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Hollie

Telescope buying for dummies... please help! I don't know where to start!

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Hi all!

My better half is turning 30 in a few weeks and for the last year or so has become quite obsessed with astronomy. I'd love to get him a good starter telescope, but I just don't know where to start. 

I've read all the articles on how to pick a good telescope, but it feels like it's just going over my head. Can anyone help a girl out? 

I know he'd like to view planets, my budget is quite small - around £400-500 (around $650), and ideally, I'd like something that's quite portable as we'll be going to Sark in a couple of months time and I know he'd love to bring it with him, plus it'd be too good an opportunity to pass up! I've previously been recommended the Sky-Watcher Skyliner 250PX and the GSO 200/1200 Deluxe DOB, but they're pretty hefty bits of kit and I'm a little concerned (okay, a lot concerned) about portability. 

Does anyone have any recommendations or am I asking for too much for such a small budget? Is there a particular reason I've only really been recommended reflectors (budget perhaps?). 

TIA!

Hollie

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Hi Hollie:

Welcome to the forum; if it's people rambling on about telescopes you're looking for then you've come to the right place. I never tire of recommending the Skywatcher Heritage 130P, as seen here. This was my first scope and it gave me some very memorable views - from a dark sky it should perform beautifully. It is also very small and portable (aided by it's extendable tube) and easy to use. If your other (I won't say better) half wants to view planets then you might also consider getting either a Barlow lens, or an eyepiece with a shorted focal length (First Light Optics can help you out here also) as the eyepieces that come with the scope only take you up to about x65. A 5mm eyepiece or a Barlow lens with the 10mm one that comes with the scope will get you x130, perfect for Jupiter, which is up and about in the evenings at the moment.

Have fun!

Billy.

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Hi and welcome to SGL.

The reason for people recommending what are known as Dobsonian telescopes it that they are the most bang for your bucks, not very portable if you're planning to fly anywhere though, fine in the back of a car.

Once you start adding electronics of some sort you are then paying for them rather than the optics.

You also need to manage your / his expectations, planets are getting a bit low in the sky from the UK over the coming months but the Moon is something you can spend all your observing time on if you're inclined.

A small refractor is good for travelling by air, the longer the focal length the more you can magnify the view, useful for planets, globular clusters and other small objects, probably more use than a short focal length refractor which gives wide field views, you can use binoculars for that sort of thing.

Dave

Have a look on FLO site, they will be happy to correspond via email if you have questions about a particular scope

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/

Edited by Davey-T

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Welcome to the SGL.

Of the two scope you have suggested, either would be fine, but only  truly portable by having a car.
My 8" 200P Skyliner is portable enough to carry it fully setup from the kitchen to somewhere in the garden, but beyond,  stronger arms or a mode of transport.

Don't forget a pair of binoculars will always be on any astronomers wish list?

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The reason why dobsonian reflectors are often adviced is simple - they are very nice, stable, optically good instruments for visual observing, and their simple mounts don't cost a lot of money. Easy to operate, easy to setup.

If you are concerned about portability, then you must provide more info I guess - how does your observing location look like, how big is your light pollution, do you need to travel somewhere dark to get a nice view? Do you see the Milky way from your spot? Will you travel by car, or do you want to mate astronomy with hiking to a darker place and would you want to pack the scope in a backpack?

Also, do you have enough spare room to store the scope?

teleskopy5.png.3368f2a1df1569dd59ce420829aee4b0.png

 

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It is a tricky balancing act.  If you want to get maximum potential magnification on planets in the solar system, then you need a good size aperture, and Newtonian reflectors like the 250px will give you the best value for money in terms of £ per inch aperture.  But, as you say, these not be as portable as you are looking for.  You can get large aperture in a portable format with SCT's like this: https://www.firstlightoptics.com/nexstar-evolution-telescopes/celestron-nexstar-evolution-8-ota.html, but they cost more than your budget allows.  I'm afraid you are going to have to compromise something from portability/budget/magnification?

  

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Hi Hollie,

The two scopes I've attached are great knock about scopes, easy to transport, while at the same time serious kit. They are great value and are within your budget. They are a 127mm Maksutov and a 120mm Evostar refractor. Portable, capable and within your budget. ?

