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rowan46

Do dept store scopes put people off astronomy?

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It's a common belief amongst hobby forums that the reason everybody doesn't practice their hobby is because of cheap and nasty gear. Go on a cyclists forum and they will tell you that the reason everybody isn't cycling everywhere that is because they havent spent more than £500 on a bike and if they did they would never get off. A hifi forum (they are still aound ) will say if people bought £500 decks nobody would ever want to listen to a cd again. And so on  with astronomers its dept store telescopes. I don't buy this I think the reason there are so many scopes unused and up for sale is ....... Well what do you think

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It is possible to see both sides.

If you start with something poor then yes you can get put off it (at least that is what is claimed). I am not so sure.

My first car was pretty poor, willing to bet most peoples first car was a bit of a banger, even worse. However bet that they (you) didn't give up driving? So may be it doesn't work like that.

Yes it would be nice if people started with something fairly good, but most will go for the cheap end first. It may actually be better, it was in my case. I was looking at Celestron 8SE's, bought a Meade ETX-70. Used the scope for 6-12 months then basically forgot it. Picked it up some 6 years later. I would have been hacked off if I had bought the 8SE, and the ETX is a good small scope for keeping in the car.

I have been "presented" at open nights with some ropey scopes to make work, and I have spent the time to make them work. Last one meant I was presented with the cry "I can see the moon!!!!!". I just wish the scope came with a highish tripod and I didn't have to lie on the ground getting damp and cold to make it work.

Said elsewhere if it has an objective and an eyepiece then I will try to get it to work and give an image. You never know that 7 year old may go on to greater things. There are still lots of answers in cosmology and astrophysics to be answered.

Simpler approach is "It's a scope, it may be a small step into astronomy but it is a step."

The US seems to have a following for the 60mm Tasco and clone refractor scopes, seems to be a challenge over there to get them working again. That seems a lot more fun to me.

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I dont think its the case for HiFi units, as people just moved on as technology like MP(insert number here) / AAC / AC3 / FLAC & computers become more handy and useful for that kind of thing.

Likewise with bikes, lots of people get them in the summer and then come winter realise it means cycling in the wind / rain / snow & ice and decide to knock it on the head or try to do the 'fitness' thing & like gym memberships the enthusiasm fades leaving the bikes unloves & unused.

With telescopes however, it might be the case.  Telescopes are woefully misunderstood by a lot of people & often dept store scopes promise the unobtainable in magnfication figures, use the cheapest availabe for mounts/tripods so the whole thing wobbles as you use it and people do end up getting annoyed, especially as some of these 'dept store' scopes are not at all cheap.  Tasco scopes from jessops anyone?  So yeah i tihnk in the case of astro its more than possible its the reason, of course all the others apply to, the excitement fades when people realise it means freezing yourself to the core just to see a tiny lil object in your EP with minimal if any colour & sometimes life will get in the way of things you want to do etc.

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There are many reasons - unwanted gift / bad collimation / non techy users / unrealistic expectations / poor equipment.

I bought MrsR a £100 scope 10-15 years ago, and it didn't work too well.

It was the 76mm / 700 focal length version and our first scope, so most of the errors above applied.

When we got our Revelation 15x70 Binoculars we could see better / clearer images, so I knew something was wrong with the scope.

Better eyepieces / collimation / a decent finder scope / lower expectations / and some very good advice from here helped to make it usable again.

The cheap and nasty scopes aren't the only reason - but for us, it was the main one.

Now I can see the brighter stuff no problem with the little-un at 28-100x mag.

dumbell nebula / hercules cluster / double cluster / terraced moon craters / Jupiters banding etc

Edited by Reeny

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I think there is a big difference between a cheap bike and a cheap scope.  Even a cheap bike will move in the direction the rider wishes, when they turn the pedals.  A telescope is/should be a precision instrument.  A cheap crappy telescope just won't get you to where you want to be.  I suppose the analogy is like buying a bike with square wheels, yeah it's a "bike" but you won't really make any significant journeys on it.  In some ways a cheap scope is like a movie prop, yes it looks the part, but it doesn't do the job.  It's true also that they sell these things in boxes emblazoned with HST images of the eagle nebula etc, so people's expectations are raised, only to be dashed.   I wonder if that counts as false advertising?

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Yes cheap scopes are a good way to turn-off people to astronomy. Claims of "578x!" and so forth do nothing for astronomy. Nothing positive that is. Thank goodness there are forums such as this one to set people straight.

Clear Skies,

Dave

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Yes cheap scopes are a good way to turn-off people to astronomy. Claims of "578x!" and so forth do nothing for astronomy. Nothing positive that is. Thank goodness there are forums such as this one to set people straight.

