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Newbie and his 7 year old child


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Hello to everyone,

I am a proud father of a 7 year old daughter who wishes to "see the planets and the stars" as a combined Birthday and good school behaviour present.

I myself have always been fascinated with science fiction so making a jump to a telescope has quite a lot of appeal. I am however currently stationed in West Africa and have very limited methods of trawling specialist shops or meeting with enthusiasts back in the UK, as I would usually have done.

I have a budget of up to £300, and have been looking at some of the GoTo scopes for the sake of my daughter (am I right?). I am also a keen photographer and would like to use my Nikon D3 to take pictures.

I will be carrying the telescope to Chamonix and Greece for the summer where it will probably be left since there is less light pollution and we tend to spend most holidays there.

Aside from knowing next to nothing about telescopes, I would rather buy second hand but I have no way of gauging them from here.

Any ideas, especially feedback on how to enthral young children and eager adults?

Many thanks for any advice!

Sincerely,

JAG

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Good luck John, its really nice sharing with our little ones, mine is 10 and loves looking at Saturn.

its a difficult thing to recommend a scope for someone else and the fact that you've added the D3 to the equation makes it all the more tricky.

imaging is pretty deep and takes a long time to set up, I'd imagine she'd be fed up before you'd even started so that's probably best kept as a solo pursuit!

if you can find your way round the sky (with some help from a smartphone maybe) a small DOB would be quick to set up and something like a sky watcher 130 heritage is nice and small, not so daunting for a little one .

The goto type scopes are nice but take a bit of setting up. Something like a celestron 4se is quite nice (and its orange which your daughter might like)

I'm sure you'll get plenty of suggestions!

All the best :D

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Good luck John, its really nice sharing with our little ones, mine is 10 and loves looking at Saturn.

its a difficult thing to recommend a scope for someone else and the fact that you've added the D3 to the equation makes it all the more tricky.

imaging is pretty deep and takes a long time to set up, I'd imagine she'd be fed up before you'd even started so that's probably best kept as a solo pursuit!

if you can find your way round the sky (with some help from a smartphone maybe) a small DOB would be quick to set up and something like a sky watcher 130 heritage is nice and small, not so daunting for a little one .

The goto type scopes are nice but take a bit of setting up. Something like a celestron 4se is quite nice (and its orange which your daughter might like)

I'm sure you'll get plenty of suggestions!

All the best :D

I agree. Your interest and your daughter's interest are two very different things.For your daughter there really cant be any scope better the a Skywatcher Heritage 130P. Simple to set up with instant satisfaction. You want to image things is a different beast. It will need an equatorial mount rather then the Dob mount of the Heritage. At very least it would be doable with a Skywatcher Explorer 130P. Same scope as the Heritage but on an equatorial mount. This takes longer to set-up and your daughter may become bored before it is ready for action.

Astro-imaging is a steep learning curve and expensive. I say forget that plan for the moment and just enjoy your time exploring the universe with your daughter with a Heritage 130P Dob.

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Thanks for both answers. I will scale down my own ambitions therefore.

I presume we can still take pictures though correct?

Where would I look for a second hand Skywatch Explorer 130P or should I just bite the bullet and go for a new one? Any particular accessories I should aim for? We have iPads and iPhones galore in our household so any app would be easy to get. Even worse my daughter would thoroughly enjoy a new excuse to get hold of them.

Sincerely,

JAG

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Sorry did not see that the 130 could be "Heritage" or "P". Currently reading up on the differences, but as it is for my daughter anything that makes it simpler will hold her interest longer. Also remember that night time is past bed time therefore at this age I cannot have her gazing for too long!

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Being honest forget getting any images.

That area is somewhat different and to attach and use the camera gives a different set of requirements to visual. First hiccup is that you need a reasonable driven equitorial mount - an EQ5 with motors is around the £350 area and that is the lightest mount you could get away with. Also you do not necessarily take photographs, you take exposures and collect data, then process the collected data. Different approach to daylight photography.

As to a scope for imaging, well how much would a good 500mm f/4 lens for the Nikon cost ?

I have a reasonable scope for imaging and it was a bargin at £800.

A smallish goto should be fine if you are happy with setting it up and supplying the data. They are getting closer to doing a lot themselves but there is still bits that you need to do. Most are Maks and they have a narrow field of view which at times can make setting up troublesome. Think the Skywatcher ones have a system called Star Align that simplifies this.

If you do not get a scope with motors then objects drift out, and they drift out of view pretty fast.

Never easy to suggest a first scope especially when more then one peron is to be considered.

Have a look at the Heritage Virtuoso scopes - 2 variants.

They are not goto however, you set them up fairly simply I gather and they track across the sky when you get something in view, so maybe not what you want. Not sure if they can be upgraded to goto by buying the appropriate handset, but not a cheap option.

Would ask where you are then suggest you visit a club and look at what is used, however at this time of year many clubs do not meet up until into or after August. Also there may be a shop near enough to pay a visit, but no idea where you are to suggest any.

Edited by ronin
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.

Any ideas, especially feedback on how to enthral young children and eager adults?

