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causerino

First Pieces of kit - Advice

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Hello All,

Newcomer here - I have read all the the guides on here - Top Marks on suppling those, it quelled my urge to go out and buy a telescope which I wouldn't know how to use properly or what I would of been looking for!

I have decided to start with going the route of learning the sky before buying my first telescope. I have an eventual goal of doing deep space imaging. (a long way off, both in terms of money and skill)

With the idea that I am a beginner, and would like in the end of doing DSO imaging, I thought that it would be a good idea to do the following, but would love to have the advice of you guys as to what to do:

1) Pair of 10x50 binos to begin and a copy of turn left at orion

or

2) A spotting scope and a copy of turn left at orion. Along with a SPC880 (with the 900 firmware) and 1.25 adapter, so that I can practice imaging on the moon and planets.

This would be before moving onto a telescope in 12-16 months.

I would appreciate your thoughts and also any equipment recommendations.

Thank you in advance, and top marks on the community here!

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Id go with 1 mate, wouldn't start even thinking about imaging until you are more educated or you will end up getting frustrated and give up. Start simple then move up, it will pay off in the end.

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Ditto, I'd go with 1 also, maybe a good camera tripod with a bins adapter to steady them as it can get exhausting holding bins up for long periods of time & a tripod also adds to steady the things...........in addition download Stellarium, its free!

Get to learn where things are & more importantly, what to expect to see.

Edited by Steve C

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I would go with the 10x50's and a good book like TLatO. You will also need a good star chart that you could get from the web. If you print and laminate a copy it will last a while (and you can write on it!).

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I will go against the grain and suggest a small refractor like a ST80, or a 90mm makstov bins are great and all but they still leave you wanting. a 90mm mak or 80mm Frac on any astronomy mount will get you imaging with a webcam cheaply and then could serve as a guide scope in later ventures.

Second hand you could get either of these scopes for the price of a set of bins and they will show you a lot more.

:)

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Welcome to SGL.

Good to see you've done some research first! but where to start.

Turn Left at Orion, yes, and if you have not yet downloaded Stellariuim then download it.

As for other kit, it really depends on how much you want to spend...

10X50 bins I would recommend Nikon Action AE, but they are not cheap, about £160. To be honest I think I would go for 15X70, you'll need a tripod though, many people go for the Celestron Skymaster which FLO do for £75, if you've got more to spend maybe the Helios Quantum 4.

As for spotting scopes, I started with a Celestron 102 Wide View, you can get them for around £100 but you will also need a tripod, and did a fair bit of afocal and web cam imaging with it. There may well be better ones out there, its just what I started with.

To be honest, I think I'd go for the bins, learn the sky and get a decent scope at later stage.

Cheers

Neil

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I'm going to go against the other's advice. To me binos are just a complementary item and not enough in anyway to get decent views of either the moon or planets. DSOs are, for the most part, tiny and pale in detail when viewed through binos. They do serve their purpose, mine are used for quick 15-30min sessions or while I'm traveling, otherwise I use the scope as the views can't be compared in anyway, specially for lunar/planetary observation.

I would recommend a dob. It will allow you to get the best views at a low cost. A 6, 8 or 10" would be my choice. I would only go for the binos if your budget is under 130£, as it's very hard to buy a decent scope with less.

Edited by pvaz

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If your long term aim is imaging ( and imaging is a complicated and expensive lark ) I would suggest a Skywatcher 130 reflector on an EQ2 mount.

The reasons being;

A) it will give you better views than bins of most of the tourist musts in the galaxy.

:) the eq mount will initially seem very complicated BUT it will teach you the basics of equatorial mounts which will be a boon later on.

C) equipped with a webcam, which is cheap enough and a tracking motor, the 130 will give you access to one of the more simple imaging skills from your starter setup.

D) You will also through this the 130/EQ2 route learn all the basics like collimation, polar alignment etc

I don't do imaging by the way but I am aware of it's issues. If imaging is where you want to go then get a copy of 'making every photon count' which will equip you with the core know how and also give you an introduction to the issues which will save you cash by avoiding the bad decsions on kit later on.

