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  1. Last night the cloud dissipated shortly after dark, but still slightly hazy and the usual murk around the horizon. Almost all the sky was clear of cloud, so I got a good view of the constellations. I decided to set up and have another try at Andromeda. Polaris was not visible so I set up roughly North. Later on Polaris came into view and the tripod was around 15deg out of alignment, but it did not cause any problems in tracking manually. This time Cassiopea was clear so I used it as a pointer to get a positive ID on Alpheratz and that confirmed the position of Mirach too. The lower part of the square of Pegasus was lost in the murk. The two hopping stars to the right of Mirach were invisible to my unaided eyes for most of the time, although I thought, or imagined, that now and again I caught a faint twinkle from one or the other. This time I did not even try to use the slow motions, I treated the mount as a sloping dobson, sighted alternately along top and side of the main tube and pushed and shoved it into position. After several minutes of trial and error I got a brighter star than the others into the finder's fov, the tube was pointing at Mirach, that had to be it. From there it was just as I had practiced in Stellarium, where I have my finder (mag 9x, fov 5.0deg) set up in ocular view. I pushed Mirach to the edge of the finder, knowing that the bright star that came into view at the other edge was uAnd, then pushed that to the edge until vAnd came into view, again brighter than the surrounding stars. At that point I locked the axes and used the slow motions to centre vAnd and looked where Stellarium shows the galaxy. Even in the 9x50 I could see a faint fuzzy blob right where it should be. After that all I had to do was centre the galaxy and look through the ep. I started with the standard 25mm then after a while I tried the 9mm Celestron Plossl, then the 32mm from the kit I have on loan. Apart from the size I could not see any real difference in the fuzzy images of the galaxy, but the 32mm seemed to give a sharper view of the adjacent stars. As yet I don't know what I should be looking for in eyepieces and I think all views were limited by the hazy conditions. I gave up any hope of seeing M32 or M110. Even though the mount was misaligned, tracking was easy. I had to make some small adjustments in declination, but that was in more than 40min of tracking after I first centred the galaxy. Even with the 9mm ep I had no problem in manually tracking in RA and I could take my time changing eyepieces and adjusting the focus without fear of losing the target. I think this was my 6th session with the telescope, but the previous ones have been spent fumbling around learning the basics of the equipment or looking at big easy targets already visible to the naked eye. This is the first time I have found something that was not visible without the telescope and it definitely makes all the effort worth while.
  2. Thanks for the tip on the wooden ring, I will see what my wife knows about them. After the fiasco of seeing Mirach but not being able to get it in the finder, I set up in desperation last night. Poor visibility and about 80% cloud cover moving fast. I tried a sort of celestial shooting gallery: wait for a star to pop into view then try to get it in the finder before the cloud covered it again. It would obviously involve a lot more waiting than viewing, so I set up inside, viewing through the double glazed door, sat on a kitchen chair and waited. Eventually, after a few attempts when the cloud covered the target before I homed in on it, a star came into view in quite a big gap to the West and I tried using the eq mount as I assume you would with a dob, just pushing it around and using the tube as a sighting aid. By sighting alternately along the top and then the side of the tube I got it in the finder, then it was easy to lock the axes and line it up with the slow motions.This is real raw beginner's stuff, everyone else seems to just get on with it with no problems. It really is down to my lack of experience, but perhaps the 9x50 finder's fov makes it more difficult than with a lower power finder. While I had a star lined up and no other targets in sight I tried a quick check of the tracking. Polar alignment was no more than putting the mount roughly North, no attempt at fine tuning, but when I put the star at one edge of the finder I could move it over to the other edge on RA alone without any serious change in declination. The finder's fov is about 5deg so that is about 20 min of RA without needing adjustment in declination, good enough for me. Before I commit to spending on an RDF I want to get more practice with the gunsight idea, and also borrow my granddaughter's Heritage 130p which has an RDF as standard.
