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Looking for the best telescope for a beginner


Gem85
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@Orange Smartiehas hit the nail on the head: dobs don't have to be 8" to get good views. The Heritage 150p he mentions is my second scope. Optically, it's brilliant if you find a good, stable stool or table to stand it on. The only downside is its helical focuser, which not everyone gets on with. You could also look at this:

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/ursa-major-telescopes/ursa-major-6-f8-planetary-dobsonian.html

Same aperture but normal focuser. A bit trickier to move about and store but still within your budget. As I said before, you get a great bang for your buck with a dob: you're spending money on the optics, not on the.mount.

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Hello Gem85 and welcome to the site 👍 

Can I point you in the direction of this post on the site.... it's an oldie but goldie and well worth a read. 

 

It's been mentioned before but telescopes can be rather big, the Dobsonian 200P for example has a 200mm diameter tube and will come in a box that will just go through your front door so look carefully at sizes, weights etc as you will have to move it and store it somewhere.

Trying hard not to recommend anything but the Skywatcher Heritage range seems to have achieved some excellent reviews and results, whether they are child friendly or not, I have no idea, but hopefully someone will advise there. All the best.

 

 

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@Gem85 a bit overpriced at 275 quid, 200 would be reasonable. Just an indication of what I found within 5 mins quick browse of UK Ebay....

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/394190808017?epid=19053147627&hash=item5bc79a63d1:g:vsYAAOSwb45i7OIu

sorta worth thinking about 🙂 (below) 

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/125192976274?epid=2255644874&hash=item1d26153792:g:WIAAAOSwMP9iKh5E

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@Gem85 I started with a Skywatcher 250PX and it got me hooked, as I could see so much with it. Then, I thought I needed something a bit more portable, so I bought an iOptron RC6 as it is a lot smaller than the Skywatcher, but I had to buy a whole lot of extra kit that makes it less convenient to drag out than the bigger scope. So, since my 250PX is in France and currently unnaccessible to me, I bought a used Skywatcher 200P, thinking it would be smaller, lighter and easier to store than the 250PX. Nope! It takes up exactly the same amount of floor space, as the Dobsonian base is the same size and the tube the same length and it weighs near enough as much!

Most of my astronomy is currently done with a 300 mm prime lens on a Nikon D800 or D3200 and with a x2 teleconverter (Barlow) to give me 600 mm at f/8. I have a heavy (and expensive) video tripod to keep things stable. I also have a ZWO ASI178MM camera that gets less use than I'd like because I have to lug a laptop out to use it.

What I am trying to say is that whatever you buy, it will have downsides as well as upsides. I use all of my kit, but some more than others. Initially, you may be disappointed with the views in a small scope, especially for DSOs, so a large scope will give you a more exciting intro to this hobby. I'm actually glad I started with such a large scope, but now I am getting more observing done with smaller gear.

There is no right or wrong answer to what you should start with or advance to, other than avoid cheap supermarket telescopes like the plague. I paid £200 for my 200P, which is an absolute bargain for such light gathering power. I've seen similar out there for even less, so stuff is available within your budget.

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Hello @Gem85

This fits into your budget - it is the classic starter scope but has excellent performance.

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/ursa-major-telescopes/ursa-major-6-f8-planetary-dobsonian.html

Also you may want to download “Stellarium” which is excellent night sky simulation software that will help you get around the night sky and identify what can be seen.

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7 hours ago, Orange Smartie said:

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

 

+1 for this. It represents super bang for buck and despite its quirks will show you a great deal and is fun to use. I liked mine so much I upgraded to the Virtuoso  GOTO version. Although I have other instruments including a larger Dob, this one still gets frequent outings - particularly on holidays or for quick grab and go sessions where you want to capitalise on breaks in the cloud. 
The 8 inch Dobsonian mounted reflector  is the oft recommended starter ‘scope - for very good reason! but in respecting your budget parameters the Heritage 150p could well be the way to go. I’d also  add that the StarSense Explorer telescopes in the DX class are superb for beginners (eg the 130 reflector or 102 refractor) but are more expensive. The larger aperture of the 150 will pay dividends if you can live without a tripod (to start with - you can add one later) and are prepared to learn enough about the night sky to star hop.  

Edited by Astro_Dad
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9 hours ago, Orange Smartie said:

This is what I got about 2 years ago:

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

It's a table-top telescope, so you'll need to place it on a table/upturned bucket or box etc.

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.

