View Full Version : getting ready to upgrade from 10x50 binoculars and looking for direction

2010-Oct-09, 08:31 PM
Hi Everyone!

I'm newish to spending my nights with eyes glued to the sky (though I have it on good authority my mind has been in space for years).

I've learned a ton from reading this subforum and over the last several months have enjoyed learning just how much can be found using the naked eye and binoculars.

I think I'm ready to take the next step in terms of viewing equipment and was hoping to get some direction. I know there are many different directions to go when it comes to buying scopes and that all have their own distinct set of advantages of disadvantages. Because of that, I'm interested in whatever opinions and experiences folks are willing to share.

I don't have much deep sky viewing experience, and ultimately, that is the direction I'm hoping to head in. I do appreciate that technique is just as important as equipment and as such am more content in making small steps up in terms of equipment and targets. I do have a lot of photography and image processing experience, but it is all of a terrestrial nature. Eventually I would like to start incorporating some astrophotography into my hobby as well - but again, I'm well aware I've got a lot of technique to learn before I start doing long exposure deep sky photography.

Luckily or not, I'm in a financial situation where I can certainly outspend my skill level (if that makes any sense). That said, I've had such a good time being continually amazed at what is visible with just a mediocre pair of binoculars that I don't feel an urgent need to bite off more than I can chew.

I'm looking forward to any advice and direction you all are willing to share with a newb.


2010-Oct-10, 04:24 AM
First a warning. Over my near 60 years in this hobby I've watched dozens outspend their knowledge level. The results were nearly always disaster. Richard Berry, then editor of Astronomy Magazine wrote a great editorial about this problem and called such folk, "Ninety Day Wonders". We've seen many in our club over the years. They do provide our experienced members with good hardly used gear as they quickly go under. Starting with binoculars and learning the sky is a great way to start.

First I'd attend a few of the local club's star parties. There are many good clubs in Kansas but without knowing your location I can't give any recommendations. There are many great scopes out there of many different types. Which is best for you may not be the one that's best for someone else. That's why you will see quite a variety at the star parties. They know your skies and what works and what doesn't. You can try various mount designs as well as optical designs. Each has advantages and disadvantages. All telescopes are a compromise. That's probably why I own 10 and use most of them, each does something better than the others. Some are easily transported some aren't, I have them for grab and go, taking on a plane, or deep sky astrophotography etc. At a star party or two you can play (yes they will let you use them not just look through them) and determine which fits your needs best.

You will want at least a year of visual astronomy before thinking about astrophotography. The needs are very different. The scope I use for that is not one I use for visual work, the needs are so different. Again this is where a club can help greatly.

Many start with an 8" tube in a Dobsonian cradle (mount). Very solid and easy to use. A solid mount is extremely important. No matter how good the optics, if the image is always shaking in a light breeze or when you try to focus you'll never get to enjoy those great optics. The Dobsonian mount solves this nicely. For planetary photography you can put it on a Poncet table (platform) which with a web cam (NOT a deep sky CCD or DSLR) can take great planetary images. Deep sky will require a very heavy duty equatorial mount costing several thousand dollars. For that the mount is far more expensive than the scope. Better to go with a 500 to 700mm focal length refractor which can work well on a cheaper mount for deep sky work. You will need a CCD camera or DSLR for deep sky work. DSLR needs the IR block filter changed as the ones that come with the camera block H alpha light as well as IR and H alpha is the strong emission line of most emission nebula. You will also need a guide system. Either a second scope of some sort or off axis guider or CCD with internal guide chip. Each has advantages and disadvantages. You'll need to learn how to polar align to at least 2 minutes of arc of the pole and do it quickly enough it isn't time to pack it in when you finally get it done, or a permanent set-up. Probably before that you'd want to just mount a DSLR on an equatorially mounted scope and take wide field shots. This can be quite spectacular and far easier to get good results quickly. Most find the Canon line preferred. A Dob as mentioned above on a Poncet table will do this nicely. Some top modified Canon cameras can do nicely by stacking short images taken on a tripod with no drive. Stacking compensates for the lack of a drive.

Yahoo, Cloudy Nights and other forums have good, planetary imaging, DSLR and CCD imaging forums. You can learn a lot lurking there for a while. Meanwhile you can be learning what the capabilities of your scope are and what targets it would be good for and what ones it wouldn't work for.

The learning curve for visual astronomy is steep, astrophotography even steeper. It is important to go slow. Adding equipment as your knowledge level allows you to make reasonable choices.


2010-Oct-15, 06:06 PM
If you have no question as to your interest, then go for what you can afford. Look through the equipment call-outs (in signatures and threads) listed in this forum, and especially the cloudynights forum. If astronomy is just a "possibility" for you, at this time, go slow(er).

I jumped into astrophotography with both feet, looking upon it as another form of my photography hobby. My only regret is that I tried (and continue to try) to cover to many fronts simultaneously.

2010-Oct-19, 03:15 AM
Even when you take the plunge and get your first scope, you'll still want to hold on to your 10X50 binocs; they're a great tool for observing, even after getting a scope. I personally am a big fan of the dobsonian scopes, and IMO an Orion XT8 is about the best beginner scope out there. Remember however that is just one man's opinion and getting out to a star party to try out all the different types of scopes before you buy something is excellent advice.