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Advice on equipment for first time practical experience


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Hi all,

I'm currently embarking on my Astronomy journey by studying a BSc in Astronomy. I've read in the course notes, that binoculars, are best for a beginner; so, I think before investing in a telescope, I'm considering binoculars - I feel they will be more practical to get to know the night sky, in more detail, to ease me in. Plus, all I need is binoculars, at most, for my first module.

What are a good set of all-around binoculars, for a beginner? I'm happy to spend up to £150 - maybe more depending. I'm not really all too familiar on prices; so, I'm hoping around that amount, can get me a good set?

Thanks in advance for your advice :)

Michael

EDIT: I forgot to add that I did some research and it seems 10x50 are the best for beginners; however, I've seen a review recommend the Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 Binocular, as number one, for beginners, due to sharper and brighter images. Also, it's meant to provide a wider field of view. If anyone can chip in? (link below)

https://www.space.com/26021-best-binoculars.html

Edited by NovaeSci
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10x50 is a popular size. Obviously the larger the objective lens, the more light you gather and the more you can see, but there is a trade-off with weight - some of the larger astro binos weigh a lot. Whatever size you have, you'll do much better with a decent tripod (or a parallelogram mount).

If you want to spend into three figures, there are some discounted by FLO at the moment:

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/offers/offer_pentax-sp-50mm-wp-binoculars_205773.html

and some in the buy/sell category:

https://stargazerslounge.com/topic/368304-for-sale-10x50-ed-astronomical-binoculars-williamoptics/?tab=comments#comment-4003192

https://stargazerslounge.com/topic/368897-for-sale-pentax-sp-10-x-50-wp-binoculars/?tab=comments#comment-4008485

 

If you want to spend less, there was a recent thread asking about that:  https://stargazerslounge.com/topic/369594-any-good-budget-10x50-options/?tab=comments#comment-4015319

 

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1 hour ago, NovaeSci said:

Hi all,

I'm currently embarking on my Astronomy journey by studying a BSc in Astronomy. I've read in the course notes, that binoculars, are best for a beginner; so, I think before investing in a telescope, I'm considering binoculars - I feel they will be more practical to get to know the night sky, in more detail, to ease me in. Plus, all I need is binoculars, at most, for my first module.

What are a good set of all-around binoculars, for a beginner? I'm happy to spend up to £150 - maybe more depending. I'm not really all too familiar on prices; so, I'm hoping around that amount, can get me a good set?

Thanks in advance for your advice :)

Michael

EDIT: I forgot to add that I did some research and it seems 10x50 are the best for beginners; however, I've seen a review recommend the Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 Binocular, as number one, for beginners, due to sharper and brighter images. Also, it's meant to provide a wider field of view. If anyone can chip in? (link below)

https://www.space.com/26021-best-binoculars.html

There's a whole sub forum on here about binoculars:

https://stargazerslounge.com/forum/133-discussions-binoculars/

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1 hour ago, NovaeSci said:

I've read in the course notes, that binoculars, are best for a beginner

Have the notes said why binoculars are best? Are you expected to learn your way around the sky in your first module? I think that binoculars are best for wide views of the sky and learning where things are in relation to each other, but for extended observations of an object a telescope is better (if it fits in the field of view). 

1 hour ago, NovaeSci said:

all I need is binoculars, at most, for my first module

Do you know what equipment is required for later modules? If later modules have specific requirements it might be best to buy with those in mind. 

2 hours ago, NovaeSci said:

I've seen a review recommend the Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 Binocular, as number one, for beginners, due to sharper and brighter images. Also, it's meant to provide a wider field of view.

Generally, 8x binoculars give a wider field of view than 10x binoculars, that is not something unique about the trailseekers. As for the sharper and brighter comment, I would be a bit sceptical about a relatively cheap pair of non-ED roof prisms being the best binocular. The previously mentioned binocular sky website would be a more reliable source for reviews and comparisons. 

 

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Curious why any Astronomy Course notes recommends binoculars. May be over simplified but I would have said that 99.8% of astronomy is performed with a telescope. Maybe more then 99.8%.

Having used both I suggest a scope of some even basic variety. A 70mm or 80mm achromatic, preferably f/8 or maybe slower to minimise CA, would seem a better idea and more in keeping with Astronomy.

Visit a University which does Astromnomy and you will find telescopes, what you do not find are binoculars. Binoculars are fine for looking around the sky but none will pick out and show you the Trapesium in M42. And I would have thought that that was the type of ability required.

Where are you doing the course?

