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JacobiteJake

HELP choosing my first scope, ta very much :)

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Hi Everyone

For the first time in 57 years I'm having the itch to look up :) , I'm fed up with looking at people wearing masks, moaning there's no loo rolls and 2mtr distance markings on the floor, so I think me needs to take a deep breath and look through some quality glass and see the amazing views above the clouds.  The problem I'm having, after watching many YouTube videos, is lots of different views on what your first scope should be, so, I need your help please.

My budget started at around £500 but I'm starting to think I need around £700 to get something I'm going to be pleased with, unless I come across a used one of course.  I'm pretty sure it's going to be mostly visual star gazing I'll be doing and then perhaps as my interest and curiosity grows, I'll have a dabble into astrophotography, although this side of it does look very complicated, not to mention much more expensive.  I have noticed in many videos that there is a push for newbies to get a reflector scope but they do seem a bit too big and cumbersome, and storage is an issue where I live, so I'm thinking more of a refractor. 

There's a few nice 80 ed scopes out there but as I understand it, the moon will look nice but I'll have a hard job making out the planets like Saturn at maximum power.  102's and 120 seems a good starter but the jump in cost to an ED version is BIG, so I'd like some help on whether or not it justifies the extra money please to remove much of the Chromatic Aboration that many complain about of the cheaper scopes.  I've also noticed that some scopes out there, although different in colour and name, the build is exactly the same and it's said by some, but it's pretty obvious it is, that they are just re-branded and come from the same factory in Shenzen.  So, can you help/advise please, is a 102 or a 120 a good choice, should I pay the extra for ED, and which brands should I consider, i.e. Skywatcher, Celestron etc.  Also, any advise on what extras I will need, I can see most advise on upgrading the 10mm eye piece that comes with most scopes for a better one, and a decent 2x Barlow, but anything else I'll you'll think I will need please and any tips and tricks for a very keen, getting on a bit, newbie, thank you very much.

Just so you know, I've made my first purchase, it's a planisphere and I'm learning how to use it from a nice chap I've found on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbz3QnAbzFM&t=962s&ab_channel=AstronomyandNatureTV

Take care, stay safe and clear skies as they say :)

 

Kindest regards

David 

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I have both the Ed80 and 120. The larger aperture of the 120 gives more resolution and detail. If you go the refractor route don't forget a sturdy mount. The skytee is a great option for any refractor. Look at the classifieds on here. Also astrobuyandsell. Nearly all my gear has been purchased used, it's all like new.

Steve

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If you wish one scope and it needs to be a refractor, then I would pay the extra for an ED scope and for the money then look for a good used SW 120ED , I have one of these and find it a good all rounder. Also remember to factor in for a mount. I use a AZ4 on 2" stainless steel legs and I find this set up works for me.

But I understand why reflector scopes are so recommended. As you do get so much more money for your buck. If you are interested in going down this route then I would look at a good quality 8" reflector. Still manageable to transport IMO and will have so much more aperture , so light gathering ability to draw those photons in. This means on the faint fuzzies , DSO will perform so much better than more limited aperture (seeing conditions permitting) . I have a 8" OOuk with a quality mirror, and it is such a good all round visual scope .

So the above would be my recommended routes , and look at the second hand market as you can get some very good quality astro gear at very sensible money.

 

 

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For me its all about enjoyment, and a good refractor between 3" and 5" can offer a lifetime of quality entertainment. Larger reflectors will have more light gathering ability and theoretical resolution, but their size can be off-putting. From an entirely personal point of view, I wouldn't want to go below  around 4" for a refractor, as this aperture offers a sweet spot in terms of power and ease of use. I've owned numerous larger scopes but the one I've used most is a 100mm apo.

I'd encourage you to spend a little extra on a 4" ED if you can, as the ED will perform much better on the Moon and planets than a general purpose Chinese achromat. Side by side they are worlds apart!

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Posted (edited)

You mention being put off by reflectors due to their bulk. I presume you are referring to Newtonian (Dobsonians) designs? These are often recommended because they give you the most aperture/£ which is a great thing for visual. You are right that they take up a lot of space though.

Have you considered a Schmidt–Cassegrain design? They can be a bit pricey but they put a lot of aperture and focal length (which is great for observing planets) into a compact package. Something like a Celestron NexStar 4SE or 6SE perhaps?

80mm refractors are a fantastic platform for imaging large nebulae but I can't help but feel you'd be disappointed with the 200x max (theoretical) magnification for visual planetary observing.

