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Telescope choices

sheriffwoody

Distinguished Member
I know there are quite a few people on here who are "into" space and stars and the like (myself included), and my Dad wants to get a telescope to have a bit of a closer look as to what is out there.

Only problem is, they range in price from about £15 into the thousands - and unsure of which to go for.

He said he only wants it to stick in the garden and look at the moon, or to take ontop of the cliffs and peer at France, or look across the county etc.

With that in mind, he doesn't want to spend a fortune (although in his own words he said "i know to do it properly you want to spent a minimum of £500").

he emailed me this link, what do you guys think?
Celestron Astromaster 70AZ Telescope: Amazon.co.uk: Electronics
it looks quite cheap and cheerfull and only has a 2.76" aperture (a friend of mine has recommended this should be 5" minimum for good results).

however, at the bottom of that page I found this one
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Celestron-Astromaster-130EQ-MD-Motor-Drive/dp/B0013Z42AK/

now this looks like a nice bit of kit, has a motor so looking at objects in the sky is easier and wouldn't cost the earth (no pun intended).

Any other suggestions? I know you "get what you pay for" with most things, but he doesn't want to spend upwards of £500 - what else is there to consider?

Thanks in advance.
 

logiciel

Moderator
Patrick Moore and his colleagues would say get a really good pair of binoculars instead.
 

Philly112

Distinguished Member
I'd be inclined to get a decent S/H scope from ebay. £500 will get something decent S/H, say a 5in Celestron Nexstar.
You will get good views of Jupiter, Moon, Saturns rings etc. And it's fully motorised with a computer for showing galaxies etc. I have the Nexstar 6SE which is great for all of those.
Bear in mind that eyepieces are fairly expensive, so you will need to make sure you get a decent selection, or a good zoom.
You will get better advice on Stargazers Lounge than here.

Phil
 

Iccz

Distinguished Member
My #1 choice would be the Celestron's NexStar 130SLT but you're looking at ~£350 for one - which is a lot but for what you get it's one of the best <£500 scopes about in my view.

As for the aperture, 5" minimum... not too sure I agree there, 70mm should be your bare minimum - which is what the 70AZ falls in at, but yes the bigger the aperture the more sharp and brighter your image will be.

Going for a 5"+ then you could consider the Skywatcher Explorer 130P, I've recommended this before in other threads and a friend of mine has this scope, it's a lovely scope for <£200.

Over at Stargazerslounge if you ask for advice on a <£200 scope they'll point you to a Skywatcher Skyliner 150P Dobsonian, but I think most places sell it for slightly over £200.
 

bobflunkit

Well-known Member
Patrick Moore and his colleagues would say get a really good pair of binoculars instead.

+1

I've tried both and I agree.

I get more out of using a decent pair of 15x70 bino's than I do a 200mm dobsonian telescope. But you must use a good tripod a well,as large binoculars can be quite heavy. Binoculars are just more practical for a beginner, easy to transport(to get to somewhere with low light pollution) easier to learn how to use(it can be difficult to find things manoeuvring a telescope).

You can also get a damn good goto/motorised telescope for less than £500. As always in these things, you generally get what you pay for.


Stargazers lounge is a good site for lots more details. Not a bad bunch either.
 

Philly112

Distinguished Member
+1 for above binoculars and more portable as well if hes taking out and about


Bear in mind that binoculars are great for casual astronomy use. You will be able to see Jupiter and it's moons (barely), and possibly Saturns rings. But you won't see any detail at all, and above 15x magnification you will probably need a tripod. I have both telescope and binoculars. A £500 telescope will enable you to use 200x magnification. The moons craters will just leap out at you. You'll never get that with any binoculars. It all depends on what he really wants to see.
There is nothing worse than having great kit, but finding it so heavy and cumbersome that you never use it.

Phil
 

Philly112

Distinguished Member
As for the aperture, 5" minimum... not too sure I agree there, 70mm should be your bare minimum - which is what the 70AZ falls in at, but yes the bigger the aperture the more sharp and brighter your image will be.
.


Note I didn't say 5in minimum, just that £500 S/H would get a decent 5in scope.

Oh, edit - I just saw the 5in minimum was the OP, not me...

Yes, I agree, most decent 3 in scopes should show decent planetary images.

