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Purchasing First Scope


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Hi, I would like to purchase my partner his first telescope for Christmas, and I am trying to research the different types of scopes but I am getting very confused! I've previously looked into this as he very often says he would like one but have been put off by not have any knowledge about these. Any help/advice would be much appreciated.

I am looking for a scope that will enable him to see the stars and planets etc (in some detail) ....I was originally looking for an 8" reflector as to see any detail I believe this would be needed?

Scopes that have been put forward so far are:-

Skywatcher Explorer 130

Skywatcher Explorer 200P EQ5 (recommended as extras can be added once he becomes familiar with the system)

Skywater Skyline 150

6" scopes have been recommended, would these show any detail?

I am prepared to pay up to £400, although don't want to blind him with science for his first scope so "bigger and better" may not necessarily be what is required at first...?

Many thanks,

Angie

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the 200p will give the best views having said that many people get on fine using 6 inches skywatcher scopes have a good reputation. But if you dont want to blind him with science many people swear by a mount called a dobsonion (dob) there is no fancy mount for it just something very simple consequently all the money is put into the optics its the most cost effective way of getting a big scope. If he wants something more portable then about 6inches (150mm)may be the way to go. good luck with the hunt.

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Skywatcher Explorer 130

Cheap, good optics, moderate aperture but it's cheap because it's on a very light mount that I personally would find rather frustrating (the reason you get so much optics for your money on an equatorial mount is because they cut a few corners in selecting the mount; not that the quality is lacking, but the mount is really suitable mainly for smaller scopes).

Skywatcher Explorer 200P EQ5 (recommended as extras can be added once he becomes familiar with the system)

Lots of aperture, good optics but a fairly short tube, equatorial mount (not ideal for this scope but not too shabby either for visual use).

The advantages of such a mount are that after you set it up, you can track objects at high magnification with just one slow motion control, but really eventually you'll want drives so that the mount tracks automatically. It also stores in a very compact way.

The disadvantages are that, compared to Dobsonian mounts, the mount is less stable (the tube vibrates when you touch the focuser, when there's too much wind, etc.) and that the entire setup is a lot heavier (not in small part because you have counterweights as heavy as the scope, but the mount ad tripod are also quite heavy).

And tracking with a slow motion is only possible after setting up the mount ad aligning it, which is slightly time consuming (especially at first), and slewing to an object yourself is far less intuitive at first.

It's also slightly less comfortable than Dobsonian mounts because the eyepiece frequently ends up in uncomfortable positions (and sometimes you have to rotate the tube in the rings).

Skywater Skyline 150

That is a 6" Newtonian on a Dobsonian mount.

Advantages:

-You spend all your money on the optics.

-It's very intuitive; just grab the open end and push the scope to wherever you want it to point (in the eyepiece, the view is rotated, but you'll do what you wat if you just think of "pushing" the object).

-The tube is longer, which makes it friendlier to less expensive eyepieces (but less compact to store).

-Usually, a combination of a low chair (or a adjustale ironing chair), with very occasioanal kneeling and standing lets you observe comfortably everywhere.

-No setup time: just plonk the base somewhere ad drop the tube in it.

-Actually lighter and more stable.

But it doesn't track automatically, so at high magnification you need to nudge the scope from time to time to follow an object. And the base is actually to that heavy but much bulkier than an equatorial mount.

Whether you need an EQ mount is a difficult thing to say: if you observe the moon and planets at very high magnifications, yes, it's very useful, but only if the mount is good (as e.g. the EQ5 is).

By the way, in the 130mm range, you also have the Skywatcher Heritage 130p Flex-Tube (ultra-compact and a Dob mount), and in the Skyliner range you also have the Skyline 200, which still is a lot cheaper than the 200p on an EQ5 which you can spend on the inevitable accessories.

You can find 130mm, 150mm and 200mm apertures on all the different types of mounts.

If your partner's interest is in the moon and the planets then the 200p with EQ5 is mainly interesting because you can just add a drive.

You can get Dobs with an autotracking mount as well these days, but not within the budget and you can't upgrade and just add drives like you can on the Explorer 200p EQ5.

But a Skyliner 200p FlexTube auto is usually around 500GBP and actually cheaper than a Explorer 200p once you add drives, so on the long run,...

6" scopes have been recommended, would these show any detail?

Yes. An 8"/200mm scope will show you even more, though.

See, not that easy to decide, but on the other hand: any of the choices are good. You don't eve have to spend that 400 GBP if a smaller scope is enough.

One word of advice: don't buy anything that is too large to transport to a dark site, because in due course you'll regret it: you see much more from a dark site.

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I would say the Skyliner 150P or maybe 200P? Dob, as said before simple to use and better value for money and well in your budget, but a few things you should ask yourself is, can you observe from your garden? or will you have to travel to a dark site? weight and size comes into play then.

Is he into photography (steady..) if so he might want to take photos of planets etc, in which case a Dob mount is not the best for that, but i would stay clear of that for a while...minefield springs to mind....

Also does he know his way around the night sky? if not or not that well then maybe you should look at a "GOTO", this type of scope (which the ones you have in mind also come with) will find most things in the night sky, so looking for certain planets, stars etc will be done for you.

Edited by bcfcciderhead
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What about a Skymax 127 Mak or it's Celestron counterpart (Celestron Nexstar 127 SLT)

This is a very compact scope but with excellent optics and will give real crisp views of both the moon and major planets as well as see many of the brighter deep space objects (DSOs). The Skwatcher version is available on a range of mounts including an equatorial, an auto tracking or full GoTo and tracking mount.