 

P.S. That planisphere is amazing!

Edited by randomic
P.S.
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8 hours ago, Steve Clay said:

I have both the Ed80 and 120. The larger aperture of the 120 gives more resolution and detail. If you go the refractor route don't forget a sturdy mount. The skytee is a great option for any refractor. Look at the classifieds on here. Also astrobuyandsell. Nearly all my gear has been purchased used, it's all like new.

Steve

Hi Steve

Thanks for the reply, yes, I reckon, budget allowing, the 120 will be the way to go, I'd not heard of the 'skytee' but having a dig around I can see it looks a solid mount, do they only come in a 2 scope load option as that's all I can find so far, there's one on Rother Valley Optics here: https://www.rothervalleyoptics.co.uk/ovl-skytee-2-dual-load-az-mount-with-tripod.html

Kindest regards

David

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7 hours ago, Timebandit said:

 

If you wish one scope and it needs to be a refractor, then I would pay the extra for an ED scope and for the money then look for a good used SW 120ED , I have one of these and find it a good all rounder. Also remember to factor in for a mount. I use a AZ4 on 2" stainless steel legs and I find this set up works for me.

But I understand why reflector scopes are so recommended. As you do get so much more money for your buck. If you are interested in going down this route then I would look at a good quality 8" reflector. Still manageable to transport IMO and will have so much more aperture , so light gathering ability to draw those photons in. This means on the faint fuzzies , DSO will perform so much better than more limited aperture (seeing conditions permitting) . I have a 8" OOuk with a quality mirror, and it is such a good all round visual scope .

So the above would be my recommended routes , and look at the second hand market as you can get some very good quality astro gear at very sensible money.

 

 

Thanks Timebandit, much appreciated.  I think it'll have to be ED then and a SW 120.  I've found the AZ4, is this one on RVO, it looks great value even new, but like you say, seems sensible to look out for used, especially when budget is fairly limited.

https://www.rothervalleyoptics.co.uk/skywatcher-az4-1-alt-az-mount-with-aluminium-tripod.html 

Many thanks and kindest regards

David

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7 hours ago, mikeDnight said:

For me its all about enjoyment, and a good refractor between 3" and 5" can offer a lifetime of quality entertainment. Larger reflectors will have more light gathering ability and theoretical resolution, but their size can be off-putting. From an entirely personal point of view, I wouldn't want to go below  around 4" for a refractor, as this aperture offers a sweet spot in terms of power and ease of use. I've owned numerous larger scopes but the one I've used most is a 100mm apo.

I'd encourage you to spend a little extra on a 4" ED if you can, as the ED will perform much better on the Moon and planets than a general purpose Chinese achromat. Side by side they are worlds apart!

Hi Mike

Thanks, I'm pretty sure now it's got to be a 100 to 120 ED, and used if possible, also I'd like to have the dual speed focusser as they look great at making it easy to get perfect focus.  Mike, do you have a preference on brand, and is it wise to keep away from the cloned versions from Shenzen?  I see a lot of different versions like the Horizon one from Rother Valley Optics here: https://www.rothervalleyoptics.co.uk/rvo-horizon-72-ed-doublet-refractor-ota.html

Kindest regards

David

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Posted (edited)
24 minutes ago, JacobiteJake said:

Hi Mike

Thanks, I'm pretty sure now it's got to be a 100 to 120 ED, and used if possible, also I'd like to have the dual speed focusser as they look great at making it easy to get perfect focus.  Mike, do you have a preference on brand, and is it wise to keep away from the cloned versions from Shenzen?  I see a lot of different versions like the Horizon one from Rother Valley Optics here: https://www.rothervalleyoptics.co.uk/rvo-horizon-72-ed-doublet-refractor-ota.html

Kindest regards

David

To be honest David, I have no experience with the clones, but there are so many scopes and eyepieces today that have the same origin yet still deliver the goods so to speak.  If you choose from a well established name then at least you'll have the comfort of knowing the scopes pedigree, which is virtually a guarantee of an established level of optical quality.

