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New Astronomy Teacher here

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Hi there!

I'm slated to start teaching an Astronomy course this fall in urban Los Angeles, so I thought I'd join a community so I can do a good job presenting it to my students. I'd love to hear from any other Astronomy teachers out there, because I'm going to need all the good ideas I can get!

I've always been interested in astronomy, but I don't have any experience in stargazing. I currently teach Physics, btw.

I look forward to getting to know you folks!


PS Yes, I'll be asking for advice on what scope to get over on the equipment board.

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I'm going to start teaching an astronomy class here in downtown LA. I know we won't be able to see too much from here due to all the light pollution. But what scope would you guys recommend for an Astronomy class? And where is a good place to get it from?

Thanks a lot!

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I would suspect that you are looking at a goto, I guess that many attending would expect to see one to an extent, and after that likely an 8 inch aperture. Any bigger is a bit too much to haul round and the 8 inch is where many can and will start. So you are using a "typical" scope in some ways. Suspect that means Meade or Celestron.

A club here runs their Meades from laptops with Nightsky 6. You could do that also

Know of someone with a Meade LS 6 over here that seems to do everything they want, you basically stand it on the ground say Go, and it aligns itself. Maybe a bit too much, as seeing a scope set up and aligned is what most will do.

Astronomics is the only retailer I know of over in the US, no idea what brands they sell.

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Hi cloud,

I would also suggest a Dob. But I would suggest a 10" because of you are in LA. The bigger the aperture the better it will combat the heavy LP. Though you are in LA so it not going to be the best. I would also suggest trying to plan some field trips to somewhere that has less LP. Mountain tops are always great places to start. But if you can get a field trip going you can try get access (as a teacher) to a roof top or any place that puts you above as many lights as possible will also help improve the seeing.

I would also suggest getting a GOTO version so that you dont spend half the class searching for objects.

There are several classifide type websites that you can browse through in hopes of finding something. In the USA also. I've seen plenty of posts from people that live in California. You can save a lot of money this way or get more for the same amount.



Cloudynights is free but astromart is a $15/yr fee to see prices and contact people.

I'm not sure of specific stores you can go to as I'm from chicago but I'm sure google knows of some.

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Thanks for the advice so far. Yes, I do want to do some field trips, so it would be need to be pretty portable. I also expect to have to take it out and then lock it up on a regular basis as well. (Again, downtown LA.) I was initially planning on ordering it online, is that ill-advised?

For budget, the administration is being cagey and won't give me a number. I'll need a range of options to present to them, starting from 200-300 up to maybe even $1,000.

Also, would some spotting scopes be a good investment?

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You aren't going to find much under $300. New anyways. A 8" Dob (without GOTO) starts around $300-400. If you had even $600-800 you would be able to jump to a 8 or 10" with GOTO. You can get smaller Dobs for cheaper but with in towntown LA you wont be able to see much. Also remember you will want to budget for a couple different eyepieces as well. Those can range from $20 to $700 a piece. Those I would recommend buying second hand as you can get a lot for your money there. But if you dont want the hassel there are several EP sets you can buy starting at $100 or just buy some individuals. Check out http://www.telescope.com for you to get a base line on retail prices and what out there. Then you can look through the classifides too and see what you can find.

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I am studying education and there are several telescopes I find are very well suited for children AND are portable;

If you focus on planets (and perhpaps the sun with a FILTER!) you could get a 4" Maksutov on a sturdy photo mount or better a EQ mount to follow automatically or by turning the knob.

For Deepsky there's nothing more important then aperture; But it gets bulky, quickly.

Take a look at the Skywatcher Heritage 130p, it's a relativly light weight telescope, I just received mine a week ago or so. It's probably the biggest you can still carry easily without a car...

For 1000€ there is a number of travel dobsonians, but they are too high for kids, meant for dark places (or you will have to sew a light shroud ;-) ).

As for the 130p, it's not as an excellent starter scope as a 150(6") or 200mm(8") dobsonian would be, but it's cheap (seen it for 130 gbp in the UK, 160-180€ in germany, ~120€ in Switzerland). There is the smaller firstscope (€50) and it's clones (€20) but their use is rather limited, especially as the focal length is only 300mm (=f/4 hard to collimate, coma/expensive eyepieces, hard to get high mangification for planets as the optics are not that good).

To boil my rant down:

What use is a motorized 8" that's too high to reach and too difficult to use by kids? ;-)

Also you could buy two or more so there is no boredom and frustration.

About Goto-

Pointing a scope at planets needs no advanced skill, and finding stuff with a chart/map is not hard either. Finding is rewarding, goto can even be frustrating (setting up the mount, scope and small goto scopes like the etx60/70 will only show a fragment of the objects the catalog includes).

Ideas for DIY scopes

Astromedia offers a couple of kits; One requires some pipes from a hardware store to build your own refractor, the other kit includes a miror and cardboard set to build your own newton/dobsonian telescope. I've built the latter and with the right glue it's rather easy and there's no waiting for the glue to dry.

Those small scopes can show quite a bit for the price of ~€20, at least details on the moon, Jupiter's moon and with a bit of tinkering perhaps even a hint saturn's rings (depending on the position), plus they offer a sun filter for it too. The greatest part is it's educational value, and children will understand how a newtonian works AND will be more careful when handling a bigger telescope after they learned how the thing works and that a telescope is a sensitive device.

Also check out the MicroObservatory Robotic Telescope Network

They do offer different options for schools/teachers


There you can remote-control a robotic 6" telescope to take pictures with different settings (though somewhat limited).

It's a great tool though for bad weather and some experimenting.

