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Brad737

Is a Dobsonian Really Necessary?

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Hello all,

I bought a cheapo ToysRUs reflector for my daughter for Christmas, but as I've come to find out, it's pretty poor quality. I'd like to get a better telescope for the kids (and me!) to use, and have been poring over all sorts of buyer's guides.  I'd like to keep our purchase to $400 or less. From what I've read, the Zhumell Z8 and the Orion XT8 both seem to be very nice scopes for beginners. Herein lies the rub.  Our family really enjoys camping, and the 8 inch Dobsonians just seem to be too big to bring along on our camping trips.  I was thinking we may be better off buying something around 130mm on a tripod mount, solely for ease of packing in the Family Truckster. Would stepping down to a 5 inch scope be a total waste of time for us?  I'd like to be able to show the kids stuff like the rings of Saturn, the cloud bands and storm of Jupiter, the Moon, etc. 

 

I should also point out that I'm something of a gadget freak, so I'll probably spring for one of the 8 inch Dobsonians at some point in the future as well.  What do you all think?  Any recommendations for a nice 5 inch tripod scope?  I'd prefer to stay away from computerized systems for now, solely because I'm a rank beginner. 

 

Thanks,

Brad

Edited by Brad737
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Others can talk to smaller scopes, but I can chime in on the XT8. I recently purchase the XT8 Plus and love the scope, but the idea of lugging it around camping is not something I'd look forward to. It's not overly heavy, but it's awkward (and you don't want to risk dropping it!). 

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A smaller telescope which would compliment an 8 inch Dobsonian in the long-term might be a 100mm or 120mm short tube refractor. I'm thinking something like:

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/startravel/skywatcher-startravel-120-az3.html

I'm almost sure these or something similar must be available in the USA. Very portable, and although these are available with Equatorial mounts, for ease and speed in use I would go for the simpler Alt-azimuth mount as shown.

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I bring a Celestron C8 along on camping trips. That has an 8" aperture and is very compact. Truss-tube, or even better travel /suitcase Dobsonians are also compact when folded. These do not come cheap, however.

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My 127 Mak (a catadioptric) is very compact and portable.  It gives good views of most objects, esp. where the sky is darker.  It is computerised, but you don't have to use that of course - just power up and direct it with its convenient alt-az mount.  Then as you gain experience, you will really value the GoTo and tracking facilities.  

It might be worth spending a little over-budget on a computerised model to avoid wanting something better soon after you get hooked!  Second-hand even?

Doug.

 

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A 6" Newtonian is a great all round scope and more than capable of showing you and your kids some great views of every kind of object. A 4" refractor is a brilliantvwork horse scope that would fit nicely in your truckster and you'd hardly notice it. It would give wonderfully sharp views of the moon and planets as well as many brighter deep sky objects, and wide field views of star fields and comets.

Mike ?

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I don't buy dobsonians due to being cheaper per inch of aperture but do believe that when well made they offer the most cost effective and stable platform for apertures above 6" for visual observing.

In your case and based on your stated targets and observing needs I'd recommend a smallish mak on a tracking mount. You could use this for solar too with the right filter.

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Remember that the hopefully dark skies you get whilst camping will offset your aperture loss to quite a degree. I see things in small scopes from Dorset or Devon that I just cant see in larger scopes from home.

I use a variety of kit when camping, anything from a 60mm frac to an 8" SCT. Always on manual Alt-Az mounts such as a Giro. A 127mm Mak on an AZ4 or similar would be nice, great on planets although you wouldn't get the lovely wide fields of view you get with a refractor. A pair of binoculars would complement it very nicely to achieve that though.

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127 Mak for showing kids  the planets. ample aperture to  get loads of detail on the planets, extremely portable.

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What are the dobs called with the collapsable tubes?  truss tube?  Seemed they cost just a little more when I got my Z10 but I was tempted. 

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Thanks for the suggestions so far.  I think for our camping trips, a refractor or Maksutov are definitely the way to go.  I'm Internet shopping as we speak. 

Thanks,

Brad

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I'd go with https://www.firstlightoptics.com/beginner-telescopes/skywatcher-heritage-130p-flextube.html for a good aperture, solid base and incredably compact and portable. There are though 2 minor downsides. 1) you will want to buy a cheap camping mat to modify and wrap around the truss to avoid stray light and dew. 2) this is a table top or picnic blanket scope so your going to have to get either a sturdy camping table and chairs or waterproof but comfortable mat to sit on the floor.

My son has one of these scopes as I wanted him to have a good aperture to keep that young mind focused but also because he can't stay out late on a school night it had to be something that was easily stored neatly out of the way for a period of time...... Something that I'd not considered when buying myself a 300P.

It has its pros and cons but that seems to be the case with most scopes unfortunately.

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Thank you all for the advice.  I've narrowed down my choices. I'm going to post a poll in a few, and I'm hoping you'll join me there to help me pick which scope I'll go for first. 
Thanks,
Brad

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Just purchased my first scope which is a NexStar 127 SLT Mak, and it's very compact and provides great views. Able to see rings of Saturn and colored bands on Jupiter along with all 4 moons from the balcony of my apartment in northern Atlanta and dealing with lots of light pollution. In terms of portability of the actual scope, it's fantastic and would be great for camping, but the only downside is powering the motorized mount, which will require a bunch of batteries or a Power Pack and a cord adapter. In that regard it's slightly less portable (I read it eats through 8 AA batteries pretty quickly, but can't speak to that personally). I'm thinking of getting an EQ mount for it to make it more portable and less dependent on electricity, but the GoTo is great, especially for a kid that might struggle with tracking on an EQ

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