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Looking for the best telescope for a beginner


Gem85
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On 14/08/2022 at 11:07, 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! 

Although I had to compromise on some obstructions (tall trees), a south facing yard (garden) was a requirement when I moved to a different house a few years ago.  The view to my west is totally blocked, but I can live with that.  Sort of.

Edited by jjohnson3803
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I'd say you start with a scope for visual. An 8" f/6 dobsonian. Sweet spot in price, aperture and focal lenght. They are cheap and easy to sell if you want to upgrade later. If you first buy a setup for astrophotography, you will miss a scope for visual while imaging. Even if your AP-scope is big enough to really be useful for visual, the hazzle of removing the photogear each time you want to take a peek will put you off. And those tracking mounts with GoTo are not that useful for visual. I bought my AP-rig last spring, and imaged the whole season without putting on an eyepiece. This winter I also have a dob in the shed.

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On 12/08/2022 at 12:48, cajen2 said:

dobs don't have to be 8" to get good views

There’s a reason many say if only one ‘scope could be owned it would be an 8” Dob. I’d agree with this but also with the quote above from @cajen2. For example my (so far) only view of the Veil nebula as I posted elsewhere on SGL was with the Heritage 150p - albeit in excellent Bortle 3 (+) skies. 

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42 minutes ago, SthBohemia said:

If either of the 2 above, both @Rallemikken and @Astro_Dad bothered to read previous posts within this thread they would both, with some hope, come to the conclusion that their contributions are irrelevant as 'dobbies' do not fit within the parameters or requirements of @Gem85 ! 🙂 

Always up for a challenge - but having re read most of it (I may have missed something to be fair as there looks to be a chunk of responses missing between the OP and @SthBohemiaas far as I can tell - maybe be just me) There have been several recos here for the Heritage 150p, which is just about within the OP's budget (not a true Dob in the classic sense any way) , is good for kids as pretty robust and is so easily transportable due to its collapsible design it would be almost remiss to not suggest it for consideration. It would though also render several other posters comments here irrelevant too by your charge. The spirit here is a discussion on potential options, to advise but also suggest curve balls at times- and its the way these threads go. It will be interesting to see where the OP actually  ends up! In a thread that segues into a discussion about the classic 8" Dob in response to other posters comments, it is entirely relevant to comment and respond back - albeit briefly.

Edited by Astro_Dad
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To be fair, I am not sure the required parameters have been clearly stated by the OP. Nor have they mentioned kids but having run a space club at a primary school, I'd recommend not underestimating their ability to find things if you spend time with them to show them how. Suggestions in this thread have (in good faith) been made by the members trying to help and offer a range of possible solutions which the OP can consider then buy (or not). People are allowed to disagree on this forum! 🙂

The original post stated :

I am new to stargazing - I read seeking help and guidance

the sky on a clear night is amazing up here!  - decent observing conditions

looking to buy our first telescope - starter scopes are appropriate

don’t want to spend a huge amount - £200-300

don’t want one that is not very good with images. - I presume this means they want one that is good with taking images but not sure? OP?

As usual, it's this last point that creates the difficulty. It's sort of similar to the creation of rockets. Why bother making all those basic ones when they just fail. We may as well just wait until we can make the final one and this will save time and money. The problem is that you don't know how the final one will work without the experience of the others before them.

With a stated budget of about £300, there is little doubt in my mind at least, that buying used would indeed be a good option. Especially if bought from this forum when the classifieds become available through forum contributions by the OP. In my mind the option of a 6" f8 or an 8" f8 Dobsonian is perfectly reasonable and does fit within the parameters that have been stated by the OP. They provide a stable platform and with the addition of a red dot finder plus a RACI finder if funds allow, (and a star map) they would have access to a lot of objects while they decide what they wish to concentrate on. If it turns out to be imaging, they can buy appropriate kit and sell or keep the dob. Naturally, they could buy an SCT or a fast refractor too, but these would have more restrictive uses and possibly cost a lot more than their budget depending upon the chosen mount.

Hope this helps.

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On 11/08/2022 at 09:35, Gem85 said:

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. 