Though this scope doesn't have the aperture of some of the other scopes that have been mentioned, many owners who have both types indicate that the 127 (5inch) Mak gives sharper views of the moon and planets than it's somewhat larger newtonian counterparts. However, it won't see as many DSOs as the larger reflectors (Newtonians)

If I were to buy mine again with a budget of £400, I would opt for the auto tracking version and grab a couple of extra eyepieces, either a 32mm or 40mm plossl EP for low power viewing and an good quality 8mm for high power viewing.

Whatever you end up choosing though, I'm sure your partner will gain much enjoyment from your gift.

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many owners who have both types indicate that the 127 (5inch) Mak gives sharper views of the moon and planets than it's [sic] somewhat larger newtonian counterparts.

But not always for the good reasons, and a Newtonian can perform even better than a Mak if it's well managed (each of these two designs has its ow temperament).

But let's not beat that dead horse again here.

Any well managed scope can be a good planetary scope, as long as it has sufficient aperture.

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Given your three choices Angie, the Explorer 200p on an EQ5 gets my vote. It has a large aperture, good optics and a sturdy equatorial mount. It is also something he can grow into rather than out of.

The Skymax 127 BazMark recommends would give more contrast, be more comfortable at higher magnifications and is more compact. It also tends to excel at the lunar and planetary targets that most beginners favour and has motorised tracking to boot. It would be a good choice.

But, I think the Explorer 200p is the better all-rounder (though strictly speaking no telescope is general-purpose).

But let's not beat that dead horse again
There was nothing 'dead horse' about that suggestion. A little off-topic perhaps but worth a mention nonetheless :)
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I knew they'd do that its the same whenever someone asks about the best new scope to get for such and such a price we all have our preferences and to make it worse they are all right. The best advice I've ever heard is the best scope is the 1 you'll use the most. so which do you think he will use the most a big scope in the back garden or a more portable 1 from a darker location.?

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if his main interest is the moon and planets then you should look at the skywatcher skymax 127.

All the scopes you mentioned are newtonian reflectors which require regular collimation (especially the big ones!) and if you dont want to blind him with science they may not be the way to go as it is a fiddly and confusing operation at first.

Saying that though, if he is really into looking at galaxies, nebulas and star clusters then bigger is better so a newtonian reflectopr is the way to go and he will just have to learn to collimate the scope.

The dobsonian mounts are cheaper, simpler and more stable but you have to nudge the scope to keep things in view and sometimes you can lose the object you were looking at and you have to find it all over again. EQ mounts have the advantage of a little control you turn to keep an object in view once you have found it.

hope this helps

warren

Edited by Wurzil
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if his main interest is the moon and planets then you should look at the skywatcher skymax 127.

I still find the aperture a tad small for looking at planets, at least if you can stomach something a bit larger (it can be perfectly sane to want something compact, and then this type of scope does make a lot of sense).

I can find no inherent reason why Maks would give "more contrast" for planetary work (which is different from "more contrast" for deep-sky extended objects), but I won't pollute the thread with a discussion about that point here, it's a much too complex tangent to discuss here (involving baffling, the central obstruction, contrast trasfer functions, exit pupils commonly used, etc.) --feel free to open another thread where I'll be happy to discuss it.

The gist is: every scope with enough aperture can be a good planetary scope, ad debating which scope has more planetaryness than another is usually rather sterile. Tracking does help a lot if you want to look at planets with high magnification without being distracted too much (so a trackig mount is a certain plus), that's for sure.

All the scopes you mentioned are newtonian reflectors which require regular collimation (especially the big ones!)
Less so than on Maks - the mechanics are usually better at holding collimation, but to think they don't need to be collimated is sometimes unwarranted (I've been asked to collimate a few, so I should know). Collimation is actually more critical on a Mak, which is why the manufacturers spend more effort to make sure they hold collimation.

Small reflectors can actually also need collimation badly (you should see what a small f/4 Starblast does when miscollimated!) It's the f/ratio that counts, and an Explorer 200p EQ5 (f/5) has tighter tolerances than a 200mm f/6 Dob.

But we digress. I do't think that fear of collimation is any good criterion for selecting a scope, unless you are going to observe in very short sessions (collimation, at least the kind you do before a session, does take about 2 minutes). It;s confusing the first time you do it, but never after someone who knows it well has shown it to you.

It does mean that one mandatory accessory to get with a Newtonian is a collimation combination tool, but they don't cost that much.

Edited by sixela
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I really don't want to add to the confusion I'm sure you're going through but I would just like to point this out Dobsonians - Skywatcher Skyliner 250PX Dobsonian . £5 under budget and the very scope I'm saving for to purchase next year after spending 3 - 4 months crawling these great forums for knowledge on this very subject. I'd also say bear in mind at the very minimum as extras go you'd want to get (or tell your partner they'll need) a collimation device (not hard to use how to guides on youtube etc.) I know I'd be over the moon (pun intended) if I got that for Chrimbo :)

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I'm a real newbie to this stuff but I recently bought a skywatcher explorer 200p on a dobsonian mount and it's brilliant. Not hugely transportable (though It might fit in a large car..) but it's given me great views and was very easy to collimate. Also, for me at least, learning the sky and finding things for the first time has been great fun, so in my opinion I'd recommend against a GoTo scope for the time being!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi all, many thanks for all your responses! To be certain I purchased the right scope, I had to tell him what I was planning and we visited Stockport telescopes on Saturday......and came away with the Explorer 200P EQ5! Of course, he couldn't wait until Christmas day (and that would have been rather mean of me!) so it was unpacked on Saturday night for its first outing, and he's really pleased (and so am I!). So many thanks once again! Angie

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