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Hi everyone! I've only just joined this forum and was hoping someone could help me.

My 6 year old has been asking for a telescope to look at the moon/planets etc. I really want to nurture an interest in this for her by buying a good telescope that isn't the hardest to find the planets. I would really really appreciate it if someone could give me some great advice or point me in the right direction. Many thanks to whoever does.

Ps- I recently purchased this one:

http://www.argos.co.uk/static/Product/partNumber/1228049.htm

But am happy to buy something better if this one is awful :)

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I've done astronomy in schools and found that reflectors had a short useful life. The flextube does tick the optical boxes but not those of durability and ease of use. Also it will be confusing for a

The Heritage doesn't require a tripod - it stands on it's base preferably on a firm table top (maybe a coffee table or similar). In terms of aesthetics it's only my opinion but what matters most is th

I have been through a similar process for my 11 year old who wants a telescope for Christmas and I read many similar pleas for help on the forums.  Unfortunately most of the replies seem to be from th

This is going to be a bit odd as you appear to have already bought a scope and are asking in effect which scope.

At 6 I would stick with a refractor, they may be smaller but are a bit more obvious how to use, and a bit more robust.

Whatever is suggested will cost more, a 50mm at £70 is fairly low price.

Quick search turns up (to me) 2 options that should be easy to get hold of:

Skywatcher Mercury 705 @ £114.

70mm diameter and 500mm focal length making it an f/7 achro scope. Idea being the f/7 aspect reduces the amount of CA (chromatic aberration) present.

Skywatcher ST-80 @ £123:

Bigger aperture (nice) but at a focal length of 400mm making f/5 it will show CA on objects, especially the brighter ones.

Both the above will have a fairly wide field so finding things should be easy.

I would be tempted by the 705 as the focal length is more and it will work a little better with budget plossl's, again the extra focal length (actually f number) accounts for this.

There is a Sky Watcher 707 which is again a 700mm diameter scope but with a 700mm focal length. Should reduce the CA, but also reduces the field of view. So a 6 year old could find it a little more difficult, at least at first, to use. Advantage is that it cost £76. Another advantage is that you should get 100x reasonably easy = 7mm eyepiece. A 7mm should just about be OK to use and not uncomfortably close to the eye.

Supplied eyepieces are basic so a couple of inexpensive plossl's would be worth thinking of. 5mm eyepiece would give 100x in the 705 but a 5mm plossl may be uncomfortable to use in any scope.

Picked the scopes from 365Astronomy as I think they are somewhere around you. (Worthing)

365Astro

Edited by ronin
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Hi Inter and welcome to SGL :)

I don't know what your budget is but i f you want to get a proper working instrument that is straightforward and easy for a child (or inexperienced adult) to set up and use then you would be hard pushed to find a lot better than this one:

http://www.firstlightoptics.com/heritage/skywatcher-heritage-130p-flextube.html

It would be fine for a supervised 6yr old and is powerful enough to give respectable views of bright objects including planets, moon, star clusters, doubles, galaxies, and nebulae. Despite it's elementary appearance it houses an optical tube found on many adult starter scopes. It's parabolic with a good diameter and reasonable focal length.

You need to be able to view most objects at a range of magnifications between 50x to 200x which this scope will achieve with ease. However you do need to be aware that observing with a scope is more to do with prevailing conditions in the atmosphere, elevation of the object, temperature, level of darkness, and light pollution at the observing site.

So long as these are taken into account during a session then you will find this scope a great introduction to astronomy for both yourself and your lad. Hope that helps. :)

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Thank you everyone for a quick response.

In regards to the scope I have already bought I am more than happy to return it if it insufficient and basically no good. I have only bought it 2 days ago and have yet to open it :)

Both the advice given is great. I really don't have a budget as I wish to get something that is both good and will last. But I would say £130 max if it was possible. I know she is 6 but I really wanted something that was easy and over time she would happily use it and then in the future would purchase more advanced scopes :) I will look at the ones mentioned and as I am inexperienced this will take longer than 5 mins :) I really appreciate ur help! Thank you!!!!

