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FLO

Beginner Telescope Guide 2018

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With Christmas in mind we are reviewing our guide to the best Beginner Telescopes for astronomy :icon_santa:

This is probably the first year when we have not edited or updated the guide so if you can see where it can be improved please say. It is not too late for us to make changes to the advice offered or the telescopes listed. We will happily consider adding a new telescope or substitute an existing one if you know of one we might have missed. To succeed as a beginner telescope it must be easy to use and provide good views (if it ends up under a bed or in a loft gathering dust then we have failed). 

All the telescopes have enough resolution and light gathering ability to view details on the lunar surface, the rings of Saturn and cloud belts on Jupiter. A number of deep-sky targets can also be observed including the famous globular cluster in Hercules (M13) and the Great Nebula in Orion (M42). 

HTH 

 

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I think substituting the Celestron Inspire range for the Astromaster would be good.  The Alt-az is much easier to set up and use than EQ, and the Inspire range has lots of very nice touches for beginners (redlight torch, phone holder etc)

Helen

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Would be nice to have a 90mm Mak in the mix perhaps the heritage, not a general purpose instrument but very well built, camera friendly and excels on Lunar/planetary.

Alan

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43 minutes ago, Helen said:

I think substituting the Celestron Inspire range for the Astromaster would be good.  The Alt-az is much easier to set up and use than EQ, and the Inspire range has lots of very nice touches for beginners (redlight torch, phone holder etc)

Helen

I have often wondered what purpose an EQ mount serves on the more entry-level kit.  I think an alt-az mount makes far more sense at that level, especially when you consider that many very experienced astronomers never even go anywhere near a GEM unless they have an interest in imaging.  I'm half-convinced that mounts such as the EQ1 and EQ2 could not even exist and pretty much no-one would miss them.

James

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6 minutes ago, JamesF said:

I have often wondered what purpose an EQ mount serves on the more entry-level kit.  I think an alt-az mount makes far more sense at that level, especially when you consider that many very experienced astronomers never even go anywhere near a GEM unless they have an interest in imaging.  I'm half-convinced that mounts such as the EQ1 and EQ2 could not even exist and pretty much no-one would miss them.

James

I agree. Not least because the cheap EQ mounts are heavy & nasty things. My old EQ2 was a nightmare with the long dangling control wire dials, exposed clockwork bits and wobbly construction, along with heavy weight and difficulty for a beginner to understand its operation, how could anyone recommend that to someone just starting?

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It appears some people like to tie their electronics to their hobby, whilst it is accepted that you lose aperture if you go for electronics I'm liking the az-gti perhaps one of those bundles or the star discovery wifi dongle bundle with telescope. 

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25 minutes ago, happy-kat said:

It appears some people like to tie their electronics to their hobby, whilst it is accepted that you lose aperture if you go for electronics I'm liking the az-gti perhaps one of those bundles or the star discovery wifi dongle bundle with telescope. 

I agree, the az-gti represents the next generation of mounts, probably ideal for a newbie.

Alan

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6 hours ago, Alien 13 said:

Would be nice to have a 90mm Mak in the mix perhaps the heritage, not a general purpose instrument but very well built, camera friendly and excels on Lunar/planetary.

Alan

Yep, I was going to suggest one of the scopes with the Virtuoso mini Dobson mount. Goto can be added later but I found tracking to make a huge difference to my early experiences. 

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15 hours ago, JamesF said:

I have often wondered what purpose an EQ mount serves on the more entry-level kit.  I think an alt-az mount makes far more sense at that level, especially when you consider that many very experienced astronomers never even go anywhere near a GEM unless they have an interest in imaging.  I'm half-convinced that mounts such as the EQ1 and EQ2 could not even exist and pretty much no-one would miss them.

James

It was for the setting circles.  Back before anything was electronic those numbered dials allowed you to move straight to the target of interest with nothing more than a sky atlas.  Then you only then have to turn one of the rods to keep it on track.  As rightly noted though many of the cheap Eq mounts were very wobbly and not really suitable for the telescopes placed on them.  Obviously now the Altaz options are a lot more advanced and I get the impression that 'star hopping' is more common to find a target.

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I agree with the comments made above. My biggest problem with the FLO beginners page is all those scopes on EQ mounts. AZ makes much more sense for a newbie even if it comes in slighly more expensive.

I prefer both of these AZ 102mm fracs to the EQ you have listed!

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/startravel/skywatcher-startravel-102-az3.html

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/celestron-astromaster-series/celestron-astromaster-102az.html

 

I would also vote for the 130p on an AZ5 as a great starter scope for a newbie.

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/sky-watcher-az5-deluxe/sky-watcher-explorer-130ps-az5-deluxe.html

Alan

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On 28/11/2018 at 17:10, Helen said:

I think substituting the Celestron Inspire range for the Astromaster would be good.  The Alt-az is much easier to set up and use than EQ, and the Inspire range has lots of very nice touches for beginners (redlight torch, phone holder etc)

Helen

Done 🙂 

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On 28/11/2018 at 17:28, Alien 13 said:

Would be nice to have a 90mm Mak in the mix perhaps the heritage, not a general purpose instrument but very well built, camera friendly and excels on Lunar/planetary.

Alan

We will need to think about that one. Historically Maksutovs have not proved popular for beginners, though I'll confess my first telescope was a Meade ETX 102! (Nice optics but otherwise a frustrating experience!). 

Steve

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1 minute ago, FLO said:

 though I'll confess my first telescope was a Meade ETX 102! (Nice optics but otherwise a frustrating experience!). 

