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choosing a user friendly first scope


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Hello I'm very new here and a novice so please be patient if my questions don't seem to make celestial sense to you ! I'm trying my best.

I'm looking to buy my first scope and have read a lot of advice from you lovely people in here. My requirements are pretty straight forward in that it needs to be as user friendly as possible and I'm particularly interested in viewing planets as opposed to looking into deep space. Once I'm looking at a planet I am want to see as much detail as possible, that is quite important.

So taking those two main considerations I like the look of this range of skywatcher AZ Goto scopes ... AZ GOTO

and my budget absolute limit is £270 I would prefer around £200 but if the higher figure gets a better quality image then I would consider it.

So my question is could you tell me if the goto scope would help with being as user friendly as possible .... and once I've found the planet which of this range would give me the best possible detail.

Part of the reason for opting for this set up is that I come home from work ( 10 hour shift ) at around 11pm and would like to do a couple of hours viewing before I turn in so thats where the user friendly part comes in.

Hope that all makes sense

many thanks

Tom in Dorset

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tbh, if you want to look at planets, you don't really need a goto because the planets that are good to look at are easy to see naked eye. For the money you are looking to spend, you could get a 6 or perhaps even 8" scope (on a dobsonian mount) and the views would be a great deal better than through the sort of very small scope you'll get with a goto mount for that money.

Also, a dob is easier to set up (you just carry it outside and plonk it on the ground) but, if you have to keep it inside, there is a "cooldown" time before the scope works optimally which is generally longer for a bigger scope.

hth

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Good quality eye-pieces and filters are a must if you want to bring out the best in planets.

The planets are quite easy to find in the night sky so maybe a go-to is a bit of overkill if that's all you want the scope for.

My personal opinion is to go for a decent refractor as vast apperture wont be so important for bright planets.

Plus refractors require less maintenance than a larger reflector

Edited by insomnia
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Hi

Basically it is a trade off and you will get two different groups of opinions on the forum.

GOTO = less aperture per £ = dimmer images with less detail

GOTO = finding objects as easy as pushing a button = don't need to know anything about the position of objects in the sky to find things

I use a 6" goto telescope and find it v pleasurable to use and gives good images, but the price tag was a bit over you limit

For your price range it might be worth looking at a SW dob if you know [or are willing to learn] your way around the sky at all. 6" £179 8" £265 on FLO.

Hope this hasn't confused the issue too much!

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As already said, GOTO maybe overkill if planets are the only real targets.

In terms of the type scope, it's sounds like you would be perfectly matched with a Maksutov like the Skymax 127. Almost zero maintenance (almost never need collimating), awesome on the planets, small and compact....just the job. Trouble is the price, all versions of the 127 are beyond your budget. Which would mean dropping down to the 102 version.

You could go for a refractor instead like the Evostar 102:

Evostar - Skywatcher Evostar 102 (EQ3-2)

Right on budget at £270. Won't require any maintenance, totally user friendly and nice lunar/planetary views.

Russ

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user friendly? in my list would go: alt-azimuth mount, tracking (not goto as planets are easy to find), not needing cooling, not needing collimation often, long focal length (giving high magnification for planets).

The Skywatcher Skymax 102 SynScan AZ GOTO ticks many boxes but you pay for GOTO you don't need and it needs some cooling down time.

The TAL 100 RS would be a great refractor alternative but it still needs a tracking alt-az mount added to it.

I haven't tried either scope so this is just a view on features, not quality.

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I was going to suggest the dob as i love mine. It's awesome on the planets and so easy to use. But does require collimating occasionally and you have keep nudging the scope to keep targets centered. I find the nudging second nature and would rather use it in dob form even though i have the EQ option too. And it holds collimation very well indeed.

Pretty sure it will give any 8" class scope a run its money with the planets.

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.... Once I'm looking at a planet I am want to see as much detail as possible, that is quite important...

.

The above, plus simplicity, stood out to me from your original post.

I'd propose an 8" dobsonian scope which you can (just) afford from your budget. You will need to find some more £'s for a couple of additional eyepieces in due course (the scope comes with 2 which are OK to get you started). You can find out where the planets are at any particular time using the free software Stellarium or Cartes du Ciel.

I found an 8" F/6 dobsonian produced some of the best planetary views I have seen and certainly exceeds what 4" and 5" scopes can achieve on most nights.

Also, if your viewing interests widen, an 8" will show many deep sky objects well too ;)

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It's hard to ignore the dobsonian option when funds are tight. To get so much aperture and a good deal of future proofing for so little outlay, which means the dob makes the best financial sense of any telescope type available. You do have the option to EQ mount the tube at a later date and that needn't cost a bomb. I bought an EQ5 which does the job nicely and they come up cheap (seen one with dual drives for £70).

