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newbie looking to purchase a telescope


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HI all,

I was wondering if anyone could recommend a telescope to me, Ive wanted one since I was a child and have decided that I should treat myself after all these years!

I am looking for one (if it exists!) that :

* Is fairly portable

* Not too large

* would allow me to look at planets and nebulae ( i imagine this could be the stumbling block, the various nebulas really fascainte me, I would love to be able to see them)

* would be able to photograph what I am seeing whith my digital camera

I dont have a lot of room in the house and would like to be able to put it in the boot of the car easily to take on trips or to set up in the garden.

My budget would be up to £350 ish.

Thanks in advance.

Scott

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To me the choice is which type of mount do you want?

The inexpensive mount is the dobsonian, it basically swivels round and round and up and down.

You have to point it at whatever you want to see and you have to follow whatever it is pointed at.

It will not do astrophotography.

The dobsonian is an Alt/Az mount, however on a more "normal" Alt/Az mount - as in smaller - you get the Mak and SCT types of scope. These mounts are often motorized and so will track an object. This means you do not need to move the scope once acquired and you can stick a webcam on the scope for planetary imaging, not however DSO (nebula) imaging. They may also be a goto so once set up and aligned will hopefully locate the object.

Finally the Equitorial mount, scary looking things but follow a few basic rules and they are OK. These also are often motorized so will track an object. Really these are the ones for astrophotography.

For what you have said I would look at something like a Skywatcher 150PL on an EQ5 with dual motors. I have not a clue what the cost would be.

The 150 is not too big, can get bigger the 200P. The EQ5 with motors will enable the object to be tracked. The size and weight isn't too bad. The PL is easier to get on with then the 150P, although slower it is not that bad for some astrophotography.

I say "some astrophotography" as that is really an area in it's own right. If that is the real intention then start thinking about it now, will say you are looking at scopes and mounts that would easily be well in excess of the budget mentioned. I always get the idea that a person just drops the comment of photography in when they often mean that it is really all they want to do.

The more advanced the mount the less there is for the scope, nebulas are faint so it is a bigger objective or darker skies, or both.

Budget in that you will want a couple of extra eyepieces and if you get a reflector then at some time you will need a collimator.

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I asked a similar question when I came to buy my first telescope, astrophotography still interests me but I have since learned that to do it well I would need to learn a heck of a lot, spend time and effort performing polar alignment (each time I set the telescope up outside), and also purchase numerous accessories to connect the camera up to the telescope etc. That was all expense and effort that dragged the whole idea down for me (I am a minimal effort kind of guy).

I think you can see a few nebula and galaxies under the right conditions with a 150P or 150PL, should be perfectly fine on an Omni CG-4 mount.

I also plucked a figure of about £300 - £400 out of my head as what I thought I would be willing to throw at this hobby. Uh uh. Yes, you can get a complete telescope and mount for this, but if you want something *good* then you will need to up the budget to maybe £500, this will buy you the accessories you need such as two good eyepieces (the stock ones you get with any telescope are easy to surpass in terms of quality), dew shield, motors if you want tracking. If you want something *really good* then £1,000+ is where you need to start (that's just for visual, if you're talking proper (amateur) astrophotography like you see in books and magazines then start multiplying that figure as many times as you like).

Currently my preferred scope (for around your budget) would be the Skywatcher 150P on the Celestron Omni CG-4 mount. I wasn't keen on the whole idea of a Newtonian Reflector (which the 150P is) until I tried one out as a replacement for my ST80 grab and go, it's certainly much easier to handle than my monster 8SE on NEQ6 mount, and it blows the ST80 away in terms of what can be seen. The 150P is a fast f5 scope so can be used to good effect with a 5mm eyepiece, I like the Celestron X-Cel LX. Add a 6" dew shield (no dew heaters should be necessary). That is a nice manual, steady set up which should be good for planets and DSOs. Later you can add simple tracking motors for about £120, they just bolt on. Expect to see the rings of Saturn and some of the cloud bands, the cloud bands and the great red (now pink) spot on Jupiter, star clusters, double stars, plenty of detail in the Orion nebula, and some of the more well known nebula too as small fuzzy shapes.

