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Hi.  I' new.  REALLY new.  And clueless...

I know absolutely NOTHING about Telescopes, but I really want to get my daughter one for Xmas.

She is 14 and has been fascinated with astronomy her entire life.  This child can tell you all about black holes, nebulas, comets, moons, galaxies, solar systems, you name it.....

She spends endless hours reading and learning....  

We are not a rich family. Often times we have to make choices of buying food or paying the utilities...  But I have been saving money for over 6 months, and I have about $200 to spend on a telescope for her for Xmas...

She saw Saturn once thru her (more financially blessed) friends telescope over 2 years ago, and she still talks about it.... 

I have been trying to research various telescopes online, but I will be honest here.  I am completely clueless...

I have NO Idea what telescope to get her so that she can view the moon's surface close up...  Or so that she can see the rings of Saturn clearly again any time she wants...

 

Could I PLEASE ask for some suggestions on what I should get her?  Please?

Is there maybe a place where used, decent telescopes are sold once someone has upgraded to a more expensive one???

ANY help would be greatly appreciated!!!  :)  Thank you kindly!

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How about something like this. I have not used one myself but have head good things about them.  It sits on a garden table so the is no expensive mount (tripod).  No expensive or complicated electronics, just point it at what you want to see.  A little maintenance will be required now and again but nothing beyond an interested intelligent 14 year old.  

https://www.highpointscientific.com/sky-watcher-heritage-130-tabletop-dobsonian-s11705

Edited by SmokeyJoe
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Stocks of telescopes at the moment are very low, you might think about getting an order in soon.

+1 for the above recommendation. 

 

Welcome to the forum by the way

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Welcome to the Stargazers Lounge! It's wonderful that your daughter is so interested in astronomy, and a telescope is a great gift for her! Luckily, there are some options available for the budget. Here is a list of beginner telescopes that won't break the bank and are great to get started. I've been observing for years and the 8" dobson on that list still is my telescope that gets the most use ;).

Used telescopes are another option, but you need to be sure that the optics are alright. Don't hesitate to post a link to an ad here so we can help you out.

In any case, stay away from toy store telescopes that are advertising with very high magnifications (> 500x) or colourful pictures. They'll only cause disappointment.

Edit: ah, I missed the dollar sign. The scopes in the link are still great, but they are sometimes branded differently in the US.

Edited by Waddensky

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A warm welcome to Stargazers lounge!

Luckily there are lots of good telescopes within 200 dollars. 

The best choice would be a Dobson. This design is basically a newtonian (a design that uses mirrors) on a (wooden) mount that moves up and down (Alt-Az, Altitude-Azimuth).

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/heritage/skywatcher-heritage-130p-flextube.html 

here is a very good telescope, from FLO (First light optics), this forum's official sponsor. I never bought from them (I am not from the UK) but lots of people here have bought their telescopes from FLO and I heard that they have very good costumer service (other members can tell you more about FLO than me).

The Skywatcher 130p basically has a diameter of 130mm and a focal distance (the distance at which light is being focused) of 650mm. 

Pros: Very sharp images

Good for both planets and deep sky objects (nebulae, galaxies etc).

Portable

Cons: requires collimation (to realign the mirrors, but if she's experienced with astronomy, after a couple of youtube videos it'll be easy. You just need a few screwdrivers and patience.

has an open mirror (it doesn't have lenses), so you need to clean the mirrors, but online you can find lots of tutorials.

it has a tabletop mount (so you need a table).

Here I linked some reviews: 

 

!!! don't expect Hubble quality images. Most images are taken using long exposures and expensive DSLR cameras (astrophotography). You can get good views using just a telescope, don't worry. But you'll need to buy different eyepieces than the ones that come with the telescope after a few months or one year, because those are not of the best quality (but pretty good too, don't worry) and she'll need different magnifications.

 

If you can stretch your budget, you could get the 150p (https://www.firstlightoptics.com/heritage/sky-watcher-heritage-150p-flextube-dobsonian-telescope.html)

It is the exact same thing, the only difference being that it has a bigger diameter, and a bigger diameter means better views (more light). But even if it is bigger, it has a flex tube design that can become smaller and thus easier to transport.

Another design is the Starquest (Newtonian and Maksutov). 

The Maksutov is a design that is made mostly for observing the planets (if you want to see deep sky objects, because of the large focal ratio you'll need a focal reducer). And because it is not an open design, you need to clean it or collimate it only after a few years (but if properly transported, the collimation should last a lifetime).

