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Help (Again) Choosing First Scope


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Hi All,

 

I am still trying to find my first scope and can’t figure out what to do.  I have asked on this forum before and been redirected towards other scopes and researched many other places as well.  Some of the advice I have found is:

 

-Buy the biggest Dob you can afford

-Don’t get a EQ mount because they are too difficult for beginners

-DO get an EQ mount because they make it easy to track planets

-Don’t get any tripod/scope combo under $300 because the mount is junk

-Don’t spend too much on your first scope in case it’s never used

-Don’t spend under $300-$400 because they are junk under that

-Don’t get a reflector because collimation is a deterrent for beginners

-Don’t get a reflector because of cool down time

-Do get a tabletop for grab and go ease

-Don’t get a table top because they are almost certain to be unsteady unless the table is steel

-Do get a goto because it makes it easier for beginner

-Don’t get a goto as a beginner because you don’t learn how to find anything

 

Most of this advice seems to be contradictive.  Any help on which is true?

 

 

*****************

What I’m looking for:

 

-Budget around $200 (maybe little higher), increased from $150 earlier

-Not terrestrial at all

-See planets clearly and ability to track (whether that’s skill with AZ, EQ mount, or goto)

-Maybe DSOs one day, but not as much priority

 

 

My background info:

 

-Live in a suburb with moderate light pollution

-Plan to “sometimes” go to rural/mountainous areas with little/no light pollution

-I plan to use it mostly in my back yard which is not flat

-I don’t care about weight/size.  I can lift a reasonable amount and have a big truck cab

-I have used 7x35 binoculars and dislike that I have to lie on the ground or crane my neck

-My wife would prefer a refractor for looks (Not sure how much weight this has.)  I don’t care

-In addition, I plan to buy a Celestron 70mm refractor go-scope for air travel ($55)

 

 

*****************

Scopes I am looking at and my concerns:

 

Refractors:

-Orion Starblast 90eq…$199…(list $260)

 

-Celestron Astromaster 90eq…$202…(list $290)

Mixed reviews dealing with ability to use EQ and ability for mount to hold steady

CG-3 mount

Reviews say it’s too big to move around

 

Reflectors:

-Orion Starblast 4.5eq…$199…(list $260)

Smallest aperture in group

Comes with motor drive

EQ-1 mount

 

-Celestron Astromaster 130eq…$195…(list$280)

Someone suggested the mount is more solid than Orion

CG-3 mount

Motor is $30 extra but gets bad reviews

 

Dobsonian:

-AWB Dob 130…$200

Really don’t want to wait 3 months for back order

Don’t really like the idea of table top

 

-Meade Lightbright mini 130…$200

Not many reviews and not much info

Don’t really like the idea of table top

 

 

Not sure I would consider these because of price, but for completeness. 

-Sky Watcher 6”…$290…(list $375)

-Sky Watcher 8”…$330…(list $402)

 

 

 

I was leaning towards the refractors for their ease of use and potentially clearer images of the planets, but the mounts scare me and that may not be the case.  The reflectors seem like a good in between of the refractors and Dobs given that I wouldn’t have to sit on the ground and it could track and its light weight. 

 

 

So finally to some questions:

 

-Could all of these scopes be considered equal quality as far as optics?

-Are eye pieces considered equal quality across these scopes?

-Are the Orion EQ-1 mount and Celestron CG-3 mount equal quality or is one superior?

-Are motor drives worth anything on these “cheaper” mounts?

 -If I went for a Dob, how difficult is it to track planets for a beginner?

-Should I consider a goto? Or is the smaller aperture in the $200 range not worth the goto? (Meade ETX-80, $240)

-Is there another scope I should be considering in the $200 range?

-If I plan to buy a travel refractor scope, would a 90mm refractor give me much more? (Obviously a much longer tube, and sturdier mount…maybe higher quality optics?)

 

 

Thanks for your help!

