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Complete newbie! Help needed please.


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Hi I have an 'about to turn' 7 yr old son who has always been fascinated by the stars and planets and always wanted a telescope. This year for Xmas the only thing on his list to santa was a telescope. I was advised by a man in Currys to buy a Meade Polaris 76 EQ which was £100 on special offer. Neither my husband nor I have a clue how to work it and are doing our best. We managed to focus on a star last night and it became 'just a bigger light' as my son said. Are we expecting huge things that this telescope can not deliver? Or are we just not using it correctly? We haven't been able to see the moon at all from our house since Christmas to check that.

I guess the question is have we made a mistake buying a telescope for a 7yr old? Or have we just bought the wrong one? Thanks xx

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The question is a tricky one. My opinion is that you haven't necessarily purchased the 'wrong scope'. It sounds like you are all beginners and that may be frustrating for you all. Also important is the expectation of the 7 year old. If the expectation is to see things as portrayed in TV or in magazines then that doesn't happen with any earth bound telescope. One suggestion from me is to check on this forum for local clubs and perhaps take your son and his scope along to a meeting. In that way you will get the best first hand advice. Trying to help you from a distance may prove difficult. I hope it works out.

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The question is a tricky one. My opinion is that you haven't necessarily purchased the 'wrong scope'. It sounds like you are all beginners and that may be frustrating for you all. Also important is the expectation of the 7 year old. If the expectation is to see things as portrayed in TV or in magazines then that doesn't happen with any earth bound telescope. One suggestion from me is to check on this forum for local clubs and perhaps take your son and his scope along to a meeting. In that way you will get the best first hand advice. Trying to help you from a distance may prove difficult. I hope it works out.

Very much +1 for Owmuchonomy's advice. A club is a great way to help you get started.

Stars will only ever appear as points of light, even in the best scopes. If you try Jupiter, you may find it much more worthwhile for a 7 year old. I would suggest downloading Stellarium to help you locate it (at the moment it's an object visible early morning). Another nice object is the Orion Nebula which, at the moment is a good evening target. Again, Stellarium will help you find it.

Hope your 7 year old gets hooked and with any luck, you will too!

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Welcome to SGL Poppy :)

The scope is a beginner scope so it's not the most sophisticated - but you should nevertheless be able to get some half decent magnification on the moon (better than binoculars). Observing the moon is best when it's either crescent or gibbous - a full moon is too bright and makes one's eye ache.

I've seen this scope in store and even on TV adverts and it's always set up upside down lol. So make sure the open end (where the eyepieces slot in) is at the top and the mirror end is at the bottom. The weights should be on a bar which points downwards directly at the floor and pointed roughly North.

Us only the 26mm eyepiece at first till you get used to how it operates (don't use the 6.3mm or barlow lens). You'll find a "finder" of some description on the top next to the eyepiece holder. I can't quite make out the type of finder from the pictures but there should be two adjusters on it which move the target sight up/down and left/right. This needs lining up with the center of the view in the eyepiece. Best to line it up in daylight first so it's ready for night time.

The two cables move the scope in right ascension and declination which facilitates manual tracking of the night sky objects whilst the tripod stays pointing North. This is a most unnatural movement at first - but eventually you get the hang of it.

You will need to find the moon using the finder, then focus the telescope on it by inserting the eyepiece and turning the focus wheel which moves it in/out. Focus is usually somewhere half way in/out of the drawtube. So you will have to move it from fully in - slowly outwards till you reach focus. You'll recognise the focus point because the bright light you see in the eyepiece will eventually get smaller and smaller till you start seeing moon detail (craters etc) quite sharply.

Do try that and come back here to ask more questions if you're still having problems. Hope that helps and good luck :)

Edited by brantuk
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My main concern, not really major, is that a reflector on an EQ mount is not necessarily intuitive for a nearly 7 year old to use and aim, and impatience can set in fast. May have to explain that it could take some practise for them to get the hang of it all. Look at it this way, I have a small goto with L/R/U/D buttons to move the thing and after 15 years I get it wrong every time.

Stars remain points of light no matter what scope you have, so that might explain that but not sure what a "bigger light" means. If focused then it should remain a point but brighter. Unless you search out double stars (Albireo, Mizar, Almmak +) then usually stars come somewhat down the list of viewing objects. I still like looking at Betelguese, Aldebaran (the red ones) etc, just me.

I wonder if the Meade 70mm refractor that Curry's sell (£79) also may have been slightly better - much the same diameter and a little more intuitive concerning point at things.

Clubs: http://www.astronomyclubs.co.uk/

Maybe put the town you are into your signature, just a bit easier to suggest places then Essex. Sometimes find that hopping over to Hertford is an easier option for some people.

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Don't be disheartened. I'm not familiar with your model of telescope, but the "Wow!" moments don't come from single stars (in general). The moon for example is spectacular to view, even with modest equipment. I'm amazed by it even just with binoculars. Even with modest equipment you can see some impressive stuff including star clusters, galaxies, although admittedly some of the excitement is in learning about what you're looking at rather than being dazzled by Hubble style views.

As a starter, try the moon, the Pleiades, the planets, M31 (the Andromeda Galaxy), Albireo. These were some of the things that got me hooked. Ask on here if you're not sure where to find them!

My own kids (a little younger than yours) love hearing a bit about what they're looking at (to spark their imagination) before they see it.

Good luck. It's well worth persevering.

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Have you still got all the bits of packaging and boxes? If so i would go along with the suggestion that you swap the eq version for the az version. Far easier to use for a 7 yr old.

Take it back and do a swap.

+1 for visiting a local astronomy club and also for downloading sdtellarium.

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I agree, an equatorial takes some setting up, if you set it up wrong then it becomes difficult to use. It might be better to swap it for an alt/az version. If you decide to keep it then the axis of the polar mount needs to point north or as close to north as you can get it.

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Thank goodness it's not a Bird-Jones reflector.

The all-important primary mirror is spherical, but the telescope should perform satisfactorily at its focal-ratio/focal-length.  It's a Newtonian, and will require collimation on occasion, and even checked initially...   

http://www.astro-baby.com/collimation/astro%20babys%20collimation%20guide.htm

If the kit did not come with a collimation cap... http://www.firstlightoptics.com/other-collimation-tools/rigel-aline-collimation-cap.html

There's nothing wrong with learning how to use an equatorial.  It's a little more involved, but never insurmountable.

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  • 1 month later...

I'm baffled as to why Currys would sell a relatively sophisticated telescope to anybody beginning without establishing there level of knowledge. I'm not saying that it is wrong to be thrown in at the deep end but at least give yourself the chance to come up for air.

I saw Saturn through a 90 mm reflector on a very shaky tripod & was hooked for life. If I had been given your type of telescope I doubt if I could have even pointed it in the right direction without help. You will need some help with this instrument from a local astronomy support group.

A good pair of binoculars would be of more benefit at this stage than an equatorially mounted telescope. I bet the sales assistant did not have a clue what was being sold & the intended audience. Not wishing to dampen your enthusiasm but I would take the telescope back to the shop & swap it for a less sophisticated very wide field model- you would at least get a feel for the sky & be able to weigh up your options for the future.

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