Help me buy a telescope

sjwaste

Diamond Member
Aug 2, 2000
8,760
12
81
I know there have been some threads in the past, but I'll admit that I'm being a little lazy in not sifting through all the noise that the search function returns. I made it through a couple of pages of results and gave up.

Since moving to Maine, I've really been noticing how clear the sky is and how much brighter the stars look than they did in DC. I'm certain we have a lot less light pollution here, and I'd wager a lot less air pollution too. I've never had a telescope, have always wanted one, and I think I'd like to purchase one on impulse.

I don't know much about what I'm looking for, and I know there are some folks here that know more than Amazon reviews can tell me. Should anyone care to weigh in, is there anything you'd recommend? Are there other factors I need to consider when choosing?

So let's say $250 or so, but if there's a value pick, I could go up to $500. Something relatively entry level. I'm more interested in seeing than taking pictures. Doesn't have to be too portable since my front driveway is a good spot, but I'd like to take it down to the beach sometime and take advantage of the total dark.

Thanks in advance.
 

Spacehead

Lifer
Jun 2, 2002
13,201
10,063
136
How well do you know the night sky?
Do you know some/most of the constellations? How are you going to find M1 if you don't know which constellation to look in?
If you have a decent pair of binoculars, try them out first & get to know some of the easier targets & learn starhopping.

See if there's an astronomy club near you, Contact them & look thru a few different scopes to see which is for you.

Some good info here
http://www.telescope.com/
Check out the Astro 101 & telescope buying guide links for some help.


I own a SkyQuest XT8 Classic & love it. Quality scope for the price.
 

sjwaste

Diamond Member
Aug 2, 2000
8,760
12
81
How well do you know the night sky?
Do you know some/most of the constellations? How are you going to find M1 if you don't know which constellation to look in?
If you have a decent pair of binoculars, try them out first & get to know some of the easier targets & learn starhopping.

See if there's an astronomy club near you, Contact them & look thru a few different scopes to see which is for you.

Some good info here
http://www.telescope.com/
Check out the Astro 101 & telescope buying guide links for some help.


I own a SkyQuest XT8 Classic & love it. Quality scope for the price.

I'm getting better. Lately I've been outside trying to identify a few obvious constellations and stars with the help of Google Sky Map. It's a pretty nice app, since I can hold it up and it'll basically sit right next to what I'm looking at. I usually look for Orion and go from there, since this time of year, Orion's belt is right above my roof line. Binoculars wouldn't be a bad idea, hopefully my neighbors don't think I'm a creeper with those. Any recs there?

I'll see if I can find a local club. Something tells me I'd be happy with anything halfway decent, though. I just want to be able to look up and see more, especially the planets.

Thanks.
 

AstroManLuca

Lifer
Jun 24, 2004
15,628
5
81
For the price you're looking at a Dobsonian reflector is the best choice. I'd say a 6 or 8 inch model is a good mix of aperture and price.

I have an Orion XT8 like someone else in this thread and it's a good telescope. Kinda heavy because it has a large base, but it's sturdy and stable. Any tripod-mounted telescope in the $250-500 price range is going to be pretty bad. The goal if you're on a budget is to have the maximum amount of money going towards the telescope itself and not the mount.

Anyway, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the XT8 to anyone unless it would be difficult for you to carry. It weighs about 40 lbs in total, and you can either carry it as a single unit or carry the telescope and the base separately. You can save a little weight and money by getting the 6 inch version instead.

Just remember that aperture is the most important factor in choosing a telescope. Not only will a larger aperture allow you to see more things, it'll help make the really bright, spectacular objects look better. Personally I've tried a few times to look for dimmer things like galaxies and it rarely works out, but views of the Orion nebula and many globular clusters are quite good. Planets are always easy targets too.

Oh and I'd also second the recommendation of binoculars. You can see a lot with a decent pair. I have a pair of 7x50s and I can pretty easily see Jupiter's moons.
 

sjwaste

Diamond Member
Aug 2, 2000
8,760
12
81
Thanks Astro. So if I wanted to have a few beers and get a little more impulsive (as of now I'm shopping sober), would I stick with an Orion Dobsonian reflector and just up the aperature, or is there something else I'd look for?