Curtis

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Wow, loads of answers to the above depending on who you speak to. As a relative newbie myself I can recommend the following that would give you a great start:

An Orion 150p (or 200p) Dob. They are Skywatcher over here but guess you would get the equivalent. I have the 150. Manual Dob base but that isn't an issue for visual - you just find your target and you're set. If it's a planet (say Jupiter) and you up the mag to around 200x you will get a great view but will need to nudge it to keep it in view. I don't find this an issue though. If you go for other mounts or GOTO you will be spending money on that rather then the scope so a Dob is a great start I've found (I actually have two if you count my Firstscope). It will also mean you have to learn your way around the sky which is part of the fun for me. It will give you good views of other things like DSO's as well. A Dob is a good choice.

I also have a refractor (a Skywatcher ST80) I guess Orion again there. A smashing little scope which is brill for travel and grab and go. I've also started some basic photography with that as well which may be of interest for you.

Hope this helps although it is very much a personal choice and based around what you would like to see. Most people here have several as each does something different ?

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I can feel for the tug to and fro.

Me Î would go for the Meade xt80 and don't bother getting the travelscope. For airtravel get/use a tripod for the refractor (i assume the meade refractor will come off the goto).

Included eyepieces are much a muchness I think.

If the hobby bites there will always be other telescopes. Right now go with what would get used the most now and later.

Binoculars you need to slouch in a chair or lie down, standing is always going to hurt.

Edit: but if I could choose totally I would go for a skymax 127mm on supatrak mount

Edited by happy-kat
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Welcome to SGL Curtis. :)

Yes those bits of advice are all correct. What you need to do is put them all in context for what you want to do with a scope. And you probably don't at this stage know what you want to do nor the benefits/disadvantages of each scope/mount type.

What I can say is - no scope or mount is too difficult for a beginner - so long as you recognise you're a beginner and set your expectations accordingly. Patience and learning is the key. As for advice - if you want to do imaging then an EQ mount is essential - and a good one too - you'll be tracking objects thousands of light years away and fitting them onto a several million pixel camera - all from a spinning planet.

If you want to just look into space - then a dob is the most cost effective and you should get the largest one you can comfortably afford and handle. It's alt/az mounted and locating and tracking is easier the larger you go - but you'll have to find stuff manually. Imaging planets get a Mak, an Sct, or a long focal length refractor. Imaging DSO's get a short tube wide field refractor or a Newtonian with a fast focal ratio. For imaging a goto system will be more convenient, but you can get goto dobs as well for observing.

These are general advice points - others will have varying suggestions - but remember glass is more costly than mirrors, and electronics are dearer than manual mounts. Hope that helps, but can't help feeling you may be more confused now lol :)

 

Edited by brantuk
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There are several options at the $200 entry point, so don't be put of by people who say you must spend a fortune. However, also remember you won't be getting anything super fantastic or appropriate for serious photography.

If you opt for a tripod mount, I personally would go for an Alt-Az version, with simple up-down left-right controls. Cheaper Equatorials (which follow the course of the stars) do tend to be shaky and fiddly.

Ultimately the main purpose of a telescope is to gather light, so the bigger the diameter of the tube (aperture) is better. Reflectors which use mirrors are cheaper to make which often means you get more telescope for your money.

Remember that motors, go-tos etc change the price ratio and diminish the amount spent on the telescope itself. I would forget motors, but go-to is an option which depends on your observing style. Many people, like me, enjoy the more manual approach to finding objects; others prefer the faster approach of a computer.

The supplied eyepieces work, but especially with the higher magnification one, they leave quite a lot to be desired. Sooner or later you will want to upgrade them.

I don't know if I would buy the travel scope as well - if you were to buy a better short tube refractor (100-110mm), I think you could travel with it easily as well as using it as your main scope. Better binoculars might be another way to go.

