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Beginning Telescope


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Hey guys! I'm new here. I've been wanting to get a telescope ever since I was a little girl and now I have the money! I've been reading up on astronomy for years, but reading on stargazing only fairly recently- so of course I'm not well versed in what's best yet.

Price isn't a huge factor. I think something around a $1000 (~730 euro; ~610 pounds) would be reasonable. I've seen that the Celestron NexStar 8SE is rated pretty high. I've looked at this bundle and it looks good to me, but I would rather hear from you experts. I also wonder how well you can navigate using this telescope manually as opposed to the GoTo system.

Do you guys have any other beginner telecope suggestions?

I would like to get into astrophotography one day, but I'd be getting way too ahead of myself if I started right away... But it'd still be nice to hear what you think the telescope would be like for it anyway.

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Hi,

what sort of things would you want to look at. Planets, the Moon, galaxies, nebula or planetary nebula? Different telescopes for different purposes.

I'd recommend something like the Skywatcher 200P on EQ5 or slightly smaller a 150P on eq5 or EQ3.2 as something to consider.

Other options are the NexStar range as you mention. Compound telescopes with long focal lengths tend to be well suited to planetary observations. 

Will goto and tracking be important features for you?

Good luck!

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Hi,

what sort of things would you want to look at. Planets, the Moon, galaxies, nebula or planetary nebula? Different telescopes for different purposes.

I'd recommend something like the Skywatcher 200P on EQ5 or slightly smaller a 150P on eq5 or EQ3.2 as something to consider.

Other options are the NexStar range as you mention. Compound telescopes with long focal lengths tend to be well suited to planetary observations. 

Will goto and tracking be important features for you?

Good luck!

Hi, thanks for answering! Well, I want to look at everything! But that's not a very helpful answer, is it? I suppose the things I'm the most intersted in are galaxies, maybe planets.

GoTo and tracking isn't mandatory, but it would definitely be a plus.

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Hi Skade and welcome! Firstly, this is a great forum where you can get answers to any questions from some really friendly, knowledgeable folk. Sadly, I'm not not one of the really knowledgeable ones! From the start I would say the big decision is what design of scope you buy and to factor in what type of activities you can foresee. You mentioned astro photography so that's one thing to consider. Generally, if you were interested in planets, a refractor might be a good choice, as opposed to a Newtonian reflector or Dobsonian. One thing I've been looking into is an Apochromatic Refractor (APO for short). These are great for all sorts of things but are very good for AP if that's important to you. They tend to be pricey but your budget puts you in the ball park I think.

However if going hunting for DSO's will be your thing and AP is not that important then a dob might be a great choice. The mount of a dob, I understand, is not suited to long exposure photography as you need a mount that will turn at the same speed the earth rotates.

I'm sure lots of good advice will follow, but one option might be to start with just a scope and not the large kit you posted a link to. The reason I say this is you will quickly start to build a shopping list once you start operating a scope and may want different stuff once you get your hands dirty. You might be buying some things in the kit that you find you don't want or really need. You might want to buy less eyepieces but more expensive, higher performance ones, for example.

For go-to technology ask yourself whether you think you would like the challenge of learning the night sky and the satisfaction of figuring out how to get around. Or would you rather have a more turn-key solution where you use a go-to to get you to where you want to look without as much fuss and effort.

If there is anywhere you can meet with astro people at a monthly meeting or on a store that should be very informative in your decision making process. Sometimes you just have to get your hands on these things to make up your mind! Of course, if you can look through some different instruments at the sky that would be the best way to get information on the possibilities. Good luck and sure you'll be happy with what you settle on.

Edited by Special K
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Thanks for your advice, Special K! While I'm interested in astrophotography, I don't know if I should have that as a big factor. I don't think I'll be starting out with it right away. So a great astrophotography telescope isn't a big deal, but it would be nice.

Yeah, I see what you mean about not getting the kit. I should think about that.