For binoculars, would something like this work, or would I do better spending a few more bucks?

http://www.amazon.com/Celestron-7113.../dp/B0000CAOGV
 

Ken g6

Programming Moderator, Elite Member
Moderator
Dec 11, 1999
16,239
3,824
75
For binoculars, you want low magnification, large aperture, and nicely coated optics. Low magnification means you won't see as much shake when you hold them, and the things you see will be brighter. The ones you linked to are good.

I have 8x50s from Minolta - they're halfway to night-vision! I can look through them at dusk when my eyes can't make out anything and see lots of detail.

Edit: Amazon is really hard to search, but here are some interesting choices if you wanted to pay more:
http://www.amazon.com/Nikon-Action-7...2556835&sr=1-8
Edit2: Found the cheap version of these.

Amazon told me Celestrons are on sale, so I looked there next:
http://www.amazon.com/Celestron-7202...556889&sr=1-12
http://www.amazon.com/Celestron-7202...556889&sr=1-21

The above binoculars are nice, but realize they're bulkier and heavier, so you might find them more inconvenient.
 
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ManBearPig

Diamond Member
Sep 5, 2000
9,175
6
81
I am also interested in a telescope. If i spend around $500, will i be able to see a lot in the middle of a small city? We have a pretty clear view of the sky here.
 

JMapleton

Diamond Member
Nov 19, 2008
4,179
2
81
Do not buy the Orion SkyQuest dobs, they are, in my personal opinion, difficult to assemble. There are other 8 inch dobs using a clutch system out there that is much easier and safer to use.

But for your situation, if you are just looking to view, I would look for a nice 8 inch dobsonian. They can be had around $350.

As for the binocs, you need good binocs to star gaze with, avoid those el cheapos. Anything below $150 is going to be pure junk and just give you a headache.
 

JMapleton

Diamond Member
Nov 19, 2008
4,179
2
81
I am also interested in a telescope. If i spend around $500, will i be able to see a lot in the middle of a small city? We have a pretty clear view of the sky here.

Depends on a few things.

1. Do you want to take photos?
2. Is size/weight important?
3. Do you want automated or manual?
 

JMapleton

Diamond Member
Nov 19, 2008
4,179
2
81
Find a amateur astronomy club, ask them.

I'm not a member of an astro club, but I attend astro get togethers with my local club quite frequently and you'd be surprized how little most of them know about actual equipment. They know more about the science and less about the gear.

I would recommend www.cloudynights.com There is a forum on there and you can get a lot of great advise about gear.
 

ManBearPig

Diamond Member
Sep 5, 2000
9,175
6
81
Depends on a few things.

1. Do you want to take photos?
2. Is size/weight important?
3. Do you want automated or manual?

1. No, it'd be neat though (read: your photos are incredible...please post more).
2. Nope.
3. I don't know lol...what DO i want?
 

JMapleton

Diamond Member
Nov 19, 2008
4,179
2
81
1. No, it'd be neat though (read: your photos are incredible...please post more).
2. Nope.
3. I don't know lol...what DO i want?

Here is two options. For $500, you can get like a 10 inch dob. With 10 inches, you can see a ton, but with dobsonians, you cannot take photos.

To take photos, you need a telescope that has great glass and tracks the object incredibly well so you can take long exposures. For $500 the only scope that can begin to take photos (with a DSLR) is the Celestron 4 SE. But it's only 4 inches.

So it's a huge compromise. 4 inches for mediocre photos and mediocre viewing vs 10 inches of great awesome viewing and no photos.

It's also VERY important to budget for accessories. You're going to want maybe one or two good eyepieces. I recommend the Meade HD-60 series or the Baader Hyperion series. Both are priced reasonably for premium eyepieces. But do not buy the eyepieces until after you get the scope and use the crappy eyepieces the scope comes with so you can get some idea of what magnifications you want in your scope.

The weather is finally breaking, I haven't had my scope out since last summer. I'll take it out soon and take some pics and post them here. It's been a while. I'm getting eager to do it.
 

ManBearPig

Diamond Member
Sep 5, 2000
9,175
6
81
Thanks for the info. I'd definitely go for the 10" since I don't think I wanna pay for a dslr as well. Also I don't want shitty quality for both pics and viewing lol. I don't want to spend more than $500 for all ill need, initially.
 

