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AndyBaker

Wanting to explore the universe for myself - looking for a telescope

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Hi all, I’ve been watching the series ‘Extreme Universe’ on National Geographic channel, and have been blown away by what I’ve seen. It’s ignited a passion in me to explore the universe with my own eyes. To actually see the Andromeda galaxy, Saturn’s rings and other planets in our solar system would be fantastic, so I’m planning on buying a telescope. I'm first looking for some assistance...

I’m thinking of spending between £250 and £300, although up to £400 might be okay. Reading some of the forums so far, it looks like a Skywatcher EXPLORER-150P (EQ3-2) would be a good buy. I just have a couple of questions about some of the jargon and terms that are being used, and about some basics.

How exactly does a GOTO system work? If I’m in my garden and want to point the telescope at Saturn, or at another galaxy, how would I tell it to “go to” Saturn? Does a GOTO system consist of a computer keypad and screen?

What does EQ3 mean?

How big are these telescopes, height, length, width etc. I’m thinking of storage, as we only have 1 spare room, which is quite cluttered as it is. Can these types of telescopes be kept in a shed, even in the winter?

How much better is the next model up – the EXPLORER-200P (EQ5)? I saw this for £399, and I’m wondering what I’d get for the extra £100?

Hope you can help.

Many thanks

Andy

Edited by AndyBaker

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Well for a start you wont see any galaxys like you see them on the tv, all you will see naked eye with a telescope will be a grey cloudlike smudge, you need long exposure photography to 'see' a galaxy!

The planets will be visible to some degree using a telescope, the detail available depends on many variables.

GOTO is as you say, a self contained computerised mount. which, when setup will allow you to select objects to look at.

EQ = equitorial (mount) a special mount which is alligned to the north celistial pole which will allow accurate tracking of an object

The numbers after EQ denote the size and features of the mount, basically the higher the number the bigger/better the mount, these too come with or without GOTO features

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I’m thinking of spending between £250 and £300, although up to £400 might be okay. Reading some of the forums so far, it looks like a Skywatcher EXPLORER-150P (EQ3-2) would be a good buy.

It would, and is a fine starter scope.

How exactly does a GOTO system work? If I’m in my garden and want to point the telescope at Saturn, or at another galaxy, how would I tell it to “go to” Saturn? Does a GOTO system consist of a computer keypad and screen?

Here is an article describing the basics of Go-to systems.

What does EQ3 mean?

Equatorial mounts come in a range of sturdiness. EQ3 is mid-range (4 through 6 are heavier, 1 and 2 are very light). EQ3 is the lightest mount that is still sturdy enough for basic visual use. It's not sturdy enough for long-exposure astrophotography, but you can grow into that after a couple of years.

How big are these telescopes, height, length, width etc. I’m thinking of storage, as we only have 1 spare room, which is quite cluttered as it is. Can these types of telescopes be kept in a shed, even in the winter?

Floor footprint would be about a square metre, and about 1.5-2 metres high. Yes, you can store outdoors as long as it is dry. Mine lives outside year-round, in Canada, with temperature swings from +30 to -30.

How much better is the next model up – the EXPLORER-200P (EQ5)? I saw this for £399, and I’m wondering what I’d get for the extra £100?

The extra aperture means you will see dimmer objects. However, the scope is considerably larger and harder to manipulate. The EQ5 mount is much sturdier and heavier (necessary for the larger tube). In theory, a better unit, but only if it is still small enough that you will be able to use it easily and frequently.

Best of luck, and welcome!

- Richard

Edited by ottUp
height

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I was in exactly the same position 3 yrs ago with the same budget. I went for as large as possible aperture on an equatorial mount (don't be fooled by magnification claims).

Mine was manual rather than goto because I wanted good optics and not to spend the money on electrics. If buying new - get a reputable/popular brand (e.g. celestron, meade, skywatcher, etc) or go for a larger aperture second hand (buy from an active astronomer - they usually look after their kit).

Do lots of reading up first - forums, astronomy magazines, specifications in adverts, reviews, and ask questions. Visit a local astro soc or star party first to get advice and have a go - most amateurs are very accommodating and keen to advise.

I ended up with a Skywatcher 150 parabolic newtonian and only recently (and reluctantly) sold it after 2 upgrades. It's a great starter scope, very portable, and decent views - plus you can upgrade it very cheaply to do tracking.

Good luck with your decision :)

Edited by brantuk

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Thats how I got into this hobby - but TBH with you the best thing IMO would be to get a decent pair of binos (10x50s) and a copy of Turn left at Orion first and start doing some star hoping to familarise yourself with the night sky.

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You can't beat a good pair of binos for learning the skies, they can be taken just about everywhere and take no setting up. So the moment a gap appears in the clouds you can take a peek.

