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Age old question… which telescope for a beginner


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Good morning all,

I am looking for a telescope as a present for the wife although I am sure this will become a family affair as I am sure we will all love it, we live in Somerset and so am hoping the light pollution won’t be as much and we can drive to areas which would be great for stargazing. I have done some research but there are so many telescopes out there that it’s very difficult to figure out which would be a good starter for us with the ability to be improved with research and experience.

I like to do research and get the most out of any hobby so I think i am in the right place for help!

Happy to spend up to £300 or if there’s a good deal or a little more will get me a much better telescope then may be able to dig a little deeper.

Through my research I have landed on the Zhumell Z130, but I am open to any and all suggestions for a starter (kit).

Thanks in advance to any and all who contribute their time and effort in helping me out. Cheers!

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With that budget I would go for a Sky-Watcher Heritage-150P Flextube Dobsonian Telescope. Flo have stock so you would not have to wait for it.

These scopes have very good reviews, are lightweight and when collapsed are easy to store and transport. And at 150mm give better views.

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I would also get a Magnetic Digital Inclinometer with backlight for about £15 or so. This will allow you to set the altitude of the scope.

By using some planetarium software you can set the angle of the scope of the object of interest so its then a matter of slewing in azimuth in roughly the right bit of the sky to find the object.  Yes you can use the red dot finder that comes with the scope but the illuminated angle finder is better

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Another vote for the 150 over the 130. It gathers about 1/3 more light but takes up barely any more storage space, if you can afford the difference it's the better choice. They are highly capable scopes that will show you a great deal. (Yes, I do have one so I could be biased).

Edited by wulfrun
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If you are both really new to the hobby then I'd suggest binoculars over telescope to start with. If your budget is £300 then you could probably buy binoculars first and if you both really enjoy things, you will still have money for a telescope - these https://www.firstlightoptics.com/all-binoculars/opticron-adventurer-10x50-t-wp-binocular.html are £85 at the moment. Jumping in the deep end with a telescope straight away may put you off - unless you have support from a friend or an astronomy club who can show you how to use it and crucially, get it pointed at something cool quickly to get you hooked.

Binoculars are great to start out with - with something like a 7 x 50 will give you a gentler learning curve but still be very rewarding when viewing Jupiter's moons, the big craters on the moon and deep sky objects like Andromeda M31, Orion Nebula M42 and the Pleiades M45 - https://www.space.com/stargazing-with-binoculars-beginner-tips

The other advantage with binoculars is they are supremely portable. I find it key in this hobby that the less obstacles there are to getting under the dark skies with the right kit the better - remember you will end up standing in a dark field or garden in the middle of the night so more complicated equipment like telescopes will be doubly frustrating when it's cold and dark. To start with I recommend naked eye and binocular observing - learn your way around, get familiar with the constellations, the planets and the moon. That way, adding a telescope into the mix later will be building on a body of knowledge/experience you've already gained - making it easier to make sense of.

Finally, don't feel like binoculars are the poor relation to telescopes. Many astronomers enjoy using binoculars more than telescopes and you can certainly spend a lot of money on them and on dedicated binocular mounts. One of my favourite things to do in the summer time is just sweep the milky way with binoculars. Nothing beats the majesty of that dazzling carpet of diamonds! 

 

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@Llew whereabouts in Somerset are you? I’m in Crewkerne and have a 150p so could potentially show you what it is like.

Whilst I understand what Kevin is saying about binoculars, the big thing that a telescope offers is resolution and magnification. The Moon and planets show little detail in binoculars but are amazing in a scope.

Of course there is a learning curve with anything but it is all quite logical and achievable; we have all been through it and made daft mistakes so don’t worry about that!

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when i started i went for a 200p ota and made a dob mount for it. ive never regretted it. so a skywatcher 200p classic dob would be my advice a bit over your budget £379, but they do come up on the forum second hand at decent prices. good hunting.

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I'll never understand the recommendation of binoculars for astronomy.  Unless you buy the expensive image stabilized ones or mount them on a tripod, the view through them at night is extremely disappointing because stars and objects dance around due to human unsteadiness.  That, and 7x to 12x just doesn't cut it.  You'd think that at least large objects like the North American nebula would pop out at low power, but they don't unless you're under very dark skies.  I had binoculars for years, and they were fine for peeking at lunar eclipses, planetary conjunctions, etc.  You can't really learn constellations through them because they're way too big to fit in the field of view.  However, once I bought a Dob, I went wild learning the skies, so I could find Messier objects, observe Jovian moon (and their shadows) transits, resolve Cassini's Division, follow Venus's phases, explore the lunar surface, etc.  I tried the binocular route for a few years before buying my first scope based on recommendations, but found it extremely disappointing.

Did anyone on here find binocular astronomy anywhere near as exciting as telescope astronomy?  Without excitement, passion quickly wanes and interests migrate elsewhere.

