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Advice/Feedback on first telescope (400€/max budget)


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Hey everyone!

I'll contextualise first:

I've always been interested in acquiring a telescope but never really "got to it". More recently I've started watching some "budget astrophotography" videos and I decided to go for it.

I've spent the past week reading up on telescope types, basic astronomy concepts and basic gear needed for observation astronomy vs astrophotography; I understand you can start astrophotography with just a DSLR, a kit lens and a sturdy tripod and go from there (tracking mounts for longer exposures, etc). 

I also understand the almost universal advice for beginners is: go for a dobsonian mount with a newtonian reflector, the bigger the better. 

With that in mind my goal was to get something like a Skywatcher N 150/1200 Skyliner

My problem is I don't have a backyard, I live in an apartment (3rd floor) and I live in a lightly light polluted half-rural/half-suburban area (which describes almost the entirety of Portugal I guess...) and hauling the dobsonian beast up and down the stairs every time I feel like stargazing doesn't seem feasible.

 

So in short I want something easy to move, quick to setup and with all around good solar system views (Moon, Jupiter and Saturn) and still capable of looking at some DSOs. My reasoning is that the ideal would be either:

A) a newtonian on a alt-az (something like this)

B.) a refractor on a alt-az (something like this)

C.) a catadioptric on a alt-za (not very keen on this option since the field of view seems to be shorter than the other options and I'd like to look at deep sky objects "easily")

I'm trying to stay away from equatorial mounts because I just want a quick and easy setup and GOTO mounts seems to detract from push the cost of the whole package.

 

You feedback is appreciated, sorry for any mistake (English is not my first language and I'm absolutely new to astronomy)

 

 

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Hello and a warm welcome to the SGL.

 I sympathise with your problem of living in a flat. Carrying the DOB up and down the stairs is just not practical. Unfortunately you would have much the same problem with the Newtonian and mount. The 120 frac is also quite a heavy scope but could be carried in a case. I would seriously consider the Skywatcher heritage 150 although  with that you would need some kind of table to sit it on. I would also not dismiss  a Mak out of hand. They are extremely portable and give very nice mid to high power views.

 

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Hello and welcome (and your English is better than some of the natives!).

You seem to have a number of different (and sometimes opposing) factors driving your decision (and that's quite common).

In terms of what you want to do and see, you mention "budget astrophotography". Yes, you can make a start with a standard DSLR and tripod, but that will limit your targets very much. You would need to progress to a decent mount if you want to target fainter deep sky objects.
You mention wanting to stay away from equatorial mounts, and that the advice for beginners is often "get the biggest dobsonian you can". Well, equatorial mounts can be heavy to transport, and are a bit more complex for beginners to learn than the alternatives - so for both those reasons, that is a fit for your circumstances. However, dobsonians are really better suited to visual rather than photographic astronomy, so you really need to think about what you want to be doing, starting out. You are right that a large dob can be difficult to transport, but an equivalent scope on a decent equatorial mount would be worse. If you go for a 130mm or 150mm dob as suggested above then it can be reasonably portable, as they are often designed to be broken down and re-assembled.

The alt-az option you have considered is often recommended for beginners, as the mount is simpler, reasonably compact, and can support a decent refractor or catadioptric device that will show you quite a lot. Again, though, alt-az will severely limit your photographic abilities. It is possible to achieve results with care and shorter exposures (there are some good examples in this forum) but you are really fighting against the technology rather than working with it.

In terms of your targets, you mention solar system first and DSO afterwards. Again, there are balances and compromises to be made here. You correctly point out that a longer focal length (which you often get with a catadioptric scope, but you might also with a refractor) will tend to narrow the field of view available with a given eyepiece, and so will make it hard to view the whole of some deep sky objects. A fast (F/5) reflector will work better in this case. On the other hand, if you are interested in solar system objects then you will want to increase the magnification as much as the conditions allow, and a longer focal length scope helps here.

You can perhaps see why many people eventually end up with several telescopes! There is often no single answer that will suit all the requirements. But you need to start somewhere, and to narrow down your choice, perhaps you can decide which of your wants and constraints are the most important and most urgent. I'm only a few months ahead of you, and I also came into it wanting to do visual and photography, of solar system and DSOs (oh, and possibly spectrography) but I decided to concentrate on visual to start, and decided that a faster newtonian gave me the best mix of targets for now - but I do have a back garden. The main thing is to go with something that you will use as much as you can, and will let you see enough to keep you interested, and then you will have a lot more to base your next choice on. Happy shopping!

 

Edited by Zermelo
typo
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21 minutes ago, Zermelo said:

Hello and welcome (and your English is better than some of the natives!).

Cheers!

21 minutes ago, Zermelo said:

You can perhaps see why many people eventually end up with several telescopes! There is often no single answer that will suit all the requirements. But you need to start somewhere, and to narrow down your choice, perhaps you can decide which of your wants and constraints are the most important and most urgent.[...] The main thing is to go with something that you will use as much as you can, and will let you see enough to keep you interested, and then you will have a lot more to base your next choice on. Happy shopping!

Indeed!

