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Beginner looking for some help


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Hi there

I have always had an interest in the sky at night ( forgive the pun)

I am happy I found this site.

My wife and I would like to take star gazing a little more serious than our current binoculars and would appreciate some help with the selection of a telescope

I guess we have a budget of up to about £500 , can we get something suitable for that kind of budget?, there seems to be a huge amount of telescopes. I imagine that the more compact compound telescopes would be good for us. We would also like to use it for photography and have Nikon D300

We would also like to join a local club or society, does anyone know of such a club in the Salisbury area or perhaps Baisngstoke. Whilst we are enthusiastic we have very little knowledge and as such would need a club who are able to cater for beginners

Sorry for all the questions and thanks in advance

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Hi Kluson and welcome to SGL.

I am fairly new to astronomy myself (August 2010) and I bided my time and looked around before choosing a telescope for Christmas.

One of the first things you will be told to ask yourself is "what do I want to use it for?" and where?

For me I needed something portable (I have no back garden to talk about and lots of light pollution) so having read lots of reviews I went for one of the compact and portable Maksutov-Cassegrain from Skywatcher, the Skymax 127.

There are people on here with much more experience than me but (and I know it sounds obvious) if I have any advice it would be bide your time and shop around. I used binoculars and a planisphere for 4 months and taught myself so much with plenty of "wow" moments along the way.

Happy 2011.

Edited by Jimmy Stix
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you should be able to get a decent scope for your budget, but it might have to be a compromise for observing and pics with the canon, im sure i have seen something about a club in your area

http://www.southwilts.com/site/SALISBURY--ASTRONOMICAL-SOCIETY/index.htm

Edited by nightfisher
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I'd suggest you find your local society but make sure you trawl through the beginners section of SGL as there are loads of new people to the hobby there looking for scope advice.

I restarted my interest in astronomy just over a year ago (in time for Christmas) and whilst my trusty Skywatcher 150PL isn't that expensive, the mount cost a lot more. Make sure you look at something which fits your lifestyle. For your budget, you could get a fairly sizeable (and heavy) Dobsonian, but these aren't great for astro photography. Having said that, getting the kind of images you see on this site takes a lot of practice and often expensive equipment, although some great shots have been done on less expensive kit.

Think about where you'd use it (is your back garden badly polluted by streetlighting?) Do you want to travel to a darker site and will a large scope fit into your car?

Most of us are back garden-ites I suppose, so portability isn't an issue but weight is! Some scopes and mounts are very heavy.

So, get local advice, think about where you'll do your observations, think about the weight and portability and perhaps most important, join a local society and ask more established astronomers how they started off.

You will get so much useful advice on this site (and others, but SGL is the best by a country mile) - use it as a great resource and sounding board and there are lots of people out there who will be only too willing to help.

Once you've acquired your new scope, be prepared to budget for more kit.....we all get that illness after a week or two and it's incurable!

Good luck!

Edited by Skybrowser
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welcome to the site. For taking pictures of the moon it really is as simple as attaching your camera to a scope and taking pics. unfortunately planets and dso's require a little more in the way of equipment. I think your idea to get to your local astro club is a good idea. They can show you the different types of scopes and their weaknesses. Unfortunately astrophotography and visual work have slightly different priorities. for visual work apparture is the most important thing followed by practicality in other words the biggest you can use comfortably is your aim. I use a 5inch because i need portability some use a 12inch because they only go to their back garden. the size of the optics limits your targets.

For photography the most important thing is the mount. It needs to hold your camera rock steady. be able to align for the earth's tilt and preferably track ACCURATELY for long exposures most imagers have a separate visual set up as well

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Hi Thanks very much for the advice. We have been using our binoculars in the Garden. We are fortunate that we don't suffer from too much light polution locally and our plan would be to use a telescope in the Garden.

I have taken some photographs from the garden using the D300 with a 300mm lens and tripod, ISO around 600 then used Photoshop to adjust. The results have been ok.

