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Looking for the best telescope for a beginner


Gem85
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Hello there, 

I am new to stargazing, I moved to High Wycombe a couple of years ago and the sky  on a clear night is amazing up here! 
My partner & I  are looking to buy our first telescope to explore the skies but don’t have a clue what we’re looking at in terms of aperture, sizing, lenses etc…. We don’t want to spend a huge amount on our 1st whilst we get used to it but don’t want one that is not very good with images. I hope to get some ideas on what are the best ones about  to buy. 
many thanks in advance.

Gem. 

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Basically you're going to get a variety of answers to this question. No one answer will be necessarily correct or incorrect. A lot of it will be what you eventually discover what is right for you. Personally, I'd recommend a short tube doublet refractor between around 70mm -100mm in aperture on an alt-azimuth mount to start with. 

For a variety of reasons:

1/ It will be relatively portable (so should get out regularly).

2/ It will be instinctive to use (point and look).

3/ It should have no collimation issues (Newtonian reflectors need constant collimation).

4/ It will have no real cool down time. A 150mm Newtonian may need up to an hour to reach thermal equilibrium when taken outside. 

5/ It will have an inherent versatility in the fact that it can be used for lunar, planetary, deep sky and rich field observing. 

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Sky-Watcher ST80 on AZ5 mount/tripod

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Altair EDF 60mm ED doublet on AZ5.

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Sky-Watcher ST102 on AZ5.

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102mm Altair Starwave ED-R on Vixen Porta II mount and Vixen TL-130 tripod.

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Welcome. I hope you have fun with the forum and the hobby. 🙂

If you click on the Browse button, top left, and choose forums and then the beginners section you will find lots of interest and value to help in your search. Also, if you click on the banner heading it will take you to FLO’s website where there is a section for beginner telescopes and some advice.

Have fun with the journey - that is very important! 👍

Edited by Floater
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Listen to advice from others @Zeta Reticulan seems (at times) sane and offers good  options. Best to ignore me as I would suggest head straight to Ebay and start placing bids on a !0" Meade SCT which is currently available 🙂 Then mount it on a GOOD pedastal, a Losmandy G11 (if you got sick of the 'hobby' you could then sell the Losmandy mount to me) 🙂 

In all seriousness purchase a USED scope... Doing so (when you get sick and tired of constant clouds, rain and tripping over in the dark) will entail little financial loss as can re sell the equipment for its purchase price...

@cajen2 puts matters into perspective, exactly 'what' do you desire to use the scope for? If for the imaging craze, expect to be up for a small fortune, plus know what adobe photoshop is (if you know what it actually is and does let me know plz as I cannot workout what a mobile phone is!) 😞 

Maybe read through various threads within SGL, if possible attend a 'star party' and have a peep through various scopes and quickly findout that visually Jupiter looks like a cricket ball at 20 metres!!

Seems @Dave59 has posted the most sensible suggestions. No matter what anyone suggests, I would still, if and when.. Purchase a used scope!!!

Edited by SthBohemia
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As said above, you'll get 100 different answers as people will tend to recommend what they own. The two most important questions are:

- what sort of budget do you have in mind?

 - are there any areas of astronomy you're particularly interested in (planets, moon, deep-sky objects like nebulae and galaxies, etc)?

The answers to these will narrow down the choice. Also, is it easy to get from where the scope will be stored to where you'll be viewing from? If the answer is yes and you want to spend your hard-earned on the scope itself rather than a mount, the recommendation for a dob is a good one. Check out the StellaLyra 8" (well built, engineered and equipped) or if you need something smaller or cheaper, the Skywatcher 130p or 150p.

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/stellalyra-telescopes/stellalyra-8-f6-dobsonian.html

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/heritage/skywatcher-heritage-130p-flextube.html

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/heritage/sky-watcher-heritage-150p-flextube-dobsonian-telescope.html

Obviously, the larger the scope, the more light it'll pick up. Please don't worry about collimation - it's very simple.

