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markclaire50

Controversial Topic! Advice to Beginners.

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I've just read some advice in a well known magazine publication, about the use of computerised telescopes for beginners. Basically they advised against, as it didn't encourage them to learn how to find objects by use of sky maps. 

Now, I don't agree with this view. I know this will probably fill many of you with horror. But maybe some will agree after I relay my personal story. 

40 years ago, when my interest began I was given a pair of 10x50 binoculars from my parents. One of the best presents I've ever had because it allowed me to spend hours outside looking at the stars. I read lots of astronomy books, especially Patrick Moores'. I knew where major constellations were. 

Moving forward by 10 years, I decided to get a Dob, as an 8.75" seemed exciting, at a relatively low cost. It was actually a Dark Star one. Remember those? 

Well, first light consisted of looking at jupiter. First impression was that the moons all looked like discs! That was a nice surprise. Jupiter looked like a white ball with no features. I found Saturn and that presented a nice sight too. But, then, this is where things went downhill, for me. When I tried to boost magnification, I simply spent more time trying to stop objects moving out of view and nudging in wrong direction. But worse than this, I simply could not find things, despite having a basic knowledge of constellations. There were so many stars in the sky in the Dob (it was a dark site!) that I could never recognise what I was looking for even with the finder. It was put in storage and hardly ever came out. Now, in hindsight, now I'm older and wiser, I might approach things differently. 

My next scope, was 20 years ago, a ST80, if I remember. I thought, let's go for something smaller and see how things go. I had even more trouble with that, on an equatorial mount with manual controls. Let's say, it hardly got used. 

Fast forward 20 years, and having realised technology had caught up?, I purchased a skywatcher Az gti wifi mount. This time a skywatcher 80mmed went on it and a 127mak.I have seen more things with that mount, than I ever did before. Yes, it goes to the object, but I can enjoy the experience. I use it much more! And in addition to that, it is actually encouraging me to find these objects with my eyes and binoculars to see how they compare to view in the scopes and where they are relative to well known stars. A kind of reverse learning, in effect! Just as good  I think. 

I'm hoping for an interesting thread with this one! 

Thanks 

Mark 

 

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My experience was similar. I remember giving up because I could not find anything with my tiny wobbly refractor as a kid.

It took one night for an “impulse purchase” Celestron Sky Prodigy 130mm to erase those bad memories forever.

- it aligned itself with an early inbuilt version of starsense

- you pick an object, wait a few seconds and there it was to see

- I had the kids and wife outside all looking at a never ending list of objects

Unfortunately, after 6 weeks I had seen everything the 130mm could show me and I had to upgrade to a CPC800! :) 

- I remember holding a star party for my daughter and her friends, we were all outside until the early hours cycling through endless objects from “turn left at Orion” as I read the text while they all looked through the eyepiece in turn (I really miss the CPC, it was a great scope)

I would advise all newbies to get GOTO and think that anyone advising folk to learn the skies and find stuff yourself are taking more people away from the hobby than they realise.

“seeing is believing “ and it you ain’t seeing anything then you soon stop believing... :( 

We live in the 21st century and while we all remember the “good old days”, time has moved on and so must we too (IMHO).

However, if you love crawling about on your hands and knees trying to find something in a finder then don’t let me stop you. It’s your back and neck after all.

Alan

Edited by alanjgreen
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I own a large Goto and a small non-goto.  With the small scope I can see what I know and can easily find, i.e. Sirius, M42 Orion nebula, Pleiades, Capella, maybe the big planets etc.  What I don't know about or even if I do I'd never find twice I wouldn't find with the non-Goto.  With the Goto I've seen all I've already mentioned and other fainter Messier objects like the Cats eye and ring nebula and some star clusters that I'd have never found without and certainly couldn't find again without the Goto.  I therefore concur with your conclusion that Goto's are nice to have and I will probably always see more with mine than without.

Edited by JOC
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7 minutes ago, alanjgreen said:

My experience was similar. I remember giving up because I could not find anything with my tiny wobbly refractor as a kid.

It took one night for an “impulse purchase” Celestron Sky Prodigy 130mm to erase those bad memories forever.

