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View Full Version : Anyone recommend a decent telescope???



Jerod S.
2003-May-26, 02:19 PM
Greetings, one and all...and all for one...and...yeah...

I don't ordinarily make my way over to this particular part of the BABB forum. Usually I rant against PX in its collection of threads. However, prompted by much of what I've heard and learned from many of you in that neighborhood of this BB, I have come to the inescapable conclusion that I really want to get involved in actively viewing the night time sky.

Come this time next year, my wife and will be celebrating four years together. We've discussed going Dutch on a gift that we would both enjoy and we concluded that gift should be a telescope. We're looking to probably spend in the neighborhood of $500 or so. Possibly a little more, possibly a little bit less. However, as neither of us know squat about the specs of anything resembling a pair of binoculars, much less a telescope... Can anyone make a recommendation for a commercially available 'scope that would be extremely decent without bankrupting us? I know it's possible to get into amateur astronomy for a small fortune (several thousand dollars plus), but I'm hardly ready to take that kind of a plunge. To say nothing of not having anywhere to set that kind of a rig up! Anyway, any suggestions are welcome and would be greatly appreciated! Thank you all! :D

ToSeek
2003-May-26, 02:25 PM
The BA has a page about this (http://www.badastronomy.com/bitesize/scopefaq.html), with some good links.

Jerod S.
2003-May-26, 02:33 PM
ToSeek:

Thank you for the link! Thank you to the BA for posting the page to begin with. I will be off now to explore the other links present. Again, thank you for that. :D

Russ
2003-May-26, 04:00 PM
There is a mail/internet order house called "Orion telescopes & Binoculars" who have all manner of astronomical junque. Try their web site here www.telescope.com

Their Dobsonians got very good reviews on both Astronomy and Sky & Telescope. According to the add in S&T I'm looking at you can get an 8" for about $470 + SH.

Good luck. :D

Hale_Bopp
2003-May-26, 04:22 PM
I will second the Orion Dobsonians. They take some patience for you to learn the night sky and they don't track so you can't use them for photography. However, if you want a reasonably priced telescope that will provide very good optical views, is easy to set up and transport, Orion Dobsonians are a good value. I have used the 4.5", 6", 8" and 10" model at various star parties and found them all to perform as advertised.

Rob

ljbrs
2003-May-26, 05:50 PM
I third, fourth, fifth the idea of buying an Orion Dobsonian telescope. Last year I bought an 8-inch Dob from Orion for my stepson's daughter, along with a Telrad and four Telrad books and many other books on astronomy (mostly observational). They have had so much fun with them. All of the neighborhood kids (and adults) have come down to view with them. Evidently, it is a great way in which to meet one's neighbors. Both my stepson and his family were delighted. A few years ago, the 8-inch Orion Dobsonians received a prize from Sky & Telescope for being the best of the inexpensive Dobsonians at that time.

If you do not know much about astronomy, a Dobsonian will let you learn easily and fast. You can get perfectly HUGE Dobsonians. However, one drawback is that you cannot take photographs with them. However, you can make drawings of the objects you view, so not all is lost.

ljbrs :D

David Hall
2003-May-26, 06:09 PM
Please consider getting a good pair of binoculars as well. They're almost more useful than a telescope for casual astronomers. That, and a good stargazing manual.

You might also get some decent astronomy software, good for seeing what's visible and printing out starmaps. There are many good free ones, so you don't have to shell out a lot of dough. A pretty comprehensive list can be found here (http://www.seds.org/billa/astrosoftware.html).

Also check out Heaven's Above (http://www.heavens-above.com/) to find out what satellites are visible from your location.

My number one advice for a beginner is simply to familiarize yourself with the sky. Learn the constellations and the movements of the Moon and Planets. It will really help later as you get more into it, and the stars are just so beautiful to look at while you're at it! :-)

RichField
2003-May-26, 09:48 PM
First I wanted to second David's recommendation of binoculars. I have found them invaluable in assisting with finding objects using star charts since they give a wid field of view and the image is not reversed as it is in my finder scope. Also, I'd suggest finding a local club or star party where you can see a bunch of different scopes and actually get a feel for the differences and what features are important to you. I did all the reading and what I thought would be best for me and what I am very happy with now are two different things. Without being able to try several out before I purchaced I would probably not be as content.