If you want a budget of a telescope, I suggest you could get something like the Celestron Travelscope 70mm which is a good beginners amateur telescope.

You could try and get other telescopes such as Celestron Astromaster 130EQ, or Celestron Powerseeker but some of those won't produce great quality with seeing objects so try and get a telescope that has multi-coated lenses.

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I have just sent back the Celestron travel scope 70mm as I didn’t find it at all good enough for what I wanted to see. But Can I please ask what’s the difference between a reflector and a refractor? What’s better? 

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5 minutes ago, Gem85 said:

I have just sent back the Celestron travel scope 70mm as I didn’t find it at all good enough for what I wanted to see. But Can I please ask what’s the difference between a reflector and a refractor? What’s better? 

There is no 'better'.  Whether you go for a reflector or refractor is ultimately a matter of personal prejudice.  There are are other factors, of course, which you can research online.  Astronomy unfortunately can be an expensive hobby, but some scope designs can be better value for money than others, depending on what aspect of scope performance you actually want.

What do you want to see, and how much money do you want to spend? I assume the Hubble Space telescope is out of your budget. 😀

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3 minutes ago, Gem85 said:

I have just sent back the Celestron travel scope 70mm as I didn’t find it at all good enough for what I wanted to see. But Can I please ask what’s the difference between a reflector and a refractor? What’s better? 

This is a question that in a less enlightened forum would create a " my scopes better than your scope " scenario . in laymens terms a refractor uses a lense whereas a relector uses mirrors . Each have their benefits and flaws . A reflector will , generally give you more "bang for buck " as you will no doubt be able to buy a reflecting scope with more aperture for the same price as you will pay for a refractor . Using a reflector , you will need to master collimation ( not hard , believe me ) . But as you have found out , a cheap frac isnt always the best option , especially if you want to use it to view planets . 

Whats better ? , IMHO if money is paramount buy a reflector , but , whatever you buy ... get a good mount !!! thats why people go for the Dobsonian design 

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39 minutes ago, Gem85 said:

I have just sent back the Celestron travel scope 70mm as I didn’t find it at all good enough for what I wanted to see. But Can I please ask what’s the difference between a reflector and a refractor? What’s better? 

Looking around the world today at all the big telescopes in use and being constructed, you would be forgiven for thinking that the reflector must be the better design, simply based on the fact that no-one constructs large (very large) refractors today.

Then you look around camera shops and web sites and see that all the lenses you can readily buy are refractors. You may see the odd wierd reflecting "lens" for cameras, but on the whole it is refractors. So, now you think refractors might be better. Ask any photography enthusiast what they think of miror lenses. They'll likely tell you they are rubbish and that traditional refracting lenses are far superior. For most terrestrial photography, a refracting lens is far better for the task, simply because you usually have oodles of light available.

Notice that so far, I have failed to answer your question as to the difference between the two basic types of telescope..

A reflector, as others have noted uses mirrors in it's design, whereas a refractor passes all of the light though glass lenses to magnify objects and collect lots of light. Like lenses, the mirrors in telescopes use curved surfaces to provide magnification and the problem is that you need to have something in between the object in the sky and the mirror in order to see said object's image in the mirror. This is where the "problem" with reflectors comes in and the argument about which is better begins. Anything in front of the mirror that is not to be imaged will inevitably reduce sharpness and contrast in the image. That may not be a problem, expecially if you are using telescopes much bigger than the practical (or financial) limit for refractors. Reflectors also usually have mirror mounts which produce diffraction spikes on bright stars, making them look more star like. Some love this, others hate it.

The other thing with passing light through curved glass is chromatic aberration, where you get colour fringing around bright objects, because the glass bends light through different angles for different wavelengths (colours). You can get corrected optics to reduce this problem, but then the price goes up.

In essence, as I'm sure others have said and will continue to say, a small refractor will always be that bit sharper than a reflector of similar size. However, a reflector is going to be cheaper than almost any refractor of the same size, or in some cases even one that is substantially smaller. You can grab a lot more light per pound spent with a reflector, which makes them great for faint, deep sky objects. For the Moon, either will serve well.

