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What to expect to see with a beginner telescope


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Hi all. I recently bought a beginner telescope for my 8yo daughter. I've gotten a decent feel for how to use it, and we've seen Venus and a few stars, but I've been slightly underwhelmed by the inability to see anything else. I'm wondering if my expectations might be too high for the telescope I bought. So far I've struggled to find info online about what I can actually expect to see through this thing, so I was hoping some of you might be able to help me.

Here are the specs, it's a Gskyer, if that matters.

400mm (f/5.7) focal length and 70mm aperture

25mm and 10mm lens, with a 3x Barlow

I read that the ATLAS comet is supposed to be visible with "strong binoculars or a backyard telescope" this week, but couldn't see it. I haven't been able to see the Pinwheel galaxy or the m81 and m82 galaxies, even though I read that they can be seen with strong binoculars (so I assume they should be able to be seen with a telescope, as well).

I think it also needs to be pointed out that I live in Las Vegas, about 5 miles from the Strip. I'm wondering if the brightness of the Strip is causing issues.

But are my expectations too high? Is the telescope just not strong enough to see anything other than stars and the Moon?

Thanks in advance for your help!

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7 minutes ago, ApathyAngel86 said:

help me.

Here are the specs, it's a Gskyer

Hi m not familiar with it but remember you in the surface in the earth light years away viewing pin pricks of light moving in the atmosphere- it won’t be Hubble style images 

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You face some pretty strong light pollution (LP) because of where you live. I am out there once a year for a conference. I bring one of my 92mm scopes with me. I can look at the moon and the planets (they are coming up earlier as the months go by so soon Jupiter and Saturn will be nice things to look at) easily but pretty much everything else is washed out from the LP on the strip. You would have to travel to Lake Meade to really get good views of stuff.

A second problem will be the aperture of your scope. 70mm isn't very big. It is just over 2.75 inches in diameter. As a beginner and with your LP you will not see much. You will see more from Meade but it will still be pretty small. 

Since this is for your 8 year old daughter and because of where you live I would suggest an upgrade. For your circumstances I would highly recommend the Orion Starblast  6i. It isn't cheap at $479 but it has several things going for it that will make your experience much more enjoyable! They are: It has a computer so once you align it the computer will tell you how to find objects. Star hopping (going from star to star to find an object) can be fun but for a beginner from your LP it can be very frustrating so it is better to have a computer. It is 6" in diameter so you will see significantly more. 6" in a reflector (mirrored telescope) is the minimum aperture recommended for a beginner to really see stuff from heavy LP skies. It has two eyepieces (EP) so you can get different views of things including galaxies and other deep space objects (DSO) as well as the moon and planets. It is a tabletop scope so it will be easy for your daughter to use. And it is a good entry point to the hobby. Scopes you can find at department stores are really not going to do what you expect them to do.  I would recommend a copy of the Sky and Telescope Pocket Sky Atlas so that you and your daughter can decide on things to look at. And a map of the moon. The Orion Starblast 6i can be found here: https://www.telescope.com/Orion/Orion-StarBlast-6i-IntelliScope-Reflector-Telescope/rc/2160/p/102026.uts?keyword=star blast 6i

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I think it is mostly people's expectations are too high because of internet images and media, hubble etc.

Most people are suprised to learn that even in my modest 8inch newt and average/good skies, all the galaxies that I hunt are colourless grey faint tiny smudges.

Good luck and I hope you keep stargazing.

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41 minutes ago, Dr Strange said:

several things going

personally I’d keep it simple kids that age won’t be interested in goto tech and the technology side - they want to see the moon and planets 🪐 when the mood takes them - if you want a decent but affordable scope for that you can enjoy as well on a personal level I’d opt for a SW 127 Mak 

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I do quite a bit of outreach (prior to the pandemic about 2 or more times a month) because I am a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador. It has been my experience that from about 8 years old and up they can surprise you in terms of what they want to see as well as how interested they actually are. But for the most part they are more about seeing things than hunting for things. They can also see the most interesting patterns even when our older eyes don't see anything. The Starblast 6i is what I recommend to just about everyone who asks and has kids that age or older. It is affordable when compared to other telescopes that have push to or GOTO, it is small enough to be very kid friendly, and adults can enjoy it too. 

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The thing is seeing faint things through a telescope with a pencil narrow field of view is not easy, its a skill.Its a skill that anyone can master but it takes perseverance and patience. The trouble is starter scopes are more difficult to use than more advanced ones putting the newbie at a further disdvantage.

If your not used to using a telescope the objects you mention are quite difficult ones and you are perhaps jumping in at the deep end with them even without light pollution.Stick to the brighter easier objects with your lowest power to start with.

There is a limit to what can be seen with a 70mm be in no doubt but its worth considering  lot of observers of my generation back in the 60's and early 70' started with smaller instuments than yours. Many here will know what I mean ,those chronic cheap 60mm Japanese refractors on rickety mounts and tiny Huygen eyepieces that were borderline adversion therapy but who's interest and entusiasm has survived up to this day.

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12 hours ago, Dr Strange said:

Star hopping (going from star to star to find an object) can be fun but for a beginner from your LP it can be very frustrating so it is better to have a computer.

Oh man, that's the truth. I love the idea of the computer. The one you suggested is a tad out of our price range now (my husband just got laid off), but the kid's birthday is in August, so that's definitely gone to the top of the list of birthday gifts.

