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Chris Cavanagh

£500 Budget: What's a Good Telescope for a Beginner?

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All in the title lads. I'm an aspiring stargazer who's keenly interested in astronomy; this interest has finally reached boiling point, so I've decided to go for my first telescope. 

I've done a bit of research, and I hear that Dobsonians are the best value for money (aperture wise). Now I'm hoping for a cracker scope that will allow me good planetary views (notably including Uranus/Neptune, as I always wanted to see them) and the Jovian/Saturnian moons. Then again I also want to see deep sky objects like Andromeda/the Whirlpool Galaxy/Orion Nebula etc............

I have a budget of £500 - what would be the best scope I could get for that?

Thanks for your time lads!

PS - Astrophotography is an interest of my partner (she has a decent camera), although I know too little about it in regards to telescopes, so any advice there is welcome too!

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For Jupiter and Saturn most scopes will enable that without going to extremes, a 100mm refractor is adaquate

DSO's need aperture in many instances, they are dim, you need to collect light, so dobsonian say 200.

Neptune and Uranus are a long, long way away, they generally appear as blue/green and green/blue dots.

Best described as odd coloured dim stars.

If you want to go imaging then that is a major step and throws many considerations out, and even a basic DSO system would be about twice the budget you give. So decide the relevance of that now.

I have the idea that an SCT would suit you better, and that likely means an 8", maybe the Celestron 6SE would do but they are £750-800. Suspect the 5SE is too small and the 8SE is way over budget.

Do you need goto, or manual only or a mount with motors to track but not goto?

Are you OK with an equitorial mount or does the Alt/Az type appeal more.

Edited by ronin

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Hmm. I wouldn't need a GOTO (as I personally feel it ruins the "fun" of discovery). As for mounts, I'd love to have a mount that tracks the objects (for many reasons; to show the missus, to photograph, not having to concentrate on constantly moving the thing and just watching etc).

At the same time I hear that the Dob base is extremely easy to set up and use, so I don't know. I really don't.

But I don't think I need a GOTO; that can be scratched off.

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Would also like to add that if I had to choose, I would go for clarity of view/light gathering over anything else. I'd prefer to have the best image for Neptune/Orion/Pleiades etc than a set of fuzzy dots!

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You'll need an equatorial tracking mount for photography , but that would eat the budget ... For visual, a 250mm DOB would suit I reckon.

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I was looking at this:

http://www.firstlightoptics.com/dobsonians/skywatcher-skyliner-250px-dobsonian.html

It seems to fit the bill. What sort of extras would I need (eyepieces, filters etc)? I would like to see primarily planets, but also the Sun/Moon if possible, as well as galaxies and various other DSO's of interest.

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Good all round choice and very popular on this forum :smiley:

No good for imaging but excellent for visual and about as much aperture as you will get for your budget.

The standard accessories provided will get you up and running but you will almost certainly want to upgrade / augment the finder and eyepieces within a month or so. You will want a budget of another £200-£250 for that plus one or two other accessories. Better eyepieces will cost in the £30-£50 apiece range and the finder provision improvement would absorb around £30-£40 depending what you go for. You will also need a cheshire eyepiece to help with collimation.

But the purchase price will get you up and running for a few sessions at least.

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I think you need to haul in your expectations of views of Neptune & Uranus. They are so far away even when i had a 10" SCT they were little more than colouredcoloured disks. The scope you have listed is an excellent piece of kit.

Use these to see what you can expect to see.......

http://www.12dstring.me.uk/fov.htm

http://www.stargazing.net/naa/scopemath.htm

http://www.naasbeginners.co.uk/Articles/Equipment/What_can_be_seen/What_can_be_seen.htm

Best advice is to go along to your local astro clubs next meet and see what others have and may suit you best.

Good luck with your choice.

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I think you need to haul in your expectations of views of Neptune & Uranus. They are so far away even when i had a 10" SCT they were little more than colouredcoloured disks.

Agreed, even voyager found little surface detail to record on Uranus.

Neptune does show some interesting limb darkening and occasionally some variation in colour on the disc but you will need big aperture to show this. I've never seen it in my 10" only the larger scope can pull it out on nights of very steady seeing when the planet is well placed (read tough). I've never observed anything but a bland featureless disc when observing Uranus.

