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Chris Cavanagh

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

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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.

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).

I have a warm jacket (it was warm enough with -20 degrees in Västra Götaland) so I assume it'll do the job.

As for a stool - I will have to buy one of them.

One more (possibly daft) question; how does the eyepiece work for people with glasses? Will they cause a problem? I know I can focus the telescope to suit my short sightedness, but if I spot something in the sky I'll also want to show my partner (who luckily has much better eyesight than myself).

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For observers wearing glasses, you'll need eyepieces with longer Eye Relief (ER), 16mm+ for me, some feel comfortable with 20mm ER.

SW 250PX has focal ratio f4.7, it will be quite demanding for eyepieces, you may easily spending more money on the eyepieces and para corr than on the scope to get satisfactory wide field views. SW 200P (f6) is a much eyepiece friendlier scope, IMHO.

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That's just my opinion. another advantage with a 8" is better portability, I have my OCD for size and weight, and believing that the best scope is the one you use most, Even if you have a Hubble, if you don't take it out because of weight and size, you wouldn't see a thing.

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The 8" Skywatcher uses the same base as the 10", and has a tube of the same length (though slightly narrower). And the base is the heavy bit. I wouldn't use portability as a decider between these two. The fact it's f/6 does make it gentler, and some people find the coma at f/4.8 in the 10" disturbing. I don't really notice it. And there is a fair cost difference too.

Either is a good choice; I went for aperture!

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Andy, you maybe right, I've not had any of those dobs, the info I've read about is 520(dia)x740(H) for Orion XT8 base weighs 9.4 kg, OTA 9.2kg, while for flex tube 250PX, the base is 540(dia)x740, weighs 12.5kg, and 15kg for OTA. These numbers are quite some difference to me.

As to aberrations, there's a little more than just coma, spherical aberration, astigmatism all increase in different degree with faster mirror, it's a mix of all these aberrations you see. You have very tolerant eye that you don't see coma in f4.7.

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Hi Chris,

There is a lot to consider buying a telescope.

If you suffer with light pollution then I would say mobility is important.  Infact getting to dark skies is perhaps more important than the telescope itself.  If you're happy and have the transport to lug around a 250px Dobsonian then by all means go for a Dobsonian.

I have the 250px Dobsonian, I have street lights nearby and I've already had some incredible views although generally where I live the light pollution is average (small town).  

I bought the 250px Dobsonian on eBay and it came with no eyepieces but I took the recommendation of getting the Explore Scientific 14mm 82 degree eyepiece and 6.7mm 82 degree eyepiece.  I would recommend both of those and a 28mm - the 28mm really does help.  I struggled (but learnt a LOT along the way) by playing with a 6.7mm & 14mm - even with a Telrad finder (very useful).

Just remember - telescope stuff soon racks up the £££'s or euros :) - not just telescope stuff either - books too! :)

I bought my Dob for £150 (and it was already collimated - another thing to factor in with dobsonians - although I've still not had to collimate mine and I've had it about 9 months).

I <3 my Dob and compared to my mate who spent a LOT more than me for his astrophotography setup - his pictures pale in comparison and whilst you can show off with astrophotography pics to your friends, it's never the same as looking through an eyepiece in my opinion - mainly because if they want to see pictures of Jupiter.... they can goto NASA website and see far better pictures than anything I can produce with my money lol.  Seeing things through an eyepiece has that 'wow' factor.  This is purely my opinion and yes some of the pictures that people take on this site ARE amazing, but I'm guessing they spent more than me :)

However, when it comes to DSO's don't expect colours like you see in the pictures!  So many people make this mistake!!

Goodluck and hope whatever you choose is best for you - I'm fairly new at this and I'm sure others on here are in a better position what to recommend :)

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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.

I took a similar path. GOTO was a luxury I thought I wouldn't need. I was wrong.  If you or your partner want to do astrophotgraphy, you want a GOTO mount. The hassle of finding DSO's, keeping track of them etc eats into valuable imaging time. 

 If you want to discover the stars, get yourself a nice pair of binoculars and save your money for when the bug really bites. 

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Andy, you maybe right, I've not had any of those dobs, the info I've read about is 520(dia)x740(H) for Orion XT8 base weighs 9.4 kg, OTA 9.2kg, while for flex tube 250PX, the base is 540(dia)x740, weighs 12.5kg, and 15kg for OTA. These numbers are quite some difference to me.

As to aberrations, there's a little more than just coma, spherical aberration, astigmatism all increase in different degree with faster mirror, it's a mix of all these aberrations you see. You have very tolerant eye that you don't see coma in f4.7.

I wish they would make a 10" F/5.3 dob. Easier on eyepieces, little or no noticable coma and the collimation "sweet spot" is that much more forgiving. I guess the length of the tube would make portability a bit more of an issue though and they would not be able to fit so many in the shipping containers from China !

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What if I go for the Explorer 200/1000 with EQ5 mount? That way I could go for motors (extra £100) in future and be able to take decent pictures as well (my partner has a VERY good quality DSLR).

I am now starting to edge towards photography now..... yet I also hear that the explorer 200 is pretty good as well (albeit not as fantastic as a 250px).

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Tracking this conversation -- having the same issues of selection.  Can't decide between an 8-10" dob or a Nexstar 6-8 SCT.  Please keep us updated on your decision!

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I was in much the same position about 2 years ago - a roughly £500 budget, wavering between various options & with a slight hankering to do some astrophotography as well.