I read some time ago that there are around 7500 varieties of Apple. All look and taste like apples, yet all have a slightly different flavour, texture or some other quality that makes it special. Similarly today, there are so many excellent ED/apo refractors, each with a slightly different flavour or speciality, yet all can deliver a lifetime of enjoyment. I've often thought that if I had to take a luckydip into a big bag of 4" or 5" ED refractors, whatever I ended up pulling out of the bag would satisfy my needs for the rest of my life. ☺

 

Edited by mikeDnight
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6 hours ago, randomic said:

You mention being put off by reflectors due to their bulk. I presume you are referring to Newtonian (Dobsonians) designs? These are often recommended because they give you the most aperture/£ which is a great thing for visual. You are right that they take up a lot of space though.

Have you considered a Schmidt–Cassegrain design? They can be a bit pricey but they put a lot of aperture and focal length (which is great for observing planets) into a compact package. Something like a Celestron NexStar 4SE or 6SE perhaps?

80mm refractors are a fantastic platform for imaging large nebulae but I can't help but feel you'd be disappointed with the 200x max (theoretical) magnification for visual planetary observing.

 

P.S. That planisphere is amazing!

Hi Randomic

Yes, it was the Dobsonians that I'd looked that put me off, I can't help thinking it would be like putting out the bin on a Friday for the dustbin men when I wanted to Star Gaze 😨 also, I had a slipped disc sometime back and I reckon these have 'Slipped Disc' written all over them 🤪

I did take look at he Schmidt-Cassegrain scopes but one or two review videos that I looked at seemed to show some niggles with setup and reliability in the automation mechanisms, also, it's probably just me, but to me they don't look much like a telescope, more like looking into a coffee machine as they're so compact  😁

Yes, I'm sure you're right regarding the 80mm refractors, great for astrophotography and perfect size, but when I'm wanting to look at Saturn's rings I'd be pretty disappointed :( 

Finally, that giant Planishere is amazing, I've just ordered one, it's only £30 but it's £170 for the furniture removal van to get it to my house 🤣 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbz3QnAbzFM&t=962s&ab_channel=AstronomyandNatureTV

Thanks again Randomic :) 

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16 minutes ago, mikeDnight said:

To be honest David, I have no experience with the clones, but there are so many scopes and eyepieces today that have the same origin yet still deliver the goods so to speak.  If you choose from a well established name then at least you'll have the comfort of knowing the scopes pedigree, which is virtually a guarantee of an established level of optical quality.

I read some time ago that there are around 7500 varieties of Apple. All look and taste like apples, yet all have a slightly different flavour, texture or some other quality that makes it special. Similarly today, there are so many excellent ED/apo refractors, each with a slightly different flavour or speciality, yet all can deliver a lifetime of enjoyment. I've often thought that if I had to take a luckydip into a big bag of 4" or 5" ED refractors, whatever I ended up pulling out of the bag would satisfy my needs for the rest of my life. ☺

 

Thanks Mike

That's a great way to put it, and I suppose, the one apple that has a maggot in it can be seen as a bonus :)  Just a thought, are you experienced with regards to the different mounts that are available, will I appreciate an Equatorial one but regret the setup needed to make the most of it, or should I just go with a sturdy alt-azimuth one?  What do you reckon?  Thanks :) 

David

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6 minutes ago, JacobiteJake said:

Hi Randomic

Yes, it was the Dobsonians that I'd looked that put me off, I can't help thinking it would be like putting out the bin on a Friday for the dustbin men when I wanted to Star Gaze 😨 also, I had a slipped disc sometime back and I reckon these have 'Slipped Disc' written all over them 🤪

I did take look at he Schmidt-Cassegrain scopes but one or two review videos that I looked at seemed to show some niggles with setup and reliability in the automation mechanisms, also, it's probably just me, but to me they don't look much like a telescope, more like looking into a coffee machine as they're so compact  😁

Yes, I'm sure you're right regarding the 80mm refractors, great for astrophotography and perfect size, but when I'm wanting to look at Saturn's rings I'd be pretty disappointed :( 

Finally, that giant Planishere is amazing, I've just ordered one, it's only £30 but it's £170 for the furniture removal van to get it to my house 🤣 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbz3QnAbzFM&t=962s&ab_channel=AstronomyandNatureTV

Thanks again Randomic :) 

Haha you're totally right, they do look a bit non-traditional! For me it looks extremely odd when I have the DSLR on the back, like I've got a 'silenced' camera lens or something 😂. With a dew shield on it looks a lot more "in proportion".

I've not felt the weight of a dob but I believe they're a lot lighter than they look but I would still say better safe than sorry when it comes to your back!

That's dedication but it's one hell of a piece of furniture! I'm sure it'll look great!

