Classic first question - Buying first telescope

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Classic first question - Buying first telescope

Postby SW_Exile » Sun Jul 10, 2016 11:49 pm

Sorry, this is the sort of question that must generate a lot of eyerolls! Unfortunately I'm stuck and am really in need of some help.

I really really wish to buy a telescope. I have always wanted to, but have always been somewhat constrained by money. For the first time ever, I can afford to splash out, so to speak, yet find myself baffled by the vast choice and variables as regards type, apertures, focal length etc etc. The other thing is, having no experience I don't know what is realistic and what is wishful thinking.

I would be after a telescope that allows me to get good, clear views of the major planets. A lovely close, detailed view of the Moon for example (to spot individual craters), a clear enough view to see the Mars poles, Jupiter's bands, Saturn's rings etc etc (please tell me if this is all pie-in-the-sky, if you excuse the pun :) )

In addition I'd quite like a bit of deep sky too. The odd nebula, cluster, galaxy etc. I'm no expecting to be discovering Exoplanets or something, but some lovely clear views of the depths of space and universes billions of miles away would be wonderful.

My impression so far is to get one (ie planet-friendly) I must sacrifice the other. I figured an aperture of around 8 - 10", maybe (?) but perhaps that would blind me if I looked at the Moon? I just don't know.

Another issue is, I have some health woes so am looking for something easy to set up, transport (car boot/backseat territory) and manage by myself. I'd be using it on rough ground (like, a layby up on a hill). So of manageable size really.

Money is....well, I want to ensure I get a good telescope and all the various bits and bobs so cannot think of a figure. Anything over £1000 may make me think "Oo-er", but then again maybe if it's a gold-plated perfect telescope that makes me a coffee and gives a shoulder massage while broadcasting from the Moon for only £1200, m-a-a-a-a-ybe I'd be flexible. I expect that my own criteria on size/weight rule out the more epic prices anyway.

I've been looking at the Celestron Nexstar series (maybe the 5SE or 8SE?), or the Skywatcher Evostar's (purely for the shallow reason that that range looks pretty cool :? )- but I honestly have no idea what dimensions/specs I should be aiming for in order to be able to see what I'd like. Once I know those, I can probably go off and choose one that fits my personal preferences.

So, I'm appealing to all the experienced users who might have some recommendations on ideal apertures, mirrors, focal lengths etc etc. Please, someone! Pretty please!
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Re: Classic first question - Buying first telescope

Postby Gfamily2 » Mon Jul 11, 2016 1:45 pm

Hi
Yes, tricky isn't it.
Do you know if you have a local astronomy society that does observing sessions? If so, you could go along and have a look at some different sizes and types of telescope to see what seems feasible to you.

As for what you want to look at; Saturn's rings and the belts of Jupiter will be easily visible in a 4" refractor or a 5" reflector. The ice caps of Mars may be trickier - I have seen them in a 4.5" Newtonian, but that was when Mars was a lot higher in the sky, but I've not seen them this year in my 5" Mak. To be honest, I'm not sure whether they're showing very strongly this year. For the next couple of years at least, Mars and Saturn are going to be quite low in the sky when we're best able to see them.

Planets are relatively bright, so aperture isn't critical - though it does help to see more detail of course; for DSOs though, you probably do want as much aperture as you can - particularly if your skies are less then perfect.
Have you considered a Dobsonian telescope ? - if you're interested in DSOs, that might be a good place to start as 10" Dobs are well within your budget. You would have to make sure that it'll fit in your car of course - which might be a factor.
To be honest, you could get a 4" Evostar and a 10" Dob for your budget - if you want to avoid the need to compromise. The question is which to get first... :)

Unfortunately, Jupiter is setting quite early now and won't be well placed for observing for a fair while (unless you're an early riser), Saturn and Mars are quite low in the sky this year and although Saturn will be a reasonable target next year, Mars won't be at opposition again until 2018. So unless you get something soon, your chances for observing our 'standout' planets will have to wait until next year or the year after.

If you're not going to jump in and buy something in the very short term, I'd suggest holding out until Autumn, and get yourself to an observing session at a local Astro Society - and you might even want to consider going to a Star Party where most people will be happy to have a look through their scopes so you can get an idea of what works for you.

