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Thread: Telescopes?

  1. #1
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    Telescopes?

    I am sure everyone gets this question all the time, but what kind of telescope should a first timer get? Which brands are good? What types? How much money? I have no idea where to begin.

    *EDIT*
    I just realized I should have put this in Astronomical Observing, Equipment and Accessories, sorry.

  2. #2
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    hello new telescoper

    I highly recommend www.astromart.com and the forum there for a good answer to your telescope question. The bottom line is that you should get a DOB for your first telescope and the size should be dependent on your budget and the need for transporting it. I have a 10" dob I keep in my camper, and I live in dark mountains, so I don't have to transport it very far.

    Yes, there are other opinions on this answer, but they are in the minority from forums I have read in response to your question over the past two years.

  3. #3
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    Start by reading the other 'what to get' threads here, there is a lot of good info in this forum. Search is your freind!

    For a first scope, IMO the best bang for the buck, easy to use scope would be an 8" dobsonian reflector. www.telescope.com

    Also, you should read this: http://www.scopereviews.com/begin.html

  4. #4
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    What do you mean by "first timer"? If you mean you're just starting out in astronomy, then the answer is none. Get some binoculars and a starchart instead.

    If you already know your sky, then we need to know more about your situation: what you want to spend more time observing (deep sky vs near sky), light pollution, how much time do you plan to dedicate to an observing session.

  5. #5
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    I have some 16x21 binoculars. It seems if I look at anything it just makes dot in the sky a bigger dot.

    How do I acquire one of these starcharts?
    Also, am I even going to be able to see a darn thing in Los Angeles county? Or do I need to go camping?

  6. #6
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    Unfortunately, your binoculars are not very well suited for astronomy. A pair of 7x50s or 10x50s will serve far better.

    Even the largest telescopes, when used visually, do not resolve stars as disks. They merely appear brighter. However, a good binocular will easily resolve the major planets into disks, although with little visible detail.

    Information on binoculars suitable for astronomical observing can be found at the following sites:

    http://www.astunit.com/faq/binocular.htm

    http://www.rca-omsi.org/binos.htm

    http://www.chuckhawks.com/binocular_basics.htm

    http://web.austin.utexas.edu/edcannon/binoculars.html

    http://members.tripod.com/irwincur/binocular_primer.htm

    You may want to pick up a copy of Binocular Astronomy by Crossen and Tirion or Touring the Universe through Binoculars by Phil Harrington.

    http://www.willbell.com/handbook/HAND2.htm

    http://www.philharrington.net/sw8.htm

    These additional sites discuss choosing a first telescope:

    http://www.astronomy.com/asy/default.aspx?c=ss&id=9

    http://skyandtelescope.com/howto/sco...icle_241_1.asp

    http://www.floridastars.org/telescop.html

    http://www.company7.com/library/begin.html

    http://stupendous.rit.edu/richmond/a...telescope.html

    http://www.r-clarke.org.uk/starting_astro.htm

    [http://www.celestron.com/c2/esupport..._j=subcat&_i=4

    http://www.astronomics.com/main/cate...lescope/Page/1

    Here are three very good yet inexpensive paper atlases:

    http://www.willbell.com/atlas/atlas1.htm

    http://scientificsonline.com/product.asp_Q_pn_E_3009611 (Edmund Mag 6 Atlas)

    http://www.shopatsky.com/index.asp?P...OD&ProdID=1159

    There are many freeware planetarium programs available. Here are three that you may want to download:

    http://www.stargazing.net/astropc/index.html

    http://www.hnsky.org/software.htm

    http://www.distantsuns.com/

    Dave Mitsky

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alexanderrobert View Post
    Also, am I even going to be able to see a darn thing in Los Angeles county? Or do I need to go camping?
    Hi Alexanderrobert - where exactly are you in Los Angeles County? I live in the San Fernando Valley, about 25 miles northwest of downtown Lost Angeles. The County is huge, and with over 3 million people (I think that's just within the "city limits" of Lost Angeles), it can be a nightmare finding some place "dark".

    Paul

  8. #8
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    I live in the San Gabriel Valley, which is east of LA. I am thinking maybe heading out further east to the desert would be a good thing. I think I could get star chart, go out there and try to find some constellations. Though it might be nicer to head north along the coast.

  9. #9
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    There's information on doing astronomy from urban areas at http://www.astroleague.org/al/obsclubs/urban/urban.html and http://www.astronomy.com/asy/default.aspx?c=ss&id=152

    You'll need to get to darker skies to see anything more than the brightest of deep-sky objects. I suggest you contact a local astronomy club regarding observing sites.

    Dave Mitsky

  10. #10
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    Star party tomorrow night (02/17/07)

    Hi Alexanderrobert - there is a free public star party tomorrow night at Vasquez Rocks, sponsored by the Local Group Santa Clarita Valley Astronomy Club, to which I am a member.

    It starts at 5:30 p.m. or so, and goes until 11:30 p.m., when the Park Rangers chase us out. Some people will be there in the afternoon (most likely myself and another astronomer friend) to do some solar viewing.

    There will be a bunch of telescopes, binoculars, etc. there at night, ranging from small refractors to Schmidt-Cassegrains, and probably at least one or two 20-inch Dobsonians.

    If you're interested, check this link out: http://www.lgscv.org/. Down near the bottom of the page it will give you some details. Directions are pretty simple: from the San Gabriel Valley, you may want to take the 210 Freeway west through Pasadena, and stay in the right lane, onto the 210 Freeway which will take you "west" through La Canada, Flintridge, etc. You'll go past JPL by the way. Stay on the 210 Freeway until you get to the 5 Freeway north, heading towards Castaic. Take 5 to the 14 (Antelope Valley Freeway) going north, and exit at Aqua Dulce Road. At the bottom of the off ramp, turn left at the stop sign. Go about 2 miles and you should see signs for Vasquez Rocks. The entrance is on the right side. Drive slowly, slowly, slowly, as it's bumpy and VERY dusty. You should be able to find someone once you're inside the area to direct you. We will be down in a lower field. If you are not bringing a telescope, park in the first field you come to when you can see telescopes. There will be a long line of them. Come early, as it's a lot easier to find in daylight hours.

