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First Telescope - help please!


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Hello everyone,

After spending weeks on the internet researching telescopes I finally admit defeat and am now begging for your help!

I want to buy a telescope for my husband, he's an absolute beginner but has always talked about getting a telescope "one day" as he's into his planets etc. It's his 40th birthday soon and I decided to grant his wish.

Up until last week, I was set on the Skywatcher Skyliner 150P dob, as everyone seemed to be raving about dob's and saying it's a good one to start with.

Today I totally confused myself and found lots of positive comments about the Explorer 150 (P or PL?). I would like to have some expert opinion on which of these telelescopes (if any) you would recommend for beginners and also for getting the kids involved as well (4 and 7), bearing in mind also that my husband's excitement might not rub off them as he would like, so it does not necessarily have to be child-friendly.

Also I was thinking that when not in use the telescope could live in the lounge as a corner feature, so it could be easily taken out in the garden when required. Is a dob on a classic mount better for that because of the flat base (i.e. is it steady and safe enough to live in the lounge)?

A few more info/questions:

- I can stretch to £300

- Portability not stricty an issue but preferably not too huge or heavy. We are lucky to live in the countryside and our garden is very dark at night so shouldn't need to take it anywhere for now.

- not fussed about taking pictures unless he wants to take it to a different level in (not too close) future.

equatorial/dobsonian/newtonian/motor drive/manual ... aaaarrgh!

Many thanks in advance for your help :-)

(ps: in plain English please ;-)

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Hi, welcome to SGL.

Of the scopes you picked the dob will probably be easier to setup and use by the kids but Explorer telescopes will track the stars as they move wheres the Dob has to be moved manually.

If you don't want to take pictures then I'd go with the Dob. For £300 youcould get an 200mm Dob or stick with the 150mm and buy some extra eyepieces, a red torch, a star atlas etc...

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They are the same scope. Only the mount is different. Personally I prefer the dob mount, it's manual so it takes no time to setup and I like to keep things simple on my hobbies unless I have no choice.

A motorised equatorial mount makes planetary observation more comfortable and may be better, but a good stable one does cost a bit. It also takes a bit of getting used to and requires setup. If he sees setup as a chore he may not use the scope as often. It depends on his personality, I guess.

The dob can be put on an equatorial mount at a latter time. All you need is the mount and a couple of tube rings.

Unless you desperately want to keep it a surprise, it would be a wise idea to get him to make his pick. I try to surprise my wife whenever possible but on more technical stuff I let her decide what will be better for her.

Edited by pvaz
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You say that he's into his planets...

Personally I think this little scope Maksutov - Skywatcher Skymax 127 SupaTrak will take some beating. It is designed for medium / high power planetary and lunar observing.

It is only a few quid (£25) above your budget. It has dual axis drives so you can pan around the moon and re-centre planets etc.

But it doesn't have goto - which for the planets isn't really necessary.

One thing that you will need with this type of telescope is a dew shield.

In my opinion it's a much better choice for the planets than a dob.

Cheers

Ant

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The dob would be good if your husband may be interested in deep sky viewing as well, like galaxies, nebulae, star clusters. If his interest is purely lunar and planetary then as Ant says the 127 mak would be a good option.

Edited by Sarah
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I don't understand why the Dob would be favoured over the long Focal length of the Mak for planets...

Maybe if an all round scope was required then maybe an F6 or F8 dob would be a good all round scope.

But if it's planets then the dob is going to be a very poor second compared to the Skymax 127. At F12 or F15 (can't remember which) it's ideal for planets.

Add in a barlow and you've got a wicked imaging scope for planets as well...

Ant

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Dear Confused,

Bless you for taking your Husband and kids in this direction - it is a wonderful gift that will enrich everyone for many years.

I teach astronomy to high school and college kids (lots of adults as well!) - and the 150mm Dobsonian is the workhorse scope of our observer's program - every beginner I teach learns astronomy on this instrument.

I have 12 of these sturdy scopes in service on three campuses, some of them have been in use for more than a decade (that's with teens using them!) and you couldn't tell the view in the newest from the oldest. Need I say any more about rugged?

These take up only about 18-inches square floor space to store, and they set up in minutes, and yes, your 7-year old can easily operate it by themselves, and by age 9, virtually any child could take it out and set it up without help (with a bit of training up from Mom and Dad, first, of course! :D ) The views are fabulous, everything from the Moon and planets, to literally thousands of clusters, nebulae, double stars, and yes - even a few dozen galaxies, although these are mostly game for larger scopes. They are also easy to take along, and fit in the boot of almost any car. Certainly if you have kids, your family wagon will hold this stuff with ease.

These machines also hold their value well, even if you all get the fever and upgrade - you will be happy to keep this one for the kids to use. You can mount a small digital camera or a small web cam and take photos of the moon, perhaps a few of the really bright and spectacular sights - but photography shouldn't be a concern for you now. This adds quite a bit of expense - and requires a whole suite of skills above and beyond basic astronomy and telescope operating skills - leave it alone for now. My basic rule is: "Add complexity only when you have achieved mastery." It saves no end of frustration and cussing, not to mention kicking the dog. :p

You will probably wish to add a few accessories, and you should budget for them. This isn't to say that you need to rush out and get all this stuff, there's still Christmas, Birthdays and Father's Day, Anniversaries.... ;) - I'll try to list in the order you should consider them!

1. Download Stellarium planitarium software on your PC - it's free from this website. Excellent - and FREE! - all my students use it to plan observing.