Cheers
Phil
 
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Iccz

Distinguished Member
Note I didn't say 5in minimum, just that £500 S/H would get a decent 5in scope.

Cheers
Phil

Sorry I was addressing the OP on this:

Celestron Astromaster 70AZ Telescope: Amazon.co.uk: Electronics
it looks quite cheap and cheerfull and only has a 2.76" aperture (a friend of mine has recommended this should be 5" minimum for good results).

No issues with your post(s) at all :thumbsup:

Edit: we're getting tangled up in our edits here :D
 

Philly112

Distinguished Member
To the OP.

Having looked again at what you want, maybe a few more questions for you...


Astronomy is 'mainly' a winter hobby. I mean, in the Summer it never gets completely dark. Check with your dad, and find out what he REALLY wants to do. I am completely happy sitting in a field on my own with a flask of coffee and dressed like an antarctic explorer.
It's really not a hobby for people to go out in shorts on a summer evening with a can of beer.
Is there much light pollution where you are? Not a problem for the moon and planets, but you'll never see any galaxies.
Do you have trees around your house? Saturn will be low in the sky for the next few years. Nothing worse than knowing what you want to see is visible from across the street, but obscured by the tree in the back garden...
And remember that he will need to be patient. You can see Saturn now, but only until October. Jupiter is not really good until end August, unless he wants to get up at 3am.

Anyway, just a few thoughts. There are a few decent books around that will help him.

Cheers
Phil
 
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Philly112

Distinguished Member
That's the one, I was going to link to First Light:
First Light Optics - Skywatcher Explorer 130P

Slight price difference, but I don't know anything about microglobe... I can however confirm that First Light are wonderful to deal with.

Yes, I can second that First Light Optics are a great company to deal with.
That would be a great beginners scope. It's a Newtonian, so a bit bigger that the Nexstar 4SE or 5SE scopes (they are a different design).
But I would suggest he would be very happy with this one.


Phil
 

sheriffwoody

Distinguished Member
Thanks - that isn't a goto one is it? (or is it? no idea).

Philly - well it's going to probably be a birthday present for him from my brother and i, which isn't until the end of August. I don't think he would have any issue going out on his own ontop of the cliffs or hills and having a look etc. Where they live (little village in middle of no where) there isn't that much light pollution - i am amazed how much more you can see when i go back there compared to the city i live in.
 

961

Well-known Member
One problem is the time it takes for many telescopes to adjust to temperature when setting up outside in the winter. Some can take well over an hour. I've had well reviewed go-to scopes and they do work but after many freezing nights outside came to the conclusion that binoculars with a tripod did the business unless you are a hardened enthusiast

One idea worth considering is to join a club or go on one of these week long astronomical holidays which will either cure him of the desire or point him to which scope is the one for him
 

Philly112

Distinguished Member
Thanks - that isn't a goto one is it? (or is it? no idea).

Philly - well it's going to probably be a birthday present for him from my brother and i, which isn't until the end of August. I don't think he would have any issue going out on his own ontop of the cliffs or hills and having a look etc. Where they live (little village in middle of no where) there isn't that much light pollution - i am amazed how much more you can see when i go back there compared to the city i live in.

No, it's not a GOTO scope. For planets and the moon, you really don't need GOTO. It's only really useful if you want to find stuff that you can't see with the naked eye. Of course, they will track the object, but you can do that manually. At 200x magnification, any object is going to move out of the eyepiece view in a minute or so. But once you have it in sight it's no great deal to do this manually.
From what you're telling me, I'd be inclined to go for something like the 130P. I mean, if he falls in love with the hobby, he can always sell on and upgrade.
It really is one of those hobbies where you either 'get it' or don't. A bit like playing the guitar. a £3000 guitar won't really inspire you any more than a £100 one if you you can't be bothered to learn how to play it. Same with astronomy.
Oh - and forget 'Hubble like' views. Saturn will be small pea sized or smaller. Jupiter likewise. Forget Mars - it will be a tiny red dot with maybe a small white blob at the ice caps. But for me, it's absolutely magic!

Phil
 

Iccz

Distinguished Member
Phil beat me to it again, pretty much agree with everything he has said. The only thing I would say about binoculars is that they're just not the same... For many people starting out the scope adds the excitement that binos just don't offer.

