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Please advise on 1st scope on a modest budget please?

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Being a night shift worker in a rural area close to the sea I've spent many a lunch break looking up at the night sky (by eye) and I've decided to take the plunge and buy a scope.

My main interest is mainly viewing the moon and planetary observations and with this in mind I started out looking at refractors of 70mm - 90mm as I have a budget £200 ish however, after a small amount of research on the net I'm not entirely sure what to do for the best as I've also looked at a few 'Mak Cass' scopes that are similar in size and price although I'm further confused by mounts/tripods...

I've looked at Celestron C90 mak which is scope only so I'm not sure about a mount? This scope costs £130.

Sky Watcher Skymax-90 which can be purchased with an EQ1 mount for £160.

Orion Starmax 90 which is a table top scope that believe could also be tripod mounted. £175.

The above are all similar spec scopes but I don't know if I'd be better off with a refractor? Something like the Orion Starblast 90 is very simarlarly priced to the above?

The other consideration is that I would like to do some lunar photography in the future so I'm guessing some sort of tracker may be useful? With this in mind, would I be better off waiting until I have another £150 in the budget and getting something motorised?

Sorry for all the questions in a first post but I can't afford to get this wrong.

Thanks for reading!


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Hello and welcome to the forum.

Stargazing can be done on a budget and if observing only then you can get some pretty decent kit second hand off here and other sites like astro buy and sell, But you mentioned you wanted to do some astro photography as well, this means you now need a decent mount that can take the weight of your scope, your camera and track (ideally), this is going to push the cost way above your £200 limit.

I do not want to curb any enthusiasm here, any observing is better than none but we also need to be realistic. Another thing to take into account, is weight and transportability as well as power, you say you work nights in a remote area, if you do manage to get a go to mount, how will you power it, using the 8 x AA batteries most handsets need?

The mount is key to any astro photography you want to do, with most people spending more on a sturdy mount than the scope itself, as if the mount wobbles at the slightest breeze, then your pictures will be blurry.

So you are going to need a decent GOTO mount, a scope, any adapters to attach a camera to the scope, power and all associated cables ETC, you can see how the cost soon mounts up.

I wish you luck in your search.

Edited by Daz Type-R
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Hi There,

Have you thought of a dobsonian??. You can get a 150p for under £200. :--- http://www.jessops.com/online.store/products/89958/Show.html?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=PLA&utm_term=Skyliner%20150P%20Telescope%20+%20Mount%20Kit&gclid=CJaMgYSIssYCFagKwwodc98HLQ

However I would advise you to go along to your local astro club meet first, here you will be able to see what others have and what might suit you best. A couple of books to help are 'turn left at orion' and 'sky&telescope pocket star atlas'.. Also download a planetarium program, pelnty out there but try stellarium its great and free, to be found here ;--- http://www.stellarium.org/

God luck with your  choice

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Thanks to everyone so far for their input.

I hadn't considered a dobsonian because all the beginners guides I've read have stated that a refractor would be best for lunar/planetary observation?

The point I was trying to make about photography.. Would I be better of saving up a bit more so that I had upwards of £350 for a goto scope (this seems to be about the bottom end for GOTO from what I've seen so far.) OR could I start out with an un-automated set up with the view to add one in the future

I would love to attend a club but I work continental shifts which makes any form of socialising difficult.

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A mak is nice for lunar and planets however they tend to end up with a narrow field of view and if manual that means that locating an object is not overly easy and keeping it in view is troublesome. I have a 105 Mak and they are much more useable on a goto mount.

A refractor tends to have a wider view (lower focal length), so general use is easier.

For any imaging then really you need tracking, the scope+camera needs to follow the object reasonably well - for lunar imaging you may have a problem of size, the moon is big and the webcams small, webcams are fine for planets. For planetary imaging a Mak is preferable to a refractor. The Mak longer focal length gives a bigger image an the planets can be increased in size.

A dobsonian will give a bigger lump of glass but they are visual only and manual only.  Size may be a factor as well if you are at work.

There is a 90mm refractor from Rother Valley but they are over £200 and I think a bit over priced for what they are. I have a 90mm ED and it does everything. I do know of an 80mm refractor on a Dutch site that looks good and a good price. One aspect is I have no idea of the company. Robotics

Thinking of the 80mm f/7.5, you would need a diagional, eyepiece and a mount, so maybe a more "complete" setup is easier.

Any clubs near you, the idea being go along and take a look at some in use. Astro Clubs.

Some clubs meet for observing on a Friday or Saturday as the following days tend not to be work days.

Alloow for buying additional items pretty quick, usually a couple of extra eyepieces.

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MettyMatty......welcome to SGL.

How long is your midnight dinner hour? You may need longer than 60 mins to setup and cool down all that equipment for any Astro-photography, and how does the work allow such a pleasurable past-time to be engaged when you should be, resting and re-nourishing prior to your next shift?    
7x50 8x40 even 10x50 Binoculars would be a great option for use at work, and easily hidden when the boss comes out?
Astro work is a lot more dedicated and skilled than normal photography, plus most of what you photograph is not visible until stacked, processed, its a big learning curve.
As for visual work, I would easily recommend an 8" Skywatcher Skyliner Dobsonian as you starter/lifelong telescope. kept at home on your rest Days, when you have more time to enjoy the hobby.
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Perhaps I am jumping the gun a little by mentioning photography at this early stage!

I had wondered if there was a route whereby I could by 'XYZ' mount that would get me started and then add the GOTO equipment and camera (T fitting?) at a later date. A sort of 'upgrade' as you go approach?

Thank you Ronin for your informative post. - Just the sort of info I was after.

I'm not going to divulge the length of my dinner "hour" as I value my job but let's just say I take the rough with the smooth. Some nights I'm busier than others.

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