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First Telescope


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Hello,

My 5 year old son is obsessed with space. He knows more than I do about the solar system. He watches youtube documentaries about space in preference to kids TV, and now he wants a telescope.

I have always been interested in science and I have a career in aeronautical engineering, but my experience of telescopes with my father was terrible. I recall a wobbly image of jupiter or saturn in the back garden that looked like an enlarged 'star' drifting out of view. After that night, I lost all interest. I don't want to do the same with my kids. I know that there is a slim chance of this leading on to bigger things, but I want to give him the best opportunity that I can. As a semi-professional photographer, I understand the importance of good lenses and that you get what you pay for. 

We have started to save, with a target of about £1000-£1500 by the end of the summer. We are selling everything that we can find to raise funds.

- I think that I want to buy secondhand. He'll be six in a couple of months, so there's a reasonable chance that he'll change his mind and choose another obsession. I will then have to sell the telescope and I'd rather not lose too much. Beyond common sense and a basic understanding, there's a chance that I will fall for a secondhand 'duffer'. Any advice? Anyone free to help when the time comes?

- I prefer low maintenance. I am a novice and I read that SCT is easier, but I'm happy to be advised.

- We live in the city (Bristol), but have a big old estate car. I am happy to drive places and set it up.

- The current obsession is the solar system and the moon. We haven't touched deep space and nebulae.

- I will help him to move it about, but I would rather that he can point it in the right direction (so a goto is appealing). He is TV/computer literate. Thanks to MIT Scatch, he's already programming.

- I have some nice camera kit that may be a bonus.

Flicking through astrobuysell and looking in shops, I have come up with the following:

- Big truss scopes on Dobsonian mounts are reasonably priced. 

- The Nextar 8se is about £1200 from London Camera Exchange.

- It looks like a 10" to 12" Meade may be within budget, but they are older models. Should I care?

I think that our target is the best view of the planets possible, but please advise.

Thanks for any advice.

David

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I am not so sure that SCTs are a good idea for a beginner scope.  They will likely need collimating (especially if they are second-hand).  This means getting the mirrors lined up correctly.  It isn't a big job, but it is something that might put a beginner off.

Normally, I'd suggest a big Dob.  You can get 8" of aperture for a couple of hundred quid.  They also need collimating but it is quite easy to do this.   However, your son's age and his obsession with the solar system makes me wonder if a refractor might not be a good idea.  They tend to be simple to use, don't need collimation and look like a 'proper' telescope.  

Solar system objects are not difficult to find because they are big and bright, so I wonder if a GOTO is really necessary.  Something on a tripod and mount like a Vixen portamount is very quick to set up.  With a GOTO you need to go through an alignment routine and his interest might be gone by the time you've done that.  As to which refractor.  Well you can get really cheap or really expensive.  If you can afford 10-12" of Meade perhaps you can stretch to 120mm of Skywatcher.  The ED120 is a cracker of a lunar and planetary scope (I am thinking of getting one myself) that will do you/him a long long time.   You can find them for £600-700 second hand - that is if you can find any at all second hand - people tend to hold onto them.  Shorter focal lengths in the ED range are available and are cheaper.  

That's my 2c.

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You have £1200+ to spend on a scope for a 6yr old? Be my Dad instead lol.

Personally, I recently got given a Celestrone stargazer for my birthday. £200 and can see every planet in our solar system. It's a great amature scope. The only thing Is I got a refractor when the general consensus seems to be reflector.

I think Argos have a Celestron stargazer Reflector for under £300 with good magnification. Could be worth a look. Could get a few accessories and different lenses too.

Edited by Mattwaters
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And for heavens sake, don't think about putting a camera anywhere near the telescope.  That is a rapid road to heartache and bankruptcy.  (That's just a little joke for the astro-imagers here.   But no .... seriously ....)

 

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Hello and welcome to the forum :smiley:

An 8", 10" of 12" SCT is a really large, complex and intimidating scope, especially for a 5 year old.

I suspect something much less expensive and less complex will "feed the fire of interest" :smiley:

Bristol has an active Astronomical Society which meets regularly and has public star parties as often as the weather allows. I'd suggest popping along and having a chat to some of our members and perhaps seeing some scopes before making any decisions. We had an open observing session just last night as it happens and there were a number of scopes there including 10" and 11" SCT's to have a look at and through.