EDIT - forgot to say, you can get Moon Filters that will save you from the eye-watering effects of a too-bright moon in a large aperture.

Also - you want to think about eyepieces too - I've recently been impressed with a Baader Hyperion III 24-8mm Zoom eyepiece that I borrowed. If you only have the 'stock' EPs that come with the scope you buy - it's a good way of avoiding having to buy them piecemeal.
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Re: Classic first question - Buying first telescope

Postby SW_Exile » Mon Jul 11, 2016 6:54 pm

Hooray! Thankyou so much for your reply!

Sadly I am lacking a local society - also a local shop where I can dive in and fire off questions. I believe there is a society somewhere in Devon which is probably my nearest. Though nearest is relative, as from where I am I think it's a good hour away.

I have to admit to being a bit wary of Dobsonians - I'm worried that operating it may be very tricky and securing it on rough ground difficult. Plus they're generally fairly large, from what I've seen? However you are the second person to suggest a Dobsonian to me, so maybe that's the key. Do you have to manually move them, rather than get some sort of auto tracking to help track objects? Do they get difficult to keep on target when magnified and looking at very distant objects?

Would a large aperture (say 8" - 10") give me a decent, 'close' view of the planets (assuming I hadn't picked the wrong time of year - D'oh!). So long as I applied a filter or two to minimise the light? That would then give me some scope for DSO I suppose, but I would very much like to see Earth's "nearest" neighbours too. Would a large aperture telescope be more of a matter of filters & eyepieces for those?

Oo-er, eyepieces. The only eyepiece I had researched so far was a Revelation Plossl 9mm (?). I like the sound of the one you recommended - I take it that will lessen the need to get several individual eyepieces, as that one appears to have the 24 - 8mm range.

My only grain of eyepiece knowledge is smaller mm = more magnification, narrower FOV. Would I be right in thinking that, or is that awfully wrong?

Apologies for all the questions :?
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Re: Classic first question - Buying first telescope

Postby Aratus » Mon Jul 11, 2016 7:31 pm

SW_Exile wrote:. The other thing is, having no experience I don't know what is realistic and what is wishful thinking.


I think it is fair to say that you will never get a telescope that is best for every kind of object. Compromise is often the name of the game. However I will reassure you by saying that if you get a good make of telescope and pay around the £1200+ you will not be disappointed when it comes to the list of things you say you want to see.

I got to a bit of a crisis point heathwise a few years back, which meant I wasn't able to lug out my 8" SCT anymore so you might want to bear that in mind. (I solved that one by putting it in an observatory, but that is not a cheap option.)
If you are going to jolt a telescope around and transport it across rough ground, an SCT is probably not the best kind of telescope to get. A newtonian which is easier to adjust, or a refractor which needs no adjusting would fare better. Refractors are the easiest to carry being a more manageable shape and a convenient centre of gravity. Refractors are good for planets/moon, but not so good for deep space objects. As I said at the beginning, you may have to compromise, but you will be happy with your choice when you see what you can do with it.

Gfamily2's advice about popping along to the local astronomical society and let them show off their telescopes is a good idea. You can compare the capabilities of each one and get an idea of weight and ease of carrying. Just be a little sceptical about their 'advice'. There is a tendency for amateur astronomers to justify their own choice, and neutral opinions are often in short supply ;) (human nature! :D )

If you want further clarification, or to ask other questions, post them here. Like Gfamily2, I also say 'take your time'. Summer is not the best time to start using a telescope, and you are not missing much. Things get interesting again at the back end of August, and those objects stay around for several months.

We are in the doldrums regarding planets at the moment, and will be for a while. That is the way it goes. Mars will hang around until the end of the year, but it is getting smaller all the time. (Its next good, high appearence will be in 2020) Saturn will disappear more quickly. (It will spend the next 8 years in the murk! :( ) Uranus and Neptune are our winter planets this year, and that isn't saying very much. Venus and Jupiter will make a good evening appearances from Feb/March 2017.

re eyepieces, yes, the smaller the focal length the greater the magnification, the narrower the field of view, and the dimmer the object.