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If you divide the OTA FL by the eyepiece FL you will get the resultant magnification. Reading here, I see planetary observers work in the 150x - 250  range. I'm getting the impression that local seeing conditions often are the limiting factor. DSO's can be faint but quite large. Many like the 12x - 30x range.

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Thanks for all the advice lads.

I knew that Uranus/Neptune would be tiny coloured discs; but simply being able to see them/discern them from stars (and if I'm lucky, see Triton or Titania/Miranda etc) then I'd be happy. Can the 250px do that?

As for DSO's, how faint is Andromeda? I always had great fun trying to point it out to friends when we did a bit of naked eye stargazing.

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Without getting a discussion of magnitude going, fair to reason that it must be quite faint, except for the core, as It is 3x the diameter of the Moon, yet difficult to find in the sky.

Once you are trying for objects that small, the seeing conditions, not the OTA or choice of eyepiece control what you see. If the glass is good, powers of 250x may be possible. The 250p is a great scope and would serve you well.

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For purely visual, i.e. no AP, I am fast coming to the conclusion that an equatorial mount is an unnecessary complication.

I have been using the smaller 150P on an equatorial mount and am in the process of deciding what is going to replace it, probably a Dob.

Just my thoughts and good luck.

Edited by Astro Imp

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So could anybody tell me the differences between the Skywatcher Explorer 200/1000 and the 250px (apart from the 50mm ap difference)? The youtube clips I see of both in use show little discernible differences to me at first glance....

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The 250 has a perspex (I think) mirror that is lighter and cools faster ( I think) its also 1200mm hence more magnification ... The DOB mount will hold it steady far more successfully than the EQ5. The 200 on an EQ5 will be OK but will be quite unstable in any sort of breeze... The seemingly insignificant extra 50mm diameter actually shows a fair bit more of faint fuzzies , nebulae and even clusters

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theres a fair difference in apparture and the 200 is on an eq mount. it is not however on an imaging mount the 200 is too big for decent imaging on that small  a mount. plus you will need to add motors  and a whole lot of other stuff for imaging. Using a newtonion on an eq mount is slightly more awkward as you will have to rotate the tube to keep the eyepiece in a usable position.

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One final set of questions; this may sound daft, but I notice the 250px's views of planets on Youtube. My question is; will the actual view through the scope be better than what the videos show (I assumed that the view on the showcased dobs wasn't as good as expected, due to video capturing limitation/light gathering etc)?

Second; how goods the viewing for Venus and Mercury? Particularly the latter.

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Chris,

It's really difficult to say. The actual view you get through a scope is influenced by so many things other than the scope, ie: seeing conditions, state of collimation of the scope, observer experience, eyepiece quality, etc.

The scope is capable of really good views, probably as good as a scope of that specification can deliver but the above factors will influence massively what you actually see at any particular time.

Sorry if that seems vague but I feel it's unfair to state that you will see this or that because your experience will probably be different and will vary night to night and sometimes hour to hour !

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I knew that Uranus/Neptune would be tiny coloured discs; but simply being able to see them/discern them from stars (and if I'm lucky, see Triton or Titania/Miranda etc) then I'd be happy. Can the 250px do that?

As for DSO's, how faint is Andromeda? I always had great fun trying to point it out to friends when we did a bit of naked eye stargazing.

Through a 250px? Not faint at all. It's all about contrast, and from a dark site my 250px will show the dust lanes in Andromeda quite happily. The main issue is its size; it's too big to fit in the field of view. 

I think I looked into it and thought that theoretically Triton might be possible, but I've never seen it.

I was looking at this:

http://www.firstlightoptics.com/dobsonians/skywatcher-skyliner-250px-dobsonian.html

It seems to fit the bill. What sort of extras would I need (eyepieces, filters etc)? I would like to see primarily planets, but also the Sun/Moon if possible, as well as galaxies and various other DSO's of interest.

Extras? I'd suggest:

  • a Cheshire Collimation tool (the mirrors occasionally need aligned; this tool can do it all)
  • a seat of some form (I use a drummers stool due to it's adjustable height)
  • a Telrad or Rigel Quikfinder (to make finding things easier)
  • a really warm jacket (seriously! This last one is so important. I use a good down one - and sometimes wish I'd a better one).

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