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If I was starting out again, these Bresser scopes look very nice - https://www.firstlightoptics.com/bresser-telescopes/bresser-messier-5-dobsonian-telescope.html . I have a truss tube dob and tbh, it's a right faff getting it out and packed away. I haven't used a 150p, but the fixed tube dobs (not sure on the terminology), you won't have to worry too much about collimation and it should be easy to set up.

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56 minutes ago, Louis D said:

Did anyone on here find binocular astronomy anywhere near as exciting as telescope astronomy?  Without excitement, passion quickly wanes and interests migrate elsewhere.

MrsG is a big fan of binocular astronomy - and probably sees far more than I do with my telescopes. 

Yes, she uses a tripod and trigger head, but that's still very straightforward - and the wide field of view means that star hopping from brighter stars is easily done and very easily checked off against a star atlas or a tablet/phone. 

She uses the suggestions that Steve Tonkin ( @BinocularSky ) includes in his monthly newsletter (link to binocularsky.com ) and is very satisfied. 

Although starting with a pair of 10x50s, she has recently moved up to a pair of 20x80s - for which she'll be using our heavier tripod. She's very much looking forward to our next star party to take advantage of decent dark skies.

That said, I would say that binoculars complement telescopes, so if someone is looking for a telescope, the best advice is get both.  And for the OP - the suggestion of the 150P Heritage collapsing Dob is probably one that would not disappoint. 

Edited by Gfamily
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41 minutes ago, Stephen_M said:

If I was starting out again, these Bresser scopes look very nice - https://www.firstlightoptics.com/bresser-telescopes/bresser-messier-5-dobsonian-telescope.html . I have a truss tube dob and tbh, it's a right faff getting it out and packed away. I haven't used a 150p, but the fixed tube dobs (not sure on the terminology), you won't have to worry too much about collimation and it should be easy to set up.

We have a 130P Heritage and haven't had any problems with collimation - and I'd expect the 150P to be the same. 

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+ 1 for the Heritage 150p. I’m thinking you have to be quite brave jumping in with the first recommendation on these threads seeing how many of them drift on! 😀 It’s good that newcomers can join and seek a range of opinions though… rarely a right or wrong. 

Most people entering the hobby have some excitement about the prospect of seeing say Saturn’s rings through a telescope. Binoculars in my view just don’t offer the same - I have some fun with mine for sure, but finding targets is tough at times and as noted earlier unless properly held steady can be quite a disappointing experience - I frequently hear the advice to buy bins first, but I don’t agree here although can see the point being made. Something like the 150p or similar will excite and delight the first time user, and is good enough to stay with you / your wife for years. The views of Saturn, Jupiter and more were stunning through mine last night. 
 

Edited by Astro_Dad
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1 hour ago, Louis D said:

I'll never understand the recommendation of binoculars for astronomy.  Unless you buy the expensive image stabilized ones or mount them on a tripod, the view through them at night is extremely disappointing because stars and objects dance around due to human unsteadiness.  That, and 7x to 12x just doesn't cut it.  You'd think that at least large objects like the North American nebula would pop out at low power, but they don't unless you're under very dark skies.  I had binoculars for years, and they were fine for peeking at lunar eclipses, planetary conjunctions, etc.  You can't really learn constellations through them because they're way too big to fit in the field of view.  However, once I bought a Dob, I went wild learning the skies, so I could find Messier objects, observe Jovian moon (and their shadows) transits, resolve Cassini's Division, follow Venus's phases, explore the lunar surface, etc.  I tried the binocular route for a few years before buying my first scope based on recommendations, but found it extremely disappointing.

Did anyone on here find binocular astronomy anywhere near as exciting as telescope astronomy?  Without excitement, passion quickly wanes and interests migrate elsewhere.

I have had an interest in astronomy since I was little but apart from seeing the big comets of the 90’s, timing a few Iridium flares and casually looking up I hadn’t done any proper observing well into my thirties. Every now and then I was trying to learn more about telescope types but never really landed in which one would be best for me. You know how daunting that selection process can be.

After reading somewhere about binocular astronomy and realising I had 10x50 binos at home I got a copy of the Cambridge Star Atlas and a reclining chair and started planning sessions at a dark golf course near my house. Very low threshold to get started and I found it really fun to do the planning and research to determine what objects could be seen. Learning how to use the charts, identifying brighter stars and constellations, reading up on objects beforehand. Not having done any of that before, it was really quite a challenge.

I remember the feeling of how awesome it was to actually be able to pick out deep sky objects, things I had only read about before, such as the Auriga clusters, the brightest globulars and even galaxies such as M81 & M82, M33 and a few in Canes Venatici. Having read up on the objects beforehand, just seeing them, although faintly, was fantastic. They were actually there and visible if you just knew where to look! Seeing carbon star red giants stand out visually as different from other stars was fascinating and finding larger asterisms such as the Coathanger, Kemble’s Cascade and the Cheshire cat-face in Auriga was also fun, not to mention the large open clusters that actually benefit from wide field, the Hyades, Coma star cluster and the Alpha Persei cluster. Going over my log I see that I spotted Ceres and Uranus as well. I think I bagged forty Messier objects and a number of NGC’s in addition to various other objects (such as asterisms and interesting stars) over the course of a year.

