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Advice needed for 1st scope


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Hi all, first post here....

Been reading a few forum posts and magazine articles for a week or so and I can't decide what kind of scope will suit my needs.

Basically, here's what I would like to do with it in order or precedence...

1) Look at Jupiter, would like to observe the equatorial belt(s) and red spot.

2) Look at Saturn, would like to see the rings !

3) Look at the Craters on the moon.

4) Look at Galaxies and Nebulae, something like Andromeda / Orion.

5) General random browsing across the night sky. (Eg, following the Highlights section or deep sky tour in the sky at night magazine.)

Not sure if one scope can cover the lot but I'm certainly more interested in the solar system stuff than deep sky to start with. Do I go reflector or refractor ?

I'd also like to have a computerised system for easy positioning and it must be really simple to setup. (Preferably, just take it out of the box!) It must also be portable so I can take it with me to remote locations. Budget between £300 - £400.

Been looking at the Startravel 102 SynScan AZ GOTO 102mm Refractor seems alright for about £270 but I'm not sure if this is powerful enough to see the rings on Saturn or the detail of Jupiter.

However, I read somewhere that the eyepieces that come with this scope are not very good. What kind of detail of Andromeda / Orion could be discerned by this scope ?

I'd be grateful if anyone can help me out. Thank you.

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Hi, welcome!

For solar system viewing you should consider the cheap maks like the NexStar 4SE (which I have) or even better, one of the larger five-inch ones, like the Skywatcher skymax 127. These have goto, long focal length for good magnification of planets, no chromatic aberation (which the startravel would have), and are very compact and portable. They are also low on maintenance like a refractor.

Under dark skies you would see the Andromeda galaxy as a bright blob surrounded by a fainter mist. But it would be too large to fit into the telescope's field of view - it is perhaps more pleasing to view it with binoculars.

The orion nebula looks like some blobs of light in my telescope.

That doesn't sound encouraging, but these objects have looked good in my small scope, to my eyes: M57 and M27 (bright planetary nebulae), M13 and M3 (bright globular clusters), open clusters like the Double Cluster, and double stars like Mizar, Almach and Albireo.

I have no experience of this scope at all, but I've thought of getting a Skywatcher 150PL as a cheap way of getting more aperture. The 150PL is supposed to be good for planets because of its higher focal ratio. As a so-called 'slower' scope, it is supposed to be more forgiving on eyepieces and collimation:

http://firstlightoptics.com/proddetail.php?prod=SW150PL

If you are really mostly interested in solar system objects, my advice would be to forget GOTO - you don't need help to find the brightest objects in the sky. Jupiter for example is unmistakeable now. Saturn at the beginning of the year was more subtle and could be mistaken for a star - but a free program called Stellarium would show you exactly what's what.

Edited by Ags
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Any starter scope will show most of the above, but for more detail and magnification you need a bit of aperture.

As you want a GOTO system you'll need to sacrifice aperture a bit so you'll be limited to lower magnification on planets and less light gathering ability. Andromeda is just a cloud of light, to the human eye, unless you have a really big scope (300mm and above) that will allow you to see a dust lane or two. Orion and other DSOs show more detail as you increase aperture

I would recommend a bit more aperture, maybe this scope:

AZ GOTO - Skywatcher Skymax 127 SynScan AZ GOTO

With another inch it will almost double the light gathering ability.

An 8" reflector scope would be a best all rounder allowing you to get decent views of pretty much everything. You really do need aperture for DSOs. I gave my sister a 90mm reflector but it comes nowhere near my 8" dob in any target I point it at, even the moon, as it's limited to 180x. These have 4x the light gathering ability of the 102. But an 8" with GOTO would bust your budget...

8" dob: Dobsonians - Skywatcher Skyliner 200P Dobsonian

8" dob GOTO: Dobsonians - Skywatcher Skyliner 200P FlexTube GOTO

Edited by pvaz
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I own a Dobsonian Skywatcher Skyliner 250P 10", it costs around £400.

I would honestly say I love my scope and it is incredible what I can see with it and the detail I get. I would recommend a Dob to anyone, but I haven't tried all scopes and can't give an honest review of which is best.

