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Hi. I've always loved astronomy, but never had the time to properly study and practice it. I now have two kids, 8 and 9 years old, who are both keen on science. I need some advice on buying a first telescope for around £200. I would like to take my kids to some  amateur stargazing nights where we could get some support/advice and link them up to a local club. We live between Bridport and Dorchester. Thanks.

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http://www.weymouthastronomy.co.uk/

This might be of use to you as a local reference?

I know little to nothing about telescopes except to say that £200 will get you something decent based on my limited research.

Good luck, I'm sure you will find what you are looking for on this site.

Paul

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Two aspects that you should consider are the telescope design and the mount.

Telecope design will really be deciding between a refractor, where the light is gathered through a lens, or a reflector which uses a curved mirror. Reflectors are generally cheaper to make, so you get more telescope for your money. Refractors are perhaps more what children expect telescopes to be like.

Telescopes on tripods either have simple alt-azimuth mounts where you just move the telescope up and down, left and right, or they have a more complicated Equatorial mount which allows you to follow the planets, stars etc. as they "move" accross the sky (OK, we move they don't :smiley:). Alt-azimuth mounts are probably simpler for children to set up and use on their own; an Equatorial needs to be alligned with the Pole Star. Ideally for astronomy, the tripods need to be very stable. Unfortunately this is often not the case on cheaper scopes (and a solid tripod coud also be quite heavy for children to set up as well).

The alternative to a tripod mount is a Dobsonian mount. Basically the telescope rests on a base directly on the ground, and is swiveled up, down and sideways. These are relatively cheaper to manufacture, so once again more money goes on the scope itself.

In general, the larger the aperture (size of the tube) the better a telescope performs. More light enters, giving clearer more detailed views which will also permit higher magnifications.

My recommendation in your price range would be a Reflector with an aperture of 150mm on a Dobsonian mount. This is certainly not a children's telescope - it will provide an adult with years of enjoyment. But it is so very simple to set up and use that children will have no problem with it.

This is a good scope, from a good supplier:

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

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http://www.weymouthastronomy.co.uk/

This might be of use to you as a local reference?

I know little to nothing about telescopes except to say that £200 will get you something decent based on my limited research.

Good luck, I'm sure you will find what you are looking for on this site.

Paul

http://www.weymouthastronomy.co.uk/

This might be of use to you as a local reference?

I know little to nothing about telescopes except to say that £200 will get you something decent based on my limited research.

Good luck, I'm sure you will find what you are looking for on this site.

Paul

Hi, thanks for posting the link for the Weymouth Astronomy website. It's full of excellent information and we are hoping to attend a 'beginners night'. I'll let you know how we get on.

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I suggest you visit this discussion which is specifically about getting kids involved in astronomy.

Getting Kids Involved in Astronomy - equipment recommendations and all kinds of good advice.
Getting the three of you out to the the local astronomy club is a wonderful approach.   Being around people who love astronomy will inspire them and show you that you have help in this new endeavor.
Tell us more about yourself and your kids and what you want from this telescope.
Are YOU totally new at this or have you accumulated some knowledge?
Are you looking for a manual scope or would you like a computer assisted scope that can help you find things to see?
Have you ever owned a telescope?   What do you know about them?
Where will you use this scope?
Where will you store it?  Will size and weight be a consideration?  These things can get big and heavy.
Will you want something the kids can use on their own or only when you are available?
Is this going to be your scope or their scope?
Have you considered binoculars?   I started with 10X50 binoculars
Introduction to Binoculars for Star Gazing
Seeing targets in Taurus
Choosing your first binoculars
I look forward to your answers.

Hope I'm typing in the right box. Thanks for all your guidance. It's going to take me a while to process all the information people have posted for me. I've bought the 'Skywatcher Skyliner 150P Dobsonian' that

I suggest you visit this discussion which is specifically about getting kids involved in astronomy.