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Posted (edited)

Hi all,

Thanks for your advice. The first module is just an Introduction to Astronomy. One of the topics covered half way through the module is in fact Telescopes; however, the first module is just a way to ease you in by giving you a basic overview of topics, in which will eventually go into much deeper detail over the course of the degree. There actually is a full module dedicated to UV, Optical and IR Astronomy. To quote a passage for the first exercise at the beginning of the module:

"The aim of this exercise is to introduce you to observing the night sky. First you will locate and recognise the prominent constellations using the naked eye. This will lead on to targets suitable for observing with binoculars or telescope, if you have them available."

So you don't actually need either at first. I'm just thinking binoculars will be a good addition to expand my knowledge of naked eye viewing. I'd eventually get a telescope, of course. The course is UCLAN's BSc (Hons) in Astronomy. The description of the first module says:

 "In this module you will study both observational and theoretical aspects of astronomy, including the night sky, telescopes, stars, stellar lifetimes and energy sources, galaxies and cosmology. You do not need to have your own telescope or binoculars to complete this module. 

This is the module we use to introduce students to the central ideas of astronomy at first year university level. It takes a quantitative scientific approach and you will need to use maths to solve problems from the outset."

https://studyastronomy.com/dlastro/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/AA1051_2017.pdf

I will definitely give Binocularsky a good read :)

Edited by NovaeSci
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Posted (edited)

The module which goes in to UV, Optical and IR Astronomy is below.

"In this module you will develop your understanding of techniques and processess that underlie astronomical observations. You will learn about the effects of the Earth’s atmosphere on observations, telescopes, the uses of photometry, and how detectors including CCD work.

You will also develop your skills in practical observing and simple data reduction, using your own equipment or commonly available resources from the Internet. Here you will carry out practical aspects of photometry and CCD imaging which will be written up as an assessed experimental report."

https://studyastronomy.com/dlastro/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/AA2053_2017.pdf

So the degree definitely provides a good grounding in the topic of observation. You also get multiple opportunities to make use of the telescope at Alston Observatory.

Edited by NovaeSci
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The second course talks about using/interpreting photographic data so if you want to use your own equipment for gathering that data you are probably looking at an outlay of at least a couple of thousand. Assuming that the standard astrophotography beginner's suggestion also applies here you would be looking at an equipment list that looks something like 

Skywatcher 130PDS, HEQ5, coma corrector and the type of camera required by your course. 

None of this is necessary for the first module and for learning the constellations a decent pair of binoculars is a good choice to help you learn your way around the sky. I would pay attention to the field of view that any pairs you consider have as an wide field of view will be an advantage here. I would probably be inclined to look at the 10x50 Opticron Adventurer T for a good quality but low cost option. 

If you then want to add a telescope for more detailed views then the 130pds could be used visually, either on a manual mount (AZ4, AZ5) or the HEQ5 if you think you will be investing in your own kit for this course. Remember that the course is designed for people with no kit, and that by capturing your own data you are heavily reliant on the weather, so you do not need to buy your own kit. If you do decide you will be buying any expensive gear for astrophotography make sure that you run it by your professor or tutor first. You don't want to spend all that money only to discover that you need something else. 

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58 minutes ago, Ricochet said:

The second course talks about using/interpreting photographic data so if you want to use your own equipment for gathering that data you are probably looking at an outlay of at least a couple of thousand. Assuming that the standard astrophotography beginner's suggestion also applies here you would be looking at an equipment list that looks something like 

Skywatcher 130PDS, HEQ5, coma corrector and the type of camera required by your course. 

None of this is necessary for the first module and for learning the constellations a decent pair of binoculars is a good choice to help you learn your way around the sky. I would pay attention to the field of view that any pairs you consider have as an wide field of view will be an advantage here. I would probably be inclined to look at the 10x50 Opticron Adventurer T for a good quality but low cost option. 

If you then want to add a telescope for more detailed views then the 130pds could be used visually, either on a manual mount (AZ4, AZ5) or the HEQ5 if you think you will be investing in your own kit for this course. Remember that the course is designed for people with no kit, and that by capturing your own data you are heavily reliant on the weather, so you do not need to buy your own kit. If you do decide you will be buying any expensive gear for astrophotography make sure that you run it by your professor or tutor first. You don't want to spend all that money only to discover that you need something else. 

Well the Astronomy degree I'm mainly doing as a foundation for further study in Astrophysics. But I do definitely intend, after getting to know the night-sky pretty well, to upgrade to a telescope and start trying some Astro-Photography. I've already messaged Ayrshire and Glasgow Astronomical Societies regarding joining; however, with still being in this lockdown, nothing has really materialised yet. I will be spending many years studying and devoting all my time and effort in to it, so I know down the line I'm going to be spending in to the thousands of pounds on equipment. But, I guess that's a knowledge base I'll develop over the coming years. 

