Stargazing Buying my first telescope

  • Thread starter CINA
  • Start date
Well I've decided to buy my first telescope and I've been searching craigslist for 'em. My price range is ~$200 and have so far found some (seemingly) good scopes. I've so far narrowed it down to three scopes, and I was wondering what you all thought about them.

The scopes (all listed in good-excellent condition):

Orion SkyQuest XT6 Dobsonian ($199)"

Celestron NexStar 130 SLT ($185)"

Meade 6600 ($200)
I can't actually find a review of this one as it was apparently made in the '80's, but all the statements made in passing about this scope were all good (in the process stumbling upon turbo-1 on another forum :surprised ).

So what do you all think? I was leaning to the Meade over the Orion, but I'm hesitant with such little info on it.
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I think for $200 you should get a set of 10x50 (or therabouts) binoculars. I bought a Nikon binocular in this size for about £90, and a few quid for a tripod mount. It's amazing what you can see with them on a cold, clear night (the moon is my favourite, but the Orion nebula comes up really nicely in them too).

In my opinion, spending $200 on a telescope is a waste of time and money. If you really want to play with telescopes, join a local astronomy club and you'll have access to tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment.
Even when you could be getting a 6'' meade telescope for $200?


My preference would be a telescope. The dobsonians are very good bang-for-the buck, but due to the go-to functionality, you are likely to successfully see more objects with the Nexstar.

I've never used binoculars as even an occasional viewing device - my use of them has been limited to things like comets, which is very rare indeed. I've gradually worked my way up with three telescopes and what is great about telescopes today is for the same inflation adjusted cost as the crappy 60mm refractor on an equatorial mount I got 20 years ago when I was in junior high, you can get a 130mm go-to scope today! It is a huge step up.


Gold Member
Hi, CINA. I get around a bit, and try not to be too closed-fisted about my identity, so you can find me in other places pretty easily. I have been viewing through various amateur instruments for over 45 years, and Russ is right about the inherent superiority of telescopes vs binoculars. Unless you are going to build or buy a mount for your binoculars you are going to spend a lot of effort and frustration (especially viewing at high declinations) that could have been avoided by going with a 'scope. I own a 6" APO refractor on a a GE mount with a suitably large finder/guidescope. If I buy another 'scope soon, it will be a Dobsonian. Simple, good aperture/cost ratio, and quick transport and set-up.

I would strongly advise against buying a complex scope as your first, especially one with electronic do-dads, like GOTO. Spend the extra money on charts and learn your way around the night sky - that's the fun part. I own Tiron's charts in black-on-white, white-on-black, his comb-bound 2000 atlas, and Uranometria. You won't get me to give up any of them.

Good luck, whatever you choose. As always, I hope that you'll join (or at least audit some meetings) a local astronomy club so you can try out a bunch of great gear at a star-party or two. You should make sure to tell every member that you're looking for gear. Lots of astro-nuts are gear-hounds, and even those that are not might be willing to give you a great deal on a 'Dob if they are going to surprise a child or grand-child by upgrading them to some serious aperture.

Best wishes and good luck.
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The advise here is very sound. Learning your way around the sky is fun and exciting. Try and find an astronomy club near you for observing events and meetings. Senior members are always glad to guide new members in learning the night sky.

Here is a fine resource for assessing different telescopes, accessories and resources for buying new and used ones.
"[URL [Broken]
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I find that the BIGGEST, BIGGEST problem with an inexpensive telescope is not the scope, but the mount.

A 6" scope would probably excite the heck out of you if you're quite new at observing, but a bad mount makes it almost impossible to find and keep an object. Once you find it and let go of the scope it so often jumps off the object since the things that "turn" on the mount are sticky, not well lubricated or made. It's a nightmare and it could make me stop looking.

The binocular option is a great one, since you can see a very large picture of the sky, (it's beautiful and amazing). A telescope however can show you things the way you probably expect them too.

If I were you, I'd probably get the telescope that costs the most and with the simplest mount. The fancier the mount (at the same price), the lower quality its workings and smoothness are going to be.

I'd trust any of those 3 scopes to a certain extent, but I'd see which mount is STURDIER.


Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
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I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it's honestly pretty hard to get a good quality telescope and mount, new, for only $200. You're probably better off buying a used telescope, but you'll need some experience first.

Before you spend a dime, you should find your local astronomy club. Almost every city has one, and some metropolitan areas have half a dozen different clubs. One of the primary activities of these clubs is the introduction of the hobby to new people, and that includes guidance in the telescope-purchasing decision.

These clubs almost always offer public star parties, which will give you the chance to look through a dozen or more different types of scopes. Even more importantly, these clubs often have "loaner" telescopes that you can borrow -- sometimes indefinitely! (Until another new member requests it, at least.)

As an example, check out the [Broken].

The telescopes offered in these programs are usually meticulously cared for, lubed and collimated, and would be a perfect way for you to get started with a telescope without any investment at all. When you're finally ready to make a purchase, it will be a wise one.

Good luck and all the best to you!

- Warren
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I recently got the Orion XT6 you mention and like it alot. It's easy to use, very portable, and can get good views of some things.

I am a complete amateur, but for the price, I give it 2 thumbs up! :approve:


I'm not sure I've ever mentioned it here, but I bought one of those low-end go-to reflectors about 5 years ago:

That's the Meade 2114 (4.5" Newtonian). For me it was a mistake, but that was only because it was my second telescope and not my first. For the few weeks I had it, though, I saw a large number of objects. For a first telescope, for someone not looking to do photography, I would recommend something like that.


Science Advisor
Gold Member
The NexStar is a great buy at $200. Very portable, good features. Hard to find one under $400. Check condition.

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