I'm fixing to buy a telescope

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There are many scams going on, where people try to sell you a telescope that's not even a real telescope. 2) DO NOT PAY ANYONE FOR A TELESCOPE IF THEY SAY THEY ARE FROM DISCOVERY CHANNEL. 3) If you are looking for a quality telescope, you should do your research and try to find one that is within your budget. There are many reputable telescope dealers on the web.
  • #1


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I'm fixing to buy a telescope. I saw one in the Discovery Channel Store at the mall that has a digital camera. Are there any other sexy features on telescopes that I should know about? What are some good buys?
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  • #2
I have a Meade Polaris and it's an okay telescope.

Lately you get the option of having some sort of remote control along with the telescope that (if I remember correctly) can find objects for you. Personally I think it takes to fun out of it but I use to be really horrible with finding stuff.
  • #3
I got a new telescope this Christmas and it is great although i have only been able to use it three times (the weather has been horrible cloudy and snowy) It depends on what you want and how much money you want to spend. I saw a good one that has over 2000 objects programmed complete with remote control (something like what sting was talking about) but it was $600.00 which is quite a bit. If you want to get serious I found an observatory you can actually buy and it is only about $200,000.00!
  • #4
Remote controlled telescopes are the coolest! I read that they can, somehow, point to some planet/constellation for you. You should consider that. it's worth it!
  • #5
Hey Tom, fixing to purchase a telescope huh? Well there are so many options, models, features you have to choose from. The first thing I would ask yourself concerning your budget.
How much are you willing to spend?

Good telescopes with quality optics do not come cheap. If you are on a tight budget you might want to consider purchasing some astronomical binoculars. However if you have the cash then its time to figure out what type of telescope you want. There are Reflectors, Refractors, Schmidt-Cassegrain and Dobsonians. Each of these designs offers a variety of advantages and disadvantages. I recommend doing a bit of research, seeing how these telescopes work (optically) and try to figure out what is best for your observational needs.

Once you decided on a specific type of telescope you’ll have to find a brand. There are many telescope dealers on the web and prices can vary. So you’ll have to really look around and do some serious shopping.

There are some relatively new features on telescopes such as the Goto System used by Meade and Celestron. Goto telescopes have built in software and GPS utilities that allow the scope to focus in on many celestial objects. You simply dial up what you are looking for and it will move to that portion of the sky. It’s a neat feature but it comes at price. If you plan on using CCD cameras to take photo graphs there are certain telescopes that will work a bit better than others.

There are a ridiculous amount of factors to take into consideration. So have a look at some of the different types and try to establish a price range for yourself.

My personal opinion, is if you are a first time telescope user you may want to consider a Dobsonian. A Dobsonian is basically a Newtonian Reflector with a different mount, an altazimuth mount. Orion offers some very nice Dobsonians for a reasonable price. They can be found here: http://www.telescope.com/jump.jsp?itemType=CATEGORY&itemID=9

Dobs are great scopes. They have large aperture, which means more light grabbing! Which is especially good if you live in or near a city. The bigger the aperture the better! Don’t worry to much about magnification because its really controlled with the lenses. You can get a Barlow lenses to fit most scopes for pretty cheap. Tom I’m sure you know about magnification from basic optics so I won’t bother explaining. The only downside with the Dob is that it is a little big, a little bulky. So if you looking for something relatively portable maybe this is not the choice.
  • #6
If you have any questions about a particular scope let me know, I might be able to help. Good luck finding the right scope. Happy Observing!
  • #7
The one I am looking at has auto-finding, remote control, and a digital camera. It runs just less than $900. Would I be a sucker for taking that?
  • #8
I browsed around the Discovery Store and couldn’t find a scope that quite met your description. The Meade Autostar line has a motorized automatic finding capabilities but I don’t know of any that have a digital camera. If it is a Meade scope that has Autostar its probably a good buy. In general Meade makes quality scopes and I have heard good things about the Autostar.
  • #9
1) DO NOT BUY ANY KIND OF TELESCOPE FROM THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL STORE. I cannot stress this enough -- even if it's a brand name telescope (like Meade or Celestron), do not buy it from a hobby shop. Go to a reputable telescope shop that knows and sells real instruments. It's quite likely that no one that has ever worked at a Discovery Channel store actually knows how to operate a telescope.