I would say that it is best to have great views (which you will get from a bigger scope) rather than have a motorized scope (which make life easy). My next scope in a few years will be a 12" Dob GOTO, but for now I am having great fun with mine.

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The Startravel fast refractors are not at their best on the planets and the red spot is asking quite a lot. It is not dead easy at the best of times if you are new to observing. Saturn's rings show in a birder scope though.

Goto eats into you budget, that is the problem.

For the planets a Mak seems a good bet, the bigger the better.

Olly

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Thanks for the quick response folks, really helps the noobs like me.

I've had a good look at the...

AZ GOTO - Skywatcher Skymax 127 SynScan AZ GOTO

...and for £350, it's just what I'm after price-wise and capability-wise. This will be my first scope and this thing looks just right for a beginner. It doesn't look to bulky and so I can take it with me on field trips.

I don't want to go mad on buying something really expensive for now. If I'm still really into this after a year, I'll splash out on something really decent.

I like the GOTO system because I can just pick out the stuff from the sky at night mag and go straight to it. I know the purists will cough and splutter at this but for me its about getting the maximum observing time watching stars and planets.

So, thanks again to all. I'll post my "first light" as soon as I'm all setup.

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I can confirm it is sold without a mains adaptor or even a cigarette cable.

Incidentally, I'm selling a nearly new one of these (mount is brand new) with extras for the same price as a new 102... but you need 50 posts or a trip to astrobuysell uk to find it :)

However if you're in a dark area and would like to explore the DSOs, I'd recommend a dobsonian. I like GOTO mounts myself as they can slew to a target in the orange haze that I couldn't find by star hopping.

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From the first post and what I don't see in any replies. A goto is not a case of put on ground, switch on and say goto Jupiter. One does this but is £1300.

You do have to perform a set up and alignment procedure. Not difficult, say 10-15 minutes, but as said the first post says:

I'd also like to have a computerised system for easy positioning and it must be really simple to setup. (Preferably, just take it out of the box!)

The "Just take out of the box" being the point.

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From the first post and what I don't see in any replies. A goto is not a case of put on ground, switch on and say goto Jupiter. One does this but is £1300.

You do have to perform a set up and alignment procedure. Not difficult, say 10-15 minutes, but as said the first post says:

The "Just take out of the box" being the point.

If that's the case, you might be better off with a Celestron SkyScout. That's a take-it-out-of-the-box and use it item.

Meade sell the "LightSwitch"-enabled ETX-LS 6" which has to be one of the most expensive 6" scopes around:

Meade Meade ETX-LS 6" ACF Telescope with LightSwitch technology

I imagine you'll probably find a lot of these second hand much cheaper having only been used a few times? (I don't know, just saying...).

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Capricorn, I'm OK with that. I appreciate that there is at least some setting up to do with a goto system. (IE alignment, picking out stars to initialise a datum point of reference.)

What I mean by "setting up" is doing things like lining up the scope's optical components (lenses, mirrors, prisms, eyepieces) in their proper positions.

Still liking the Skywatcher Skymax 127 SynScan AZ GOTO and the more I read about it, the more I think it might be just what I'm after. Is there much setting up to do optics-wise with this scope or is it ready to go "out of the box"?

Edited by zefski
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With newtonian telescopes, you have spend some time (not a lot of time, apparently) collimating the scope, that is getting all the optical elements aligned correctly. With larger high-end maks you occasionally do collimation too. But for small maks (4 and 5 inch) it is not even possible to do collimation - should this be required you have to send the scope back to the factory. So very little setup time from that point of view.

The other setup time to consider is cooling the scope down to night-time temperature. Smaller scopes cool quicker than larger ones. I think my little mak is ready to go after half an hour.

Edited by Ags
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With newtonian telescopes, you have spend some time (not a lot of time, apparently) collimating the scope, that is getting all the optical elements aligned correctly. With larger high-end maks you occasionally do collimation too. But for small maks (4 and 5 inch) it is not even possible to do collimation - should this be required you have to send the scope back to the factory. So very little setup time from that point of view.

The other setup time to consider is cooling the scope down to night-time temperature. Smaller scopes cool quicker than larger ones. I think my little mak is ready to go after half an hour.

Newt's are empty tubes so cool quicker. But the Mak's are beautifully small (I think I could fit two of them (5") inside my 6" Newt!).

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