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Looking for a good setup for a beginner


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A friend wants to buy his wife a telescope for astronomy. My intial reaction was that the scope would never get used, but she does seem to have a genuine interest and often takes the time to stand in her garden and look at the night sky, however she is at the bottom of the learning curve. He believes she may be most interested in moon and planets, but that could be because he doesn't know what else there is! She has plenty of time on her hands, a large, dark back garden and plenty of storage space outside. I personally beleive she is enthusiastic enough to actually use the scope and persevere, so the budget of £400 should be fully utilised!!

My thoughts so far are to keep things simple - a manual altaz with no goto and I have identified the following:

1) Skywatcher 150P on an AZ4 (£349). Would need to add a red dot finder? At 750mm FL I think this is a good choice for planets. QUestions:

  • Would the AZ4 be up to the job?
  • Would it be a pain to mount on the AZ4 single handedly?
  • Collimation would be required?

2) Startravel 102T on an AZ4 (£330). Would be easier to use but would need to add a 90 degree diagonal and possibly barlow, although the supplied 45 degree would mean it is good for birding if the interest in astronomy wanes! My feeling is this would not be so good for planets with a FL of 500mm but would be much and smaller aperture but would be easier to use generally and get used more.

3) 150 or 200mm dobsonian at £175 and £269 respectively. The good thing with these is that there would be plenty of money left over for star atlases, torches, etc. But I wonder if the focal length of 1200mm for both might make it a bit challenging for a beginner to find things? How would the setup and portability compare to options 1 & 2?

I'd appreciate some guidance, especially from people who have experienced the challenges faced by beginners using scopes.

Thanks. :)

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Skywatcher star discovery 150p £345

Link

Why, it is an Az mount and a 150p mirror.

This mount can be used with no power as pure manual push to. Or you can power it and it can track and goto, or you can do a combination of manual push to and tracking and goto just by what you do and whether you engage the clutches. There is a superb video introduction on youtube by astronomy and nature tv.

Edited by happy-kat
Added link corrected price
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Why does it need to be an AZ mount? Because a beginner can't get used to an EQ mount? I bought an EQ mount and have gotten the knack of it. If the person in question has a genuine interest in learning how things work, she will find out. But indeed, a visit to a club to get some impression would be a good idea.

But for me, it helped a lot to get a reddot finder in addition to my finder scope. And a detailed atlas in addition to my basic overview atlas.

Edited by Linda
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If she's interested in planets I would stear clear of the ST102 in favour of one of the other options. It's not that it won't do planets, but the magnification is limited and CA is significant, resulting in small, washed out views.

I've just bought the Nexstar 127 SLT (mentioned above) as a dedicated planetary scope. I've yet to try it out though.

I agree the 150mm Dob would also be a good option.

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Thank you all for your excellent advice and some really interesting suggestions I had not considered. It's been an education. Here are my thoughts arising:

  • Skywatcher star discovery 150p - I like the idea of Freedom Find, could be a very useful way of conserving batteries. 
  • celestron nexstar 127 slt - SkyAlign sounds fantastic as it allows really quick set up. I also note that the Star Sense Accessory can be attached (at considerable cost!) to make it fully automated which is a useful upgrade path. I hadn't considered the Mak as I assumed the long focal length would be an issue for finding stuff manually but I guess with a goto mount it shouldn't be a problem. I like the fact that less collimation is required (hopefully none) and the image quality is supposed to be contrasty and refractor-like. More prone to dew though?
  • I have read that both the above goto mounts are unreliable with the AA batteries and you should really use a Powertank - extra cost and minor additional hassle.
  • 150 Dob - Still looking attractive, really the only downside is collimation - I am happy to help with that (only ever collimated an SCT) but does this have to be done regularly?
  • AZ4 - there seem to be no supporters of this route, so I guess I shall eliminate that option. :) 
  • There is also the issue of dew , the Newtonians being better than the Mak in that respect I believe, although secondaries can dew up too!

So at the moment I think it is a toss up between the Nexstar 127 SLT (£380) or the 150 Dob (£175), the latter leaving enough cash for lots of other astro goodies. Leaning towards the dob......

Thanks again, any further thoughts welcomed. 

Rob

 

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On February 23, 2016 at 03:42, Grotemobile said:

http://www.firstlightoptics.com/slt-series/celestron-nexstar-127-slt.html

This is another suggestion. A lot of people use these on

here. It has planetary align, on this scope, so U don't have

to  worry about finding the name of a star, to align on.

U can use the moon as well.

 

Steve.

 

This is a great scope, love using it. Not as good for deep sky, but a good starter choice for new users. Still, Cassegrain telescopes may not be good for beginners, as they require a bit of polishing and keep-up. Still, this is a great starter scope, and I would recommend it if she wants a good telescope!

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I'd say the 150 Dobsonian would be best for a beginner, and by far the best value for money. The AZ4 is a good mount, but doesn't really do anything you can't do with a basic Dobsonian. I have recently got hold of the Nexstar 127SLT as a secondary scope, but personally I find the setup and alignment of the goto mount takes some of the fun out of observing. The simplicity and fast setup of a Dob is unbeatable. Don't be afraid of collimation - my 250PX Dob was reasonably well collimated out of the box, and although I did collimate it when I got it it has only needed the occasional tweak since then. The 150 should be even more forgiving.

Edited by DevonSkies
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DevonSkies,

I own a Nexstar 127SLT as well, and find it a great scope if you want top notch views. I have a guide on first observing night, and it includes a section on telescope buying. I will leave at the end of this post. Many people may find dobsonian's hard to use, as collimation can be a hassle for beginners. Refractors are great, as the right ones offer average to good views at a cheap price than a higher priced Dobsonian.

Here is my blog post: https://stargazerslounge.com/blogs/entry/1896-the-ultimate-guide-for-beginners-to-stargazing/

 

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thank you for all your suggestions, links to guides and encouragement. I have discussed the options in depth with the person who is buying the gift and their preferred option was the Skyliner 200P dobsonian. He felt the dobsonian was right because of it value, simplicity and ability on planets compared to a small refractor. We had a lot of discussion over whether the 200P would be too big, and the 150P better, but looking at youtube videos and the weight figures it should be manageble. The lady in question is a tree surgeon so she is used to lugging heavy things around. Regarding collimation and getting started, I shall be on hand to help, so I am looking forward to seeing how she gets on. 

Rob

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