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I am looking to take up astronomy after viewing and photographing NEOWISE with my DSLR earlier this year.  My budget is up to £5k although I would like to pay less but buying something once is more important than upgrading in the very near future.  I am starting with nothing other than a beginners interest in astronomy.  

What do I want to get out of what I hope is my new hobby?  Ideally I would like a kit which I can take with me when I go on local drives into dark skies as well as using in my back garden.  I would ideally prefer to purchase a kit which works out of the box.  The kit doesn't have to be from one manufacturer but I would like to get it from one supplier and preferably mail order because of current and future Covid restrictions.  It will be great if I can use my laptop to see what the telescope is seeing rather than looking through an eyepiece but I would like the option of the eyepiece.  The laptop will just make it easier if I take the family out.  I would also like to attach my Canon cameras to the telescope, both full frame and crop sensor cameras.

I intend to purchase books and have already started watching videos on youtube to gain a good starting position before going out.

Any help will be appreciated.

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If I had to spend that much I'd probably go with iOptron CEM40 and a Celestron EdgeHD 925 but it depends a LOT on what kind of targets you want to shoot.

BUT

If you're just starting out I don't think you need to spend that much. A SkyWatcher HEQ5 Pro or iOptron CEM25p paired with an 80mm apo like SkyWatcher Evostar 80ED will net you some amazing shots of wide field targets.

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hi and welcome mick. was going to suggest you could buy just a mirror like mine that i use in my dob for just over 5k but you would have to build the rest yourself 😁

what ever you decide, i would use our club sponsor FLO you will not find a better retailer

good luck

Edited by faulksy
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What type of astronomy are you interested in? That will determine what kind of kit is best suited. With 5k to spend, there are many options, including a 'proper' astro camera rather than DSLR.

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For that kind of money, you can get into some seriously heavy rigs.  How much weight are you willing to lift?  How much space do you have in your vehicle to haul a scope and mount?  How much storage space do you have at home?

As far as my recommendation, I'll relate a recent experience I had.  There was a newbie at a star party here in Texas with a brand new Celestron NexStar Evolution 8" EdgeHD.  He was happily, wirelessly controlling it with a tablet running planetarium software.  With a 10mm Delos, it was providing an excellent image of Jupiter and other targets that night.  It was super easy to select targets within the planetarium software on the tablet.  Once selected, the mount quickly slewed to the new target and kept it perfectly centered.  The Starsense made alignment a cinch as well.  This rig would be easy to store, setup, transport, and use.  It would also leave plenty of money from your budget for eyepieces and other accessories.  8" is a sweet spot for astronomy.  Big enough to provide good views of most objects and yet not so big as to put off using it due to inconvenience.

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1 hour ago, randomic said:

If I had to spend that much I'd probably go with iOptron CEM40 and a Celestron EdgeHD 925 but it depends a LOT on what kind of targets you want to shoot.

BUT

If you're just starting out I don't think you need to spend that much. A SkyWatcher HEQ5 Pro or iOptron CEM25p paired with an 80mm apo like SkyWatcher Evostar 80ED will net you some amazing shots of wide field targets.

I had thought about possibly getting a Celestron Advanced VX 8” Edge HD but  I'm concerned about making mistakes.

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1 minute ago, Mick_1960 said:

I had thought about possibly getting a Celestron Advanced VX 8” Edge HD but  I'm concerned about making mistakes.

I almost bought that combo but the general consensus is you can get better mounts for the same money. So, I bought the EdgeHD 8" OTA and HEQ5 Pro separately. CEM25p is a good alternative.

An 8" SCT OTA is on the limit of what these mounts can perform well with for long exposures so you might want to stretch for a Celestron CGX or CEM40 mount. Alternatively you might get an autoguiding setup to help the mount perform at its best.

I've really enjoyed my EdgeHD 800 so far but it might be just as good getting a C8 XLT, unless you know for sure that you want the internal flattener (which comes with its own set of pitfalls).

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2 hours ago, faulksy said:

hi and welcome mick. was going to suggest you could buy just a mirror like mine that i use in my dob for just over 5k but you would have to build the rest yourself 😁

what ever you decide, i would use our club sponsor FLO you will not find a better retailer

good luck

I've just read your thread, take a bow.  That is a work of art.

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Scope bundles tend to put a big scope on a medium mount, if you intend to do imaging then I'd recommend buying the mount and scope separately, that means you can overspec the mount for very steady viewing and reliable imaging. 

If looking at an SCT then remember that you'll need a dew shield and dew heater + controller, and a suitable power supply.  Being a slower scope means that eyepieces designed for faster scopes (.e.g. f5 reflector or refractor) won't perform to their potential, so no need to go for the most expensive there.

A refractor should be more 'maintenance and caveat free' if you're looking for something to get imaging with quickly and can also perform well for visual, perhaps 102 or 120mm.  A fast refractor should enable you to get the most out of the upper end of eyepiece ranges, and refractors are popular with imagers not least because they are usually smaller and lighter than SCT / reflector options, thus less demanding on the mount.

