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9 Year old - Telescope or Binoculars


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Hi, apologies if this subject has been done to death, I'm new and couldn't find a search option!

My 9 year old son is showing a real interest in space after doing the topic at school (and getting 100% on a 50 question test - proud Mum  :grin: ) I was thinking of getting him a telescope for Christmas but my Dad said he remembered reading an article saying that binoculars may be better?  Can anyone give me any advice on what might be better for him.. i like the idea of binoculars as he (and us!) will be able to use them for other things too.

Thank you in advance.

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Those are quite big and quite heavy and he would need a tripod and perhaps for 9 not overly portable. Size is so deceptive with no reference object

You don't get a wow with binoculars??? I still remember the first time I looked up with a pair of 8x50 binoculars, all the larger clusters are a fantastic not to mention the moon, even Andromeda is a

Hello and welcome, you came to the right place There are a few things to consider in this case since we're talking about a kid, not an adult: Binoculars is the adult solution. Versatile, but very fid

I'd go for the telescope. In order to get a good view of the night skies one would also, in most cases, need a tripod and a mount with the binoculars. And as a kid, -what a feeling to own his own telescope! Buy a decent one, with as much aperture as you can afford is my advice. There a lot of good entry level telescopes available from the larger and best webshops. 

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Hello and welcome, you came to the right place :)

There are a few things to consider in this case since we're talking about a kid, not an adult:

  • Binoculars is the adult solution. Versatile, but very fidgety to use if you're not patient. Binoculars are excellent for their versatility but not for "wowing" a budding astronomer.
  • You risk having him lose interest in astronomy by giving him the wrong choice here.
  • I believe that a kid wants something that looks and feels like a real telescope or they'll lose interest. Again, the "wow" factor.
  • There are also good and bad choices for telescopes, and much has to do with budget here. Reflectors are best at collecting light, but hard to aim due to a mirror design. Refractors with a star diagonal are easier to aim, but tend to have smaller aperture, and give color-errors in the cheaper models.
  • You will need to be an active part in this, finding the "interesting stuff" apart from the moon is hard, even harder with bad equipment. Even fully grown adults with starmaps and computerized telescopes stuggle at first.
  • There are a lot of junk telescopes and binoculars out there on the market, be sure to consult this forum before you buy anything.

With that being said, there are a few choices:

Hope this helps. Please ask away if you got more questions. I probably raised more than I answered.

Edited by VigdisVZ
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Most people tend to reccomend binoculars as a first step since, when telescopes are concearned, you need to spend a decent ammount on them to avoid dissapointment.You don't mention your budget?

Also, do consider buying secondhand, at least that way if he looses intrest you can recoup your investment.

Astrobuysell.com/uk is a good place to start, and astroboot.co.uk often have reduced scopes for sale.

Hope that helps,

:)

Edited by Jim Steele
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As a nine year old, the moon and / or Jupiter are going to be his likely targets.  You have to spend a reasonable amount of money to be impressed with the view of Jupiter, but the moon will look stunning in a pretty small scope.  If it were my son, I would get him some Bins as they can be used for so many other things, (watching sports / bird watching / spying on people), the moon still looks great through them and you can carry them in the car on holidays / days out.  If it is just for astro, go for a scope, but I bet you will get a lot more use from a set of Bins :).

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I guess it depends on your budget, somewhat, and the type of boy your son is. 

I started with the Heritage 130p mentioned above, and it is very good. However, like all telescopes with mirrors in them, it needs an occasional bit of care (something called "collimation" - essentially, aligning the mirrors). Also, for a reasonable view of planets like Saturn and Jupiter, he'd also want a higher power eyepiece that comes with the scope - something around 5mm focal length would be good. With that, mine shows things like Jupiter and the main bands in it's atmosphere, and the Great Red Spot when it's in the right place, Saturn and it's rings, and surface markings on Mars (though that's small, and it'll be another 2 years before he can see that again). The Moon looks great through it.

In terms of deep space objects, 5" aperture is pretty reasonable - certainly, under a dark enough sky, it'll show most of the Messier catalog nicely. 

However, another disadvantage with reflectors is that the image you see is upside down. That's not such a problem for looking at the Orion Nebula (there is no down in space), but it does make it pretty useless on safari. Also, pretty obviously, it doesn't look much like a telescope (hint - all the REALLY big scopes are roughly the same design though!)

The Star Travel 102 also mentioned above is also a nice choice as it comes with an 'Erect Image Diagonal' - which simply means, the image it shows will be the correct way up, so you could use it for bird spotting, spying on the neighbours, etc.. It's a refractor telescope, so it uses lenses, and this does have some disadvantages - mainly, that they're more expensive to produce, so you get a smaller aperture scope for the same money (and in astronomy, aperture rules). It can also introduce some colour fringing around bright objects. One advantage of refractors is that the lenses are more rigidly held in place, and so they tend not to need aligned during the life of the scope.

If it were me, I'd happily get the Heritage 130p to start with again - but then I'm not 9 years old.

