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Which type of 'scope is most suitable for my needs


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Hi all,

The first of many questions I'm afraid!

I'm looking to get back into astronomy and need a bit of advice on the type of 'scope that would best suit my needs.

I was originally looking at the Celestron Nexstar 5SE but, when I mentioned astro-photography, I was advised against the 5SE as the Schmidt-Cassegrain tends to be a 'slow lens' for a camera. Additionally, as both alt and az motors run to track objects, tracking errors are larger than a driven EQ mount. A bit more research led to me looking into a Newtonian reflector as they are faster.

The cons of that is the mount. I would need a driven mount for the photography but a 6" Newt on an EQ mount takes up a fair bit of space.

I am well out of touch on what's good and what's not. So, my question is: What comes out most suitable for my needs?

1. A fast ish 'scope

2. Prime focus photography of planets and brighter DSOs (M42 etc.) so I can play with stacking software

3. A driven mount for the above - not necessarily GOTO although that would be nice.

4. Not to big to store and have the ability to co in a small car.

5. Almost forgot, be good for viewing planets and messier objects.

Apologies if I have tried to pack in too much in one post!

A secondhand instrument is a strong consideration in these tough economic times too.

Thanks for bearing with me.

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I can't comment on the photography side of things, but a 6" newt in an EQ mount would be pretty good I think. They don't take up as much room as you think, and you can get some pretty good views in them.

I have the F/5 6" SkyWatcher and it's brilliant visually. It would (I think, but as I said I'm not an imager) be fast enough for prime focus. With a couple of barlows it's good for planetary imaging with a cheap webcam, there's plenty of posts in the imaging section to show what can be achieved with a 6" scope and a webcam.

Again, as I'm not an imager I don't know for sure what mount would be needed, but a cheapish EQ3-2 with motors, or even manually driven, is good enough for planteray webcam imaging. If your more interested in longer exposures you'll need something sturdier, maybe an EQ5 or HEQ5?

As I said, a 6" scope is still pretty small. It's pretty easy to store, and easily fits in the back of a car.

It's good for DSO's and planets, though for the latter you will probably need to Barlow it for a decent sized image if you go for a fast scope.

Basically, I think a F/5 6" reflector would be good for you. That said I'm probably biased as that's what I've got :)

Hope that helps.

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Planetary and deep sky imaging really require diametrically opposed setups unless you are spending a fortune. DS is best with a fast f ratio and easiest with a short FL. Planetary doesn't need a fast F ratio but does need a long FL. Planetary can be done on an alt az motorized mount, DS needs a very accurate, ideally autoguided, equatorial...

Olly

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If You are planning on photography an Alt/Az mount won't do for much. I don't have much experience with astrophotography but i do know that a driven EQ mount is a must.

I must echo what Olly has said above that DSO's and planetary viewing or imaging requires very different scopes for optimum views/pics.

I do have a Skywatcher 150 and can say that it is pretty portable (I take mine on family holidays in a Ford Focus with no trouble). The views are pretty good considering it's moderate size too. I've enjoyed some good views of the planets and DSO's such as the andromeda galaxy, dumbell nebula and the great globula cluster in Hercules so it's a pretty good all-rounder i'd say. Skywatcher have recently revamped their range to optimise them for prime focus imaging so they may be worth a look.

SCT's tend to be rather more expensive than Newts per inch generally - what's your budget? :)

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The budget hasn't been totally set in stone but as I was looking at a Nexstar 5 / 6 in the first instance, I would say around £600 to 700.

The Skywatcher range look good but I have come across some quality issues reported when searching on Google. Good reviews are found in plentiful supply too though (which all adds to the confusion!).

If a Skywatcher or similar 6" Newtonian is the way to go, the next step is to decide on the spec.

I already have a 2x Barlow as it is part of my camera adapter. I also have a couple of Plossl eyepieces (26 & 40mm) but one or both of these may go on ebay / Astro buy sell as I think I'll need something with a shorter focal length.

Looking on a suppliers website, there are several tube types. There is one that is slightly shorter for photography so that looks like the ideal tube but I am open to suggestions / advice.