I hope I haven't overwhelmed you with detail, here.

Edited by Mandy D
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14 minutes ago, Mandy D said:

Looking around the world today at all the big telescopes in use and being constructed, you would be forgiven for thinking that the reflector must be the better design, simply based on the fact that no-one constructs large (very large) refractors today.

Then you look around camera shops and web sites and see that all the lenses you can readily buy are refractors. You may see the odd wierd reflecting "lens" for cameras, but on the whole it is refractors. So, now you think refractors might be better. Ask any photography enthusiast what they think of miror lenses. They'll likely tell you they are rubbish and that traditional refracting lenses are far superior. For most terrestrial photography, a refracting lens is far better for the task, simply because you usually have oodles of light available.

Notice that so far, I have failed to answer your question as to the difference between the two basic types of telescope..

A reflector, as others have noted uses mirrors in it's design, whereas a refractor passes all of the light though glass lenses to magnify objects and collect lots of light. Like lenses, the mirrors in telescopes use curved surfaces to provide magnification and the problem is that you need to have something in between the object in the sky and the mirror in order to see said object's image in the mirror. This is where the "problem" with reflectors comes in and the argument about which is better begins. Anything in front of the mirror that is not to be imaged will inevitably reduce sharpness and contrast in the image. That may not be a problem, expecially if you are using telescopes much bigger than the practical (or financial) limit for refractors. Reflectors also usually have mirror mounts which produce diffraction spikes on bright stars, making them look more star like. Some love this, others hate it.

The other thing with passing light through curved glass is chromatic aberration, where you get colour fringing around bright objects, because the glass bends light through different angles for different wavelengths (colours). You can get corrected optics to reduce this problem, but then the price goes up.

In essence, as I'm sure others have said and will continue to say, a small refractor will always be that bit sharper than a reflector of similar size. However, a reflector is going to be cheaper than almost any refractor of the same size, or in some cases even one that is substantially smaller. You can grab a lot more light per pound spent with a reflector, which makes them great for faint, deep sky objects. For the Moon, either will serve well.

I hope I haven't overwhelmed you with detail, here.

Well done, Mandy: a sensible, balanced analysis.

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Perhaps worth mentioning too that something like the short Travelscope 70 is a fast refractor, not ideally suited to higher mag and less forgiving on eyepiece design. A slower refractor (longer) is more easy to match eyepieces for and also likely to give less chromatic aberration as well as capable of higher magnification than the shorter tube versions. Sure you can get very good short tube scopes, price multiplies upward tho...

update - should have said but was typing fast before rushing away to the dentist... easier as in on the bank balance especially

Edited by DaveL59
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Best starter instrument for stargazing, especially for kids, are binoculars and a planisphere. Obviously they won't give high mag views of the planets but they do give a right way around view meaning, the kids will find it easier to interpret what they see through the binoculars to what's on the planisphere. Learning the constellations is the first step for everyone, high power viewing of the planets is actually one of the most demanding of observing skills and isn't to be taken lightly, it isn't easy no matter what fancy scope you may have at your disposal. I'd recommend 8x42 roof prism binoculars, nice and light and easy to hold, they come with rubber armour, are waterproof and virtually indestructible.

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On 11/08/2022 at 10:32, cajen2 said:

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.

 

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As mentioned by a few so far, an 8" Dobsonian is a great place to start, it's not too big to be carried to the garden or to the car (for visits to dark sites), it's very easy to set up & use and will give you good enough views  to keep your interest.

Also as mentioned above, don't worry about collimation, it's not that hard to do & once you've got the hang of it it becomes second nature. The majority of reflectors don't need to be constantly collimated unless you start looking at very fast newts &  (f3 & below but these are mainly used for imaging) the likes of a Skywatcher 200p Dobsonian @f5.9 is fast enough to gather plenty of light but not so much that collimation will be an issue (my old SW 200p f5 newt was with me for 2yrs & travelled in the car with me all over the place & I collimated it twice) Also don't worry about cool down times, a 200p newt will take around 20mins to cool to an average night time temp of approx  5c, it's only really Maksutov-Cassegrain & some of the bigger (10"+) newts that take a bit longer to cool down.

steve

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This thread has more or less turned full circle back to page one!

