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Astronomy Student's Disappointment


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I bought a pretty cheap scope a while back - pretty much on impulse - thought it time I indulged myself in my interest in astronomy before I "shuffled off this mortal coil". I had some idea of what I wanted but didn't want to lash out too much at first - learning the ins and outs before investing too much.

I went for the Celestron AstroMaster 130 EQ MD, a 5" Newt with EQ2 mount, with a pretty crude add-on motor drive. I've replaced the MD with my own and can now track things. Focussing is pretty coarse and difficult to get right and not helped by a rather insufficient (IMO) mount/tripod - the image wobbles about as you try to focus. Not too bad with the 20mm EP supplied. But for a price of just over £130 from Amazon, I think it was a reasonable buy. It has served the purpose of getting my seeing craters on the moon and with Baader sun filter, sunspots on the sun. I have also seen the rings of Saturn. It has shown me, in conjunction with plenty of reading, where I need to improve things to let me see better and take better photos.

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Sounds like you had a reasonably good first scope experience - at least it led you deeper into the hobby and helped you spark your interest without frustrating your desire to see more.

Dan

I bought a pretty cheap scope a while back - pretty much on impulse - thought it time I indulged myself in my interest in astronomy before I "shuffled off this mortal coil". I had some idea of what I wanted but didn't want to lash out too much at first - learning the ins and outs before investing too much.

I went for the Celestron AstroMaster 130 EQ MD, a 5" Newt with EQ2 mount, with a pretty crude add-on motor drive. I've replaced the MD with my own and can now track things. Focussing is pretty coarse and difficult to get right and not helped by a rather insufficient (IMO) mount/tripod - the image wobbles about as you try to focus. Not too bad with the 20mm EP supplied. But for a price of just over £130 from Amazon, I think it was a reasonable buy. It has served the purpose of getting my seeing craters on the moon and with Baader sun filter, sunspots on the sun. I have also seen the rings of Saturn. It has shown me, in conjunction with plenty of reading, where I need to improve things to let me see better and take better photos.

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Honestly, I have nothing against the manufacturer and seller of these cheap telescopes. I am always surprised how 100% of the blame is placed on them.

I'm surprised that you think that misleading the inexperienced about the maximum usable power of the telescope and the quality of the images produced is morally acceptable.

I do not view these cheap telescope manufactures as sinister but rather as savvy business people who are making easy profit thanks to a large number of uninformed telescope buyers

I'm glad we live in a world where most other people don't consider exploiting the disadvantaged to be a virtuous activity.

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I had a 60mm scope as a kid that magnified x25, x50 or x75 with a click stop zoom type eyepiece. It must have been low quality (1983 ish) but I was mesmerised by the moon through it and it had a fairly sturdy wooden alt az mount. At the time I aspired to one of the tasco scopes in the catalogue because they went up to x525. Glad I never got one as it would have been a terrible let down.

I've seen scopes in the Argos catalogue in the past where the information supplied was meaningless nonsense. Not sure if they still do it but anybody who didn't know something on the subject would have been totally mislead.

Edited by bish
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I'm surprised that you think that misleading the inexperienced about the maximum usable power of the telescope and the quality of the images produced is morally acceptable.

I'm glad we live in a world where most other people don't consider exploiting the disadvantaged to be a virtuous activity.

This is not about morals. Buyers are expected to research before making their first scope purchase. Those who research will find out quickly to avoid these cheap telescopes with outlandish claims. Those who do not research will most likely make the mistake buying these scopes.

Every single product out there has a “cheap” low cost version of it but most of us have learned the importance of being a smart shopper to identify and avoid these products. Cheap telescopes are no different.

Talking about morals, is it acceptable for some reputable astro businesses to sell low cost unaligned laser collimators?

Jason

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This is not about morals. Buyers are expected to research before making their first scope purchase.

