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Bored of "First Telescope" Threads yet?


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Hi,

I've got a 4 year old daughter who's really getting into space, planets stars etc. and I've always been a bit of a nerd about it all (my Lego Saturn V is currently sat next to me and I'm drinking my coffee from a Space Shuttle mug bought at the National Space Centre a few weeks ago).

Anyway, my wife and I thought a telescope might be a great Christmas present for the little one (and me) to have a go at in the back garden, see a bit of the sky etc.,

I'm into photography, but have no illusions or expectations that "our" first scope will be any good for getting photographs (if we properly get into it then maybe I'll look into the clever motorised mounts, but not yet).  Worth pointing out I have a very basic lightweight plastic ballhead tripod, but it's franky pretty rubbish and would no doubt really struggle with a scope on it so I'd rather get something specific for the telescope.

We go camping a couple of times a year, and my dad lives in the middle of nowhere, so something I can easily pack in the car is ideal.  Plus my daughter is 4, so attention span is often short, so something that can be out, used and away again in a short time is good.

I don't want to spend a lot, and am wary this is a slippery slope but I would spend a touch more to make the most of the small investment.  I was thinking around £200 with the expectation that I might need to upgrade eyepieces fairly soon. So if I say £300 as a top-top budget where I'll be happy with the setup for a little while.

Taking all that into account, a lot of recommendations seem to suggest the ST80s as long as you aren't fussed about getting great views of the planets, and don't mind the colour purple.  So I've been looking at this, as it seems to come with everything I'd (sorry we'd) need, including the slow adjustment in both axes which I noticed is lacking on a lot of other bundles.

https://www.harrisontelescopes.co.uk/acatalog/skywatcher-startravel-80mm-az3-telescope.html

  • Am I barking up the wrong tree?
  • Would I be better buying the ST80 as an OTA and then the additionals separately?
  • Are there any other accessories you'd recommend with this or any other setup?
  • I'm expecting planet-spotting to be a "make that investment later if/when we get into the hobby more seriously" but if anyone can tell me I can do that in my budget then I'll consider it.
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Firstly , welcome . :) 

I don't have kids but i can guess that a 4 year old would want to see something bright and big in the eyepiece . I therefore may not recommend the ST80 which is essentially a wide field scope that would show just very small points of light . ( the moon would look ok )

Therefore why not buy a heritage 130 or 150 dobsonian . These are really popular starter scopes , because they , especially the 150 have great light gathering and will show the likes of Jupiter , saturn and of course our moon in good detail . But most of all , those objects will appear bright . 

Stu

Edited by Stu1smartcookie
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I'd also recommend a table top dob like Heritage 130, but for another reason.

With a tripod and a telescope, you'll need a stool for you, and a taller stool for her - the eyepiece is going to be up there, somewhere, from her point of view. Or one of you will be crouching, or standing. Not ideal.

With a table top dob, she can sit on the table, or put the 'scope on the floor. The eyepiece will be at her height.

https://www.harrisontelescopes.co.uk/acatalog/skywatcher-heritage-130p-flextube-dobsonian-telescope.html#SID=1701

That'll show (on a good night) Saturn's rings, the great red spot on Jupiter, the ice caps on Mars, etc etc..  It's also got the aperture for some deep sky objects too.

People call 8 inch Dobsonians the Transit vans of telescopes because of their all round flexibility.  If so, the Heritage 130 is the Transit Connect. Not quite as capable, but easier to park.

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Also take a look at MAK's.   Give great views of the planets and some can be had for good prices on the 2nd hand market.  Portable too and a nice starter scope.  My father in law has the 127. 

This one for example currently in the buy and sell area.  you'd need a tripod for for £140 that's well within your budget. 

 

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+1 for the 130 Heritage. Reflectors just can't be beaten in terms of aperture for £, which is what you want for visual . If you've been reading about first scopes then you've probably read a lot that the best scope is the one that gets used the most, and that will come down to ease and speed of setup, especially with kids.

