for the reply Nabeshin. I looked at a picture of the USA at night, and, sadly enough, my area is pretty bright. My yard can give me a somewhat good view of the sky, but the best place for me would be a nearby lake. Luckily, its a public one so there are roads all around it. So I could easily drive there in my dads truck and would only have to lug the scope a short distance before seting it all up. How hard is it to set up a scope of that sort?

    I've been using a pair of 15 x 35mm binoculars for a while, according to the site, 7 x 50mm would be a better choice. The binoculars are okay though, I've used them for a while and I've goten pretty familiar with the sky.

    I'll look into finding a club in my area. That sounds like it would be the most helpful.

    So as of now I'm looking to the Orion telescope for my first.:smile:
  5. Feb 22, 2009 #4


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    That's definitely a good beginner scope. You'll be able to see everything you listed there.

    When comparing telescopes of the same type, more aperature gives you the capability for more magnification. The focal ratio (that is f/4) tells you how bright an image is (lower is brighter).
  6. Feb 22, 2009 #5


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    For that orion scope there is basically zero set-up. All you have to do is put it down and it's ready to go. Because it's an alt-az mount, you don't have to align with anything so you just point and look. Yeah 7x50mm would be a better choice, I myself own a pair of 15x70mms and I love them almost as much as my scope.

    As long as you're familiar with the sky I'd say this scope is great. With a decent star chart or some astronomy software you'll be able to star-hop to a ton of things in no time I'm sure!
  7. Feb 23, 2009 #6
    Thanks for the help, I can't wait to get started.
  8. Mar 3, 2009 #7
    Hmm, my best bet is to go with the one that your looking at right now, i've seen that one on google a few days ago while surfing the web for a telescope to invest in myself.
    I'm no professional Astronomer giving the fact i'm only in the 8th grade, but you'd be suprised on how much the growing brain can learn.
    I sometimes answer questions about space that our science teacher knows.
    Funny, huh?
    Well, enough about me.
    Good luck on getting the telescope/searching for one that fits your style.
    Have fun,
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