Telescopes

Ok, I have ZERO experience with telescopes, but I do know that I want one. What I am looking for is a backyard scope with something around 1000-1200mm focal length. Also, how can you get digital images through the scope? It just seems to me that the eyepiece would be entirely too small to push the lens up to. Like I said, I am brand new to this so if someone could point me in the right direction that'd be greatly appreciated. I'll worry about cost later on, I just need an idea of what I want. I have found many on ebay in that range of focal length, but they were almost all around $150. That just seems a little too "cheap". I'd imagine those weren't that great of quality, but I have no idea.
 
You will likely want to look at a "reflecting" telescope that uses a mirror for most of the magnification. Meade, Celestron and others make some really nice models and can be affordable. You can get a mounting ring that will accept some cameras for direct connection for photography, and there's also some manufacturer CCD solutions too although those tend to be very expensive.
 
Whatever you do stay away from the cheapo refractors. Save up for a reflecting telescope and you'll be glad you did.
 
Whatever you do stay away from the cheapo refractors. Save up for a reflecting telescope and you'll be glad you did.

Duly noted! Thanks for the help guys. I'm going to see what I can find on Ebay. It just really bothers me that some of these are so cheap ($150). I know you definitely get what you pay for in this field. I don't necessarily need something with optimum quality but I do want good results. Those prices just seem to be "too good to be true."
 
Try astromart.com ... I've bought several used scopes from people that have been awesome.

Remember that aperature - not magnification - is everything. The more light you let in, the more light reaches your eye and the better the image will be.

I had good success experimenting with astrophotography with an Orion Shorttube 80 refractor on a motor mount. For photography, a motor mount is a necessity. And you have to be able to screw your camera body onto the scope.

By the way - big ditto on staying away from Wal-Mart telescopes. They're not even in the same ballpark. A good telescope will hold its value and is an investment. Some of them hardly devalue at all. My favorite scope ever was a Dobsonian mount Coulter Odyssey that was made in the 80's (when Coulter still had good optics). It had a 13.1" mirror and I could resolve down to a bolt on a hubcap sitting on a car about three blocks from my house.
 
It all depends on your price range, and what you want from a telescope. I work at the college observatory here in Albuquerque and after being the "operator" for the public observing nights, I can say I will not buy a telescope that doesn’t track and align. A telescope having these two functions makes observing much easier and thus allot more fun. However, that does up the price. The telescope I run at the observatory is a Meade, personally though I’m looking at getting a celestron. For me I’m likely going to purchase the NexStar 8 SE, I would likely suggest for you a NexStar 4 SE. Although a friend of mine who is really into amateur astronomy might suggest something else though. If tracking isn’t a concern I would likely still suggest a Cassegrain, Dobsonian, or Newtonian telescope of some kind. Most of all though, do not get suckered into buying something with something like 1000X magnification plastered over the package. A telescope besides offering some magnification is really a light “bucket”. Most objects cover a relatively large area of the sky(ex. M31) and don’t require high magnification, but they are also likely faint and thus you want something with allot of collecting area. Thus stick with telescopes with a larger diameter for the primary mirror. Also, if you want to do astrophotography that’s something that does require tracking and that’s whole other story. That should start you off for now in a perhaps better direction if you have any questions feel free to ask.

P.S. I like a telescope that has the ability to tell me it's RA and DEC that way I don't go "fishing" for some faint object in the sky for hours.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
P.S. I like a telescope that has the ability to tell me it's RA and DEC that way I don't go "fishing" for some faint object in the sky for hours.

I might take this over a telescope with auto-drives that will locate the object for you. But there's still something to say for at least learning how to jump stars to find deep sky objects at first anyway. Just seems like that's half the fun of astronomy - the thrill of the hunt. After a few years of this (or less), it can get old though, and a person is ready to just find the dang Messier object and get on with life.
 
I might take this over a telescope with auto-drives that will locate the object for you. But there's still something to say for at least learning how to jump stars to find deep sky objects at first anyway. Just seems like that's half the fun of astronomy - the thrill of the hunt. After a few years of this (or less), it can get old though, and a person is ready to just find the dang Messier object and get on with life.