You might also want to consider some sort of guide book so he can find stuff. I'd have no problem recommending "Turn Left at Orion".

Also, this thread might be worth a read: http://stargazerslounge.com/topic/196278-what-can-i-expect-to-see/ 

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Telescope.

To a 9 year old you do astronomy with a telescope.

There are a couple oif shops around you I think, drop in to have a look.

Once you have looked ask a few more questions.

Problem is that in Astronomy you use a scope and binoculars but they have a different "purpose".

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My son is 8 and I would say go with a nice pair of bins.

I say this because it is a demanding hobby for the most enthusiastic of us and I'm sure you don't want to encourage your son in to staying up late when it's a school night. Not so much an issue this time of the year I know but the cold becomes the problem if you can't keep their interest. With a pair of bins you can be out and observing in no time at all and they can be took with relative ease to dark sites even if there is a bus or pedal bike ride ahead. Take up no space and don't require expensive mounts and can be bought relatively cheap.

Most people don't realise what can be seen through a pair of binoculars and are even shocked to see details on the moon. If he looses interest a pair of bins can be used in the day time with out looking so much like a peeping tom.

Just my 2p

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Tough call, as everyone has already pointed out. Telescope = WOW 'proper' astronomy, binoculars maybe not as much.

However when I was a typical 9 year old, I used to love my old WW11 binoculars, they went everywhere with me, days out, holidays, mountain hiking, ship spotting and yes looking at the Moon when I was supposed to be asleep.

Also the binoculars can be used by all members of the family, especially when he is out with Grandad conquering the dense rain forests of Surrey. ;)

Another thing to consider is, how careful, is he with things, binoculars can probably stand more abuse.

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When i was about 6 yrs old i was given a set of 10x50 binoculars which i still owned until earlier this year (im 40 now). When i was 10 yrs old i was given a small 60mm refractor telescope which i quickly dismantled the front end of it to clean out a speck of dust. It never focused again after that.

I didnt own another scope until i was about 33 yrs old. I LOVE observing with binoculars, but as mentioned above..............."they dont give the WOW factor that a telescope gives". Not even my BIG 20x90 bins give me a "WOW".............

Which scope you want depends a lot on budget and on your son. The Skywatcher Heritage 130P (5" reflector "DOB") certainly allows for a WOW (or five) and is very well priced and so easy to use. 

I think they retail new for about £130:

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

p.s.~~kids really do go for and love the "wow" moments when they see the planets through a scope for the first time (and every time thereafter). Do right by your 100% in a 50 question astronomy test..................and give him those wow moments by getting him a scope. 

Not sure i'd get 100% in that test even if it is for 9 yr olds.

Well done to him.

Edited by LukeSkywatcher
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We recently bought our son a pair of 8x40 binoculars for his ninth birthday. He was absolutely thrilled. We only spent 20 quid on them, from Amazon, and the views of the moon, perseus double cluster and andromeda is actually very good.

Id definitely recommend bins over a scope for a nine year old. A scope requires just too much effort, and can be quite frustrating when you first start out (finding objects, colimation, etc).

Our son uses the bins in the daytime, too (birds, animals, etc).

Kev.

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WOW!  Lots of info, thank you so much everyone.. problem is I read a binocular recommendation post and agree with that.. then read a scope recommendation post!!  :grin:

Problem is, I don't want to ask him as I want it to be a surprise! He's not the most patient of kids so erring on the side of the binoculars possibly...maybe...

Was looking at these..

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Celestron-71008-25x70-Skymaster-Binoculars/dp/B003AM87Q4/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1415989804&sr=8-11&keywords=binoculars

Budget a little undecided as depends on what else he asks for.. lists being done this weekend, but I'd say maybe up to around £100 ish, could stretch to more if necesary but obviously at this point I don't know how long he will keep the interest. I don't want to push him too much, he likes to do things in his own time whereas I can be over enthusiastic! :shocked:   Binoculars would obviously get more use.. plus would tell me if I can indeed see the London Eye from the local hill or if it a figment of my imagination!  :grin:

I wonder if there are any local shops, I've never seen one but then maybe they aren't in the main shopping centres.. I am in GU18 if there are any 'locals' on here?

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Those are quite big and quite heavy and he would need a tripod and perhaps for 9 not overly portable. Size is so deceptive with no reference object

I agree. Those are BIG and heavy (2.7Kg). They are going to need a big strong sturdy tripod to use them. They are only half a kilo lighter then my 20x90 bins and i (being a big strong guy) cant hold them with my hand steady for more then 15-20 seconds. 

Even the "smaller" 15x70 Skymasters really need a sturdy tripod. Picking a tripod is another nightmare in itself as many will only allow for viewing up to about 60 degrees?. 

Maybe a Mod can transfer this thread across to the binocular observing forum and those members who are dedicated bino astronomers may have some great ideas.

Edited by LukeSkywatcher
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If looking for a telescope a 9 year is likely going to expect it to look like what they expect it to look like which is usually a refractor and for easy use and setup look for a AltZ mount (not equatorial).