Somebody somewhere took a wooden barstool and cut shallow holes into the seat with a Forstner bit.  (My woodworking knowledge is quite limited, but I think that's what they call it.)  The three feet on the bottom of his tabletop Dobsonian fit into the holes.  Quite inventive IMO.

Absolutely agree about "TLAO".  Fantastic book for beginners and even for more advanced observers.

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By now you will have been bombarded with many suggestions , ALL OF THEM well meaning and perfect for a first scope . I agree with a previous comment , think about what you want to see . I know you are going to answer "everything" , but bear in mind , no one telescope excels on everything! The 200mm dobsonian is a favourite but , it can be a bit cumbersome if you have to move it up and down stairs . A small refractor such as the st80 has been mentioned ( I have an st80, and an ed60 refractor and they are great little scopes ),but they are for widefield viewing , not really suited to planetary . I also own a 127Mak which gives lovely views of planets as you can increase magnification due to its long focal length , but , this scope has its drawbacks as it has a small field of view . Also you have to think about a mount for the scope ( unless you go for the dobsonian) . This is where it all gets a bit expensive for a first time buyer as the mount is really the most important purchase . I certainly have made mistakes in cutting corners on mounts just to get a really nice scope and regretted it afterwards . 

Although in the past I have recommended the 127mak ,  I would buy a dobsonian , large or small , as my" first "scope .The heritage series are a good start . But if you can store it and you have easy access to a viewing point then the 200mm skywatcher is probably the best value scope . Of course the first thing to do is to "learn the sky " especially if you buy a telescope on a non GOTO mount . Astronomy can be the most rewarding hobby but also the most frustrating.Finding targets is time consuming . Buy some astronomy magazines .. Astronomy Now , and Sky at Night magazine , and the book Turn left at Orion ( which is a hard read but gives you an indication of what you might see at certain times of year ) . 

Whatever you decide , keep asking questions on here . You will get different opinions , and some great technical advice . NEVER be afraid to ask!!  

Oh and one last thing , Enjoy stargazing .. it's not a competition, go at your own pace, you don't have to do everything in one night  . The sky will always be there . :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I think one critical factor that's being overlooked is the kids. If you don't know your way around the stars then much frustration and boredom for the kids will likely follow and they lose interest. Planets are much easier to pick out of course and the moon is hard to miss so any manual scope may be fine while they enjoy the easy stuff giving you time to learn more about navigating around to the other interesting stuff. But for a quick get you going and keeping them engaged some form of navigation aid can be a boon. Sure you'll compromise some on the scope (optics, accessories etc) going that route but not all that much in reality but you keep the younger ones more engaged and perhaps in time you get a better scope and the kids can keep using the starter one as they expand their interest as well as getting to share the wow views from the bigger better thing...

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For £300, you can get the 150P Heritage, a x2 Barlow, and the book 'Turn Left at Orion' and have £3 change.

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

My other recommendation for a beginner is to buy from a reputable dealer such as FLO (there are others!). Places like ebay can be cheap but, you are unlikely to get the outstanding customer service as offered by FLO and others.

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Throwing a cat amongst the pigeons, how about this one?

Tal 1, Newtonion telescope, 110mm (4.3”), Motor Driven EQ Mount + Eyepieces. | eBay

A fair distance away perhaps but well inside your budget tho it could bid higher. These are very solid scopes and as it has a motor drive it'll track the star once you've located it, making sharing the eyepiece nice and simple as the scope will keep the target in view as the next person steps up.

Edited by DaveL59
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Hello, new here also. Being stargazing and planet watching for a few years and thought I would join a forum 🙃 

Honest,  the main thing is size and moving about. 

Spend a tonn of cash on a large scope and it's a chore to get outside you will soon regret it.

I tried loads over the years but stick to a decent 60mm Refractor and my pride and joy 00UK VX6L for planets I find it perfect for me .

20220813_123235.thumb.jpg.60f4e64f8357e8912af90ec89028b924.jpg

20220813_204720.jpg

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I disagree with the idea of buying a used scope. Instead I think it is better to buy from a specialist astronomy retailer who can give you after sales support and advice and who can actually assess whether your telescope is faulty should you have trouble with it (and if it is repiar/replace it). 

