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Absolutebeginner

Christmas Present for my 13 year old...

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...here's the context.

My son is very keen on all things astronomical and would like a telescope for Christmas.

What he would like to be able to do (in no particular order) is:

  • see the rings and maybe moons around Saturn;
  • the patterns and possibly even the great red spot on Jupiter; and
  • the Moon, stars, Milky Way and some of the other planets (Venus, Mars) in a bit more detail.

He won't be taking pictures, just looking. And from home, so no real lugging equipment cross-country. There is some light pollution where we live but not a great deal.

I have an absolute maximum budget of £150.

Now, I know from my very limited experience on this and other sites that (a) this question comes up regularly (so, apologies for asking it AGAIN) and (B) that every time it does, the replies get very technical, very quickly!

So, what I'd really like is a reply (or replies) which simply say 'buy this one...' or 'chose between these two...' because as soon as the conversation gets into dobs and filters and EQs and all the other technical stuff, an Absolutebeginner like me just gets horribly, horribly confused!

Here's hoping that's not too much of a big ask...?!

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This scope should do for most of the things he wants to see ( the Great Red Spot will be a little harder to view);

http://www.firstlightoptics.com/startravel/skywatcher-mercury-705.html

The stand is nice and sturdy and won't wobble about. I used it in the winds we had the other night and It barely moved at all, and that was with a larger 120mm reflector on the mount too. With the £50 you save you can buy maybe another eyepiece to compliment the scope, and a good book on astronomy too.

Crucially, if he ever wants to upgrade to a larger scope then he could just get the new scope as an optical tube assembly only without the stand, and it will fit on the AZ3 stand quite easily still.

Edited by Knighty2112
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Maybe a Celestron Astromaster 90EQ. Wex photographic have them at £149.

Peter

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Maybe a Celestron Astromaster 90EQ. Wex photographic have them at £149.

Peter

I hate to say it as I have two Celestron telescopes (a 70mm astromasterAZ scope and a 130mm Astromaster eq), but the big thing that really lets these scopes down is the awful Starfinder attached to them, which is absolutely horrible to use. You can just about get the moon in view OK with it, but anything else is a chore. The first thing I did with both of my scopes was take it off and attach a better viewfinder to them. The red dot finder still has its own drawbacks yes, but is much easier to use that the Starfinder on the Celestron's.

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As with all things - you get what you pay for. Also it should be pointed out that you can get a good used equipment from various sources. Astroboot is worth a look too.

Peter

Edited by PeterCPC
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I also like the simple easy to use AZ3 tripod.

Following on from the Mercury 705 suggestion this telescope on the same mount is 90mm so gathers more light and will I expect be even better on the Moon (I have not used one). £135

http://www.firstlightoptics.com/evostar/skywatcher-evostar-90-az3.html

These telescopes are refractors and look like a telescope your son might expect and are easy too use and can give some really lovely views. The 705 will give a wider field of view when looking through it the evostar will take higher magnificton but has a narrower field of view.

To compare this telescope has larger light gathering and comes on a simple wood based mount (the mount is still left right up down movements) which means more of the price goes on the mirror in the telescope which 130mm is size gathers loads more light. Can either put it on a table or an upturned bucket to use though I have also used it with it sat on the floor.

http://www.firstlightoptics.com/beginner-telescopes/skywatcher-heritage-130p-flextube.html

Edited by happy-kat

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My son is the same age as your son. He too asked for a telescope for christmas (which is how I got into this whole caper). I decided to pool the money that we, my parents, and the in-laws would spend, and came up with AU$400 (~GBP190). I then did my research, and found that a 6" SkyWatcher dob fitted the bill. I made sure he understood the limitations and weaknesses of the scope. We went out to a Star Party at the local astro society, which only served to bolster our confidence over the decision. We haven't looked back. If you can find a second hand 6" (or 8") or can stretch the budget for a new one, I can highly recommend it. We have seen all the things on your checklist, and so much more.

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Thank you all for your prompt and really helpful responses. I have internet shopping to do! And, actually, once we get it, I can see me using it as much as he will ('cos I stay up a lot later!).

Thanks again. Appreciated...

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Is the focal length of those scopes high enough to see detail in Jupiter and rings of Saturn? I can't with a 20mm ep in my 1500mm FL maksutov. Although my eyes are a bit rubbish, maybe a 13 yr old has superman vision compared to me.

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Seeing that Saturn has rings is one thing and virtually all scopes and even some binoculars, when steadily mounted, will do that. Seeing detail in the ring system, such as the Cassini Division, is a much tougher challenge and becomes dependant on a number of factors such as the quality of the seeing conditions as well as the scope being used.

Likewise with Jupiter, most scopes will show it's 2 main cloud bands and, when they are placed suitably, the 4 bright Gallilean moons. Seeing more subtle details such as further cloud bands, the Great Red Spot and other features is somewhat more challenging.

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This website will give a rough idea of what you might see given perfect conditions

http://www.12dstring.me.uk/fovcalc.php

Whilst you might see colour on solar system objects you won't on DSOs so don't go by the colour photos too much. Not putting you off OP, just want to make sure your sons expectations match what the budget will provide.

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What he would like to be able to do (in no particular order) is:

  • see the rings and maybe moons around Saturn;
  • the patterns and possibly even the great red spot on Jupiter; and
  • the Moon, stars, Milky Way and some of the other planets (Venus, Mars) in a bit more detail.