Clear Skies,

Dave

Sorry but I have to disagree.

My first view of Saturn the was through a cheapo telescope (it had pictures of galaxies on the box) that my mother bought as a birthday present for my father, if an Owl broke wind it would wobble. My old man had a brief foray into astronomy but I've never looked back.

That was 15 years ago, I've had 3 SCTs a Mak and various refractors since but none have achieved the same wow moment as that first view of Saturn.

People (men) take up and drop many hobbies regardless of the quality of equipment, astronomy is not alone on that count. There's plenty of high end equipment on ABS listed as only used once.

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I think Dave in Vermont put the magnifcation issue over well and oddly my friend here who is an Astronomy Dealer said much the same the other week when I met up with him. As for HiFi I believe having had a massive set-up of quadrophonic back in the 80's it was the records themselves that was the biggest problem in the link, I had hundreds and about 50% I had taken back for issues of one type or another.

Alan

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The biggest problem with the general public and dare i say some astronomers is the thought that bigger is better and high magnification is a must.

I have looked through lots of cheap scopes and they are let down by poor mountings and eyepieces that are geared to produce huge magnifications which only makes the problem worse however when i have fitted a decent low power eyepiece the view was a revelation so its not the scope optics at fault.

The 70mm tasco that my son had was cobbled together with a canon DSLR and my EQ3-2 and produced some luna images that put anything I have managed to shame.

The analogy with HiFi is an interesting one, the general rule that a system was built around a turntable with 50-80% of the spend was a good way to go and I am sure I would be far happier with a small frac on a good EQ mount and an expensive low power eyepiece than the same cost being spent on a large poorly mounted reflector.

Alan

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The things that turn people off astronomy seem to amount to the following:

  • A difference between what they expect (having seen stunning images and animations) and what they can actually see
  • The realisation that it's almost always cloudy in the UK. A fact I had not appreciated until I started, either
  • The cost of high-end gear
  • A technical inabillity to set up even simple equipment satisfactorily
  • Boredom: done the Moon, done Jupiter, done Saturn, done Mars. Everything else is just a fuzzy blob.

I would also suggest that the quality of cheap gear is much better than what was sold to "serious" amateurs before the chinese started manufacturing, so I don't think that is a factor. However we should recognise that most people simply aren't into astronomy, don't feel a need to gaze into the heavens and regard a pristine sky in a dark location either as "Wow! - that's great ... what's on TV" or "I don't like it .... it's dark - what was that noise? :Envy: "

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Do dept store scopes put people off astronomy?

I think Astronomy puts people off astronomy !

Well, I mean its individual and not much else for us to discover every body knows how to find longitude

and the sky's have been mapped. Navigation is a "cinch" with GPS.

The era of discovering stuff with telescopes with terrible optics has long past.

As for the planets. Mercury and Venus are not much. Mars and Earth can be disappointing.

Jupiter and Saturn are excellent. Pluto and Neptune ? well what can one say about them.

Jeremy

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I think the main reason people stop using the scopes is false expectation. People see magnificent pictures of nebulas and think "Hey, I get a scope and I can see all this..." Then they look through the scope and see stars, more stars than usual but still stars. The moon looks great, even through a cheap scope, planets are still OK - not as good as on the box, but seeing the rings of Saturn for the first time is a thrill. Nebulas are a no-show. After a while you have seen what's there to see and you loose interest. I had a scope since I was a teenager but only now that I have a camera which can handle low noise high ISO images my interest is rekindled (only took four decades :shocked: ). And only after lots of reading and lots of pictures taken at night do I start to understand what I want and get an idea of what I need to get there. Did the cheap scope turn me off astronomy - No! But it also didn't do what I wanted to do. It did however give me a starting point for the journey I am now on.

My other hobby is archery, yes you can get interested by shooting a cheap bow. The moment you start getting a bit more serious it does cost money...

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I think if the interest is there it will stay despite poor equipment. People have to make do with what they can afford and department store scopes DO work after a fashion , just not with the Mount Palomar style star views depicted on the box. I think it may even encourage people to strive to upgrade. Read any specialist mag - car, cycle, photo, golf, fishing etc and some people would be frightened off for life if they thought there was no alternative to buying some of the stuff advertised.

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Galileo's first telescopes had an object of 30mm, magnification of 6 and a field of view of about 15' and he didn't give up. Which suggests that it is not the telescope that puts people off but their mindset. As soon as they realise that astronomy (or hill walking, or cycling or ...) might mean being occasionally cold, wet and uncomfortable and then you still have to put some effort in it's a lot easier to do something else.

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........................... I think Astronomy puts people off astronomy ! ......................................

