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nheather

After a failed start - What sort of scope do I need

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Hi,

So here is my story.  I have been interested in getting a scope for many years.  A few years ago a group of my friends started showing interest and I got encouraged to buy something.  I was offered a Skywatcher Explorer 150PL on an EQ3-2 mount by a work colleague - when I saw it I was very impressed so bought it and because I was so caught up in the moment I added a polar scope and a 2-axis motor drive.

Very excited for a while, organising some outings with my group of friends but the outings never happened and interest faded.

Then cold reality kicked in that I bought a scope that was too big, cumbersome and heavy for me to use.  My garden is not suitable - it is small and tall trees at the back and the house makes the view of the sky extremely limited.

So it has sat wrapped up in its box unused.

I have decided to try and sell it and if successful maybe consider something else.

But what should I get?

My main requirement is portability - if it isn't easy to take somewhere then I doubt it will get used.

I appreciate that portability will limit what you can see but I don't know to what extent.

In terms of budget - I would rather spend to get something decent, but at the same time don't want to spend a huge amount - let's say up to £500 for starters.

It would be nice to do some photography but again I recognise that portability and astro-photography may be mutually exclusive.

Appreciate any suggestions.

 

Cheers,

Nigel

 

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Hi Nigel, It seems your home base is not Ideally suited to Astronomy, from an Imaging  or Observing  View.
It is a pity, as one really does want to be able to enjoy the skies from ones own garden.
All is not lost though, there is always the opportunity to find a good observing site close to home,  although some folks have 
to venture some distance from home.  As always though, we advocate here on SGL that If you intend to use your scope 
at a location away from your home, it is best to be safe, and try to do so with a number of other interested people.
Portability is a big plus when the need to travel is called for. Your 150PL is an f8 instrument, which has a fairly long  OTA.
Optical Tube  Assembly, and difficult to move around.
Perhaps a 150 mm or 200 mm f5. instrument would be a better choice for you, one with the Dobsonian mount,
which is easily transported as the OTA is easily removed from the cradle it sits in and easy to place into a car.
The 200 mm F5 is a very popular telescope, and delivers very fine views of many objects. 
It is not a Goto scope, so you would need some means of object location such as a Star Atlas  or Celestial Sphere.
The planetarium software 'Stellarium' which you probably know about, is a useful aid too, it will enable you to
plan your observing sessions prior to any excursions you want to make.
This is merely a suggestion on my part here, and I'm sure other SGLers will join the thread with their useful input.
Good Luck.

 

 

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Yes, a shame that my garden is not suitable, but moving home is a bit drastic.  Certainly if I ever do move, maybe after the kids have moved on and settled then I shall be looking at the garden.

Not sure about a 200 Dob - one of my friends in the original group had one and it was huge - not very portable as the tube didn't appear to detach from the base without using tools.

Cheers,

Nigel

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Well, it would be good to know where your interests are - planets or dso. And what weight you would consider portable.

If I was you - I would keep the mount. At what, 3.3 kg + weights (dunno how much they are) it's not that heavy and not that big, it's a portable mount and you need equatorial for astrophotography. Smaller ones are flimsy. Frustrating for visual, even more so for astrophotography. 

As of OTA - I wouldn't sell 150 too ?. It's good scope and maybe one day you'll be able to use it too. But it just me, if you don't plan to use it - sell it, donate it, up to you.

What I would get for a meantime would be refractor such as https://www.firstlightoptics.com/pro-series/skywatcher-evostar-80ed-ds-pro-ota.html or, if planets are main interest, maksutov. Suitable for visual and astrophotography on the mount you have. Some change left from your budget for bits and bobs.

Edited by Erla

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Hi Eria - I've just been thinking whether I should keep the mount. Is the EQ3-2 mount any good?

I wonder whether I should just be looking to  buy a different OTA.

I guess my one concern is that the mount is hefty enough on its own - but realistically am I going to find anything that is any lighter without being flimsy?

Is there a market for OTAs on their own.

Cheers,

Nigel

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35 minutes ago, Erla said:

What I would get for a meantime would be refractor such as https://www.firstlightoptics.com/pro-series/skywatcher-evostar-80ed-ds-pro-ota.html or, if planets are main interest, maksutov. Suitable for visual and astrophotography on the mount you have. Some change left from your budget for bits and bobs.

 

Thanks, yes I keep seeing the 80ED cropping up often in my research.  What is so special about it.

In the link to FLO they say that they have broken it down to sell as components but being a begiiner I'm not entirely sure what they have removed and what that means.

Cheers,

Nigel

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So the first problem to overcome is the fact that whatever scope you have you will be limited to what you can observe at home due to the nature of trees blocking your view. This really means that you might have to accept that you will need to find an observing site. Next thing to consider is if you are comfortable enough about observing on your own or whether you prefer to be with others. First thing you could do is contact your local astronomy society and find out if they have a safe observing site and how often and when they frequent it. This might be all you need, and at least you will get to see other scopes in action as well to help you form a view of what you might want in the future.