Mike

skywatcher_Skymax-127_EQ3-2.jpg

skywatcher_evostar_120_eq3_thumb.jpg

Edited by mikeDnight
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The larger the aperture of your telescope, the better you can view fainter objects and obtain good resolution at higher magnifications. However there is hours and hours of fun to be had with a smaller telescope, especially when you're starting out. Reflector telescopes which use mirrors are generally cheaper to manufacture than refractors which use lenses - so they are perhaps better value in terms of price/size. Dobsonian mounts also represent very good value. But again, they don't suit everyone's needs.

How are you planning to get to Sark? Travelling by air will limit your size and weight, but there are various possibilities. A budget of up to 500 pounds will give several options, including a rich field refractor which would be excellent for wider views at lesser magnifications, or a Maksutov which combines mirrors and lenses which might be better for higher magnification but will give narrower views. Both of these could be used on a reasonably good photographic tripod with an adapter.

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/maksutov/skywatcher-skymax-102-ota.html

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/startravel/skywatcher-startravel-102t-ota.html

Both of these have apertures of 102mm, but there are smaller versions with 80mm which are also very popular as portable telescopes.

Edited by Putaendo Patrick
added info

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I have a Skywatcher Explorer 150P like this with the manual mount. Itr works very well for me as I have seen several planets along with nebula galaxies and clusters. On several occasions I have packed it in the car and driven to areas with darker skies.

It dismounts into easily portable sections (Scope/ tripod/ couterweights) so, if driving to your holiday location, it is fine. I recently acquired some binoculars for travel. My 10X50 Meades allowed me to see the disc of Jupiter and just pick out the 4 visible moons.

The 200 Dobsonians will give better views in most cases as they gather more light. From what I have heard, they pack away nicely onto the back seat of a car.

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Sark has an observatory why not contact in advance and see if it will/could be open to visitors. Binoculars would be idea for your holiday 8*42 great day time size and great night time and on the lighter side. Binocularsky great website for reviews. Personally I'd involve him in choosing what telescope you'll buy as that is a lot of money to miss the mark. Don't get pressured into bigger is better because however big it might be it's useless if it doesn't get used because can't be bothered to move it. Match the telescope with the personality.

Edit: also is he a camera buff because if so that'll be his first desire stick a camera on it and a dobsonian will greatly limit that.

Edit:  Sark from Guernsey will be by smallish boat so gear will get jiggled around. You'll have a fantastic time and the sky is awesome.

Edited by happy-kat

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Is your other half a techie? If so, he might appreciate a GoTo scope so he can quickly find things in the sky by punching buttons, rather than doing it the traditional way. Within your budget you could get a nice portable Maksutov scope outfit with GoTo.

One suspects that a lot of beginners lose interest when confronted with the reality of trying to manually locate objects invisible to the naked eye in an unfamiliar sky.

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59 minutes ago, Davey-T said:

Hi and welcome to SGL.

The reason for people recommending what are known as Dobsonian telescopes it that they are the most bang for your bucks, not very portable if you're planning to fly anywhere though, fine in the back of a car.

Once you start adding electronics of some sort you are then paying for them rather than the optics.

You also need to manage your / his expectations, planets are getting a bit low in the sky from the UK over the coming months but the Moon is something you can spend all your observing time on if you're inclined.

A small refractor is good for travelling by air, the longer the focal length the more you can magnify the view, useful for planets, globular clusters and other small objects, probably more use than a short focal length refractor which gives wide field views, you can use binoculars for that sort of thing.

Dave

Have a look on FLO site, they will be happy to correspond via email if you have questions about a particular scope

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/

I agree about electronics - that's what's been said to me previously. I'll shoot FLO an email with a couple of questions! Thank you for the suggestion :)

55 minutes ago, kilix said:

The reason why dobsonian reflectors are often adviced is simple - they are very nice, stable, optically good instruments for visual observing, and their simple mounts don't cost a lot of money. Easy to operate, easy to setup.

If you are concerned about portability, then you must provide more info I guess - how does your observing location look like, how big is your light pollution, do you need to travel somewhere dark to get a nice view? Do you see the Milky way from your spot? Will you travel by car, or do you want to mate astronomy with hiking to a darker place and would you want to pack the scope in a backpack?

Also, do you have enough spare room to store the scope?

teleskopy5.png.3368f2a1df1569dd59ce420829aee4b0.png

 

Observation area is our garden - we live in a very small town/city, on the outskirts so does get very dark. We're half an hour from the brecon beacons and some other dark sky sites, so would ideally like to take advantage of that and have something relatively portable. We do have a car - and would be able to drive with a larger telescope if necessary (if that's the best option in terms of quality for our smaller budget), but ideally I think a smaller more portable telescope would be ideal. It doesn't need be SUPER light, just perhaps not quite as heavy/bulky as those recommended to be previously!