An example only:

http://www.firstlightoptics.com/startravel/skywatcher-mercury-705.html

If open to buying second hand this really works the budget more.

There are several members who are great with suggesting bins and often mention smaller sized ones which for a 9 year old would be lighter and will still show way more stars then your eyes and lovely wide field views. Hopefully this will be posted shortly.

With bins you could get a planisphere which are tactile and great to use. Plus there is a really good free computer programe called Stellarium which can be downloaded post Christmas.

If he really gets into it BinoccularSky (great site, Steve produces a monthly what to see PDF that gets emailed to your inbox.

Edited by happy-kat
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In the blink of an eye I can grab and use my Binoculars straight away, day or Night, 24/7 and no setup or alignment worries. In order to use my 8" telescope, it needs to cool to ambient temperature for about an hour to get the best results, so the Binoculars are quicker. They offer wider views, they dont shake if held properly 8x40 but the 15x70s require supporting. 


Don't always give in to the whims and want's of the  Children?  A cheap telescope will often turn out to be as usefull as a chocolate fireguard, in their build quality, opitcal quality, ease of setup and the final image they provide, nothing like you see in the books! You wont see much of any Planetary details except on the surface of the Moon, with Binoculars, but you'd  need a decent telescope at some cost to get any  Planetary images with a telescope.


Its not an easy choice to make. testing them yourself may help to see which is easier. If its easy for you, it will be easy for them?

I`m with kev on this one +1 for the Binoculars for a youngster. 


A new telescope would look great at the end of a Childs bed on Christmas morning, but unless of  decent quality, it will be wasted.

Binoculars are an all round item, not just astronomy. I wouldn't go any higher than 10x50. 7x50s would be ideal.


Also when seeing conditions are poor and you haves street light pollution, the telescope will soon be a forgotten present?


I would get Binoculars, get him to join an Astronomy  club, buy a decent Book to go with the Binoculars, and get him using the freeware program called Stellarium. If his interest grows further, and especially if he has contact with real telescopes at a local  club, you will then be better informed and wiser as to which telescope he may need next time. The Binoculars will always be near the telescope too.They will probably outlast his first telescope, unless he drops them, but then they come as rubber armoured and shock proof these days. 


One of our regular members has a dedicated website if this helps. http://www.binocularsky.com/ often highly regarded for the information and help it provides.

Edited by Charic
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Lots of scopes on this page, aimed at children..

http://www.telescopeplanet.co.uk/telescopes/childrens-telescope

Please bear in mind I am a complete novice!!  Hoping to visit the London Planetarium next week so may be able to get some advice there too..

.......giving my age away here, but I use to visit the Planetarium in the late `70s to see the  laser  Rock Concerts with their 1 watt Krypton gas Laser producing the images inside the dome?  If they still do that, its  well worth a visit.

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This is a plannispehere

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Philips-Planisphere-Latitude-51-5-North/dp/1849071888

the hardcopy one is outside useable.

There is a great video showing what you can learn from one of those, sun rise, sun set, etc. any day of the year.

He can go out in the garden on his own and see if he can find the targets in that month's BinnocularSky news letter suggestion. That site also reviews binocculars.

Edited by happy-kat
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.......giving my age away here, but I use to visit the Planetarium in the late `70s to see the  laser  Rock Concerts with their 1 watt Krypton gas Laser producing the images inside the dome?  If they still do that, its  well worth a visit.

LOL, mine was the equally Astro related Apollo in Manchester.

The Binocularsky website is an absolute must view for binocular users, the explanations, demonstrations, and monthly observing news letter are great.

One thing about binoculars, DO NOT BUY any with a RED coating for Astro work they are no good. see Binocularsky's opening video.

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I love planisphere's. Its all i had to use as a reference when i started out at the tender age of 6...........(along with my 10x50 bins). I have one pinned to my bedroom wall to this day to remind me of how i started out in astronomy. They (along with bins) are about the best and easiest way of truly learning your way around the night sky. Learning the night sky and how to navigate it using the simplest of tools (books,planisphere and bins) will serve you for the rest of your life. 

I know i suggested a scope, but my heart is torn between both a scope and bins. If i am gonna be true to myself.................bins/books/planisphere will always win if starting out. Learn to walk before you can run.

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LOL, mine was the equally Astro related Apollo in Manchester.

The Binocularsky website is an absolute must view for binocular users, the explanations, demonstrations, and monthly observing news letter are great.

One thing about binoculars, DO NOT BUY any with a RED coating for Astro work they are no good. see Binocularsky's opening video.

Or gold/yellow coatings.

Edited by LukeSkywatcher
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If you can stretch it a little, the 90mm Celestron Astromaster AZ is a very competent first scope in mine opinion. Good aperture, an alt-az mount that makes it easy to use, and it comes with a couple of decent eyepieces. It is also available in 70mm, and that reduces the price to be right on your budget.

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