Yes, you could go for a 200P Dobsonian configuration for £289, or the 250PX Dobsonian at £445, but every time you increase the size it becomes more difficult to handle and store, and to have any kind of tracking on a Dobsonian mount is very expensive. I may well try a large Dobsonian some time soon myself, to make it worth while I think it has to be 10" at least! :D Probably the Skyliner 250PX Flextube, should be great for moon and some DSOs.

Something in the CG-4's (or any EQ mount) favour is that you can fit just about any type of telescope to it, up to the mount's maximum weight limit (best to stay well below this for stability). You could even just mount your camera directly (to a dovetail bar) and use the normal camera lens to photograph the stars, if you have performed a reasonably accurate polar alignment and have motors for tracking.

Sorry for the War and Peace essay!

Edited by jonathan
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I would recommend my telescope as a good grab and go 'jack of all trades'. It's a Nexstar SLT102 http://www.firstlightoptics.com/slt-series/celestron-nexstar-102-slt.html

Why good? :

-Well within your budget (with cash to spare for a x2 Barlow.

- Comes with 25mm and 10mm lens.

- Good for viewing planets, moon, clusters and DSO's (weighed against other products in this price range).

- Good focal length and F ratio for AP. (see site below all taken with the 102slt)b

http://www.dur.ac.uk/nigel.metcalfe/astro/slt_canon.php

- Excellent grab and go.

- Excellent scope for nobies and experienced astronomers alike.

- GOTO capable with celestrons excellent sky align alignment process.

Cons:

-Alt/az (but can you really get a decent goto, grab and go EQ mount with OTA in the same price range?).

- Only a 4" 'cheap frac' so you won't get as much appature for your buck as you might with a dob and your will get chromatic aberration as with all 'cheap' (ie less than a few thousand £) refractors.

- As with all fork arm mounts it is rather wobbly when you focus etc manually rather than using an autofocusser.

Here are some other reviews from trusted sites/professional reviewers:

http://www.cloudynights.com/item.php?item_id=2530

http://www.universetoday.com/15104/telescope-review-celestron-nexstar-102-slt/

Hope this helps. Private message me if you want more info.

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Thanks for the replies,

Photography actually wasnt that high on my priorities , although I would like to have a way of getting some sort of shots on to my laptop , they dont have to be award winning though.

I was actually looking at the nexstar range before I posted this , I am going to head down to my nearest store and take a look at them all the different types in the flesh , I would like to see just how big they really are.

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Thanks for the replies,

Photography actually wasnt that high on my priorities , although I would like to have a way of getting some sort of shots on to my laptop , they dont have to be award winning though.

I was actually looking at the nexstar range before I posted this , I am going to head down to my nearest store and take a look at them all the different types in the flesh , I would like to see just how big they really are.

Good stuff - dont forget, if you get the 130 it will need collimnation which means a little bit of extra kit and knowhow. Also, in the interim, you will see a jack russel dog next to the 102SLT in one of the reviews I linked you.

-Let us know how you do :)

-Sharpe

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You could look at the Nexstar 4SE which will allow you to dabble with photography if you wish. this has a better mount than the SLT versions.

Has it? I thought the mounts were broadly similar but as the 4SE was smaller, more compact and weighed less it impacted the mount less? One way or the other the 4SE is better mounted.

The 4SE is (from what I have heard) another great intro scope - just be sure you dont want the 5SE which would get you quite a substantial boost in apature even if it is a little over your budget. Also, be clear as to the differences between the different OTA types and the comprimises you will make. The SLT range has refractors, reflectors (including the SCT design seen in the SE range) and newton. Also, dont discount the dobs. I dont own one but people rave about them as being great apature for your buck - so long as AP isnt high on the hit list.

-Sharpe

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