Here is the BAS website:

http://www.bristolastrosoc.org.uk/www/

Edited by John
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You will get recommendations from all angles, mine would be to stick with secondhand on a popular telesope, this way you would end up with little or no financial loss in the future. Also avoid anything from Argos or similar outlets and consider only the established specialist suppliers if buying new.  :icon_biggrin:

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I agree with John, going to a local group makes a lot of sense. I guess the only snag is your lad might get a cracking view of Saturn through something big and expensive like a C14 and decide thats the scope for him!

We're heading for a bit of a lean patch for planets unfortunately - Saturn is good for the next 6 weeks I guess, but both Jupiter and Saturn will be low for some years. The moon is just amazing so if you can nudge your son in that direction it would be good. Or DSOs of course. Dont be too scared of imaging by the way - it is a very dark art, but using Deepsky stacker and especially the "Live" version you can get views of DSO that you really cant get with an eyepiece. I'm a bit of a screen freak, and never use eyepieces so thats a very one sided view.

Regarding scopes refractors are easier/lower maintenance, but Newtonians especially Dobsonians give more bang per buck - thats my version anyway!!

 

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10 minutes ago, Peter Drew said:

You will get recommendations from all angles, mine would be to stick with secondhand on a popular telesope, this way you would end up with little or no financial loss in the future. Also avoid anything from Argos or similar outlets and consider only the established specialist suppliers if buying new.  :icon_biggrin:

Yes, I meant to say that too - most of my kit is second hand, and perfectly OK. You can get "as new" kit for at least 1/3 cheaper.

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If it was me I would probably opt for something like a 127 mm Mak, it is fairly robust and has the eyepiece at the right end and more importantly should keep the eyepiece in a comfortable position if mounted on an Alt Az mount like this https://www.firstlightoptics.com/maksutov/skywatcher-skymax-127-synscan-az-goto.html .

No scope can do everything though but it would give good views of Lunar and Solar system objects and it is very camera friendly if you want a few Moon shots.

Alan

 

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I have a 120mm ETX and a 200mm reflector and the difference in what you can see is amazing.  In the 120mm globular clusters are fuzzy balls, in the 200mm they are stars. The ETX is great for quick set-up and transportion, but there's nothing to beat aperature. 

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If you are viewing with a 5 yr old then consider a scope with motors and tracking. Then you can centre the object and let the child sit and view , the object will stay in the eyepiece view as long as you need. With a manual scope you will need to keep recentering the object as they drift out of view (as the earth rotates)

i would go for an AZ mount as the eyepiece will be at the back of the scope and you can get a stool or similar for the child to sit on. Avoid EQ mounts they are not the best for your scenario. 

personally, I think you choice of a 6se or 8se is a good one. Don't worry about collimation, SCTs hold it well and it is not a nightmare others will have you believe.

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/se-series/celestron-nexstar-6se.html

if you go for an SCT then you will need a "dew shield" to keep the front plate from attracting dew.

if going second hand then a cpc800 is a great scope and very very stable, no Wobblies to worry about.  They go for around 900 second hand.

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/cpc-gps-series/celestron-cpc-800-gps-xlt.html

Also have a look at a skywatcher star discovery which is also a nice starter scope.

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/reflectors/sky-watcher-star-discovery-150p.html

All have motors and tracking, very important to make it easy for kids. All allow for you to sit comfortably with the eyepiece at a decent height/angle.

have a look at vids of these scopes on YouTube...

Alan

Edited by alanjgreen
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I agree with Alan - above - regards a se, or other either SCT or MCT being a good choice. And collimation is a non-issue for the most part. These usually need to be dropped down a flight of stairs to need it. And it's quite simple compared to the much more commonly encountered Newtonian-Reflector.

As for keeping a camera away - I'd be inclined to not get yourself into that for now. But it might be a consideration later along. I'll leave you with a image to reflect on. And be aware: It's message holds true for a Dad, too! :D

All the Best,

Dave

 

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A telescope to get a 5 year old interested? While a C8 Se is a great instrument, I wouldn't blow your whole budget on buying one if I were you. I suggest starting with something small and manageable by a child (and which does not have a fragile faceplate with a blood-chilling replacement cost). Like a 90 or 102mm refractor, or a 102mm or 127mm Maksutov.  These would be easy to manage and good for planetary and lunar views. I'm not well enough versed in child psychology to tell if an alt-azimuth mount would be manageable by a child or if you need to have something that you set up to track automatically.