But if you can stretch a little further to a 6 inch, or even an 8 inch Dob, you will undoubtedly have a telescope with much more growing potential. A refelector on a Dob mount is by far the most economical combination.

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........asking others what's  best will always open a can of worms for you?

A Celestron 127EQ Powerseeker was on sale about 2 Hours drive away, came with some decent  astronomy books too, I liked what I saw, paid the money and left.
Back then,  I knew very little about telescopes, but enough to know how to set-up and operate. This particular scope turned out to be a poor choice for me!. Yes it gave me my first look at the Moon, and I remember seeing my first Jupiter image ( no detail), but nothing else about this scope was fun or enjoyable to use,  the image was poor, the continual adjustments of locking/Unlocking  to change to a new target was just frustrating, some of the issues you mention above.
It quickly became apparent that I needed something else so I invested in the Skyliner ( within 10 Days I believe!), as per my signature, the rest is history. I just want to look, and this scope works for me.

Had the 127EQ  given better,  larger images, I may still have been using the scope to this day?
The Skyliner images of Jupiter however are much better,  but not as perfect as I would like?  Given what I own and use now, if only this system could produce an image in the eyepiece that is twice the size it is now, I would be more than happy, but this is down to the scope itself and the physics of how an image is formed. What I`m saying here is, that if I were using my 6mm eyepiece at 200x or my 8mm at 150x power, I just wish the images they produced were twice the size they are now, this is my only gripe about the Skyliner. I'd need a bigger scope to achieve this requirement, That said, from a dark site, this telescope lives up to its reputation as being a great scope.

Enjoy your continued search for the right  telescope set-up?

Whatever  opinion or  recommendations  you read,  be they  right or wrong,  will  always differ between the end users, quite often based on  their experience. Your experience will vary too,  but  your time will come.

Edited by Charic
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Thanks all for more inputs.  More information is always better.  I just hope I process it correctly.

 

I looked for some used telescopes that fit your advice and expanded my search area from what I looked at before.  I came upon some decent finds.  I may just go used route. 

 

I found:

Orion Starblast 4.5eq - $100 - (new $200)

Orion SpaceProbe 130st eq - $150 - (new $300)

Orion SkyQuest xt4.5 (with dust cover and 2 extra EPs) - $225 - (new $280+$50+EPs)

 

I may end up going with one of these.  They are all decent deals assuming they work.  The SpaceProbe 130 is the most off of new price but it's 1 hr away. The 4.5" Dob comes with more accessories and might be easy to move around and is only 10 min away. 

 

Is the 4.5" Dob really any better than the 5.1" or 4.5" Newtonian/eq mount?

 

 

Thanks,

Curtis

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.......knowing what I know now, I would choose the largest aperture for my requirements, that's the 130mm 5"  for visual use, but I would avoid using an EQ mount.
The Dobsonian would still be my preferred scope, but I would recommend a 150mm 6" scope as a minimum aperture! Too small an aperture, and you'll soon be upgrading again. A 150mm or more is ideal, providing you have good dark skies.

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On 10 February 2016 at 21:19, Charic said:

.......knowing what I know now, I would choose the largest aperture for my requirements, that's the 130mm 5"  for visual use, but I would avoid using an EQ mount.
The Dobsonian would still be my preferred scope, but I would recommend a 150mm 6" scope as a minimum aperture! Too small an aperture, and you'll soon be upgrading again. A 150mm or more is ideal, providing you have good dark skies.

Spot on

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You'd get the most optical enjoyment out of this for $200...

http://www.telescopes.com/products/zhumell-z130-portable-altazimuth-reflector-telescope

Orion's 4.5" f/4 would be riddled with coma, and the 4.5" f/8 would have a narrow field-of-view.  Pass them by.  The EQ-1 is not up to handling ANY telescope within reason.  An EQ-2 is the barest minimum in an equatorial for the smaller telescopes.