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/sky-watcher-starquest/sky-watcher-starquest-102mc-f127-maksutov-cassegrain-telescope.html

You can notice that the mount is different. This is called an Equatorial Mount and it is a bit harder to use (it requires it to be aligned with Polaris, the north star. But after a few youtube videos she'll be fine).

And here is a newtonian design (the same optical tube (OTA) as the Heritage 130p, but on an Equatorial Mount, the same mount as the Maksutov).

The equatorial mount is a bit hard to use at first and harder to transport, but it allows you to track objects all night (by rotating only one knob, called the Right Ascension). But it needs to be properly aligned with Polaris before that.

Another design is the refractor, but it has chromatic aberration (a blue halo) around the planets, and she'll probably grow out of it in a few months. It is made more for little children that don't have that much experience with astronomy, so it is not worth it (in my opinion, but some may argue).

----

In my opinion, get a Dobsonian https://www.firstlightoptics.com/dobsonians/skywatcher-skyliner-150p-dobsonian.html

If transportation is not a problem, don't get a flextube/heritage model (it has a tabletop mount and the mirror can get scratched easily (dust, wind, etc) because it is that open).

If you can stretch, get the Skyliner 150p  https://www.firstlightoptics.com/dobsonians/skywatcher-skyliner-150p-dobsonian.html

If not, then get either the heritage 130p (with that very open design that is easier to transport), or the starquest 130p (equatorial mount) or the maksutov (on either an equatorial or tabletop mount) (but the maksutov isn't really that versatile and before the focal reducer you are pretty limited to only planets and the moon. it solely depends on what she wants to see with it). 

You can search on the flo website and find other models that fit your budget though, but always read reviews online, because it can tell you if the telescope is good or not.

Now, in order to get the best of the scope, don't forget to let it cool outside (20-30 minutes) so that it has the same temperature as the air) and observe in non-light polluted skies.

I know this might seem like a lot of information at first, but choosing a telescope is never easy (I personally spent 2 months researching for one last summer but in the end I got one that is amazing and I'm very pleased with it :). )

Clear skies and good luck!

 

Edited by Astrid

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The Heritage 130p that has been recommended above is a very good scope. Compact when not in use, it's straightforward to use, and has very good optics for the price.

The design came out of the work of an organisation called Astronomers Without Borders, that was looking to create a telescope that could be used to encourage interest in astronomy in developing countries. 

It's one that can be upgraded too - as it can easily be moved to a different mount later on. 

 

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Another vote here for the 130P flextube. I managed to find mine second hand for a very good price and have been very happy with the views. 

As mentioned stay away from anything that's main selling point is magnification. Telescopes are essentially a tube of differing designs on a mount. The tube on its own is often referred to as an OTA but then you would need a mount to go with it. The other rather essential thing you need are eye pieces, and it is these that you can choose your magnification with. Going back to my point about magnification, a manufacturer could put a cheap and nasty high magnification eye piece in with a not so good scope and claim huge magnifications to sell it. But you would only see a very dark, very small blurry blob if anything! 

The flextube as mentioned comes on a dobsonian mount which is very easy to set up, you just need something to put it on. It is easy to store because it collapses down and with the right eye piece should be good for magnifications up to approx 260x but more sensibly 200x. (I've been quite happy looking at Jupiter and its moons at around 100-130x) It's also not too heavy to move around. Add in the mirror is supposed to be pretty good in it and you've summed up the reasons I went for one. 

Something else. I initially found finding things looking through it a bit tricky. Because there is a mirror, or two, involved the image is inverted and it can take a bit of practice to get used to moving it around to see things. I practised on things during the day when I could see what I was looking at to get a feel for it and I also asked for some other eye pieces as presents. I was recommended a 32mm plossl and although it is a low magnification it means I can see a lot more sky and get what I want to see in the centre of the image. Then I change to a more powerful eye piece once I've found it. Patience is important!

Good luck and glad to hear your daughter is interested in these things. 

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Welcome to the forum. What a great mum you are, wish I'd have had someone to buy me a telescope when I was that age!

You've had some great advice above which I can't add much to, except maybe some general comments.