- it aligned itself with an early inbuilt version of starsense

- you pick an object, wait a few seconds and there it was to see

- I had the kids and wife outside all looking at a never ending list of objects

Unfortunately, after 6 weeks I had seen everything the 130mm could show me and I had to upgrade to a CPC800! :) 

- I remember holding a star party for my daughter and her friends, we were all outside until the early hours cycling through endless objects from “turn left at Orion” as I read the text while they all looked through the eyepiece in turn (I really miss the CPC, it was a great scope)

I would advise all newbies to get GOTO and think that anyone advising folk to learn the skies and find stuff yourself are taking more people away from the hobby than they realise.

“seeing is believing “ and it you ain’t seeing anything then you soon stop believing... :( 

We live in the 21st century and while we all remember the “good old days”, time has moved on and so must we too (IMHO).

However, if you love crawling about on your hands and knees trying to find something in a finder then don’t let me stop you. It’s your back and neck after all.

Alan

Thanks Alan

Surprisingly, so far the replies agree with me. ? 

I'd like to add two further points. 

1. In light polluted areas, star jumping with maps may not even be feasible. Goto doesn't care! ?

2. The same magazine(I'm not going to say who, in case they come looking for me!) was encouraging people to buy maps like Sky Atlas 2000, and Uranometria 2000. Personally, these days, I would not advise anyone at any level to get these. I would advise simpler maps in general astronomy books or put an app on your phone or use Stellarium on a pc. I still have Sky Atlas 2000, and did have the Uranometria 2000, so I speak from experience. ? 

I have wondered about turn left at orion, as many members suggest it. 

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Whatever floats the proverbial boat really. Some people just want to see the object where others take pleasure in the 'hunt' for those fuzzys. 

Being a nerd, I love to use technology that enhances the hobby and would always encourage the use of Goto etc.

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7 minutes ago, Prador said:

Whatever floats the proverbial boat really. Some people just want to see the object where others take pleasure in the 'hunt' for those fuzzys. 

Being a nerd, I love to use technology that enhances the hobby and would always encourage the use of Goto etc.

Thanks. Yes, I agree. Interestingly, it may well be that as people progress with goto, they might even decide they need more of a challenge and switch it off, and try to find the object manually. But the good thing there, would be that they already knew what the object would look like and star patterns around it, if they have already seen it with goto. ?

I have to admit, I'm tempted by one of those skywatcher 10" flexitube DOBs with goto and tracking. ??

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7 minutes ago, markclaire50 said:

Interestingly, it may well be that as people progress with goto, they might even decide they need more of a challenge and switch it off, and try to find the object manually. But the good thing there, would be that they already knew what the object would look like and star patterns around it, if they have already seen it with goto. ?

That's totally what I've done! Having just purchased a Sabre Alt-Az, just as the clouds rolled in, I'm now challenging myself to find objects manually. That's not the only reason though. The set-up time will be considerably shorter not having to demolish the under-stairs cupboard to break out the NEQ6 ?

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This topic is interesting and yes some do feel strongly about it but they don't have the bad skies we have ( Orion barely visible ). Now I recommend everybody to go goto first even though I enjoy star-hopping myself. The thing is I started manually and couldn't find anything. Once I got goto I started to learn the sky. Now I can find the objects manually. Goto enabled me to really start learning and enjoying.

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I think go to and non go to are complementary don't compete. Everyone is different and the best way to enjoy a hobby is to piece together advice from experts with our own knowledge of ourselves and how we like to enjoy a hobby.

If a go to scope is reliable and easy to set up it is going to help get someone into the hobby and that can only be a good thing.

I have never wanted go to myself but I have seen go to scopes in action and have been hugely impressed. If you are doing outreach or if you want to maximise time looking and minimise time finding they are great. I just prefer finding things myself even though that limits what I can see and even though sometimes it results in failure. I've had some sessions where I never found a single planned target, but those sessions taught me a lot and then when I do find things I appreciate it more.

I have more maps than I will admit to but I enjoy looking at them and trying to memorise areas I will be looking at.

One thing that helps me a lot is sky safari, it is so good at simulating the view in any scope or finder  that I no longer use maps in the field except for variable star observing where I take out aavso maps.

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1 hour ago, markclaire50 said:

I've just read some advice in a well known magazine publication, about the use of computerised telescopes for beginners. Basically they advised against, as it didn't encourage them to learn how to find objects by use of sky maps.

