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10 year old beginner buying advice


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My 10 year old son is getting into space and astronomy. I know absolutely nothing about this subject and so I'm a complete novice when it comes buying a telescope for him. We've had a really basic (more a toy than scientific instrument) telescope for a while, but I want to get him something more serious.

As I say, I have no experience here, so I'm looking for guidance on what we should be getting for him. The brands I've heard of are Celestron and Orion, but I have no idea if these are good or just good at marketing.

My requirements (and feel free to suggest reasons why these are wrong):

  1. Small style (by this I mean not the traditional style of telescope that has a long body)
  2. Budget up to about £150 (or more if add-ons increase the price. His birthday is in Jan, so add-ons can be for his birthday)
  3. Ability to connect a phone (either remotely or as the screen)
  4. Not massively feature-laden but enough for him to be able to grow with it as he develops the interest

Can anyone help?

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I would have a look at the beginners telescope section of FLO (see link in banner). There's a lot of good advice there. I would think the Sky-Watcher Heritage 100P ticks a lot of the boxes. I am not sure what you mean by ability to connect to a phone. If you mean you want to control the telescope through the phone, that is not possible with the cheaper systems, but there are phone adapters to attach the phone camera to the telescope.

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If you want a quick and comprehensive answer, I suggest you read the other threads here generated in answer to similar queries. 

As for 

11 minutes ago, timfoster said:

Ability to connect a phone (either remotely or as the screen)

you will need to define what you mean. There is nothing in a £150 telescope outfit that will connect to a phone, unless you mean using the phone as a camera to take snaps through the eyepiece.

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Unfortunately this is not an easy question to answer without knowing what your Sons expectations are.
Like everything Astro kit has suffered with huge price hikes in the past couple of years, mostly (I think) due to lack of availability caused by the disruption to shipping during Covid and also general cost of living increases,, so whilst you can get a starter scope for £150 I am afraid it will not buy you much in the way of sophistication. A lot of the cheaper end scopes offered on some websites are really not much more than toys. Looking on a reputable site such as FLO is a good start as you can contact them and ask questions and will tell you the truth, about what you are attempting to purchase.

So I guess a lot depends on how interested your Son really is in astronomy and how much you can spend in these cash strapped days. If this ends up being a passing interest obviously you do not want to waste hundreds of pounds on something that ends up in the cupboard after a few weeks, but on the other hand if he does get the bug then you do not want to be buying a toy scope that will put him off the hobby because it does nothing to sustain his interest.

Also for many starters their expectations are just way beyond what the reality actually is in amateur astronomy and  become underwhelmed at what they see though their first scope, quite often they are expecting to see almost Hubble style images and all they see are stars (but many more stars than with the eye alone).
I am approaching retirement and only bought my first scope around 5 years ago but found looking at the moon just so exciting and although very small the planets also were a fascination for me, but again with a cheap scope you are not going to see the planets in much detail, but for me just seeing some of the moons around Jupiter, albeit really just 5 bright dots , Jupiter being much bigger than the others, was great to behold, and although Saturn was so tiny in the scope just to see the unusual shape it was with its rings just kept my enthusiasm going. This then encouraged me further to look for star clusters or some galaxies, even though again these were not the great images produced by many imagers they were just a small fuzzy thing.

All this may not be helping you much but just to warn you that you may not be getting what you think is available at the lower end of the budget.
If you think he really is interested then if you can stretch your budget to say £250 then there is a lot more options available that may keep his interest a lot longer.

The other thought maybe to wait a little and maybe get him some good books on the subject first ?

Have a look on FLO and see what is available and maybe come back with some more questions and tell us what you think your Son is expecting to see through is first scope, really it is not an easy question for anybody regardless of age 🙂 
And be aware, a mistake many make is just looking at the maximum magnification of a scope and going for the highest value; this is not the best way to judge a scope. In most cases unless you are in a very dark sky area and the seeing is very good you will never manage to see anything at the advertised maximum magnification anyway, something the less than reputable on line sellers of cheaper scopes will not tell you.