Today, owning a handful of scopes, it is very often not what I actually see at the EP that fascinates me but the nature of the object. I certainly believe that same feeling was stirred when bino-observing.

Also, I personally find great satisfaction navigating with star charts and trying to find objects by identifying constellations and patterns. Doing so with larger scale charts and binoculars was very rewarding and I felt I learned a lot about finding my way on the night sky.

Never having observed though a telescope I was not really expecting anything. I mean it was after all only ordinary binoculars. To actually be able to pick out lots and lots of astronomical objects was very effective in throwing me deeper into the astronomy rabbit hole. My expectations were a lot higher when I eventually got around to viewing through larger scopes actually. Saw quite a few at astronomy club star parties and my thoughts as a beginner was that given the difference in size compared to my binos, the difference at the eyepiece must be dramatic right? Well, if you are just starting out and depending on the object, the difference might not be that dramatic. I got a bit underwhelmed to be honest and that took a while to work through. Eventually I felt comfortable making a choice for a first scope though, a 10-inch dob and that really set me off!

For me, starting out, binos were great. I still use them every now and then but since I have access to bigger scopes, those are what I reach for. Quite glad for having spent time with them before moving up. I realise it might not be for everyone though!

Edited by davhei
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When you have friends round and they know you have a telescope (and its clear) you want to show it off so first it HAS to look like a telescope. Second, when you have Saturn or whatever you can move away and folks can go to the eyepiece and see what you just saw.

You cannot do that with Bins.....

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Ah, the eternal question! On Facebook, a (random) member of our local Astro Soc.
asked the same thing! A *fixed* budget was specified. There were ZERO replies...
Finally, I weakened and suggested a modest 70mm AZ refractor (within budget). 🥳

Immediately, another (so far silent member) suggested (with apologies), mine was
NOT a good choice! That, something FAR better could be obtained second hand?!?
I didn't argue. We WERE then in the middle of a pandemic? Total Newbies are not
in the best position to evaluate the quality of a *second hand* telescope etc. etc. 🤔

But then, perhaps a FIRST telescope is but a TOKEN - Albeit to be cherished!
And, ultimately, by whatever means, eventually, doomed to be replaced. 😅

Edited by Macavity
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4 hours ago, Gfamily said:

That said, I would say that binoculars complement telescopes, so if someone is looking for a telescope, the best advice is get both.  And for the OP - the suggestion of the 150P Heritage collapsing Dob is probably one that would not disappoint.

+1 for that. Given your budget, I'd get the slightly smaller 130 P Flextube or the Zhumell, and add a binocular; any from 7x35 to 10x50 will do. You could have a look at the second hand market; some of the old Japanese binoculars are available at low prices, and have good optics. You will need some extra money for the usual accessory pack; i.e planisphere, red torch, Pocket Sky Atlas or similar, SkySafari/Stellarium software; Barlow lens; 32 mmf Plössl eyepiece for widefield, UHC filter; Cheshire for collimation. If your family remains addicted to the hobby, the 130P will serve as an excellent grab-and-go scope, easily to handle even for children. And you'll  be not in doubt, whether an addition of an 8" or 10" might be sensible and rewarding.....;-)

Stephan

Edited by Nyctimene
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2 hours ago, Gfamily said:

We have a 130P Heritage and haven't had any problems with collimation - and I'd expect the 150P to be the same. 

Yes, The 150p is very straightforward to collimate, and holds collimation quite well too - not needing too frequent adjustment. 

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I would first recommend you buy a copy of Turn Left at Orion and spend some time going through it. As for a telescope I like these https://astro.catshill.com/why-did-i-choose-a-dobsonian/ but I would suggest that you join a local astronomy club to see one. The advice about getting binoculars is one I think makes sense. There is lots to see and that is where the book comes in handy.

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Amazing responses, I have been avidly reading them all, all day long continually doing research. I was reluctant to respond as I wanted to get as many views and find with these sort of threads once you say what you have decided they end fairly abruptly until the next similar one comes along. I do have some very good binoculars, but personally I would like to be able to upgrade the telescope if we both get into the hobby.

I would like to thank you all for your input it has been very helpful. I took the plunge and bought the Heritage 150p, I will be researching more over the coming weeks as to which cheeky little Xmas gifts I could possibly buy, turn left at Orion is arriving tomorrow anyway so had that covered.

Special thanks to the help I have gotten via private message which has also been invaluable. Time is so precious so thanks to all and I look forward to learning more as time goes on. 

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8 hours ago, cajen2 said:

Excellent choice. Be sure to read on here:

- mods to the focuser

- how to make a lightshield 

for the 150p.

 

Thanks! I found a YouTube video already with the plumbers tape and shroud… will make that next week if that’s what you are referring to?

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