My daughter, who is now 12, loves to go to star camps, so we go as a family. Sometimes her friends go to, otherwise she quickly makes friends with others kids. You do take your chance with the weaather of course on these occasions, otherwise it can be an ideal and adventurous scenario for kids and grown ups to live for a time under the canopy of a true dark sky.

You do not require anything special with regard to optics, as there are opportunies galore provided by the attending stargazers. Anyhow, there is nothing better than to look with just your eyes, sharing with kids views of the planets and pointing out and naming the constellations. So a simple planisphere is where to begin.

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I would also suggest you forget about trying to take pictures. Other than (perhaps) a snapshot of the moon, astrophotography bears no relation to daylight photography. I'm not trying to put you off, imaging is a wonderful hobby but it most certainly isn't 'fit the telescope like a big zoom lens and press the shutter button'. There is plenty of info about astrophotography in the getting started with imaging forum, so do a bit of reading before making a potentially costly mistake.

All telescopes have good and bad points. A small GoTo telescope is nice and portable and will have a database of many thousands of objects, most of them will be too faint for such a small scope to pick out. If you are both primarily interested in the moon and planets, then you don't really need to GoTo to be able to find them with the telescope. If you don't need the GoTo, more of the cost of the scope can be put towards the optics (bigger scope for your money, which gives better views). The downside of a bigger scope is...well...it's bigger!

My 9 year old has had an interest for a good few years but rather than faff around with alignment routines and setting up and balancing a telescope, he likes to just look through it.

This is when he was 7.

sml_gallery_5915_1650_87602.jpg

Choosing a first telescope is not an easy choice and in the end you need to think about what suits your situation best.

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Well, I like my Heritage 130p, and while I'd thought about a Goto scope, I really haven't missed it. Many objects are pretty easy to find with a low power eyepiece, and the hunt is part if the fun. And I don't need to worry about batteries.

At high magnifications things do drift pretty fast, but to be honest that's mostly planets, and I rarely use more than x160, which isn't too bad for drift.

The only thing that would make me hesitate is transport - it's a bit to big to be hand luggage on a flight, I think. Would a small refractor and case be worth considering, if that's the case?

Oh, as far as I can tell "Heritage" seems to be a code word for "tabletop" (though I place mine on the ground and sit next to it on a chair), 130 is the aperture in mm, and 'p' means the mirror is parabolic, which is better than the spherical mirrors sometimes found on cheap scopes (apparently). Skywatcher do have a tripod mounted 130p I think, but the optical tube isn't collapsible.

Also, if transport/storage space is less of an issue, and you're okay with no Goto, you might want to consider a Skyliner 150p. More aperture is good!

Oh, for apps - skysafari is good.

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Ok many thanks, definitely veering towards a non GoTo. I need to remember though that the attention span of a 7 year old is such that (a) they will look for things they know about (ie planets) and (B) they will need to see lit objects (anything faint will I presume need higher concentration and longer visualisation).

As for transportation we will leave the telescope in Greece and will be placing it on a veranda. Being on a mountainous slope it will restrict potential objects, but I am quite certain the half of the sky we have access to will have plenty of targets! We will move it sparingly during the summer but the good thing is that we tend to go by car then.

For photos I could get a x2 for my 200m f/2 and get some moon pictures, not idea what it will give that but I might as well start here and progress alongside my daughter!

As is usual for a newbie then, more questions than answers. I just need to take the plunge I guess.

Again many thanks for the multitude of suggestions!

Sincerely,

JAG

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Hi John

For simple images, afocal work is quite nice with iDevices (where the camera is just held up to the eyepiece). I have some examples in my gallery.

In regards to apps, heres the ones I use:

Double Stars - A list of doubles, co-ordinates and wether I have split them or not

Moon Globe - Interactive map of the moons surface

Sky View - When and where I can see the main solar system objects, their orbit and things like the ISS

Im also starting to experiment with one called NightCap which allows you to control the shutter speed on the iphone camera so you can take better shots with it.

As for which scope, I personally love my Explorer 130p, however so many people sing so many praises of the Heritage 130 Dob.

Clear Skies

Matt

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If you have limited knowledge then with very little effort you could be up and running with a goto. I have a young daughter and her attention span is limited.......instant gratification is what's needed.

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Another vote for the Heritage 130p and save the goto-Money for a future 8" dobsonain ;-)

It still fits into a (big) backpack, and despite that it's relatively low to the ground and needs collimation once in a while (easy when you follow one of the great guides), it's set up within the minute. The price difference to a 6" is noticable, leaving more money for eyepieces. Still it shows almost as much with it's 5.1".

Eyepieces could be a 20mm and 6mm Erfle/UWA (€32/26gbp ea.) blus a 2x achromatic barlow (16€) or another eyepiece inbetween.

Though of course thestock eyepieces are Okey for the beginning, though for showing planets something with higher magnification is a must :-) So at least get a 2x barlow.

Popular objects are easy to find... For example the ring nebula is ijust about nbetween the bottom lyra stars, M81/M82 if you extend a imagenary diagonal through the big dipper, and M44 if you move left from gemnini's heads...

