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Stargazing Is it worth getting a telescope?

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  1. Jun 15, 2013 #1
    I've heard countless stories from my friends saying they only used theirs once or twice before it got old. I've been really interested in astronomy but is it worth the money?
     
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  3. Jun 15, 2013 #2

    Bandersnatch

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    Depends. Do you find the idea of going out of town for a few hours of stargazing every now and then enticing?
    If you've never felt it worth the effort without a telescope, then I'd wager you won't change your mind when you get one.
     
  4. Jun 15, 2013 #3

    turbo

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    I have owned many of them over the years, beginning when I was a child over 50 years ago. The enjoyment that you can get out of a telescope is proportional to your interests and your skill in selecting a proper instrument.
     
  5. Jun 15, 2013 #4
    I've always enjoyed going out of town at night and looking at stars, but my friends say you don't see much difference through a telescope. I want to get into astronomy but I don't know if buying a telescope is the first step.
     
  6. Jun 15, 2013 #5

    turbo

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    I have generally owned Newtonians or catadioptrics, but when Astro-Physics released their 6" APO, I had to have one. Soon, I added a 90mm APO as a finder/guidescope. I still have an ancient Comet-Catcher, but it is never used, and I intend to give it to a niece or nephew if they express an interest. I live under extremely dark skies, with lots of "faint fuzzies" to sweep up, but somehow I gravitated to planetary observing, and good-quality refractors were the logical choice.

    Whenever I go out (even without telescopes), I always have my eyes and a decent pair of Nikon binoculars. A pair of 50mm objectives can sweep a lot of stuff, and the ability to use both eyes and integrate what you see is valuable. If a telescope is going to be used rarely, it's not worth spending the money. I might spring for a light-bucket at some time, but I'm pretty happy with the current stable of instruments.
     
  7. Jun 15, 2013 #6

    Bandersnatch

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    You won't get anything resembling Hubble pictures, that's for sure. With a good telescope and CCD camera, you may get close, but that's a more advanced(and expensive) stuff. Check the astrophotography sticky thread in the general astronomy section to see some examples of people's pictures.

    Now, it all depends on what do you need the telescope for. If it's just to see the planets as something more than points in the sky, or resolving details on the Moon's surface, then I'd advise against buying anything expensive. You'll probably end up doing just what your friedns say they did. You'll watch the Moon's craters, then Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn. Then you'll notice that there's not much more to look at. Galaxies are going to look just like fuzzy monochromatic blobs, and there's little point in looking at the same planets and craters all over again.

    If that's all you're thinking of, then buy a good pair of binoculars. They can give you similar experience to a small telescope, at much lower price and without being anywhere near as cumbersome logistically.

    Now, say you want to do a project of some kind. Like observing the changes of Venus' phases over a year, or repeating Galileo's observation of Jupiter's moons, or drawing a detailed map of the Moon's features, or counting the sunspots(Never look at the Sun directly! Use a screen) - now these are more conveniently done with a telescope.

    In my opinion, it's best to figure out what you want to observe first, then decide if you need a telescope to do it. Makes it easier to judge whether the expense is justifiable.

    Bottom line is: get binoculars, and upgrade when you'll feel yourself being limited in what you want to do by lack of a proper tool.
     
  8. Jun 15, 2013 #7

    Drakkith

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    I personally don't enjoy visual observing much. It's astrophotography that I enjoy. Not only can I take pretty pictures, but I can also contribute to science as an amateur by doing photometry, astrometry, etc. I've even "seen" a transit of an exoplanet across the disk of its star by plotting the light output of the star over the course of an hour and a half and seeing the dip in the graph.
     
  9. Jun 16, 2013 #8
    Hey bandersnatch you really helped thanks!
    I think it's best for me to wait till I'm employed! So I can spend money on getting decent equipment.
     
  10. Jun 16, 2013 #9
    I never go anywhere on vacation with a pair of Leica 10x50, IPad, astronomy software. My wife plans a vacation then I plan the astronomy I will get to see. On a trip to the Southern hemisphere I spent several hours watching eta carinea. Alas no super nova :)

    I am a plebeian astronomer but enjoy sky watching.
     
  11. Jun 18, 2013 #10

    davenn

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    I think you probably meant without ;)

    I sorta giggled when I read this....

    If you have to ask that question, then probably not, your astro interest hasnt built up enough yet

    Most people with a strong interest in astronomy would not be asking "do I need a scope?"
    but rather "how big a scope should I get/can I afford?"

    well the stars dont look any different, they are still just points of light. But is ALL the other things you see that you cannot see with the naked eye ....
    galaxies, star clusters, nebulae, planets and detail on them .... particularly Mars, Jupiter, Saturn
    not to mention awesome detail of the Moons surface. Sunspots, eclipses, planet transits with solar observing and the correct filters

    There's a lifetime of observing to do with a telescope of objects you cant see or at least cant see well with binoculars
    And all the astrophotography like Drakkith, myself and others do with our scopes

    cheers
    Dave
     
  12. Jun 19, 2013 #11
    davenn, thank you. yes, I take my binoculars :).

    I realize this forum is international, so I am not sure it will be the same everywhere but in the Dallas / Fort Worth, Texas area there are several Astronomy Clubs. Some of the members are very keen telescope builders, a number of the members are professional Astronomers. As a group they always readily share their experience and knowledge.

    Several of the local colleges have an adult night class in Astronomy. well worth taking.
     