2. Join my astronomy class and download this set of astronomy activities from SGL. They are also free, and they will guide you and give you things to do with your new scope and help you learn about it and the sky as you perfect your observing skills.

3. A lunar filter. This is a dark glass filter that threads into the eyepiece - you will be amazed at how bright the moon is!!! This make viewing more comfortable for everyone, especially kids. About $25.

4. A low-power, wide angle eyepiece. A 32 mm plossl will be fine - in the US, these can be had for $50 and up - your local club or dealer can advise you.

5. A 2x Barlow lens. This doubles the power of each eyepiece. It also turns two eyepieces into four - as long as the focal lengths don't over lap. For instance: a 20mm becomes a 10mm with a barlow - so adding 10mm eyepiece to the collection after that wouldn't make sense! :( New scopes often come with a 25mm and a 10mm... so a barlow lens turns those into: 25mm, 12.5mm, 10mm, and 5mm. Add your 32mm mentioned above and you also have a 16mm - a very nice spread of magnifictions for almost any observing task!

Lastly, a membership for the family to the local astro club is a must. There are loads of friendly and helpful people there who would love to meet you and help you learn more about your new scope and the sky. Virtually all clubs are very kid-friendly, and many do special outreach programs for kids as well.

Good luck to you! I hope that helps.

Dan

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I cant comment on the types of scopes that you've said. All I will say is if you go for something with a 'goto' on it dont forget to budget in for a power pack. Its like kids toys at christmas, somebody always forgets to get batteries to make them work.

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Both actual scopes will be the same.

The Dobsonian is just the mount, the scope is a Newtonian and that is the same in both cases.

What you have is a 150mm Newtonian scope on either an equitorial mount or on a Dobsonian mount. Still the same newtonian scope however.

If the idea is that the husband looks through the scope lines it up and then lets children have a look I would suggest the equitorial mount, with a set of motors to track whatever he locates. Sorry that adds to the cost.

Of the 2 scope options 150p or 150pl the "pl" version is less work then the "p" version. Short focal length scopes need more care spent on them.

Terriable question but relevant: Ever ask husband what he wants?

Edited by ronin
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Hi Confused

I sympathise. I'm a beginner myself and am still planning my first scope purchase. My current thoughts are that I will go for one of the Skywatcher Skyliner FlexTube range with either Auto or GoTo.

These seem to offer good apeture to price ratio,

do not take up a lot of storage space,

are transportable,

are quick and easy to setup

and will track objects (although not well enough to image with)

They will also operate without batteries.

Also it's well worth investing in some Binoculars - 10x50 Handheld or 15x70 with a tripod as well as there are some fantastic views to be had through these and they require no setting up time and are great for off the cuff viewing as well as being perfect to take on Holiday.

Rgds

Rob

Edited by Hobbes
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I would also say the Skywatcher Mak 127, as it's my first scope and what a doddle to use with great planetary views, and as for power packs it comes with a 8xAA battery holder, so all you need is the 8xAA's,

Also it's OK for imaging as the Supatrack will track objects for a good 10mins.

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With dark skies you'll get a load more objects to look at with the larger aperture. However with the standard dob mount you will need to manually find them (with the small finderscope) so having stellarium to show him where the locations would be good.

The problem is this - Earth rotates and so the stars move over the course of evening. With a dob mount, you would have to manually move the scope to follow those stars. This is where a motorised mount that can track helps do this although it needs alignment to track correctly.

long focal length + small aperture = magnified but needs bright objects such as the moon or planets but the space between will be black nothingness.

long focal length + larger aperture = magnified but will show dimmer objects such as galaxies etc.

The mak would limit you to moon and planets in reality.

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Thank you all so much for all your advice, I wasn't expecting so many replies and I am VERY thankful you all took the time to reply.

I will take my time to read all of them properly as I have to do it in secret and hubby is in the next room!

Ronin, good question! But I haven't asked him what he wants because, being a special Birthday, it would totally spoil the surprise! I do know that he does want one. Just the other day, when we had the supermoon here , he said to the kids that "one day soon Daddy will buy a telescope" (nearly blurted it all out but managed not to!). He has been saying that for a few years now - although not done anything about it! - so I am sure he will appreciate it. I am actually looking forward to getting it myself!

I have been also thinking about getting one with motor drive to involve the kids as Ronin suggests. I don't mind spending a bit more if it is something that will make it easier for all of us to use over and over again.

Ad Astra, your post was very useful and informative, thank you! Some of the extras you mentioned I already picked up along the way so they are on my list :-) Astro club already lined up as well, but want to get my husband involved in it as well, so I will leave that after his birthday!

Sorry I can't reply to all of your posts now, I will re-read all of them when not in the panic to be found out !! I will take notes and hopefully I will come to the right decision . You have all been great, thank you again!

Val

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I don't understand why the Dob would be favoured over the long Focal length of the Mak for planets...

Maybe if an all round scope was required then maybe an F6 or F8 dob would be a good all round scope.

But if it's planets then the dob is going to be a very poor second compared to the Skymax 127. At F12 or F15 (can't remember which) it's ideal for planets.

Add in a barlow and you've got a wicked imaging scope for planets as well...

Ant

TBH Ant I took "planets etc..." to mean astronomy generally rather that literally planets only.

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long focal length + small aperture = magnified but needs bright objects such as the moon or planets but the space between will be black nothingness.

That's somewhat overstating things - as anyone here with such a scope will testify.

Edited by great_bear
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