As for GoTo tracking, this is what I've been thinking about. I don't know if I'd really understand the sky if I relied too much on the GoTo system. That's why I wonder how easily you can navigate with having one, but not using. I feel like that's a dumb question, but I don't know if the GoTo system would somehow inhibit me from doing my own thing...

There's an astronomy club around here, but it seems like they don't do any viewings in winter. I'm a bit nervous on joining one too; I'm terribly shy. :icon_redface: I might have to force a friend to go with me for the moral support!

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One thing you could do before you spend lots of $$ is invest in a good pair of binoculars (if you've not got some already) and maybe a book or two. 

In terms of Goto systems, if you get an equitorial mount with goto you can always switch it off (use it manually, now power required). If you get an integrated alt-az fork mount however I think it really only operates with the controller. You'll definitely learn how the sky works using an EQ mount manually.

If you really just want to get stuck in with visual observing Dobsonians give the biggest bank for the buck as you're not paying for a fancy mount, just a basic one.

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Hi and welcome

As mentioned before buying a telescope can be hard as one scope will not serve all purposes. It does really depend on what you want to see. I use a SW150p on HEQ5 mount for photography and a SW127Mak for planetary viewing. I would try to have a look through a scope before taking the plunge and see what it feels like.

There are just so many variables involved.

Sorry if thats not much help but have a trawl through the forum and ask more questions

Thanks

Jamie

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Thank you guys! You are all very helpful! I'm going to look at some EQ mounts and contact my local astronomy club. I don't want to find myself having to always rely on a goto system; I want to know the sky pretty well. I don't know if I can trust myself to do it with getting something that would be difficult to use manually...
Going back to the NexStar that I was looking at, I wonder if it would really make a big difference between a 6 inch vs an 8 inch. What are you guys' thoughts/ experience?

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Skade, I just wrote this to another similar enquiry tonight, so I hope you don't mind me simply repeating myself.

When looking around at your new potential purchase, the general precept is that aperture rules and so you'll find that if a beginner asks 'what should I buy?' 99% of the answers are always going to suggest the biggest Newtonian (reflector) you can afford and carry about, and more than likely a Newtonian which is Dobsonian mounted rather than GEM (EQ) mounted, simply because the former mounts are easier to use and set up and are a lot cheaper, so in effect you're putting more money into the optics and less into the mount.

Most beginners want to see a little of everything and at a decent price. If you are looking for faint DSOs like globular clusters, nebulae or galaxies you need aperture and low magnification, the former to get as much light as possible and the latter to get as wide a view as possible. Newtonians excel at all these factors and because of their light gathering capacity, they are also decent scopes for viewing the Moon and planets.

But lets suppose, you just want to get high detail of planets and want to split double stars and do some Lunar and Solar observations (with the correct filters in place). Well, now, you don't need big fields of view, nor maximum light collection, but perhaps some really tasty crystal clear views at higher mags. That's when the refractors enter the story. With this said, although many small aperture telescopes like a refractor come highly recommended, if you start small, say with a 3" or 4", you will soon be wishing you had gone for that 6" or 8" reflector.

I don't believe there are 'entry level telescopes'. At a given price, say around £200 to £300 for the sake of argument, there are good ones and there are bad ones, so what you'll have to think about is your budget and then keep on asking questions here at SGL about the telescopes you have in mind. Recall, a decent 8" dobsonian reflector is about the same price as an unmounted decent 4" achromatic refractor. So, not only think about your budget, but have a serious think about what you'd like to be seeing over the next year or so.

If you start to become swayed by refractors, seriously question this as a sensible choice for a first time telescope. I'm not saying a refractor is a bad choice - far from it (my 1st telescope was a frac) - for the first time buyer, but just one you need to contemplate and really understand.

After you've got your scope with its supplied EPs you will probably want to get a couple more eyepieces, but do that only after you've practiced a little. That way, you'll be able to make a much more informed enquiry and decision. But, if you do decide to buy a Newtonian, your telescope will require collimation. So, you will need a special tool to do this, so you ought to budget yourself for a Cheshire which I think are about another £30 - £40.