These statements are implicitly contradictory. On the one hand you're saying it's not about morals, but on the other, you're saying poor scopes are expected to be bought only by those who are disadvantaged by lack of knowledge. Capitalising on people's disadvantage is an abuse of power, and therefore immoral.

- and when you say buyers are "expected" to research; expected by who, exactly?

The vast majority of people I suspect, believe that a telescope is no more technically advanced than an electric kettle, and they therefore assume that the only research necessary, is to walk into a shop and say "So what's the best one then?"

The blame lays solely with the manufacturers - for it is they who are in the best position to advise and educate as to which factors deserve the most consideration before purchase. That does not mean that low-cost products should not be made, merely that such products should be made sincerely and with good intentions.

It's not much to ask for.

Edited by great_bear
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I am a strong believer in free enterprise and I am strong believer that smart shoppers will not fall prey for these manufacturers. There is no contradiction.

Those who do not take the time to research their purchases are bound to make mistakes. Even if they go to a reputable astro shop, they will most likely overspend on items that are not good fit for their needs.

I am sorry, but in this hobby you have to be a smart shopper. Actually, smart shopping is needed for all products -- astro and non-astro. It is common sense.

Jason

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Jeremy,

Let me clarify, I do not like these manufactures as much as you do. We are in agreement.

However, we disagree on two points:

1- You want to impose your moral values on these manufacturers. I disagree. As someone who values free enterprise and free societies, I am against the idea of one group imposing their moral values on another.

2- You are not placing as much importance on research as I do. Without research, how can a newcomer figure out what to buy? Will it be a refractor or a reflector? Which aperture? What eyepieces to get? …etc. Those who do very little research will learn quickly to avoid these department store telescopes.

Jason

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1- You want to impose your moral values on these manufacturers. I disagree. As someone who values free enterprise and free societies, I am against the idea of one group imposing their moral values on another.

Oh now, that's just silly on so many levels! :) That means people should be free to murder, rape, rob, and swindle in the name of free enterprise too. How about if an elderly relative or friend of yours is ripped off by their auto repair dealer, knowing that they won't have researched what the problem with their vehicle? You can't "cherry pick" when to apply your values, they have to be consistent and stand up on their own; otherwise you're biasing them to your own needs, ignoring the female, elderly, disabled, black <insert-here-anything-else-that-you're-not>

A "free" society is also one where the disadvantaged can operate free from exploitation from "enterprise". It's more than a moral value - it's respect for the basic human rights of the individual.

The idea that the defenceless are rich pickings for profit is not acceptable to a civilised society.

I'd have thought that this was self-evident - but since this is the "Equipment Discussion" forum, it'd probably be best to get back on topic before digging up society's roots :eek:

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Totally agree with Great Bear, the blame is with the manufacturer. If a product doesnt deliver what it says on the box then you are being ripped off and is false advertisement.

No free enterprise can be had for false promises and bad information...

The problem is people are quick to blame themselves for not getting the results as they are new and dont fully understand the equipment, creating a business plan based on ignorance is wrong and if proven probably something advertising standards would look into

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Oh now, that's just silly on so many levels! :) That means people should be free to murder, rape, rob, and swindle in the name of free enterprise too

Who is being silly now?

I have made my points. There isn't more to add.

Cheers,

Jason

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If a product doesnt deliver what it says on the box then you are being ripped off and is false advertisement.

That really is all it boils down to. Nothing to do with the consumer having the responsibility of researching anything, since it's the dishonesty of the manufacturer, and subsequent foisting of misleadingly described, sub-standard goods by the retailer that are in question. The trades description and sale of goods acts are there for a reason, but some things seem immune to legal action.

...and yes, I did have one of those 60mm "575x Magnification!!!" marketing successes back in the 80's. :) At around 25 - 100x, it was useable... anything above 200x was pointless, and anywhere near 575x was as useful as smearing the objective with vaseline and pointing it at a (very dim) light-bulb.

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Traders who give false claims or mislead are breaking the Trades Description Act! It is not legal, full stop!