I agree that the auto-drives are not a requirement, but I would want a telescope that would at least tell me RA and DEC. If you still want that "experience" of star hoping then just turn the electronics off for a night. I guess it's kind of like storm chasing. If you could just see a storm outside your doorstep would you take that over the thrill of chasing? I guess it would depend on what you really want out of such an activity. Either way, I bet you're likely going to just want to see that darn messier object after a while, just like after several days of chasing you going to want to see a decent storm.
 
Guess I'm a big weenie...

I absolutely love the auto-point (GOTO) feature! I put my Meade 12" LX200GPS on the driveway...plug it in...and turn it on. It wakes up, finds out the time, location, decides if its level, finds true north, then points to a certain star and asks if its in the viewfinder. Then, it goes to another star, asks the same thing. Then..the fun begins! Just punch up what you want to look at (i.e. Saturn, horsehead nebula, crab nebula, etc..), hit GOTO, and a few minutes its in your viewfinder. I love it. Sorry this is slipping WAAAY off topic. Probably better suited for the 'bar..

Tim
 
... my Meade 12" LX200GPS ...

There you go ... trying to instigate some serious aperature envy. Now you're just trying to stir something up. :)

How about hauling that baby out on the plains with you sometime this year? - Don't know if that and a few turtles can fit in the back of the same minivan, but I'd love to meet up in the middle of Kansas (west of the dryline) and take a look through that little number (j/k of course). I bet you do get spectacular views up in the mountains. Very nice -
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Way to go on spurring telescope envy. I would brag about the 14" LX200 I use at campus, except for the fact were in the middle of Albuquerque with it. Darn Tim you have all the neat toys.

P.S. On a side note Tim, I saw you on the EMRTC video in Socorro.
 
Wow, I suppose I have more than enough info now lol. I'll definitely do some checking. I'm always leary about diving into something like this though.

Tim, did a quick search for that telescope on ebay and found nothing. I'm sure that's way out of my price range anyway!
 
Wow, I suppose I have more than enough info now lol. I'll definitely do some checking. I'm always leary about diving into something like this though.

Tim, did a quick search for that telescope on ebay and found nothing. I'm sure that's way out of my price range anyway!

The Meade LX200 12" is only $4,699.
 
Mike, you wrote:

Now you're just trying to stir something up. :)

I stir all kinds of 'things' up with th' boss at home.

Its a great telescope, but very big-right on the edge of not being very portable. It's likely that it won't be joining me in the field, but I gotta tell ya...some of the dark skies we as chasers come across...is simply astounding. Who can ask for anything more when the dying storm you've given up for the evening retreats to the east blasting out incredible lighting, under an ink black sky?

Talk about aperature envy...

The system that I lust after is the 20" RCOS open truss system with a Paramount ME. THAT is aperature envy.:rolleyes:

Oh, if you keep a sharp eye on Ebay, you can get a good deal...its where I got mine.

Robert, you wrote:

P.S. On a side note Tim, I saw you on the EMRTC video in Socorro.

Ah...beautiful Socorro. I've spent close to 30 years trampling all over that mountain top blowing stuff up as a visitor. Can't stand those stupid knats during April/May, though.

New Mexico Tech (NMT) is a terrific facility, and I always enjoy working down there. NMT also has their triggered lightning facility up in the Magnalena mountains. How cool is that?

I've had my share of time in ABQ doing similar activities at Kirkland AFB. Any ham or electro-nerd would get excited as a teenager on the first date driving past their old EMP facility. Definately does it for me.

WSMR is another place thats fun to work. We were working within a mile or so next to the original Trinity site (first above-ground nuke). Actually found a piece of 'Trinitite'.

New Mexico is a fantastic place to live-I turn into a helpless pile of drool when somebody places a bowl of hot green chili and tortillas in my face...

Tim
 
There are a wide variety of camera adapters out there. You can hook up a small digicam or USB web cam to most decen scopes, and can use heavier film/digital SLR bodies with a more solidly mounted equipment.

IMO, you can't buy anything worth having for under ~200 bucks. Avoid at all cost the cheap Tasco class junk. If in doubt, check the mount. If it isn't solid and stable, the scope will be completely unusable, whatever optics are in it.

