Wow! It's lively here, thanks for all the replies - Will be sure to check out Stellarium! Just called and my local shop have an offer on the Skywatcher 130M - i'm pretty sure that will be my starting scope as i've been told by 2 different stores that the longer scopes without parabolic mirrors provide a better image (i.e. 130M vs 130P) - not sure if this is true, but both promised that the 130M would not be worse. Can't wait to go have a look tomorrow morning. they also have a slightly marked 130P for £129, which really has me tempted at that price if the 130M looks a bit too large to store.
…A giant leap in to stargazers lounge! I've just signed up, mainly looking for some advice but hopefully to sit in the shadows and pick up on what people are doing and all the great advice out there. Every time i search google for information, i end up with these dark black pages on my screen… So, thought it's time to sign up. Bit about me: I used to stare out at the night skies back in the late 80's when i was at school, we got a tasco telescope for watching Halley's comet as it was in view at the time, and my dad thought it was important to see it as either may not get the chance again. I lost hours each night, in hindsight it was basically a toy i was using, but each shiny object still moved my imagination in wonderment. I suppose many hobbies and children of my own have come in to my life in that time since, and coupled with a bit of panic attacks/anxiety that i had a few years back i couldn't really come to terms with planets and the earth as a globe* so never had a chance/guts to continue. (*I had a hard time coming to terms that what was once solid ground beneath my feet, was in fact just a rock 'floating' in space. As mental as that sounds, once you ask yourself enough times which way is 'up' and your brain shifts itself on an axis so that you are no longer 'on top of the world'… but 'under' it, it changes your whole outlook on things. I used to lay on my back in the garden and pretend that i had the world on my back, and i was stuck, velcro like, with deep space hanging beneath me. It is almost life changing to experience that, i can't explain it. Needless to say, i had to hide in ignorance from this as it did affect my mental state, and played a part in me developing agoraphobia - if i was in open spaces, on playing fields for example, i would experience the axis tilt in my brain and crawl off the field on my hands and knees!). Anyway, purely by chance Mark Thompson was at our local school the other night, kindly giving up his spare time to show the kids the moon, jupiter and it's moons, and something where 'stars are made' around orion's belt - Honestly, it blew my mind to see the quality of images through his rather modest portable scope. And it set me back to the hours i used to spend gazing up at the sky and thought to myself that it's something to relish not fear. My lad (8) has got a budget telescope (Just says 525x magnification on the box) - and while it's ok with the 20mm eye piece, it's so hard to align with the finder, and you have to push it so far over what you want to see and keep tapping it slowly to get things aligned… And then focus moves in steps. Anyway, i had a good couple of hours with it the other night and really enjoyed it. Even got some photos by sitting a camera on a tripod behind and focusing it on the eye piece of the telescope. However… I really want to see more now, i would love to see planets like Jupiter and Saturn for myself, and let him have a look at them too as (like most kids) he loves anything to do with space. So, cue a bit of searching around on the internet for advice, and i've landed here by default. I'm currently looking at getting something like the Skywatcher explorer 130P or 130M, but not sure if the motor is a better option, or going with the better (parabolic) mirror. As my lads eyes have a slight movement he sometimes finds it hard to look into the eye piece and get a good view, so being able to somehow pick the image up on a screen, be it webcam or my dslr would be such a big bonus for us to view together. Reading these forums, i seem to be most excited that people are picking up on DSO's/Nebulas etc. I can't believe you can achieve such images. However, i don't know how far off a 130P, for example, is from being able to stick my Canon 550D on to it and attempting some long exposure shots myself. Oh boy… I think i'm going to leave it as an introduction now, and just move myself slowly into conversations, i tend to write books when i get on forums. Look forward to talking with some of you anyway! And if anyone has a suggestion on what scopes to look at please reply, it would be most appreciated!