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3 minutes ago, randomic said:

Haha you're totally right, they do look a bit non-traditional! For me it looks extremely odd when I have the DSLR on the back, like I've got a 'silenced' camera lens or something 😂. With a dew shield on it looks a lot more "in proportion".

I've not felt the weight of a dob but I believe they're a lot lighter than they look but I would still say better safe than sorry when it comes to your back!

That's dedication but it's one hell of a piece of furniture! I'm sure it'll look great!

Thanks for making me lol, the 'silenced' camera got me :) 

It's certainly one hell of a piece of furniture, and covering up my wood chip and the three china ducks on the wall makes the spare room look posher :) 

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From my experience, I had a 60mm Tasco as a kid/teenager before getting a "serious" telescope in my adulthood... I had the same type of scope now for 11 years and have never regretted getting it... the scope I recommend for observing is the celestron 8SE, perfect scope for observing. This scope has a big 8" mirror and has given me some great views of DSO, the moon and planets and it all comes in a very compact package. The GOTO is very accurate and as a bonus it is easily later upgradable for some imaging with the change of the mount as I have done.

 

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9 minutes ago, MarsG76 said:

From my experience, I had a 60mm Tasco as a kid/teenager before getting a "serious" telescope in my adulthood... I had the same type of scope now for 11 years and have never regretted getting it... the scope I recommend for observing is the celestron 8SE, perfect scope for observing. This scope has a big 8" mirror and has given me some great views of DSO, the moon and planets and it all comes in a very compact package. The GOTO is very accurate and as a bonus it is easily later upgradable for some imaging with the change of the mount as I have done.

 

Thanks MarsG76

It does look a great scope but I'm afraid the better arf wouldn't be at all happy with me spending that much, maybe if she wins the lottery one day, and she'd need to as I don't play :) the odds are way too high :) 

Kindest regards

David

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I can highly recommend an ED120 refractor. Mine has a Moonlite dual speed focuser which is a delight to use:

 

 

ed120ercole01.JPG

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24 minutes ago, JacobiteJake said:

Thanks MarsG76

It does look a great scope but I'm afraid the better arf wouldn't be at all happy with me spending that much, maybe if she wins the lottery one day, and she'd need to as I don't play :) the odds are way too high :) 

Kindest regards

David

Of course...

I know that its more expensive but I find that it's worth it and it is a one of expense for... well possibly ever.... perhaps a 2nd hand one would be much cheaper.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Sometimes we've got to be practical when it comes to financing a scope (kids need shoes, food on the table etc), but I've always thought that it's better to push the limit on the scope and mount, and buy the add-ons later. Eyepieces, filters and other goodies can always be bought later, but it's not easy to add an extra inch or two to that mirror or lens when you have the cash.

Edited by Starwatcher2001
trypo
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3 hours ago, John said:

I can highly recommend an ED120 refractor. Mine has a Moonlite dual speed focuser which is a delight to use:

 

 

ed120ercole01.JPG

Blimey John, now that looks great, is it the top of the range one from Sky Watcher, the espirit I think it's called?  The tripod and mount looks like it could withstand a small earthquake :) Do you find it's fairly easy to keep onto a target manually, I hope so as it's just more cost buying a motorised mount and tripod.  I'll keep scouring ebay, facebook marketplace and the classifieds on here but I'm not getting my hopes up finding a 102 or 120 ed anytime soon :(  Best start saving some more me thinks :) 

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2 hours ago, MarsG76 said:

Of course...

I know that its more expensive but I find that it's worth it and it is a one of expense for... well possibly ever.... perhaps a 2nd hand one would be much cheaper.

 

 

Thanks MarsG76, ok, I'll keep a look out for one just in case I spot a bargain, what mount/tripod would you recommend for it?

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26 minutes ago, JacobiteJake said:

Thanks MarsG76, ok, I'll keep a look out for one just in case I spot a bargain, what mount/tripod would you recommend for it?

The 8SE comes with a Alt-Az GOTO mount.... and a decent quality eyepiece...

 

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29 minutes ago, JacobiteJake said:

Blimey John, now that looks great, is it the top of the range one from Sky Watcher, the espirit I think it's called?  The tripod and mount looks like it could withstand a small earthquake :) Do you find it's fairly easy to keep onto a target manually, I hope so as it's just more cost buying a motorised mount and tripod.  I'll keep scouring ebay, facebook marketplace and the classifieds on here but I'm not getting my hopes up finding a 102 or 120 ed anytime soon :(  Best start saving some more me thinks :) 

The scope is a Skywatcher ED120 Pro. The gold and cream colour scheme was used by Skywatcher when these first came out which was over 10 years ago now.