Bashbelly

Member
Dec 12, 2005
111
0
0
I just started doing astronomy 2years ago and went with a 10inch Orion Dob to start with (Go for it!!). To be honest I didn't know what to expect, in the end I was floored with the views. The two starting eyepieces are a good introduction, but it was not until a year later that I could afford a Televue Ethos 13mm eyepiece that I got that "holy shit!" moment. Suffice to say I have added a few accessories (a telrad, cooling fan + battery pack, 13mm Ethos, 2 inch Televue Barlow 2x) over these last 2 years. Equipment is a huge deal in this hobby, and damn it is expensive! As others have mention cloudynights is an AWESOME resource.

Currently trying to figure out if it is possible (lol money!) to get a 25 inch dobsonian classic, or 22 inch ultra compact from Obsession. Holy god I want either of them LOL! And yea I got to see through a 25 inch once last year...
 

sdifox

No Lifer
Sep 30, 2005
94,940
15,084
126
How well do you know the night sky?
Do you know some/most of the constellations? How are you going to find M1 if you don't know which constellation to look in?
If you have a decent pair of binoculars, try them out first & get to know some of the easier targets & learn starhopping.

See if there's an astronomy club near you, Contact them & look thru a few different scopes to see which is for you.

Some good info here
http://www.telescope.com/
Check out the Astro 101 & telescope buying guide links for some help.


I own a SkyQuest XT8 Classic & love it. Quality scope for the price.
Google sky Map :awe:
 

silverpig

Lifer
Jul 29, 2001
27,709
11
81
Here is two options. For $500, you can get like a 10 inch dob. With 10 inches, you can see a ton, but with dobsonians, you cannot take photos.

To take photos, you need a telescope that has great glass and tracks the object incredibly well so you can take long exposures. For $500 the only scope that can begin to take photos (with a DSLR) is the Celestron 4 SE. But it's only 4 inches.

So it's a huge compromise. 4 inches for mediocre photos and mediocre viewing vs 10 inches of great awesome viewing and no photos.

It's also VERY important to budget for accessories. You're going to want maybe one or two good eyepieces. I recommend the Meade HD-60 series or the Baader Hyperion series. Both are priced reasonably for premium eyepieces. But do not buy the eyepieces until after you get the scope and use the crappy eyepieces the scope comes with so you can get some idea of what magnifications you want in your scope.

The weather is finally breaking, I haven't had my scope out since last summer. I'll take it out soon and take some pics and post them here. It's been a while. I'm getting eager to do it.

If he really wanted to learn astrophotography he could get a telescope ccd (not a dslr) and do multiple 1-second exposures. The result would be much better than anything a dslr could produce.
 

JMapleton

Diamond Member
Nov 19, 2008
4,179
2
81
If he really wanted to learn astrophotography he could get a telescope ccd (not a dslr) and do multiple 1-second exposures. The result would be much better than anything a dslr could produce.

I don't think you'd get much out of 1 second exposures. Most of mine are closer to 2 minutes. You can still do back to back to back etc exposures without touching anything with a DSLR, if you have the right software for it.

If you're really into it, yeah CCD is the way to go, but they're terribly expensive for a decent one and you can only use them for astro photos. I like using my DSLR for other things.
 

JMapleton

Diamond Member
Nov 19, 2008
4,179
2
81
How much do these eyepieces cost? What kinda stuff can you see?!

Eyepieces come in a wide variety of prices. Most telescopes will come with a few eyepieces to get you started, but a decent eyepiece will be around $100. You could get away with just two eyepieces, but like I said before, don't buy any eyepieces until you know which magnifications you like using the best.

What you can see depends on the light pollution in your area.
 

Druidx

Platinum Member
Jul 16, 2002
2,971
0
76
Orion SkyQuest XT8i IntelliScope Dobsonian, I bought it on special a few years ago. Unlike a previous poster I didn't have any trouble with the assembly. The manual definitely could have been better but there is a step by step guide on youtube if you run into any problems. I know a lot of people are against IntelliScopes but I think they are great for beginners. After a quick setup, you can type in what you want to see and it will give directions to exactly where you should point. When you are new, you'll waste so much time trying to find stuff that you'll give up. In my opinion if more people used am IntelliScope when they started, there wouldn't be so many scopes collecting dust in the back of closets and corners of garages. After doing a quick 2 star alignment, my 10 year old can use the IntelliScope to quickly see all the visible planets plus other common points of interest, you can't do that start hopping.

Some good beginner info
http://www.scopereviews.com/begin.html