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another "what telescope" question....

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hello hello, i hope you are all well.

trying to get my passion back for the subject - i did an astrophysics degree many years ago. i have got a small celestron refractor at the mo, which i hardly ever use. i live in bracknell, berkshire, so the sky is reasonably polluted.

to be honest, its my birthday, im feeling a bit flush and i thought i might buy a bigger... better.... more... telescope that might encourage me to go and look at the heavens a bit more.

budget of about £1500.

questions are:

1) buy new or second hand

2) what can i expect to get in each case for the money

3) is it going to make much difference over my celestron?

i also wnt to go to a shop to look at scopes, but there dont seem to be many around here....anybody know of a good local one?

thanks for your help

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With that budget you can go for a brand new Skywatcher 12" Fextube Auto (dobsonian truss tube) for around a grand (£700-£800 s/h) and leave a healthy amount for power packs, e/p's, collimator, and other bits 'n' bobs.

Alternatively a slightly smaller Schmitt Cassegrain maybe 9" - 11" with gps and goto and still enough for accessories. Been some very attractive s/h bargains in the "for sale" section recently. The difference is gonna be phenomenal.

If you go for s/h - only buy from a dedicated astronomer cos they usually keep kit in tip top condition.

Which part of the country are you in? There's an astro soc in/around most towns and cities - google will help there.

Hope that helps - feel free to ask - and welcome to the group ;)

Edited by brantuk
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thanks for your response, much appreciated, and thankyou for the welcome!

glad to know that it will make a big difference.

im in bracknell. i know theres a group in maidenhead (MAS). to be honest, im not one for going to groups regularly, but have popped in a few times there - nice bunch of folks.

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Kevin, hello and welcome.

What kind of astronomy do you want to do ? - planets, deepsky, photography ?

Where will you keep your scope ? - cooldown ?

The best bang for the buck are Newtonians, SCT's take a Looooong time to cool down but are compact and good for photography, Refractors are sharp but expensive.

We need more info about what you want to do before we spend your money :-)

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That's a huge budget. Lots of options available!

If your interest is mainly visual I would recomend a dob, 8", 10" or 12" to keep some portability and a set of nice EPs. Maybe the 4 Skywatcher Nirvana's. You can get a dob with object locater from Orion USA. They now also have one with GOTO and tracking motors if you don't want to nudge manually.

If you want to experiment with photography sometime in the future, an HEQ5 or EQ6 mount (there's now a 2nd hand on the sales board for 600) from skywatcher would be the choice. Then a nice 8" reflector for visual, this would get you to around 1000£ (new). Then find a nice 2nd hand ED80 for 250-300 and use the rest for a couple of mid level EPs. This way you get 2 scopes, a mount, some nice EPs and a setup decent for visual and great for photography. With the 2 scopes you can move to guided photography later on. Photography seams to be a large black hole for money, so you'll probably add more kit in the future, as a nice CCD and a guide camera... It also requires a lot of knowledge on astronomy, image processing and other detail of astroimaging itself, so I'd say even if you get a setup capable of excellent photos, start by learning the sky and doing visual observation then move on, one solid step at a time.

BTW the SCT you posted there is a great scope for visual and planetary imaging. The Alt-AZ mount won't compensate for field rotation so DSO imaging is out of the picture. For visual, you'll need a focal reducer for the large DSOs, it will excel on planetary/lunar and small DSOs.

This options are just out of the top of my head, hear a few more advices, ask yourself what to you really want in this hobby, and then make a decision.

Edited by pvaz
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I'm very fond of SCT's and that Meade LX90 looks like a great buy and a very useful aperture. Bear in mind you do get a few other bits and bobs thrown in (which you'd otherwise pay for if buying brand new).

Alt/Az's can do photography but usually require a wedge to make them equatorial - but even then you can't beat a purpose built hefty EQ mount (e.g. HEQ5/6) for solid tracking and photography. If you just want to learn the sky and observe for a year or two you can allways upgrade the mount later as you become more proficient and decide if imaging is for you. ;)

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I have a 10 inch Meade LX200 which I recently converted to a German Equatorial mount. In its original Alt Az (like the LX90) it is a very pleasant visual scope and the original mounts do visual observing well. Some people get on with the wedge for imaging and some don't. I'm very much a don't! I hated it and so did the mod.

The optics are quite good but the down side is the long focal length which restricts your widefield views. You can use a focal reducer and widefield eyepiece but the image is not of the best when you do, at least in mine.

It is a beast if you want to travel with it. I have done so (to Spain by car) but it is not a pleasant thing to cart about or set up. Indeed it is a beast if you don't have an observatory and have to carry it. I put mine, tripod and all, on a wooden sled which I then moved with a hand truck into position. Quite bearable!

If you want to get into imaging later the long focal length and fork mount make it a very tough way to learn the ropes. I'd say don't do it.

I'd be more inclined to look at a classical Newtonian and then decide, Dobsonian (simple alt az) or German Equatorial. I'm not up on commercial Dobs but an Orion Optics 10 or 12 inch on an EQ6 might be rather fine. You'd get the widefield vews missing in the SCT but the tube would be quite a size!


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Thats a pretty decent sized budget - you could take a trip to Dorking, Surrey (not too far from you) and visit Astronomia - they are in the high street. Easy to find and decent parking around the high street area.

Thats the only shop I know of in the area.