Edited by cajen2
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I will second the 8 inch dob.  Its probably the perfect starter scope, and there are tons of little upgrades that you can add to them to make it personal.  As mentioned above.... Collimation, it is a big word that scares people.  Its easy so don't sweat it.   As always before you buy find a astronomy club and check out what they have.  You may find that you prefer one type of scope over another. 

Edited by Mike Q
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Welcome to the forum and as Cajen has said you'll get a myriad of suggestions, most typically to get a big dob. That may be great if you have space to store and can lug it out easily but not everyone gets on with prodding and poking at a big tube to move it to target and keep it there.

One question I'd ask along the ones already posed, how well do you know what's up in the sky around you?

Depending on that, do you need something that can guide you to the interesting stuff or do you want to learn how to navigate yourself?

You might find that some decent binoculars would be the best start as you learn to find things and then gravitate to a scope once you're happy that you can and that star gazing is something you'd want to spend lots of time on. Another option are the Celestron Starsense explorer scopes that use a modern smartphone to analyse what your scope can see and then offer directions for moving the scope to a target you've selected to view. Very easy to use and the scope can also be used without it, they are relatively inexpensive when compared against the more complex go-to systems, They also come in both Dobsonian and refractor formats, best avoid the LT models and go for the DX versions as they are better mounted and usually a better scope.

I have both manual and go-to scopes but if I were starting over I'd likely have gone for the starsense DX102

Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ Reviewed: Partially Recommended (telescopicwatch.com)

But then again these only came out a couple years ago and I'd already collected a few scopes by then. I do have the cheap LT70AZ however, bought for the app license so I can use it on my other scopes.

Do bear in mind that buying new you would need to allow budget to get some better eyepieces as the usual ones supplied are fair at best, the 25mm is ok but the 10mm isn't great, likewise the diagonal supplied could be better.

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Welcome to the forum; you'll get lots of friendly and helpful advice here. I'm not going to chip in with what I think you should buy, but I would give one piece of advice - buy from a proper astronomy shop (or buy something that you COULD buy from a proper astronomy shop, if buying second hand). There's a lot of stuff out there advertised on the interweb that is rubbish. Asking on here whether X, Y or Z is worth owning will also get a fast and probably helpful response. My first telescope was poorly made and on a very heavy mount and I hardly used it. If I'd been willing to listen to advice I could have avoided that purchase and bought something more suitable for my needs.

Pete

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24 minutes ago, SthBohemia said:

😉 I'm curious @Orange Smartie (nosey actually) 😞 Whatever did you purchase? 🙂  A dreaded Tasco??

It was a 114mm Konus reflector on a whopping great German equatorial mount. The collimation was way out when I got it, and it was hard to adjust properly. There were none of the advantages of the Dobsonian (cheap for the size of aperture, simplicity) and the equatorial mount was unnecessary and annoying for straight visual use. Plus, being so heavy, I hardly ever got it to a dark site from suburban Leeds, where I lived. The 6" dobsonian got more use in the first couple of months than the Konus did in its entire life.

Also, and not the Konus's fault, I didn't know what I was doing. I re-started my astronomy journey with a copy of Turn Left at Orion and that has made a massive difference to the whole experience.

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I will also specifically recommend the ST80 as a starter scope.

pBLzVP4l.jpg

It might only be an achromatic doublet but it is surprisingly well colour corrected. These are incredibly popular starter scopes. They are light and portable. Many more experienced observers still hang on to their ST80's. FLO sell dovetails so that they can be used in Vixen-style mounts. 

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The optical tube assembly is robust and includes a removable dew shield. These Synta-made scopes are also sold under different names, including Orion and Omegon.

ZN0e7uSl.jpg 

Mine still occasionally get out, albeit now with aftermarket focusers.

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These scopes are a lot of fun and are excellent instruments to learn and explore the night sky.