Another thing to look out for - and I think this is really important - are astronomy sketches. If you have a look at the type of telescope from which the sketch was made this is the kind of thing you will see when observing from a telescope of similiar aperture. From time to time folk do crop up here who are very disappointed with astronomy-stargazing, they thought they were going to see colourful swirling galaxies and nebulae, or those wide and super bright globular clusters seen in the photos, only to see a fuzzy in grey, a planet the size of a pea. So, make sure you're well informed.

If possible, try to get along to a local astronomy club and look through the type of telescope you think you may purchase and see if the view meets your expectations. Most stargazers will be only too happy to help.

It's probably not necessary to say, but just in case, I'd suggest that you buy your first set up from a specialist telescope shop that can provide advice and an ongoing service  – not from ebay and not from some supermarket or photographic store where the staff will generally have no knowledge of what they are selling. If you haven't already had a peek, First Light Optics comes highly recommended as one of Great Britain's top class astronomy shops and, of course, SGL can help out a lot.

I hope this helps and please don't hesitate in asking more questions.

Edited by Qualia
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Hi Skade

A great post from qualia  :cool:  i would strongly recommend going to a local astro club meet to have a look at a couple of scopes set up, failing that if there is a decent astro store near you where you can see a few scopes on display. Good luck with your choice

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Great post Qualia.

Skade, welcome to the forum. I think it's fair to say that no one scope does it all. However, I'd hate for you to think that no scope does a little bit of everything very well. The truth of the matter is that a lot of the advice we give is based on our experiences over the years. And the fact of the matter is, if peering into the night sky and appreciate looking into the past (ie. the distance the light has travelled from most objects you view has taken hundreds, thousands, millions and even BILLIONS of years to reach your eyeball), is likely to strike a chord in you, then almost any decent telescope of 8" aperture will leave you breathless. My first telescope was a 5" Newtonian Reflector and the view it provided was enough to get me hooked. Now, a few years later, I own several scopes and countless other items. BUT, I still put my love of astronomy these days down firstly to my own curiosity and amazement of what I was actually looking at combined with the views provided by my lovely, but modest, first telescope!

Honestly, I think any newcomer would be very happy with a Celestron 8se. They're a great scope, particularly as a first. Try not to get too caught up in knowing WHAT it is you want to look at before buying your scope. You're new to this. Your plight is the same as anyone else's in your shoes. You want to look at the sky! Personally, I feel without GOTO, I probably would have given up before I started. As a result, I'm still learning where objects are. We all are! The 8se isn't going to allow you manual operation of the telescope, but it will show you things you otherwise might never have found. You've got your whole life to go back and manually find them (something I'm doing now with my refractors on simple ALT-AZ mounts, which is very rewarding, even after having seen a lot of these objects via GOTO).

In short, try not to get too caught up on making the "right" choice. What's right today, isn't tomorrow. Just get yourself out there under the stars and start admiring, if your budget allows you to do that straight off the bat with a great scope like the 8se (or any of the others that have been recommended, mind you) then excellent. You're in for a fantastic time!

Oh, and I wouldn't recommend an EQ mount on your first scope. It'll do your head in before you even think of looking through the eyepiece!

All the best and please let us know how you get on.

Aaron

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It's not that hard to learn the basics of an EQ mount, I'd not be put off by it as 'too complicated'. Basically it sounds confusing when you read about it, but one evening out with an EQ and you'll soon start to get the picture. Depends if you want to learn and like a (small) challenge or want something as simple as can be, computerised or with the most basic (limited) type of mount.

I think also the decision may depend on;

1. will you be happy relying on some sort of computerised goto or do you want to learn about how to setup and control the telescope manually

2. are you expecting to spend all your budget on your 1st purchase or looking to get a starter scope then trade up for something bigger/better when you know more what you want

3. if you want a universal scope, what things are your priority (basically you can trade some features for others at a given price).

It's possible as a beginner you might do well spending a small amount (much less than your budget) on say a 6" newt, like the Skywatcher 130P series, to get some experience. You'll be able to see a lot with this and it will give you invaluable experience, knowledge and the important time to accumulate accessories (don't underestimate this, lots of things will be accumulated over time).