I'd say just buy eyepieces that you need or fancy as your viewing habits demand, don't go out and spend a fortune straight away, and steer clear of eyepiece sets.

Reserve some of your budget for imaging equipment - a dedicated camera (or two) depending on what you want to image, guiding equipment, and filters.

 

 

Edited by jonathan
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1 hour ago, Mr Spock said:

What type of astronomy are you interested in? That will determine what kind of kit is best suited. With 5k to spend, there are many options, including a 'proper' astro camera rather than DSLR.

I would like to be able to see close planets with some detail and galaxies.  Am I asking too much?

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41 minutes ago, Louis D said:

For that kind of money, you can get into some seriously heavy rigs.  How much weight are you willing to lift?  How much space do you have in your vehicle to haul a scope and mount?  How much storage space do you have at home?

As far as my recommendation, I'll relate a recent experience I had.  There was a newbie at a star party here in Texas with a brand new Celestron NexStar Evolution 8" EdgeHD.  He was happily, wirelessly controlling it with a tablet running planetarium software.  With a 10mm Delos, it was providing an excellent image of Jupiter and other targets that night.  It was super easy to select targets within the planetarium software on the tablet.  Once selected, the mount quickly slewed to the new target and kept it perfectly centered.  The Starsense made alignment a cinch as well.  This rig would be easy to store, setup, transport, and use.  It would also leave plenty of money from your budget for eyepieces and other accessories.  8" is a sweet spot for astronomy.  Big enough to provide good views of most objects and yet not so big as to put off using it due to inconvenience.

My kids are grown up and at least one would want to come out so will be able to help setting it up and carrying weight.  My storage space will not be a problem and neither is my car which is a 4x4.

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26 minutes ago, Mick_1960 said:

I would like to be able to see close planets with some detail and galaxies.  Am I asking too much?

The thing about planets is that they change from season to season, Mars can be subject to dust storms that can last for weeks or months so surface features can be obscured or faint when this happens.  Jupiter is very low to the horizon at the moment so the cloud bands and Great Red Spot are less visible than when it's riding high in the sky; anything close to the horizon is going to be wobbly due to the earth's atmosphere and any thermals rising from nearby houses, light pollution from nearby population centres or motorways etc.

That said, planets are great things to observe.  When the 'seeing' is good and the planets are favourable, the views are breathtaking.  The main difference between scope types and size is not just the size of the image you see at the eyepiece but also the 'resolution' or amount of fine detail you're able to see.  The difference between an 8" SCT and a 12" SCT is in my experience negligible when viewing planets, the view through a 102 refractor is comparable to that of an 8" SCT, perhaps a fraction smaller (I can only go by my own experience and equipment in this matter), but often a smaller and sharper image is preferable to a larger and fuzzy image.  An SCT is probably the more suitable design for viewing planets, but perhaps not the most suitable for imaging, there's no reason not to own two scopes but when starting out I'd probably just stick to one - if you think visual is going to be the initial focus then perhaps the SCT, but a good refractor (which is more suitable for imaging) won't be far behind for visual.  Each scope design has it's advantages and drawbacks both when it comes to visual and also imaging.

When it comes to eyepieces you could certainly do worse than a decent Zoom eyepiece, I have the Baader Hyperion Planetarium Zoom 8-24, works surprisingly well in my 8SE and also in my solar scope (a dedicated 60mm Lunt refractor), I haven't actually tried it in my 102 refractor, I have other eyepieces that I normally use with that (down to a 3.5mm Pentax).

I think to visually view detail in galaxies, e.g. dust lanes, then you may need to use a scope (e.g. reflector) 10" or larger and observe from a dark site.  Otherwise, most galaxies will be grey blobs.  Some dust lanes might be discernable in the Andromeda Galaxy and perhaps one or two others in an 8" SCT, given good eye sight, dark adapted eyes, ideal conditions, and a dark site.

Edited by jonathan
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10 minutes ago, Mick_1960 said:

I would like to be able to see close planets with some detail and galaxies.  Am I asking too much?

Not really, but you will probably want two scopes.

For a mount I would suggest an EQ6. This is sturdy enough for any imaging application. It's right on the limit of potability though and is quite heavy. An HEQ5 is lighter and just about adequate for imaging.

For a wide field imaging scope you could spent a lot more but not get better results than with a Skywatcher 80ED DS-Pro with matching field flattener. You can use your cameras with that to produce quality images.

For planets a Celestron Edge HD 8" would be ideal. So would a dedicated planetary camera. Once you have honed your imaging skills with the 80ED, you can image galaxies with this scope though with a long focal length it will need the EQ6.

What I would suggest is you do a lot of reading and studying before making a purchase. There's nothing worse than spending a lot of cash and not getting what you really want.

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3 hours ago, Mick_1960 said:

It will be great if I can use my laptop to see what the telescope is seeing rather than looking through an eyepiece but I would like the option of the eyepiece.  The laptop will just make it easier if I take the family out.

I remember at another star party that an imager was stacking deep space object (DSO) images in real time on his laptop using a dedicated astro camera in the focuser.  In about 10 minutes, faint nebulosity that was invisible to the human eye was readily apparent.  I can't say that it was a very exciting experience.  You might as well download professional images off the internet if you're going to stare at a laptop screen at a dark sky site.  I much prefer gathering ancient photons with my eyes.

