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Kungfuthug

Absolute beginner looking for a scope

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I am sure it has been covered here a thousand times before, but a brief one minute search showed different results than my query specifics.

I am looking for a telescope to drive out to the mountains with. My wife and I have never owned one before... Let alone used one. I have read a person should start with binoculars but I disagree with the idea of buying things twice. I would rather put the binocular money into the telescope fund.

Anyways, I am after the following;

Semi portable (have a small suv and would need to bring other gear)

Ease of use (if the learning curve is huge than my wife will give up)

Affordability- less than $500 CAD

I have read good things about the Dobsonians but they seem pretty large to carry around. We really want to see the moon and of course Mars and Saturn...Jupiter would be a treat. Please advise!

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Hi There,

You would be surprised at how portable a dob can be. If you have not seen them in the flesh I would go and see one and compare against a refractor.  All star have the 8" dob in for $465 CAD.. They can be found here :-- https://www.all-startelescope.com/about-us/maps-directions

The 8" skywatcher has a fierce reputation on SGL. The OTA would fit on the back seat.

Great location, love Alberta.

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I believe the skywatcher skyliner 200p is the most recommended scope, without being too large or too small "just right" if you will. It's a dobsonian so the learning curve for the mechanics is tiny. I also am looking into getting something for the mountains/home, however I'm more into the DSO's which the larger dobs are good at. For planets specifically I'm not entirely sure.

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Try to stick with dedicated astronomy retailers as their after sales service will be better if you have problems. Unfortunately I have heard that the mount and tripod is fairly wobbly, +1 for the dobsonian mounted scope.

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Thats a good price for the scope. However if you have not used an equatorial mount, do go to the telescope shop or a local astro club so that you can see whether or not you get on with the mount.

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That will need a power source, so if you're in some mountains, you'll need a power pack. Once again, I'd advise to stick to dedicated astronomy retailers or dedicated astronomy second hand sites

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It comes with 22 hour batt pack and Costco will take hassle free returns.

that would be a 22Ah battery. depending on what you are running, will determine how long it lasts. At the risk of sounding like an echo, DOB.... it'll run all night every night without batteries to change. If your wife wants simple, stay clear of electric mounts...just one more thing to go wrong. I'm guessing the kid at costco wouldn't know which end of a scope to look through so I wouldn't be touching them with someone elses barge pole :)

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With a go to you will still need to learn/recognise some stars to help with alignment so it can then find stuff for you.

A DOB you have to find everything (unless on a comprised DOB base). DOB refers to the mount, the telescope is a newtonian or called a reflector.

Though with sharing with your wife a tracking mount will be easier for sharing between you both as you take turns in looking.

The telescope you show is not on an equatorial so will be easier to use.

Are you also interested in DSO?

That MAK will have a narrow field of view which might compromise some DSO like the Orion nebula which is very wide.

Do you have any astro clubs or shops near you just to look at different items to get a feel on size and what appeals to you both?

Edited by happy-kat
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Link to the same shop in my first post above. Go to the dealer or go to your local astro club. Buy once buy right,

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If you're looking to drive out into the mountains, don't bother with anything electrical; it'll just cause frustration and tears. I'm a big fan of going stone-age for astronomy (unless imaging, obviously)

A nice manual dobsonian scope would be hard to beat, and it means all your money is going into nice big optics. It might be worth checking the size - the base and tube are bulky, though I tend to pack around them. 

Also, 200mm aperture will knock spots of a 90mm. Over twice the resolution, and 5 times the light gathering.

Do leave some budget aside, if you can, for a guide book, and a collimation tool (for periodically aligning the mirrors).

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The 130 is a nice starter scope - it fits your portability requirements very nicely. The motor is also very useful - on that scope it just does tracking (not goto). The Celestron has two problems though - the mount/tripod are wobbly and the finder is just useless - I'm surprised they haven't changed it by now for something that works. Skywatcher's tend to come with a use'able finder.