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Having looked at all the ones recommended I think (please correct me if I'm wrong) that the skywatchers heritage 130p that was recommended is the one I will go for :) one question I have is will I need a tripod for this? As its not in the description so wasn't sure if I needed to buy one of those too :)

Thanks guys for ur help my daughters will be so excited when we get it!

Please if any better ones out there let me know :)

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I wonder if a child would like a telescope to look like one and whist I have the heritage 130p and love it it does not look like a scope I would have drawn and perhaps the straight through of a refractor looks like a telescope for a young child. I am very green but I would be drawn to the ST 80 already mentioned, wide field relatively small and eyepiece in the bottom of tube and can crudely point and look. Plus can be resold on ebay as people use as a guidescope on big telescopes.

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I suppose u have a point there happy-Kat however as she's never had a scope before I don't think it'll be an issue hopefully ;)

If there are any better upto £130 then I can easily get a different one :)

Thank you for ur help :)

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A friend from work got her son (7 years old or so) one of those telescopes which has a round bottom and sits in a ring (very clever design), but he was very unimpressed and said he didn't like it as it wasn't a proper telescope. I think he's a very mice kid, not spoilt, but clearly there is an aesthetic issue here.

James

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Having looked at all the ones recommended I think (please correct me if I'm wrong) that the skywatchers heritage 130p that was recommended is the one I will go for :) one question I have is will I need a tripod for this? As its not in the description so wasn't sure if I needed to buy one of those too :)

Thanks guys for ur help my daughters will be so excited when we get it!

Please if any better ones out there let me know :)

It doesn't come with a tripod, but does come with a mount. It's very low down, but that would be handy for a 6 year old ;). Otherwise, stick it on a table, or stick it on the ground and sit a chair next to it.

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The Heritage doesn't require a tripod - it stands on it's base preferably on a firm table top (maybe a coffee table or similar).

In terms of aesthetics it's only my opinion but what matters most is that the instrument works properly and gives good views. A small refractor (glass lens based) is an alternative - but it won't give the detail that excites and stimulates a child. You'd have to spend a large amount more on a refractor with the same amount of aperture for equivalent views. I have an ST80 and find it only marginally better than large binoculars (though excellent for guiding which isn't applicable here).

Aperture is important because it relates directly to light capture - and generally the bigger the better. The dobsonian is mirror based and more practical because the mirror is enclosed by the tube - it won't be so likely as a glass refractor to get scratched by a child (debatable I know). But for value for money and "bang for the buck views" I recommend the dob any day.

I also think the Heritage looks good but as I say - it's just my opinion - hope it helps :)

(Oh I wouldn't like to comment on the telescope/microscope package you already purchased. If the price of the two items were apportioned 50:50 that makes the scope worth about £35. I'm afraid I'd be too scathing about it - I do wish high street shops wouldn't sell this tat. lol).

Edited by brantuk
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Hi Inter1234,

Welcome to the forum!

I 100% agree with the advice Brantuk is giving you!

Really, take the Argos bought one back and go for the 130p Flexitube as it is a far better starter scope for all the reasons above.

Your daughter and you will both really enjoy it!

Do come back to the forum with all your further questions, 'cos you will have some! :grin:

Doc

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A plannipere is a great tactile device to show what in the sky at anytime and other stuff like sunrise etc. About £6 but worth it.

The stock eypieces with the heritage are useable and do the job.

The moon was a wow moment in it (as was saturn).

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I've done astronomy in schools and found that reflectors had a short useful life. The flextube does tick the optical boxes but not those of durability and ease of use. Also it will be confusing for a child to be looking at 90 degrees to the telescope's view. I'd say a refractor, and perhaps the ST80. Yes, it will have colour defects on bright objects but the wider field will make things easier to find and follow. It would also be better for daytime observing if you have a 45 degree erecting prism. Birds, other wildlife, faraway things of interest...

PLEASE supervise children in the daytime with telescopes. One look at the sun would do irreparable eye damage and there is a great temptation for some children (usually boys!!!) to try it. I've seen this temptation in action a few times...