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guys thank you for all the feedback.

im going to go visit the shop in dorking today and see whats what. the sheer size of the 12" dobs may be a no no, cos my back garden isnt too amazing for viewing. i need to go and have a look.

could i ask you to explain...TAL (google comes up closest with "a martian second"....) and EP please.

as for what i really want to do....hmmm. initially, just visuals to get my passion back. i can see me doing imaging at some point, but not straight away.

i think its going to need to be reasonably portable.

it will need to have a goto function.

id rather pay more to get high quality, upgradable kit even if im not currently at the skill level where i can get the best out of it.

any more thoughts??

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Yeah, it's pretty hard to find a setup that ticks all this boxes:

- Portability


- Good for observation

- Suitable for quality photography

You could well go for portability and visual setup with goto (maybe a 6" SCT or MAK on fork mount) at something like 800£, start with visual and planetary imaging and leave the rest set aside till you decide to start on DSO imaging.


If you prefer a dob then you got this:

Orion SkyQuest XT8 IntelliScope. - SCS Astro

Orion SkyQuest XT10 IntelliScope - SCS Astro

It tells you were to point but you nudge it manually.

Or it's full goto version with motors and all:

Orion XTg GoTo Dobsonians - SCS Astro

Edited by pvaz
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I only do visual......

My setup is a 8" F/6 newtonian on a Vixen GP mount.

It's a great all rounder - very sharp planetary performance, bright at x250 which is about the limit our UK skies will support, light - even for my bad back and relatively cheap. It also cools down VERY quickly and does not suffer from dew formation as SCT's and refractors do.

You would have to spend a lot of money to better it's performance/portability.


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Hello Kevin. Like you I (and many people) I came back into astro after a long gap. My first "grown-up" scope was an 8-inch dob and it worked for me, first from my light-polluted back garden (seeing Moon, planets, bright deep-sky objects), then from a dark site, where I went to view galaxies etc. Then after a few years I upgraded to the 12" flextube dob I now have, which is also easily transportable, though definitely a lot more effort than the 8". So I think you're right to shy away from a 12" at this stage. The advantage of the dob is its simplicity and ease of set-up, but the lack of tracking is a drawback for some people. There are "push-to" possibilities for dobs, though finding objects is not hard if you've got a decent map, and personally I consider it part of the fun.

So personally, my advice would be an 8" Newtonain, either on a dobsonian or EQ mount. That's enough aperture to give great views of lots of things, and not so huge as to be intimidating. The important thing is not getting the biggest scope you can afford, but the biggest that you'll still feel like setting up when you're a bit tired and tempted to watch the telly instead.

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hi again!

thanks for the abbrevaitions clarified....although i did get EP earlier on my own earlier today...eyepiece....durr!

well, had a great day today. asides from buying some lovely fish (my other passion ...marine reef keeping) went to Astronomica in dorking surrey.

that shop is fantastic. really knowledgeable staff and a great range of scopes.

after about an hour, they suggested a skywatcher explorer 200P on a HEQ5 pro mount.

i like the mount, high quality, rock steady and with a goto function and equatorial.blumming expensive tho! still, you get what you pay for i suppose.

i want to be able to navigate the skies and learn but i dont want it to be a draw back when i want to just show a mate saturn or something and i cant find it for half an hour or at all etc...

ive come to the conclusion that im probably not going to do photography, at all or at best not anytime soon.

so as usual, asking questions generates more questions.....

im torn now between a big static dobs in the garden or something like the 200p

the salesman said that a big dobsonian wont be any good for looking at planets, just deep sky objects. is this right? is it really that bad for planetary?

also....whats the deal with cool-down? scopes get hot? another thing i didnt know....what do you do to stop this from happening?

Edited by kevineaton77
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the salesman said that a big dobsonian wont be any good for looking at planets, just deep sky objects. is this right? is it really that bad for planetary?

Well, you could point out to the salesman that Herschel did all his most important observing with what were, in effect, dobsonians, and it didn't stop him discovering Uranus. People can, and do, observe planets with dobs.

On the other hand, the salesman had a point.

First you've got the tracking issue. Pushing a dob at high power is perfectly possible, especially if you use an ultra-wide eyepiece - but it isn't everybody's cup of tea, and a planet that remains stationary in the field of view is a much prettier sight.

Also I gather you're torn between an 8" on an EQ and a "big dob" (I'm guessing 12"). I have a 12" f4.9 flextube which I love, but I would certainly say it's optimised for deep-sky rather than planetary viewing. I needed to do some mods to it (i.e. baffling) to get adequate performance on planets. Since I'm a deep-sky observer I don't mind - but I wouldn't recommend it as a first scope. My 8" f6 dob was a better "all rounder" and a lot less hassle to use.

There's a long-running debate (it's been going on for decades) about whether big aperture improves planetary views, leaves things unchanged, or actually risks making it worse. The point is that aperture means light-gathering, which means brighter views of faint objects. Planets aren't faint: for these you want sharpness (resolution). The limit here (for anything larger than about 4" of aperture) is the stability of the air, and the quality of the scope. A 12" will certainly give brighter views than a 4" and will beat it easily on deep-sky; but you can have a 4" refractor that will give better planetary views than a 12" dob (and will cost more too).

You mention cool-down. Mirrors distort a little when the temperature changes (we're talking wavelengths of light, tiny amounts but noticeable through the eyepiece as a worsening of the image). So a mirror needs to reach the ambient temperature to perform at its best - this is "cool down". To be honest, it has never bothered me much. If I were an imager or dedicated planetary observer I might worry more. But I suspect that much of the discussion on cool-down comes from America where temperature extremes are greater (you set up in desert heat and you're freezing when it gets dark). I keep my scope in the garage, where it's pretty close to the outside temperature. As soon as I set up and collimate, i start observing. Only thing I worry about is dark-adaptation of the eye - that can take at least half an hour. So I always start my deep-sky sessions with bright stuff.

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