Getting Kids Involved in Astronomy - equipment recommendations and all kinds of good advice.
Getting the three of you out to the the local astronomy club is a wonderful approach.   Being around people who love astronomy will inspire them and show you that you have help in this new endeavor.
Tell us more about yourself and your kids and what you want from this telescope.
Are YOU totally new at this or have you accumulated some knowledge?
Are you looking for a manual scope or would you like a computer assisted scope that can help you find things to see?
Have you ever owned a telescope?   What do you know about them?
Where will you use this scope?
Where will you store it?  Will size and weight be a consideration?  These things can get big and heavy.
Will you want something the kids can use on their own or only when you are available?
Is this going to be your scope or their scope?
Have you considered binoculars?   I started with 10X50 binoculars
Introduction to Binoculars for Star Gazing
Seeing targets in Taurus
Choosing your first binoculars
I look forward to your answers.

I hope I am typing in the right box. Thanks for all your advice.

My name is Colin and I'm 60 years old. My kids are 8 & 9. We live with my wife in rural Dorset on the south coast of England. Perfect for stargazing. I work as a handyman in our village. My kids both want to be scientists and we spend quite a bit of our spare time reading, studying science, history and maths (they love it), watching documentaries and doing loads of different sports. It's a relaxed and happy house. My kids were given a 3 month old rescue puppy today.

I am pretty new to astronomy and internet forums. It's going to take me a while to process all the information various people have posted. I have bought the Skywatcher Skyliner 150P Dobsonian that  Putaendo Patrick recommended. I'm hoping it will arrive tomorrow in the post. . I've managed to spend the occasional 10/15 minutes over the years reading a few articles and identifying the 'stand out' features like Orion, The Plough, The pole star, Venus etc. Also I have a computer application that has helped me find and identify lots of stars and planets. I've never looked through a telescope. Tonight my son and  I were looking at Pleiades with binoculars. We also got quite excited to see the Orion Nebular only to realize later we were looking at Alnilam. Can't wait for the telescope to arrive.

My daughter asked for (and got) a microscope for her 8th birthday. My boy has asked for the telescope. They share most things and will, I hope, learn to set up and use the scope on their own.

We will watch the video's you posted over the next few days and I'll let you know how we get on with the new telescope. 

Thanks for your kind support. My children are called Sonny and Ella. I will get them to read this thread.

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Congratulations! I hope you and your children will be very happy with the new scope.

I suggest you set it up in daytime first to get a quick feel of how everything works. Using the 25mm eyepiece, aim at a distant point (an antenna, church spire etc) and, keeping everything very steady, adjust the low magnification finderscope until the cross hairs centre on the same point.

When night comes, prepare for your observing by avoiding lights for about 20 minutes - this will improve your night vision. Also get or make a red light torch (just cover a regular torch with red transparent plastic or cellophane), this won't damage your night vision. At the same time, take your telescope outside and let it cool down for about 20 minutes.

There are a number of internet sites which provide a month by month guide to observing. One I enjoy for England is Manchester University/Jodrell Bank:

http://www.jb.man.ac.uk/astronomy/nightsky/

Skymaps also produce a very useful free 2 page pdf with a monthly sky map and information which you can print out:

http://www.skymaps.com/downloads.html

I don't know what computer software you have, but take a look at the free Stellarium. Set it to your location and it will show you the sky you can see from your house etc. You can also move it forward (or backward) in time to show you what will be visible at a specific time/day. Fastforwarding the program let's you see how the sky changes over a night.

Another powerful free program is the Virtual Moon Altas which gives a wide range of maps and images of the Moon.

Good luck and clear skies!

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Well hello Colin - I think you've broken the land-speed record for getting a telescope! Nice going!

As Stellarium and the venerable Virtual Moon Atlas have been - quite rightly - thrown out into the conversation, allow me to assist you in acquiring these. A bit of explanation first though.....

Stellarium is what ic known as a 'planetarium-program.' One begins by downloading it from it's website and following the prompts to install it on your computer - or more than one. Though similar software-programs out there can cost you up around £200 - Stellarium is totally FREE. And it's easily one of the best, and most detailed. To begin with it will need you to enter your location and time. And it will show you a very realistic view of your nighttime sky - unless it's daytime. But you'll get to that.