I purchaced my scope from a company called Hardin Optical (website of same name, no space between words). At the end of March they were having a clearance sale on dobsonians (The sale is still in effect). Their style is very similar to those sold by Orion and their quality is supposed to be on the same level. With the sale, their prices were about 35% lower than Orion's. At this time, size and cost were bigger factors for me than potential incremental gains in quality. I decided to go with them after reading a thread in sci.astro.amateur (http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&threadm=b5spa6%2464p%241%40transfer.stratus.com&rnum=6&prev=/groups%3Fhl%3Den%26lr%3D%26ie%3DISO-8859-1%26q%3Dhardin%26meta%3Dgroup%253Dsci.astro.amateu r). I've been very satisfied with the views through this scope. I know this will not be my last scope but it fills the current niche based on size, cost and age.

Obviously, the decision is a personal one but I hope you find this information helpful.

Rich

Styro
2003-May-27, 05:48 PM
This will be a bit long, so please bear with me. :)
First, I agree with the previous recommendations. Read the FAQs on the web, binoculars are handy, and also go to some star parties (SLC has a fairly active group) so you can look through some scopes and get a feel for what you like and don't like.
I am a newbie to Astronomy and recently went through this very decision making process, so perhaps my insights will be of use to you. After doing lots of research (reading all the FAQs I could find on the web, looking through catalogs, and reading scope reviews) I came away with the understanding that Aperture (the size of the scope) was the number 1 thing to consider when buying a scope (commonly called aperture fever). I decided upon an 8" Orion dob (because Orion seems to have great reviews for their dobs and dobs are relatively inexpensive for their aperture size). After discussing it with my wife she brought me back to reality by reminding me how big and heavy an 8" dob was and asking me where I would keep it so the kids wouldn't destroy it. I realized it would be stored in the basement and I would have to lug it up the stairs. I ended up purchasing an Orion XT4 (4.5" dobsonian scope) because of portability (< 20 lbs) and have been very pleased with it. I cannot make out a lot of detail on most of the deep-sky objects, but I can carry it in one hand so it gets used frequently. I consider it a great starter scope until I can afford a 12" SCT with a motorized mount. :)
Considering those experiences, here is what I suggest: the best scope for you is the one you will use the most. Aperture is still very important because bigger aperture means more light, which means you can see fainter detail. You must also consider portability if you are going to have to store it somewhere. SCT scopes are generally more portable but are also much more expensive. If you do not have younger kids to worry about I would consider a reflector on a motorized mount that will track objects for you (I think the Orion SkyView Pro series has tracking). I mention the kids because I have read that some people find that the counter-weights that stick out on tracking mounts are hazardous to kids. I have kids so I opted for the dob. I really enjoy finding the objects myself (I would not get a "goto" scope), but keeping Jupiter in the field of view at high magnification in a dob can become a pain if several people want to look through it since it will drift rather quickly and you will have to check and adjust it between viewers.
I also noticed that you live in SLC. I would suggest going to the Clark Planetarium at the Gateway. They are an Orion dealer (that's where I bought my scope). You can look at all their scopes, see just how big and heavy they are, etc. The normal employees don't know much about them, but you can ask for Mike Sheehan (a manager) and he knows a little more. Or drop me an email for further info. I would be happy to answer your questions. Or if you want to drop by my place and take a look through my scope (I live in Lehi) to see what is visible in it, how it works, etc.

HTH,
Styro

infocusinc
2003-May-27, 10:09 PM
Heres my quick take on telescopes from my experience. My wife and I have four scopes. 120 orion refractor, 3" orion starblaster reflector, 125 etx Meade and an 8" LX200gps meade.

All of these scopes have pluses and minuses. THe 120 Orion refractor is a great scope for very little money, less that 600 bucks. With a few good eyepieces its a lot of fun for casual starhopping. The mount with motor drive tracks very well and the optics are quite good for the money. If you are interested in a refractor this is a very cost effective solution.

The StarBlast is a toy, but its one with pretty good views and we use it all the time for a quick look in the front yard and we always carry it when we go camping. Its great for planets and things like star clusters. There is not tracking or even a tripod for this scope, its just sets on the ground or a table. At 150 bucks its a great starter and it includes two eyepieces. A few weeks ago we were at a large star party with every kind of scope you can think of and my wife had a steady stream of people who wanted to look through her "cute little scope"

The ETX 125 is a 5" Mak with computer control. It has a pretty good view and when properly aligned it goto's very well and tracks well. Its plenty portable and easy to take on the road. The optics are superb but the mount, which is almsot all plastic leaves something to be desired. Still its a very good scope and well worth the money.

The LX 200gps 8" is simply a GREAT scope. With the UHTC coating it performs like almost as well as a 10" non UHTC scope. The mount is well made and it goto's and tracks wonderfully. I opted for the 8" for portability, and even that is a streach. This this is heavy! Its expensive at around 2400 bucks but worth it if you have the cash.