The binoculars you mentioned seem to be pretty well priced. I was originally looking at Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 Binoculars, which are around £150, but has great reviews and meant to have a good field of vision.

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39 minutes ago, NovaeSci said:

Well the Astronomy degree I'm mainly doing as a foundation for further study in Astrophysics.

Have the university confirmed that gaining the astronomy degree will get you onto the astrophysics course? Astrophysics is very maths-heavy and I'm not sure astronomy will cover that aspect so you will want to study maths in addition, even if it is just to stop you forgetting what you currently know. 

1 hour ago, NovaeSci said:

I was originally looking at Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 Binoculars

I have no experience with those binoculars, but as I said in my previous post, I think they are probably a bit too cheap for roof prisms and generally porro prisms will outperform roof prisms at a similar price point. If you were instead looking at the Trailseeker ED binocular then it might be a different matter.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Ricochet said:

Have the university confirmed that gaining the astronomy degree will get you onto the astrophysics course? Astrophysics is very maths-heavy and I'm not sure astronomy will cover that aspect so you will want to study maths in addition, even if it is just to stop you forgetting what you currently know. 

I have no experience with those binoculars, but as I said in my previous post, I think they are probably a bit too cheap for roof prisms and generally porro prisms will outperform roof prisms at a similar price point. If you were instead looking at the Trailseeker ED binocular then it might be a different matter.

There is a Physics/Mathematics modules in the first year, and the last year is very heavily mathematics based, covering things like Advanced Astrophysics, Relativity and Cosmology. I'm already half way through K.A. Stroud's Engineering Mathematics and I have a selection of books from Boas, Riley, etc. on more advanced mathematics anyway. The KA Stroud mathematics book is what is used in the first year, alongside Principles of Physics.

I already did my research and many students have gone on in to PG Masters such as Physics, Astrophysics and even Theoretical Physics - even courses at Oxford and Cambridge. There are a fair few who have actually gone straight in to PhDs in the same fields, including Theoretical Physics. I will be filling in any maths, anyway. The courses I posted are just the basic ones. It's a pretty full on degree. The good thing is is that it is very focussed on scientific writing/essays, and provides around half a dozen modules that is based on research, so plenty of opportunities to learn how to research effectively to prepare you for PG study/research. I've actually read a few dissertations from past students and one was actually on the theory of General Relativity. From what I've spoken to past students about, the course would be better named an Astrophysics degree, due to Astronomy giving the impression it's just basic observational stuff. It's quite heavily grounded in theory. Astronomy and Astrophysics seems to pretty much be used interchangeably, these days.

I would actually like to go on to a MSc by Research after the degree, which Glasgow University do. But there are many opportunities around the UK. Cardiff, especially, seems to have a great Astrophysics/Cosmology department which are doing a lot of research in the areas I'd like to.

I guess I'll definitely learn a lot from this forum over the coming years :) I'm actually starting a blog on my study journey, so hopefully may help future students to have a good idea of the course.

Edited by NovaeSci
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Hi nebula!

Which Binoculars? I've tried a pair small, cheap 8 X 20 bins. Stars weren't that clear and I couldn't stop the tremor that you can get when holding bins. So I paid £800 for a pair of 10 x 32 Canon Image Stabilising binoculars. They are very good and solve the shaky image problem. But you don't have to spend that much. I suggest a pair of conventional binoculars, say 10 x 50.

Why Binoculars and not a telescope? I bought a basic scope a few months ago. It's interesting to use it, but it needs more skill than using binoculars. Telescopes can be big, heavy and difficult to store. It takes time and effort to transport them to where you want to view the stars, and then find and focus on a tiny star. They can be frustrating until you have the experience.

This winter viewing conditions have been terrible. A few times I've wasted time setting up the telescope, and then clouds have swept  in and blocked the view. For example, last night I found that the view to the south was cloud covered, but I managed to get a quick view of Lyra with binoculars out of the bedroom window. Binoculars are more versatile in many ways.

Ideally, it's best to have both bins and a scope, but initially, bins are easier.

This is interesting:

https://astronomy.com/news/observing/2020/10/is-it-better-to-use-a-telescope-or-binoculars-to-observe-space

Edited by keora
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I can absolutely understand why an introductory , general undergrad. course would suggest binoculars as an initial tool : many students would have access to some already from other interests, or by borrowing from a family member. If not , acceptable ones can be bought from around £50 new.

The same cannot be said for telescopes ...

I don't know about other UK educational establishments, but my uni has always had a local observatory available for undergrad.s to use for free, so no need for an amateur telescope unless the student wants to buy one out of personal interest.

https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/physics/news/news_items/the-university-of-leicester-opens-the-most-advanced-astronomical-teaching-facility-available-at-a-uk-university

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