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Stargazing Telescope for my astronomy class next semester

  1. Oct 20, 2011 #1
    :biggrin: I need a telescope for my astronomy class next semester :biggrin::biggrin::biggrin: and a $700 budget...having a difficult time deciding which one to get :-/
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 21, 2011 #2


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    Re: Planning to buy a first telescope?

    You shouldn't actually *need* a telescope if you are planning on taking an astronomy class, much less one in the $700 range. There are lots of other ways to skin that cat.

    When I was in college, I had limited access to a venerable old Alvan Clark 8" refractor. It was nice to get some access to that instrument, but still, it was just a novelty, since the campus was so light-polluted. Now, I have my own 6" APO, with very dark skies. Better, visually, but still not really useful for research because of the lack of instrumentation. I may eventually set up an observatory to house that scope, just to start some astrophotography survey work and give myself a relatively comfortable base of operations.

    If you *want* a telescope (and who doesn't?!!) that is different from *needing* a telescope. Very few people who take an introductory astronomy class own much more than very basic optical aids (a decent pair of binoculars, for instance), nor can they benefit from them in their classwork. Please hook up with a local astronomy club and go to a few star-parties. You'll soon find out what a $700 entry-fee will buy you, and then you can decide if you want to jump in or wait until you can afford to invest more.

    I have a friend in England that has a custom-made mount. He will eventually populate it with 4 (!!!!!) Tak 90s and cameras so that he can do high-precision wide-angle imaging with short, simultaneous captures. (2 down, 2 to go) He's out there on the edge, but is putting out some of the nicest images available anywhere.

    Anyway, please don't spend money on equipment unless you are going to use it over and over and tweak the hell out of it. It's not like you are going to turn cosmology on its head with a little 'scope. It should be fun and entertaining for you and a source of enjoyment. If you can discover a new comet or an Earth-grazing asteroid, or a supernova in a nearby galaxy, that's great (and well within the capabilities of many amateur instruments), but such discoveries generally take a lot of time, and require you to be VERY familiar with the night sky. I have looked at M51 a zillion times, for instance, but if there was a new supernova in that galaxy, I'd probably miss it (unless it was really bright!) because I'm just not wired that way.

    Anyway, save your money unless you really want the fun of playing with astronomical optics. Owning a telescope will not help you one little bit when you are taking an introductory astronomy course (or much more advanced courses, to be realistic). After you have a few courses under your belt, you may find that you want to do some survey work (like searching for supernovae), though the equipment you'll need to get started will probably rival the cost of a new vehicle, at a minimum. Amateurs can make an impact in astronomy/astrophysics, but you'll have to nibble around the edges because we can't afford huge instruments, nor can we site them on dormant Hawaiian volcanoes.
  4. Oct 21, 2011 #3
    Re: Planning to buy a first telescope?

    Thanks turbo :biggrin: Astronomy class has observation nights scheduled so I thought I would need a telescope....and of course I *want* one :biggrin::biggrin::biggrin: and I have $700 to spend on it, but if it is better for me to wait until later and buy a better telescope I will. I moved out to the country some months ago and the sky is reasonably clear here--not very dark but I can see more stars here than any other place I've ever lived. Lately I find myself standing outside in the middle of the night with my head tilted back almost 90 degrees. I am very unfamiliar with the night sky and can only identify a few constellations lol. Next semester I have an earth and space sciences class as well as astronomy, then next fall I should have my first astrophysics class and second astrophysics class the semester after that :biggrin: I plan on joining the local astronomy club as well.

    Thanks for such a thorough response a lot of what you said is very insightful :)
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