  3. Hi Martin, Thanks for the info, especially re the polar scope. Apologies for not seeing your post sooner. I agree about treating an eq. as an alt-az set at a crazy angle. The reason I have taken so long to check SGL is that I have nothing much to report other than frustration at almost continual cloud and rain, frequent sub-zero temperatures and high humidity. Since the beginning of December I had used the telescope just once, and that was with a forecast of thick cloud. On my way to bed I noticed that the cloud had cleared and the "supermoon" was shining brightly through the patio door. Rather than waste time getting into multiple layers of warm clothing I chose to break with advice and set up inside the door. It was a case of grab'n go, no pretence of alignment, I just aimed it like a gun then used the slow motions to wander over the surface at 75x. I got about 20min before the cloud rolled back. It was worth it even through double glazing, and at least I had no worries about the optics fogging over. Last night looked fairly clear, so I set up and had a look. Visibility was fairly poor; according to Stellarium the Andromeda galaxy should have been in a good position but with naked eye I could make out Mirach but not the stars leading to the galaxy, and no trace of the galaxy itself. I decided to aim at Mirach and then track across to see if I could make it out in the 9x50 finder. That was the first surprise, I spent about 20min trying to get Mirach in the finder and still failed to see it positively. I could see plenty of stars but which, if any, was Mirach? I think this is a case where a red dot finder would have saved a lot of time and uncertainty. Eventually I gave up and moved around to Orion, which seemed to be much brighter and clearer than the view to the West. I had been here before on one of the first outings in December but I had another look at the nebula anyway. I managed about an hour in total before cloud rolled in and put a stop to it. I'm not sure why, but I found it more difficult this time to locate features in the finder. I will experiment a bit with the height of the tripod to get a better angle through the finder. This all started as a surprise christmas present for my granddaughter. All the technical discussions about equ. vs dob came to nothing when her mother looked at the tripod and mount and refused to tolerate anything so big and clumsy. The only acceptable choice became a Heritage 130p with collapsible tube and dob. mount. Before I can make any useful decisions about my own setup I need to try out both a red dot finder and a dob mount, so I plan to try the Heritage when I can get my hands on it. Father Christmas also delivered a copy of "Turn left at Orion", and a planisphere too. Now for feedback on the Vixen mount. So far I have not used the power tracking. I have enough problems without having a power supply and cables to trip over in the dark and I cannot risk damaging them. I found in my spares box two electrical potentiometer knobs of exactly the size for the slow motion shafts, so the motor clutches remain slack and I use the knobs for manual control. I find them very useful for precise tracking and would not give them up without a compelling reason. The whole assembly is big, unwieldy and very heavy, but it is easy to move and set up as four units; tripod, mount, weights and OTA. In my limited experience the time to set up the whole thing is not a problem, it is much less than the time it takes to put on multiple layers of warm clothing. For visual observing it is simple to set up. I know where North is in relation to the house and garden, all I do is place the N leg of the tripod pointing roughly North, the latitude is already set and locked and the job is done.
  4. Thanks for the comments and advice. I had no luck with the silicon ring; £1.49 for an assortment, the ones that fitted around the finder were too thick to fit the holder. Plan B works - two elastic bands rather than one. Thanks also for the reference to Moonshane's articles, both very helpful. I also planned to line up next time by ignoring the polarscope and using the main tube instead, but it didn't work out last night. The first session was Nov 29th. After weeks of overcast and rain and waiting patiently for the clouds to part I had written off last night too, but a final check at almost midnight showed clear sky to the South and overhead. The plan for session 2 was to line up on Polaris, then Vega -> Sheliak -> ring nebula, then via Cygnus to Alpheratz, Mirach and the Andromeda galaxy, but they were all hidden by cloud or below the horizon. I recognized Orion from Stellarium's constellation lines, and it looked bright and clear, so I decided to wing it with no preparation or good knowledge of what to look at. Polaris and the Northern stars were behind cloud, so I chose the rough alignment: Point about N and rely on the preset latitude, tripod legs retracted, no nonsense about levelling. It would be slower than a Dob because I had to put the weights and the tube on, but it was fairly quick to set up. Then it was a case of swinging it around on to Orion. I did not know what I should be looking at, but I recognized Betelgeuse, the belt and the sword. I managed to home in on Betelgeuse with a combination of sighting alongside the tube, homing in with the finder, then the 25mm ep. That allowed me to realign the finder, which had previously been out of