Steve

Ditto! but with the ETX125!  I've actually still got the 125 ota and it is great on planets and the moon.  I wouldn't want it as my only scope though.

Helen

 

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On 28/11/2018 at 18:00, JamesF said:

I have often wondered what purpose an EQ mount serves on the more entry-level kit. 

It enables tracking via a slo-mo cable and can easily be motorised (only one motor required). Most beginners observe with a parent so the ability to track a target is desirable. 

But I do understand people's fondness for Alt-Az. Over the years my two most used telescopes have been a Skyliner 250px Dobsonian and a refractor on a Vixen Porta-II Alt-Az mount. 

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I remember being a teenager with a 2" newtonian(!) The continual frustration as the moon/planet escaped from my view as quickly as I could get it in focus.

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On 28/11/2018 at 18:39, happy-kat said:

It appears some people like to tie their electronics to their hobby, whilst it is accepted that you lose aperture if you go for electronics I'm liking the az-gti perhaps one of those bundles or the star discovery wifi dongle bundle with telescope. 

 

On 28/11/2018 at 19:06, Alien 13 said:

I agree, the az-gti represents the next generation of mounts, probably ideal for a newbie.

Good point. The increasing interest in telescopes with mounts that can be controlled via smart-phone or tablet is striking. The new Sky-Watcher StarTravel-102 AZ GTe is a good recent example. It is essentially same as the GTi but without encoders so more affordable. We have added it to the Beginner Telescopes section. 

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16 minutes ago, FLO said:

 

Good point. The increasing interest in telescopes with mounts that can be controlled via smart-phone or tablet is striking. The new Sky-Watcher StarTravel-102 AZ GTe is a good recent example. It is essentially same as the GTi but without encoders so more affordable. We have added it to the Beginner Telescopes section. 

I like that combination looks good... Have to ask will that new mount ever be sold separately?

Alan

Edited by Alien 13

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1 hour ago, FLO said:

It enables tracking via a slo-mo cable and can easily be motorised (only one motor required). Most beginners observe with a parent so the ability to track a target is desirable.

Well, yes, but that only really works if you have reasonable polar alignment, and many of the lower-end EQ mounts don't have a polar scope, nor are the settings circles particularly accurate, and alignment is more tricky if you're not that familiar with the night sky.  And it probably has to be done every time you go out.  It can also be frustrating when your OTA is pointing here and you want it to be over there, but you can't move it there directly because the mount will only go in the directions the RA and DEC axes allow.

I'm certainly not suggesting that EQ mounts generally are of no value.  More that they require skills to use that beginners tend not to have, may take a fair while to acquire (especially with the UK weather) and don't necessarily need to get the most out of a telescope.  When I thought about this a few years back I asked myself "Is an experienced astronomer likely to buy an EQ1 or EQ2, and if not are the reasons they wouldn't buy one also applicable to a beginner?"  Briefly, I came to the conclusion "No", and "Probably" :D

When I started I had an EQ1 and eventually got the hang of it, but it took quite some time before I could get the alignment sufficiently good that I didn't need to use both slow-mo controls a fair bit of the time and even then I couldn't guarantee it.  When I bought an AZ3 I found it much faster and easier, as is my dob.  Learning to track manually and account for the counter-intuitive motion in the eyepiece actually came quite quickly for me compared to getting the hang of the EQ1.  Where a GEM really came into its own for the first time for me was when I bought the 127 Mak and put it on an EQ3-2 (with a polar scope).  Quite possibly that would have been far more frustrating to use on a manual alt-az mount.

Of course these are just my opinions and other people may have a completely different view, and you as a vendor probably have a totally different insight compared with my limited experience of just myself and my children :)  I shan't be looking for a bridge to jump off if I'm wrong on this :D

James

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16 minutes ago, Alien 13 said:

I like that combination looks good... Have to ask will that new mount ever be sold separately?

Alan

We hope so but no sign of that yet. The Sky-Watcher GTe telescopes were released only about a month ago. 

Steve 

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1 minute ago, JamesF said:

Well, yes, but that only really works if you have reasonable polar alignment, and many of the lower-end EQ mounts don't have a polar scope, nor are the settings circles particularly accurate, and alignment is more tricky if you're not that familiar with the night sky. 

I don't disagree but when kids observe the night sky polar alignment is not critical. Near-enough-is-good-enough. It only has to track long enough for them to share the view with whoever they are observing with. They don't need a polarscope and nobody uses setting circles these days, at least not the ones fitted to modern mounts 🙂 

Steve 

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3 minutes ago, FLO said:

.... nobody uses setting circles these days, at least not the ones fitted to modern mounts 🙂 

Just heard a sharp intake of breath from one of my colleagues... 🤭🙃

Steve

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I do actually use the setting circles if I'm polar aligning by non-photographic means (ie just a polar scope).  That's probably the only time for me though.

James

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1 minute ago, JamesF said:

I do actually use the setting circles if I'm polar aligning by non-photographic means (ie just a polar scope).  That's probably the only time for me though.

I also used them, once or twice, on an EQ3 many years ago. It wasn't fun. 

I like the idea though so if someone manufactured a mount with genuinely useful (large diameter) setting circles, I'd want one. 

Steve 

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4 minutes ago, FLO said:

I like the idea though so if someone manufactured a mount with genuinely useful (large diameter) setting circles, I'd want one. 

If somebody is lucky enough to own one, please post a photo 🙂 

Steve 

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