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Buying a Telescope in the UK


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Hi all,

Quick background: My husband and I are celebrating our 5th anniversary this June, and given we have a baby due in August too, I'd like to get him something nice. He's always been an avid star-gazer, though work and life have eventually gotten in the way and he hasn't had a telescope in maybe 10 years. He's definitely a bit more advanced than a true novice/beginner (which *I* am!) and always spends a LOT of time researching something before he buys it (to give you an example, he bought our nieces and nephew a $100 telescope and researched it obsessively for 2 months first!). I definitely don't want to get him something he wouldn't approve of, and so I'm soliciting help by those far more knowledgeable than myself. ;-)

Although we currently live in the UK, we are American and will be moving back to the US in a couple years, so it needs to be something we can bring back with us when we move. We also currently live within walking distance to a small town--so although our yard is very dark because it is surrounded by trees, I am afraid that the nearby town's lights may affect our ability to see well (though we might be moving a bit further away from the town this summer). I am looking to spend 500-750 GBP, but could be persuaded to go outside of that (both under and over) if there is a substantial difference in quality. I'm not sure what to look for or where to start--though I know when he was looking for one for my nieces and nephew he saw some that can save pictures, which I think is pretty cool, at any rate. :-D

As an aside: do you think a telescope today would be effective enough that when our son gets a bit older, he could use it with my husband? Or will it be too outdated? And should we *not* let a child use a telescope within this price range?

Any help will be most appreciated--as I know nothing at this point! Many thanks!

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As an aside: do you think a telescope today would be effective enough that when our son gets a bit older, he could use it with my husband? Or will it be too outdated? And should we *not* let a child use a telescope within this price range?

Any help will be most appreciated--as I know nothing at this point! Many thanks!

Telescopes usually last for a very long time. Optics might develop, but the general ones should stay the same really for many years to come.

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Did you look at the Skywatcher StarTravel Series?

They're reasonably portable and cheap, yet perform well.

They come in sizes 80mm, 102mm, 120mm and 150mm.

I haven't looked at anything yet. There are just so many that I don't know where to start! What are the benefits of the different sizes? I'd assume a larger one provides a better quality image?

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Hi, welcome to the forum :)

I think emad is right above, have a look at the skywatcher telescopes, they seem to provide best value for money, you can look on flo here:

http://www.firstligh...skywatcher.html

It also depends what you want to see and do as well, there are dobsonian telescopes, which are kind of your plonk and go telescope, very easy to set up, very easy to use. Or there are telescopes which sit on a mount and tripod, which will allow you to do any photography that you may like to do/want to do in the future, but take some more setting up, tripod/mount/weight/scope.

They like youve mentioned there the refractors, which are alot smaller than there reflector counter parts. I cant really comment on the difference as i only have a reflector myself.

The thing about taking it back to USA in a few years may be an issue, as telescopes tend to be big and heavy (reflectors on a mount), so you would need to factor this in/pay for it. But if it follows the same pattern as everything else, telescopes may be alot cheaper in the USA than uk? So may be no benefit to taking one back. Thats total speculation on my part though.

Telescopes can last forever if well looked after so no need to worry about it, and i dont see a problem letting a child use one (maybe not alone though), can be a good bonding session. Below are some links on articles about choosing a scope too. They are about choosing a first scope, which seeing as your husband has had one before, may be a bit like teaching to suck eggs, but hopefully not. Hope that helps somewhat :)

http://www.skyatnigh.../yourfirstscope

http://www.skyandtel...nt/3304526.html

Edited by Matt Scunthorpe
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Forgot to mention about your comment on light pollution too. Personally i dont tend to worry about it, mainly as its so hard to get away from, unless you can get to the middle of nowhere each and everytime you want to go out with the scope.

My town has a fair amount of LP as every other town has, but my garden is fairly dark, and i cant say ive noticed it too much, and as you say your garden is quite dark, you'll hopefully be okay.

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I haven't looked at anything yet. There are just so many that I don't know where to start! What are the benefits of the different sizes? I'd assume a larger one provides a better quality image?