its holder. Then I tried the star test for collimation that I had read about. It looked OK, with an Airy disc and the diffraction rings looking circular all the way either side of focus. (I bought a collimation tube and rechecked the collimation a few days ago). Because I didn't know what to look at I decided to settle for finding the Orion nebula, take a general look at Orion then shift to the Pleiades, which were visible as a big smudge way over along the line of the belt. When I shifted to the belt I realized I had a lot to learn. For someone completely inexperienced the different orientations between the real universe, the finder and the ep take a lot of getting used to. Eventually, with lots of trial and error and frequent movements in the wrong direction, I got the three stars of the belt visible in the finder and slowly tracked down the sword using the slomo knobs until I found a fairly big smudge with three bright stars in the centre, which I think must have been the nebula. After that I wandered around concentrating on getting used to the change between finder and ep and trying to get used to the movements needed. The rough alignment worked well enough. Several times I allowed a target to drift outside both ep and finder and brought it back easily with movement in RA alone. By the time I got to the Pleiades the clouds were beginning to close in and the cold metal felt damp, so I had a good look then packed up- about 90minutes outside and long after my bedtime. This morning I woke to find everything covered in snow. After some reading today I think I missed about 90% of what I could have seen, but there's always next time, and I got some good practice in just handling the equipment and getting a feel for the orientations. Even finding the control knobs and axis locks in the dark needs practice. EDIT: Am I making problems for myself that don't exist? Somehow I have got the idea that the image in the finder is different to the image in the ep, one being inverted and the other inverted and mirrored. If that is not true then that could be why I find it difficult to make sense of what I'm looking at and have trouble moving the controls the right way. The more I try to work it out the more I think the view in the ep must be the same as in the finder. I will have to wait until tomorrow to check it out. Another edit: A search on google confirms both images are inverted but not mirrored. My problem has been failing to allow for standing at different positions at the ep. The ep star pattern appears to rotate as I rotate around the ep so I see a mismatch between ep and finder. It's obvious to those who know what they are doing, but as yet I don't.
  5. After getting plenty of help and advice in the equipment section, I got all the equipment together last Friday and spent the next few days working through the instructions while in front of it. The setup is a second hand Explorer 150p on a loaned Vixen Super Polaris mount. My granddaughter and I have a challenge on our hands to match up to this setup. Reading the instructions without the hardware left a lot of uncertainties, but putting instructions and hardware together, with a lot of headscratching, eventually made sense. In the continuing foul weather of the last few days I set it up indoors and just played. The Skywatcher instructions suggest that approximate collimation is possible without any added hardware, although they do recommend a collimation cap, so I worked through Astro Baby's tutorial slowly and exactly as instructed, with some anxiety about poking sheets of paper down the tube and the proviso that I would not touch the secondary adjusters unless the secondary was a long way out. It wasn't, so that pleasure is still to come. Even with a bare eyeball centred as best I could, I could relate the picture to the instructions and tweaked the primary into slightly better alignment. I was a bit worried at disturbing the primary, but in the end it was surprisingly easy. Last job for the telescope was to align the finder. The assembly instructions say to fit the silicon ring (as a fulcrum for the adjusters), but I remembered reading somewhere on SGL that used scopes usually don't have the ring. Ours didn't, so I used an elastic band. It should be a closer fit in the holder but the finder remains in alignment so far. Then the mount. Before I collected it I downloaded the instructions and read them over and over, but without the hardware that scheme has limitations. I had used Stellarium to get my head around equatorial coords, the instructions for using the vernier scales were clear enough, but the polarscope was a bit of a mystery. That had to wait until I had it in front of me. Once I could see what Vixen and Astro Baby meant by the polarscope index mark, the longitude adjustment etc. it all came together. In continuous overcast and heavy rain showers, without Polaris I had to go as far as I could indoors, so, with longitude scale at roughly 2.7 deg W I set up a few arbitrary times and dates with Stellarium set to the same, and checked that Polaris was, as nearly as I could judge, 180deg around between scope reticule and a zoomed in Stellarium. I think it is probably set up OK. After that there was not much else to do but wait for it to stop raining. Last night was fairly clear, although I think there must have been a layer of high cloud: Not a lot of stars, and many of them were twinkling. With the