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Stargazing Telescope Recommendations Anyone?

  1. Dec 8, 2009 #1
    I'm a freshmen in college (currently undecided on my major) and am seriously considering an undergrad in physics with the intention of going to graduate school for astronomy. But before I get serious about it, and with Christmas on the way, I want to get a decent telescope. I'd say my possible price range is $250-$500.

    I've done a little research, and Dobsonians seem to be a good bang for the buck, albeit cumbersome. I could use a little help on what brand/type to get as well as some specifications that I should look for such as magnification and size (it's still rather confusing to me). So.. any thoughts?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 8, 2009 #2


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    For price vs optical performance, you can't beat a Dobsonian. For versatility and ability to see a lot of objects, a cheap go-to mounted newtonian.
  4. Dec 8, 2009 #3
    Cool. So, if I went with a Dobsonian, what are some things to look for? (ie. magnification, size, etc.) For the highest magnification.. it seems most of them are 300x? If so, why spend $500 more for one with the same max. magnification?
  5. Dec 9, 2009 #4
    Magnification is useless. The amount of magnification is determined by the eyepiece, so for about $25, you can buy an eyepiece that gives you whatever magnification you want. But usually you don't want much magnification since you just end up magnifying a blur.

    What you do want:

    1) a big light bucket. You can think of a telescope as a big bucket for collecting light, and you want a wide a bucket as possible.

    2) a good mount with an auto-driver.

    3) Also, I've seen some *very* interesting things where you can hook up a telescope to a computer to either point the telescope to something, or to take long exposures. I'd take a look at some of the newer telescopes where you can enter in what you are looking for, and the telescope will automatically find it.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2009
  6. Dec 9, 2009 #5
    One other thing that you want to look at is


    If you get a good eight inch telescope is more than enough to get you started collecting data, and if you start connecting your telescope to a CCD camera you can start getting yourself familar with IRAF (see http://iraf.noao.edu/). If you really get into this, then it's going to look really good on a grad school application.
  7. Dec 9, 2009 #6
  8. Dec 9, 2009 #7


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  9. Dec 9, 2009 #8
    I wonder how hard it is to swap a big Dobsonian tube (say, a 10") onto an equatorial mount? If it's doable, a reasonable path could look like this:

    - First, get a 10" Dobsonian.

    - Then later, if and when the OP starts feeling constrained by the limitations of a manual altazimuth mount, and if additional money is available, get a factory-made equatorial mount like this one and use it to mount the tube from the original telescope.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2009
  10. Dec 9, 2009 #9
    Magnification is not important. If you are observing deep sky objects you will generally be using much less than 300x anyway. In terms of dobsonians, what more money gets you is a larger primary mirror, higher quality optics and more precise overall construction.

    From what you said, I would recommend something like a 6 or 8 inch meade dobsonian. For me, most of the fun is the challenge and adventure of exploring the night sky. Some people will inevitably say you need to get a "go-to" type system but I really don't see the point.

    If you do have serious research type aspirations like twofish mentioned, then you would want a different setup.
  11. Dec 9, 2009 #10


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    Here goes the recording: "Get to a local astronomy club, and attend a few meetings as a guest. Let the members know of your interests. Many of them are probably gear-hounds, and they could have some reasonably-priced used scopes that they want to sell. Best of all, you'll get to look it over and try it first. If you can get out to a star party, go EARLY, so you can see what the transportation requirements are for various scope/mount setups, and how much set-up time is involved. You'll also get to look through a variety of scopes so you can see which type best fits your interests."

    If you want to ignore that advice and just order a 'scope, this is a versatile (although basic) package with decent light-gathering capacity. Even with shipping, it keeps you comfortably within budget, so you can afford to get a decent atlas and learn your way around the sky. Orion has a pretty good reputation.


    As others have told you, magnification is a useless number for most purposes. The important number is aperture - light-gathering capacity. Unless you are heavily into double-star or planetary observing, you'll want all the aperture you can afford because most nebulae and galaxies are very faint low-contrast objects. On another forum, I saw a member's signature: "The Devil offered me power. I told him I prefer aperture."
  12. Dec 9, 2009 #11
    I agree with the dobsonian. My first real telescope was a 10in orion dob and I have been really pleased with it, its nice and stable. If you go for a dob, 6 or 8 inches diameter is probably as big as you want to still be somewhat transportable. Those are great for looking at planets and some of the deep sky objects. I image a cassegrain would be a good option for you. Its essentially a dob scrunched up and put on a tripod. So its a lot shorter and more transportable. Not sure how the cost compares though. Also, don't bother with a go-to scope right now. I'd rather spend a little more and get better optics than a computer. The best part about stargazing is searching for whatever you're looking for. You'll also learn a lot more about the night sky (particularly constellations) by not using a go-to.
    hope that helps!
  13. Dec 9, 2009 #12


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    Turbo gave the voice of experience to your question, and solid advice. Going to a star party is like going to walmart and viewing all the big screens on the same channel before making a purchase decision. You may even get lucky and find a 'used', within budget scope of your dreams. Well cared for scope do not suffer much from wear. Short of that you must rely on reputation. Meade, Orion, Celestron and Bushnell are all reputable, popular brands. Unfortunately, the bell curve on optical quality is fairly wide for even the most reputable brand names, and especially for cat scopes. A look with you own eyes is worth a thousand testimonials.
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