 

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So I am barking up the wrong tree then, interesting!  Time to read some more reviews then I guess...

What are the downsides of a reflector like that Heritage?

53 minutes ago, TerraC said:

Also take a look at MAK's.   Give great views of the planets and some can be had for good prices on the 2nd hand market.  Portable too and a nice starter scope.  My father in law has the 127. 

This one for example currently in the buy and sell area.  you'd need a tripod for for £140 that's well within your budget. 

 

@TerraC I can't see the link here for some reason.

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Welcome 🙂

I can tell from your post that you've done some sensible research already , and have reasonable expectations and a sense of humour, so I'll reply 'no, not yet ...' to the thread title  :evil4: and chip in.

That small, sticky fingered little person you are using as an excuse , sorry , I mean getting the 'scope partly for 🙂  is going to need a fast set up, easy to look through, not too delicate or easily knocked over sort of 'scope. It needs to not have a narrow field of view/ big magnification (like a mak ) because by the time you set that up with something like a planet in view, and move aside so the small person can get to the eyepiece, the target will have moved , probably out of view , similarly the slightest touch by the small person on the eyepiece or focus tube will move the 'scope , so the target is lost. That way lies frustration and tantrums, not to mention how the 4 year old will react ...

Wide field, sturdy, under £200 , easy to set up and small enough to stick in the car for dark sky trips ... 130 heritage.  Leaves you some budget for an eyepiece or two , which you will want, skywatcher 'scopes come with two eyepieces, the 26mm is OK, the 10mm is meh, and needs replacing ... some other manufacturers  just include one slightly better eyepiece (Bressers get an acceptable  20mm plossl).  If you are happy to go to £300 (including one eyepiece upgrade) , the 150 heritage is bigger, therefore collects more light, but might not be as packable , depends on your car and the volume of child related stuff you have to pack ...

I own an ST80, I bought it second hand , it is used with a lightweight but good quality travel tripod , where I'd describe it as rather wobbly, and best at very low magnifications, much like using binoculars (except only one eye , obv.s,  and somewhat steadier than hand held binos. ) The plus points for the  ST80 over the heritage 130 are its compact size and that it looks like most people's  idea of a telescope. 

Heather

PS, you visited the Space centre ! Not far from me,  hope you went to the free museum of technology next door too, lovely beam engine , and at the age your little one now is, my niece was obsessed with the see through cut away toilet, complete with flushable orange plastic cylinders you could watch go down the pan when you pulled the chain.,  then run to the end of the plastic tube 'sewage pipe' retrieve and repeat ... wonder if that exhibit is  still  there nearly 20 years on .

 

Edited by Tiny Clanger
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10 minutes ago, DhamR said:

So I am barking up the wrong tree then, interesting!  Time to read some more reviews then I guess...

What are the downsides of a reflector like that Heritage?

@TerraC I can't see the link here for some reason.

You have to have a number of posts (25 I think)and have been registered for a month before you can see that  area, it used to be open to all, but some scammers spoiled it for beginners , unfortunately ,and measures had to be taken to make the bad guy's lives harder.

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2 minutes ago, Ohgodwherediditgo said:

OK, I'm going to say that the 127 Mak is unsuitable for you. It is a great scope for planetary viewing but not ideal for use with children. Reflectors do require some occasional collimation which requires an additional tool and a bit of patience but that is the only downside really.

Hello ,  I have a t-shirt with your icon on, and  the quote 'Smoke me a kipper, I'll be back for breakfast ' 🙂

I don't know if this is true of the 1230 heritage, but my 150 has a dust cap  which s also a collimation cap. The thing is, you don't actually need a  focus tube dust cap  when the 'scope is closed down , the focus tube doesn't then lead to the interior of the scope, so it doesn't matter that there's a hole in it to use as a quick collimation check.