I feel that a lot of this is due to authors having to write the article that the editor wants. If those editors are, themselves, stuck in the past and have mis-remembered scenes in their heads about endless numbers of clear nights, dark skies and Hubble-like views, then that is the sort of article they will commission.
It could also be that those editors know their advertisers will sell hundreds more "junior" telescopes than multi-thousand £ ones with buttons and batteries. Especially when those little scopes on their wobbly tripods look like "proper" telescopes. Even if they are only used once and then left in a cupboard until they are tossed out. I wonder how many telescopes bought after Stargazing Live were never used again after the first disappointing experiences?

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1 hour ago, alanjgreen said:

I would advise all newbies to get GOTO and think that anyone advising folk to learn the skies and find stuff yourself are taking more people away from the hobby than they realise.

“seeing is believing “ and it you ain’t seeing anything then you soon stop believing... :( 

We live in the 21st century and while we all remember the “good old days”, time has moved on and so must we too (IMHO).

However, if you love crawling about on your hands and knees trying to find something in a finder then don’t let me stop you. It’s your back and neck after all.

Alan

That is quite a condescending statement with whiff of mockery Alan. 

p.s. so what if we are in the 21st century?

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I can't really tell what is better for beginner, but I do know what I prefer.

Tracking is nice, but no goto for me for visual. I'm one of those people that have good sense of orientation, map reading skills and navigation in general. I think that helps a lot. I don't even use star charts in the field - I go by "memory". At home I use planetarium software to make "mental maps" of where objects are, if I'm about to observe them for the first time, and just go by memory.

After observing an object a couple of times - I just sort of learn where it is.

For objects that I've seen before it usually takes me less than minute to find them.

 

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50 minutes ago, heliumstar said:

This topic is interesting and yes some do feel strongly about it but they don't have the bad skies we have ( Orion barely visible ). Now I recommend everybody to go goto first even though I enjoy star-hopping myself. The thing is I started manually and couldn't find anything. Once I got goto I started to learn the sky. Now I can find the objects manually. Goto enabled me to really start learning and enjoying.

Which is exactly my thinking, ? and why I was quite surprised with the - I'm tempted to say anachronistic - opinion in that magazine. 

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44 minutes ago, Paz said:

I think go to and non go to are complementary don't compete. Everyone is different and the best way to enjoy a hobby is to piece together advice from experts with our own knowledge of ourselves and how we like to enjoy a hobby.

If a go to scope is reliable and easy to set up it is going to help get someone into the hobby and that can only be a good thing.

I have never wanted go to myself but I have seen go to scopes in action and have been hugely impressed. If you are doing outreach or if you want to maximise time looking and minimise time finding they are great. I just prefer finding things myself even though that limits what I can see and even though sometimes it results in failure. I've had some sessions where I never found a single planned target, but those sessions taught me a lot and then when I do find things I appreciate it more.

I have more maps than I will admit to but I enjoy looking at them and trying to memorise areas I will be looking at.

One thing that helps me a lot is sky safari, it is so good at simulating the view in any scope or finder  that I no longer use maps in the field except for variable star observing where I take out aavso maps.

Thanks Paz. Some good points. I also like the horizontal flip in sky safari as it shows me exactly the orientation in my scope, meaning I don't need to flip it in my head to match the chart. That helped me with being certain I was looking exactly in the right place for the E star recently, rather than a fraction off, and these things matter with that star. 

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42 minutes ago, pete_l said:

I feel that a lot of this is due to authors having to write the article that the editor wants. If those editors are, themselves, stuck in the past and have mis-remembered scenes in their heads about endless numbers of clear nights, dark skies and Hubble-like views, then that is the sort of article they will commission.
It could also be that those editors know their advertisers will sell hundreds more "junior" telescopes than multi-thousand £ ones with buttons and batteries. Especially when those little scopes on their wobbly tripods look like "proper" telescopes. Even if they are only used once and then left in a cupboard until they are tossed out. I wonder how many telescopes bought after Stargazing Live were never used again after the first disappointing experiences?

Good points Pete. I also wondered the same when I saw the star maps they were advising as well. I really would not advise the sky atlas and uranometria. 