Steve

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Before you do anything get him to a outreach program and let him look through all the different kinds of scopes and see what he likes and see what things actually look like.  If he shows a genuine interest keep taking him to outreach programs and do what you can to increase your budget.  Not that you have to, but a fair number of us buy eyepiece that cost 3x what you scope budget is.  So be aware that even on the low end this is not a cheap hobby. 

Edited by Mike Q
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Steve and Mike are giving you good advice here. Do plenty of research as well as going to a local astronomy club or outreach event (astronomers love showing off their scopes!). There are two scopes which won't disappoint with their views around your budget:

The Skywatcher Heritage 100p. Don't be fooled by its small size - this is a proper telescope with a parabolic mirror. I bought one for my daughter (who's much older than your son) and I was very impressed with the sharpness of the views it gave. Its price also allows you to upgrade its 10mm eyepiece (nearly all giveaway eyepieces are of low quality, especially the 10mm ones). A good choice is a BST Starguider 8mm.

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/beginner-telescopes/skywatcher-heritage-100p-tabletop-dobsonian.html

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/bst-starguider-eyepieces/bst-starguider-60-8mm-ed-eyepiece.html

The bigger brother of this scope is the Heritage 130p - also excellent optics.

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

But don't buy anything too quickly until you've done some research and also had a chat with your son. It's possible that he has fixed ideas about what a scope should look like and want a small refractor like this:

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/inspire-series-telescopes/celestron-inspire-70mm-az-refractor.html

but you're having to pay for a mount and tripod, which are probably not of the best. The Heritage scopes would give better views IMO.

So the most important thing is not to rush. Always remember, too, that any scope you buy can be much better with decent eyepieces, so you don't have to think about future birthday and Xmas presents! 😉

 

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53 minutes ago, cajen2 said:

The Skywatcher Heritage 100p. Don't be fooled by its small size - this is a proper telescope with a parabolic mirror. I bought one for my daughter (who's much older than your son) and I was very impressed with the sharpness of the views it gave. Its price also allows you to upgrade its 10mm eyepiece (nearly all giveaway eyepieces are of low quality, especially the 10mm ones). A good choice is a BST Starguider 8mm.

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/beginner-telescopes/skywatcher-heritage-100p-tabletop-dobsonian.html

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/bst-starguider-eyepieces/bst-starguider-60-8mm-ed-eyepiece.html

The bigger brother of this scope is the Heritage 130p - also excellent optics.

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

Always best if you can get advice from somebody who has experience of the actual scope, so good advice here and if you do decide on a different scope to ones already mentioned then I would add to this thread and just ask again advice on the scope you are intending to buy.

And as advised above if you can get him to a local astronomy club that is probably the best thing you could do to help him. He can then see for real what various types of scopes will be like to use and also you can judge if he really is enthusiastic about it and decide where to go. Maybe even visiting the club will be enough to keep him going for a while till you get the best scope you can for him.

Steve

Edited by teoria_del_big_bang
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Thank you all for your advice. I think finding a club is a great idea. As far as expectations, I'm not really sure. The moon is an obvious one. Every Christmas he wants to watch the John Lewis Man in the Moon advert and he's constantly talking about seeing the moon. He was glued to news stories about the recent rocket launch but I don;t think he has any expectations as such. I googled that the IIS was visible over Northampton fairly often until December (https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/sightings/view.cfm?country=United_Kingdom&region=England&city=Northampton#.Y3pEM0JP9Yo.mailto) so that would be good I think. Pretty much anything beyond the moon is a bonus, I think.

I'm looking at Sky-Watcher Heritage-100P | First Light Optics as recommended above. This is in the right price point. We're looking at this price simply because we don't want to spend hundreds if he loses interest. I have a garage full of keyboard, diving equipment etc where my kids have lost interest after a few months.