IN the past a short tube telescope wasn't the custom because they created a lot of chromatic aberration (colour deviation). But now with improved lenses, chromatic aberration is significantly reduced. With the Skywatcher ST series you get reasonable lenses, good build and short tube that you can pack and take away. The lenses are good enough for intermediate level as long as you don't don't professional astro-photography. For visual observation of deep sky objects for example, the 80mm or 102mm will do just fine. Bear in mind that you can enhance the telescope performance with the good eyepieces called Plossls.

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It sounds like you're planning a surprise. But you know what? If your husband is the kind of guy who knows what he wants and likes to research things then I suggest you tell him what you're planning and make a choice together. He'd probably enjoy that more and then you'll be certain you didn't get the wrong thing. Of course people here are happy to help, but I reckon it would be more fun for you as a couple to have him teach you stuff instead of having us teach you stuff. I think you should make a nice card, call it a "telescope gift voucher" and plan a trip to a store to look at some stuff in person. Not to buy that day, probably, but just to have a look.

If you're moving back to the UK, look for something smaller and don't spend too much (at least on accessories) as these things are quite a bit cheaper in the US. To be honest, though, you can ship anything if you have to.

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It sounds like you're planning a surprise. But you know what? If your husband is the kind of guy who knows what he wants and likes to research things then I suggest you tell him what you're planning and make a choice together. He'd probably enjoy that more and then you'll be certain you didn't get the wrong thing. Of course people here are happy to help, but I reckon it would be more fun for you as a couple to have him teach you stuff instead of having us teach you stuff. I think you should make a nice card, call it a "telescope gift voucher" and plan a trip to a store to look at some stuff in person. Not to buy that day, probably, but just to have a look.

If you're moving back to the UK, look for something smaller and don't spend too much (at least on accessories) as these things are quite a bit cheaper in the US. To be honest, though, you can ship anything if you have to.

That's very wise, and a fantastic idea. I'd still like to be armed with information so at the very least I can partake in his research. To be fair, he's done that very thing with me. He wanted to buy me a new flute a few years back, and he was told that I had to come in and try them myself--by that point he knew a lot about them, and was actually able to tell me the history of a lot of the different pieces while I tried them out.

Does anyone know brick and mortar shops in the UK that sells telescopes? We're in West Kent in the London commuter belt.

And we'll be moving from the UK back to the US, not the other way around. Given the exchange rate, it'd be far easier if I were living in the US right now! ;-)

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IN the past a short tube telescope wasn't the custom because they created a lot of chromatic aberration (colour deviation). But now with improved lenses, chromatic aberration is significantly reduced. With the Skywatcher ST series you get reasonable lenses, good build and short tube that you can pack and take away. The lenses are good enough for intermediate level as long as you don't don't professional astro-photography. For visual observation of deep sky objects for example, the 80mm or 102mm will do just fine. Bear in mind that you can enhance the telescope performance with the good eyepieces called Plossls.

Fantastic--thanks so much for clarifying. I probably would have merely bought the largest ;-)

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West Kent... You're in luck. Go here: http://www.telescope...g/about_us.html

Good idea to read up before you talk to him. He'll really appreciate the thoughtfulness (what a lucky guy he is!) Here are some links you could check out:

http://www.astronomy... telescope.aspx

http://starizona.com...hichisbest.aspx

For fun: http://www.cloudynig...php?item_id=368

p.s. sorry, yes. I knew you were moving to the US in a couple of years. Freudian slip on my part because I'm doing the opposite! Where are you moving? Do you want to buy a house as well? ;)

Edited by umadog
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Although it would be lovely to spring it as a surprise, my suggestion would be to let your husband choose for such a special present, if you are open to that idea.

The reason why I say that is that I've been into this hobby for several years now, and it's still an agonising decision figuring out what telescope gear to buy! It's hard enough to figure out what is best for me, never mind to pick for someone else! :shocked:

Every good telescope is great at some things and not so great at others. I think it's a bit like playing golf, where there is not really one club that is the best, they each have their use, so some astronomers end up with several scopes! One scope can be enough, but it won't be the best at everything, so needs careful consideration of your needs!

e.g. my favourite scope is my dobsonian, but it's a very bad choice for doing long-exposure deep sky photos as is, or for trying to get on a plane!