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I also don't do imaging but i do have the book "making every photon count" and would recommend it as the first bit of kit you should get for dso imaging

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And I'll go against the grain again. If your long term goal is indeed DSO photography, depending on your budget, grab an 80mm ED refractor from Synta (Skywatcher, Celestron, Orion, etc.) on a Vixen GP mount if the budget allows, or on an EQ5 otherwise.

Even if you decide later you want a lot of aperture in a biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig Dob and forget about photography, a scope like that (possibly on a lighter Alt/Az mount) is an excellent wide field observation scopes and remain complementary.

I'm always jealous when someone has one at the star parties I attend (and I bribe the owner with my eyepieces into letting me use them for large objects).

If you do't have the budget for that, I'd try to buy just a mount and do photography with just a DSLR and its normal lenses for some time. That'll give you an idea of things to see and will help you get acquainted with the black art of stacking lots of orange images with a noisy subject matter barely visible through the noise into a beaufitul noiseless image with black (but not too black!) skies.

Edited by sixela

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I think there's a lot to be said for starting out with bins if you can be patient (I jumped in with a telescope, I could not resist it!).

Even if you intend imaging, it's not a bad thing to get to know the night sky a bit first, and a nice pair of bins is already handy to have and will buy you some time to figure out what telescope gear you do want.

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I will go against the grain and suggest a small refractor like a ST80, or a 90mm makstov bins are great and all but they still leave you wanting. a 90mm mak or 80mm Frac on any astronomy mount will get you imaging with a webcam cheaply and then could serve as a guide scope in later ventures.

Second hand you could get either of these scopes for the price of a set of bins and they will show you a lot more.

:)

Thank you for this recommendation, I think I will have a look into this at the start of next year as it seems something which suits my needs nicely.

Welcome to SGL.

Turn Left at Orion, yes, and if you have not yet downloaded Stellariuim then download it.

As for spotting scopes, I started with a Celestron 102 Wide View, you can get them for around £100 but you will also need a tripod, and did a fair bit of afocal and web cam imaging with it. There may well be better ones out there, its just what I started with.

Neil

Yeah I have downloaded that and have had a little play. Its a very good tool! Have many people used google sky maps on thier phone to locate objects in the sky? Was wondering how accurate it is?

Thank you for your advice, I have decided to go for a set of 10x50 bins, and will look for a smaller scope to begin with towards the start of next year. I have ordered a copy of make every photon count as well, thank you for the recomendation.

If you do't have the budget for that, I'd try to buy just a mount and do photography with just a DSLR and its normal lenses for some time. That'll give you an idea of things to see and will help you get acquainted with the black art of stacking lots of orange images with a noisy subject matter barely visible through the noise into a beaufitul noiseless image with black (but not too black!) skies.

Do you know of any people who use any micro four thirds cameras for doing this? Or any reason why it couldn't be?

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Do you know of any people who use any micro four thirds cameras for doing this? Or any reason why it couldn't be?

As long as you can make long exposures easily, anything will work. Of course, a DSLR with a good long focus lens will give you a larger image scale.

But most people I know do tend to use a DSLR. Some don't even have a commercial mount, but something they cobbled together themselves ( a "barn door tracker").

Edited by sixela

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As long as you can make long exposures easily, anything will work. Of course, a DSLR with a good long focus lens will give you a larger image scale.

But most people I know do tend to use a DSLR. Some don't even have a commercial mount, but something they cobbled together themselves ( a "barn door tracker").

Would a suitable 18mm-200mm lens be high enough focus for beginning?

I'm guessing this is for having the camera set up on a tripod and very long exposure?

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I recommend the first option of getting some binos and learning the sky. You might find that this stage occurs very quickly and the appetite to get closer to the planets and DSOs increases. I would then recommend you have a look at a reflector on a Dob mount - like the 200p. It's easy enough to move around and is a great sized scope for giving fantastic views of planets and many many DSOs, and more importantly they're not very expensive. To do imaging you need a good mount so I would recommend that as stage three - gives you time to save up as well as a mount like an EQ6 is quite expensive. You could then mount the reflector on the new mount or additionally get another scope for imaging and use the Dob to keep observing with.

