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Buying a better Telescope


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After using binoculars for a year, I recently bought a cheap telescope. It’s limited in what it can do. I tried to find objects in “Turn Left at Orion” using the scope. It’s hard to find dimmer stars and clusters with the red dot finder, in fact I’ve stopped using the book.

I don’t know whether to buy more powerful binoculars, or a better telescope. Could anyone please give me advice on what sort of telescope to buy?

I’m willing to spend up to about £500 for a telescope. I’d use it for general astronomy, not photography. I won’t use it much for distant clusters and galaxies.

I want it to be compact, with a short tube and a total weight, including the stand, of less than about 12 lbs.

I’d like a telescope which comes with an optical finderscope rather than an RDF, and an eyepiece with a Right Angle View eyepiece (RACI?).

Canon Image Stabiliser binoculars 10X32.  Celestron Explorascope 114AZ Newtonian Reflector Telescope, Aperture 114mm, Focal Length 1000mm, Focal Ratio f/9, Star Pointer red dot finderscope. Original eyepieces replaced with 32mm and 9 mm skywatcher Plossls.

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I’d probably suggest a dobsonian, an 8 inch one costs about £400, but they are fairly long and heavy. Maybe a skywatcher maksutov would be a better fit.

8 inch dobsonian: https://www.firstlightoptics.com/dobsonians/skywatcher-skyliner-200p-dobsonian.html

5 inch maksutov: https://www.firstlightoptics.com/maksutov/skywatcher-skymax-127-synscan-az-goto.html

 

 

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Hi,  I am not so experienced so maybe not the best person to give any advice as yet, also my preference is imaging so my scopes are generally a bit different anyway.
But a bit more info might help the ones that can help you to give best advice, Are you wanting a goto version that you can align and then command to go to a certain star on a handset or are you wanting to star hop from well known stars yourself ?

Steve

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Hi you could do worse than look for an AZ-GTi mount with a small Mak ( 102 or 127 mm ) the AZ-GTi has GOTO functions , so finding targets are easy ... the Mak will show planets , double stars and the brighter Deep Sky Objects ( DSO) .. the whole package is around £500 ... you may have to buy an optical finder ... but they are not that expensive .

Edited by Stu1smartcookie
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I think that if I get a goto scope it will also need an equatorial mount with batteries and heavy counterbalances and it will probably be too heavy for my requirements. This is why I've not specified that I would like a goto scope.

 

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5 minutes ago, keora said:

I think that if I get a goto scope it will also need an equatorial mount with batteries and heavy counterbalances and it will probably be too heavy for my requirements. This is why I've not specified that I would like a goto scope.

 

An Az-gti is an az goto mount ... and a very lightweight tripod will support it ie a photo tripod . The mount has a payload capacity of 5kgs ... the mount it self weighs about 1.5kgs . Its ultra portable , whats not to like ? You can easily turn it into an EQ mount with the addition of a wedge and by updating the firmware . I you want a non goto mount then the AZ5 mount head on a photo tripod would work . If you are in a light polluted area , a goto mount is desirable . It just makes astronomy less frustrating . It doesn't mean you neglect learning the night sky , in fact it encourages it as you get to recognise the stars around your target .

 

 

Edited by Stu1smartcookie
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Skywatcher Startravel 80 is much better than it’s £120 price tag would indicate. 2.9lb weight. A camera can be attached at a later date if you wish

A little bit of work such as below will make it even better.

that leaves enough for a go to equatorial mount such as 

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/skywatcher-mounts/skywatcher-eq3-2-deluxe.html  £259

Or even lighter, the https://www.firstlightoptics.com/skywatcher-mounts/skywatcher-star-adventurer-astronomy-bundle.html, £359with WiFi control this only tracks in RA, Dec is manual adjuster. Or the smaller https://www.firstlightoptics.com/skywatcher-star-adventurer/skywatcher-star-adventurer-mini-sam-wifi-astro-imaging-mount-bundle.html £259.

with the star adventurers use any change for a decent tripod, such as a manfrotto.

one thing to bear in mind, your kit is never quite good enough and there will be a path of updates/replacements.

 

 

Edited by iapa
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8 minutes ago, Stu1smartcookie said:

This statement should be  one of the ten commandments ! 

😀 tell me about it.

Over the 1st 5 years I did an Slt130 on AltAz go to, added a Nikon camera, too much weight for the mount, AVX, then SLT was not good enough, so, 200PD-S. too much movement in a breeze, so 8” SCT for the AVX, with the ST80 for guiding and a CGEM-DX to carry the 200. 

More recently a pier and CGX-L to carry a Quattro 10CF that I got for a good price, and there’s an unused, as yet, RASA 8.

and more....

let’s not talk about the cameras.