With that in mind, once you have got an idea of the type of telescope(s) that you might want, book an appointment to visit Tring Astronomy Centre and have a look at all the different options in their showroom. Just remember that:

  1. Everything looks a bit smaller in the showroom than it will in your house
  2. Large telescopes don't go up and down stairs easily (so storage downstairs or in the shed/garage is best for them)
  3. If you store the telescope assembled a dobsonian base takes up less floor space than a tripod
  4. At night when your muscles are cold you're more at risk of injury so you can't lift as heavy an object as you can during the day. 
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for someone new or with little experience with optical gear then yeah going to a specialist can help in terms of good advice and support but then again there's some good value kit available used at prices that new junk is offered at, just need to know how to filter good from bad. Good points you raised there tho esp the amount you can lift late at night when you're cold. For sure my gear feels heavier and when its cold more slippery too so extra care needed when bringing it all back inside.

 

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2 hours ago, Ricochet said:

I disagree with the idea of buying a used scope.

I am obviously so 'dated' and outa touch with millenials and Gen xyz that modern attitudes baffle me! Research then consider purchase.

Admittedly, the 'net' is not the most useful source of reliable information for research. Take Maksutovs for instance. The BEST are, as @Zeta Reticulan puts it, "...all made in a giant underground factory run by robots within China ..". Those hand made 50-60 years ago by Alan Mackintosh and Co, plus apparently the Questar company simply make inferior goods, not even worth a mention. A case of bombard the audience with advertising and... viola....

Current situation, @Gem85 asks advice, only to be bombarded with subjective opinions. Separate the wheat from the chaff and PM someone with some COMMON SENSE! I nominate @Dave59, (close ya pockets Dave, get what I mean), throughout this thread he has been TOTALLY OBJECTIVE, he considered finances, family situation, location and blah blah blah etc.

Bottom line- NO retailer could or would give better advice than someone who has been within the 'hobby' for a number of years and can put matters into TRUE PERSPECTIVE. Buy used/second hand, especially if on a limited budget....

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thanks @SthBohemia but there's one thing I did forget to ask @Gem85 and that was what's the aspect of the garden where they want to view from?

Ideally faces south-ish with view to E and thu S toward the west. That'd give the moon and planets best as they rise and track across the sky. Fences and tall border bushes/trees can be a nuisance but if not too tall you can position further away to get a slightly lower view. With kids then the E-S region could be very useful as they won't have to be staying up too late 😉

Downside would be a north facing garden with the house blocking the southerly view. That's how I came across my SW130 as the couple that had it only had a north view so the hobby they were interested faded quickly and the scope just got parked in a back room. Now of course you may be able to use the front garden to get around that but street lights play havoc then, this couple didn't have much frontage tho so not an option for them. 

Of course you can make a trip to go somewhere with better aspect, harder with a clutch of kids maybe, but possible if the gear will all fit in the car along with everyone/thing else. I've yet to bother doing that myself, laziness a little but time when needing to do other things too. Besides, is much simpler at home, easy access to hot/cold drinks, the loo etc 😄 

Edited by DaveL59
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If you’re still undecided, get Celestron 15x70 binos, with a monopod and a smartphone eyepiece holder, the Celestron will see most things this side of Pluto and you’ll have lots of fun taking pics with your kids and a smartphone camera.

If you go the way of a 8” dob, then you’ll have two pieces of entertainment for the price of one, the kids will love the box!

chaz

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😞 twould need a mount to hold 15* binocs steady!

@Gem85 I am gonna try and make history and be sensible 🙂 Not an easy task 😞 

 Download 'Stellarium' into whatever computer you have and browse the sky (the bigger the screen the better, wall to wall stars), I assure you Stellarium gives much finer views of the heavens than a scope will! No tripping over cats on a dark night, no cloud worries, plus,open the application at your leisure!

Not a bad intro to what you can, and will (might) see through a scope as you can insert various brand name scopes, or custom designed ones and more or less get an idea of what you might/will see through an actual telescope eyepiece.

Best of all... IT'S FREE 🙂 🙂 

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49 minutes ago, SthBohemia said:

NO retailer could or would give better advice than someone who has been within the 'hobby' for a number of years and can put matters into TRUE PERSPECTIVE.

These are the people who I have suggested the OP goes to see:

Quote

Jane and Neil have been passionate astronomers since childhood, and are very happy to share their wealth of experience and knowledge with both beginners and more experienced astronomers alike.  They are particularly experienced in introducing the hobby to children through their outreach work, and Neil is also chairman of the Wycombe Astronomical Society.

