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Getting Started and Managing Expectations


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Hi all

Completely new to Astronomy, in fact I’m that new I've not even bought a scope yet. But what I do have is questions, so hopefully I’ll be able to get some pointers in the right way to go to make this a long time interest.

I visited Rother Valley Optics over the weekend and was made aware that deep sky observing (which was my primary aim) wouldn’t be awash with colour and that the DSOs I saw would be all black & white faint fuzzies. Fair enough, but my first question I suppose would be how faint & fuzzy would things like galaxies actually be? Also planetary views, is Jupiter through a decent scope something amazing or pretty smudgy?

The guy at RVO said the black & white faint fuzzy is the reason why people do astrophotography, so this led me to start thinking about astrophotography itself. Is that something to aim for straight off the bat or is it better to get used to observing first before making a start with photography?

With regard to scopes, I’d like to have one before we go on holiday at the end of May(so no great rush I suppose), to what happens to be a pretty much dark sky site. Ideally I’d like to spend enough that I’m not completely underwhelmed by the whole experience, yet not spend too much that if I don’t take to it I’ve not spent loads on a very expensive coat hanger. Thinking about what I found out at the weekend I’d like one that will be decent enough to make a start at astrophotography. Also and not least importantly it’s got to be able to fit in a Large 4x4 with luggage & 4 large dogs, oh and the girlfriend, she’s coming along too. So something like a 14” Dobsonian is out.

I've bought Turn Left at Orion as I've read on here it’s a great book for new starters and have started reading that, I'm close to the Hoober observatory as well & plan to go along to one of the Mexborough & Swinton Astronomical Society open evenings to get a 1st hand look of astronomy in action. but is there anything else a complete novice should buy or read to help him make the right decisions on scopes & accessories and getting started observing(and maybe photography)? 

Thanks for all the help & advice that comes my way and I'm sure I'll be adding questions to this thread as it goes on! :smiley:

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For starters this is a good thread to read in order to structure your expectation of what you will see at the eye piece http://stargazerslounge.com/topic/196278-what-can-i-expect-to-see/page-11?hl=%2Bwhat+%2Bcan+%2Bexpect+%2Bto+%2Bsee#entry2552324 or a visit to the sketching section as well. In my opinion, it was good of RVO to point this sort of thing out as I think people new to the hobby often think they will see the sorts of colourful images all over the net and so can be a little disappointed when it comes to it.

When you say about astrophotography and whether you should go straight to it - I did. In fact I have looked through a scope less than half a dozen times in total. I don't find it interesting and to me one area of grey fuzziness if much like another.

Be warned with imaging - You need to structure your expectations very carefully here too. The imaging boards are awash with great imagers and the super images they produce - It's unlikely that you will reach that level for a while if that's the sort of thing you want to produce. It's also quite expensive if you really want to get into it - If it could be done on the cheap and successfully I am sure that we'd all be doing it. That's not saying that all imagers aren't successful - I'm just a victim of my own expectations.

If DSO imaging is your interest, then you will do well to get hold of the book 'Making Every Photon Count' from the book section of the FLO website before you spend a penny. Read it once, twice and thrice ...... then you will be placed to spend some money and know what you are buying and why.

Just a final thing - Never underestimate either the amount of time it can take to process the images after capturing the data. I can spend upwards of 10 hours on one image. This is something that I think doesn't get mentioned enough.

Going to a local society is an excellent place to start - You can speak to folks and get a feel for the hobby and what its rewards for you may be.

This is of course just my own opinion based on my own experience!! Take notice at your peril :)

Edited by swag72
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Take it slow. Sara has pretty much made most other responses irrelevant with her detailed post, but your approach of going along to an Astro Society meet is a great idea, and there is nothing to beat actually looking through some equipment to get a feel for what is possible.

Also, don't underestimate what can be done with binoculars, especially for holidays.

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You're very fortunate to have RVO on your doorstep, the guys there are always helpful and listen to what you want to achieve and guide you accordingly.

I can't speak about imaging but can confirm that DSO will nearly all be various shades of grey. A good place to get an idea is the sketches produced by some of the excellent observers here. As an example have a look at the Messiers sketches produced by Mike:- http://www.pbase.com/mike73/messier_sketches

You mention Jupiter, there is plenty to see but you need to put time in at the eyepiece to get the best of this giant. A lot will depend on the atmospherics at the time, what astronomers call the seeing.

Take your time and good luck.

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Hi there.

Iv found that the guys at RVO to be very usefull when ever Iv been there for advice or to buy something, and what they have said about faint fuzzies is totally true. In my experience.. most of them are just a grey smudge in the sky. With the odd exception with the great Orion nebular you can actually see some detail and structure. But it will still be grey!

I started out years ago (10ish) simply viewing then gave up for a while because I was under whelmed due to the lack of brightly coloured nebulae, but recently took an interest in it again after viewing some astro images on reddit then started reading up how they actually did it, finding out that I could use my DSLR to take pictures. So took the plunge and got a low end imaging mount (Celestron CG-5 GT - EQ5) and a sky-watcher 130PDS (came to around £500 for the scope (new) and tripod(second hand from RVO)) and that's got me some pretty pictures so far.(I'v also had to spend extra on a guide scope too)

That is all for DSO photography though. If you was interested in planets and the moon then things get a lot cheaper.

If you do want to get into astrophotography though iv heard the book 'every photon counts' is the one to get. I still mean to get it! And when it comes to gear, spend 2/3 of your budget on the mount, a CG-5 GT is ok but really you should be looking at an HEQ5. Oh and also keep in mind the weight you put on the mount if imaging, this is very important.