Once you have an observing site sorted out then maybe it is time to think about what kit you need to suit your interests. A 150PL and EQ2 are not that bad to transport around but of course its different things for different people. Your present scope will do very well on planets and lunar plus a pretty tidy job on most other objects as well depending on skies and local conditions, light pollution etc. It seems to me that your biggest issue is not what kit to use but where you are going to use it.

If you do find a site and or a local group you can then start to think about whether you really need to change the scope or scale down, but take into account what your preference of objects are. Also People have different visions of what they consider grab n go or what they can transport sometimes down to car size, storage, or physical weight of kit which can be uncomfortable.

I personally observe in one of 4 locations at varying distances from home all with less LP and light intrusions because like yourself my view at home is blocked by trees. Sometimes with my local observing group and sometimes on my own. I actually quite enjoy the peace and quiet of solo observing.

So I won’t recommend you a scope as I would be concentrating on finding a suitable observing site and seeing what is possible with the present kit, then changing the kit if I felt it was not delivering the views I was looking for.

Best of luck.

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They've stripped it down to the bare 'scope, no finder or diagonal / eyepieces which is fine for astrophotography, but you'd want the complete package if you're starting with visual. Having said that you may be able to re-use the finder and eyepieces that came with the 150PL, though you'd still need the diagonal.

The reason the ED 80 gets rave reviews is its optical quality is way above what you'd expect for the price.

Although the EQ 3/2 is a bit light for AP anything stronger will be a bit of a shock if you think it's heavy. I'd keep it, it'll do well with a short-tube 'frac, or a small (eg 127mm) Mak.

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I think there's market for everything, and if you look at the classifieds here on the SGL lots of guys selling their setups are splitting them up - it's easier to sell this way. 

The special bit about ED80 is ED. It means extra-low dispersion glass. This reduces chromatic aberration and gives crisp views. That's why this scope comes up often. 

I'm not sure what FLO means by "split package", but it needs some extras - the same scope with diagonal, finderscope etc. costs £475 https://www.firstlightoptics.com/pro-series/skywatcher-evostar-80ed-ds-pro-outfit.html 

you might want to get your own, some other guys could advice you here, I'm using a Newtonian.

Some say EQ3-2 isn't up to astrophotography standards but there's a whole thread here proving otherwise ?

I have EQ1. Trust me, not an option. 

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If I used the EQ3-2 with a small OTA  would that mean that I would only need the small weight (or none at all).

Not entirely sure what the weights are - I'm guessing a counterbalance but no idea how to use them - how many and what position.

Cheers,

Nigel

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Basically, you need to balance your scope. It's not that easy to explain in writing, yet it's quite simple - have a look at this video 

 there are plenty more on the subject. Easier shown than explained :) 

This one goes straight to the point:

 

Edited by Erla

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Where about are you located? If possible add it to your signature as it helps a lot.

Just the simple answer is to get along to a club and have a look at the general assortment of scopes that people use.

What is "portable"? It means different thigs to different people. To me it is 2 bits, so tripod, head and scope is 3 bits and that is a bit of a pain. You also have to consider a power supply if driven and the general accessories also. When that is taken into account you can end up with several boxes and bags and fill a car.

Once put together a "portable" setup for a friend. Meade ETX-70 on a base that could be levelled and in a travel bag with 12v battery and eyepieces, handset, sky chart, torch. One smallish travel bag.

Deciding on a mount is going to be the main choice, if you do not have to drive it then an Alt/Az is simpler, thinking along the lines of the Vixen porta mount or the ES Twilights (better check that name). ES make a reasonable looking 80mm on a mount  to get started with but they do not make it available in the UK/EU.

Ultimately the EQ3-2 and the 150PL are not going to be that "big". Cery likely a case of simply spending time getting used to setting it up and taking it down. They are not exactly self evident. If you go to an 80mm refractor then decide on achro or ED.

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Horsham, West Sussex, UK I will add it to my signature.

There is a Horsham Astronomical Group (HoAG) and I have just registered with their forum.

Cheers,

Nigel

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Probably the best advice anyone gave me when I started out last year was to find a local astronomy group, go to their star parties and get a feel for what's available. In your shoes, I'd probably end up keeping the EQ 3-2 mount -- particularly if there's an ASCOM driver for it (perhaps someone more knowledgeable can confirm or deny this), as that'll let you hook up a laptop and make it into a GoTo 'scope, make use of autoguiding etc. at a later date. Personally, I suspect that the 150PL is undermounted on that mount, and so I'd either look to getting a beefier mount in the future (my EQ5 Pro handles my (shorter than the PL) 150 PDS and I suspect it would also handle your 150PL) or selling the 150PL on. I have to drive to a dark-sky site to do any astronomy and my 150 with an EQ5 is, for me, on the limit of 'luggability'.

Going back to astronomy groups -- ours had a star party a couple of nights ago and the most common rig was a 127 Mak (e.g. Skywatcher Skymax 127). Views of Jupiter through that tube were pretty good. It's a lot more portable than a 150 Newtonian and a good match for your EQ 3-2. But it might not be your best bet -- again, try out a few at some star parties before deciding.