You should be able to see the rings of Saturn at around 70x magnification quite easily. The Great Red Spot of Jupiter may be a little harder to define until you get to around 130-150x in my experience, depending on conditions. The last time I saw the GRS was at dusk (June) with a 130mm telescope and at first around 145x. You'll see the phases of Venus at around 50x or even lower. The Moon is spectacular at 150-200x, but you will get some really great views at 50-75x. You don't need fantastic magnifications for sweeping starfields/Milky Way as the aperture size is more important than magnification. Unlike the Moon and planets a star will only ever be a point of light. Some nebulas, like the one in Orion, and globular clusters of stars are easily seen with the naked eye and look brilliant at anything around 50x to 100x.

http://www.firstlightoptics.com/maksutov/skywatcher-skymax-90-eq1.html

http://www.firstlightoptics.com/heritage/skywatcher-heritage-90-virtuoso.html

These two telescopes should easily reach magnifications that will enable him to see the things he wants. The first has an equatorial mount though, but they aren't too difficult to assemble and operate. EQ mounts aren't very intuitive to use however. The second can just be placed on a convenient table.

http://www.firstlightoptics.com/beginner-telescopes/skywatcher-explorer-130.html

I'll also recommend the Sky-Watcher Explorer, it's a 5.1 inch/130mm telescope and may be a bit big for a thirteen year old, but it's an inexpensive telescope that is superb for what it is.

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Of course, being able to see objects like the rings of Saturn at a particular magnification will depend on such variables as elevation, weather conditions and light pollution. I live in the greenbelt and light pollution isn't a huge problem. To the south, west and north of me after a couple of streets it is basically woodland or farmland. My back garden has trees which can block any errant street lamps. I viewed Saturn in early June at 19° at transit and I could quite easily and plainly see the rings at around 87x with a 102mm Mak. The Cassini division was visible after I doubled that magnification with a Barlow. In the autumn/winter the Milky Way (weather permitting lol) is quite breathtaking with just the naked eye.

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#2 recommendation - Floor standing - If you decide you can stretch the budget this is a 6", 150 mm  -£ 175 - Plenty of aperture and very very stable.

http://www.firstlightoptics.com/beginner-telescopes/skywatcher-skyliner-150p-dobsonian.html

I think this is the best recommendation so far. It is very simple to use and has the largest diameter of all the scopes referred to above. More diameter (more commonly referred to as aperture) allows more light to be gathered and therefore allows clearer images to be seen and higher magnification to be used. The other feature of this telescope that surpasses the others is its focal length (in simple terms that is the distance the light has to travel through the telescope to reach the eyepiece). The longer the focal length, the more magnification you can achieve. You need quite high magnification to see the things you want your son to see such as the great red spot or clear views of Saturn's rings.

I think some of the other telescopes recommended above would be fantastic, but I think this one would give your son better views of a wider range of observable objects and would therefore extend the time before he becomes frustrated and wants an upgrade.

You mention an absolute ceiling of £150. This scope is £175. But you also mention that you will use it when the lad is tucked up in bed so the extra £25 can be considered your Christmas present to yourself :wink:

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To repeat a point I made earlier, you don't need much magnfication to see that Saturn has a ring system. 20x is enough. To see detail and structure in that ring system requires more resolution which in turn requres some aperture, good conditions, a trained eye, more magnification and spending some time at the eyepiece.

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An observation - in the 70s I struggled with my 2" reflector on a mount I wouldn't use to prop up a fishing rod.

The quality and capability of what you can get for relatively modest outlay today is outstanding, I doubt that any of the suggestions above will fail to thrill your son (and you).

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I'm with Spock and Pip on this one. 

Skywatcher Heritage 130P

Its a great scope and delivers really nice views of the objects your son wants to see......and more.

Edited by LukeSkywatcher

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This is true but seeing that it has a ring system and what people would like to see is different.   I would put that at 60X minimum and, in my opinion, it really doesn't start to look good till you get over 120X.   200X would not be too much, if you have enough aperture to support that.

Not trying to create an argument, just talking about reasonable expectation.   You can certainly tell there are rings at 20X but they don't look like much.

In your earlier post you said " You would need a minimum of a 2X  barlow to get to see the rings". You don't need a barlow or high power to see the rings. We could have a lengthy discussion about what "seeing the rings" might mean but I suspect that won't be too fruitful a contribution to this thread :smiley:

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In my Heritage 130p at 60x with the provided 10mm eyepiece I could clearly see that Saturn had a separate ring, the planet was tiny but I could clearly see that it was Saturn with it's ring.

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In your earlier post you said " You would need a minimum of a 2X  barlow to get to see the rings". You don't need a barlow or high power to see the rings. We could have a lengthy discussion about what "seeing the rings" might mean but I suspect that won't be too fruitful a contribution to this thread :smiley:

Saw the rings in my 10x50s. Well. I saw a slightly elongatged brown dot. But it was elongated in the right direction to be the rings.

Does that count?

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Ive seen Saturn and its rings in anything from a 70mm Travelscope up to a 200mm SCT (and even with 20x90 bins). The ring system is visible with pretty much any aperture scope............but how its appears is a completely different thing. The one thing you know when you have seen Saturn (and ring system) is that you have seen Saturn (and ring system). You certainly dont need a 2x barlow to see it.............unless the only eyepiece you own is something like a 40mm.

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