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6 hours ago, Stu1smartcookie said:

An Az-gti is an az goto mount ... and a very lightweight tripod will support it ie a photo tripod . The mount has a payload capacity of 5kgs ... the mount it self weighs about 1.5kgs . Its ultra portable , whats not to like ? You can easily turn it into an EQ mount with the addition of a wedge and by updating the firmware . I you want a non goto mount then the AZ5 mount head on a photo tripod would work . If you are in a light polluted area , a goto mount is desirable . It just makes astronomy less frustrating . It doesn't mean you neglect learning the night sky , in fact it encourages it as you get to recognise the stars around your target .

 

 

Agree with this view on the AZGti mount -  I have this mount and run the Skywatcher Mak 127 on it (its in my profile pic!).  I backpack this to the local park very regularly.   The thing about the AZGti mount is that even if you don't use it to find things, you can hit a Point and Track button and it will keep the thing you are looking at in view without having to make constant tweaks.  

I also have an ST80 (Short Tube refractor from Skywatcher) that works superbly well on either this mount or manually on a photo tripod.  Whatever you choose you are on a fantastic journey and the advice and expertise I've benefitted from on here has been amazing! 

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Thank you for the advice everybody has given me. I've looked closely at the goto telescopes you've recommended. I still believe that for my purposes, I prefer to buy a telescope which doesn't have a goto feature.

If I can buy a telescope with good optics and an optical finder scope (not RDF) then I'll be able to find most of the things I'd like to see.

Looking at telescope retailers on the net, many are low on stock and delivery times of two or three months are being quoted. I'm looking for a compact telescope, not too heavy,  yet few retailers include the weight in their technical data.

 

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Hi,

If you want a compact, short tube on a mount for Moon, planets, double stars, small and (relatively) bright DSO = Maksutov.  I'd go with the Skywatcher 127 on the Alt az mount and upgrade to a motorised EQ mountI know you said you don't want counterweights but the Mak is still relatively light so you don't need heavy ones. 

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/sky-watcher-az5-deluxe/sky-watcher-skymax-127-az5-deluxe.html

OTA weight is specified here as 3.2kg (7lbs)

https://www.teleskop-express.de/shop/product_info.php/info/p2771_Skywatcher-Skymax-127T-OTA---127-1500mm-Maksutov-Cassegrain-scope-tube.html

 

Peter

 

PS Sorry, just saw you want the whole package to be 12lbs which is just over 5kg. That would then be a tabletop telescope - something I would not recommend for my primary telescope.

The Mak 127 mount above is lightweight and you could bring the mount out first and then the scope.

 

Edited by Peter_D
OTA weight
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As a newbie myself, I second the ST80 love – it's small but solid, and inexpensive but high-quality. The contrast is good and you can see a lot – it's best for "wide angle" views, things like the Pleiades, but the view of the Moon is incredible: you may not be able to zoom right in on it, like with a Mak or other longer focal length telescope, but the view is crystal clear and the Moon fills the frame beautifully ... all I could ever want, at least for now. I even got a great pic with my old smartphone. And you can split stars. I also gather the ST80 is terrific in dark skies – which I plan to test out next week on Dartmoor.

I too found the RDF a bit pointless (pun intended ... my first one was broken so had no red dot at all!), but with the helpful advice of SGL members I've invested in a cheap Rigel quikfinder which should help: it uses circles, like a target, so you can measure how far you're moving in the sky instead of just pointing and crossing your fingers. And if there were any 6x30 RACIs available for love or money I'd get one of those, too.

My main piece of advice: avoid the AZ3 mount. It came with my ST80 package as a package, and it's whatever the opposite of a joy is to use. But I've tried an AZ5 at a friend's house and it's terrific. I have never used an AZ-GTi but it seems to get good marks, too, if you want Go-To. 

And if you don't want the ST80 then yes, the 127 Mak is good: much better magnification than the ST80 (it's just a more powerful telescope), although the ST80 beats it on crispness, I reckon.

The worst bit is that there's almost nothing for sale at the moment, but good beginner telescopes like these do come up in the wanted section on this site and on UK Astronomy Buy & Sell: https://www.astrobuysell.com/uk/propview.php

Good luck

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Thank you for the extra info. The Skywatcher ST80 seems to suit my needs, and it’s at a competitive price. The site I looked at didn’t have it in stock.

I’m not sure  about a Dobsonian. if I buy a medium sized one I suppose I could stand it on the ground, but it might be too heavy to cart around. If I buy a small one, from my limited knowledge of scopes, do I have to stand it on a little table or do I kneel on the ground?

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1 hour ago, keora said:

I’m not sure  about a Dobsonian. if I buy a medium sized one I suppose I could stand it on the ground, but it might be too heavy to cart around. If I buy a small one, from my limited knowledge of scopes, do I have to stand it on a little table or do I kneel on the ground?