55 minutes ago, scitmon said:

It is a tricky balancing act.  If you want to get maximum potential magnification on planets in the solar system, then you need a good size aperture, and Newtonian reflectors like the 250px will give you the best value for money in terms of £ per inch aperture.  But, as you say, these not be as portable as you are looking for.  You can get large aperture in a portable format with SCT's like this: https://www.firstlightoptics.com/nexstar-evolution-telescopes/celestron-nexstar-evolution-8-ota.html, but they cost more than your budget allows.  I'm afraid you are going to have to compromise something from portability/budget/magnification?

  

This is what I've feared. I'm happy to accept that this won't be his 'final' telescope, just something to get him started until he can work out what will work best for him and then spend more money on a serious bit of kit. But, I appreciate your honesty!

53 minutes ago, mikeDnight said:

Hi Hollie,

The two scopes I've attached are great knock about scopes, easy to transport, while at the same time serious kit. They are great value and are within your budget. They are a 127mm Maksutov and a 120mm Evostar refractor. Portable, capable and within your budget. ?

Mike

skywatcher_Skymax-127_EQ3-2.jpg

skywatcher_evostar_120_eq3_thumb.jpg

Thank you for the suggestion! The bottom one was actually also recommended to us too!

49 minutes ago, Putaendo Patrick said:

The larger the aperture of your telescope, the better you can view fainter objects and obtain good resolution at higher magnifications. However there is hours and hours of fun to be had with a smaller telescope, especially when you're starting out. Reflector telescopes which use mirrors are generally cheaper to manufacture than refractors which use lenses - so they are perhaps better value in terms of price/size. Dobsonian mounts also represent very good value. But again, they don't suit everyone's needs.

How are you planning to get to Sark? Travelling by air will limit your size and weight, but there are various possibilities. A budget of up to 500 pounds will give several options, including a rich field refractor which would be excellent for wider views at lesser magnifications, or a Maksutov which combines mirrors and lenses which might be better for higher magnification but will give narrower views. Both of these could be used on a reasonably good photographic tripod with an adapter.

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/maksutov/skywatcher-skymax-102-ota.html

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/startravel/skywatcher-startravel-102t-ota.html

Both of these have apertures of 102mm, but there are smaller versions with 80mm which are also very popular as portable telescopes.

The plan at the moment is to fly to Guernsey and then boat to Sark. I fully expect that if he likes it, he'll want a bigger one for our home as the area we live in doesn't have a lot of light pollution, but we also go hiking a lot, so I thought perhaps one which is a bit more portable would be a great compromise to start with!

44 minutes ago, Swoop1 said:

I have a Skywatcher Explorer 150P like this with the manual mount. Itr works very well for me as I have seen several planets along with nebula galaxies and clusters. On several occasions I have packed it in the car and driven to areas with darker skies.

It dismounts into easily portable sections (Scope/ tripod/ couterweights) so, if driving to your holiday location, it is fine. I recently acquired some binoculars for travel. My 10X50 Meades allowed me to see the disc of Jupiter and just pick out the 4 visible moons.

The 200 Dobsonians will give better views in most cases as they gather more light. From what I have heard, they pack away nicely onto the back seat of a car.

Thank you for this! 

15 minutes ago, happy-kat said:

Sark has an observatory why not contact in advance and see if it will/could be open to visitors. Binoculars would be idea for your holiday 8*42 great day time size and great night time and on the lighter side. Binocularsky great website for reviews. Personally I'd involve him in choosing what telescope you'll buy as that is a lot of money to miss the mark. Don't get pressured into bigger is better because however big it might be it's useless if it doesn't get used because can't be bothered to move it. Match the telescope with the personality.

It's definitely on my list of things to do - I think he'd just love the novelty of being able to use his own bit of kit. He's been dropping hints for a while, so it'd be nice to surprise him. He's not done any research himself as of yet, as he's not expecting to buy one (he's awful at spending money on himself). We do have the space in our living room to store it (there's a convenient little nook), which is right next  to our french doors. It would be a matter of feet for him to carry it outside. However, we do go hiking and camping a lot - and are close to the brecon beacons, so I know he'd absolutely want something that is portable. 