polarscope covers on, I tried a rough and ready polar alignment with latitude scale set at 53deg N and sighting along the side of the mount to adjust azimuth towards Polaris. Then I took a look through the polarscope to check it, and Polaris was actually in the FoV, so I think that rough and ready method will do for a quick setup. This is when I felt the need for a red torch, I got Polaris roughly centred, but there was no way to see the engraving in the scope to get more precise alignment. I know I don't need to be more precise, but with all these bells and whistles available I like to know how to use them. Also the mount has fairly large setting circles with vernier scales and I want to give them a fair trial. They can only be as accurate as the polar alignment. Next, I wanted to play at tracking, so I swung it around to Vega and centred it. I had to rotate the tube in the rings to get eyepiece and finder accessible, then rebalance, but this was quick and easy and I would not rate it as a problem. I found that focussing was easier and more precise than I expected. I felt that I had taken a risk in choosing to get an equatorial in spite of all the recommendations for a Dobson, and tracking was one of the decision factors. Would it really be as easy as I believed it should be? The answer, for me, is yes it would. I was using a 25mm ep (30X) so I had plenty of time, but it was just a matter of moving the RA wheel now and again. I took time out to ring May and when I got back Vega had moved out of the FoV, but a gentle turn of the wheel brought it back with no perceptible change in declination. When May arrived we decided to try to find the ring nebula. The mount instructions describe how to find it using the setting circles, but with no red light that was out. We tried star-hopping and I think we were in the right place, but the stars either side were faint and twinkling and we decided it wasn't even worth changing the eyepiece. By this time the moon was high and bright, so we each had a good stare at that and were impressed with the clarity and detail, even at 30X, then the dew came down, all the metal parts were dripping wet and the optics were misting over, so we quit. I'm sorry to rabbit on at such length, but this was our first time outside with a real telescope, and I feel very pleased that everything worked so well. A bit of prior preparation paid off, the mount was easy to set up and tracking with it was a pleasure. For us, I feel that going for an equatorial was the right decision, and we found it easy to use both scope and mount. Now I'm putting together a shopping list for the wanna-be Astronomer. Insulated and waterproof boots, thermal socks, mittens, a red light, possibly a planisphere and with advice, perhaps a Cheshire/sight tube. With warm feet, the next clear night should be even better.
  6. Well, this has been an interesting week. On Monday, I was ready to order a 130p/eq2 when a member of this forum sent a message generously offering us (My granddaughter May and I) the extended loan of his Vixen Super Polaris mount. At this stage I had no idea what this mount was like, but a quick Google revealed just how amazingly good it is, together with a download of its instruction brochure. I still cannot find the words to show how much I appreciate this kind and generous loan and May is away on a Scout camp in the Lake district and doesn't know about it yet. Obviously I accepted without hesitation. The next job was to find a scope worthy of fixing to the mount. I had seen a SW Explorer 150p/750mm in the SGL sales section, I know May is more interested in DSOs than planets and we are keeping away from AP work, it looked good so I went for that. Wednesday was a longish trip to collect the scope, Friday was another longish trip for the mount, and most of this morning has been spent putting it all together, making a start at sorting out how it works in practice and generally playing with it indoors. Every time I touch it I appreciate the engineering skill and precision in this setup, it far exceeds anything I could have imagined for two raw beginners. The challenge now is to develop our observing and handling skills to match the level of this setup. One thing that is already obvious is that although May could probably manage the weight of the components individually, the size, awkwardness and weight of placing the scope on the mount will be too much for May to handle on her own so observing with it is going to be a joint venture. I have fewer commitments so I guess that I will be using it more than May, although she will have absolute priority. Before I asked the "Which telescope" question I spent some time searching the forum for similar questions and answers. I found lots of help and advice, much of it relevant to my questions, but I didn't find any follow-ups from the OPs. I wanted to know what they bought, how it went, were they satisfied, how they got on with it etc. but I found nothing. As a practical way of trying to show my appreciation for all the helpful replies and comments, and for the outstanding generosity shown to us, I plan to post some follow ups on this equipment as we learn how to use it. Is it worth doing? If it is, then I plan to start a new topic in this section on the grounds that newly joined beginners are most likely to see it here. Is that ok or is there a more suitable section full of follow up reports that I have somehow missed?