Also: Don't waste too much money on eyepieces, as kids will touch the lenses and worse. You can get Plössls from 10€, 66degr. wide angle eyepieces for 30€, and Planetary eyepieces for €45...


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I just came across this new add for a 12" (non GOTO) with a bunch of EP for $300. http://www.cloudynights.com/classifieds/showproduct.php?product=78889&sort=&cat=10&page=1 Its a steal if you dont mind the no GOTO. So you can find some great deals. Just need to look and a bit of timing. Oh if you buy online always buy with paypal so you can garuntee your order from scams and shipping damage.

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I just came across this new add for a 12" (non GOTO) with a bunch of EP for $300.

Amazing price! Still it doesn't hurt to take a look at it first ;-)

Also check out the size of the different telescopes before buying anything, seems like many underestimate size and weight.

http://translate.google.de/translate?sl=de&tl=en&js=n&prev=_t&hl=de&ie=UTF-8&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.joern-lenhardt.de%2Fbenny%2Fart_scopes.html&act=url (german original http://www.joern-lenhardt.de/benny/art_scopes.html )

Perhaps someone has a English page about telescope size handy...

About viewing targets from within a city: Planet's are usually bright enough, even in Frankfurt I was able to spot quite some details on Jupiter, and brighter deep sky objects will be observable as well... Though there is nothing like a dark sky! Better a portable telescope in a dark spot then a big one in a light polluted area.

(Sorry for the double post earlier.)

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Take a look at the Skywatcher Heritage 130p, it's a relativly light weight telescope...

While I like mine, I had heard that you couldn't get them in the USA. Not sure why. But I gather they used to be available as Bushnell ARES 5" (exactly the same thing, but different colour/branding).

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Welcome to SGL ! This is a great forum with a wealth of knowledge, and friendly people to help.

For additional information closer to home, check out the "Outreach" forum on the CN site.

Lot's of real world experience there regarding what might work best for your situation.

All the best !

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Hi, Cloudwing,

Welcome also to SGL.

I spent some time helping a local scout group with their Astronomy badge and one of the (many) challenges is stopping them getting bored.

Is there an age group and number you need to cater for?

If you have up to $1000, then you could get possibly get 3 good scopes. All lowish cost, so not fatal if one gets damaged.

Near you is a pretty large seller, try here http://www.optcorp.com/

The Dobsonian type is the best value you will get and will encourage the students to learn the skies.

Same supplier, have a look at this one. http://www.optcorp.com/orion-skyquest-xt8-classic-dobsonian-telescope-8945.html

I am sure if you contacted them, they have helped loads of teachers, so will also be able to guide you on choices.

Anyway, as previously recommended, you will need to get above as much of the ground as possible, could you use the school roof? Also, for field trips, the Dob's are very quick to get operational. Mount Wilson (Get the students to research the history of the place and see what it did... Discovery is the key..) is not very far NE of you. The mountain top is littered with antennae, trees and buildings, but it would be an impressive trip for you all, especially if you could set up there one evening after a tour.

Good luck, HTH.


Once the students gets the technique for manually tracking the objects, they will probably get quite a buzz from it.

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Don't discount binoculars, two or three pairs of half decent ones won't cost the earth. They are good for seeing brighter DSOs and will help keep the attention of those not on their 'turn' at the scope, assuming you are teaching children?

Learn the sky yourself before you try teaching anyone, nothing worse than answering with 'umm' 'err' when asked a question :)

On that note you say you're teaching astronomy, my experience of taking astronomy courses is that it's 95% mathematics ( a subject that I hate with a passion ) so as much practical stargazing as you can get to demonstrate the theory is called for.

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Thanks for all the help! I'll be teaching high schoolers; basically the school's plan is to give me all the kids who aren't ready for physics yet. At least they will be upper-classmen. Knowing that, I'll be minimizing the math as much as I can. (Being new to this, I'd always imagined I'd spend a lot of time on types of stars, planets, quasars, etc) The good news is I'll only get more dedicated students turning up to see things at night or on night-time field trips.

I definitely want something easily portable. One scope I just saw was the

Celestron Nexstar 102 SLT Computerized Telescope Anyone know if this is a good scope? It seems to be getting good reviews. This is cheap enough that I might be able to get 2 of them, plus some eyepieces and binoculars/ spotterscopes.

I know, it's not a dobsonian. =)

Thanks again!

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I'd avoid anything with a goto for simplicities sake, goto scopes take a fair bit of setting up each time you use them and they need extras like power packs/batteries to run. A dob, or another manual scope with setting circles might be a better way to get the kids involved.

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Seems like a nice travel scope, but I see multiple problems:

As Steep states, Goto is not allways the best solution.

Also, a f/5 refractor is not good at high magnification (Planets ),Chromatic aberration...

A 90/100mm Maksutov will show about as much and will cost 100-200€, and it's small enough to mount on a smaller Goto mount later on.

If you want to show some deepsky as well, you will need something larger then 100mm/4" aperture, 150/6" - better 200mm/8"+.

Take a look at http://www.clarkvision.com/visastro/m51-apert/index.html

In 100mm/4" every deep-sky-object except the big ones (Orion, Andromeda, ring nebula...) will be a small smudge or not visible at all.

Give them a couple of simple, inexpensive telescopes, eyepieces with medium magnification, and let them find the objects themselves. That's much more rewarding and gets less boring... :-) Plus with larger aperture they'll see more.

Get a bigger scope and a EQ Platform would be a good compromise (large scope, easily keep track of objects so you can show every student) :)

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I believe the teacher who used to post on here regularly used 6" dobsonions for his students, They are cheap, portable, but large enough apparture to be useful.

http://www.telescope...36/p/102011.uts or 4.5" which is cheaper from a darker site you should see a fair bit


Edited by rowan46
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