telescope for complete novice

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telescope for complete novice

Postby badgerboy » Wed Jan 06, 2016 2:34 pm

My partner and I are new to Astronomy and looking to buy our first telescope. We are somewhat bewildered by the wide range (and associated terminology) of telescopes that seem to be available. Hopefully we can get some advice here to point us in the right direction.

We have a budget of £500-£1250. Our initial interest would be lunar and planetary observing, though we are interested in anything that would be visible in the night sky. We are interested in taking up Astrophotography, and already have a Canon DSLR, which we understand can be attached to some telescopes with the appropriate adaptors. I understand there are specialist cameras on the market that can be "plugged in" to telescopes (though I have done no research on this), which we would look to acquire at a later date.

Can anyone advise on the best type of telescope and tripod to purchase. Would it be best to buy as a bundle or purchase the telescope and tripod separately to obtain the best combination. Any advice would be gratefully received.
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Re: telescope for complete novice

Postby Gfamily2 » Wed Jan 06, 2016 11:31 pm

It's very hard to give firm recommendations, because everyone's circumstances are different.
On the one hand you describe yourself as a complete novice, but on the other you are looking to do some astrophotography (AP) in due course.

Ideally, for AP, you would aim to get a high quality Equatorial mount, but these are expensive, and there can be a bit of a learning curve to aligning them - nothing insurmountable, but it can mean that you're less likely to take your scope out for a quick 'casual' session.

If you had no interest in AP, then I would ask whether you would be observing from your own garden primarily, or whether you want a scope that you can easily put in the car for trips out to dark sites?
I'd then want to know how dark your skies are?
If you're out in the country will really dark skies studded with stars, then I'd suggest something like a 8" or 10" Dobsonian mounted telescope. You will find your way around the skies manually, and moving it out from the house (or shed) to the garden will be easily managed.
If (on the other hand) you are under typical urban skies, where you only get to see the brighter stars, then I'd suggest a smaller scope on an Alt-Azimuth GOTO mount. This will help you get rewarding views of specific objects with minimal effort (rather than spending time hunting for them).

Starting with either of these will give you a relatively straightforward introduction - and allow you to learn the basics and your way around the night skies through the year.

If you want to do AP though, neither of these are ideal as AP really needs a solid and precise mount that allows you to take long exposure images with no discernible wobble or drift if you want to get gorgeous images of the 'faint fuzzies'. For this, an expensive Equatorial mount is required.

However, by using a telescope on an Alt-Azimuth GOTO tracking mount, you will be able to take reasonable images of some of the brighter objects by using multiple shorter exposures and combining images using software to bring out detail. Thus, you might consider a decent size telescope on an Alt-Az mount that will be suitable for some AP (if not really high end stuff)

So; the question is, what do you do now?
Do you know if you have any local Astronomy Societies? They usually have Open Evenings, where you can meet up with local members and see what equipment they're using, and what they're doing with it.

If you want a specific recommendation, you might want to consider something like these
(for simplicity, I'm linking to them on the Tring Astro website - other online shops exist)
10" Dobsonian (good for starting out, but not any use for AP) ... -457-p.asp

8" SCT on a GOTO Alt Az mount (reasonable for starting out, and can be of use for simple AP) ... -322-p.asp

6" Refractor on a GOTO Equatorial Mount (reasonable for AP, but maybe harder to get started with) ... -856-p.asp

I guess the main thing is that if you really get into it, this won't be the last telescope you and your partner buy, so it's not necessary to get a one size fits all scope. Aim to get one that you'll be happy to use whenever the opportunity arises.
Scopes: Meade 8" SCT, Skywatcher 127mm Mak, Raffle winner of SW ST80
For imaging: Pentax K5, Asda webcam, Star Adventurer (new toy)
For companionship: Mid Cheshire Astronomical Group.
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Re: telescope for complete novice

Postby dave.b » Thu Jan 07, 2016 12:20 am

I would agree with pretty much everything that Gfamily2 just posted. However, since I upgraded to the AVX mount I would say that it is no more difficult to use than my Nexstar SLT alt-az mount, but a lot more accurate and without all the wobbles. It is of course a bigger and heavier mount, but one that I would definitely recommend in the stated budget because you will be able to spend a long time growing up with it.

Note that while Gfamily2 suggested the refractor option, there are other telescope package options for this mount. If you can go the extra mile the 8" SCT is worth a look. Conversely, the 8" Newtonian would save some cash for some accessories.

Dave B.
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Re: telescope for complete novice

Postby donside » Wed Feb 03, 2016 12:04 am

I was asking pretty much the same question about a year ago. One huge bit of advice I received, from more than one forum member, was to kick-off with a good pair of bins. Something like a pair of 10x50's, also to get the connecting bracket in order to fit them to an ordinary camera tripod. Even if you haven't the patience to go this route for six months and learn the night sky better, do it anyway! Many, many astronomers use a pair of bins alongside their scope.
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