The other question is the mount. Is the cheaper one okay? Can I add the drive later? Or is an EQ5 GOTO a better bet?

SkyWatcher Explorer 150PDS EQ3-2 Reflector Telescope

SkyWatcher Explorer 150PDS EQ3 PRO Reflector Telescope

SkyWatcher Explorer 150PDS EQ5 PRO Reflector Telescope

Many thanks.

Edited by Leebert
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Olly summed it up pretty well. I also saw someone make the comment recently in a thread to think of telescopes like golf clubs - no one club is suitable for all things.

A 6" newtonian on an equatorial mount would be an excellent place to start though as it would give you the ability to do some deep sky work and some planetary/lunar work. One word of caution though - if you are imaging using a DSLR, on many Newtonians it is not possible to achieve focus without some modification - on my 8" newt I first of all butchered the focusser to achive focus, and more recently have fitted a low profile focusser to solve the problem.

Have a look at this link on this forum's sponsor's website which has a Celestron C6 Newt on a CG5 GT mount (which is what I have and am very happy with) for £710. For that, you get a very sturdy mount with a 6" newt, and goto (which I swear by for saving time when doing deep sky imaging).

First Light Optics - Celestron C6-N GT (GOTO)

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I agree. I understand that am going for a compromise.

Looking at what's available, a 6" Newtonian looks about right for what I want to do. I'm toying with the heavier duty mount from the outset so that if I was to upgrade the tube in the future then I could keep the mount - within reason of course.

Thanks for the link. I had been looking at that one earlier. Thanks for the heads up on the prime focal issue. That was one reason why I went more toward the Skywatcher 150PDS as the website states that the tube is a bit shorter to overcome the problem of achieving focus. Is the Celestron C6 okay for photography without modification?

Many thanks.

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as others say, imaging planetary and DSOs and viewing DSOs need completely different setups. For imaging DSOs I would recommend a fast f5 scope, shortish focal length for easy tracking and a stable mount, like a 150p on a EQ5 or HEQ5 with a DSLR. This scope would also allow reasonable views of brighter DSOs. The 6SE would be a more compact solution and provided you used a f6.3 focal reducer and wedged the mount then you should be able to get around 2min exposures. The 6SE would be better for planetary viewing, imaging with a webcam and similar for viewing DSOs too.

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Hmmmm...

That's just thrown another variable into the mix. Stick with my original plans of an 6SE and then save up for a focal reducer and have (almost) the best of both worlds. Or is it - sounds a bit like a free lunch to me or am I being cynical?

I don't think the 6SE has a wedge with it though but if I recall, one can be had as an option?

All these decisions are making my head hurt!

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Is the Celestron C6 okay for photography without modification?

Many thanks.

Hi Leebert - I can't say for sure but I would imagine the C6 would need modification and I'm not sure the low profile focusser would fit it - perhaps a call to FLO might be worth while there.

As for the 6SE - I'm not going to knock it - I had one and loved it - I did my lunar and planetary work with it using a Meade LPI camera (have a look at my photo album for 2009 work). However, for deep sky work it's a definate no no - it's an alt az mount - the wedge which would enable it to become equatorial is a ridiculous price, and at F10 it's slow for long exposure deep sky work. A 6" newt on an equatorial mount would let you do both deep sky and lunar planetary work - I've recommended the CG5 GT mount as it's what I've used and am very happy with - if you read the info on FLO, it's basically the same mount as the Skywatcher EQ5 Pro but with better motors, bearings and a sturdier tripod. Some people have said it's a bit noisy but I haven't found it so. At £525 for just the mount it's a more favourable price than the Skywatchers as well.

You may be beter considering an 8" newt with a 1 1/4 and 2" eyepiece - for imaging with a DSLR, the 2" is definately an advantage and the 8" newt would accept a low profile focusser (I know - I've done it) - If you want, I'll post an image of my rig for you. Ultimateyl you could then add a small refractor to your setup at a later date which will give you more scope for wider field deep sky imaging of larger targets.

Hope all this is of some help

Regards

John

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As you are considering imaging primarily then perhaps a driven EQ mount and an ED refractor.