Then later, sell it and get your next scope using your overall budget. Basically if you said you had $500 or $50,000 dollars to spend, as a beginner I'd suggest you start with something a bit smaller, cheaper and more modest (but still decent) until you learn the ropes. Later, you'll know clearly what you want and the bigger purchase will be more reflective of what will suite you.

If you get into it, it's hard to say any particular scope will be your last, so just think about how you can progressively get from novice to expert without spending all your money on something that will not give you what you want to get out of it.

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It's not that hard to learn the basics of an EQ mount, I'd not be put off by it as 'too complicated'. Basically it sounds confusing when you read about it, but one evening out with an EQ and you'll soon start to get the picture. Depends if you want to learn and like a (small) challenge or want something as simple as can be, computerised or with the most basic (limited) type of mount.

I think also the decision may depend on;

1. will you be happy relying on some sort of computerised goto or do you want to learn about how to setup and control the telescope manually

2. are you expecting to spend all your budget on your 1st purchase or looking to get a starter scope then trade up for something bigger/better when you know more what you want

3. if you want a universal scope, what things are your priority (basically you can trade some features for others at a given price).

It's possible as a beginner you might do well spending a small amount (much less than your budget) on say a 6" newt, like the Skywatcher 130P series, to get some experience. You'll be able to see a lot with this and it will give you invaluable experience, knowledge and the important time to accumulate accessories (don't underestimate this, lots of things will be accumulated over time).

Then later, sell it and get your next scope using your overall budget. Basically if you said you had $500 or $50,000 dollars to spend, as a beginner I'd suggest you start with something a bit smaller, cheaper and more modest (but still decent) until you learn the ropes. Later, you'll know clearly what you want and the bigger purchase will be more reflective of what will suite you.

If you get into it, it's hard to say any particular scope will be your last, so just think about how you can progressively get from novice to expert without spending all your money on something that will not give you what you want to get out of it.

Well said Louis. I'm by no means at the expert stage, so I'm sure the advice of others will go a lot further than mine :)

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+1 for the 200P and eq5, if you are contemplating astrophotography consider upgrading to at least a HEQ5 mount for better stability don't be put off getting an EQ mount as they are not that difficult to set up for visual observing if you ignore the manual and follow some of the links. The Skywatcher manuals are notoriously useless.

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"I would like to get into astrophotography one day, but I'd be getting way too ahead of myself if I started right away"

This is a very constructive line to take - how I wish more beginners would take the same approach. I had just the opposite attitude when I first started and ended up with all the gear and no idea lol :)

The way to go is to get a scope and get out there learning the constellations, the movement of the sky, how to find the millions of different objects that will thrill and amaze you, and of course how to set up and use the scope.

A beginner needs to realise what's involved in being out all night (mostly in the freezing cold), the clothes and footwear they need to buy, how to deal with power, how to combat dew, how to judge a "good night" and a "bad night", what the "seeing" does to the views, what magnification to choose for which type of scope and what type of object, how the seasons affect what's up, what light pollution does, what the weather does, how to keep their energy up, and how it all fits into their work and life routines.

Imho it takes a full year of seasons, and learning, and kitting out, and experience, before even thinking about the dedication and finance required for photography (which has a very steep learning curve on top of all the stuff I mention.

So..... credit to you Skade for a good common sense approach - welcome to the SGL and good luck with your choice of scope (which I'm sure will have changed after reading through all the posts above). :)

(incidentally a 130mm scope is 5" and a 150mm is 6" lol)

Edited by brantuk
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130mm is technically 5.1" hehe, you're right though, the 150mm is 6". Either is great as a beginner scope, the 150 just being that little bit better visually.

I do agree, start with simple kit and learn. If you get tons of expensive and/or complicated kit right from the start, it's quite possibly going to put you off for life. Also kit gets bigger and heavier very quickly, which may put you off using it most of the time!