2) Many newer telescopes are computer-controlled, and can locate things for you. This is, in many cases, overkill for a new observer -- what good is a 50,000 object database when you're not even sure which constellation is which?

3) The digital camera that comes with this scope is almost certainly a steaming pile of crap. If it's one of the Meade video camera eyepieces, it's really only good for doing public displays on a TV screen. If it's one of the Meade CCD cameras, they suck. If it's a standard terrestrial digital camera, it probably sucks worse.

4) My advice to new amateurs (I teach community astronomy classes here and have introduced probably 200 people to the hobby in the last five years): buy a good quality fully-manual Dobsonian mount Newtonian reflector, 8" or so in aperture, a couple of good eyepieces, and some star atlases. Orion makes an excellent Dobsonian 'scope. Total cost: around $600. If you're a gadget freak and simply must have the computer-controlled jazz, look into the Meade LXD55 series or the Celestron NexStar series. I personally recommend Celestron, due to a higher reputation of quality.

5) Don't bother with an equatorial mount unless you plan on photography. It's a waste of time, space, and money if you're just going to use it for visual work. Besides, most of the cheaper equatorials are steaming piles of crap.

6) The best telescope for you is the one you will use. Seriously consider portability, setup time, and ease-of-use. If you find you don't have the motivation to drag a 200 pound electromechanical equatorial 'scope up to the local freezing mountaintop, you won't do it. Keep in mind that larger scopes require longer equalization times. My 11" SCT takes about an hour to really get stable at ambient temperature. Bottom line: you may find that a good quality refractor from a company like Stellarvue on a lightweight, quality alt-az mount will much more inviting to use on a nightly basis.

Let me know if you have any questions -- if you'd like, I can post some of my educational materials for you to read.

- Warren
  • #10
Well, the last thing I want is to spend hundreds of dollars on a steaming pile of crap.

I would like to only buy one telescope, so I might want that large database for the future. But what's really important is the camera. I want to take pictures and post them on the web (when I get around to getting a website).

Warren, feel free to post any materials you have that you think I'd find helpful. Glad to see you made it over here all right. Unfortunately, the language filter is in effect, but Prosoothus isn't here to agitate you, so I guess it will be OK.
  • #11
Tom, tell me more about the scope and camera, so I can judge whether or not they're worth buying.

In all likelihood, the only types of cameras that will really produce pleasing photographs are a simple SLR film camera and reasonably expensive CCD camera. A good CCD camera will start at around $1,500.

Also, I should mention that few serious astronomers have only one telescope. It's a valiant idea, but it's akin to a musician deciding he/she wants only one instrument. Telescopes vary so much in their abilities and strengths that only rarely is one enough.

The choice of photographic vs. visual observing really divides the class of scopes in half. Telescopes for visual and photographic work are almost always radically different. The best visual scopes are large-aperture Dobsonians, like a 25" Obsession. The best photographic scopes are very high-quality (yet modest ~5" aperture) apochromatic refractors (Astro-Physics, for example) on very high-quality rock solid equatorial mounts.

If you really think photography will be a big part of your hobby, let me know and we'll talk about what kinds of equipment you might get to start with.

- Warren
  • #12
The choice of photographic vs. visual observing really divides the class of scopes in half. Telescopes for visual and photographic work are almost always radically different. The best visual scopes are large-aperture Dobsonians, like a 25" Obsession. The best photographic scopes are very high-quality (yet modest ~5" aperture) apochromatic refractors (Astro-Physics, for example) on very high-quality rock solid equatorial mounts.
I will agree that the best scope for photography might be something like an Astrophysics APO, or a Takahashi Epsilon series, but the cost of these is prohibitive to most amateurs. I would strongly disagree that any "beginning amateur" should even consider starting with astrophotography in mind at all! The cost and early disappointments would soon lead to a quick loss of interest and dismay at all the $ invested.