Please be advised that the scope you buy is just the start of the money pit astromony can be. You will find that next to the scope, eyepieces can consume some serious green. You generally get what you pay for when it comes to eyepieces. I prefer the Televues...Panoptics, Naglers and Radians. Expensive but they are lifetime eyepieces. Orion makes some nice and less expensive eyepieces and the Meade and Celestron standards are ok as well. But if you wear glasses try and find eyepieces with long eye relief. 15 to 20mm works great.

And dont discount a goto scope. Starhopping is great fun but it can get a bit trying. If you cant find what you are looking for it can dampen an evening of viewing. When you hear people talking about "faint fuzzies" they mean it!

By all means try and get to a starparty somewhere in your area. The people there will love to show you their scopes and nothing beats a first hand viewing BEFORE you plunk down your money.

Best of luck....and have fun.

Dickenmeyer
2003-May-28, 04:27 AM
I'll translate UHTC. That's "Ultra High Transmission Coatings", a package of improved coatings Meade offers on its Maks, SCTs and Schmidt-Newts. They are supposed to improve brightness (and contrast yes?) and most reports I've read indicate that they work as advertised. I opted not to get them on my new SN8 as a nod towards frugality but I kind of wish I had. Celestron offers a similar product for it's scopes. I can't give any better advice for new scopes than what's been offered, Orion's reputation is good and prices are low (even lower, I got my new catalog today). It was a toss-up for me between Orion and Meade for my new scope, but I had a bonus check burning a hole in my bank account so I went for the slightly more expensive Meade Schmidt-Newtonian with a few more bells and whistles.

Jerod S.
2003-May-28, 08:31 AM
I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has replied to my inquiry to date. There's a lot of information here in this thread and rather than try and remember it all, I've simply done a 'control C' and posted it all in a text file for repeated reference. Fortunately I'm not making the final decision immediately, but my wife has placed me in charge of researching the matter. Since I like to dig and investigate (methinks I am in the wrong line of work...), it'll be fun to look more in depth into all of the suggestions made so far. Well, I'll think it's fun. I've never claimed to be anything remotely resembling 'normal'...whatever that is... :o

Again, thank you to everyone who has posted a reply to this inquiry so far. I fully expect to become heavily addicted to skywatching...always have loved staring up on a clear night with the 20/20 vision I'm blessed with. Anything that will enhance that experience is going to be seriously worthwhile and enjoyable. Thanks.
Sincerely,
Jerod S.

ChesleyFan
2003-May-30, 12:56 AM
If you choose one of Orion's Scopes, you won't regret it. I own a Orion Starmax 90 Maksutov, which is great for it's portability.

Rich Field mentioned Hardin Optical, where I bought my own 8" Dobsonian. It's worth pointing out that most (if not all) of the mass-produced dobs/maks/refractors are built overseas by the same company, Synta. So you can basically buy one of these scopes from anywhere and expect the same level of quality.

One noteworthy exception that I don't think has been mentioned yet is Discovery Telescopes, which build their own dobsonians and mirrors right here in the USA. I've heard that their mirrors are superior to those found in Orion/Hardin/Synta dobs, and right now their prices are comparable to Orion's. If I had to do it all over, I'd probably buy one of these scopes.

David Hall
2003-May-30, 02:28 PM
One noteworthy exception that I don't think has been mentioned yet is Discovery Telescopes, which build their own dobsonians and mirrors right here in the USA. I've heard that their mirrors are superior to those found in Orion/Hardin/Synta dobs, and right now their prices are comparable to Orion's. If I had to do it all over, I'd probably buy one of these scopes.

Welcome ChelseyFan. Thanks for the tip. I just pulled up the Discovery (http://www.discovery-telescopes.com/) homepage, and they do look pretty good. Their regular line is very reasonably priced, IMO, but prices jump quite a bit for their premium line.

I really like their split tube Dob design. Looks very convenient when carting around a large scope.

This kind of thing really makes me wish I had a scope of my own. :sigh:

ChesleyFan
2003-May-30, 09:23 PM
No problem, David. You might want to wait it out a bit longer... I remember Discovery had a sale right around this time last year.

Psi-less
2003-May-31, 03:10 PM
I thank all the people who said nice things about the Orion telescopes, particularly the Dobs. Mike and I finally decided on the XT10 and are still trying to figure out if it'd be cheaper to pick it up while on vacation or have it shipped. Either way, it'll be here before Mars makes it's splashy August appearance. Yahoooo!!!! :lol: :lol: :lol:

Psi-less