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Joe H

Any astronomy/telescope buying advice.

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My little guy has been asking for a telescope and we saw one at the store for $50. Well it leaves a lot to be desired so I'm going to return it. Doing a little research it looks like a lot of people get into it with beginner scopes and move up quickly so I would like to maybe get something that's a good bit better than this. It looks like a lot of good used scopes on EBAY can be had for less than retail. Any advice on something that may be in the $300-$400 range new that can be had on EBAY for a couple hundred that is worth the while?

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Having grown up with a 10 inch and a 8 inch in my backyard which I spent every clear night glued-to as a kid, here are a few things to keep in mind...

 

Sky&Telescope magazine does a lot of telescope reviews which are available on their website - I'd take a look at them and get a subscription while you're at it - its a great publication and has all the planetary information you need to figure out what to look for, where, and when since planetary observing will probably be a big part of the game at first.

 

Go for better optics over bigger aperture. You're going to see a whole lot more with a 4 inch refractor with solid optics than a 8 inch reflector with crappy optics. A big 6 or 8 inch Dobsonian can look awful appealing for the price, but some of them are absolute crap.

 

Spend money on good eyepieces! All the rest of the telescope does is gather the light for the eyepiece, so even a good telescope isn't worth a dime if the bulk of the optics - the eyepiece - are junk. Buy the best you can afford and at least one wide angle and one high magnification, but don't get too hung up on magnification - you only have as much light to work with as the aperture of the scope can bring in, so high magnification on small aperture scopes won't give you enough light to see much. Conversely, a low-magnification, wide field eyepiece will let you see a lot more of a big object like the moon at one time.

 

Don't waste your money on complicated technological find-the-star-for-you systems. Most of the fun for me as a kid was the game of trying to find the object. Its a lot more rewarding to have figured out where to find a particular object than to have it found for you. Actually looking at it is just the payoff for the effort that went into tracking it down, which leads to...Get a good set of charts. A modern sky atlas will give you and your son more crap to hunt for than you could imagine.

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Thanks. Searching around on the net others recommended the magazine subscription. That sounds like a great idea. I would assume they have a calendar of upcoming things to see in the sky and stuff like that. Off to get the subscription and find a good scope without breaking the bank too badly.

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Been doing a little looking myself. It won't be as cool as a telescope but go look at the moon with a decent pair of binoculars and you'll be amazed. Saw Venus a few weeks ago with an $90 pair of nikon 10x50 and you could see the crescent. It was very cool.

 

Binoculars are also a great way to learn your way around the night sky, which I am doing now. I have a book called Backyard Astronomy, lots of good info.

 

Anyhow, I have been itching to get a scope, but I live in a studio apartment in NYC so I want something small, and of good quality.

 

If you google Stellarvue sv50 Little Rascal, and you'll see what I am looking into.

 

Complete, it's $119, you need a tripod to mount it on, and I'd spend another $40 on a second eye piece to get a little more magnification.

 

It almost looks silly it's so small, you won't do deep sky observing with it, but you'll be able to see the planets. If your son is not really into it being out $100 isn't the end of the world as you can use it as a spotting scope.

 

Lots of good articles on the web about starter scopes, but this one has caught my attention because it is small and made by a reputable company.

 

Good luck, have fun

 

--Pete

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Hello Joe H. EB Harvey and PeterJ gave some great advice but don't discount the newer dobsonian reflector telescope's, I teach observational astronomy and host public viewing nights for our local state parks and Audubon society and i have scopes that range from 60mm goto computerized refractor and non goto 70mm refractors and a 16 inch dobsonian reflector that most folks need a ladder to reach the eyepiece ! As EB mentioned some Dobs have crappy optics -Mostly the ones on Ebay off or non brand name scopes- stay away from them bad news! I have had the chance to test many scopes and i would recommend scopes from Orion telescopes and Binoculars, Celestron, Meade, Sky-Watcher U.S.A, discovery, Stellarvue and Astro Physics, I could mention more but the price's are sky high! Checkout the Orion telescopes Web site (OrionTelescopes.com) If you want a 4.5 or a 6 Inch reflector on an easy to use dobsonian base they have them for 199.oo for the 4.5 and 250.00 for a 6 inch scope or 329.00 for a 8 inch! They also sell refractors but a decent one will cost more for one that has a solid tripod! Meade, and some of the other companies mentioned all get most but not all of their scope's from the same mfg. Synta And GSO and badge them with their brand. Also for honest scope and equipment reviews and for info on anything astronomy checkout cloudy nights .com its the best astro web site on the internet and checkout the forums! If you have any ?'s Please feel free to PM me! Here's a couple of pics of the 16" dob packed in the 6ft bed of my pickup ready for a trip to a public astronomy night!

525

525

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Wow that's some telescope. Must be some incredible sights through that thing. Great info that that website too, especially on the forum. Seems like a lot of people buy scopes and grow out of them quickly so I'm trying to avoid that a little bit by maybe spending a little more than planned and it seems like there's a good market for used equipment. There's a couple of site through that cloudy nights forum that seems like it's a reputable bunch of people, similar to the forum here, and a great resourse for used scopes. So would you recommend the Dobsonian for our first? Maybe something that retailed in the $400 range I can pick up for $250-$300 used. There's some very nice ones on that site you recommended. Thanks for the help.

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Joe H. Thanks and Your Welcome, Yes Cloudy Nights is a great site for any and all things Astronomy Just as SOL is the greatest for all things fishing! Great and helpful people who all share a common interest! If you find a scope in the classified ads on cloudy nights chances are you will get a good deal and more importantly the seller should be honest about the condition of the Optics (very important) and overall condition of the scope! You may have to join the forums ( Free and easy) just like here, But it will be worth it if you find a scope on there you would like to buy! Also if you join Let them know (LLD) referred you. As far as a Dob for a first scope I would say yes- Larger aperture , Rock steady Easy to use Mount , And nowadays quality well made mirrors ! If buying from say Craigslist or ebay unless you really know how to check out the scope you could get hosed I know a few guys who have used scopes and should have known better get screwed buying from those sites and i also know 1 person who got a great deal on a scope! If you have a scope in mind let me know were you saw the ad and i will have a look. Also Google Astronomy clubs in your state and if one is near go checkout thier public observing nights there you can see first hand and observe thru many different types of scopes ! Giva a holla if you have any ?'s .

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You just made me remember the astronomy club at our county college. They have a big observatory I've always wanted to visit. I just found their website on google, http://www.asterism.org/. I'll let you know when I find something we want to buy. I might try taking my boy to the astronomy club and get even more helpful advice, maybe even find someone with an extra scope they want to sell. Thanks again.

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