I'm very much Old School. Give me a dobsonian, a good sky atlas, and time to chill out and enjoy the sky. I greatly enjoy the relaxed star hopping method of observing; you'll find what you're looking for soon enough, and often encounter pleasant surprises along the way. To have the scope poop out a view on command is like fly fishing with dynamite - completely beside the point. The whirring, chirping, grinding 'goto' scopes are for lame brained Mercedes driving doctors with more $ than common sense. ;) GPS, Goto, Voice Command (No, I'm not kidding. "Goto M42." LAME! :p ) are just marketing gimmicks, IMO. Yea, I'm a grumpy old fart!

FWIW, I've got a 10" dob, and have just acquired an 18" pyrex blank for a 'big eye' project. We have a complete optics fab shop at work so I can use a powered overarm machine to hog out the glass and rough polish the figure, saving gobs of time, not to mention my back.

Be forewarned: Aperture Fever is incurable....

Opinion aside, you can spend the majority of your money on optics or on the mount, or you can try to find some middle ground. For visual observing, aperture rules - get the bigest dob you can afford. An motorized equatorial mount is obviously required if you want to do guided photography. No worries if that's your goal, but make sure you know what you really want before buyng.

The classic suggestion is to attend a star party or two. Get there early, while it's still light, and ask folks about their scopes. Most are happy to show a noob what they've got. Later, you can observe a wide variety of objects with everything from 20x70 binocs to a not uncommon 18~20" light bucket. Take notes and compare the views, the cost of the equipment, the hassle of transporting and setting up each sort of rig, etc.

Quad Cities Astronomical Society/
http://home.mchsi.com/~qcas/

Scope reviews.
http://www.cloudynights.com/
http://www.weatherman.com/
http://www.scopereviews.com/index.html

Enjoy the night sky, it's gorgeous!

-Greg
 
Last edited:
Who can ask for anything more when the dying storm you've given up for the evening retreats to the east blasting out incredible lighting, under an ink black sky?

This one sentence really made me think about what's coming. Those nights are just the best. You get a great storm during the day, and a crystal clear night afterward. I've done my share of sitting in the middle of Kansas in the middle of the night after the cold front passes and the air is good and dry. Lightning in the distance. And a person can just about see every star in the Milky Way. It's the rewarding thing about chasing alone, because it leaves you with just you and the sky when it's all said and done.

It's true - - who could ask for anything more?

Sorry to get off subject, but it just had to be done ...
 
I would really suggest first contacting nearest astronomy club for learning some basics, getting chance to try different telescopes and seeing how different objects show with them and seeing how much "body building" factor there's involved in using them. Good telescopes ain't light to carry around and even binoculars win telescope which just sits under the roof in storage because it's too cumbersome to use.
Also if you're thinking those colourfull shots in magazines it's better to do reality check first. Visually most objects aren't very colourfull and taking good photographs requires considerable amount of experience and skill.

And like' it's been said magnification numbers printed to adds with big font size don't matter, those don't tell anything concretic (just like "zoom"-numbers of digicams, most big zoom digicams don't have any wide angle which isn't good thing in stormchasing) and magnification changes everytime you change eyepiece.
As good rule even 50x magnification can be too much for wide deep sky objects. Of course there's some deep sky objects which require high magnification, like some planetary nebulas (M57) or Trapezium in M42.

While learning all by yourself could be rewarding if you like such approach it can also cause big disappointments which might drive you away from stargazing.



There are a wide variety of camera adapters out there. You can hook up a small digicam or USB web cam to most decen scopes, and can use heavier film/digital SLR bodies with a more solidly mounted equipment.
In planetary photography cheap webcams can actually produce very good results, it just requires taking thousands frames of video, selecting best couple hundred frames and then "stacking" those.
I'm very much Old School. Give me a dobsonian, a good sky atlas, and time to chill out and enjoy the sky. I greatly enjoy the relaxed star hopping method of observing; you'll find what you're looking for soon enough, and often encounter pleasant surprises along the way. To have the scope poop out a view on command is like fly fishing with dynamite - completely beside the point. The whirring, chirping, grinding 'goto' scopes are for lame brained Mercedes driving doctors with more $ than common sense. ;) GPS, Goto, Voice Command (No, I'm not kidding. "Goto M42." LAME! :p ) are just marketing gimmicks, IMO. Yea, I'm a grumpy old fart!
Or at least that's how stargazing hobby should be started... Under dark sky and without any hurry. That's one of the rare situations when you can forget all those stupid things mankind does.
Feeling when you have found some special object only with your own skills is definitely something which could never be possible with button pushing... like for example finding 2002NY40 while it's moving through very star rich area.

