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Help buying my first telescope


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Hi everyone, and thanks for a wonderful site. Over the last few weeks I feel I have learnt more and more through some of your wonderfully insightful and helpful posts (without the arrogance and rudeness of other forums I have experienced).

I now want to pursue my interest in the skies further and feel ready to purchase my first telescope. I have a small budget of £200 max but am ideally looking to be able to see Saturn with its rings, Jupiter and maybe a couple of DSOs.

I have read through many 'beginner equipment' posts already on the forum but the posters already seem to have a general idea of which telecopes they are looking to buy, I am not in this situation and would love some suggestions which I could then research a little further myself.

Many thanks in advance.

FJ

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If budget is limited, then the best bang for your buck will be a Dobsonian reflector. If you could stretch to £209 then you could get a Skywatcher Skyliner 150 (have a look First Light Optics website).

With an aperture of 6" this

will give you great views of Jupiter & Saturn and gives you access to lots and lots of DSOs.

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I'd put in a vote for a short-tube refractor like mine - it's not the best for planets but shows plenty of faint fuzzy objects, has a lovely wide field of view but best of all I can cart it down to the park for an observing session. And it'll show you Saturn's rings, Jupiter's cloud belts and even fainter things like some of the galaxies etc, although not in as much detail. Mine cost £139 on an EQ1 mount. I'm considering upgrading to the ST102, or even ST120, but on an Alt-Az mounting - portability is the deciding factor for me. The best telescope is the one you're going to get out and actually look through. I wish I'd had my ST80 when I was a teenager because the TAL was a pain in the derrier even to get through a French Window into the garden. And a dobsonian is only really practical if you have a garden to stick it in.

Having said that, I don't have a garden; if I had a garden I would have a dobsonian because they're unrivalled for "Bang for buck."

DD

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+1 for the dob! It's very easy to setup, and once setup it's very easy to use! The only downside is the drifting of the objects. But a dob is an excellent choice for a small budget, as most of the money goes into the optics!

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I'd put in a vote for a short-tube refractor like mine - it's not the best for planets but shows plenty of faint fuzzy objects, has a lovely wide field of view but best of all I can cart it down to the park for an observing session. And it'll show you Saturn's rings, Jupiter's cloud belts and even fainter things like some of the galaxies etc, although not in as much detail. Mine cost £139 on an EQ1 mount. I'm considering upgrading to the ST102, or even ST120, but on an Alt-Az mounting - portability is the deciding factor for me. The best telescope is the one you're going to get out and actually look through. I wish I'd had my ST80 when I was a teenager because the TAL was a pain in the derrier even to get through a French Window into the garden. And a dobsonian is only really practical if you have a garden to stick it in.

Having said that, I don't have a garden; if I had a garden I would have a dobsonian because they're unrivalled for "Bang for buck."

DD

So can a dob not be used through a window or does it have to be taken outdoors?

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You don't want to use any telescope through a window if you can help it. There are always weird thermal currents between indoors and outdoors and those will interfere with the high power views.

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Astronomy is really an outdoors hobby. Telescopes need to be close to ambient temperature to work at their best due to thermal currents. At higher magnifications this seemingly small fluctuation of air can be like looking at an object under a choppy water surface.

Also looking through a window would severely limit your vista. There is nothing quite so peaceful as sitting under a full dark, clear sky. You connect to it.

Also bear in mind that this time of year does not lend itself, in my opinion, to taking up astronomy simply because the sky doesn't get real proper dark until long after midnight and even then the planet is still usually giving off a good amount of it's day's heat. You might find you aren't getting out much and quickly lose interest which would be a real shame. If you can stay up late though then this time of year does have some lovely things on show, a firm favourite being the ring nebula at the moment. You will get, hopefully, much more frequent early viewing sessions in the late autumn, winter and early spring months (basically the GMT months)

Now if you do have a garden and can get outside then I'd look for a Skyliner 200p '(8" dobsonian) second hand. This scope is amazing for the money and if you buy second hand, which given the simple design would likely mean perfect condition, and you don't get on with it then you can resell it for pretty much what you paid for it. It gives a huge performance increase over a 150p dobsonian. If you check out Astronomy Buy & Sell UK you usually find a handful of these scopes for under £200.