Since you are in NE Surrey have a look for Adur Astro Club, as I recall they are orientated to imaging so making contact and paying a visit should prove benefical.

Equally try Guildford, good club and again a source of information. Not sure what others are around you but there a few I believe.

When you are looking at the imaging side it is benefical to do some ground work first. You say a budget of £600-700, a good imaging rig is something like £3000-5000 as starters. Probably double by the time you will have finished, if you take it seriously.

A wedge is not cheap, you are looking at £300+ for a reasonable one.

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You say a budget of £600-700, a good imaging rig is something like £3000-5000 as starters. Probably double by the time you will have finished, if you take it seriously.

I'd love to have £3000-£5000 to spend on the hobby but it really isn't necessary to spend that kind of money up front to get in to the hobby. I'm sure we'd all like to go out and blow thousands on equipment up front but for most people that really isn't an option. There's no doubt that higher budgets will enable better equipment which in turn can lead to better images, but it's perfectly possible to achieve reasonable results on much smaller budgets. On a very limited budget my aim has been to maximise results with the equipment I have.

Here's a rough idea of what my rig has cost so far:-

CG5 GT mount and 8" newt as a package - £710

80mm Skywatcher refractor for guiding - £120

Canon EOS1000D body only £385

T ring and adaptor for camera - £30

EOS clip filter for light pollution £120

Misc cables - £40

Acer laptop -£380

Homemade dew heater controller and bands - £30

Total £1815

These are mostly purchased new. To this I've also added an Astrotech 66mm reflector for £150 second hand.

I didn't buy all this at once - Scope and mount came first followed by the DSLR and other bits and pieces at a later date - Leebert - please don't be put off by frightening figures - it just needs time and patience.

Regards

John

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i thik the 2nd post go *** right apasrt form the mount.

a fast F5 6 inch newt will eb able to give good prime focus results, be portable, and give good views on most objects. 8+ inch are really too big to be called portable, unless its a flexitube dob but that isnt suitable for imaging.

Go for a 150 F5 newt on a heq5 mount, your ready for imaging and will have some great views observing :)

EDIT** - haha 'got it' right was sposed to be was i said, but t ypo lead it to be go t i t, hence the blanks. HAHA

Edited by chemtom24
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I'd love to have £3000-£5000 to spend on the hobby but it really isn't necessary to spend that kind of money up front to get in to the hobby. I'm sure we'd all like to go out and blow thousands on equipment up front but for most people that really isn't an option. There's no doubt that higher budgets will enable better equipment which in turn can lead to better images, but it's perfectly possible to achieve reasonable results on much smaller budgets. On a very limited budget my aim has been to maximise results with the equipment I have.

Here's a rough idea of what my rig has cost so far:-

CG5 GT mount and 8" newt as a package - £710

80mm Skywatcher refractor for guiding - £120

Canon EOS1000D body only £385

T ring and adaptor for camera - £30

EOS clip filter for light pollution £120

Misc cables - £40

Acer laptop -£380

Homemade dew heater controller and bands - £30

Total £1815

These are mostly purchased new. To this I've also added an Astrotech 66mm reflector for £150 second hand.

I didn't buy all this at once - Scope and mount came first followed by the DSLR and other bits and pieces at a later date - Leebert - please don't be put off by frightening figures - it just needs time and patience.

Regards

John

sure it can cost alot, but look out for good 2nd hand deals and your away - someone on here helped me get a heq5 mount plus 127 mak for 200. sodl the mak for 145, therefore a standard heq5 cost me 70 quid. throw in a modded handset and a guider, plus 140 for a second hand 200 newt, a dslr and t ring and ur on ur way for 500 ish.

Doesnt HAVE top cost thousands, and it annoys me when people say it does. sure if you want the BEST, but im [retty sure alot of people will be liek msyelf and be very pleased with reasonable results

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Im not so sure that an 8" Newt on a CG5-GT is a good idea, when you add in the guidescope and other gubbins, youre talking over 10kg. And that exceeds the 50% load threshold needed for good guiding. With the CG5, 7.5kg is the absoute limit IMHO - thats either a 6" Newt (using a finderguider), or an ED80+ST80. Anything over that will give you the PHD graph from hell. The current weight of my imaging setup is 4kg.