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I think an ST80 on an AZ3 would be ideal for showing a 4 year old the night sky. It's extremely robust, will not go out of collimation, the mount is a simple "point and look" with slow motions, the tripod can be set up at variable heights and for what it is and what it costs I don't think you could go wrong. It would also make a handy finderscope for 12" Newtonian that you will eventually get in the future. The Moon would be the obvious target so it would be a good idea to get a ND9 filter (moon filter) to stop the little'n from getting dazzled. At low powers the ST80 will give a very wide field of view and there are plenty of areas in the sky to point it and be amazed.

I don't know what eyepieces they come with these days but I think a half decent Zoom eyepiece would be an excellent choice. SVBONY do a 8mm-24mm zoom which seems quite good. I'm sure the toddler would enjoy zooming in on the Moon!

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20 minutes ago, DhamR said:

So I am barking up the wrong tree then, interesting!  Time to read some more reviews then I guess...

What are the downsides of a reflector like that Heritage?

@TerraC I can't see the link here for some reason.

I own a 127 mak. It is great foe planets and lunar observing. But, It needs a good solid mount , preferably with slo motion controls ( handles you twiddle to make tiny smooth adjustments to the aim). It sees a tiny portion of the sky, if I'd not used my heritage dob for about 10 months before adding the mak to  my ever increasing menagerie of glassware, I'd have found learning to aim the thing far more difficult to do than I did. The minimum mount my research came up with for the mak was an AZ5, which , with a tripod, costs pretty much your entire budget https://www.firstlightoptics.com/alt-azimuth-astronomy-mounts/sky-watcher-az5-deluxe-alt-azimuth-mount.html  That's without the actual  'scope.

The mount and tripod any telescope goes on is a vital, if unglamorous part of the setup, it has to  be firm, solid , smooth moving and show minimal  vibration to be any good, . The heavier and longer the telescope, and the greater the magnification, the more it demands from the supports.  Which os where the blessed John Dobson's simple sturdy wooden mount design comes in, it allows most of the cost of a setup to be spent on the actual optics. Dobson wanted big telescopes to be available to all ( search out some films about him on youtube if you have the time) quite a character.

 

 

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A tracking mount makes a Mak a bit more kid-friendly. I went down the same path (buying a starter 'scope for my daughter which was actually for me). I picked up a Skywatcher 90 Mak on a Virtuoso mount for £200. Once you figure out how the mount works it does an acceptable job of keeping objects in view even at high(ish) magnifications. As long as the 'scope doesn't get knocked or grabbed I can leave it tracking Saturn or Jupiter while people take turns to go "ooo" and it stays in view for a few minutes (or more depending on how level the mount is).

These are decent quality little scopes that give good planetary and lunar views, pack up into a managable small box and feel quite solidly built

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That 130P does look pretty cool, not quite as transportable, but not far off.  How stable are the actual optics?  If it gets bashed around a little in the car is it likely to need adjusting when I get where I'm going?

With it being brighter and capable of greater magnification, how realistic am I being thinking about sticking a camera on it? The internet says conflicting things given the structure being "flexible".  I just had that pretty much ruled out on the ST80s, but this sounds a bit more do-able other than the fear of putting force on parts that aren't designed for it.

16 minutes ago, Tiny Clanger said:

Welcome 🙂

I can tell from your post that you've done some sensible research already , and have reasonable expectations and a sense of humour, so I'll reply 'no, not yet ...' to the thread title  :evil4: and chip in.

That small, sticky fingered little person you are using as an excuse , sorry , I mean getting the 'scope partly for 🙂  is going to need a fast set up, easy to look through, not too delicate or easily knocked over sort of 'scope. It needs to not have a narrow field of view/ big magnification (like a mak ) because by the time you set that up with something like a planet in view, and move aside so the small person can get to the eyepiece, the target will have moved , probably out of view , similarly the slightest touch by the small person on the eyepiece or focus tube will move the 'scope , so the target is lost. That way lies frustration and tantrums, not to mention how the 4 year old will react ...