If you don't have a garden I'd recommend something more portable that you can put in your car and drive somewhere dark. Viewing from a window isn't really much good for anything serious.

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That's just what I was going to say - if you're buying new then a 150P satisfies your budget and objectives - but a 200P dob from the second hand market will be immensely preferable and will give you considerable savings. You should be able to find something under two years old in near new condition for your price range. :)

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Sometimes if you are lucky you can get good second hand bargains, and as long as you buy from a reputable place I imagine you can sometimes even get an 8 inch for around that money, I've seen them come and go at that sot of price.

I would only add, if you living in a flat perhaps, or got to go up a flight of stairs every time, or elevator, since you mention looking through a window which you should avoid at all cost, you'd have to consider how easy it is to get outside to avoid that, then may be a small scope such as I have in my sig is perfect for you, because you can pick it up in one hand and be outside in no time, and still have a reasonable amount of aperture, given the small overall size and weight of the Heritage 130p scope it gives good bang for buck in that sense. Aperture is particularly important for DSO viewing.

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Foxesjon, have you ever considered wanting to photo what you see through the scope? Or do you just want to observe and have memories till you become more adept at skyhopping? These are two key questions as I'm also in your position :) good luck and keep us updated on your search progress.

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Hi Foxesjon, I'm also on the threshold of buying my first scope too.

I have been promising myself and my family this opportunity for about a year now and I'm going to be parting company wwith my hard earned pennies in the next few weeks.

I have read and re-read so much information about it all and ended up a little confused about things, but, with the help and advice from others here on these forums, I cleared my head and confirmed what I really already knew and that was the Dobsonian instrument was my best bet because it would give me:

portability / ease of use / bang-for-buck (in terms of aperture & cost) / and ease of storage

If money is tight then Mr Dobson's design is the one to consider first :smiley: I'm sure you will eventually make the right choice and enjoy your purchase

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Hi everyone, thanks for all the help and advice, sorry to be late in replying to some of you, work has been manic this week!

In the end I went for the 150p dobsonian, purchased from Wex photographic and have to say I am impressed at their service.

Last night whilst my good lady sat watching the box I had one of my most enjoyable evenings in ages, setting up my new Dob and I have to say I am absolutely delighted with it!! Simply setting up the telescope helped me learn more about it (especially when I realised I had mounted the optic tube the wrong way round!). Unfortunately after a week of clear skies the clouds set in last night, but no matter, I enjoyed the evening anyway!

I also took advice from this forum and purchased a copy of Turn Left at Orion, which has been IMMENSELY helpful whilst waiting for the scope to arrive.To SkyClad - i highly reccommend!tel

I have a back garden which I intend to use, as well as doing a little bit of travelling with my new baby into the North Wales hills. I am also looking at joining my local Astronomical society.

I truly feel I have found my passion / hobby / love (whatever you want to call it!) and once again, many thanks to all the members who have taken their time to post advice and assistance to the questions I have asked!

FJ

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Glad you enjoy it :). Now while the clouds are out, you can also install free software like Stellarium, and along with TLAO start making you plans what to look at first. In particular you can enter you scope details, setup the eyepieces in the ocular section, and start doing your virtual observing on a PC. A useful video on that here

This is a great way to start learning the sky, I found anyway.

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Hi foxesjon and welcome to the Dob club! Hopefully we should all get the chance this evening for a look at the Moon, Saturn its rings and its moons, and maybe a few other objects from the star maps. As for tomorrow, don't worry about the weather - you can press on with 'pimping' the scope. You'll find plenty of threads on SGL about water butt stands, lazy Susan bearings, Telrads and RACI (right angle corrected image) finders, and flocking, and then there's the thorny issue of eyepieces. Enjoy it all!

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