I lived in North Devon for a few years. I know some places you can go to see telescopes in action.
I use an 11" Celestron SCT (CPC 1100) on an equatorial wedge, with an 80mm refractor as a guidescope. They are housed in a 2.2m Pulsar observatory. I use a ZWO ASI1600MC for imaging.
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Re: Classic first question - Buying first telescope

Postby Gfamily2 » Mon Jul 11, 2016 9:08 pm

I don't know if this is any use, but here's a page of links to Astronomy Societies by county.
http://www.astronomyclubs.co.uk/Clubs/Counties.aspx

I appreciate your concerns about a Dobsonian, so this isn't advice, but it brings up a thought related to magnification, because it's the focal lengths of the telescope AND the eyepiece that are significant.
So a 8" or 10" Dob with a 1200mm focal length will give you pretty much the same magnification with any given eyepiece as the Celestron 5SE (which is 1250mm, so about the same). Both of these will give more magnification than the 4" Evostar with the same eyepiece for example.
The 8 SE (with it's 2050mm focal length) would give you more magnification, but at the price of a smaller field of view - and a lot more weight.
But, as you say - the Dob may not be the right one for you for other reasons.

If you're interested in looking at telescopes in real life, SCS Astro in Taunton may not be too far from you, and will open on a Saturday if you make an appointment.
Scopes: Meade 8" SCT, Skywatcher 127mm Mak
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Re: Classic first question - Buying first telescope

Postby SW_Exile » Tue Jul 12, 2016 10:32 am

Thankyou to both of you!

Yeah, I'm coming around to the compromise matter. Well, fair enough. I think, given the variables affected solar system objects, I may veer towards buying with the DSO side in mind. I've only dipped my toe in the waters of deep-sky, but the brief look I had (on an astronomy holiday) was incredible.

I've been eyeing Newtonians. Are Dobsonians generally the more powerful of the two? I'm somewhat entranced by the focal lengths in the Dobsonians, which (in the ones I've seen) seem considerably larger than the Newtonians. Though that could be accommodated (up to a point) with eyepieces? Maybe?

I'm coming round to a 8" Newtonian. Smaller & a nice hill-friendly tripod mount. I'd like the larger aperture of a 10" maybe, but they look a bit big and probably not for lugging about. Plus the tripod will no doubt be rather heavy to set up on windswept Dorset hilltops :? That, with a good selection of eyepieces, will give me a fairly good view of some lovely objects, right? Being realistic, any larger and I may need a forklift. Oh compromise :(

Gfamily2 wrote:I don't know if this is any use, but here's a page of links to Astronomy Societies by county.

If you're interested in looking at telescopes in real life, SCS Astro in Taunton may not be too far from you, and will open on a Saturday if you make an appointment.


Thankyou! It hadn't occurred to me there might be a listing! Well I never, turns out there is a small club where I live. I've contacted them, but am unsure whether they're still meeting. Hooray!

Taunton's about an hour away, so easy enough. Not sure why that didn't appear during my confused Googling for places. Again, I shall go take a look, thankyou!
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Re: Classic first question - Buying first telescope

Postby Supercooper » Wed Jul 13, 2016 8:14 pm

Hi there,

Have a look at my post thread: Astronomy Doesn't Have to be Expensive: You can get a fantastic telescope for under £250... Especially interesting for you will be page two!

astronomy-doesn-t-have-to-be-expensive-t128788.html

When you've finished there you could have a look at my Telescope help website (Link below).

These bits of information wll add to the excellent advice above.

Best wishes, Barry ;o)
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Re: Classic first question - Buying first telescope

Postby MelissaJones » Wed Jun 14, 2017 5:33 pm

Buying a first telescope for anyone is exciting! My first was the Celestron 21035 70mm Travel Scope and I bought it years ago and still use it today! But if you want more options I would check toponlinereviews website that compares the top telescope brands within all price ranges!
Goodluck!!
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Re: Classic first question - Buying first telescope

Postby The Man with the Corrugated Iron Roof » Mon Jul 31, 2017 7:42 pm

As someone with back problems, I couldn't even think of lugging a 10" Dobsonian around. I use a 5" Maksutov but also browse a lot with 15x70 binoculars. If I was starting and had a big budget, I would consider an 80mm ED refractor. This is nice and easy to use and great for deep sky objects. With suitable accessories, you can see solar system objects.
How can I be one with the universe when we don't know what 96% of it is.

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My blog: http://sungazer127mak.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/november-2015.html
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