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I still recommend it to be used in an AZ5. Even if you eventually upgrade to better instruments, these tough little refractors make great travel scopes.

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T-shirt is optional.

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After re-entering the hobby several years ago with an ST120, I thought I'd try an ST80 (Meade Adventurescope) as an experiment.  It's become my most used scope - I had it out this morning for a quick look before leaving for the office.  I did add a 2-speed focuser which cost more than the scope, but I'm happy I upgraded.  It's very easy to mount and transport and since it cost about $100 US, I'm not going to lose my mind if something happens to it.  My only complaint is that it's a creme color and I'd prefer black to match my mount and tripod.  😉

Mine doesn't give spectacular views of the moon and planets, but I have a 102ED (at 6X the cost of the ST80) for that and my ST80 does quite well with other classes of targets.

I do need one of those t-shirts though...

Edited by jjohnson3803
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Welcome to this friendly and helpful forum!

Many good recommendations already given above.

A ST 80 or a Skywatcher Heritage P Flextube 130 or 150 would be good starter scopes, that might serve later as excellent travel or grab-and-go scopes. Cheap enough, to add some accessories - red torch, UHC filter, Barlow lens, star atlas, planisphere,  binoculars, apps for star-and moongazing... If you are bitten by the bug of visual observing, these things will still be useful, when you are upgrading to a bigger scope.

There seem to be some nice dark sky areas about 20-30 kms to the West (Greenfield; Turkdean); have a look:

https://www.lightpollutionmap.info/#zoom=11.00&lat=51.6444&lon=-0.7964&layers=B0FFFFFFTFFFFFFFFFF

Take yourself time with the decision; read a lot, and have fun!

Stephan

 

Edited by Nyctimene
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Welcome to the forum, good choice joining. :smiley:

I would agree with DaveL59, the starsense DX102 looks very good, so much so I have been tempted. Even though I have far too many scopes. :rolleyes2:

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Hi and welcome. 
 

Plenty of good options set out above. It would be good to know what your budget is and what you intend to do with it, e.g. visual only, is it set up in your garden only etc. Also consider your lifestyle. How long can you give your observing sessions when the weather is favourable? If you have a young family you may not have time to have a scope with a long cool down time like a dobsonian, a refractor would work better. If you can stretch your budget a dob and a small refractor will compliment each other well and give you benefit of both. 
In terms of eye pieces it depends on your scope choice as they will do very different things. Stay with the starter pieces and learn what you like first then upgrade those or the gaps between. 

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Thank you all for your opinions and recommendations. I have a family of 3 children the youngest are 10. My budget is £200-£300 really for our 1st scope!  At the moment we love just watching what is moving in the sky, watching the stars and last night I had a great view of Jupiter from my garden but gutted we haven’t go a telescope yet to take a closer look 😕 

 

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I hate to say it, but I will, 2 to 300 isn't much to work with, but it can be done.  Check out the FLO website and see what falls into your price range.  As you can see more then a few people here are recommending a 8 inch dob and those will set you back 450 or so.  I would give real consideration in trying to get the budget up to that point as dobs really are the best bang for the buck. 

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22 minutes ago, Gem85 said:

Thank you all for your opinions and recommendations. I have a family of 3 children the youngest are 10. My budget is £200-£300 really for our 1st scope!  At the moment we love just watching what is moving in the sky, watching the stars and last night I had a great view of Jupiter from my garden but gutted we haven’t go a telescope yet to take a closer look 😕 

 

At that level you're looking more in the starter scope category, FLo have a number on their site that may suit. While the LT70AZ starsense isn't the most stable (wobbles a bit) it actually gives very reasonable views and can be improved with a bit of DIY, I've posted what I did to mine on here somewhere, a search would find that if you go this route. It cost me I think £179 and FLO list it for the same price:

Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 70 AZ Refractor Telescope | First Light Optics

I would tho say that you should get a better diagonal and eyepieces as the ones it comes with aren't all that, but as a starter setup it'd work as-is. You get the benefit of the smartphone app to guide you to target and if you have a second phone you could add the Celestron NexYZ phone carrier to the eyepiece and you'd all get to see the view together. At least at this starting price you'll have some budget to do that with. A simple zoom eyepiece like the SVBony 7-21mm with say a Celestron prism diagonal would be a good step up when ready.