Also, I was under the impression that the HEQ5/6 motors and gears were of a better standard than the CG5. The SW has direct drive motors on a bigger gear, with more steps per revolution, while the CG5 has servo motors - which give it that distinctive Coffee Grinder 5 sound ...lol.

But.... despite that, the CG5 does have an ace up its sleeve... All star polar align. Absolutely priceless :)

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Uranium - my CG5 GT is running perfectly happily with an 8" newt with refractor piggy backed on it - well within it's capabilities. I know the Skywatcher mounts are favourites and I have nothing against them, but the CG5 is more affordable and performs very well - the tripod is incredibly sturdy and I've foubnd the whole mount very reilable.

Chemtom - As you've quoted my post I'm not sure if you're agreeing or disagreeing with me - I was responding to Capricorn's post making the very same point that the hobby doesn't need to cost £3000 or more. My rig buying mostly new stuff only came to £1800 INCLUDING a laptop and DSLR, over a three year period. If you're referring to my post when you say it annoys you, perhaps you need to read my post again to see the point I was making - I was showing with actual figures that it can cost much less than the £3000 quoted in Capricorn's post -even buying stuff new.

Regards

John

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sparrow, i admit i mistread/misjudged. I am in agreement with you that it doesnt have to cost the earth.

EDIT ** - sorry, just ive seen so many threads saying u need this and that and this again and that and uitl cost you a few thousand, when actually it doesnt neccesailry need to be that way.

Edited by chemtom24
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Thanks for some interesting reading. I think I should clarify a touch...

I am in no way under any illusion that I am going to get images anything like the superb colourful images that Google can present. I have some images of M42 which I suspect would be very disappointing to some but I think they are fascinating. They are only just showing some colour (really borderline monochrome) but I am very impressed! Same goes for planets really. I have become almost beside myself just (again, I must stress just) seeing Saturn's rings (as opposed to an oval blob) and just seeing cloud bands on Jupiter.

The 'scope I am interested in would, ideally, give me a bit more detail on the planets (maybe using a 2x Barlow) and, with a stacked bunch of relatively short exposures, a touch more colour / detail in DSOs such as M42 / M31 etc.

Out of the list that Sparrow kindly typed up, I already have the DSLR, camera T adapter, 2x Barlow, filter, laptop etc. and I am happy making up leads. That pretty much leaves the 'scope and mount. For that, I really think secondhand is the route I'll be taking due to financial constraints. As hard as it is, I may just have to be patient! The more I read, the more it looks like a 6" Newt on a driven EQ mount to start...

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That pretty much leaves the 'scope and mount. For that, I really think secondhand is the route I'll be taking due to financial constraints. As hard as it is, I may just have to be patient! The more I read, the more it looks like a 6" Newt on a driven EQ mount to start...

definatly look on www.astrobuysell.co.uk for some deals on a 200 or 150 on a heq5.

eq mount is th eonly way for imaging, and a 200 will give some impressive visual views, and sonme stunning images.

sho[p around and be patient, dealsl crop up now n then :)

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If you're looking second hand you may be able to grab an eight inch newt on a driven mount - on your budget - if you're lucky.

Probably best to be patient and shop around. :)

Mind you patience isn't my virtue - i go crazy just waiting for the next clear sky :(

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sparrow, i admit i mistread/misjudged. I am in agreement with you that it doesnt have to cost the earth.

EDIT ** - sorry, just ive seen so many threads saying u need this and that and this again and that and uitl cost you a few thousand, when actually it doesnt neccesailry need to be that way.

Thanks for that Chemtom - glad we agree on that issue :)

Leebert - sounds like you're well on the way equipment wise. Good luck with choosing a scope and mount.

Regards

John

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Thanks for all the very useful posts. I guess the same or similar question gets asked all the time so I appreciate the advice from you all :)

I'll be keeping a close eye on Astro buy sell from now on. I just hope I can be patient enough - not one of my strong points!!

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