Now the fun begins. Reading the directions, you can populate the sky with whatever is up there: Stars, planets, galaxies, nebulae, asteroids, comets - even artificial satellites. All accurately portrayed. And clicking on an object will bring up detailed information on all these goodies. It can take one anywhere from 10 minutes to 10 days to set it up and learn all about what it can do. One of the developer's is a member here. The directions are online in Wiki (as new functions are added on an almost daily basis), as well as a near up-to-date Pdf. file.

So here we go. Here are the links to download Stellarium, and the Wiki and Pdf:

http://www.stellarium.org/
 
As for instructions, the most current one's are posted in Wiki due to their being new features & functions being created almost daily. There is also a Pdf. that's almost up-to-date. Here's the Wiki-Link:
 
http://www.stellarium.org/wiki/index.php/Stellarium_User_Guide

Click on image for full-size.
 
And the Pdf. is here:
 
http://barry.sarcasmogerdes.com/stellarium/stellarium_user_guide-new.pdf

This should take care of you for awhile! :p

Now for the Virtual Moon Atlas. This is one of the best "roadmaps to the Moon." Also free-of-charge:

http://sourceforge.net/projects/virtualmoon/

If my Flying-Saucer ever crashed on the Moon, this would be my first pick to help me find my way about.

And on that note, I'll leave a screenshot of how my copy of Stellarium is set up.

Clear and dark skies,

Dave

post-38438-0-37276900-1451879654_thumb.p

Click on image for full-size.

Edited by Dave In Vermont

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It might be worth pointing out that you can make Stellarium a lot less complicated than Dave's screenshot above, and this can be very helpful when you're starting out and it seems like there is just too much information.

Another feature of Stellarium that I enjoy is superimposing the "antique" imagery of the Constellations, so you see a sky populated with mythological beings. You can do this not only for the European tradition, but also for Chinese, Arabic, and a whole range of other cultures. Maybe a bit less scientific and a bit more romantic!

Clicking on the sextant in the botton tool bar will highlight the principal navigational stars (used mainly by sailors) - as most of these are quite prominent and have names, it's an interesting way to learn your way around the night sky.

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Patrick is quite right about Stellarium - mine is set for my standards - which are pretty complex. It begins after you enter your location with a simple screen with a few stars. Then you can begin adding things like coordinates, galaxies, all the whistles & bells my screenshot reveals. Don't be scared off by crazy ol' me! :p

And it can also be toggled to show many different cultures' sky-characters and names for the stars. I often set mine for Lakota - an American Indian tribe I'm part-blood with. Many, many others are available.

Enjoy one of the greatest freebies on the web!

Dave

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Brilliant advice for setting up both you're scope and laptop there. I will be downloading the moon atlas myself for those nights where the moon gets in the way of dimmer targets. I heartily reccomend Stellarium as a newbie myself ( this is just my 2nd season ) and can honestly say the 150 will give you and the kids plenty to keep you occupied - i started with a 150 myself ( on an eq mount ) and recently bought a 2nd hand 12" dob. Happy searching

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I'm sorry it's taken me so long to reply to some seriously informative support. I was a bit shocked at the size of the Skyliner 150p Dobsonian telescope. I didn't read the specs' before I purchased it as I was certain you guys knew your stuff. Anyway, it turns out to be perfect for our needs. This being England the rain has been pretty incessant for the past month and I only managed to get the finder scope set up properly this afternoon. I live in a dip in a valley and had to drive the scope a mile or so to a nearby hill. We managed to get a good look at the newish moon this evening. Wows all round.  I need to read up on the instructions more to better understand how to get the best out of the scope and it's lenses. I'm in the process of downloading  the Virtual Moon Atlas as I type.

 

I have been using  Stellarium for about six months now and better understand it's features and potential every time I get spare 15 minutes to consult it. I'm pretty sure I can get a good view of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars over the next few weeks. I don't know who is more excited, me or the kids.

To top it all off the  headline news this evening is that Einstein's 100 year old prediction of gravitational waves and the warping of space-time have been confirmed by the LIGO project. I'm a novice astronomer  and barely get the gist of the science, but I know it's a really big deal.

Putaendo Patrick, Dave from Vermont, aeajr, Hayzi111, Beerme, Mak The Night and BeanerSA. Thanks. You got us off to a brilliant start.

 

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