Smaller dobs are tabletops, they need to be placed on a table. Some of them have a thread to mount them on a camera tripod, but I don't know if that works well - I've never tried it.

Most dobsons can be disassembled into two parts, the base and the OTA. The base is heavy and quite unhandy to carry around. I'm pretty sure the weights of the seperate parts can be found online.

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1 hour ago, keora said:

Thank you for the extra info. The Skywatcher ST80 seems to suit my needs, and it’s at a competitive price. The site I looked at didn’t have it in stock.

I’m not sure  about a Dobsonian. if I buy a medium sized one I suppose I could stand it on the ground, but it might be too heavy to cart around. If I buy a small one, from my limited knowledge of scopes, do I have to stand it on a little table or do I kneel on the ground?

I own a 150 heritage dob, a 127 mak and an st80, so I suppose I ought to chime in here !

The 150 heritage 'tabletop; dob was the first 'scope I bought , about 10 months ago. I think it is an ideal first 'scope.  It is easily carried around , not too bulky to store, and the 150mm aperture  gathers loads of light. Unless the user is quite short, it needs to go on some sort of stand to provide comfortable views. I am about 1.7m tall ( 5'7" ish) and made mine a sturdy 30cm tall,3 legged table out of scrap wood, which brings the eyepiece to a good comfortable height for me when viewing things high in the sky. When Jupiter and Saturn were low in the sky last summer, I needed the 'scope up higher , dragged a heavy old black & decker workmate out of the shed, and parked the dob on that .

If the weight of the 150 might be too much (I don't  recall what it is offhand) the smaller heritage 130 might suit you better, there is a vast thread about it on the US cloudy nights forum , it is sold under a different name there, same 'scope tho' :

https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/463109-onesky-newtonian-astronomers-without-borders/ There is a particular £10ish  ikea 3 legged stool  which apparently fits the 130 base perfectly !

Advantages of the 150 (or 130) You get a lot of aperture for your money, you get a stable base included, it is amazing value, it is a proper telescope.

The 150 has a focal length of 750mm (the 130 is slightly less) which makes it reasonably powerful to magnify the Moon and planets, but not so great that it is hard to aim it where you want. The dob base is simple to use, you get the hang of nudging it after a few goes, and it becomes second nature.

Disadvantages of the 150 (or 130) The focus is something that resembles a slightly rough plumbing fitting , you need to add some pfte tape to make it smoother to use, you also really need to make it a light shroud to cover the open section when in use. Neither thing is expensive or difficult (ptfe tape can be bought for £1 a roll, you can make a shroud from craft foam, cheap camping mat foam, or just card )and making the 'scope better and individual is something I enjoyed.

My second purchase was the 127 mak on an az5 mount (and a sturdy photo tripod I already owned) , it has double the focal length of the heritage 150, so magnifies 2x as much using the same eyepiece. It is quite a lot heavier than the dob, 3kg for the az5, 3 .5kg for the 'scope and finders and dew shield , probably another 3kg for the tripod., maybe 10kg in total, 22lbs in old money . So far too heavy for your needs. If you want high magnification for bright things like the Moon & planets I'd suggest you check out the smaller 102 mak on a porta mount, I've not used them myself, but it looks a good combination, and will be lighter, and more compact

My most recent purchase was a second hand st80 . It does not need a 'proper' telescope mount at all, but sits happily on a photo tripod with a photographic head. The reason this is possible is that it is a widefield , short focal length device, so is relatively forgiving about where you aim it., as well as very light in weight That is not the case for the mak, which I'd not contemplate using without slo mo controls to give very fine adjustment in aim. The st80 is not perfect (no telescope can be ) it shows some obvious colour fringing around bright objects, but it is a good price , and if you can get your hands on one,  you could put it on top of any decent photo tripod (if you don't already have one, they are much more plentiful and cheap second hand than astro equivalents) as a temporary measure until stocks of astro kit return to the retailers and you will have more idea, from using your 'scope, what will work for you.

Which would I recommend as a first buy ?  For you, not the 127 mak, it's too heavy for the weight limit you gave.

The 150 dob (or 130) would give you extra light gathering  over the st80 , and the immediate upgrades (ptfe tape and foam or card) are trivial.

The st80 will probably come (various brands sell essentially the same 'scope, different labels ) with a cheap diagonal or prism (the 90 or 46 degree bend thing at the back) and you will want to upgrade it asap, which will cost maybe £40 or more.

The st80 is a very easy thing to move around and store, the heritage dob is a little larger and bulkier.