  7. Hi Geoff, Bang goes another illusion then. The sooner I get to grips with the real thing the better it will be. Things are changing on the "Which telescope?" front: I had no idea that Astronomical matters could move so quickly, but I think my granddaughter will be blown right out of her socks. I'm old enough to know better, but I'm still going to have problems waiting for Christmas. Meantime, I will not be able to post again until Saturday.
  8. Ricochet, at the Astronomy Centre my granddaughter looked at an Eq1 and a Dobsonian, and was totally unfazed by the Eq, she will readily get to grips with an equatorial mount. I know that, having asked for advice, the response has been overwhelmingly in favour of a Dobsonian and I am ignoring that to go for an equatorial, and a cheap one at that. In fairness to me, there have been several voices in support of equatorial on this and other similar threads. Computer controlled finding and tracking means that for visual work at our budget there is little to choose between types of mount, but computer control is likely to be counter productive in learning to find our way around the sky and the cost is too weighted towards electronics over optics for us. My reasons for preferring equatorial over Dobson is that tracking is easier, controlled movement in RA is better than nudging the scope in two axes to track. I looked at youtube videos of the moon taken with webcams and 1145p/eq1 setups. The images were steady as the moon pssed across the field, then wobbled and shook alarmingly as the user twiddled with RA, then settled down to steady again within a couple of seconds. Not as steady as a Dobson, but good enough for me. With a very short scope such as the Heritage 130p each nudge will give a larger angular movement than on a larger and longer scope. I know that it still works, but I want to minimize the risk of becoming discouraged. If the target is lost then movement in RA should recover it, but recovering with movements in alt. and azimuth are less likely to succeed without effectively star-hopping again. We are not in such a hurry to get started that a few minutes for rough and ready polar alignment will put us off for the night. Setting circles on these cheap mounts get a bad press, but "totally useless" is probably too strong. How about "fairly useless"? For absolute beginners in less obvious parts of the sky I imagine that being inside a cone of around 10deg radius is better than "Do you think that's it?". For me, the clincher is that I just cannot force myself to press the button to order a Dobson, but I am eager to order the 130p/eq2 in spite of all its deficiencies. Ben-surely-not, yes, the 130p is a better choice, but it's that ratchet again. It is 44% more expensive and 30% more area. For a scope that may quickly fall into disuse but, more likely, could be replaced in about a year, it will be easier to write off a 1145p than the 130p. The counter to that is that the 130p may not be replaced quickly or at all, I don't know if the 1145p would be the same. I had decided to go for the 130p as the safer option and hang the expense. There are other possibilities rising above the horizon. I planned to order today, but will be holding back a bit longer.
  9. It is "only" £21,147, but where's the challenge in a Goto? After last night the choice is 1145p/Eq1 or 130p/Eq2. I will order one or the other this week. It will give us something to think about between targets.
  10. Yes, it was very successful, helped by clear sky and almost no wind. My granddaughter spent most of her time with the main 16" Meade SCT, and the rest at the other 16", I had to drag her away to go home. I spent a short time looking through the main 16" and a lot of time with Peter and Andy discussing the relative merits of Equatorial and Dobson mounts, followed with a beautiful view of Uranus in the second 16" Meade. In the member's room workshop I got my hands on a Skyliner 8" Dobson and an Eq1 with no scope on it. and got a feel for handling both. For any beginner within reasonable driving distance I highly recommend a visit, thanks again to Peter and Andy and the volunteers operating the telescopes.
  11. Thanks Geoff, and understood. I appreciate that anything complicated is unnecessary for visual work with these crude mounts (Eq 1 and 2), but I fancy giving it a try out of nothing but curiosity to see how the methods work. This with my granddaughter's permission; she may decide she does not want the weight and awkwardness of any Eq, in which case it will be a Heritage 130p.