They are perfectly suited to advise the OP and have a showroom full of telescopes half an hour away from where the OP lives. I know from personal experience the service they provide and can recommend them without hesitation to anyone. Yes, you pay more to buy new, but you're paying for the wealth of experience and backup of a specialist retailer and a manufacturer warranty on your purchase. If you buy second hand you have to have the experience and knowledge to assess whether you've bought a peach or a lemon and the conviction in your assessment to immediately demand your money back if it is the later. You and I might be able to make that assessment but the OP can't. Buying new they have years of backup to get any faults rectified.

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OP based on your feedback I would say a small refractor, something like the star traveller 80 or 102 by skywatcher. Chances are there are several variants by different companies as they are all made in the same factory. This will be enough to get you a good view of the planets. 
In terms of mount there are packages but do you have a tripod already as this would save money and allow funds to be allocated elsewhere. 

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3 hours ago, DaveL59 said:

the aspect of the garden where they want to view from?

Ideally faces south-ish with view to E and thu S toward the west. That'd give the moon and planets best as they rise and track across the sky. Fences and tall border bushes/trees can be a nuisance but if not too tall you can position further away to get a slightly lower view. With kids then the E-S region could be very useful as they won't have to be staying up too late 😉

Some nice ideas and hints can be found here:

https://www.cloudynights.com/articles/cat/articles/observatories/refining-you-home-observing-site-r1631

Stephan

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, DaveL59 said:

thanks @SthBohemia but there's one thing I did forget to ask @Gem85 and that was what's the aspect of the garden where they want to view from?

Ideally faces south-ish with view to E and thu S toward the west. That'd give the moon and planets best as they rise and track across the sky. Fences and tall border bushes/trees can be a nuisance but if not too tall you can position further away to get a slightly lower view. With kids then the E-S region could be very useful as they won't have to be staying up too late 😉

Downside would be a north facing garden with the house blocking the southerly view. That's how I came across my SW130 as the couple that had it only had a north view so the hobby they were interested faded quickly and the scope just got parked in a back room. Now of course you may be able to use the front garden to get around that but street lights play havoc then, this couple didn't have much frontage tho so not an option for them. 

Of course you can make a trip to go somewhere with better aspect, harder with a clutch of kids maybe, but possible if the gear will all fit in the car along with everyone/thing else. I've yet to bother doing that myself, laziness a little but time when needing to do other things too. Besides, is much simpler at home, easy access to hot/cold drinks, the loo etc 😄 

I have a south facing garden and it looks out to a very large field! I must admit I have a very good view of the night sky from my garden! 

Edited by Gem85
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20 minutes ago, Gem85 said:

I have a south facing garden and it looks out to a very large field! I must admit I have a very good view of the night sky from my garden! 

Now am envious for sure. I have a dirty great Oak tree in my direct south from my very small garden so SSE-W is totally lost to me 😢 

Kidding aside tho, sounds fantastic for getting great views regardless the scope you end up getting 👍

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7 hours ago, SthBohemia said:

Current situation, @Gem85 asks advice, only to be bombarded with subjective opinions.

Some of the most interesting and opinion led debates happen on ‘scope choice threads I’ve noticed. The quoted response is also ironically a subjective view- most if not all respondents are offering a view based on the experiences they have personally had - not necessarily theory or a quantifiably objective view - not necessarily “right” but a worthy view nevertheless. That’s  the way a largely unregulated niche website operates - in the end common sense and prevailing wisdom should prevail - but important to remember that newbie experiences are as valid as “old hands” to a point, and time on the forum is not necessarily a function of experience in the hobby. 

The second hand vs new from retailer debate is largely unanswerable - my personal view is to buy new for the reasons @Ricochetand others extoll, but buying from respected sites including this forum (though admittedly one requires a certain level of posting activity to participate) can be a very economical route forward, particularly in the current climate. I for one have sold a number of instruments here and on Astro Buy & Sell, and I’m pleased people do buy second hand! But I found early on that experience from specialist retailers such as @FLOand my more local dealers to be worth their weight in gold. 

Edited by Astro_Dad
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Agreed @Astro_Dad my viewpoint has subjective elements too, in part the ease of use of the StarSense kit as you also know having the dob version. Add in the low cost of the frac that can be quite easily improved from its wobbly nature it fit the budget as well as giving an easier intro to a hobby that might/not take longer term. Also then still useful after upgrading to bigger/better as one to take on trips etc being light and quite compact. Either way its someone else's choice to make once the wide amount of advice and suggestions have been digested and hopefully a new family group added to the future of amateur astronomy 🙂 

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