And for my kid, at least, you're right about her surprising me with how interested she is. We got the telescope a couple of weeks ago, just to give us something to do during the shutdown. And tonight, after we came in from stargazing, she lied in bed watching youtube videos of what the planets sound like. And every night, she has to point out Venus, Sirius, and Arcturus (the first three things we saw through the telescope).

I think upgrading to the one you suggested will really help her passion grow even more.

The end of the month, we're all planning on heading out to Red Rock, away from the city lights, to see Venus at its brightest, and she's counting the days. I'm interested to see how the telescope works away from the LP.

But yeah, she's definitely more interested in looking at things than spending hours hunting. So tonight, I took the telescope out by myself and hunted until I found something worth looking at, then I called her out. That way, I didn't have to worry about her getting bored and her enthusiasm being squashed.

A telescope with a computer would cut out all the hunting and let her see a lot more. Thank you for that suggestion!

12 hours ago, Beardy30 said:

personally I’d keep it simple kids that age won’t be interested in goto tech and the technology side - they want to see the moon and planets 🪐 when the mood takes them - if you want a decent but affordable scope for that you can enjoy as well on a personal level I’d opt for a SW 127 Mak 

My kid is definitely interested in the planets (haven't seen the Moon yet), but she has an interest in the technical side, too. Tonight, after we came in from stargazing, she went to youtube and learned what a nebula is, and what the names of Jupiter's moons are, and what planets sound like.

But she also does a lot of coding with Scratch and Python, so she's already comfortable with technology. I think it really depends on the individual kid. Thanks for the suggestion though!

12 hours ago, miguel87 said:

I think it is mostly people's expectations are too high because of internet images and media, hubble etc.

Most people are suprised to learn that even in my modest 8inch newt and average/good skies, all the galaxies that I hunt are colourless grey faint tiny smudges.

Good luck and I hope you keep stargazing.

Good point. I certainly didn't expect Hubble style images or anything remotely like the images I see online, but I think it was more just not knowing what to expect. And not knowing what has an effect on the image.

For example, I looked into the specs of the telescope before I bought it, and found images that really surprised me (as in, they were better than I expected). I didn't realize that the aperture makes that much of a difference, and I was looking at images taken with a bigger aperture than what I have.

It also doesn't help that, unless we're talking muscle cars or psychology, my brain generally shuts down when the technical jargon starts. And there is A LOT of technical jargon in astronomy. I think it all just went over my head.

So I'm learning. I'll definitely keep at it.

9 hours ago, Les Ewan said:

The thing is seeing faint things through a telescope with a pencil narrow field of view is not easy, its a skill.Its a skill that anyone can master but it takes perseverance and patience. The trouble is starter scopes are more difficult to use than more advanced ones putting the newbie at a further disdvantage.

If your not used to using a telescope the objects you mention are quite difficult ones and you are perhaps jumping in at the deep end with them even without light pollution.

Yeah you're not kidding, lol. Although I'm damn proud of myself, I was able to find the Ghost of Jupiter tonight, after only an hour and fifteen minutes of hunting for the stupid thing.

I generally jump into the deep end with everything I do, so I'm not worried about it being difficult. It felt great to finally find it, and after my kid saw it, she spent 45 minutes watching youtube videos of nebulae, and how planets sound (which I didn't know was a thing, but apparently it is).

So it was worth the frustration, for sure.

I'll definitely keep practicing with the telescope we've got until we can upgrade. And I think you're right, I'll get better at it as time goes on.

 

Thank you everyone, for your help! This newbie definitely appreciates it!

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Hi

Looks like a very similar specification to the Celstron travel 70mm telescope if you were searching the web for using it or ideas for tweaking it.

Learning the constellations will help with star hoping and maybe a planisphere as they are tactile. Stelarium is a great computer planetarium to use and can set up ocular views to match the telescope and eyepieces you have.

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This forum has an excellent thread to set expectations of what you can see with different types of scope:

 

18 hours ago, ApathyAngel86 said:

but I've been slightly underwhelmed by the inability to see anything else.

Don't be underwhelemed by what you can't see, celebrate what you can see!   If you've seen that Venus is a crescent then you have seen something which 99% of the population are entirely unaware of.  Swing South from Venus you'll find stars in he constellations of Gemini, Cancer & Leo.  You should be able to make out the Beehhive Cluster in Cancer even with your scope and under light polluted skies - it will be faint but visible.

Get yourself a good (free) planetarium program - Stellarium is great (you can download it for virtually any platform from here https://stellarium.org/ , or use the online version here, https://stellarium-web.org/)

Don't be disheartened, make the most of what you have.  

 

Clear skies & keep well

Mark

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Congratulations on finding the ghost of Jupiter!

Since your daughter is so technologically advanced here is a link to a news letter put out by NASA. It is STEM focused. I would suggest subscribing:

https://www.nasa.gov/stem/express

In the interim as you wait for August and to help you hunt objects I would suggest downloading Sky Safari 6 (there are iPhone and Android versions) to your phone. Put the phone on its side on the telescope tube with the screen facing you. Select a target and move the scope and phone at the same time. It will get you in the general area of what you want to look at. Pan up and down left and right until you get it. But at least that will get you close. 

Your daughter can also use the app to look at various objects. Another good piece of software for her is Stellarium. It is free to download and is a planetarium software.

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