Olly

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Hi Inter1234, My son has a cheap refractor and never uses it, the lenses and eyepieces are so poor even the moon has distortion. However if I get the Heritage 130 out, I have problems getting him off it so I can look. The views from the Heritage are far superior than the cheap supermarket scope in my opinion and we observed Jupiter, Pleiades, Andromeda, Orion Nebula and the Moon just last Friday night in poor (slightly foggy) seeing conditions.

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I have been through a similar process for my 11 year old who wants a telescope for Christmas and I read many similar pleas for help on the forums.  Unfortunately most of the replies seem to be from the adult perspective of what is technically best for a limited budget.  This is a valid consideration of course, but doesn't really tell you much about what the child will experience.  I struggled to recall my own experiences as a child (slightly older if I recall) to figure out what to buy for my son:

- What are the capabilities of the child?  At the age of 11-13 he/she would be capable of operating an simple alt-az telescope (like yours) independently.  That requires both the ability to move, point and focus the scope and to be able to find things using star charts.  At the age of six those skills are going to be beyond the capabilities of any child.  Don't kid yourself, it is you that is going to be working the telescope and then having the child look through it at whatever you have located for them. Hopefully if you catch their interest, they will learn and grow to become independent as they get a bit older.

- What will capture the interests of the child?  Thinking back, I remember that one star looked pretty much like another star. Some were slightly different colours, and a few exciting ones turned out to be double stars, but it is not exactly thrill-a-minute stuff.  Even open star clusters are not exactly mind-blowing to a kid; the first one or two are nice but after that they are just a bunch of stars.   No kid of six is going to be that excited about faint fuzzy blobs that you can hardly see (your typical view of a galaxy through a small scope).  On the other hand the Moon is awesome.  You can see the mountains, plains and the craters and it looks real and interesting.  The brighter planets are also really cool; Saturn is the best but Jupiter and Venus are also interesting.  Again with time and learning, the child will hopefully grow to appreciate the less visually impacting things that a bigger scope can show.

- My first scope was a 'department store refractor' a bit like the one you have (Tasco), only it was probably even lower down the budget scale.  On the plus side, despite the low quality of the equipment it inspired me.  I managed to see the moon, Jupiter's belts and moons, Saturn's rings and even Halley's comet (giving away my age!)  I also saw double stars and a few other things but the range of other targets was limited.  On the down side, the focuser was erratic, the fixed eyepiece was zoomable by pulling it through different click stops but the biggest problem was the wobbly tripod.  It made everything hard to aim and eventually my dad cobbled together a bracket so the scope could be fixed to a cast iron drainpipe at the corner of the house which made things more fun.

So the upshot is that you need:

- A reasonably long focal length to get decent magnification on the Moon and Planets.  Others have suggested a widefield refractor like the ST80 (400mm focal length). I thought about this for my boy, but I have and ST80 as a guide scope on my imaging rig, and I can tell you that the short focal length means that the moon and Planets will be very small and unexciting in the eyepiece.  The wide field of view does make it easy to find your target, but assuming you are the one doing the work, that is less of an concern. Your Astromaster is only 500mm focal length, and again not going to give you much magnification.

- Something like a Skywatcher Mercury 707 has a focal length of 700mm and might be a better choice (the price and quality is roughly the same as the Astromaster). Bear in mind that with the cheap eyepieces supplied, you won't want to push the magnification too much anyway, so it would be better to go for a longer focal length that gives more magnification in the first place.

- A reasonably solid mounting for the scope.  It needs to be simple so the Alt-Az type (like yours) is the way to go so it easy easy to figure out how to point it where you want. Avoid cheap 'equatorial' type mounts since they are harder to figure out for a kid, and the cheap ones (e.g. EQ1's which come with many starter scopes) are pretty wobbly.  To be honest a heavy duty camera tripod will be a lot more solid than a budget scope mounting but most of the low end longer focal length scopes come with cheap/wobbly alt-az tripods and no easy way to relocate the telescope itself to a better camera tripod.