I would disagree that something like a 25" Obsession would be best for visual use. It is a truss scope that would take several people to set up, costs over $8000 and would hardly be called portable, even though portability is the main reason to own a large truss scope. Also, the optics in most of the larger truss scopes (several manufacturers to choose from) are nowhere near the quality that can be had in a good Newtonian of up to ~12.5" aperture. You can get even better optics, unless custom made, in a 8-12 inch Maksutov Cassegrain. A Mak is recommended over any Schmidt Cassegrain besause its basic optical design allows sharper images and higher contrast, and smaller central obstruction (secondary mirror) causes less diffraction (and better contrast). I have used (and own) 8-12 inch Newtonians with custom optics that show far bettter detail on Planets, double stars and some deep-sky nebula than any SCT to 14", and far better than the big 17.5" to 25" Obsession (and similar) telescopes. I find that the ONLY advantage the big "light-buckets" have is bringing out more detail in the very dim deep-sky objects with low surface brightness. This is only because they gather more light. On objects with a high surface brightness such as planets, globular clusters, brighter nebulae and double stars, a very good Newtonian or Maksutov Cassegrain will kill the big light-buckets hands down for sharpness (detail) and contrast.

But, I could be wrong, of course
  • #13

You bring up some excellent points -- and it's a reminder that astronomy is 10 different things to 10 different people. ;)

I wasn't suggesting that he puchase an AP Starfire; I simply wanted him to realize that photographic and visual equipment is different.

You seem to be more into sharpness and constrast than limiting magnitude -- to each his own.

I've never seen an 8-12" Mak, and suppose one would be horrendously expensive.

The reason you've had better luck with a Newt as opposed to an SCT is most likely that the SCT was not well collimated. SCT's are EXTREMELY sensitive to miscollimation. In general, an tuned SCT will do just as well as any other design. The APO will most always win in the end.

The large Obsessions are widely held to be the Holy Grail of visual astronomy. They have remarkably good optics. I have no idea how you could even make the assertion that they are not.

In any event, let's not get too caught up in our own advanced personal preferences, and see if we can help Tom get started!

- Warren
  • #14
I will agree except to say that many of the "big Dobs" are notorious for large, rough mirrors. Even Royce, a nationally respected optician has now added a page to his website that offers replacements for Obsession mirrors if you really want a "good" mirror.

http://www.rfroyce.com/replacement_optics.htm [Broken]

A good 8" MAK is $4900 from TEC.
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  • #15
O come on Tom you know you couldn't just go get your own website and leave PF. You've been sucked into the addiction to PF. Don't worry there's a rehab number you can call...

haha but anyways My telescope doesn't have teh camera or database.

The telescope you found might not be that good. Mine was I believe $250.00 because it doesn't have that stuff and it is a very good telescope. That $900.00 one could not be good because the stuff like camera, database, and remote control could cost $900.00 all on it's own. We have a $550.00 Digital camera. If it is one as good as the one I have the digital camera could cost a good deal of that money not to mention the remote control and database. I was thinking of getting a telescope like the one that you are talking about but edmund wellington and a few others (including J-man i think) talked me out of it.
  • #16

Originally posted by Tom
Are there any other sexy features on telescopes that I should know about?

Night vision... perfect for spying on the neighbor lady.

  • #17
Originally posted by Nicool003
O come on Tom you know you couldn't just go get your own website and leave PF.

It's not going to have a message board, you silly goose.

I'll come back to this thread with more info once I have gone back to the store and seen a few telescopes. That night vision thing sounds good. Talk about observing the 'heavenly bodies'. Yuk Yuk Yuk.

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