Most people expect a telescope to look like the "pointy" tube used by early sea captains. Those are basically a tube with a lens at each end and are referred to as refractors. Because quality glass lenses are expensive to manufacture, a good refractor can be costly. Some manufacturers (particularly ones found in toy stores) make them cheaply by using poor quality glass or even plastic which makes them extremely poor and frustrating to use. They'll probably put your daughter off astronomy for life.🙁

A different type of telescope is the "Newtonion", which is a wider tube with a mirror at the bottom and a smaller mirror at the top. The 130p recommended above is such a scope. As mirrors are easier to manufacture than lenses, they are less expensive but give just as good views.

Once you've got the tube for collecting light, you also need a "mount" of some kind to allow it to be moved around accurately. This might be the tripod design, or something simpler like the box design of the 130p (a so called "Dobsonion mount"). The crucial part of the mount is that it moves smoothly and doesn't wobble about, and is easy to aim at the tiny and distant objects we look at in the heavens. Again, the simplistic Dobsonion wins for stability, simplicity and price.

The final component is the eyepiece (another lens). The telescope itself provides a tiny image that needs to be magnified by an eyepiece being inserted into the end. The combination of the eyepiece and the telescope itself provides the required magnification. By using different sized eyepieces (they go by "focal length"), different mangifications can be used. Your telescope will come with one or two eyepieces to get your daughter going, but different sized ones can be bought later if she really gets into the hobby.

As others have said, telescopes are not really about magnification, they are about collecting light. Go outside on a clear dark night and you might see a few stars. Stay outside until your eyes are used to the darkness and you'll see a lot more. Your eyes haven't got more magnification, your irises have opened up to let more light in. The more light you get in, the better and brighter the view, and the more it can be magnified.  So wider tubes and mirrors are always better than narrower ones. Trying to magnify dim things too much just results in blurry horrible images. In a nutshell, don't let big magnifications, nor fancy pictures on the box persuade you it's a good scope.

Lastly, please do feel free to come back and ask as many questions as you like. Every one of us on here would much rather your daughter get a good telescope that she'll treasure and use for life, than something that will disappoint and get left in a cupboard.

Mark

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8 hours ago, SmokeyJoe said:

How about something like this. I have not used one myself but have head good things about them.  It sits on a garden table so the is no expensive mount (tripod).  No expensive or complicated electronics, just point it at what you want to see.  A little maintenance will be required now and again but nothing beyond an interested intelligent 14 year old.  

https://www.highpointscientific.com/sky-watcher-heritage-130-tabletop-dobsonian-s11705

Another +1 for this, never seen this before, it looks a great telescope and very portable. Looking at the specs it seems to weigh about 14lbs, give or take, as long as your daughter is ok with this she will love it. 

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10 hours ago, SmokeyJoe said:

How about something like this. I have not used one myself but have head good things about them.  It sits on a garden table so the is no expensive mount (tripod).  No expensive or complicated electronics, just point it at what you want to see.  A little maintenance will be required now and again but nothing beyond an interested intelligent 14 year old.  

https://www.highpointscientific.com/sky-watcher-heritage-130-tabletop-dobsonian-s11705

Another +1 for this. I had a much smaller version for my very first scope and it gave me wonderful views of the moon and Saturn.

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Welcome MomOf2,

I've nothing to add to the equipment advice above, it's very sound. And if your daughter has already been "wowed" by seeing Saturn through and amateur 'scope, then I think she will be immune to the disappointment that some people feel when starting out, if all they have seen are the extravagant NASA photos.
It sounds like your daughter is pretty smart, so she should be more than capable of managing a reflecting telescope of the type described. I would only add one suggestion, that you point her in the direction of this forum while she is waiting (or else on Christmas day, if this present is to be a surprise!) I know from personal experience that it's possible to follow astronomy from a theoretical perspective, but still be clueless about how to start out on the practical business of observing. Yes, there are plenty of decent books, some are recommended on this site, but I have found the most useful activity was to spend a few hours (actually, days) browsing some of the comments and recommendations on these pages. She will find some areas of consensus, and some where there is a wide divergence of opinion - both are invaluable. There is a mixture of timeless reference information and up-to-date news. She will learn how to make the best use of whatever telescope she receives, and options on how to move on when she is ready (and of course, some contributers here have the money to spend that she will not, but she will also find plenty of examples of people saving on expense by making their own gadgets, with great success). Other forums are available, as they say, but I would at least start here.
One other recommendation that's often made is for a starter to try to find and join a local astronomical society. That's certainly worth investigating, as most groups have members who are willing to advise newcomers, which may extend to the chance to experience different equipment.