  12. Geoff, thanks for that further info. Your photos have answered an unasked question: It is possible to use rings and dovetail to mount another OTA to the AZ Synscan. I was concerned that the extended overhang might be too much for the alt axis bearing and motor. I saw your comments on another thread about using Stellarium, I have not tried the ocular view yet, but I will now. I wish I could justify the high cost of a Synscan Goto, but that is how the ratchet snares its victims. The problem is to spend no more than "necessary" for a first scope, which may not be used more than three or four times if it does not hit the spot, without penny pinching so much that we are both discouraged. After reading Ricochet's comments on another thread, about the time for an object to cross the field of view, I think I may be too pessimistic about Dobson mounts, but my previous attempt with manual AltAz put me off for 40 years. I don't want to do that to my granddaughter. We are going to the Astronomy centre at Todmorden this evening, that should help to straighten my ideas out. Looking at practicalities, the options are: SW Skyhawk 1145p, Eq1, £134 Good OTA, inadequate mount? SW Heritage 130p, Dob, £137 +30% area over 114. Easy to transport but finding/tracking? SW Explorer 130p, Eq2, £193 Good OTA, mount just about OK for visual? 44% more costly than 1145p SW 1145P SynScan Goto £269 Not quite the same tube as the Skyhawk above. No provision for collimation? SW Explorer 150P EQ3-2 £310 +73% area over 114, +33% over 130. 60% more costly than 130p/Eq2. I don't think any amount of advice can sort the cost/benefits of that lot in a decisive way, basically I pays my money and I takes my choice. I don't go along with the theory that, being beginners, our brains will overheat if we look at an equatorial mount, and now I understand what the mounting rings are for we can quit the yoga. I look forward to the challenge an Eq mount may offer with its extra facilities and possibilities beyond a Dobson. For starters I want to try a couple of methods of polar alignment without a polar scope and check them using the drift method - no chance (or need) of doing that with a Dob. The rational choice is between the first two, the romantic but wrong (for us at this time) choice is the Goto, the best choice for us is the 150p, or I can sit on the fence and spend £193. Sticking to the first two, the trade off beween apertures does not bother me too much for a first scope. I have been led to believe that the 114 will see plenty of interesting fuzzy blobs, just fuzzier and not quite as many as the 130. I have to take that on trust. There have been plenty of recommendations for 80 and 90mm refractors, so won't a 114mm reflector give good results in comparison with them? The mounts are a different matter and a much more personal decision. If my choice had to be between a 200p/Eq5 or a 250px/Dobson at roughly comparable prices then I would not hesitate in choosing the Eq5, even for visual only. By the same preference my choice now should be the 1145p/Eq1, but the mount has come under such strong criticism, and Dobsons under such praise, that I wonder just how bad the Eq1 can be. Cosmic Geoff's comments about cheap motors have saved me £27 if I do go for Eq1 or 2.
  13. Thanks Geoff and Stephan. Geoff, that mount is definitely the GT version. I saw the heritage 130p on Youtube - a lot of people recommend it highly. I've also looked at the virtuosos and they are serious contenders too, although once again the cost starts creeping up. I am in a bit of a chicken and egg situation, I need to use the scopes before I can decide, but to use anything I have to decide to buy it first. My priority is to get something that will help understanding of the course syllabus, which is why I keep coming back to an equatorial mount in spite of recommendations to keep away. Imaging in any form is not a factor: Cameras will be banned on this cheap and cheerful setup. All the same I am concerned that I am the fool walking in where others fear to tread. I have done a search on here and found several beginners who have just gone ahead and bought the 1145p/eq1 combo, but I cannot find any feedback from them, good or bad, and feedback from equatorial users is what I really need. Feedback from users of any equatorial mount would be useful, are they really as difficult as is made out? To me one big advantage, after spending a few minutes on alignment, is that once declination is locked on target, say a faint DSO, tracking should be just a matter of adjusting RA manually or switching the motor on if it has one, then tweaking declination infrequently. Is that fair comment? The eq1 tripod seems to have a reputation for being shaky. Anyone: Does this still apply if the legs are retracted, viewing from a low chair? Is the actual head shaky or otherwise suspect?