After a lot of reading on sites like this what I discovered was:

  • Don't bother making astrophotography a priority on this budget, it just isn't going to work. That's not to say you have to forget astrophotography altogether, but whatever you buy at this point isn't going to be geared to it.
  • Equatorial mounts are things of beauty, but they're take time to set up properly & can be a pain to use with a newtonian. If you're not going down the astrophotography route, you don't need one. And if you are, the type you need is about double your budget. I was strongly tempted by the same EQ5/200p setup you mention above until I realised the mount is barely up to holding the telescope steady.
  • It's all too easy to forget the extras, like a good selection of eyepieces.
  • Classifieds & Ebay make your budget go so much further if you're prepared to be patient.

On the basis of that, and once I'd moved astrophotography out of the equation, the decision was fairly easy: a dob with as wide an aperture as my budget would allow. New, that would have been an 8" or 10" to allow enough cash left over for accessories, but I soon discovered a 12" monster for sale complete with a telrad finder, good selection of eyepieces and sundry extras, at right around my budget. I was sold on it pretty much instantly :)

Two years later I'm happy that was the right decision for me. Set up takes minutes so I can concentrate on viewing (though I sometimes wish I'd gone slightly smaller when I'm lugging it out the garage, the views make it worthwhile!) I'm glad also I didn't get something with a goto system - I enjoy the challenge of navigating to a target unaided.

My astrophotography needs meanwhile are being met by a combination of widefield shots using the camera alone, eyepiece shots and the odd prime focus shot (lunar and the odd planet).  The results aren't amazing, but getting started this way has made me realise that good results require a serious investment of time and acquiring a lot of skill. Getting up to speed with using tools like Deep Sky Stacker & learning the best techniques for bringing out the best in your images via Photoshop has been fun in itself, but has also made me realise I'd have been wasting my money investing in specific equipment. Once I've learnt more then I may reconsider, assuming I ever have enough spare cash.

Anyway, best of luck in what you choose, whatever happens you're going to end up with good new toy :)

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That's a great post IanC70, you thought about what was realistic with your budget and knowledge and bought something to fit.

Glad you are still happy with your set up two years down the line.

Good luck and clear skies.

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Hi Chris,

I'm the same as you and a newbie astronomer, I've just brought a Skywatcher Evostar 120 on an EQ5 mount and absolutely delighted with what I can view using this scope and also purchased an 8mm BST eyepiece plus x2 Barlow, the BST EP is perfect if you wear glasses as it has the ability to adjust eye-relief.

Refractors provide much crisper views of the stars and planets than Newtonians, the EQ5 mount can at some point get upgraded to a SYNCSCAN V3 Goto upgrade, but please remember that it is always best to get started with a scope that has a good mount and the EQ5 is good.

It's a joy to use and to start this hobby I'm delighted that I haven't got goto and can Navigste with a star map and Stellarium on my iPhone, plus good alignment with my EQ5 mount.

If you go for the EQ5 mount then get the polariscope illuminator as this makes life so much easier.(£21 from Bristol cameras, free carriage).

The other thing to consider is also storage bags and I recommend using Geoptik direct for the storage bags.

This hobby isn't cheap to begin with but I'm sure you'll get as much as me from it once you've made the investment, just think what you can upgrade the best with time and what will give you a good foundation.

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Thanks for the tips lads; I think I will sit tight for a bit and wait to see what Blocket brings up (local equivalent of Gumtree).

Also, after a good bit of searching I think I've started to like the Celestron Nexstar SE telescopes; shame that the 6-8 inches are so pricey.....

Oh well, if I find a bargain price I'll certainly go for those!

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I may have found somebody selling a Skywatcher 250px Flextube with GOTO for £675. I am inclined to buy it (regardless of the price hike), simply due to it possibly being a perfect choice for me.

Question though - and this may sound daft - but does this variant track celestial objects for me (i.e. can I find Jupiter then have the telescope automatically follow the planet as I observe it)?

Still thinking about the missus and her DSLR......

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Once the scope has found the object, it tracks it. Assuming that it's been setup reasonably accurately that is.

You might get away with some webcam imaging of the moon and brightest planets with such as scope but they don't track accurately enough for deep sky imaging.

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It is this version here; store made (no home modifications from what I know) - 

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

My Swedish isn't perfect but the seller also includes Plossl 10 and 25mm eyepieces, T2 ring and O3 filters (I'm not sure if these come with the box).

So, what do you think?

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Looks very nice! The main thing to bear in mind for imaging is that long exposures aren't possible through any alt-az mount - even if it tracked perfectly smoothly, the image will rotate within the field of view. But that doesn't mean you won't be able to get some decent shots though - this was taken using my phone against the eyepiece:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/77612978@N08/8672687679/in/set-72157629265855410/lightbox/

And this one was taken with my DSLR at prime focus:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/77612978@N08/11297801086/in/set-72157629265855410/lightbox/

Neither are as good as I've seen other people produce, but that's more down to me than the equipment :)

Ian

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Decided to buy the Skyliner 250px GOTO Flextube (got it for £600 so I reckon that's a steal). I have to drive to Örkelljunga to get it around 1pm so I will post pictures of it later!

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I think that you've made an excellent choice.

Ant

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Thanks. Any advice for a good solar filter and/or good accessories for DSO/planetary viewing (particularly Neptune/Uranus; actually seeing them as coloured discs is all I am after)? The thing comes with 10mm and 25mm Plossl eyepieces already so I dunno how good they are to be honest.

I think I need a collimating piece as well.....

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Decided to buy the Skyliner 250px GOTO Flextube (got it for £600 so I reckon that's a steal). I have to drive to Örkelljunga to get it around 1pm so I will post pictures of it later!

Good luck with your new toy.

I will be very interested to hear how you get on with this scope as this is potentially on my shopping list.

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