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An interest in the Moon is a great start as it is out most nights, easy to find and even the simplest of scopes can give some great close up views (or even binoculars) .
So if he is interested in lunar stuff he has plenty to look at and you could even get an adapter to enable him to take simple images with his mobile which adds so much more to what he can do.
And he will not be limited to the moon, even if he cannot get great vies of other objects it is still a great thrill to seek out and find the planets and star clusters or galaxies.
Still try to get the best scope you can for your budget as further down the line that enables you / him to buy better eye pieces which may help with the views he can get , also he may well want to attach a better camera (either a DSLR which can be bought for very modest prices 2nd hand) or even a dedicated planetary camera.

And, you never know you may well find that you also find all this stuff fascinating 🙂 

Steve

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You could do far worse than buy him a decent pair of binoculars that are light enough for him to hold (maybe 8x40s) and a good book on getting started like Turn Left at Orion by Guy Consolmagno and Dan Davis or Nightwatch by Terence Dickinson.   
This way he’ll get to learn his way around the night sky and have an optical tool that will serve well for many years.

Telescopes are a bit like camera lenses for amateur photographers, there is no single one that covers everything and once you get going you’ll end up buying a few different ones depending on how you want to pursue the hobby. 

You would be amazed at what can be seen in a decent pair of Bins & they can also double up for other wildlife spotting duties. 
 

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Its great that he likes looking at the moon, in a way we all start there, then we learn to hate it as it just blows away all the fainter stuff that we really like looking at.  One thing to remember the moon can be very bright, especially when it's full.  You will want some sort of moon filter, a variable polarized filter will let you do anything from just take the edge off to dimming it down considerably.  So don't forget one of those. 

Edited by Mike Q
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15 hours ago, Tomatobro said:

I have an early version of the 100P and I took this picture of the moon some time ago using it. Gives some idea of what to expect.

dobomoon1.jpg

moondobo2.jpg

Wow! These are amazing. This will exceed his (and my) expectation massively. If he's able to take photos like this with the Heritage 100p, he'll be absolutely made up.

I've added the scope, a moon filter and a planisphere to the basket. I can't see a phone adapter though. I've asked the question of their support team. All he'll want to do is get the images as photos. I'd assume, in my astronomy naivety, that this was all a "phone connection" meant, so apologies to those saying I won't get a phone connection at that price point. If the adapter than allows him to take photos is available, this is what I meant

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I don't think this has been said yet....

When you buy, get it from a specialist astro retailer. Not a general online retailer.
He won't sell you junk. If you have problems he can help. He does after all want your business for add ons, a bigger scope next year, etc.
Other online retailers cannot help with problems and are only out for today's sale.

 

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Read THIS it should give you some idea about mobile phone adapters to take images through the eyepiece.
I have not used them myself so cannot comment any further.

My first astro images were of the moon through an eyepiece but just held phone in my hand, not the best and certainly not the easiest way but I did get some reasonable images.

Steve

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22 hours ago, timfoster said:

Ability to connect a phone (either remotely or as the screen)

At that price point you tend to look through a telescope with the naked eye through an eyepiece that fits into the focussing part of the telescope.  If you buy from a decent telescope supplier you will likely get one or two basic eyepieces (EPs) often around 25mm and 10mm to get started with.  These will be sufficient for the first few months to show son the moon etc.  The 10mm will show the moon apparently more close up than the 25mm, but the moon will initially be easier to find in the sky using the 25mm - you tend to get the object you desire in view and then carefully swap in the higher mag (lower number mm) EP without moving the telescope to see things closer.   To take a photo as already mentioned some scopes let you buy a holder that a mobile phone can be fitted into to allow the use of the phone camera.  Just as easy is if you have a DSLR - when purchase of something called a T ring for your camera (and maybe an adapter on the scope) allows you to unscrew the camera lens and fit it to the focusser on the telescope (which then acts like the camera lens) and take a really nice photo (my avatar is one I took like that with my 200P scope).