Not saying goto would not be nice, but learning your way around the sky is unavoidable and finding objects is half the fun.

I had a chance to look into "turn left at orion" (though I use german books), and it would be nice due to the drawings and explanations.

You can read/browse through it with your child and together plan or draw an observation plan on what to find the next time you go observing.

Together with Stellarium that's a great activity durring rainy days ;-)

And as allways I'll mention the Astromedia cardboard telescope if your child is interested into how stuff works (though at that age you'll need to help building). In my oppinion it's a great kit and teaches a child that it is importaint to take good care of a telescope and to avoid touching or damaging the optical surfaces.

http://www.firstlightoptics.com/astromedia-astronomy-model-kits/astromedia-the-newton-telescope-kit.html

Edited by Schorhr
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Thanks to everyone, especially Gedan and Mattscar.

The issue is to get her hooked. At 22h00 which is when we could start looking at the sky, my daughter's attention span will be limited.

I boils down to how long, awkward and whether it is tedious to manually look for objects.

I basically need to get myself into a shop (or club would have been ideal but not here in Sierra Leone) and look at them 1st hand.

Sincerely,

JAG

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Another +1 for the Heritage 130p - I have a 6 years old son who's attention span is well... like a 6 year old boy. I can set the telescope up in under 2 mins and have him looking through it at something that will make him go 'wow' every time.

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My girls share a 6" dob and they are very capable of using it unaided - the up/down, left/right seems pretty intuitive for them. When my youngest was 8, she could easily find and observe Jupiter unaided - and targets like the Moon are pretty straightforward. A smaller dob is great because the eyepiece is at their viewing height.

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Hi John - I can't help you with anything here as I'm a total noob to this myself and photography is not something I am even prepared for just yet, but I just wanted to congratulate you on your daughters interest in this stuff.

My seven year old son is mad keen on astronomy and I dont even know where it comes from! Possibly it's in his genes as I have a cousin that turned to astronomy from a very early age like our children are now, he has worked for NASA and is now teaching at an important univesity and has made his own discoveries in science (see the link in my signature!)

I have with my son, gently moved him along. We have sat out wrapped up against the cold, on deckchairs under the stars with nothing but a green laser to point and some binoculars and a planisphere, he has a great book called "The Children's Atlas Of The Universe" (Weldon Owen ISBN: 978-1-74089-615-3) this is a book he has never grown tired of looking at. I found a timetable for when the International Space Station passes over us, and we have seen lots of "shooting stars" and his interest has simply continued to grow.

On the advice of my cousin whom I am sure will use some immensely powerful telescopes for his research, but whom is long out of touch with amateur telescopes, all I knew was I was going to need a 'reflector' telescope, and coupled with the confirmation of others in these forums helping me through a small patch of confusion and self-doubt, my son and I are on the threshold of acquiring a Dobsonian for it's simplicity and cost effectiveness. If all goes well, and my son continues to show interest we will perhaps move on to more sophisticated instruments and possibly photography at a later time.

Good luck with whatever you choose to do, and I hope your daughters enthusiasm continues as it has with my son, whom has not only got his parents looking skywards, but also many of our neighbours! Amazing how one little boy has changed the way my wife and I (and our neighbours) perceive the universe!

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A frw in this thread have mentioned the hunt for objects is half the fun but I think that depends on the type of person you are I personally prefer to spend my time looking at things and not trying to find them in the first place, so I have a goto. I knew at outset this would cost more money but from my perspective it was worth paying for.

As an example only a goto setup that would give you reasonable viewing with no serious cillimation issues is this outfit

http://www.firstlightoptics.com/az-goto/skywatcher-startravel-102-synscan-az-goto.html

Just enough left in your budget for a 8mm ep which barlowed would be anout this scopes limit. Views of saturn & jupiter would be quite pleasing wiith them.

Again it really does depend what you want but none goto then the 130 heritage as previoslyy suggested would be a good starting point.

More tothink about but you did ask. Hehe.

Steve

Edited by bomberbaz
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What's the latest status? Have you found anything yet? :)

+1 for Heritage 130p. It is light, reasonably powerful and sitting on a dobsonian base it it will give you a great freedom of movement and will help you learn the sky. Learning where things are and finding them is very rewarding and a dob is much cheaper than any of the goto kits. I paid £124 for mine and I think it's a great toy for the price, but I would find it hard to justify spending hundreds/thousands of pounds on something I can use twice a month...

A lot of people suggest starting with a pair of binoculars and that's what I did, but the Heritage is almost as portable and much more powerful, so I would very strongly recommend it http://stargazerslounge.com/topic/188860-new-telescope-beginers-advice-for-beginers/

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  • 2 weeks later...

To image with an explorer 130m or 130p or 130 heritage is only possible if you modify it, since you can't achieve focus with these setups.

Without modification you'd need a 130pds...

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To get into focus with the Heritage, all you need to do is to push in the flex-tube mechanism a little and tighten the knobs/screws again.

It's a bit fiddly, but it does work.

Though without a decent light shroud it won't be any good.

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