I think the dob would get your deepsky interest started too. A look at M42, M13 or Double Cluster should convince you.

Russ

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Hi everyone

Thank you so much for all your advice and I'm at last getting a good idea of what I should be looking for to fit my needs. I'm off to have a look at what a dobsonian 8' actually looks like as from all of your posts it sounds like a good buy. I'm not to sure about nudging the scope every 10 seconds but I'm sure I can get used to it once I've started ....... once again thankyou all so much

Tom

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Oh, I'm used to it alright! What I am saying is that if you really want to OBSERVE detail so that you can remember it later, it's hard to do that with nudging. Also, with a Dob you will have to collimate every now and then, leave it outside to cool down before you observe, and so on. The best advice I can give you is find and join an astro society. They probably have a number of starter scopes you can try and see what's involved.

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After tonnes of advice I purchased my first scope last week. It still needs tweeking and setting up correctly but I am assured it is a very good starting scope.

I purchased a Skywatcher Explorer - 6" Newtonian. I travelled 50 miles to get it from a shop that only sell scopes as I wanted the opinion of a professional. I was told that to view planets I would not need GOTO (I was worried that I would be short of time as I have a 1 year old!). I was offered a GOTO scope in the same range for £300, but I spent 50 quid less and got more scope for my money.

Of course it is up to you which set up you prefer but as a rule you get a better scope for your money if you can do without GOTO. I have just downloaded Stellariu to my PC - its completely free and I now wonder what made me think I needed GOTO in the first place as Stellarium is that clear, you can even search for objects by typing them in and it shows you where nebulas and galaxies are etc. I think the fun is in finding what you are looking for.

Good luck and keep asking questions to make sure you get the most out of your scope. I am always on here, asking away!

Gem

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Hi Gemma

Hope you don't mind me asking but where did you get it from and how did you rate them for service, etc.

I am about £100 off affording a £300 scope in my budget and like the reviews of the Skywatcher Newtonians. I do like the look of the auto tracking too - is it needed?

Thanks

w

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I'd suggest two things really.

Whatever you get get tracking (GoTo mounts track but you dont need GoTo to do simple tracking) - why ? Because planets move at a fair old rate and if your constantly having to nudge the scope you dont get to see so much and it becomes a real pain. At high magnification Jupiter will seem as if its on rocket powered roller skates :)

Secondly - and this is not exactly what you probably want to hear - dont get hung up on planets. There arent many of them, they arent always in good positions to see them and you may get bored quite quickly.

Plenty of people on here were moaning about how feeble Mars looked as 'just a pink blob' etc etc so dont expect to see stuff like NASA produce.

A small scope will be ace on the moon, will show the main moons of Jupiter and some cloud belts, rings of Saturn, Venus as a brilliant crescent.

Mercusry is just a dot of light that moves quick, Neptune and Uranus look like small green/blue dots and Pluto just looks like a star.

Dont see that as pouring cold water on planets - lots of people are very happy to specialise in them but just be aware it might be boring in the long run.

Bear in mind also - tracking in your budget range means an EQ style mount. EQ mounts aren't that hard to get to grips with but they do seem tough for beginners to get to grips with at the start.

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Thanks for all your wise words everyone I'm taking note of everything.

Very interesting advice on tracking to Mel ... what is an EQ mount ?

Because of my inexperience I will be looking to buy a scope and a mount together ( hope that dosen't sound silly) but what I mean is not to buy them separately. what is the next step up from a EQ mount ?

Many Thanks

Tom

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Hi again,

OK - mounts come in a variety of different types. The main types are these

Alt/Az - Altitude and Azimuth. The mount basically goes up and down and left and right. Think of a camera tripod and its basically the same (although usually stronger for a telescope). Simple to understand but you cant really track anything except by pushing the scope around. When you move a scope thats using high magnification the merest movement will cause the view to wobble about wildly unless you have a pretty solid mount.

EQ - Equatorial Mount - more properly a GEM (German Equatorial Mount). These move in a slightly different way. Whereas an Alt/Az goes up and down and left and right an EQ does the same but at an angle. Think of an Alt/Az as moving like this + .....an EQ moves like this X. An EQ mount is aligned (by you) to whats called the Celestial Pole - the bit of the sky that doesnt move. The upshot is once aligned by using just one motion control on the mount you can now track stars and objects as they move. This cuts down the aggro of tracking stuff like planets AND has the advantage that you can have the movement motorised so that the EQ mount moves at the same speed as the sky (in fact the sky is standing still - its the earth thats moving at 900mph under your feet - scary eh :) )

The practical benefit is you can look at stuff without constantly having to twiddle the slow motion controls of the mount. The downside is that EQ mounts often confuse beginners. Its not that hard but tyros do struggle with it.