You may not like the fact that the Zhumell Z130 is a tabletop, but the optical tube is removable and you could save up for a traditional alt-azimuth mount for it...

http://www.highpointscientific.com/explore-scientific-twilight-i-mount-tripod-maz01-00?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cse&utm_term=EXS-MAZ01-00&gclid=CJCzo6zE8soCFY4lgQodFxgO4w

 

Of the used kits that you listed, the Orion SpaceProbe 130ST EQ would be the best of the three.

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Thanks for the inputs all.

 

Thanks Alan!  That's the most specific answer I have received.  So you are from NOLA?  That's a fun city.  I lived in Shreveport for 4 years and went down south every year for Carnival.

 

The seller offered to drop the price to $100 for the Orion SpaceProbe 130st eq. So I'm definitely leaning that way.  But now I found an Orion xt6 for $225 that is 2 hours away.  Now I have to decide if I want to drive 1 hour for $100/130st or 2 hours for $225/xt6...

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No, I'm not from New Orleans, and have never been there.

Sometimes seeing the two together can help to decide...

  n10061_5.jpg     71eNJpKjMZL._SY355_.jpg

 

Consider only the optical tubes.  The 5" f/5 on the EQ-2 offers wide-field deep-space performance; whilst the 6" f/8 Dobsonian would lean more towards the higher magnifications associated with lunar and planetary observations, along with narrower-field deep-sky.

A 32mm eyepiece would give about the lowest practical magnification with most any telescope.  The focal-length of the 5" f/5 is 650mm; that of the 6" f/8 is 1200mm...

650mm ÷ 32mm = 19x, and binocular-like; for scanning the Milky Way in summer, and observing the galaxy in Andromeda and the Pleiades in winter.

1200mm ÷ 32mm = 38x, and almost twice the magnification.  That would generally be the lowest power available with the 6" f/8 Dobsonian.

On the flip-side, a wider-field 6mm eyepiece would give about the highest practical magnification...

650mm ÷ 6mm = 108x, and ample in observing the Moon and planets.  By combining the 6mm with a 2x barlow, a simulated 3mm is realised: 216x.

1200mm ÷ 6mm = 200x, but there would be little to no benefit in barlowing a 6mm with a 6" f/8.

The 5" f/5 optical tube would be more versatile in observing most everything, and is essentially the same as that of the Zhumell Z130.  If in better to like-new condition, the SpaceProbe's 5" f/5 optical tube alone would be worth $100.  You'd then have enough left over to get at least one better-quality eyepiece; and you wouldn't have to drive as far, although gas is cheaper at present.  Likewise, you could transfer the tube to another mount in future. 

The reflective, aluminum coatings on mirrors deteriorate over time, but they can be stripped and re-coated for a reasonable cost.

That said, by purchasing the Zhumell Z130, you wouldn't have to drive anywhere, and it would be new, with new mirrors, unused and with a warranty.  The included 10mm and 17mm eyepieces are old-school Kellners, and should be of decent quality.  You would want to replace them in time, perhaps.

 

I have the 5" f/5 Newtonian's larger brother, the next size up: a 6" f/5, and on a traditional alt-azimuth mount...

56beadaca746e_6f5z3.jpg.83b200c8a4b3bc49 

I prefer the f/5 focal-ratio in the smaller Newtonians; the shorter tube, the portability, and the observational versatility.  You might, too.

Edited by Alan64
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On 09/02/2016 at 19:55, capncurt86 said:

