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Cam1988

New astronomer, managing expectations

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Hi all, 

First post on here looking for some telescope buying advise. I've searched and seen some similar topics which have been very useful but thought i'd summarise and see what the experts think.

I'm looking at getting myself and my girlfriend a telescope as an anniversary gift. She's not scientifically minded at all but she really likes the aesthetic of the moon. The house is filled with 3D printed moon lamps, jewelry, cushion covers etc.. We're about to move into a new house in Forest Hill in SE London and the new house has a really large garden backing onto more gardens so quite sheltered from all street lights. We both said to eachother a telescope might be a nice thing to have in the new house and something we can enjoy together in the new garden. 

I've got a budget of up to £200 but by no means want to spend that much if I'm paying for features we don't need or will use. 

I've got some experience with a reflector scope that was my brothers. He got it years ago and we both obsessed over it for about a month and then once we'd seen the big planets and a few blurry distant clusters we got bored and it never got touched again. That was a 130mm DIA reflector (skywatcher I think). After the initial excitement, my overriding feeling towards it was it was not worth the faff! This was in dark Northumberland as well, not London. 

I've tried to explain this to my girlfriend when we've talked about it and said if we don't want the faff we might have to invest in a Go to electric telescope. The logic being if its quicker and easier to see stuff, we'll use it more. I did get then quite excited reading reviews and trying to find second-hand goto scopes and it seems like something in my budget (or slightly pushed budget) is something like a Celestron SLT 127. (have seen second hand ones go for £250).

However having then done a bit of reading on here I think i've worked out that those cheaper Go-to's are still not that quick and simple to use, ultimately i'm I'm still only going to see fairly blurry planets and smudges of deep space clusters. I honestly don't think the girlfriend will be impressed and I'll probably get bored after a while too.  

So I think I've come to the conclusion that I want to get a much smaller refractor that would be much more accessible for viewing the moon and would allow us to see a smudgy Saturn and Jupiter on clear nights. A smartphone camera holder would be a bonus too as it adds a simple feature that would keep us entertained for longer. 

Do you think that's a fair approach or am I being a little too pessimistic about what I'm going to see? If so then what scopes could anyone recommend? Stepping down to a slightly lower budget there are so many more options and it's a bit bewildering. 

Thanks

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I think you will struggle on a budget of £200, although you can get reasonable scopes for this price you will struggle getting a goto mount and a scope for this, even secondhand. The link below should help as FLO are the best retailer you will find that cater for all budgets. 

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/az-goto/skywatcher-skymax-102-synscan-az-goto.html

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At your current location you will really need to manage your expectations.

I second suggestion to go for Maksutov type of scope. Goto mount can be useful, but I primarily thing it will be useful in terms of tracking.

Many people observe and study Moon as their primary target / interest - so nothing wrong with doing just that. Above scope will be well suited for this purpose, and tracking is big bonus - you won't need to adjust scope orientation every minute - you can relax and enjoy the view or tease out details.

Other targets will be just very faint blobs / smudges if at all visible. You are located at a place of very high light pollution. It is very hard to get any contrast on faint targets in those conditions.

Since you already have experience of how stuff might look like (and in LP it will look much worse), here are few things that might help with keeping interest in hobby.

Put some effort into learning / understanding what is it that you are seeing. What sort of object are you trying to see and what sort of features does it have - try to look for those features. Appreciate how distant and ancient these things are and what they tell us about our place in universe.

Do some research on different types of objects that you might observe - some of them are far more rewarding in LP than others. Planets and Moon in particular, don't suffer from light pollution. Double stars are also good candidates to be observed in LP.

Learn your way around the sky - get the sense of relations between position of objects, constellations, milky way (which you probably won't see due to LP, but you will be very aware of different "density" of background stars in different parts of sky).

Observing is a skill, and as such it can be learned by practice. Set your self reasonable goals - first to detect brighter stuff, then fainter, then try to see a particular feature that is easy to see, then go for fainter/harder stuff. But not in the course of single evening of course :D - make it a time progression over dozens of sessions. Maybe keep a log of your accomplishments and plan for future goals.

Back on the scope of choice - budget is very limited, and as pointed out not much room for goto. I don't often scout for second hand gear in UK - too much is involved in shipping and payment issues for me, so I can't really help there, but its worth checking out. As for new scopes, here are good choices for your needs:

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/maksutov/skywatcher-skymax-102-synscan-az-goto.html

(or with AZ Gti mount - more expensive, but that's goto for you)

or manual one that almost fits in your budget:

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/maksutov/sky-watcher-skymax-102-az-pronto.html

If you are considering refractor, it's worth thinking about chromatic aberration on the moon, since it is likely to be prime target (and I would recommend Mak for this over achromatic refractors), and also bulk - it will be longer scope.