PS. Got April's Astronomy yesterday, results of online poll makes me laugh, here in Finland stars show rarely at winter if temperature is higher than -15C/5F and ten percent of respondents would even miss best observing time we have.
 
Greg, you wrote:

The whirring, chirping, grinding 'goto' scopes are for lame brained Mercedes driving doctors with more $ than common sense. GPS, Goto, Voice Command (No, I'm not kidding. "Goto M42." LAME! )

Ahhh...

The 'whirring, chirping, grinding noise'..is wonderful. Well, OK...maybe not the grinding noise. Dunno....I think GOTO is a sign of progress. Its a wonderful piece of technology. I love it. Pull up M42 in your Meade handheld controller or remote linked computer, hit GOTO...take a sip of coffee...and there it is. Wonderful!

Remember, I prefaced all my comments by calling myself a big weenie.

I also think starhopping with a monster light bucket also has a romantic appeal. Now, if you were to mount that Dob on a GOTO mount..then you'd have something!

I'm kidding!

Greg, you also wrote:

We have a complete optics fab shop at work so I can use a powered overarm machine to hog out the glass and rough polish the figure, saving gobs of time, not to mention my back.

Man, how cool is that? I admire anybody that attempts to grind their own mirrors. That has to be a very rewarding-sometimes frusrating experience. Say...can your optics fab shop grind me a set of 20-22" RC f:8 optics?:D

I know that is not an easy task...

Esa, you wrote:

Or at least that's how stargazing hobby should be started... Under dark sky and without any hurry.

Perhaps. But without new, young amateur astronomers coming along with the lure of technology to help them find their own 'thing' within astronomy, I think the hobby would struggle. If there were no motorized mounts with computer control, I'm not so sure astronomy would be as popular. Its the popularity that keeps the manufactures in business making cool telescope stuff.

I started to write a paragraph comparing astronomy to ham radio, but I'll spare folks the rant...:rolleyes:

A good comparison to this would be chasing. There are some die-hard folks out there who resist technology to chase. They find great rewards by finding storms just using instincts and their own eyes.

There are some that claim having the internet on 100% of the time in your vehicle nearly removes the forecasting talent that's needed for storm chasing.

Again, for me...technology is great to have. To use the 'old methods' (star hopping, going 'visual', using morse code) certainly has a romantic appeal..its simply not very efficient when you desire the end product (observing the chosen celestrial object, watching the cool storm, getting communications established). I will agree that at times, the journey is the fun part.

Point is, there is no right or wrong way on how to enjoy these cool hobbies...only opinions.

My apologies to you, Jeremy...we ran away from your original topic. See what happens when you mention the word 'telescope' amongst geeks?

I'm surprised the moderators haven't shot us yet.

Tim
 
Seems like it's been a pretty educational thread for a first-time telescope buyer too. There's a lot of info here. When I first got into astronomy I took a course on the Internet. This was back when the net was still new, and so I took it through AOL at the time, but it was actually a good way to learn how things work.

For a first time telescope, if you are really interested in astrophotography, I would really consider the Orion shorttubes. I really loved mine and wish I hadn't sold it. They are short and compact, so you can carry it around anywhere, even in a backpack. And the glass they use is excellent, which gives you some crystal clear views. Planetary and solar system views were great with that telescope (Saturn was super crisp), and I could see a lot more detail in deep sky objects than I thought I'd be able to. They're also in a good, medium price range that lets you invest some in scope, some in glass and some in tripod.