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p.s. sorry, yes. I knew you were moving to the US in a couple of years. Freudian slip on my part because I'm doing the opposite! Where are you moving? Do you want to buy a house as well? ;)

It's a bit of a strange situation--I was applying for PhD programmes in the US, near his work, when he got a fantastic job offer in the UK. I quickly applied to programmes in the UK and got accepted to a few (more than the US!) and with funding. So we ended up in the UK for mutual career advancement, but we will definitely have to go back--despite our love for the UK--so our child will be able to know his family better, etc. I'm guessing, if I finish the PhD fairly promptly, we'll be going back in late 2015/early 2016.

And we'll have to go to the northeast US (where we're both from) for work, more specifically the NYC region (tri-state area).

And thanks for recommending Telescope House! It's only about 35 minutes away from where we live! He'll be very happy when I mention it to him and am able to say, 'Oh, would you like to see some? It's only 35 minutes away!' :-)

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Although it would be lovely to spring it as a surprise, my suggestion would be to let your husband choose for such a special present, if you are open to that idea.

The reason why I say that is that I've been into this hobby for several years now, and it's still an agonising decision figuring out what telescope gear to buy! It's hard enough to figure out what is best for me, never mind to pick for someone else! :shocked:

Every good telescope is great at some things and not so great at others. I think it's a bit like playing golf, where there is not really one club that is the best, they each have their use, so some astronomers end up with several scopes! One scope can be enough, but it won't be the best at everything, so needs careful consideration of your needs!

e.g. my favourite scope is my dobsonian, but it's a very bad choice for doing long-exposure deep sky photos as is, or for trying to get on a plane!

Thanks so much! To be honest, I didn't think it would be this difficult, but I suppose it's like the aforementioned flute purchase--you need to get a 'feel' for it before deciding!

We will have to use international movers when we go back (which we did when we came here), so there's plenty of room for a sizeable and heavy object; though the major fear is cracking it, of course.

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Hi..what kind of budget are you looking at....I would suggest a Meade telescope a lot of Americans seem to favour them. ..Davy

As mentioned in my original post: 500-750 GBP, though I could be persuaded to extend a bit in either direction.

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I would recommend the following. Go for something like an 8" Dob. It's big enough to go relatively deep into space with good views. Just sell it when you plan to move, you'll get around 60-70% of the new price. That is good value for two years enjoyment. What you make on the sale you will probably get something better in the US, with no transport costs.

I'd also prefer to get it myself, so maybe involve him. I find much of the enjoyment is in the selection process, agonising over what to get! Maybe your husband is the same?

Good luck, its a great journey

Barry

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So, I told him--mentioned that we can go to the store or club nearby if he wants to get some hands on action and talked to him about a few brands...

But apparently he's been just casually looking at some anyway (!) and thus he already has a list of what he's been looking at. Tsk. Foolish me for thinking I could get a jump on him! :-)

Here's what he's looking at:

Meade 6" ACF LT Telescope with Lightswitch

Celstron 6 SE or 5 SE

Skymax 127

He'd like to take pictures with it, but it's not totally necessary. What is necessary, to him, is autohoning (i.e. goto) and autotracking.

It also might be cheaper to actually just import it from the US (which doesn't surprise me too much, actually!), so that's an option.

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It might sound cheaper but you'll get stung for import tax so you'll pay more in the end with shipping and tax :embarassed:

We are aware of the import/shipping etc. I recently bought a US laptop and shipped it over--even with everything, it was cheaper than I could find it in the UK for the same model. I find that sometimes (as we saw with one telescope earlier today), retailers will keep the same numeric value, but not account for the exchange rate (i.e. a 1k USD laptop is priced as 1k GBP)! It's something we'll consider, but only if it truly is cost effective for the particular model of telescope we choose.

Thanks for the heads up, though. :-)

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