The heritage's 750mm focal length means with the included (rubbish) 10mm eyepiece,you get 75x magnification, whilst the st80 has a focal length of 400mm, which with the same 10mm eyepiece would only give 40x magnification.

You might think those 'scopes are too cheap, you could afford better within your budget, but .... everyone buys a 'scope and then realises that the eyepieces included are poor, and you will want to upgrade soon : the BST starguider range at £45-£50 each or a £200 Baader zoom are the usual suggested 'cheap' options. Also your 'scope will come with a red dot finder , and you will  want an optical  finder , ideally a 6x30 RACI for about £45, and maybe a rigel or telrad , roughly the same £45ish cost again , and a foam lined case to keep the eyepieces safe and ....

You get the picture !

There's plenty of time to do your research , it doesn't look as if worthwhile 'scopes will be arriving here for at least a month, try using the search on here and you will find lots of information on the st80, heritage dobs etc, good luck !

Heather

Edited by Tiny Clanger
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I am happy with the 8" Dobsonian as it balances my need for optical quality, aperture, size and weight. 

I can set it up reasonably easily and I like being able to point and view targets quickly without fuss.

I would consider setting aside some of your budget for later "upgrades".

I've put my experience of using the 200P and other tips online.

Hang onto that Turn Left at Orion!

Edited by Spile
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11 minutes ago, Spile said:

I am happy with the 8" Dobsonian as it balances my need for optical quality, aperture, size and weight. 

I can set it up reasonably easily and I like being able to point and view targets quickly without fuss.

 

Is it 12lbs or less ? I thought the 200 dobs came in at around four times the weight limit the OP set ?

Heather

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5 minutes ago, Tiny Clanger said:

Is it 12lbs or less ? I thought the 200 dobs came in at around four times the weight limit the OP set ?

Heather

That is a fair cop and clearly I wasn't reading closely enough. That said, I would be interested in that weight limit restriction, if that is not too personal a question.

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15 hours ago, Spile said:

That is a fair cop and clearly I wasn't reading closely enough. That said, I would be interested in that weight limit restriction, if that is not too personal a question.

Why a weight limit?

It's because I keep my telescope in a small bedroom. It's awkward to take it down a flight of stairs, through three different doors and out into the back garden. The telescope has a total weight of about 6lbs. It's top heavy, there's no handles, so I've got to rest the tube on my shoulder. And because the eyepiece tube and the red dot finder stick up, at a certain position on the stairs the scope can scrape against the low point of the ceiling. So I'm looking up at the ceiling rather than down at my feet as I descend the stairs.

I'm guessing that anything heavier than twice the current scope will make transporting it too difficult.

I've looked at most of the scopes recommended by forum members. I'm pleased with all the advice I've received, it'll take a while to understand the technical side. Then I might be able to go to the nearest retailer ( Rother Valley Telescopes in Sth Yorkshire) if it reopens next week and actually see real live telescopes.

I've seen a few scopes on the net described as Grab 'n' Go scopes, and I think that's what I'm looking for.

l appreciate all the advice I've been given.

 

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5 hours ago, keora said:

've looked at most of the scopes recommended by forum members. I'm pleased with all the advice I've received, it'll take a while to understand the technical side. Then I might be able to go to the nearest retailer ( Rother Valley Telescopes in Sth Yorkshire) if it reopens next week and actually see real live telescopes.

Definitely the best plan for you.  They will offer you the advice needed and what requirements you request and equipment for you.  If it were me on my experiences so far being quite new and also needing portable.  I have a az gti, sw 72ed with a 9x50 raci fs on a star adventurer tripod and wonderfully portable , then my skymax 127 with a 6x30 ra fs, also goes on this mount and both are more than meet my needs.  A nice refractor as the members suggest here like the st 80 would be a great choice.Clear skies

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6 hours ago, keora said:

It's because I keep my telescope in a small bedroom. It's awkward to take it down a flight of stairs, through three different doors and out into the back garden. The telescope has a total weight of about 6lbs. It's top heavy, there's no handles, so I've got to rest the tube on my shoulder. And because the eyepiece tube and the red dot finder stick up, at a certain position on the stairs the scope can scrape against the low point of the ceiling. So I'm looking up at the ceiling rather than down at my feet as I descend the stairs.

 

Just wondering if there’s an alternative storage option? separate the direct parts?

I solved that particular issue by keeping the mount and tripod, each about 18lb, at the back door.

Quite often it stays outdoors under a cover fully ready to go, particularly when forecast if good for a couple of days.

 A quick check  of PA and ready to go.

 

Edited by iapa
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6 hours ago, keora said:

Why a weight limit?It's because I keep my telescope in a small bedroom. It's awkward to take it down a flight of stairs, through three different doors and out into the back garden. .

 

I don’t think you’ve actually said what it is that you have currently

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