Something like 90/900 is available in this price range (undriven / no goto)

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Thanks both for the responses. As I suspected then a goto is not really an option in my budget. 

Given that the moon and the brighter planets are all we're going to be looking at with the scope would something like the Celestron Astromaster 90 AZ be a good purchase?(https://www.firstlightoptics.com/celestron-astromaster-series/astromaster-90az-telescope.html). It's within budget and looks far simpler than the skymax above. It may not be but to the untrained eye it looks a lot more 'point and go'. The reflector I played with years ago had a similar looking mount to the skymax and we spent far more time faffing trying to align the scope using the mount than we did just looking at the sky. That's what i'm trying to avoid. 

 

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If you want to look at the moon and brighter planets on a budget of £200, then you don't need a GoTo, even if it were within budget.  The Moon looks interesting through any kind of telescope, But for the planets, you should expect the satisfaction to lie in identifying them and seeing them with your own eyes. Same goes for deep-space objects.

The GoTo comes into its own for serving up large numbers of fainter hard-to-find objects. But don't expect too much of the actual view.  A faint grey blob is a faint grey blob, even if it is huge and 10,000,000 light years away. Similarly a double star is two points of light.

TBH, I found planetary views unexciting with a 203mm scope, and even less exciting with the 127mm, till I turned to planetary imaging, which produced some nice results. But if you bought the kit I was using at R.R.P. you would have little change left out of £2000.

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9 minutes ago, Cam1988 said:

Thanks both for the responses. As I suspected then a goto is not really an option in my budget. 

Given that the moon and the brighter planets are all we're going to be looking at with the scope would something like the Celestron Astromaster 90 AZ be a good purchase?(https://www.firstlightoptics.com/celestron-astromaster-series/astromaster-90az-telescope.html). It's within budget and looks far simpler than the skymax above. It may not be but to the untrained eye it looks a lot more 'point and go'. The reflector I played with years ago had a similar looking mount to the skymax and we spent far more time faffing trying to align the scope using the mount than we did just looking at the sky. That's what i'm trying to avoid. 

 

I think that optics will be pretty much what you would expect from such budget refractor these days - sharp to up to x150 with CA present (but not that big of an issue like in fast achromats).

It will serve you well on the moon and planets (bar CA) and other targets for a scope of that class.

What I'm concerned about is overall fit and finish of such scope and mount in particular. Focuser is probably going to be borderline usable, and most people tweak it a bit for best performance (to eliminate any play and make focusing action smoother).

While mount can carry that scope and there will be no concern of it falling off or anything - performance of it may not be optimal. Such refractor is long instrument and requires stable mount for greatest comfort of use. Problems with mount will present themselves as shake at higher magnifications - it can take up to couple of seconds for vibrations to die down. This is not problem when observing, but it is when you move your scope to track object or when focusing. Focusing part is quite annoying - you need the stable image to get best focus - but any time you touch focuser - image starts to shake. There is simple technique to get around this - tweak focus by very small rotation of focusing knob - let go, wait for image to settle and see if you need to tweak it a bit more. After few "cycles" of this you should be at best focus position.

I'm not writing this to sway you away from this scope - these are just things that you can expect at this price point.

You are getting a lot for your money: scope, mount, eyepieces, diagonal, finder. It's really not fair to complain this much about focuser and mount when a decent focuser for refractor can cost as much as this whole package (and premium units even couple times more). Good stable alt az mount will likely cost as this whole package as well.

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If that's the most you want to spend what I would do is look for something pre-owned because there's so many people who buy fancy telescopes and they don't use them anymore and they end up selling them and you can get a very good one for less than half the cost usually. I think if you want a telescope that can sort of do it all you would probably want to telescope that is around 6 to 800 mm focal length so you can have a wide field of view for scanning the sky and still use a combination of eyepieces and Barlow lenses to zoom in close two objects. I think what you should try to look for is a 6 or 8 in reflector and get some good eyepieces because it's really the eyepiece that makes the telescope and you will enjoy the sights much better if you have a wide field-of-view eyepiece however they can be expensive but you might be able to find some pre-owned ones. Usually when you buy a telescope it doesn't come with very good eyepieces especially if you buy a low-end telescope so I think you should spend your most money on the mount and eyepiece because it's telescope it's just the mirror in a tube

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You might benefit from page 1 here:

Also, consider a pair of binoculars if all she wants to look at is the moon or the larger brighter sky objects - I think you can manage (some?) planets with binoculars too.

Edited by JOC

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