 

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I will suggest a rather simple refractor. The small dobsonians need a table or similar, they are commonly referred to as a "table top" dobsonian. Additionally some tend to be "fast" and have limited adjustment for collimation.

"fast" is the ratio of aperture to focal length to aperture. And as a bit of a generallity the faster they are the greater maintainance they require during use. As a simple idea take the focal length, divide it by the aperture. If the result is 5 or less then the scope is "fast", if 7 or above then "slow". between the 2 it will be no surprise that they are termed "medium". But I would advise against a fast scope of any variety reflector or refractor.

One refractor are the 90mm aperture ones that are 900mm focal length. Never get much praise but a very good all round first scope. The "poor" aspect is they often come on a questionable mount.

Search out the Explore Scientific scopes, they have a selection termed either Firstlight or their AR series. They do or did an 80mm of 640mm focal length on a reasonable looking mount, Nano I think. An 80mm is again a nice all round scope, has been said it is likely the best all rounder out there. Not sure if ES do a specific 90/900 refractor, they may, just never looked.

You likely have overload again. And getting hold of a scope could be a challenge.

Any friendly clubs around you where a well meaning member could let you look at and through a few of the basic scopes? It is no use someone wanting to show off their $4000 apo refractor or 20" Zambuto hand built reflector.

Used equipment: Try the CN forum as you appear to be in the US, they have a for sale section (I think they do).

Another is Astro Buy and Sell. The UK side is I think big but I also think, maybe incorrectly, that is has at least a Canadian side and maybe therefore a US side. Here is the UK link, you will have to look or dig around for other countries: ABSUK It is a starting point.

Edited by PEMS

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27 minutes ago, PEMS said:

I will suggest a rather simple refractor. The small dobsonians need a table or similar, they are commonly referred to as a "table top" dobsonian. Additionally some tend to be "fast" and have limited adjustment for collimation.

"fast" is the ratio of aperture to focal length to aperture. And as a bit of a generallity the faster they are the greater maintainance they require during use. As a simple idea take the focal length, divide it by the aperture. If the result is 5 or less then the scope is "fast", if 7 or above then "slow". between the 2 it will be no surprise that they are termed "medium". But I would advise against a fast scope of any variety reflector or refractor.

One refractor are the 90mm aperture ones that are 900mm focal length. Never get much praise but a very good all round first scope. The "poor" aspect is they often come on a questionable mount.

Search out the Explore Scientific scopes, they have a selection termed either Firstlight or their AR series. They do or did an 80mm of 640mm focal length on a reasonable looking mount, Nano I think. An 80mm is again a nice all round scope, has been said it is likely the best all rounder out there. Not sure if ES do a specific 90/900 refractor, they may, just never looked.

You likely have overload again. And getting hold of a scope could be a challenge.

Any friendly clubs around you where a well meaning member could let you look at and through a few of the basic scopes? It is no use someone wanting to show off their $4000 apo refractor or 20" Zambuto hand built reflector.

Used equipment: Try the CN forum as you appear to be in the US, they have a for sale section (I think they do).

Another is Astro Buy and Sell. The UK side is I think big but I also think, maybe incorrectly, that is has at least a Canadian side and maybe therefore a US side. Here is the UK link, you will have to look or dig around for other countries: ABSUK It is a starting point.

I like refractors and a 90mm f10 (900mm) achromat makes for a very capable scope for anyone let alone a young starter. Pretty much bullet proof and easy on eyepieces too. My concern here is that they often come with inadequate mounts and usefully need a decent altaz mount (az4?) or an eq3/2 if an EQ mount is preferred. This bumps the budget up. I've had a Heritage 130p mini dob and although the mount is very simple and the helical focuser very basic the whole thing works surprisingly well. Optically it turns in a very respectable performance and for this it seems to have gained a small army of fans! With respect to "limited collimation" I have a little 114mm f4.3 reflector with a fixed primary and just the secondary adjustable - not what would have thought an ideal thing, however in practice it not a problem and the 'scope holds its collimation well and like the Heritage 130p it performs much better than I for one would have expected. Life is full of surprises!  The upshot of this is that with a limited budget, and especially with a nod to how portable and easily storable the scope is I'd also recommend the Heritage 130p or equivalent. Any spare cash needs to go on a couple of plossl type eyepieces.

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