I agree.

I was asked once about the attraction of stargazing was because their son was heavily into the hobby, but they just didn't "get it"

Once I explained it was like fishing they thought it was OK, and not so weird afterall.

We spend loads of time outside waiting in the cold.

And to the by-stander, nothing seems to be happening.

It's not for everyone.

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I was put off by a cheap telescope I had years ago. I think I paid £75 for it, thinking that was a lot of money for a starter hobby but it was pointless, I couldn't see anything.

I went to a Baker Street Irregulars meeting in Regents Park in London and everyone was kind enough to let me look through their scopes. It was only then, when I saw Jupiter's rings quite clearly that I thought about getting something else. I started with some decent bins then invested in a 2nd hand 200p dob for £250 and it was worth every penny. Still a basic starter scope but it is in a different league to those Jessops telescopes lots of people get for Xmas.

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I think we have travelled the same path as you.

700/76 3" scope / 15x70 bins / 200p dob.

This is one of the reasons I dislike the sky at night bashing so much.

If it wasn't for Sir Patrick Moore and the team, we would have ran out of enthusiasm a long time ago.

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I agree with a lot of the previous posters that it's about expectations. It is not the cheap telescope that puts people off but the exaggerated claims of the manufacturer leading to a false expectation of what the views are actually like. I started, as many, with a 60mm Prinz refractor from Dixons in the late 1970's. The mount is wobbly, the altaz controls and focuser are lumpy and horrible. Did it put me off? No! I saw Saturn and the moon and I'm still passionate about the hobby today. Now imagine someone packed an ED100, AZ4, TV powermate and a Pentax XW5 in a box covered with Hubble pictures of deep sky objects, and a claim of '450x magnification' (Ignore the fact that it would cost about £1,200!) Someone buys, points it at M51 with an expectation of seeing spiral arms, wonderful things. What would their reaction be? It isn't the kit, it's the unrealistic expectations. The Hubble telescope has a lot to answer for.

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Its good to see a number of Astro Societies run regular "scope clinics" for non-members who might have bought a scope and not been able to achieve much with it. I started with a low cost 60mm refractor on a wobbly mount and with crummy eyepieces but, after a while and some perserverence, managed to see enough sights to sow a seed of interest that has stayed with me for 30+ years.

There must be a large number of small scopes tucked away in lofts and basements more or less unusued though and their owners must have had at least the germ of an interest to have parted with the cash in the first place. So there is some potential to tap into there.

One thing I would say about the hobby is that it's actually quite difficult and exacting on both equipment and the observer. With the exception of a very few targets, most of what we observe is faint, far off, subtle and indisctinct. We get excited because we have learned a little about what we are looking at and are able to compare notes with fellow observers so we realise what what we are seeing is what there is to see but many folks I think would wonder what the fuss was all about if the view down the eyepiece does not resemble the photos they have seen of these objects.

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I think Astronomy puts people off astronomy !

Jeremy

Spot on, Astronomy isn't, at least to me, an instant gratification hobby. You need to know what you're looking at and how to look.

Having said that I'm sure junk equipment doesn't help.

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If it wasn't for buying a £35 scope in Jessops on impulse (we went in to buy a camera lens), I wouldn't be into astronomy. I would never have come to a site like SGL to ask what to buy first, because it was merely an impulse purchase. I didn't expect too much. I mean, it was £35, you could spend more than that going out for a meal with your other half.

Instead we saw craters on the Moon for our £35 and took in our first galaxy. I will never, ever forget that first "WOW!" seeing the lunar craters.

So I wouldn't be surprised if these scopes with awful reps have helped bring in other people who just bought on impulse. Maybe it lost some too but as it was impulse they may never have come to astronomy anyway and I was not prepared to spend £200 or £300 out of curiosity.

£35, yes, and really, I would not expect anything that high end for £35, you can barely buy a few Tele Vue dust caps for that price never mind the glass :grin:

Edited by Luke
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Back in the 80s I used a v good pair of my fathers 10 x 50 carl zeiss jena bins for astro but desperately wanted a telescope.

Then one year I got a god awful red frac on a table top tripod for xmas from I think the littlewoods catalogue.

I saw the moon fleetingly but no way could I focus it on anything , although if I put a piece of white card on a chair and aimed it like an underarm rocket launcher I could get an image of the sun on the card and see sunspots which I enjoyed.

Like Luke above it did not put me off astronomy just made me yearn for a proper scope.

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It's just occurred to me that this question is asking a non representative sample. Properly we should be asking the people who did give up so if there is anybody on the forum who is not interested in astronomy perhaps they would like to answer. Come on any astrologers wandered in by mistake?

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