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Telescope for total newbie


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i have always had a fascination in space and have finally decided to invest in a telescope, for me and my young daughters. The problem is i have very limited knowledge of telescopes and was wondering if anyone if anyone could recommend a suitable telescope with a budget of up to £1000 and would spending less or more would give me better value considering i am a total novice. Thanks for any advice

Phil

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Hi Phil,

welcome to SGL. I'm a relative newbie myself so not going to give you any advise on which scope to buy with that budget, but you will definitely be able to get a nice piece of kit with that.

I'm sure someone more knowledgeable will be along with some good advise before too long.

FF

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Hi Phil

Welcome to SGL. Unless you're stinking rich and £1000 doesn't mean much to you, I'd hold back for a while before committing yourself. Amateur astronomers are a friendly bunch and are often keen to introduce others to the pleasures of the hobby. My advice would be to look through other peoples' scopes first and make sure it really grabs you. Local astronomy clubs are great for meeting folk and they will often run meetings where newcomers will be welcome to come along for a nosey at the kit. Whereabouts do you live; someone might be able to suggest a local society.

The other thing is that there are lots of different telescope types, on different types of mount, some being simple and others more complex. Each have their plusses and minuses, not all of which can be fully appreciated by reading or getting others' advice.

I hope that helps, Martin

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To help narrow down your choices, we need a bit more information. Answers to the following would help:-

1. Are mostly interested in our solar system i.e. the Moon and planets or are you more interested in more distant objects like galaxies and nebulae?

2. Is it your intention to use the equipment from your garden or to take it out away from home to a 'dark sky' location?

3. Do you have any short to medium term interest in taking up astro-imaging?

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Q1) Planets would be a good start but all are interesting to me

Q2) Probably garden

Q3) After looking at the internet and others peoples pictures the answer would probably be yes

Thanks for feedback

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To dogfish/martin

Thanks for the post def. not stinking rich but dont want to make a purchase and wish i'd spent a bit more. Thanks for the advice, i live in wolverhampton, west midlands, uk and was just looking for opinions and advice. If you can suggest a local astronomy club that would be great.

thanks again phil

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Astrophotography is expensive hobby. If you want to do quality pictures you must to invest quite sum of money. You must have mount which can track objects, probably guiding camera and guiding scope, imaging camera, some adapters, laptop etc. I begin with simple mount (EQ5) and with small but good scope ED80. I don't have this mount anymore because it was not good enough, but I still have ED80. We all make some mistakes at the beginning and we probably still are. I think that for beginning is very good choice Dobsonian based reflector. It is not suitable for astroimaging and it is not so good for observe planets in high magnifications but believe me that you must first learn the basic before rushing in astrophotography and dobsonian based telescopes are very good for that. And you don't need just scope for beginning but also some star maps or books, some eyepieces and most importantly you must go out, enjoy and learn a lot.

It is not bad for beginning to see as much as scope that you can, ask people questions and of course read every post in this forum.

Good luck in your quest.

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Hi

You don't say how old your daughters are, but it might best to start with something that is fairly easy to manage and doesn't need a lot of maintenance (ie not a big reflector). I have a Skywatcher Skymax 127 on a motorised supatrak mount. This costs around £280 and will give very good views of the moon and planets and it is not bad either for deep sky objects. It is also relatively small, portable, and easy to use. On the downside the mount could be steadier and it isn't really suitable for photography of deep sky objects, but on the other hand I've taken some decent pictures of the moon + saturn and jupiter with it.

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maybe my enthusiasm and ignorance is ruling my head and i've a lot to learn the skywatcher skymax127 sounds an interesting start the dobsonian based reflecter lost me a little but it gives me something to look into

any more advice, personal preferences or ideas will help me focus on asking the questions i need to ask when i finally make my purchase. my daughters ages are 12 and 14 but very wise for their ages.

thanks again

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Modern 12 and 14 year old girls will certainly be capable of dealing with the 'technology' so that won't be an impediment to your choices.

As you will be viewing from home, portability will not be such an issue which is handy because bearing in mind that you have a desire to do imaging in the future a sturdy mount is your start point. Why the mount first? - you were looking for a telescope after all! No matter how competent your telescope may be, if it wobbles on a poor mount it will be frustrating for visual use and useless for imaging. If you are serious about moving on to imaging then an equatorial mount is a must IMHO.

So moving on to the telescope and we come up against the age old problem - there is no telescope that is suitable for both planetary use and general deep sky object use as the requirements for each type of object are very different! Planets are small and require a long focal length which equals high magnification for a given eyepiece whereas many deep sky objects are rather large so require less magnification thus a shorter focal length.

Bit of a decision-time moment I'm afraid!

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Thanks for explaining the different requirements and making it make sense. Still not sure which way to go but is there anything that you recommend for either scenario so i can take a closer look

Thanks Mike, Cosely just down the road from me

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I think I know where you are coming from Phil, I was in exactly the same situation 2 1/2 years ago with a similar budget. In the end I went for a second hand Celestron 8" Nexstar GPS. It was the best decision I ever made.