On the 130p, you will be able to see Jupiter's stripes, you will be able to make out Saturn's rings, but as Phil says you will never get the 'Hubble like' views - but that's not what it's about :)
 

Ultima

Distinguished Member
I've never got into the observing side but I love taking images of galaxies and nebula. I have a 70mm refractor and its cracking for observing the moon, planets, double stars, star clusters and the easier deep sky objects.....but it just doesn't grasp enough light to see the faint fuzzies. Saying that, once you have seen one grey fuzzy blob you've seen them all (IMO).

The 130p as recommended is a superb beginners scope but I'd go for the 150p for the extra few quid.
 

Philly112

Distinguished Member
out Saturn's rings, but as Phil says you will never get the 'Hubble like' views - but that's not what it's about :)

Quite. Before I set up my scope to show friends, I always do some background. And find out just how far some of these things are away. When people realise that Saturn is around 1.4 billion kilometres from earth...
That's quite a long way.
And then tell them how far the nearest star is. They then start to realise why stars will never be more than a dot in ANY telescope.

Anyway, to the OP. YOU MUST DOWNLOAD STELLARIUM. It's free. No if's and buts. Just download it. Even if you never get a scope, it's still amazing.

Stellarium

Phil
 

Philly112

Distinguished Member
Saying that, once you have seen one grey fuzzy blob you've seen them all (IMO).

.

That's right of course visually. But context is everything in astronomy. Just knowing that the light from the fuzzy blob has taken all of humanities lifetime to reach me makes me tingle.
For me, it's a bit like the Hubble Deep Field View. It looks rubbish. Until you realise what you're look at...!!!!

Cheers
Phil
 

davepuma

Distinguished Member
I have one of these which is a great scope. The mount can be a bit wobbly. I got it at the tail end of the star gazing season (winter) so never really got the hang of the GoTo bit but will try again in the autumn. I just used it in manual mode. I had to get a battery pack (jump starter from maplins), dew shield and a few eyepieces which probably took it over £500. The most often recommended scope is a dobsonian. If I had room, I would have probably got one of these instead. A copy of 'Turn Left At Orion' and a pair of binos would be a great way to start though. Stellarium is a great piece of software. Definitely go to stargazerslounge and also sites such as heavens-above.
 
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sheriffwoody

Distinguished Member
can any telescope had a digital SLR attached to it via attachments and add ons etc, or is it only certain telescopes that offer this option?
 

nheather

Distinguished Member
If the aim is to look at the moon and france then I would be suggesting a refractor rather than a reflector (binoculars would also be a good choice as others have mentioned).

A refractor is what most people would draw if asked to sketch a telescope. It is basically two glass lenses set in a tube. Your first link is a refractor.

A reflector uses mirrors rather than glass lenses. It also bounces the light back and forth to get a bigger effective focal length form a shorter tube. Your second link is a reflector.

Refractors give the purer image as the light doesn't get bounced around, but because big glass lenses are expensive they tend to be more narrow so don't collect as much light.

The view from a refractor is a narrow cone so they are very good for seeing bright objects like the moon, planets and some stars - also for seeing terrestial things like building, boats etc.

The view from a reflector is much wider and because they collect more light they do a better job of seeing deep space objects like nebulae.

Two things you have to be aware of

(i) With the money a mere mortal can spend, you won't see the sort of images that we see in books. These have been taken with massive telescopes (or even the Hubble) using multiple exposures with different coloured filters to get the effect. With the sort of money you have in mind, the moon will look fantasic, you will be able to find planets but they will look tiny.

(ii) Astronomical telescopes give an inverted image. This does matter much for space as there isn't really and up or down. But if you look at terrestial objects like France, buildings, boats it may be quite unexpected to see them upside down. You can get extra prisms that sort this out - binoculars and terrestial scops already have this built in.

You are at your £500+ end now. Attaching a DSLR isn't too big a deal. Basically, you get an adaptor that clips onto the camera instead of the lense. This has a tube which goes into the telescope in place of the eyepiece. There are a number of extra issues though

You need a telescope\tripod that are man enough to have a heavy camera attached to the end of it.

The autofocus won't work. You have to focus manually which can be quite difficult when you don't have a well defined image to judge focus.

You need a motorised tracking mount to follow the path of the stars as they 'move' across the sky.

Ideally you also need a mount that will handle the rotation of the earth aswell.



Cheers,

Nigel
 
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