Getting into to imaging can be expensive and takes quite a while so I think it's best to take time and weigh up all of the options. There's loads of different options and loads of different opinions as to where the best place to start is.:)

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Would a suitable 18mm-200mm lens be high enough focus for beginning?

Sure.

Here's M31 with a 200mm lens:

http://www.koenvangorp.be/photos/2007_09_11-m31_1500.jpg

Browse through his site and you'll see he takes plenty of medium field photo's with a 300mm lens and a lot of good wide fields with a 50mm lens...

Mind you, I'm not saying that you should be imaging at all costs. But if that's what is interesting to you, there are routes open to you that differ quite a bit from those taken by people who start with visual observation first.

Edited by sixela

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Hi,

Messrs. CGolder and Sixela offer the wisdom you seek: A small refractor will give you instant gratification, be portable enough to travel to dark skies without a second thought, and will be useful for a whole number of tasks in future, and thus is money well-spent.

Sure you'll want to buy a bigger scope in future, but that will be in addition to - not instead of - a small refractor which you may end up keeping for life.

P.S. Don't touch spotting scopes with a barge-pole. They're unsuitable for astronomy for a whole number of reasons. If I knew last year what I know now, I'd never have bought one. Sky at Night Magazine has a lot to answer for in its review of spotting scopes.

P.P.S. Binoculars? Buy a pair later - but only if you think they'll be useful. Mine are rarely used.

P.P.P.S. Learning the night sky? I learned my way around using Stellarium - and far quicker than I ever would have done under the light-polluted skies of Britain.

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I don't think anyone has stressed how much money imaging will cost, or how much time and dedication you'll need to have to master astro gear, photography related stuff and various software which can't be seen as very user friendly.

I'll try to give you a glimpse of what imaging is. This is about what you need for basic wide field:

1) you need a DSLR camera. Preferably one moded to be more sensible to light close to infra red. This involves buying a 300£+ camera, opening it (which voids the warranty and may damage it) and replacing the internal filter with a new one, that alone goes for 100£+.

2) Put the camera on a tracking mount, learn how to align it. Then shoot away for a few hours, if the weather allows and the equipment doesn't dew too fast, or buy dew control items to solve that.

3) spend several hours using some pieces of software to stack all the images you captured and make a final image out of it.

And lots of other stuff I left out...

Assuming you really want to get into imaging, I think the only good advice here is buy a good book on astro photography, read it through, then make a conscious decision once you know what you're getting into.

BTW that's what I did and I decided it wasn't for me as I don't have the time or the patience.

EDIT: I forgot to say a modded camera will switch colors in daylight, so you'll need yet another filter if you still want to use it for anything other then astro imaging.

Edited by pvaz

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As you can see there are many options for getting started. Obviously money is a limiting factor but theres always something you can do with whatever you've got. The main thing i found is to get stuck in and start accumulating your knowledge then you can use that to be creative.

Dave...

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Cheers for all the advice, from this and reading around theres a lot of choice out there for what to begin with. I think I might try pop along to a local club as I think there is on in Wiltshire which meets just down the road from me in Melksham.

Taking on board the comments about a small refractor, I have been looking at the Neximage 127 . I see a few people on here have them, do they come recommended?

Yes I have been using Stellarium along with Google sky maps on my phone, I think they both work very well together. Google sky maps is very handy to point me in the right direction and then using stellarium to actually find what I am looking at. Are there many other programs/applications people use?

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Those are 2 of the best. "Cartes du Ciel" is also very good to generate your own charts but it's a bit less user friendly.

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Small refractor on an EQ mount. (Motorised)

The refractor is to get the hang of it all and similar for the EQ mount. You could fit a cheap webcam and have a trial with that.

For imaging you will need a heavier mount and I presume that you would go down the refractor line.

Astrophotography is an expensive line of this hobby. Suggest that you get in a lot of reading and information before you jump in.

See if there is a club in your area that has anyone doing some as see what they have/advise.

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