David Hinds is the guy to go to for a current bargain http://www.celestron.uk.com/catalogues/browse_content.asp?CatalogueID=272&page=bargainbasement

The OTA (optical tube assembly) is an SCT (schmidt cassegrain) design - the incoming light is reflected internally to create a very compact tube. It is an excellent and incredibly versatile system which will serve you well for planets, the moon and faint deep sky objects. You can use it with focal reducers to further enhance versatility.

The second half of the package is the fork mount system. The mount is computerised and electronically driven. It contains a GPS unit so knows exactly where it is. You simply set the scope down and ask it to align. It runs through a very simple routine and you then just tap into the handset whichever target you wish to go to. It takes you there automatically. It will even suggest a tour for you!

As well as being a very good visual performer you can also take great images with the scope. The alt az fork mount design works ok for short exposures but if you get the imaging but you can add a wedge which tilts the forks to match the earths axis and you can then have unlimited exposures.

The NS8 has now been replaced by the CPC model hence the bargains. However, one of the reasons it has been replaced is probably because Celestron can't make a profit on the NS8 at it's previous price point. Component quality is very high and the scope tracks beautifully.

If David Hinds still has one of these scopes you should snatch his hand off.

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I would go with MartinB's suggestion.

Last year David Hinds had the same offer and a number of us on SGL bought one - great scope for the price.

If you have a laptop you can get a cheap webcam and produce good images of the planets and the moon - without adding a wedge (you will need the wedge though if you want to get into imaging Deep Sky Objects with a Digital SLR or a CCD camera)

MD

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Hi Amigaman,

I'm going to confuse matters even more and say don't by a telescope, buy some binoculars! Here's my experiences as a newbie with a scope and binoculars.

Personally, if I had £1000 to spend I wouldn't rush into anything, and buying some half decent binoculars will show you loads you can't see now and will get you used to what's going on above our heads. Plus they'll always be useful in astronomy, even if you've got a £1000 scope.

Something like these from FLO would be a great start, especially if you mounted them on a tripod. They'll always be handy even if it turns out that astronomy isn't your thing, as well as being extremely portable and robust (compared to a scope).

I'm not saying don't buy a telescope, but I wouldn't take the plunge until you have an idea of what you genuinely want yourself.

Hope that helps.

Mark

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I'd second that last post!

I've used just bino's for about 8 months. 15x70's are great.

Now I've bought a dob, I'm finding that even though its a simple scope, there's still a learning curve with using it, and its not as immediate as the bino's.

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I would go with MartinB's suggestion.

Last year David Hinds had the same offer and a number of us on SGL bought one - great scope for the price.

If you have a laptop you can get a cheap webcam and produce good images of the planets and the moon - without adding a wedge (you will need the wedge though if you want to get into imaging Deep Sky Objects with a Digital SLR or a CCD camera)

MD

You can do some very good imaging in Alt Az using focal reducers to reduce exposure time.

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THnak you to everyone for your feedback. I was just wondering whether anyone had any experience or opinions on SKYWATCHER EXPLORER 200P HEQ5 PRO as it's another telescope that has also been recommmended

thanks again

phil

p.s. pair of binoculars definetly on the list

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I have experience of and an opinion on the HEQ5/200P. This instrument is very good value for money, reasonably moveable without getting a hernia and is a good all rounder in that it has a 1000mm focal length which means good views of the Moon and many deep sky objects like galaxies and star clusters. Having an F5 aperture means that it has very good light grasp too.

The focal length is a little short for planetary work but that can be made up for by use of suitable eyepieces and a good quality Barlow Lens.

What is good about this choice is it can most certainly be used for astro-imaging in the future as it has a sturdy mount and guiding capabilities.

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As others have mentioned, whilst you are deciding on what telescope to get, buy binoculars to get you started. Not only will it give you more time to decide what scope is for you, it will also help you with getting that skill of star hopping when seeking out those faint fuzzies.

Mark

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The HEQ5/Skywatcher newt is great value and will give good views. As Steve says, it is also a decent imaging platform.

Phil we are moving into familiar SGL territory now if we get onto a discussion of fork mounted SCTs vs Equatorially mounted scopes. The Nexstar will be a lot more comfortable and intuitive to use for visual work, no awkward viewing angles, no polar aligning. The whole thing can be carried out on it's tripod in one go so very convenient. All scopes have their downsides - an SCT is slow to get to ambient temperature and will take around 1 hour to perform at it's best if stored at room temp, it also needs a dew shield and preferably dew strap to avoid dew on the corrector plate. Given that new they are worth around £1800 you are getting a lot for your money if that David Hinds offer still holds.

You can happily get to grips with imaging with this scope. My web site has a number of images taken with a nexstar in alt az mode and a simple modded web cam. These were my first ever images. To move up the quality ladder for imaging you need to by an equatorial wedge - there are images on the site showing the NS8 on a wedge. www.astropixels.co.uk

The fact is that if you get into observing or imaging you are likely to want to tailor your kit to meet your develping requirements whatever kit you start out with. The Nexstar is a scope to keep for life and be happy with but if you get into imaging in a big way it is likely that ultimately you will go down the equatorial mount route trying a range of different scopes en route. But in this situation people starting with an equatorial mount inevitably upgrade it!

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And when you eventually purchase your telescope you will find your binos. won't be made redundant. It's an invaluable piece of equipment and a true grab 'n' go instrument.

Jack.

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