For astro imaging, it's not an easy thing to tackle and a potential a real money pit!

Binoculars and a year of looking is a good start, IMHO. From that a modest scope could keep you busy for another year, easily. After that you'll know an awful lot more than you did to start with :)

BTW I'm no expert, I can just relate to beginners questions because I was asking the same questions not long ago and have learnt a lot just since getting 'something' and trying it. I'm really glad I didn't go and spend £2k+ from the start, like I so easily could have. Probably the very best investment was the pair of decent binoculars and a book or two, invaluable... 

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I think that until you actually 'do' some astronomy you won't really know what will really take your fancy.  If money isn't an issue then I would certainly suggest the Celestron NexStar 8SE as that way you can take advantage of the GOTO to find your way around the skies whilst you learn how to manually find your way around the skies, if that is what you want.  You will also learn the advantages and disadvantages of this type of telescope.  Visually it will give you a good starting point whilst it will work well for planetary imaging with a webcam.  If that appeals then you can then move on to imaging DSO's, probably with another scope, if that appeals.

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... As for GoTo tracking, this is what I've been thinking about. I don't know if I'd really understand the sky if I relied too much on the GoTo system. That's why I wonder how easily you can navigate with having one, but not using. I feel like that's a dumb question, but I don't know if the GoTo system would somehow inhibit me from doing my own thing...

Well, that seems to me to be a good question, and a good point about does GoTo have drawbacks.

I've only been doing this since Feb, but I don't normally find navigation that hard. It turns out a lot of stuff is huge, but just out of visibility. The Andromeda Galaxy is, like, 6 times the diameter of the moon wide! Lots of open clusters are bigger than the moon! I've found that with a good star atlas (I've been pleased with Sky & Telescope's altas), a bit of research and a bit of patience, finding things isn't too bad. Mostly, I can find what I'm looking for, or satisfy myself that it isn't visible. I've not had a moment where I've thought "I really wish I had GoTo".

I have had moments that I've been glad that I've not had GoTo, though. If you're using electronics like that, you'll want to consider power supply. That might not be a problem if you're at home, but what if you want to get out of town? It also adds complexity. I was at a star party a couple of months ago where, in the middle of the night this voice in the darkness loudly declared "Right, that's it! I'm going to solder the damn thing on" after the telescope had turned and unplugged itself, and then later a different voice crying "No! The battery is flat!". And that was after the frustrated calls of people who's scopes wouldn't align at the start of the evening. I just went back to nudging.

Personally, as long as I avoid doing photography, I'm going to try to avoid electronics; it's simpler, quicker, and I can live with nudging my scope round now and again.

I think getting a smallish scope, spending a little on an atlas and/or a guide book, and saving your budget for later seems a very good idea.

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Hi and welcome.

You have had a lot of great advice already.

One point that has nor been mentioned is light pollution. I don't know what the skies are like where you intend to observe but the amount of light pollution will have a big bearing on what you can see. If you have good dark skies that's great but if not some things to think about:-

      

    (i) Depending on just how much pollution you experience looking for faint low surface brightness objects may not be an option, these include most of the galaxies.

   (ii) If you have so much pollution that only a few of the brighter stars are visible star hopping to objects will be very difficult and GOTO will be great help.

   (iii) Even with light polluted skies there are still plenty of objects to view, you just have to be realistic. Examples are the solar system objects, many open clusters and double/multiple stars.

Take your time and research as much as you can, this forum is a great place to the pick the brains of really knowledgeable and helpful people.

Good luck.

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Thanks everyone for your advice! I'm very surprised (pleasantly, of course) with how much input I'm getting! I will probably come back to this thread a bit later with more questions... :p

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+1 here for getting some decent binoculars. They'll never be made redundant. I got mine quite late in the piece (after already owning a couple of decent scopes) and find that they are by far my most used bit of kit. Plus, I've definitely learned more about the constellations and star-hopping since owning them. On those night where conditions, and motivation, don't seem to justify setting up the scope, binoculars are the perfect alternative!

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