Wide field, sturdy, under £200 , easy to set up and small enough to stick in the car for dark sky trips ... 130 heritage.  Leaves you some budget for an eyepiece or two , which you will want, skywatcher 'scopes come with two eyepieces, the 26mm is OK, the 10mm is meh, and needs replacing ... some other manufacturers  just include one slightly better eyepiece (Bressers get an acceptable  20mm plossl).  If you are happy to go to £300 (including one eyepiece upgrade) , the 150 heritage is bigger, therefore collects more light, but might not be as packable , depends on your car and the volume of child related stuff you have to pack ...

I own an ST80, I bought it second hand , it is used with a lightweight but good quality travel tripod , where I'd describe it as rather wobbly, and best at very low magnifications, much like using binoculars (except only one eye , obv.s,  and somewhat steadier than hand held binos. ) The plus points for the  ST80 over the heritage 130 are its compact size and that it looks like most people's  idea of a telescope. 

Heather

PS, you visited the Space centre ! Not far from me,  hope you went to the free museum of technology next door too, lovely beam engine , and at the age your little one now is, my niece was obsessed with the see through cut away toilet, complete with flushable orange plastic cylinders you could watch go down the pan when you pulled the chain.,  then run to the end of the plastic tube 'sewage pipe' retrieve and repeat ... wonder if that exhibit is  still  there nearly 20 years on .

Thanks Heather, pleased to hear the SoH doesn't need an excessive magnification to detect.  The Space Centre was great but I had no idea about the Technology museum, we've got free return visits for a year so we may have to plan that in next time.

As for how much we "have" to pack, the answer is "nowhere near as much as we end up packing", I think the 150P might be a bit big and end up getting left behind.

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6 minutes ago, mr_belowski said:

A tracking mount makes a Mak a bit more kid-friendly. I went down the same path (buying a starter 'scope for my daughter which was actually for me). I picked up a Skywatcher 90 Mak on a Virtuoso mount for £200. Once you figure out how the mount works it does an acceptable job of keeping objects in view even at high(ish) magnifications. As long as the 'scope doesn't get knocked or grabbed I can leave it tracking Saturn or Jupiter while people take turns to go "ooo" and it stays in view for a few minutes (or more depending on how level the mount is).

These are decent quality little scopes that give good planetary and lunar views, pack up into a managable small box and feel quite solidly built

Now this comes up, in budget, and whilst it's pushing the budget harder, instinct says it's a bit more futureproofed?

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I have a Heritage 150p - one size up from the 130 you are considering.  In a dark place, on a good night, I've been able to see a lot of stuff so it's a pretty decent instrument for the money.  Regarding bashing it around, it has exposed optical surfaces that won't perform so well if sticky fingers get on them..... or if anything is dropped into the scope.  You can make a lightshield (plenty of threads on this), which will give you an element of protection.  It's fairly stable in terms of the collimation, and depending on what you're looking at, I wouldn't get too fixated on whether the collimation is perfect.  You can learn how to adjust the primary mirror in a few minutes and it won't be a major problem to set up if it does get a bit out of kilter.  The small scope you mention in the post above, although more techy, will give you narrower fields of view and involve more setup (I would imagine).  At least with the heritage dob or the short tube refractor, it's a point and look type affair.

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That's the one I got and I like it. Obviously it's not good for nebulae and stuff (Andromeda is just a vague grey smudge) but moon and planets are impressive. My 9 year old and her mates loved the view of Saturn - very small but clear.