  14. Thanks for all the helpful comments and suggestions and thanks for the references, there are some there that I had not looked at before. To set a budget is more difficult than it seems. This scope is a surprise christmas present for a fourteen year old who has chosen to study astronomy at school. The cost will be shared 50/50 between her parents and me. We don't know whether it will be used frequently or just for a couple of days then left to gather dust so we are reluctant to spend big money on it. The question is not to find an upper limit, it is to get a scope that will reinforce her school syllabus by teaching her, in an interesting and enjoyable and practical way, the fundamentals of coordinate systems and generally navigating around the sky at least cost, however much that is. I have to admit that I am hoping to get a look-in, and that this scope will give me a better basis for deciding what to buy for myself, but that's another story.... In the previous post I put forward my own views based on my legwork, my very limited previous experience and my preferences, but the intention is for my granddaughter to take ownership and responsibility for this scope. Obviously I will help as a second pair of hands for assembly, and we will have to learn collimation skills together, but, in setting up and operating, it will be entirely her scope and her decisions. That means pressure on the budget is downwards here too, not the customary ratcheting up, because a very expensive scope would not truly be hers. To present her with, say, a 200p/HEQ5 Pro would be overkill amounting to intimidation, she would feel enormous pressure to use it, would need help moving and setting it up and generally not be independent with it. A 1145p AZ Goto (£269) would no doubt be acceptable without being intimidating, but it would be more a GeeWizz item than a supplement to her course. She may use it a lot, but would she be learning much beyond the geography of the moon? My feeling is that a GEM with a 1145p (at half the price of the Goto) would be well within her capabilities to understand and operate and would supplement her schoolwork without being too costly. At the same time it would be a real telescope, not a toy and, once she gets the hang of it, she would be able to move it, set it up and use it without assistance. It would be very much a testing-the-water item and with the 1145p at £134 it would not matter too much if it is hardly used. The difficulty is that by going too far down market it becomes unsatisfactory and disappointing and guarantees non-use. If the wish to use it is there but a 1145p/EQ1 turns out to be genuinely not good enough for her then I would quickly replace it with something better. Some of the comments about star hopping are a bit worrying. From my position as no more than an armchair theorist at present, I had formed the impression that this was the fall back foolproof option for getting around. Using my book with some star hopping tours in it, I tried it out in conjunction with Stellarium. Using the guide book to get around Stellarium, with labels and guide lines swiched off, was an abject failure, but using Stellarium with constellation lines and labels, with equatorial grid switched on, made much more sense of the book and made me feel that I would have a good chance outside. The other surprise was the overwhelming disapproval of equatorial mounts for visual observing. I am reluctant to comment on this because I have no practical experience whatever, but without computer control eq. mounts seem to me to have the advantage over AltAz/Dobson, even for visual observation, to the point of being no contest. Obviously there is much more to it and individual aims, experience and preferences have a very important part to play in the decision making. I will have to get my hands on one before I say any more. Todmorden, here I come. It seems that a 114mm can see a useful range of DSOs etc. and for a first scope is probably powerful enough to be interesting. It's a shame about the flimsy EQ1 but I think with patience and care it could be adequate for visual observing for a beginner. If all goes well then at £134 it will serve for a year or two before replacing it with something bigger and better. If it is not used much then it is cheap enough to be worth keeping for just one or two uses a year. The flavour of today is the SW skyhawk 1145p from FLO. I will hold fire for another week to mull it over and perhaps do a bit more googling, but I hope this one will be a pleasant surprise for christmas. I plan to order a collimation cap and a red torch at the same time as the scope. I have a book called "The practical Skywatcher's handbook" which gives lots of useful information, including turn by turn directions to various DSOs and other items. I will see how we get on with that in conjunction with Stellarium on my granddaughter's iPad. If the scope gets a lot of use then a motor drive is £27, probably worth having even for visual observing.