My computerised mount and tripod cost £250. It can handle good scopes which are not expensive (relatively!). A 130p newt would just about be ok- cheap, even new. I don't have one, but I have a 127mak, £160 secondhand and an skywatcher evostar pro 80ed, £330 off ebay' real bargain--lovely scope!). A baader zoom at £260 (if new) completes the initial set up. Mount runs on AA batteries for several hours, if user only uses scope infrequently this is OK, and cheaper than battery (although I invested in a 10Ah tracer lithium battery - brilliant investment! No problem with it, and so small and light! ). The point is, a beginner can make a relatively small investment to get high quality goto mount and kit. I know because it works and works well. ??. If anything it has reinvigorated my interest and I WANT to set it up when the nights are clear as it is so easy and quick to do that, and pack up too. So, I think you may have hit the nail on the head with your comment. ??

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'Horses for courses' I suppose.  For me the thrill is also in the chase, and not just an exercise in "bagging" targets.  Most of what I see in my scope looks quite similar anyway,  apart from the bright clusters, M42 and the doubles.  I can quite happily spend an evening manually tracking down a single faint smudge and come away very content with that success.  Also, manually star hoping keeps the door open for serendipitous uncovering of pleasing asterisms and other objects on the way.  It's just that I feel a bit more 'connected' with the whole process, and not just a passive observer.  But, each to their own, and who am I to judge the approach of others to this wonderful hobby. 

Clear skies to all !!!

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I think as long as you don't try to impose one view or another on people then anything is good. I use both methods with equal enjoyment depending upon circumstances. One constant seems to be using Skysafari as my tool for finding things! My brain seems to work better with white on black stars, and being able to easily tune the display to your sky and scope orientation just makes everything much easier. I have some lovely star atlases, but these tend to be used inside for browsing rather than anything else.

When at a dark site, or at least where you can see a decent number of reference stars with the naked eye, I love star hopping with a manual mount. Often it will be a dual head alt az with a widefield refractor one side and something a little bigger (mak or SCT) on the other. Best of both worlds then. I can find a fairly wide range of objects just from memory, and get to anything else via hopping.

At home or under light polluted skies I agree that goto is a major benefit, just as is the tracking element. I have a GP-DX EQ mount semi-permanently setup in my back garden which is aligned and ready to go very quickly. Finding targets when you cant see many stars is a pain, so the goto does allow me to see a much wider selection within a short time frame, something which is also important given a busy life and a 6am alarm call every day. Goto gives me more time to observe each object.

I tend to think of it a little like satnav though. You can use a satnav to get yourself anywhere without any knowledge of where you are going. I find this a little unsettling, and have a reasonable knowledge of geography, and do decide to over rule the satnav every now and then. Plus, if it goes wrong, runs out of battery or gets lost itself then you still know basically what to do. I treat goto much the same. I let it make life easier for me, but also know I could find the objects myself if I want to.

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22 minutes ago, AstroCiaran123 said:

'Horses for courses' I suppose.  For me the thrill is also in the chase, and not just an exercise in "bagging" targets.  Most of what I see in my scope looks quite similar anyway,  apart from the bright clusters, M42 and the doubles.  I can quite happily spend an evening manually tracking down a single faint smudge and come away very content with that success.  Also, manually star hoping keeps the door open for serendipitous uncovering of pleasing asterisms and other objects on the way.  It's just that I feel a bit more 'connected' with the whole process, and not just a passive observer.  But, each to their own, and who am I to judge the approach of others to this wonderful hobby. 

Clear skies to all !!!

Thanks Astro. Actually, one day I am also going to do some general scanning (via my WiFi of course?) with no particular target, to see what surprises I can find. It all adds to the interest. Then the challenge will be trying to identify what I've stumbled across! ? 

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27 minutes ago, Stu said:

I think as long as you don't try to impose one view or another on people then anything is good. I use both methods with equal enjoyment depending upon circumstances. One constant seems to be using Skysafari as my tool for finding things! My brain seems to work better with white on black stars, and being able to easily tune the display to your sky and scope orientation just makes everything much easier. I have some lovely star atlases, but these tend to be used inside for browsing rather than anything else.

When at a dark site, or at least where you can see a decent number of reference stars with the naked eye, I love star hopping with a manual mount. Often it will be a dual head alt az with a widefield refractor one side and something a little bigger (mak or SCT) on the other. Best of both worlds then. I can find a fairly wide range of objects just from memory, and get to anything else via hopping.