But I'm just a newbie here so I defer to the more experienced members. I guess the point is that there's no single right answer, they're always a compromise

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11 minutes ago, Orange Smartie said:

I have a Heritage 150p - one size up from the 130 you are considering.  In a dark place, on a good night, I've been able to see a lot of stuff so it's a pretty decent instrument for the money.  Regarding bashing it around, it has exposed optical surfaces that won't perform so well if sticky fingers get on them..... or if anything is dropped into the scope.  You can make a lightshield (plenty of threads on this), which will give you an element of protection.  It's fairly stable in terms of the collimation, and depending on what you're looking at, I wouldn't get too fixated on whether the collimation is perfect.  You can learn how to adjust the primary mirror in a few minutes and it won't be a major problem to set up if it does get a bit out of kilter.  The small scope you mention in the post above, although more techy, will give you narrower fields of view and involve more setup (I would imagine).  At least with the heritage dob or the short tube refractor, it's a point and look type affair.

Oh yeah once setup I'm not too worried about it, I was more worried about it when packed down during travel but it sounds solid enough. 

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1 minute ago, DhamR said:

That 130P does look pretty cool, not quite as transportable, but not far off.  How stable are the actual optics?  If it gets bashed around a little in the car is it likely to need adjusting when I get where I'm going?

With it being brighter and capable of greater magnification, how realistic am I being thinking about sticking a camera on it? The internet says conflicting things given the structure being "flexible".  I just had that pretty much ruled out on the ST80s, but this sounds a bit more do-able other than the fear of putting force on parts that aren't designed for it.

 

I can only extrapolate from my 150 heritage, but I've found the collimation is pretty stable, I've had the whole mirror cell out 3 times for various reasons and after putting it back have only needed minor tweaks. I mostly use mine in the garden so its only had occasional brief car trips, but have seen no change in collimation.

I've seen people who  don't own a heritage saying the front will be flexible, but  I regilarly use a pretty heavy eyepiece on mine (373 g) , and out of interest when I got the 'scope,  tried out my DSLR , which is around 500g, and saw no problem.  I ha d to retract the front section of the heritage maybe 5cm to achieve focus, but apart from that it was OK. Not ideal at all, the mount and focuser are not right for serious photography, but OK. I'm happy in terms of physical capability to put the DSLR on the dob, with the t mount and nosepiece , but simply would never consider it on the ST80, which has a cheap floppy rack and pinion focuser which I can easily imagine plunging my DSLR to its doom .

To see what the little dob is capable  of, check out this, 200 + page,  years long thread on the cloudy nights  forum from the US, , where the heritage 130 is available through a charity badged as an AWB OneSky newtonian. https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/463109-onesky-newtonian-astronomers-without-borders/page-217

Right, I'm off, it's time to do cooking 🙂

 

 

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Lots of good opinions above. Personally I'd go for an Skywatcher ST80 refractor (like this  https://www.firstlightoptics.com/startravel/skywatcher-startravel-80-az3.html) on the most solid manual mount you can afford. Very solid, portable (you mentioned camping), intuitive & no fiddling with mirrors.  +1 on a zoom eyepiece which is also a great idea & I'd add a Barlow lens to rack up the power particularly on the Moon. Having said that though any of the 'scopes discussed will give views to stun and inspire someone new to looking at the sky (and all will equally disappoint if wobbling around all over the place).

FWIW my kids are a bit older & in their teens but have been blown away* by (in this order): Saturn, The Moon, Jupiter, Orion Nebula, The Pleiades, Double Cluster in Perseus, The Ring Nebula in Lyra, M13 Globular Cluster in Hercules & the Andromeda Galaxy.    These are also my "showreel" objects for any adult friends who don't immediately glaze over when I start banging on about astronomy... 

*(When I say "blown away" I mean grudging acknowledgement that the view is "quite cool" on all but Saturn & the Moon which rate an "awesome").

Clear skies and have fun! 

EDIT: Meant to add, you can screw a DSLR pretty much straight onto an ST80 to have a go at some Moon pictures & see if you get that bug... 

Edited by SuburbanMak
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@SuburbanMak thanks for swinging me back to the original tree!