You'd be better to get something like a 150P on EQ3-2 for the larger aperture and slightly firmer mount/tripod. It's well within your budget and still small enough to throw in the trunk leaving bags of room. Ensure you get a parabolic mirror - they focus better than the spherical ones - and you can buy a tracking motor later. You need to buy from a proper astro retailer.

The 200P dob is a great instrument but it's larger than your OP hints at - just my opinion but I don't think it's what you're looking for. Do stick with a newtonian though for your first scope - the 150P and the 130P come in both mount varieties (dob or EQ) and give you a wide variety of objects to view. Catadioptrics and Mak's/Sct's or refractors in any decent size or quality will be expensive by comparison.

Hth and good luck :)

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 I have read a person should start with binoculars but I disagree with the idea of buying things twice. I would rather put the binocular money into the telescope fund.

Trust me when i say that you will end up either way owning both a telescope and a pair of bins. Its just the way it is.

Certainly the 200mm Dob is by far the most popular/most recommended scope here on SGL. Ive never seen a comment by anyone who buys/owns one not being anything but delighted with it. 

If you want to image the night sky then you will need something on an EQ mount.......either a Newtonian reflector (the Skywatcher 130 is a popular choice), or a refractor scope like the 80ed or 120.

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Hi 'Kungfuthug' and welcome to SGL. :hello2:

Not being a 'Dob' owner, I personally think an 8inch/200mm would be your best choice. Join a loocal club/society and go to a few star-parties and see what others are using. Avoid the on-line multi-national outlets & multi-national retail stores that have them in stock, unless that is the only option available to you. If buying second-hand, take someone along with you to advise.

Get some binoculars and a photo tripod/monopod too. Great for sweeping the night-sky for possible/future targets or when someone else is looking through the 'scope and/or a "grab'n'go" fix.  :icon_salut:

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With your requirements I think you are best advised to get along to the Calgary Astro group. Looking at their events page they have a gathering for New Horizons on July 16 but that therefore may mean no scopes. It reads more like a talk: http://calgary.rasc.ca/calendar2015.htm#Jul

Seems there may be a few clubs/groups in Calgary.

A dobsonian will be simplest, however if two to view then both need to be able to use it, they are not really a scope for 2 people as handing it over can mean that it loses the object.

A powered scope needs power, sounds obvious but easily forgotten.

Not sure what to suggest, half suspect that a 150 on the equivalent of an EQ3-2 would be fair, however I would think the 150PL not the 150P as the better option, I suspect the longer focal length will be useful to you. Just suspect you cannot get one in Calgary. May be wrong as I see Canadian Telescopes sell Skywatcher.

Concerning what you will see, Moon, Saturn, Jupiter all OK when they are visible from Earth. Mars is not easy, it is small and a long way off so never really appears big and that means little detail. Just do not expect to see Martians dismantling the assorted Mars Rovers.

All scopes have advantages and disadvantages, you will get told the advantages not the disadvantages.

One of the reflector scopes of about 130mm or 127mm diameter has a focal length of 1000mm but a tube length of 480(ish) mm avoid that one. It is a Bird Jones design and when implimented on mass produced scopes it fails miserably and is troublesome. So read the scope details.

I see Calgary Astro have a 3 day BBQ coming up.

Edited by ronin

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OP's requirements:

Visual observing

Car transportable

Easy to set and use

Satisfying views of moon and planets

Will be used from a dark sky location... I'll just leave that there ;)

Low cost option preferred

All of that screams 8" Dobsonian to me. Either a SkyWatcher Skyliner 200P or an Orion XT 8 would be great choices. With solar system viewing and limited initial budget, you don't want to go up to the 10" size, the 8" will be a better fit for your requirements.

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Thanks for all of the advice... I will have to see some of these in person. I will try to get down to a shop this week

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It has to be flat enough that it won't fall over but does not have to be perfectly flat as the base usually has 3 small feet. Wet grass is much more of a problem as it could lead to blowing off the fibre board base.

Edited by happy-kat

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I use mine on a mediumish slope, the only problem I've had is falling over on my stool xD

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