  13. Jun 19, 2013 #12

    Chronos

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    If you just want to ogle the night sky, I agree a good set of binoculars is all you really need. Most people need a social reason to maintain interest in observing, be it an astronomy club, ATM, astrophotography or participation in an amateur science program. Once you've seen an astrophysical body, you've seen it. It will generally look exactly the same for the next 50 or so lifetimes. That is not exactly exciting for most people. There are lovely pictures on the net of just about everything you could ever want to see through a scope, only better, so it is difficult to justify spending big money to see a fainter, less detailed image with your own eyes. Most serious amateurs eventually get the AP bug because capturing pictures of astrophysical bodies is incredibly challenging, others get caught up in doing actual science [e.g., AAVSO], or hanging out in clubs. Few remain in it just to be telescope tourists. Those are the ones whose scopes spend most of their time in solitary confinement. So, try to think long term before buying a scope. Do you plan to join a club, an amateur science group, take pictures? This will help greatly in selecting the instrument most amenable to your interests.
     
  14. Jun 19, 2013 #13
    Do what Chronos said and join an astronomy club. I'm a part of a great local astronomy club (my friend and I are the only people under 30 years old, but that just means that we have a lot to learn from them :smile:), and once a month we have an observing session at our observatory, which contains a 20" telescope, along with the various large telescopes and accessories that many members bring along.

    I would recommend joining an astronomy club before buying anything. You'll get the chance to look through a few telescope before purchasing anything, and some members might be willing to sell you old telescopes for a lot cheaper than what you might find online. One older member even gave me a free eyepiece because he knew that I didn't have anything in the range of 40mm.
     
  15. Jun 20, 2013 #14

    davenn

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    I sort of agree with that a little bit, but the universe often throws up wonderful suprises, yeah yeah I could have settled, as you suggest, for the Hubble images of Shoemaker-Levy9 hitting Jupiter. But to see the impact sites with my own eyes through my own home built telescope and be able to show that to my neighbours - we were all going WOWOW
    30 years on with the various telescopes I have owned over the years, I am still finding new objects I havent seen before etc Every solar eclipse is a little different to the last one as are the transits of Mercury and Venus, the march of sunspot groups across the sun's surface and their waxing and waning through the solar cycles.
    Many years ago it was wonderful to see my first transits and occultations of Jupiter's moons.
    Or more recently the loss of one of Jupiter's more prominent equatorial regions belts and its slow reappearance.
    Even the so called nonchanging galaxies change periodically when a star in one of them goes supernova ... you aint gonna see that with binoculars ;)

    There's a joy to learning to find objects in the telescope by star hopping.... that one thing alone ( be it with a scope or binoculars) seriously improves you knowledge of the night sky

    I couldnt imagine ever not owning a telescope

    cheers
    Dave
     
  16. Jun 20, 2013 #15

    turbo

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    Same here. I don't always use them as much as I would like, due to health reasons, but it is so nice to know that they are out there in the garage, ready to go. Apochromatic refractors have gotten terribly expensive since I bought mine, but if you have the $$$, they should deserve a decent look.

    Also, before you spend a dime go to a star-party or two where you can audition the instruments of the participants. Get there early, so you can get a feel for the transport requirements and ease/difficulty of set-up. These will be very important to you, especially if you own a smaller vehicle. For a couple of decades, I have owned SUVs with fold-down rear seats, but it would be very difficult to fit that 6" refractor, mount and tripod in anything smaller. Some Dobs are modular and can fit into smaller vehicles, but that is not an option with a long refractor OTA.

    Do your homework, and good luck.
     
  17. Jun 20, 2013 #16
    I second this advice. In fact, I have heard this advice given repeatedly from astronomers and in astronomy forums. If you are just starting to explore an interest in stargazing, buy a pair of binoculars.

    If your interest in stargazing does not grow, at least you won't have a one-purpose piece of equipment cluttering your home. Binoculars are useful for much more than stargazing.
     
  18. Jul 1, 2013 #17
    It depends on a lot of things... your interest level probably being #1.

    A lot of folks these days get a "goto" scope and then get bored after it has shown them a few objects, which don't look much like they do in photos.

    Back in the day, astronomy as a hobby started with learning the constellations so that you could find what you were looking for... and that learning itself was a bit of an adventure, carried out over the course of one year. Next, you got used to your scope and how to find things with it by hopping from star to star. Part of that process was learning how to see with your scope, and what you could and couldn't see. By the time you got through all of this, you were a pretty good observer, and could ferret out the last bit of performance from your limited equipment, from the night's atmosphere, and from your particular light pollution situation. And you would have much of the sky memorized, including how to find all of your favorite objects.

    I guess the point is, getting started in astronomy used to be a challenge, and that was much of the fun.

    As some others have suggested, you really want to attend a few star parties held by local observing clubs. You will get to see exactly what you're getting into, and if your interest is still high after several of these, you might then think about a scope.
     
  19. Jul 14, 2016 #18
    Damn. You guys sure talk kids out of getting a telescope. Way to go nerds
     
  20. Jul 14, 2016 #19

    russ_watters

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    Welcome to PF!

    1. Nerds rule the world, if you hadn't noticed.

    2. To each his own. Since basically everyone in the thread owns a telescope, we love them. But we also know that not everyone has the patience or wonderment to actually enjoy them. I love showing-off the night sky with my telescope to people who have never experienced it. But there are two kinds of people when it comes to the view through the telescope: Ones who can't keep their mouth closed and ones who wonder why what they see doesn't look like what is in magazines. If you're the former, a telescope might be for you. If you're the latter, you won't be happy with one. The choice is up to you. All we can do is provide you honest experiences.
     
  21. Jul 14, 2016 #20
    +1 on checking out a local astronomy club. Around here, there are periodic Stargazing Open House(s) during the academic year when we can look through a really nice professional Celestron, computer driven scope and see all sorts of amazing stuff, curated by 'one who knows'. I think that this would be a really ideal way to start. Top equipment, curated by a knowledgeable operator. It is more fun than you can imagine. Try it.

    diogenesNY
     
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