I'm just starting out and from what i've read/seen I know that if I really want to get into astrophotography (as in longer exposures, etc) I'll need an equatorial tracking mount among other "stuff"; if money was no issue I'd go straight for a apochromatic OTA with a good EQ mount with tracking, etc. I'm leaving the astrophotography option for later.

Right now I just want to get a good pick-up-and-go-stargaze setup. Like I said if I had a backyard I'd go for the largest Newtonian on a dobson mount, no question.

As it is I'm more inclined towards a refractor that is light, easy to setup and basically the best option within my buget (400€) so I can convince the wife to allow me to get another scope later next year... :D  

 

Edited by Vausk
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16 minutes ago, Vausk said:

Cheers!

Indeed!

I'm just starting out and from what i've read/seen I know that if I really want to get into astrophotography (as in longer exposures, etc) I'll need an equatorial tracking mount among other "stuff"; if money was no issue I'd go straight for a apochromatic OTA with a good EQ mount with tracking, etc. I'm leaving the astrophotography option for later.

Right now I just want to get a good pick-up-and-go-stargaze setup. Like I said if I had a backyard I'd go for the largest Newtonian on a dobson mount, no question.

As it is I'm more inclined towards a refractor that is light, easy to setup and basically the best option within my buget (400€) so I can convince the wife to allow me to get another scope later next year... :D  

 

Ah, sounds like a plan.

Some other threads that have discussed portable options:

https://stargazerslounge.com/topic/364691-grab-and-go/?tab=comments#comment-3971809

https://stargazerslounge.com/topic/357741-grab-n-go-systems/?tab=comments#comment-3896908

https://stargazerslounge.com/topic/328904-dinky-travel-scopes-grab-n-go-options/?tab=comments#comment-3582425

https://stargazerslounge.com/topic/318921-newbie-looking-for-grab-and-go/?tab=comments#comment-3487912

 

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I think you've done yourself a disservice by watching astro photography videos first.

People often form expectations by looking at astro photos these days and become very disappointed by the views they get in their telescope. Here is another video that you should watch to level your expectations:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jI7IPPmu76U

Pay attention to telescope size (top left) and light pollution level (bottom left) that are displayed next to each comparison.

There is similar video that deals with planetary views:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6NIBBldy8U

Now that we have that out of the way, scope that I would recommend that you get is this:

https://www.astroshop.eu/telescopes/skywatcher-maksutov-telescope-mc-102-1300-skymax-102-az-eq-avant/p,56249

That is probably the lightest scope that will be suited for solar system objects and bright DSOs, that will fit your budget and provide you with most aperture.

Scope with tripod has 7Kg and it can be used both in equatorial and alt azimuth configuration. You can add tracking motor later (very good for planets) when you use it in EQ mode. If you are concerned with often mentioned "narrow field of view" - I'm just going to say this - you originally considered scope that has 1.25" focuser and 1200mm focal length.

This scope has 1.25" focuser and 1300mm of focal length. Difference in field of view with the same eyepiece is minimal. Here is an example of comparison of widest fields of view that both scopes are capable of:

image.png.14fc3c26d765703dd05f9487568e57bc.png

As you can see, difference in FOV is minimal.

Another alternative is to get the same scope on AzGti mount. I'm mentioning this as you said you would like to do some astro photograpy. That is probably the cheapest way to get both in to AP and visual.

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/sky-watcher-az-gti-wifi/sky-watcher-skymax-102-az-gti.html

That mount can be converted into EQ mount that you can use with your DSLR camera to take long exposure photos. For example to something like this:

setup.jpg

You only need to provide equatorial wedge (that can be purchased - or you can make something yourself, I used ball head in the image above), counter weight bar and counter weight (again, you can purchase that, or DIY one - like I did above from M8 threaded rod and some big washers).

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I have a virtuoso and out of the box it does not have goto, you need to either add a wifi dongle or handset. It has a lighter payload than the az-gti and the virtuoso can not be used in equatorial mode really (altaz mounts move in tiny left right up down movements which keep object in field of view but don't follow the Earth's rotation which limits imaging capability) and it comes with a 90mm mak and not 102mm. With your dual interest I was going to suggest as Vliav the az-gti with 102mm mak.

I like the virtuoso but it doesn't really fit your mentioned aims.

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1 hour ago, Vausk said:

@vlaiv: thanks for the feedback! 

I was recommended the Heritage Virtuoso series (dobsonian mounts) as both good portable options (a Newtonian and a MC types), what is your opinion on them?

Skywatcher N 114/500 Heritage Virtuoso

Skywatcher MC 90/1250 Heritage Virtuoso

With that little dob, I feel that focuser is going to be somewhat problematic - it is very basic unit. Also, F/4 newtonian is going to have quite a bit of coma. It is certainly very portable solution.

I would suggest 90mm mak only if you really need that difference in size and weight. Mak102 has a bit more aperture an almost exactly the same focal length (only 50mm difference). Two scopes will be very similar in performance but Mak102 will have edge in both light grasp and planetary resolution (again, small edge as it is 102mm vs 90mm).

I don't really know much about virtuoso mount to be useful there.

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