  15. Hi, I am another newbie looking for advice and guidance please. I intend to buy a telescope as a christmas present for my granddaughter, age 14, who is starting GCSE Astronomy. I plan to retain some viewing rights for myself. I have gone through the usual process of Google, YouTube, reading online instruction manuals and searching on this and other forums and reached some preliminary opinions, now I'm hoping for reality checks from people who know what they are talking about. There seem to be two almost independent decisions: What mount? and: What optics? What Mount? About 40 years ago, without benefit of the internet, I bought a cheap refractor, 60mm/900mm on a cheap AltAz mount. It gave some good views of the moon but I never found anything else for long enough to see it, and to switch between me and my children viewing anything but the moon was impossible. It saw very little use. That has left me with an aversion to AltAz in general and Dobs in particular. It may be that AltAz with slow motions would be better, but that solution approaches the price of a GEM. I appreciate that many people think very highly of Dobs, but I don't want either of us to feel the frustration and disappointment that I had with that refractor. It is personal prejudice, but I have ruled out a manual Dob. The second condition is that this scope will not be used for photography. The merest mention of imaging seems to result in quadrupling the budget, and I am not going there. That leaves me with three options; Goto on a simple AltAz, Goto on a GEM and a manual GEM (SW EQ1 or 2) with the sub-option to motorize the RA axis. This is where the doubts set in. Initially it seems to be a no-brainer, the manual GEM puts most of the money into the optics and manual slow motion on RA should be sufficient for visual work, but this is where I need advice. Am I right about the manual GEM? The syllabus includes knowledge of equatorial co-ords, and after looking at many tutorials, instruction manuals and youtube videos I am not sure what all the fuss is about when it comes to polar alignment of an EQ mount, especially for visual only. Am I in for a rude awakening on this too? I think my inexperience may be making too light of some of these things, but I read one thread on here where someone commented that he didn't see the point of producing a mount (SW EQ1) with no provision for polar alignment. At that point I found myself thinking "Hold on, you have a powerful scope on that mount, take rough aim at Polaris, put the rod vertical and adjust alt, then put it horizontal and adjust azimuth. Repeat as necessary and you're there." Am I missing something? (apart from getting the NCP centred without crosswires) My real uncertainty is about finding faint objects with no accurate way of pointing at the right spot. The consensus seems to be that setting circles on budget mounts are a bad joke, so that means star hopping. I suppose that in theory it should be possible to translate turns of the slow motion wheels to angular movement of the scope. Would this be any more accurate than the circle markings on low end mounts for the small movements from star to star? I am reluctant to put money into a Goto, but if it leads to a better experience for both of us then so be it. I hope that a combination of Stellarium, star hopping, calculation from wheel rotation, and patience in finding our way around will make a manual GEM feasible. I am assuming that after finding the target that keeping it in view with the RA wheel would be simple. Is that another foolish idea? This paragraph is the game-changer. If my ideas and expectations above are unrealistic then I have to look again at Gotos. Before I go there I hope to get some feedback from the forum. So far I think we should go for a fairly low budget option to see how we get on, and unless there are good reasons to avoid an equatorial mount then that is my preference. It seems to be more appropriate for studying astronomy at school level and I am sure that my granddaughter can cope with the alleged complexity of equatorial co-ords in practice as well as in theory. I am looking at either a SW 1145p on EQ1 or 130p on EQ2 and that brings me to choice 2, the optics. The 130p is roughly 50% dearer with 30% greater light gathering than the 1145p. OK, but I asked myself what that means in practice. What would we see with the 130p that would be more difficult and fainter or impossible in the 1145p? Is there any objective information relating magnitude of faint objects to mirror diameter? There is a big difference here, my eyes are old and long past their best, but my granddaughters should be pretty good. What other factors on the scope are relevant? Both have RDFs and I am going to go along with that until we have some experience. The extra cash is a subjective decision, but will the bigger diameter allow us to see well known objects that the smaller scope will not resolve? I'm not sure that is a question that can be answered, so the decision has to be "go for the 130p". The next unanswerable question is where to stop. Why not a 200p on an EQ5? My feeling is that the 130p is less intimidating as a first scope, it is easier to carry around in a car to dark sites and it is more likely to be used than something even bigger and more unwieldy. The cost is moderate (£193 vs. £467 for 200p) in case it does not get much use, low enough to keep it in reserve if I later decide to go for a 200p for myself. On the other hand, will we be disappointed with the 130p right from the start and regret not going for bigger? I plan to visit the Astronomy centre near Todmorden if we ever get a clear Saturday night, and I am thinking of joining a local society, but that doesn't help in time for a christmas present. Now the reality. Everything above is based on reading and watching, without any practical experience whatever. In the real world is it going to be vastly different? What do the experts think?
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