If you're really wanting lots of light and good views of galaxies, nebulae, etc., then I'd agree with Greg to go with a Dob. Dobsonians have simple mounts, so you don't spend a lot of money on that aspect of the scope, and your money goes more into aperature and mirror diameter, letting you snag more light for your buck.

By the way, even though you'll find some good telescopes on eBay - astromart has traditionally been the hotspot for used telescopes, so I would definitely check it out. You'll probably find someone selling one close to where you live.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Greg, you wrote:
Ahhh...

The 'whirring, chirping, grinding noise'..is wonderful. Well, OK...maybe not the grinding noise. Dunno....I think GOTO is a sign of progress. Its a wonderful piece of technology. I love it. Pull up M42 in your Meade handheld controller or remote linked computer, hit GOTO...take a sip of coffee...and there it is. Wonderful!

Remember, I prefaced all my comments by calling myself a big weenie.

And hopeless technophile!

Star party observing tends to be quiet and relaxing, at least after the large families drag the brats back to bed. Most motorized mounts are fine when tracking, but 20 seconds of 'ZZZZZZZZTTT!' high speed, horizon-to-horizon slewing can ruin the mood faster than garlic breath.

I also think starhopping with a monster light bucket also has a romantic appeal. Now, if you were to mount that Dob on a GOTO mount..then you'd have something!
Not a bad idea. There are a number of low slung equatorial cradles out there that allow a few minutes of tracking. A friend of mine has tried several with his 18" Discovery truss tube. I tease him a lot, since he's also 'old school,' but secretly admire the added functionality. Bumping and nudging the scope at 300x to track Neptune is a PITA. If you really want to 'cheat,' a few hundred bucks will buy a set of alt-az axis encoders and a black box that will guide you to your prey.

Man, how cool is that? I admire anybody that attempts to grind their own mirrors. That has to be a very rewarding-sometimes frusrating experience. Say...can your optics fab shop grind me a set of 20-22" RC f:8 optics?:D
Hehe. In theory I could hog out the mirror blank, but final figuring of those wacky RC optics (what are they, hyperboloids, or something?) is way beyone anything we've ever done. Wish me luck final figuring my 18" I made a decent 6" WAYYY long ago, but have never attempted anything remotely this big. We've got several interferometers in house, so I should be able to test sections of the final mirror surface with great accuracy.

Perhaps. But without new, young amateur astronomers coming along with the lure of technology to help them find their own 'thing' within astronomy, I think the hobby would struggle. If there were no motorized mounts with computer control, I'm not so sure astronomy would be as popular. Its the popularity that keeps the manufactures in business making cool telescope stuff.
I duunow if I'll go along with that, Tim. ;) Any bright kid will get a 'woot' out of Saturn. If they're sufficiently intrigued, they will take the time and effort to find thier own objects and hunt them down. I'd much rather they make that effort, rather than sit back and wait for the view to be served up on demand, like a TV show or microwave dinner. I'd argue that if they aren't willing to 'work' for few minutes, they don't have much interest in the first place. (Oops - almost had another 'TV rant' moment.... sorry all. :) )

I started to write a paragraph comparing astronomy to ham radio, but I'll spare folks the rant...:rolleyes:
Amen! :)

A good comparison to this would be chasing. There are some die-hard folks out there who resist technology to chase. They find great rewards by finding storms just using instincts and their own eyes.

There are some that claim having the internet on 100% of the time in your vehicle nearly removes the forecasting talent that's needed for storm chasing.

Again, for me...technology is great to have. To use the 'old methods' (star hopping, going 'visual', using morse code) certainly has a romantic appeal..its simply not very efficient when you desire the end product (observing the chosen celestrial object, watching the cool storm, getting communications established). I will agree that at times, the journey is the fun part.
FWLIW, I'm much more sympathetic to the technical side of chasing. Galaxies and tornadoes occupy opposite ends of the 'durability' spectrum. You've GOT to be there when a storm develops, not 100 miles away looking at the tops and thinking "Dang, I should'a checked the latest surface readings after all." NGC2847 will ALWAYS (well...) be there.

My apologies to you, Jeremy...we ran away from your original topic. See what happens when you mention the word 'telescope' amongst geeks?

I'm surprised the moderators haven't shot us yet.