You can buy these and later versions on the 2nd hand market as an optical tube (ie: no mount) for around £650 I think. They do come up from time to time.

I don't tracking the manual alt-azimuth mount quite straightforward even at high magnifications. I do use mostly wide angle eyepieces though, which helps in this.

A driven (not GOTO) mount that would carry this scope is actually not too expensive if bought used. I have a nice Vixen GP equatorial mount driven on both axis which cost around £200 on the used market including the drives. The Skywatcher EQ5 mount would do the job as well.

 

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12 hours ago, JacobiteJake said:

Thanks Mike

That's a great way to put it, and I suppose, the one apple that has a maggot in it can be seen as a bonus :)  Just a thought, are you experienced with regards to the different mounts that are available, will I appreciate an Equatorial one but regret the setup needed to make the most of it, or should I just go with a sturdy alt-azimuth one?  What do you reckon?  Thanks :) 

David

Hi David,

I wouldn't say I'm experienced with the various types of mount available today, as there are so many variations. I do have my personal preferences however, which may vary to those of others. I'm not a fan of anything computerised! Computerised mounts are either not fit for purpose, which encompasses pretty much everything below £1000. And everything above £1000 tends to be too clever for me and has a mind of their own. The lower end are highly frustrating and probably responsible for sapping the joy out of the hobby for many a beginner, leading them to believe that astronomy is not for them. While the upper end can be life threatening. I'll never forget my night observing with my friends Paramount and C14, when I spent my time repeatedly having to jump out of the way of the massive tube assembly and steel counterweight, as they hurtled round at high speed after I inadvertently kept pressing the Home button by mistake, which was situated in the centre of the joy stick. Bear in mind, i struggle with a TV remote!

I like things to be simple, as all I want to do is look through a telescope, enjoy the sight, and spend as little time as possible having to think. So I like simple altazimuth mounts, which are intuitive and glide with just a touch. These mounts can be both lightweight and reasonably solid, so are ideal for field trips or as a quick grab and go. They also tend to be relatively inexpensive.

As I'm primarily a lunar and planetary observer, I find a German equatorial mount of real benefit, as it simply follows the object across the sky either by use of a simple RA motor or by a gentle turn of the RA control knob. German mounts are dead easy to set up, as all you need to do is ensure the polar axis is aimed reasonably close to Polaris and away you go. For visual observing they don't have to be spot on accurate as regards alignment. They take a little more thinking about than an altazimuth mount, buy you'd soon get to grips with it and controlling one would become second nature.

I use both types. Below are my AZ4 altazimuth and my Vixen GP  (German equatorial).

IMG_5975.jpg.0fcce0d5aa26d75e1eff254046f699c3.jpgIMG_5970.JPG.a4db0a4e078e4b0e37aed526d9a195d3.JPG

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19 hours ago, MarsG76 said:

The 8SE comes with a Alt-Az GOTO mount.... and a decent quality eyepiece...

 

Thanks, I was hoping that it could be purchased without the GOTO mount as there are a few not so favorable reviews that say you should give the mount a wide berth due to a few issues with vibration and bugs.

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19 hours ago, John said:

The scope is a Skywatcher ED120 Pro. The gold and cream colour scheme was used by Skywatcher when these first came out which was over 10 years ago now.

You can buy these and later versions on the 2nd hand market as an optical tube (ie: no mount) for around £650 I think. They do come up from time to time.

I don't tracking the manual alt-azimuth mount quite straightforward even at high magnifications. I do use mostly wide angle eyepieces though, which helps in this.

A driven (not GOTO) mount that would carry this scope is actually not too expensive if bought used. I have a nice Vixen GP equatorial mount driven on both axis which cost around £200 on the used market including the drives. The Skywatcher EQ5 mount would do the job as well.

 

Sorted, thanks John, I'll keep looking for the rest of this year before I seriously consider buying new.  I've just been looking at the motor addon that fits the EQ3-2 and EQ5 and, as you say, it's pretty cheap really if you just want it to move your scope at the same speed as the rotation of the earth.  Hopefully the mount I eventually get will accept one :) Nice coloured skywatcher for the first version, they always say 'old' is best, or at least that's what I keep telling myself when I look in the mirror :) 

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