Edited by yeti monster

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also watch the universe on history hd if you have it about 1am most weeknights, i record it every night its a great programe

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A 200 mm aperture scope on an EQ mount is fairly heavy. You might want to at least consider some lighter options such as a dobsonian (an alt az non motorized scope). Either way, try to get to an astronomy club to see different telescope types in person, how they operate, and how much effort is required to set up and view through them. In your price range aperture is almost everything, focal length is important, and portability can be a major issue.

A pair of binoculars gives the same multiple increase of aperture over the naked eye as scopes do over binoculars. So for 1/5th the price you get about half way to scope performance in an easier to use package (NOTE THIS IS A VERY ROUGH ESTIMATE, MANY FACTORS IN PLAY). You can see at least one of every type of deep sky object in binoculars (except for the rings around Saturn). Plus once you obtain a scope you will still want binoculars for low power wide field views. I even use my opera glasses for even lower power very wide fields of view. My current favorite binoculars are 8x32 but most folks suggest 10x50's.

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Thank you all for your valuable feedback. It's very much much appreciated. I've ordered 'Turn left at Orion' from Amazon, and I think I'll buy the Skywatcher EXPLORER-150P (EQ3-2). Thanks also for pointing out 'the Universe' on history HD channel. I'm setting it to record. If it's anywhere near as good as Extreme Universe on national geographic, it will be a great watch.

I've just been looking at some of Hubble's images, I can't believe my eyes. What a beautiful universe we live in.

Thanks again, look forward to chatting with you soon,

Andy

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The universe is indeed great and I'm sure you'll have a lot of fun and satisfaction from this hobby. But, just to make sure you adjust your expectations to what you'll see, the scope won't show anything like the hubble images, except for planets, moon and star clusters regarding coulor. Size will be much smaller and detail depends on a lot of factors from scope collimation, to quality and on the atmosphere on any specific night.

Nebula will be dim, with just a few exceptions and you will see everything in gray. The only color you'll see will be on planets and some stars. Maybe in a couple of DSOs too but thats it.

Galaxies look like gray clouds, and require rural dark skies to even be detected. Seeing spiral arms is nearly impossible on a 6" even with excellent dark skies. I only sow spiral arms twice on M51, I did look at it a few other nights but the seeing conditions didn't allow for such detail.

I still want to encourage you to buy a telescope since it's a great hobby. I'm just making sure you go into the hobby with the right expectations so that you won't feel disappointed or cheated after you buy the scope.

Edited by pvaz

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The 150P was second on my list under the 200p, I think you've made a great choice and i've not read a single post by anyone who was disappointed with their 150P and I did SERIOUSLY do my homework before buying. Enjoy it.

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The universe is indeed great and I'm sure you'll have a lot of fun and satisfaction from this hobby. But, just to make sure you adjust your expectations to what you'll see, the scope won't show anything like the hubble images, except for planets, moon and star clusters regarding coulor. Size will be much smaller and detail depends on a lot of factors from scope collimation, to quality and on the atmosphere on any specific night.

Nebula will be dim, with just a few exceptions and you will see everything in gray. The only color you'll see will be on planets and some stars. Maybe in a couple of DSOs too but thats it.

Galaxies look like gray clouds, and require rural dark skies to even be detected. Seeing spiral arms is nearly impossible on a 6" even with excellent dark skies. I only sow spiral arms twice on M51, I did look at it a few other nights but the seeing conditions didn't allow for such detail.

I still want to encourage you to buy a telescope since it's a great hobby. I'm just making sure you go into the hobby with the right expectations so that you won't feel disappointed or cheated after you buy the scope.

Sorry to hijack the thread but i have a question for you paulo. i noticed you have an orion xt8i. How are you gettin on with it?

cheers

John

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Very well. The dob works like any other good 8" dob. Optics quality is good and when I'm feeling lazy I can use the PushTo system which is very simple to use and only requires a 9v standard battery.

I bought it with goto cause I was afraid finding stuff might be hard, but once you learn to read a star chart, and if you have a telrad finder and a decent atlas, it's pretty easy. Since I rarely use the system, if I was making my purchase now, I would probably get the classic 10" version for the same cash or even the 12" for a bit more to help me see more of those elusive galaxies/nebula. But at the time I had zero experience so the PushTo was a good safety net and it does come in handy every now and then.

Edited by pvaz

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Very well. The dob works like any other good 8" dob. Optics quality is good and when I'm feeling lazy I can use the PushTo system which is very simple to use and only requires a 9v standard battery.