To confirm you've seen all of those objects through the ST80? I thought the planets were a bit much for it and it's fondness for the violet. 

(I was planning on giving my 60D a go on the ST80 but it wasn't a serious consideration on the that scope over any other). 

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To see the planets through an ST80 you would need a magnification of at least x100 which is about the maximum you would want to use with this little scope. Having a focal length of only 400mm would mean using a 4mm eyepiece or 2x barlowing an 8mm. At this power you could see the belts on Jupiters disk and the Galilean moons, the rings of Saturn and Titan, the phase of Venus and the polar cap on Mars when at oppostion. x100 would give an approximate FOV of around 1/2deg so the whole Moon would fill the view and plenty of detail would be visible. However, the ST80 really shines as a wide field, low power instrument. Views of starclusters, asterisms and the Milky-way with a 32mm Plossl, giving a power of x12.5 and a 4deg FOV would be very good (no violet). There is only a handfull of planets but 100's of deepsky objects up there within range of the humble ST80. A very underrated little scope. I never thought about it till I read Neil English's excellent book "The Short Tube 80 Telescope:A User's Guide".

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Completely get that, just seemed like the opposite of what the scope is meant for. When I was looking at the st80 I was expecting to forego the planets for the clusters, but that's what he's saying had blown people away (unless I've misunderstood). 

I think the bigness & brightness comment re the 130P might have won me over. I also quite like its simplicity. And thread shared by @Tiny Clanger is really a treasure trove of info. 

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6 hours ago, DhamR said:

Now this comes up, in budget, and whilst it's pushing the budget harder, instinct says it's a bit more futureproofed?

That's very close to what I bought a few years back as my first scope to be used with my then 4 year old (I got the version with the 114p newtonian) .  Here's what I learned from observing with her over the last 3-4 years...

I think tracking is an absolute must for anyone wanting to have small children use a scope.  You can find a target and be confident it will still be in vision by the time you've got them in position.  Without tracking at the magnification required the planets just move too quickly through the field of vision.  And even then they will be ***TINY***

Looking down an eyepiece is a skill.  And one that is hard for small kids to master.  Even at age 6 upwards my daughter preferred to view through a smartphone adapter on the end.  These bring their own frustrations but when set up well mean they can see things, you can see what they are seeing and you can make things a touch bigger using zoom on the screen.

Opportunities for kids observing planets are rare.  Much of the time they aren't visible during schoolnight friendly hours.  Add in a weather factor and it gets very limited very quickly.  I'd guess that over the last few years she's only managed to see Jupiter/Saturn/Mars a dozen or so times.  I've managed plenty more but late night / early morning more often than not.  The moon is a more reliable/available target but loses a "wow" factor after a few times for kids.

Best viewing nights are often cold.  Kids tolerance for this and general attention span means time will be short.  Don't expect her to sit around while you set up etc.  If you can observe from your garden leave her inside until you have a target in view.  Then send her back inside while you locate the next one.  

I think either of the two Virtuoso originals would work well for you (90Mak or 114p) but they are the minimum worthwhile starting sizes for me.  You'll be able to see that Saturn has rings and possibly some banding on Jupiter when conditions are good.  The new versions of the Virtuoso (150p newtonian or 127 Mak) would be a worthwhile step up but are significantly over budget.  I later added a 127 Mak which I use on my 1st gen Virtuoso mount. 

Lastly, don't get too hung up on a telescope as the best way to keep her interest in space alive right now.  I don't regret our purchase for a minute, but other things were better and more cost effective.  A trip out to a truly dark sky on a clear night will be immensely rewarding even to the naked eye.  There's plenty of great resources online - Maddie & Greg's "Lets Go Live - Space Week" on Youtube is fantastic.  Cambridge Astronomy Youtube talks for kids are great for when she's just a touch older at 5 or 6.  And if you can get her a small meteorite like some of the ones here it's a great way to capture their imagination.

Good luck!

 

 

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