13 minutes ago, Cosmic Geoff said:

Is your other half a techie? If so, he might appreciate a GoTo scope so he can quickly find things in the sky by punching buttons, rather than doing it the traditional way. Within your budget you could get a nice portable Maksutov scope outfit with GoTo.

One suspects that a lot of beginners lose interest when confronted with the reality of trying to manually locate objects invisible to the naked eye in an unfamiliar sky.

Thats a really great point - thank you! He is a bit of a techie, his interest actually started with an app he was recommended that allowed him to find starts. A year later, it's a full blown obsession! He's not the sort to lose patience or interest, which is the thing which is holding me back. He likes a challenge!

Edited by Hollie

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if portability is a rulling a dob out then I honestly don't think you will go wrong with a skywatcher discovery 150p. A fantastic scope that is almost unique in that not only is it a goto but you use it in a fully manual mode aswell. you will aslo have room left over in your budget for all sorts of other toys-of which their are many!!!

have a look at this review and see what you think. This was my first scope and it will last and last.

 

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How about something like this? I don't know what the more experienced would think:

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/maksutov/skywatcher-skymax-127-supatrak.html

 

FWIW I have a Skywatcher 130P, which was a great first scope, but my new Skywatcher refractor is far more portable and is being used much more because of this (plus the optics are sharper). 

 

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15 hours ago, Stormwind said:

How about something like this? I don't know what the more experienced would think:

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/maksutov/skywatcher-skymax-127-supatrak.html

Just my opinion, but I have never seen the point of the Supatrak. One might as well spend a little more and have the full GoTo. Rumour has it that they are the same apart from the handset. Better to have the full version with GoTo which will be much more useful. Celestron do a 127mm Mak with GoTo and probably other brands too.  These Maksutov telescopes are excellent - nobody seems to have a bad word to say about them, and they are compact and normally don't need collimation.

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Compare the size of this scope to the reflector you first suggested in the size comparison chart. This will be much more transportable.

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The Heritage 130mm table top dob is a VG telescope which can also be tripod mounted easily as it has a built in Vixen dovetail. I would not consider a SW100ED or the SW120ED a portable telescope, mine isn't anyway.

The Heritage is a very hand scope and with good optics.

https://telescopereviewsuk.wordpress.com/2009/10/28/the-sky-watcher-heritage-130-flextube-dobsonian-telescope/

Edited by jetstream
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agree that the Heritage is a spot on scope but with a budget of £400-£500 I think someting a it bigger would be the way to go.

 

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3 hours ago, jetstream said:

The Heritage 130mm table top dob is a VG telescope which can also be tripod mounted easily as it has a built in Vixen dovetail

I'll second Gerry. The  Heritage 130 P Flextube would be ideal when camping (probably not when hiking), gets great reviews and will give you years of pleasure. There would be enough money left within your budget to add 2 decent eyepieces, a barlow lens and even a pair of 8X40 or10x50 bins (for hiking). There is a huge thread on this scope on the CloudyNights forum, have a look:

https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/463109-onesky-newtonian-astronomers-without-borders/

When your better half is really bitten by the astronomy bug, he'll end up anyway with an additional big(gish) scope, perhaps a 12" dob, or he takes the slippery road to astrophotography....

Have a good time together, and enjoy sharing great views, especially during your visit to the Dark Sky Community Sark!

Stephan

 

 

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So, OP, you came for a definitive answer and have ended up with 1823347 options. Have you decided what you are going to go for?

(very good point about some spare money for eyepieces).

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Just remember not to get too stressed about it all-No one can deny that the range out there is great and confussing and that every everyone has a opinion but the bottom line is that any scope you get him will be better than his naked eyes and I have no doubt he will be blown away by the views of stars and planets he will see in whatever scope you choose.

Big or Small, reflector or refractor, goto or manual- it doesn't matter, the only wrong scope Is one that won't get used. good luck!

popeye.

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Given the OP's budget is there not enough there for both a 200P Dobsonian for using at home or at dark sights and a small travelscope or set of astro binoculars?

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On 4/7/2017 at 18:26, Stormwind said:

So, OP, you came for a definitive answer and have ended up with 1823347 options. Have you decided what you are going to go for?

(very good point about some spare money for eyepieces).

Hahahah. No! But my bookmarks tab has grown considerably, and at least now all of my options seem to be solid ones, recommended by people that know what they're talking about rather than a random man at Jessops and my very basic googling! 

You've all been fantastic :) 

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