GoTo - GoTo isn't a mount type as such its either a bolt on or a built in function to a mount that alloows the mount to automatically find objects once its been alugned to some known objects. GoTo is often fitted to Alt/Az mounts that are packaged with smaller scopes OR can be used with EQ mounts either built in or added on. Paradoxically GoTo has its own learning curve and theres no shortage of beginners who get totally lost with it.

Its simplest to understand on something like a Celestron Nexstar (where you only have to point the scope at three bright objects) and toughest on EQ based mounts like the HEQ5 - thats just based on a personal opinion really. EQ mounts are always a bit rough to get your head round and when coupled with the relatively complexity of GoTo it can seem like a bit of a hill to climb.

Finally there are the Dobsonian mounted scopes. Dobsonian is a style of Alt/Az mount thats usually used on bigger refelecting telescopes. Its basically a turntable with an up and down control.

That list isnt exhaustive just the main points of the more common types.

ALL of the mount types (and telescope comes to that) have upsides and downsides. It really comes down to your own personal choise of what you can live with and what you cant live without.

For myself I am not keen on having anything to do while observing. I dont like having to keep twiddling the scopes mount to keep an object in view - I find it distracting. Some peope dont mind it.

You said you wanted easy to use. That kind of fixes you to either a Dobsonian which is easy to use BUT relatively bulky and its down to you to find stuff with it OR a small Maksutov style Scope on a GoTo mount. If I were looking for easy to use as the priority I'd go for the Maksutov on a GoTo. Its small, compact, its easy to understand and use.

Regarding the TAL 100RS mentioned earlier - I have one and its a truly lovely telescope. I havent really given it a good bash on planets yet thanks to the weather but my gut feel is it will be superb. Problem is by the time it was coupled with a mount it would drive you past your budget. They do turn up 2nd hand but you need to be very careful about what you buy and know what to avoid.

I also have the Celestron Nexstar 4SE - the Nexstar is capable and simple enough but I suspect you would outgrow a smal Maksutov quite quickly (mines going up for sale at some point).

ANother option would be one of the Sky-Watcher reflectors like a 130 or a 150 on an EQ mount (much loved by many but some people find the whole EQ thing too much to deal with). It is a tough choice for sure. I;d suggest getting a few magazines and reading up, see if there are any star parties or astro evensts near you. If your near Guildford then there is an event at Newlands Corner on the 17th of April.

Its so tough to ever advise a beginner - I have seen people buy into large Dobs and get fed up because they cant FIND anything and I have seen people buy GoTo based small scopes who get fed up because they cant SEE anything. Similarly some people say GoTo kills the thrill of the chase and finding stuff, others would say it helps out because you can get to see what ytour looking for. Its really swings and roundabouts and down to a persona choice - in matters of taste there can be no dispute :mad:

Hope thats of some help - I know its VERY confusing for beginners (makes note to get on with writing that beginners guide I am working on :headbang: )

Mel

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Well as a dedicated planetary observer here's my two penneth :-

1. The scope - 8" F/6 Dobsonian - the views are superb. You will need to add a small computer fan (£5) to the back to cool the mirror down quickly as you are short on time.

2. A planetary eyepiece - for a dob you need a wide field of view and around x200 - a 6mm TS planetary eyepiece from here will do the job ..... Eyepieces @ Modern Astronomy

3. Eventually you may want to add tracking to the dob - I did - you just buy some tube rings and an equatorial mount and away you go with the same scope.

BTW - the 8" dob is also excellent at deep sky, it's a really good all rounder and optically excellent. You would have to spend a lot more money to improve upon the views it gives.

HTH

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Thanks for all your wise words everyone I'm taking note of everything.

Very interesting advice on tracking to Mel ... what is an EQ mount ?

Because of my inexperience I will be looking to buy a scope and a mount together ( hope that dosen't sound silly) but what I mean is not to buy them separately. what is the next step up from a EQ mount ?

Many Thanks

Tom

Hi Tom,

Eq means an equatorial mount. They come in various sizes / capacities and there is no real "step up" as such - you get the one that is capable (a bit more than capable is best in fact) of holding your scope very steadily.

Many scopes come as a complete outfit with an appropriate (generally !) eq mount included, for example this is a popular setup:

Reflectors - Skywatcher Explorer 150P EQ3-2

The great benefit of the equatorial mount is that, with the addition of a motor drive, it can track the motion of the stars, planets etc as you observe, or take images.

Edit: Doh ! - I just realised that your question was answered a while ago by Astro Baby - I must read threads more thoroughly !.

Edited by John
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