Also, as above.  Don't be misled by hype and what it is claimed it is possible to see, i.e. don't get a scope from the likes of Amazon, Nat. Geographic, Currys etc.  Get a scope from a proper scope dealer like FLO who sponsor SGL (other good telescope suppliers also exist!).  I would commend a quick whizz through this thread - if you do nothing more than look at the pictures it will modify your expectations.  I think the small images are through something like a 200P - So 8" rather than the 100P you might be looking at, but IMO all the larger mirror does is grab more light and makes very distant objects brighter.  It tends to be the EP's that do most of the magification - although a bigger mirror ultimately permits higher magnifications to be successfully used I've found in the UK that my 8" scope doesn't perform hugely well except in the odd really ideally literally once in a blue moon conditions at much above x240 magnification - thats a 1200mm focal length divided by a 5mm EP.  So any adverts claiming x400 or x600 or professing huge improvements to magnifications of those levels with technical sounding things called Barlows are probably just to catch the uninformed and try to get them to part with their cash.  About x200 or x250 with an 8" scope (less with a smaller scope) is sort of realistic in the UK due to our poor seeing conditions most of the time.

Here is the thread: 

 

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The Moon's sometimes underrated. It's one of the (apparently) largest and most detailed things you can look at and I really sense that I'm looking at another world, not just a little disk. It changes each day too as the terrain near the terminator (the boundary between the lit and unlit parts) is shown best. And as the images above show you can get a nice snapshot with a smartphone. Phone imaging of planets and DSOs is possible but more difficult, a good camera app is recommended and the images tend to not be the most visually stunning, but the flipside is they can have more of a "this is what I saw" quality - a closer similarity to the view seen visually.

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3 hours ago, Carbon Brush said:

I don't think this has been said yet....

When you buy, get it from a specialist astro retailer. Not a general online retailer.
He won't sell you junk. If you have problems he can help. He does after all want your business for add ons, a bigger scope next year, etc.
Other online retailers cannot help with problems and are only out for today's sale.

 

This.... Definitely this.  Definitely use a astro shop.  

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53 minutes ago, allworlds said:

The Moon's sometimes underrated. It's one of the (apparently) largest and most detailed things you can look at and I really sense that I'm looking at another world, not just a little disk. It changes each day too as the terrain near the terminator (the boundary between the lit and unlit parts) is shown best. And as the images above show you can get a nice snapshot with a smartphone. Phone imaging of planets and DSOs is possible but more difficult, a good camera app is recommended and the images tend to not be the most visually stunning, but the flipside is they can have more of a "this is what I saw" quality - a closer similarity to the view seen visually.

Agreed - I always take a look at the moon if it's around.  I find it amazing along the terminator line and often around the edge of the disk at just how the mountains and valleys show up, you wouldn't think you'd be able to see such magnificent amounts of detail but you can.

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I started on a similar journey coming up for 3 yrs ago when I bought my then 9 yr old daughter a telescope for Christmas, as she was showing an great interest in astronomy and I thought it would be something we could do together. This turned out to be true and we now have another, much larger telescope too.

I originally got something slightly bigger than the Heritage 100p, but only with a mirror that is 114mm rather than 100mm. So not much difference. A few words of advice …

For a youngster they will need help, assistance and encouragement however keen they are. It’s not something where you can stick them out in the garden and leave them.

The moon and later on the planets, are great for young kids as they don’t need to sit out in the cold in order to get eyes adapted to the dark. Moon/Planets being bright don’t require this and they can hop in and out the house. Deep sky objects & star clusters are another matter.

Initially don’t worry too much about accessories. Eg we got a cheap phone adapter for £9.50 and still have it. The expensive £50 phone holder that was recommended was next to useless as it was far too heavy for a small telescope.