Knowing nothing about the law in Great Britain, I hope that what you state is fact and that manufacturers and retailers who misrepresent goods can be held to account under the law.

I'm afraid that I know little about US law in this regard, as well; but my experience of it (both directly and indirectly) is that the principle cited to protect those who misrepresent is "caveat emptor." My understanding of this phrase is "buyer beware;" or it is the buyer's duty to satisfy himself that any product is as represented. I should like to see the law changed to support "caveat vendor" or "seller beware" (with apologies for any liberties taken with Latin); wherein it would be the seller's (and the maker's) legal responsibility to make only valid statements and to withhold no detrimental information.

I expect this to be the case 3 hours after Hades is frozen over and all inhabitants are ice skating, however.

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I hope that what you state is fact and that manufacturers and retailers who misrepresent goods can be held to account under the law.

Oh yes - very much so.

There's also a special department - the "Trading Standards" department who help enforce these rules and prosecute offending vendors and/or manufacturers.

Furthermore, anything you buy over the Internet in the UK, you can return if you change your mind - for any reason whatsoever - provided you notify the vendor within seven days of receiving it. You don't even have to provide a reason, nor does the item need to be unused by you, nor do you need to keep the packaging intact, or even return the item itself in that period. Provided it's returned in a reasonable timeframe, you're entitled to a full refund including the original delivery costs and - in some circumstances - your own return postage costs too.

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I feel that I should add the important caveat however, that just because the law says something, doesn't mean that it will work out that way in practice; i.e. for example it's illegal to kill someone - but that doesn't physically stop you grabbing a knife and actually doing so.

Similarly, in terms of being ripped off, the law doesn't help if a retailer "does a runner" (although buying on credit card insures against this), and if a retailer flatly refuses to honour your consumer rights, taking legal action via the court system and all that this entails, may be more stressful and costly for most consumers than would be worthwhile.

In practice, the system only works if the retailer values their reputation more than a sale-gone-wrong.

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Does anyone know if any of these toy telescope suppliers have been successfully prosecuted under the TDA?

I've never heard of such a case in the States. Certainly, if it has happened, it hasn't caused any of the manufacturers or retailers to change their behavior here. :)

I'm going to do something to focus on buyer education this fall instead - at least I can save a few local families the disappointment - and if lots of this stuff ends up unsold, mayby THAT will change business practice. Nothing else seems to.

Dan

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Mine was a skywatcher tiny refractor. It was cheap and cheerful, but at least it got me into astronomy and onto better things :)

But what you are describing just sounds dire!

My girlfriend wasn't exactly happy I spend as much time with my new purchase on holiday as I did with her...

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as someone who has one of these "bad" telescopes...at the end of the day it all comes down to money...like everything in the world.

fortunatly i got mine for free, but for £130 in the shops its ok, it satisfies an initial need and is priced accordingly.

look at it this way, if i was going to get a good, proper goto scope im looking at £3000 for a 10-12" LX200 equivalent, but i cant save enough money to make that a realistic proposition, it could take me 10 years to save up that kind of money, or 6 months and i can have my scope...yes its not brilliant, but it does the job its supposed to do.

its like buying a car, paying £10,000 for a second hand ford makes more sense than saving up for 10 years with no car so that i can buy a porche 911...

yes $400 for his telescope does sound pretty bad, but dont go knocking every cheap telescope...some of us are only paid a post-doctoral salary, not an assistant prof's.

Edited by banner001
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and as to anyone thinking its "morally reprehensible" what they are doing...just think about the billions of pounds/dollars that the cosmetics industry generates every year promising that they will firm up your flabby bits, tighten you into a drum skin, and hydrate you like you were composed of waterfalls...as long as they do not outright lie, false advertising (without scientifically substantiated claims) is fine.

a 1000mm focal length reflector with a 5mm eyepiece and a 5x barlow WILL give you x1000 magnification...its not usable, but they are not lying (technically), its false hope, and its lapped up and slapped on by millions of women every year.

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