Celestron 90° Prism Diagonal | First Light Optics

Svbony SV135 Telescope Eyepiece Zoom, 1.25inch 7-21mm Zoom Eyepiece, FMC 6 Element 4 Group Telescope Lens, Telescope Accessory for Astronomic Telescopes: Amazon.co.uk: Electronics & Photo

Bear in mind tho that this small refractor won't really cut it for faint DSO's but with kids I expect there'd be more interest in the planets and moon at the start. My LT70 is destined to go to my daughter and younger grandkids  once they've moved house, I'll miss it for sure as its so light and easy to just pop out in the garden and play that it currently gets more use than my other bigger scopes do 😄 

There is also an LT80 version if you can find that available it may be a slightly better option in terms of aperture, same mount wobbles tho I expect.

StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ | Celestron

Edited by DaveL59
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23 minutes ago, Gem85 said:

Thank you all for your opinions and recommendations. I have a family of 3 children the youngest are 10. My budget is £200-£300 really for our 1st scope!  At the moment we love just watching what is moving in the sky, watching the stars and last night I had a great view of Jupiter from my garden but gutted we haven’t go a telescope yet to take a closer look 😕

Hi and welcome to SGL. Go to a local astro club. You can lookup here https://www.firstlightoptics.com/locator.html. That should give you the opportunity to physically try out scopes and get hands on advice. Good luck!

To make a quick start get a pair of binoculars. Sometimes there are good deals at Aldi/Lidl for their 10x50 binos. You will be amazed at what you can see even with those.

Edited by AstroMuni
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I said I wouldn't make any suggestions, but now I am..........

This is what I got about 2 years ago:

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/reflectors/sky-watcher-heritage-150p-flextube-dobsonian-telescope.html

It's inside your budget.

What is it? A reflector telescope on a "Dobsonian" mount. This is a simple alt-azimuth mount that essentially you have to point at the object you want to look at and, um, look at it. 150mm or 6" will give you LOTS to look at, especially if your site is reasonably dark. It will give you a wide field of view, being a "fast" telescope, so you can use it for viewing the moon, planets, double stars, open clusters....basically everything. It won't give you super-high magnification for a given eyepiece, but actually and perhaps counterintuitively, that isn't really a bad thing. I've seen loads with mine and I still use it occasionally (as I did last week), when I can't be bothered to lug my 10" dobsonian outside.

Pros:

Quite a lot of light-gathering capacity for your money.

Light and easy to handle.

Cons:

It's a table-top telescope, so you'll need to place it on a table/upturned bucket or box etc. My son made me a small 3-legged table that does the job for me.

It's an open design and so if you stick your sticky hand in it, it will get dirty....so don't!

You have to collimate it (align the mirrors) from time to time. Please note that this is a relatively straightforward process and shouldn't put you off.

 

Alternatives to this might be a wide-field refrector, which I'm not really qualified to comment on, but they have a strong following.

Couple of other things to say - basic eyepieces are not great on the above scope, but you could buy the BST starguiders, as I did, for about £50 a pop. The supplied 25mm lens is less bad than the 10mm, so if I could buy one, I'd buy a BST 8mm to use instead of the 10mm. Finally, I mentioned "Turn Left at Orion". This is an absolutely brilliant book and will give you an idea of what you can see and what it will look like (not like Hubble or James Webb images, unfortunately) throughout the year. Again, highly recommended.

Anyway, good luck in your search!

Pete

 

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