- The dobsonian-type base is actually the best cheap mounting you can get (e.g. the 130P suggested above).  Again I thought about this for my lad, but I came to the same conclusion as Olly that it would be fiddly to set up and the scope itself is not that robust (probably OK for an 11 year old, but no way for a six year old).  Most small kids are really good at breaking things no matter how much you supervise them.  Also the newtonian-type scopes like the 130P are not that intuitive to use since you look through the side of the scope rather than straight up at where it is pointing.  I also suspect that a proper 'look through' type of telescope is what a child expects and you shouldn't underestimate that factor; you can't reason with a six year old that it is better if it doesn't meet their idea of what a proper telescope looks like.

- Bear in mind that you need something that both you and the child can look through comfortably.  Your kid will probably have to stand on a box to see through the eyepiece at a height where you can also look through it without breaking your back in half (did I say you'll be doing most of the work already?)  Don't underestimate the problem.  I used to have to pick my kids up bodily to see through the scope when they were small.  You can rotate the star diagonal to the side which makes it easier, but it is a practical problem that few seem to mention.

So what did I do in the end:

- I bought a 30 quid camera tripod from Amazon (reasonably heavyweight, good reviews) and I bought a second hand Celestron C90 Mak for £103 delivered from eBay which can be mounted on a standard camera tripod.  This is a long focal length scope (1250mm) and much better quality than the starter scopes.  Luckily the one I got is absolutely mint condition.  Like a refractor, the Mak has no adjustable parts so nothing to go wrong with it.  It will give great views of the Moon and Planets, and whilst the image will be fairly dim for deep sky objects it will still be a lot better than the Tasco I started out with.  Also if it is looked after it will have good resale value in the future should he want an upgrade.

What do I think you should do?

- Well I did think about getting a scope for my kids when they were around the 8 year old sort of mark but ruled it out.  I felt it was beyond their capabilities and that they would quickly lose interest (having looked through dad's scope at a few things they liked it but weren't clamouring to have another look every time I went outside).  Now my lad is 11, he is interested in his own right and asked for a scope knowing what it is and what it does.  It is also the sort of age where I think he would sustain interest. Personally I'd stick with what you have already bought, give it a whirl with the child on the bright obvious stuff and if you've had the scope out of the box more than four or five times between this Christmas and the next one, maybe then think about spending more money on something better (do your research and buy second hand for a bargain). 

Edited by IanL
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Great post Ian +1 for the 90mm Mak i believe it makes a great spotting scope for daytime too.

Yes it is basically a dual use scope.  it comes with an upright/prism diagonal which is good for daytime use (since everything is the right way up) but I will probably get him a mirror diagonal as well since that will let more light through on the faint stuff at night.  Also has a finder, two eyepieces and a barlow all in a little nylon backpack.  The scope has a small vixen dovetail with tripod screw holes so it can be used on a camera tripod or an astronomical mount.

When I unpacked it to check it over, I told the Mrs that I was slightly jealous.  She said "Don't worry, I'm sure he'll let you have a go if you ask nicely."

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Yes it is basically a dual use scope.  it comes with an upright/prism diagonal which is good for daytime use (since everything is the right way up) but I will probably get him a mirror diagonal as well since that will let more light through on the faint stuff at night.  Also has a finder, two eyepieces and a barlow all in a little nylon backpack.  The scope has a small vixen dovetail with tripod screw holes so it can be used on a camera tripod or an astronomical mount.

When I unpacked it to check it over, I told the Mrs that I was slightly jealous.  She said "Don't worry, I'm sure he'll let you have a go if you ask nicely."

Its one scope i would love myself too ive seen posts of some great moon shots with it.

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I found the c90 for £157 which is within my budget. So would u think this is a great telescope to purchase? Im really sorry! I just don't want to go out and buy another telescope and it be no good. I don't mind paying the extra but I want the scope to be good (if that makes sense!) I really really appreciate your help and everyone's help!

Many thanks to all for their input...:)

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