I bought it with goto cause I was afraid finding stuff might be hard, but once you learn to read a star chart, and if you have a telrad finder and a decent atlas, it's pretty easy. Since I rarely use the system, if I was making my purchase now, I would probably get the classic 10" version for the same cash or even the 12" for a bit more to help me see more of those elusive galaxies/nebula. But at the time I had zero experience so the PushTo was a good safety net and it does come in handy every now and then.

Thanks for that, iv only had two months with my first scope and aperture fever has me already lol really like the look of these. no noisy motors and a good sized aperture with goto.

cheers and sorry again to hijack

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Thanks again for your feedback. I have another question:

I was speaking to a friend who used to have a telescope, and he said he had trouble looking at the moon, especially a full one, as it was too bright and hurt his eyes after a while. Is this a common problem looking at the moon through a telescope? If so, is there a remedy, like dark-filters or something?

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Yes you can buy Moon filters which will tone down the glare. It's also best to look at the Moon whilst it's in a partial phase as the detail will be better along the line of the lit and unlit portion called the terminator.

Regards

Kevin

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Thanks. Could anyone paste a link to astronomer's news and events please for UK. e.g. Mars appeared in the sky last night, but I only heard about this morning from a friend.

If I wanted to see Saturn in the sky, how would I know where to look and when it appears? Is Saturn only observable at particular times in the year?

Thanks,

Andy

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I found this online:

Astronomy Calendar of Celestial Events 2010 - Sea and Sky

No worries about Mars you still have some time. Events rareally last 1 single day, they span out across a period of time.

On the 29th Mars was the closest to Earth it will be for the next 3 years, but I been seeing it well since November and it will be good for a few more weeks.

Edited by pvaz

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I would suggest that you go for an 8" dobsonian. They are far less complex than equatorially mounted scopes. It just so happens I've one in the For sale section. Even if you don't fancy mine, a Dob, minimum 8" is the way to go and will last you for years. Unless you plan to specialise in planets with a small and very expensive refractor, I think you will soon tire of a small aperture scope. My Celestron 114mm Firstscope lasted but a few months before replacement. The Skywatcher 8" 5 years and the next, a 12" should be for life!

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I would also suggest downloading Stellarium AndyBaker - it's a fantastic free program and once you have input your location, it will show you a continuously updating view of your own night sky.

:)

Edited by Saturnalia

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They are far less complex than equatorially mounted scopes.

I still haven't grasped exactly what an equatorial mount is all about. Martin_h said it's a mount that is "aligned to the north celistial pole which will allow accurate tracking of an object"

Does it track an object in the sense of slowly moving, compensating for the rotation of the earth? I assume it doesn't track an object in the same way a 'goto' unit works?

Are equatorial mounts just difficult to setup, and once they're setup the viewing experience is enhanced?

I ordered a Skywatcher EXPLORER-200P (EQ5) from the internet at the weekend, which should arrive in the post either tomorrow or Wednesday.

Hopefully I'm not jumping in at the deep end with that telescope, I'm sure I'll be okay once I've learned how to use it.

cheers,

Andy

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I still haven't grasped exactly what an equatorial mount is all about. . . . Does it track an object in the sense of slowly moving, compensating for the rotation of the earth? I assume it doesn't track an object in the same way a 'goto' unit works? Are equatorial mounts just difficult to setup, and once they're setup the viewing experience is enhanced?

That's exactly right - an equatorial mount is slightly more difficult to set up (and I mean slightly - if you can read instructions you will master it in an hour), and slightly less portable; in return, you get a mount that tracks objects in the sky in a way that counters the rotation of the earth. If you are tracking "by hand" this means you can keep an object in the field of view by rotating a single control; and if you install a motor on the rotation axis, it will track automatically.

You are also correct that this "tracking" is entirely different from the "finding" function of a go-to scope. Both equatorial and alt-az (fork) mounts can do go-to.

Should you later become interested in astrophotography, the EQ mount is better suited since it tracks objects in curved arcs, the same way the sky moves. Tracked in an alt-az mount, objects will seem to slowly rotate, which is why fork mount users usually install an "equatorial wedge" for photography, converting the fork mount to an equatorial.

Your 200/EQ5 is a great scope that will last you a lifetime. You're not jumping in too deep - just give yourself some time.

- Richard

Edited by ottUp

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Its also worth buying a magazine like SKy at Night which will list all the coming astro events and give you a star map each month. You can also read all the articles and gen up a bit.

The 200 is a great bit of kit. Its quite a steep learning curve at the start - telescopes/astronomy is a hobby much like any other in that you need to invest some time and patience but its well rewarded. Your firts sight of Saturn or Jupiter will blow you away - stuff like M13 is pretty spectacular as well.

JUst dont get frustrated and remember there are tone of people on here who will help you so just ask.

Mel

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