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Not knowing what I don't know.


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As stated in the other thread that I started, I am a relative beginner looking to find a telescope. This would not be the first telescope that I have owned, I got a 114mm reflector for Christmas at around 7 and I currently have a small refractor that I got for free, but it will be the first time that I have actually researched and chosen the telescope that I will be getting. The issue is that I have no idea where to begin looking for what I need. I do know that a larger aperture equates to more light gathering, and by that alone I have been looking for an 8" Dobsonian within my budget of around $550. However, I am wondering of something that bulky* will be annoying enough to move around and store that I won't be as likely to get it out and use it. The problem is that I don't understand anything about telescopes except for the aperture thing and that there are refractors, reflectors, and catadioptrics, and that they all work in different ways. I have looked at some smaller options than the Dobsonian, but I don't really even understand how relatively better or worse they are than the dob. This is leading to confusion that is making any decision about which one to get very difficult. If anyone could give me guidance as to what I need to do to understand all of the choices that I have and what recommendations you could make then I would really appreciate it. 

*I have never seen a Dobsonian in real life, but from pictures they look quite bulky. Also there is no astronomy club in my town so I don't really have the opportunity to see one or to try out any kind of telescope really. 

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Hi and welcome to the forum. To aid better advice, could you share a bit more info about what you're planning/want to do? I.e. do you plan on doing visual only, or would you like to attempt some photography as well? Do you have a particular area of interest, such as lunar, planetary, double stars, deep sky objects? What's your observing site like - would it be at your home or would you have to travel somewhere? 

There are more questions, I'm sure, but that should get us started! 

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Having read what you've said about not understanding telescopes, my suggestion would be to start by reading as much as you can. Having little knowledge can lead to expensive mistakes and disappointment. 

People usually recommend 8" Dobs because they are the best value for the least money as well as being extremely capable. 

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I agree an 8" Dob is a good choice. If your only worry is that Dobs can be bulky then all you need to do is shop around as this is not always the case.

Most dobs come with a laminated MDF base, and so the material is intrinsically heavy. That said, I've owned a 10" Orion Intelliscope it was not unmanageable, so I'd imagine you wouldn't have a big problem with an 8". There are some, like my current Orion Optics (UK) Dobs, with a base that is a tad lighter and much portable (although the base, made of steel in this case, always needs to be heavy enough to stop the telescope from tipping) - but admittedly this is probably beyond the budget you suggest. There are others, though, where the MDF base design is a bit more thoughtful - like the Bresser Dobsonians - and these may hit the sweet spot for you.

Rather than go on my rather patchy knowledge of what is available, just make sure you have a good conversation with the telescope retailer making clear you want a big aperture but one of your main criteria is that the base is lighter and more portable.

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If you have no idea what you want to do with the scope, you should buy a 'beginner' model.

If you are worried about the weight of an 8" Dobsonian, instead of worrying, go out to your garage and make up a long bundle of whatever comes to hand (boxes, bricks etc.) weighing 20 lbs, and a squarish box weighing 20lbs, - the typical weight of a 8" Dob + base, and see how you manage carrying these around.  A fit adult should manage these weights OK.

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20 hours ago, Mr Spock said:

Having read what you've said about not understanding telescopes, my suggestion would be to start by reading as much as you can. Having little knowledge can lead to expensive mistakes and disappointment. 

People usually recommend 8" Dobs because they are the best value for the least money as well as being extremely capable. 

The problem is that I have read a lot if things, and I understand how telescopes work in general, but not which attributes I need to look for in the one that I eventually end up getting. 

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21 hours ago, The Lazy Astronomer said:

Hi and welcome to the forum. To aid better advice, could you share a bit more info about what you're planning/want to do? I.e. do you plan on doing visual only, or would you like to attempt some photography as well? Do you have a particular area of interest, such as lunar, planetary, double stars, deep sky objects? What's your observing site like - would it be at your home or would you have to travel somewhere? 

There are more questions, I'm sure, but that should get us started! 

I am looking for a telescope for general use, both planets and dso's. Generally, I would be observing at home but would like to take it somewhere else as needed. If I do any photography, it would probably be really basic, but I'm not really planning on that for now. 

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7 hours ago, Cosmic Geoff said:

If you have no idea what you want to do with the scope, you should buy a 'beginner' model.

If you are worried about the weight of an 8" Dobsonian, instead of worrying, go out to your garage and make up a long bundle of whatever comes to hand (boxes, bricks etc.) weighing 20 lbs, and a squarish box weighing 20lbs, - the typical weight of a 8" Dob + base, and see how you manage carrying these around.  A fit adult should manage these weights OK.

it's not so much the weight as it is the bulk. I know that I would be able to physically move it, I'm just worried that it will be annoying to set up and use to the point that I won't use it very much. I've never seen one in person and I don't have a club to go to, so that is why I'm hesitant to go with it. Generally I'm looking at either an 8" dob or a 5" mak. 

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If bulk is the main issue, and you don't want to start with astrophotography at the moment, why not a smaller collapsible Dobsonian, as the Skywatcher 130 P Flextube (in the US, the AWB OneSky Newtonian), or it's slightly bigger brother the 150 P? Very easy to store, transport and to set up,  and more versatile than a Maksutov (which will be more suited for lunar and planetary observations). Given the dark skies in Idaho, it would give you very impressive wide field views. Many pleased owners of the OneSky Newtonian; have a look at the (for good reason) huge CloudyNights thread:

https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/463109-onesky-newtonian-astronomers-without-borders/

Some information and data about the 150 P Flextube:

https://www.teleskop-express.de/shop/product_info.php/info/p12279_Skywatcher-Dobson-Telescope-Heritage-150P-Flextube---150-mm-Aperture.html

A comparing discussion:

https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/793404-zhumell-z130-vs-heritage-150-vs-starblast-6/

Take yourself time, and keep on asking.

Stephan

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The one thing about dobs that no one mentioned.  They are always bigger in person.  With that said they are not unmanageable.  An 8 inch dob will run about 40 pounds and the OTA will be right around 4 foot.  It breaks nicely into two pieces, so you have 2 20 pound pieces.  If you are planning on observing at home most of the time thats not a big issue then.  If the back seat of your car is more then 4 feet across and if the base fits in the trunk transporting it isnt a problem either.  I run a 10 inch dob, it weighs around 70 with everything on it and the power cell.  While it is a bit awkward i can lift it with no issues.  

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