HTH & clear skies, Geoff

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19 hours ago, ronin said:

 

What is "portable"? It means different thigs to different people. To me it is 2 bits, so tripod, head and scope is 3 bits and that is a bit of a pain. You also have to consider a power supply if driven and the general accessories also. When that is taken into account you can end up with several boxes and bags and fill a car.

 

 

This describes my concern very well.

I now realise that my EQ3-2 is fairly lightweight in the world of telescope mounts.  The OTA isn't heavy just long so awkward to carry carefully - I appreciate that there are more manageable OTAs.

It 'lives' in a loft conversion mostly to be out of the way as I don't use it.  I noticed that when I took it outside at the weekend to do some photos, just that was a real pain - I had to make 4 trips up and down two flights of stairs (Mount, Weights, OTA, Accessories) and by the end of that I was sweating a good deal.

I'll wait until after I have made contact with the Horsham group.  It really depends on what sites they use and what is the access.  I really don't want to be lugging that stuff multiple trips and any distance.

Cheers,

Nigel

 

 

 

 

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23 hours ago, nheather said:

I had to make 4 trips up and down two flights of stairs (Mount, Weights, OTA, Accessories) and by the end of that I was sweating a good deal.

this is just an anecdote, from my own experience, so take from it what you will:

I started with a 200p on an EQ5, and this was my experience too - many trips required from\to the car, too long to set up and some missed sessions due to CBAitis.

I made the decision to change to a 200 dob, and it reinvigorated me. I could (at a push) do the trip in one go, plonk and go set-up (almost), made it much more likely that I would get outside.

one of the best modifications I made to my new set up, was the addition of a carrying handle to the OTA.

----

now to the advice, as carrying that kit up&down 2 flights of stairs would probably still require 3 trips.

I'd probably be tempted with a small, short, refractor on a light weight Alt-AZ mount, where you can carry the whole thing in one go (and one hand) with a bag of accesories&EPs in the other hand, or over the shoulder.

and if space and funds allow, something bigger for dark site visits.

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1. I haven't used my 15" dob in years because it weighs too much for my old back to lug around.  I'm too lazy to sell it and am not in desperate need of cash.

2. I use my 8" dob regularly, and it does fit in the trunk (boot) of my car and takes less than 2 minutes to setup.  Alignment of the digital setting circles takes longer.

3. For grab and go, I use either an AT72ED or 127mm Mak mounted on a DSV-1 alt-az mount on a super heavy duty Manfrotto photo tripod.  I'm trying to upgrade to a DSV-2B so I can mount both simultaneously and have axis locks and DSCs.

For your situation, I'd recommend either a sub-100mm ED refractor or 127mm Mak mounted on an AZ-4 or similar mount.

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I have a collapsible Skywatcher 200P (8") on a Dobsonian mount.  In it's collapsed form it sits in about as much space as a dining chair and stands about a metre tall.  It is a work of seconds to lift the OTA off the stand and within two minutes I can have shifted both bits into my garden and put them back together ready for viewing.  The short, one metre long, collapsed tube also sits neatly across the back seat of my family estate (and is dead easy to lift with both hands) with the base on its side in the back.   If find the collapsed tube a brilliant and thoroughly useable solution to reducing the size of telescopes and they do make even smaller collapsible ('truss tube') versions.  You might want to consider something similar in your search. 

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My own experience sounds similar to yours. I have an old Tasco 4.5" f=900mm newtonian scope on an EQ2 (with wooden tripod legs). Although my garden offers reasonable views from SW-NE, the effort of moving the scope, assembling the tripod (had to be done outside - fiddly in the darK) put me off using it for a long time. I dug it out of the loft to check it with the aim of selling it - but having found it 'worked', persevered to get it outside and have a look. With only slow-motion controls, play in the gears and a 'unique' scope mounting plate - it was obvious I needed a new mount, the scope (although long & awkward) seemed reasonable as a starting point.

I planned to get a larger scope/mount if I could reboot my enthusiasm but knew I needed something more portable to get me there. By going for a smaller 'most portable' (read also as : easy & quick to set-up) scope I hoped it would serve secondary use as a 'Grab 'n Go' scope and therefore remain a worthwhile investment. I was looking at the Sky Watcher SkyMax 127 AZ-GOTO, ending up with a Celestron NexStar 4SE AZ-GOTO. Simply having a driven scope that tracked objects and a tripod that didn't need constructing (the wooden one is basically three separate legs individually attached to the mount) made a huge improvement. After starting an Observation Diary my motivation improved enormously.

The eventual plan was a 6" or 8" newt on a suitable EQ mount, in the interim using the 4SE and/or Tasco on the AZ-GOTO. However I've got part way there much sooner - thanks to FLO offering good prices on Celestron C6N newtonians - I just need to find a suitable EQ mount. Being 'shorter', the C6N is surprisingly more manageable than my Tasco.

I'm only a beginner and don't feel I can really offer advice, but I'd suggest thinking to the future before deciding to sell.

John.

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