On the other hand, if you are happy with visual astronomy. A large a Dob that you can fit in your car and to suit your budget would be fine. 250mm and over you might even see a little bit of colour in Orion (but not with most of the skies around Rotherham)

Something I never did was to go to any astronomical-events around here and have a look through other people's scopes to see what the difference was. Something I wish I did do and would say that before you make any purchases go check one out!

Hope this helps.

Shiinsuh

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I have never been tempted to follow astrophotography as I just don't have the time to spend on it realistically. Visual observing is IMO very rewarding even from light polluted sites. The Moon, Jupiter and the sun (with the correct filters) all provide highly detailed and coloured views. Mars, Saturn and the rest of the planets provide lesser views but also in my experience really exciting and rewarding views.

Managing expectations is an excellent way of putting it. To my eyes, although yes the vast majority of objects other than solar system objects do resemble faint fuzzy clouds, there is colour to be found in such things as double stars, some star clusters and some variable stars. 

Although with no colour generally, the Ring Nebula, the Great Hercules cluster, Orion Nebula and many a tight open cluster will generate a sharp intake of breath no matter how often you look at them. If not then maybe visual astronomy is not for you. 

The issue is not cost as such. Many see astrophotography as the more expensive route but I have spent a lot more than many imagers on my visual only kit. You can of course cut this back as much or as little as you like. A basic scope, eyepieces, finders and star map will show you great things.

Find your own path after attending a few meetings or take a chance, buy used and sell on if things don't match your needs. Buying a used scope allows you to test a few before settling on / understanding  your preferences.

Hope this helps.

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I think at this stage it's best not to fall into the trap of trying to purchase a telescope that does everything well, it doesn't yet exist. Telescopes for DSO's are visual=big, imaging=small. I would recommend, specially after you visit a Society, that you get a suitably sized Dobsonian which does most visual observation well, use that to get some experiece under your belt and review any imaging ambitions at a later date. Whatever you do, make sure you enjoy it.   :smiley: 

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Does anyone have any experience with one of these? http://www.firstlightoptics.com/omni-xlt-series/celestron-omni-xlt-127.html 

I was thinking one as I was told by the guy at RVO that they are good scopes (but surprisingly they didn't sell very many). I was thinking one of these and getting some extra lenses or a nexstar 6se.

Or would one of these & lenses be better? http://www.rothervalleyoptics.co.uk/meade-etx-90-portable-observatory-goto-telescope-with-hard-case.html

Thanks

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Hi, Wordy, and a warm welcome to SGL! Just a quick note to add to the already excellent advice given. You asked about planets, and mentioned Jupiter in particular. Last night I took a quick look at Jupiter - and stayed with it for over an hour watching one of the moons orbiting the planet (Ganemede, I think). Its shadow was quite clear on the surface of Jupiter. I have been observing for nearly 40 years, and such views still have the ability to keep me locked at the eyepiece in a biting northerly wind and with the temperature dropping (and I'm not particularly a planetary observer!). As moonshane rightly states: "some things will generate a sharp intake of breath no matter how often you look at them".

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Many find the "bagging of elusive DSO's" to be a great reward unto itself. They can be faint & fuzzy - true, but as your eyes become trained in such skills as 'averted vision' and other tricks, more and more details come popping out. And as mentioned, researching what you've 'bagged' is great fun and educational too!

Astrophotography is wonderful too. And a new firld has opened up which is drawing in many people who otherwise wouldn't think of learning the intracacies of asytrophotography: Video-Astrophotography. This being the use of such instruments ranging from the humble webcam - the wonderful, colourful views these can elicit is enough to render one speechless - to specialty astro-cams that can do things that rival the Hubble Space Telescope, though not on as grand a scale. This is bringing full-on colour pictures of 'faint fuzzies' into the average person's living-room.

So there is room for everyone in this amazing "hobby." But for now I'd suggest getting your feet wet and seeing which way you gravitate. What you wish to do will come crawling out of the depths of your psyche and knock on your door soon enough.

Clear Skies,

Dave

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Does anyone have any experience with one of these? http://www.firstlightoptics.com/omni-xlt-series/celestron-omni-xlt-127.html

I was thinking one as I was told by the guy at RVO that they are good scopes (but surprisingly they didn't sell very many). I was thinking one of these and getting some extra lenses or a nexstar 6se.

Or would one of these & lenses be better? http://www.rothervalleyoptics.co.uk/meade-etx-90-portable-observatory-goto-telescope-with-hard-case.html

Thanks

Hi Wordy.

The difference here is really whether you want to hunt those faint fuzziness down for yourself or have the scope find them for you.

If you have plenty of time, patience and dark skies, star hopping to find objects can be immensely rewarding. However, it can also be immensely frustrating if your skies are a bit orange, you can only see a few stars with the naked eye and you only have an hour to spare.

I don't intend to turn this into a GOTO versus non-GOTO thread, but just wanted to point our the difference between the SLT and the SE/ETX. Aperture always helps as well though - and the 6SE has the edge over the SLT here, with the ETX90 last.

I've owned an ETX90 and loved it. I now have a 4SE, so obviously have a liking for small GOTOs. Speed of set up is a particular advantage.

Good luck in your choice, and let us know.

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Managing expectations? OK so for your upcoming trip try a good set of binoculars. You'll spend more time doing and less time learning how to work the gear. Maybe you'll get a bit of direction as a result. Don't get a fork mount if you looking at photography. You will need an EQ mount.

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