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29 minutes ago, Mick_1960 said:

I would like to be able to see close planets with some detail and galaxies.  Am I asking too much?

The EdgeHD 800 is amazing for planets. On a good night I can make out details on Mars and can see the disk and colour of Uranus, it's awesome. I use the Baader Zoom 8-24mm eyepiece. For imaging planets I have a ZWO ASI 462MC but I've not been able to take it for a spin yet due to weather. You technically can do it with a DSLR but what you really want is high framerate video capture.

For galaxies, the EdgeHD 800 is again pretty great for visual. I use the 40mm eyepiece which comes with the OTA and can make out the core of Andromeda even from very light polluted skies. Your experiences here will depend mostly on light pollution. The darker the skies the more you'll see.

When it comes to photographing large objects like galaxies the EdgeHD 800 will struggle. You say you have a full frame camera which is good but even with that your field of view is narrow enough that you'd have to mosaic to get a complete picture of, say, Andromeda. If you're photographing smaller galaxies or nebulae then it's absolutely fine. Just be aware that the mount is the biggest factor here, even small imperfections in tracking can easily ruin long exposures when you're at 2000mm focal length.

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Dont underestimate the need for a good mount, many of us have bought mounts which we end up over loading with more and more equipment as we progress further into the hobby and then end up having to buy another one. I'd look at the total weight of all the equipment you intend the mount to carry and then add another 3rd, use this to determine the most suitable mount, this would allow some future proofing. HEQ5 will carry around 11kg for imaging whereas say a eq6 r pro will carry 20kg, although the latter is heavier to transport and at the limit for most to lug around it is more stable.  Id second using FLO an you can always email them for advice.

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4 minutes ago, randomic said:

The EdgeHD 800 is amazing for planets. On a good night I can make out details on Mars and can see the disk and colour of Uranus, it's awesome. I use the Baader Zoom 8-24mm eyepiece. For imaging planets I have a ZWO ASI 462MC but I've not been able to take it for a spin yet due to weather. You technically can do it with a DSLR but what you really want is high framerate video capture.

For galaxies, the EdgeHD 800 is again pretty great for visual. I use the 40mm eyepiece which comes with the OTA and can make out the core of Andromeda even from very light polluted skies. Your experiences here will depend mostly on light pollution. The darker the skies the more you'll see.

When it comes to photographing large objects like galaxies the EdgeHD 800 will struggle. You say you have a full frame camera which is good but even with that your field of view is narrow enough that you'd have to mosaic to get a complete picture of, say, Andromeda. If you're photographing smaller galaxies or nebulae then it's absolutely fine. Just be aware that the mount is the biggest factor here, even small imperfections in tracking can easily ruin long exposures when you're at 2000mm focal length.

I'm approximately 45 minutes from Northumberland so can easily get to dark skies and I spend my holidays on Mull.  My town has replaced all of the street lighting and I can see a lot more sky now than I ever could before the change.  My full frame camera is a Canon 1DX mk 2 which I use for wildlife photography and I've been thinking about getting either a mk 3 or a R6 which both have reasonable video capability.

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Be aware that one telescope and one mount will not fill all roles equally well.  There is visual observing, and planetary imaging, and deep sky imaging, and for each of these roles a different kind of telescope and a different kind of mount is optimal.  A SCT is great for visual observing, and would be the preferred choice on your generous budget.  And it would be equally good for planetary imaging.  However they are difficult to use for deep space imaging, and a small apochromatic refractor (as commonly recommended) would be easier to manage.

As for the mount, a heavy mount like the EQ-6 would fill all roles, but for visual observing, you don't need it and you may find that for a short visual session that dragging an EQ-6 out of doors (perhaps in two sections, because of its weight) performing a polar alignment, then a star alignment, rapidly loses its appeal.   With an alt-azimuth mount and the Celestron Nexstar software (IMHO easier to use than Sky-watcher's Synscan) you could be ready to observe in a few minutes.  Starsense or GPS could cut the setup effort even further.

You don't need an equatorial for planetary imaging either, just a solid and well-behaved mount, but this is a less important point unless one has no interest in long exposure imaging.

22 hours ago, Mick_1960 said:

It will be great if I can use my laptop to see what the telescope is seeing rather than looking through an eyepiece

That was my idea on first buying a GoTo scope, but I rapidly abandoned the idea as it is not as easy as it sounds.  It  might be easier if you can use a large area (and expensive) sensor, but with the small sensor in a planetary camera it simply doesn't work as the popular mounts cannot aim the (SCT) telescope accurately enough to get the target onto a sensor a few mm across, without a good deal of manual intervention.

It works better with a short focal length refractor, or if you can use plate-solving to fine tune the aim.  But you could end up with a lot of extra hardware and software, just to avoid looking through an eyepiece.

Rather, you could use an astro camera and laptop at the telescope for EEVA (see section in our forum), for observing things beyond the reach of the telescope and human eye.

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