    Hope to see you there. Ask for Paul Keen.

    Clear skies!

  11. #11
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    I totally didn't check the board until today (Sunday)

  12. #12
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    The best observing site I found in southern California is ONYX PEAK in the San Bernadino Mountains about 3 miles off hiway 38 that goes from Redlands to Big Bear. It's not accessable from October to May as the service road is not paved or plowed. The main light pollution is in the west from the summit so it doesnt interfere with deep sky observing. If you go there, beware of bears

  13. #13
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    Hi all. back after A LITTLE JOLLY ROUND THE BLOCK. Anyway I would always recommend a Refractor at about 90mm which is still affordable. But thats just me. I think Collimating a Dob for a first timer is very daunting and I know people who have just not bothered to do it and lost interest in the hobby. So thats what I reckon. I still also think that there shoudl be a sticky thread at the top of this section telling people about the best choices of first time scopes as this question is asked over and over again.

  14. #14
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    There are three things that the begining astronomer should do. 1) Join a local astronomy club. 2) get either Sky&Telescope or Astronomy magazine, and 3) Think about equipment. In that order. Do the first, first, because many clubs offer discounts to magazines.

    My astronomy club has three resources. First, the members can talk to you about what can be seen. Second, the members can talk to you about their stuff. Third, at least my club owns quite a bit of stuff that members can borrow. To save money, my rule is to try everything before buying it. I look through other member's stuff alot.

    The magazines can tell you what to look for, how to find it, and what you're seeing when you find it.

    About equipement. Here's what I did. I joined a club. I checked out their scopes for five years. I bought a 10" Newtonian Dob with a push-to computer and filters for looking at the moon, dealing with light pollution, and a narrow band Oxygen 3 nebula filter.

    But the process is interesting. It's the 3 P's. Price, Performance, and Portability. I had about $1000 US. I wanted something for visual work (not photography). And, it had to fit in my car. I considered larger scopes for more light, but they would not fit in my car. Portability is the most important. My experience with club scopes was that a computer locator would let me spend more time observing, and less time searching. This gets me out of the house more often. An SCT of larger aperture would fit in my car, but was too big for my budget. At the time, i did not find a truss Dob that was both afordable and larger than 10". I'd be willing to bet that such and instrument with computer will be on the market in the next few years (if not already).

    Advertisement: The 3 P's lead me to the Orion xt10i. But, other club members went with an 8" SCT, or a 80mm Takahashi APO, or a 6" reflector on an equitorial mount, or an 18" truss Dob, or a home built 12 inch classical cassegrain. All using the same process, but different budgets and goals. One guy just shows up to star parties and looks at whatever anyone else has found and is willing to show him. And i have fun showing him the next thing.

  15. #15
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    <i>I think Collimating a Dob for a first timer is very daunting and I know people who have just not bothered to do it and lost interest in the hobby.</i>

    I agree. And by joining a club, you can have someone show you how. In my second observing session, I showed up to one of the club's observatory open house events in daylight. Three of us goofed around with collimation for three hours before dark. At another event, one of they guys helped me with his high-end laser colimator. So, now i have a really good idea how much it matters. For me, sky conditions matter alot more than how good the alignment is. I've moved my collimation techniques to "pretty good, pretty fast", and have abandoned any attempt at perfection.

    Now if i were imaging, that might change things altogether.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by SUITTI
    3. "Think about equipment"
    When considering equipment, some thought should be given to what you want to look at. If youre mainly interested in bright objects-moon, planets, clusters, you can do well with an inexpensive small-aperture refractor, a Mak or a small Dob. For "deep sky" objects, aperture is the key- the bigger the better. Real aperture fanatics will trade ease of portability for breathtaking views every time. Some even get trailers or fit their trucks with rooftop carriers and recruit their friends to be road crew.
    A lot of clubs have their own observatories or dedicated observing sites too. Having others around at night is a big plus.
    Last edited by BlueEagle; 2007-Mar-29 at 05:38 AM.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by 777 geek View Post
    What do you mean by "first timer"? If you mean you're just starting out in astronomy, then the answer is none. Get some binoculars and a starchart instead.
    I respectfully disagree. Binos do give very pleasing low magnification, wide-field views, but, for me at least, any advantage they might have in portability is negated by the impossibility of holding them steady and the lack of magnification options. I like to spend plenty of time with relatively few objects when I observe. Have you ever tried to point binos at the zenith and hold them there for ten minutes? Give it a try sometime. Bino mounts can be pricey.

    I also disagree with 6" or 8" Dobs for a first scope. These are much larger than many people think. Of course, there's no denying their aperture is useful.

    I favor a smallish - say 80mm - refractor on an alt-az mount. There are many solutions around at this size. This can be left set-up and grabbed for viewing whenever you desire. It's easy to sight along the tube, and a cheap red dot finder is all that is needed for more exact locating. Performance on the Moon, Sun (never look at the Sun without appropriate filters!) is excellent; on the planets and double stars it's also very good; on the brighter DSOs it's acceptable; galaxies will have to wait for more aperture.

    That's what worked for me. I used the 80mm with a planisphere and got (and still get) plenty of use from it. Small refractors are also useful later if you decide to get into more complex (and, alas, expensive) activities like auto-guiding. Another advantage is that it's airline portable.

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