We would like now to graduate to a Telescope. We are going to visit Basingstoke Astronomical Society next week, and will also make contact with Salisbury association.

Many thanks for the advice so far , we appreciate it.

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I too suggest going to a local society and look for advice. Basingstoke astronomical society will be in your area.

For £500, you can get a good telescope and something for imaging moon and planets. Moon and planets requires a lot of short exposure, and generally small sensor cameras such as webcams tends to do better than DSLR. Tracking accuracy is not too important, so you can use computerised alt-az mount scope as well as motorised equatorial mounts.

Deep sky imaging is more difficult, as accurate tracking is a requirement. If you are willing to search the used market and if you are lucky, you may find a ED80 + GP mount on that budget.

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I too suggest going to a local society and look for advice. Basingstoke astronomical society will be in your area.

For £500, you can get a good telescope and something for imaging moon and planets. Moon and planets requires a lot of short exposure, and generally small sensor cameras such as webcams tends to do better than DSLR. Tracking accuracy is not too important, so you can use computerised alt-az mount scope as well as motorised equatorial mounts.

Deep sky imaging is more difficult, as accurate tracking is a requirement. If you are willing to search the used market and if you are lucky, you may find a ED80 + GP mount on that budget.

Hi Keith

Many thanks for the info, we are planning to visit Basingstoke Astronomical Society next week, I'm sure we will be able to pick a few brains there!

Thanks again

Edited by Kluson
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We have been recommended a Celestron127SLT MAK for £350 or the Skywatcher Synscan 127 AZ Goto, for £350. Does anyone have any views on these instruments, they appear to be quite popular with people who need a bit of portability and a big step up from our Bino's, we've had fun with the binoculars , but really need the next step now.

Looking forward to going to Basingstke next week. We just found a Newbury Society too, so we do seem to have a bit of choice, thanks for all the inputs and if anyone has any expierience with the abover telescopes please feel free to comment.

Edited by Kluson
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I would have a look through some of the scopes of the Basingstoke and Salisbury Astro Soc members to get a feel for what they do and how easy they are to use. Maybe the Soc has a scope you can borrow (or rent, as my local one does).

When you know a little more then you might be confident to look at used equipment.

Clear skies and welcome to SGL.

Bob :)

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There are two basic types of mount Alt/Az and Equatorial. If you intend ever dabbling in photography then Equatorial is the only consideration. This type of mount will track the natural movement of the stars (relative to Earth) in only one plane "Right Ascension".

Whereas Alt/Az mounts allways require movement in two planes (altitude and azimuth) making tracking accuracy extremely difficult and photography even more so for anything other than moon and some planets. There are "wedge" systems for alt/az but they are a lot of work to set up.

For solar system photography and observing you can't beat the sharpness of a Maksutov (or Schmitt) Cassegraine optical tube assembly (OTA) - due to their long focal lengths.

For DSO wide field photography (galaxies, nebulas, clusters, etc) consider short tube fast f-ratio apochromatic scopes. But this would need guiding which means an extra scope and camera and various filters - it gets expensive.

For observing DSO's you would go for a large aperture Newtonian scope of 8" plus, on a Dobsonian mount (a dob is another type of alt/az). Or on an EQ mount for astro photography. A newt will also give nice views of planets, moon etc and is probably the nearest you'd get to an "all round" scope.

Hope that helps :)

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Thanks again for all the tips, Our plan is for sure to go to the local societies and have a good look at all the variants, before making any commitment to buy.

we both enjoy photography and as such would very much like to combine the photography with the astronomy.

however this is not looking like a good ploy for a beginner considering the subjects we would like to photograph.

It would appear that the newtonian reflector 8" would be a great photography starter but as an observing telescope could be a pain when it's on a GEM, neither of us are contortionists!

At this time we are best just waiting until we can go to the Societies.In the meantime we have our binoculars, whilst they aren't the best at least we're getting to know our way around the sky

Thanks for all the advice

Edited by Kluson
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