A few basics @Gem85-

All you will see with a telescope are a lot more points of light and some misty patches that happen to be the nebula and other deeps sky objects. Do NOT expect to see Jupiter/Saturn like images that are presented within SGL, they are images taken over time with very expensive cameras and extensively PHOTOSHOPPED! No matter what scope you purchase, even with a 15,000 quid Questar Jupiter visually will still look like a cricket ball 20 metres away! 

Take @Franklin 's  advice and get binoculars, maybe consider a scope when and if you wish to see more points of light and misty patches in the night sky 🙂 

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Honestly don't think you ever know the best starter scope , I wish I did a few years back ! I would have saved a small fortune.  But after going through 6 odd scopes to get me to the VX6L,  I still feel this is my starter scope and the rest were just mistakes building up to it. That said, I learnt the sky and focusing,  maintaining etc  so I wasted money at the beginning but learnt along the way.

I class the VX6L as my first scope cos its the first that really worked how I wanted it to and gave me results. The rest were just training tools 🙃

Now I'm not a novice but definitely still learning . 

Edited by Mart29
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Answer: 4 inch fast frac (f/6) or perhaps a 5 inch even faster (f/5) frac - on an alt-az mount.  Good size, easy to use.  Sharp views.

The 6 inch Dob comes well recommended.

For more cash, a 5 inch Mak (MCT) on GoTo takes some beating.  (Not too technical for a beginner.)

Doug.

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1 hour ago, Mart29 said:

Honestly don't think you ever know the best starter scope , I wish I did a few years back ! I would have saved a small fortune.  But after going through 6 odd scopes to get me to the VX6L,  I still feel this is my starter scope and the rest were just mistakes building up to it. That said, I learnt the sky and focusing,  maintaining etc  so I wasted money at the beginning but learnt along the way.

I class the VX6L as my first scope cos its the first that really worked how I wanted it to and gave me results. The rest were just training tools 🙃

Now I'm not a novice but definitely still learning . 

I second the fact that you really don't know the best starter scope , it's all very well for people , I include myself , to spend others money by giving what we perceive is the best advice .. all well meaning of course but honestly one usually makes one's own mind up and makes a mistake or two ( or ten in my case) of what we want from this hobby . I would add that mistakes on purchases can be expensive so best to start with a budget and maybe if at all possible visit an astronomy outlet and physically see the scopes that fit the budget . The only problem there is looking at far more expensive stuff and getting aperture fever. 

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8 minutes ago, Stu1smartcookie said:

I second the fact that you really don't know the best starter scope , it's all very well for people , I include myself , to spend others money by giving what we perceive is the best advice .. all well meaning of course but honestly one usually makes one's own mind up and makes a mistake or two ( or ten in my case) of what we want from this hobby . I would add that mistakes on purchases can be expensive so best to start with a budget and maybe if at all possible visit an astronomy outlet and physically see the scopes that fit the budget . The only problem there is looking at far more expensive stuff and getting aperture fever. 

Exactly that, I don't know if I would have arrived at the perfect scope for me without making the mistakes to show me what I did or didn't want out of a scope. 

 

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Given this thread has indeed gone almost full circle and meandered into a broad based discussion about ‘scope choice philosophy and beyond - I’ll risk criticism of going off beam again by reposting this that came up elsewhere  on SGL. Food for thought! (I know off budget but gives a flavour of a good six inch aperture option). 
Thanks @Tiago Ferreira

I can absolutely relate to @Stu1smartcookie and others in terms of mistake making - it’s all part of the “fun” and learning for some  - but one must avoid analysis paralysis and do something… this thread may perpetuate ad infinitum - let us know your current thinking @Gem85 - note that the 70mm travelscope option didn’t work out for you - maybe something in the 4-6 inch aperture class like some of the suggested instruments on this thread would be more in line with what you think you need? If still not sure then perhaps taking a pause  and learning the sky with a pair of bins and a planisphere is not such a bad idea?

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