Hi curtis, I am also a beginner and had my scope for about 1 week. I wasnt sure whether to spend £270 on an 8inch dobsonion or spend less on a smaller aperture eq mounted scope to start off with. I went for the skywatcher explorer 130m eq2 for £165, which went against quite a lot of advice. I found that once I had gone through the trouble of learning the equatorial mounting, (which is a great learning curve when your scope arrives) I feel a lot more competent. I feel now that not only do I have a very good telescope for viewing the planets, but I have a scope which wasnt too much money, I can easily take it outside whenever I want. I found that observing the moon required constant tracking, which is very easy on this eq2 mount in comparison to the dobsonion. It is also taller, if you live in a built up area and need to see over fences or a roof, the eq mount will be more useful once again. A dobsonion is more sturdy and will allow for a more stable deep sky image (so i believe), which is why when I upgrade to a larger aperture, I will look at a 10 inch flextube dobs (a good value upgrade id say). Probably Goto, simply because you have no setting circles to help you with a dobsonion and you need to find the object with the finder scope every time. Also, I think a goto dobs is a great value for that size aperture compared to a large eq mount.

So now I would have my 5.1inch eq2 (more likely to be used due to size and weight, plus it was only 165 quid anyhow) , a 10 inch dobs (for full on deep sky sessions on those special monthly trips to a dark sky spot) then using the experience gained from learning an eq mount I would find it a little easier to move into astrophotography in maybe 3-4 years (time to save money for a decent ap scope).

Good luck, adam

P.s another reason I wouldnt go all out on a $300 dobs to start out is that you just might not like it, or use it enough. 

Edited by Adamchiv
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Hello!

Choosing your first scope is not an easy task. Yes, advice can be quite contradictive, since different people have different opinons. It's a good thing to have lots of different opinions to weigh against each other, but in the end, it's you that have to make the final decision. When I got really hooked on astronomy I spent more than a year with binoculars and enjoyed it very much (still use them frequently). I read that you don't like using binos. However a lounger/reclainer will help with uncomfortable view positions. Anyway, when I finally decided to get a scope, I picked a fairly cheap one to get a feel for if a scope REALLY was the way to go for me, or if liked binos better. The scope in question (after reaing lots and lots of advice and opinios) was the Skywatcher Heritage 130P. I was worried about collimation, but it actually wasn't that hard. I'm glad I got that little scope to start with. It got me even more hooked and I've upgraded a couple  of times.

Sorry if I'm rambling and if it's of no help to you, Just wanted to share my experience of how I picked my first telescope.

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I ended up buying my first telescope today!  I couldn't decide between the two I mentioned earlier, and BAM! I found a great deal on Wallapop.  I now own a "Like-new" Orion XT8i. woot!!  and got it for $150.  I can't believe I got such a deal.  Today also happened to be the first clear night in weeks...maybe months(lol)...so it must have been fate.  I wasn't sure how much I would like sky gazing in general, but I just came inside after spending 4 hrs alone finding things.  My backyard has a narrow view so I didn't see much, but I found the Orion Nebula and saw Jupiter.  It was really freaking sweet. 

 

Thanks all who gave me their inputs!  And thanks for all the others who asked and answered others' questions.  It has helped me to find the best first telescope.

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On 2016-02-21 at 06:39, capncurt86 said:

I ended up buying my first telescope today!  I couldn't decide between the two I mentioned earlier, and BAM! I found a great deal on Wallapop.  I now own a "Like-new" Orion XT8i. woot!!  and got it for $150.  I can't believe I got such a deal.  Today also happened to be the first clear night in weeks...maybe months(lol)...so it must have been fate.  I wasn't sure how much I would like sky gazing in general, but I just came inside after spending 4 hrs alone finding things.  My backyard has a narrow view so I didn't see much, but I found the Orion Nebula and saw Jupiter.  It was really freaking sweet. 

 

Thanks all who gave me their inputs!  And thanks for all the others who asked and answered others' questions.  It has helped me to find the best first telescope.

Congratulations on your first scope! As a European, I'm always jealous of the prices for telescopes in America...

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Thanks guys!  I'm having so much fun looking at the night sky.  I honestly didn't expect to like it this much.  I am so glad I got the 8".  The first 3 nights were clear, which was crazy to have 3 in a row.  I'm already trying to figure out how to upgrade EPs.

I guess my next step will be to join a club, but I'm not sure I want to be around all those nerds. ;)

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