GoTo is great, but anecdotal evidence reveals that it defeats some adults, let alone 5 year olds.:icon_biggrin:

A Mak or reflector will not need collimation unless you drop it down the stairs. I had to collimate my C8 SE (a SCT) and it wasn't a task for a beginner.

Globular clusters and planetary nebulae look good in a big scope (8" or more), and open clusters are pretty, but galaxies are " Yup, I can just see this faint fuzzy thing" rather than being impressive. In a small scope all these things are under-impressive.

A visit to an astronomical society, if feasible, might be a good move.   Depending on your son's reaction, you might save the whole budget.:happy11:

The best scope for planetary viewing is a subject of endless debate, but any good quality scope in the 100mm-200mm aperture range, preferably with a long focal ratio, will make a fair job of it.

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If the scope is for a 5 year old you want an easy to use scope.

Unless the SCT is a goto then they are not exactly easy, and if they are a goto then there is still the problem of setting up and aligning and everything. Make a mental note for yourself that they are "goto" they are NOT "automatic". Remember the days of an 8 bit processor with 4K of onboard RAM, well that is what is inside them, not an Intel i5 with 16Gb of memory, they will not have an OS as such either.

Dobsonian well nice big mirror, not applicable to getting images, person has to find everything themself - that means you cannot find it then hand over to son as it, object or scope, will have moved, so he has to find everything and learning that may take a while. Has he got say 2 months worth of patience?

I would point him at a Bresser or ES 102 achro on a simple manual mount, only catch is they may not be great on Saturn. The 102 "Long" version they do would be OK but as you can guess they are longer. A 102 will do reasonable on a good number of DSO's as well.

Would have said first option is a visit to a club to get an idea of the assortment of options. http://www.astronomyclubs.co.uk/  Bristol can fall into a couple of counties so look around. At this stage avoid imaging. In the easiest term it is different to visual. Equipment has the same names  - scope, mount etc - but it is a different part of the equipment spectrum. Easy explanation is Visual = big scope + small mount, Imaging = small scope + big mount. So if you get a nice visual scope you then need a really, really big mount (think Fork Lift Truck).

Also there are a lot of unused big scopes and not that many unused small ones. You see a lot more with a simple but much used 80mm achro refractor then you do with an unused 8, 10, 12 inch reflector or SCT.

One other odd aspect: Expect to spend a similar amount on eyepiece's as the cost of the scope. You will need 5 eventually and the better the scope the more is spent on the eyepieces.

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You're not always going to be able to setup a heavy scope for a 5 or 6 year old when he wants to observe because you're too tired after a full day of work to stay up late.  Clear skies don't always align with the weekend.

I'd start with a kid-sized scope that gives good views like the Skywatcher Heritage-130p Flextube.  Put it on a tripod and you're good to go.  From there, you can go heavier and larger for yourself and your son, but he'll always have HIS scope to prize and use on his own.

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1 hour ago, Dave In Vermont said:

True - but I'd aim for a nice, little ST80. And let the kid see YOU using it quite often, too. This lil' nugget of psychology will tell the kid the ST80 is also a telescope for BIG kids - like YOU!

Sneaky, ain't I?

Dave :p

Based on my experience with an ST-80, I'd bypass it and go for an ED scope.  I couldn't stand the false color decreasing contrast on everything.  It hasn't been used in about 17 years.  I use my AT72ED monthly by comparison.

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37 minutes ago, Dave In Vermont said:

 

I only notice a bit of blue/purple in very bright objects. I was raised on my beloved achromats!

 

I could never stand the views through standard spotting scopes, daytime or night.  My first scope was a nicely figured 8" dob.  Going from no false color and no veiling glare to both on the ST-80 turned me off of short tube refractors for years until I gave the AT72ED a try.  I paid $170 in 2000 for the ST-80 new and $200 used for the AT72ED in 2013 or thereabouts.  Taking inflation into account, the ED was actually cheaper.  Today, the ST-80 descendants can be had for $100 or less used, so there is that for the first time buyer.  I also didn't like not being able to use 2" eyepieces in the ST-80 to get wide, sweeping low power views of the Milky Way.

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