If you have a steady hand it’s fun to try and take pictures just by holding the phone to the eyepiece. It’ll work for the moon and a very few other bright objects. This old picture here is our very first attempt at taking a simple handheld phone camera image of anything. It’s of the Orion Nebula. We’d had the telescope for about 2 weeks. Sure, it’s crude but this simple image literally had my daughter jumping up and down. No apps or anything. I remember it as if it was yesterday :) 

One thing that surprised us and is worth considering in the near future (after you have a little experience). Viewing the sun using a white light solar filter has turned out to be amazing. Now, you obviously need to be careful and take suitable precautions but my daughter prefers this to most deep sky objects. With the sun you can view when it’s warm, no faffing about getting eyes use to the dark, you can see what you are doing without messing around with torches. When we had friends & kids around for a BBQ in the summer getting the telescope out and viewing the sun has been a great hit. For adults too. And the recent partial solar eclipse was brilliant. Not only that but we are now in a period where sunspots are on the up, so potentially things could get interesting.

C22E9DCB-C734-4F96-A1BE-46D5246183FD.jpeg

Edited by PeterStudz
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On 21/11/2022 at 07:36, timfoster said:

I've added the scope, a moon filter and a planisphere to the basket. I can't see a phone adapter though.

In my experience, you dont really need the moon filter or the planisphere. To reduce the brightness of the moon, just reduce the aperture. Most good scopes come with the option to expose only a part of the aperture. Free Planetarium software on your phone/ pc do the job of planisphere very well. Phone adapters can be found on Amazon.

And remember, the views through the eyepiece using our own eyes can be the best! Its quite tricky (esp for a 10yr old) to get those beautiful pin sharp images with a camera/phone.

Good luck

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I agree that you don’t need a moon filter. And if what you are looking at (like the moon) appears too bright, just look at a bright object, we often use a smartphone screen, before looking through the eyepiece.

As for a phone adapter. My point was to get use to what you have. There’s a shed load to learn without the faff of a phone holder. Using Orion as an example again. Just hovering the phone camera over the eyepiece and looking at the live view on screen (no taking pictures) showed colours in the nebula. With the eye at the eyepiece it was just a faint grey smudge. It was that, not the actual picture, that got my daughter exciting and jumping up and down. 

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This is always the most difficult of choices.  Two initial thoughts when looking:

a) Always buy from a recognised astronomy supplier

b) Never buy a 'children's' telescope, they are usually made of plastic and are so poor they don't work basically.

My recommended supplier are 'First Light Optics' in Exeter https://www.firstlightoptics.com/beginner-telescopes.html

I would recommend the Sky-Watcher Heritage-100P,, as mentioned above.

The concept of these table-top telescopes which have mirrors instead of lenses (often called Newtonians), are that they are fixed on what is called a 'Dobsonian' mount, which is like a rocker box that allows you to point up/down (altitude) or left/right (azimuth).  You will need to put this part together as it comes in a flatpack - it is quite easy.

The more traditional telescope (a refractor) with the long tube, lenses and tripod, which everyone pictures when thinking of telescopes will be well out of your budget at around £300.  The one on the beginners page is much too complicated for children of your ages because it has an 'equatorial' (EQ) mount, which even some adults struggle to master, the Dobsonian has an alt/az (AZ) mount which is much easier to use.   Note the eyepiece and focuser on the Dobsonian are near the front of the scope, whereas on a refractor they are at the back, so this will be a new concept to you.

With the Dobsonian telescopes above you will need a good solid picnic table or similar to sit the telescope on.  Larger (adult) Dobsonians sit firmly on the ground.

One good thing about First Light Optics is that they have an unequalled returns policy, if your child simply does not get on with the new scope you can exchange it or request a refund within a month of purchase, howerver, there is a Chistmas extension on this time scale

I hope this helps.

Edited by rwilkey
typo
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