At home or under light polluted skies I agree that goto is a major benefit, just as is the tracking element. I have a GP-DX EQ mount semi-permanently setup in my back garden which is aligned and ready to go very quickly. Finding targets when you cant see many stars is a pain, so the goto does allow me to see a much wider selection within a short time frame, something which is also important given a busy life and a 6am alarm call every day. Goto gives me more time to observe each object.

I tend to think of it a little like satnav though. You can use a satnav to get yourself anywhere without any knowledge of where you are going. I find this a little unsettling, and have a reasonable knowledge of geography, and do decide to over rule the satnav every now and then. Plus, if it goes wrong, runs out of battery or gets lost itself then you still know basically what to do. I treat goto much the same. I let it make life easier for me, but also know I could find the objects myself if I want to.

Hi Stu. Brilliant comment! ?

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2 hours ago, alanjgreen said:

“seeing is believing “ and it you ain’t seeing anything then you soon stop believing... :( 

I love this statement ^^^^ it completely sums me up.  There are faint objects up there that even with the Goto I haven't found easy to see and would have given up on finding esp. as I never know where to start off magnification wise to see them.   However if the Goto has said they are there I have persevered like with the ring and cats eye nebula and eventually identified what I am supposed to be looking at and that I would have ignored if the Goto hadn't been sure they were there.

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18 minutes ago, JOC said:

However if the Goto has said they are there I have persevered like with the ring and cats eye nebula and eventually identified what I am supposed to be looking at and that I would have ignored if the Goto hadn't been sure they were there.

That is a very valid point. The other day I was having a great session, and decided to look for three objects which looked as though they would show within the same field of view. On first glance it just appeared as though there were random star patterns there, but carefully looking at Skysafari and some AV allowed me to identify three new (to me) objects that I would otherwise have panned right over.

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I've always been slightly against goto for myself. Lets say I was going fishing and I settled down on my chair, cast the line etc and I was told that I WILL catch a fish every ten seconds without fail... OK, great... for a while and then what? The fun of the 'hunt' would be lost surely.  I wouldn't necessarily put someone off getting one but I feel that the 'hunt' however long and frustrating is all part of the process and the feel of satisfaction is great when you find your target....

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8 minutes ago, mark81 said:

I've always been slightly against goto for myself. Lets say I was going fishing and I settled down on my chair, cast the line etc and I was told that I WILL catch a fish every ten seconds without fail... OK, great... for a while and then what? The fun of the 'hunt' would be lost surely.  I wouldn't necessarily put someone off getting one but I feel that the 'hunt' however long and frustrating is all part of the process and the feel of satisfaction is great when you find your target....

Thanks Mark. Perhaps a pick and mix approach - bit of goto, but of hunting - is how I see myself going forward. Although I'd have to have darker skies to see any star 'markers' below mag 4.3. Any naked eye hopping beyond that magnitude, for me, would be impossible. But, I would like to do some hunting as I progress. ??

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1 minute ago, mark81 said:

the feel of satisfaction is great when you find your target....

The thing is the Goto is no guarantee of the certainly of finding an object.  I have still not clapped eyes on the The Veil - despite its size, some nebulas I still haven't found despite the goto slewing to them etc.  Satisfacion still exists even with the Goto.  As I note above as a beginner I often have no idea of the size of object I am chasing.  This is where magnification becomes very important.  It is very difficult chasing the ring nebula with the 32mm in place in a 1200mm FL scope.  It resembles little more than a faint slightly fat star and is easily overlooked until you've found it for the first time and know what you are after.  Yet, conversely chasing The Veil or Andromeda galaxy with a 10mm in place and you are probably going to still miss the main show and not realise that you have found something.

2 hours ago, heliumstar said:

but they don't have the bad skies we have ( Orion barely visible )

Crikey!  That IS bad, I don't think I have skies that are exceptional, but Orion twinkles like the pride in the sky here!

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5 minutes ago, markclaire50 said:

Thanks Mark. Perhaps a pick and mix approach - bit of goto, but of hunting - is how I see myself going forward. Although I'd have to have darker skies to see any star 'markers' below mag 4.3. Any naked eye hopping beyond that magnitude, for me, would be impossible. But, I would like to do some hunting as I progress. ??

Yes, I suppose seeing conditions would have to be taken into consideration .  I am lucky to have Bottle 3/4 skies so maybe it's easy to say no to goto... If I struggled to see basic constellations then maybe....just maybe...

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