Tim

Stormtrack is always good for an argument! :)

-Greg
 
Greg, you argued:

Most motorized mounts are fine when tracking, but 20 seconds of 'ZZZZZZZZTTT!' high speed, horizon-to-horizon slewing can ruin the mood faster than garlic breath.

I think you're looking at this wrong. I don't think there is a sweeter sound than ZZZZZZZTTTT! As far as garlic breath is concerned...its NOT a problem when everyone is munching on a clove because its SO GOOD! We just throw out 'Suzie sweet breath'..and we no longer have a problem.

You also added:

And hopeless technophile!

Yep..I agree. Technology is our friend.

You kept on going with:

I duunow if I'll go along with that, Tim. ;)

Well, if technology can't serve it up on demand, they may lose interest in it. Hey, we live in the techno-age! Why NOT have technology work for us. If somebody handed a teen that Celestron gizmo called a Skyscout, and was able to 'zero in' on cool things in the sky to look at..and he got hooked on astronomy..then technology helped him get hooked. ...and why not? Kids love the incredible video games they have...get to yap/text on the celphones to their friends, nuke up a meal in a matter of minutes, watch damn near anything on the Tee Vee using the kazillion channel cablebox and TiVo, clip on these tiny music boxes on to their shirts and listen to the songs they just downloaded off the 'net.

I call it 'the Old and Cranky Syndrome' (OCS). People like us that had to do things the hard way must insist that the kids should do it, too...or they won't learn/appreciate it. I'm only referring to technology, and not lessons in life.

OCS examples (in a cranky old voice): 'Well...when I was yer age..I had to go down to the music store and buy a record if I wanted a song..they make it too damn easy for kids' ....or.... "You don't need a danggum celphone...just use a pay phone..thats what they're for" ..."You must learn Morse code to get your ham license" ...."Quit looking through that GOTO telescope, and I'll show you how to star hop".

:D

....Gonna get roasted on the last one.....

Continuing to address your comments:

"Dang, I should'a checked the latest surface readings after all." NGC2847 will ALWAYS (well...) be there.

Ah...I actually see a closer parallel. Comparing the starhopper/non-technochaser to the GOTO/technochaser. Starhopper takes X amount of time to find NGC2847....non-technochaser stumbles around trying to find the storm which takes X amount of time. Perhaps both Starhopper AND non-technochaser can't find NGC2847 and juicy storm due to X being too long.

Now lets look at GOTO/technochaser. Simply remove X.
;)

Moderators: I tried my best to keep stormchasing in it.

Oh, I'm surprised that Gene Moore (world's best chaser IMO) has not chimed in. My wife can park her car inside of his Dob..

Mike commented:

I've done my share of sitting in the middle of Kansas in the middle of the night after the cold front passes and the air is good and dry. Lightning in the distance. And a person can just about see every star in the Milky Way.

Amen.

Tim
 
Alright, no one asked, but here's my take on the tech end of astronomy. It's nice to have, and it's nice for those nights a person wants to see stuff more than search for stuff to see. At the same time, my thinking for people who are new to star gazing is that it's great if the technology gets you interested, but your experience can be that much more meaningful if you take the time to learn the DIY methods and understand how this is working. Technology in astronomy is a lot like technology in everything else, and it depends on the person's goals. If you want to learn to drive a car, you can do it without learning how the car works ... but there's also something to be said for picking up some of that useful information.

This is sooooo like chasing these days, and the whole gear vs. no gear arguments. I'm a gear-head ... but if I didn't know at least some of the basic mechanics for what was going on over my head, I would be doing my eyes a big dis-service when I chase. As it is, I'm just about as comfortable chasing with or without data, and I love being self reliant that way. But that's just me ... and to each his own on this one. :)
 
My favorite scope ever was a Dobsonian mount Coulter Odyssey that was made in the 80's (when Coulter still had good optics). It had a 13.1" mirror and I could resolve down to a bolt on a hubcap sitting on a car about three blocks from my house.

I have that exact scope, bought it in the late 80's. Very simple and inexpensive yet breathtaking views. Stopped down to 5 inches with an off-aperature mask and it does very well on planetary viewing. I put a different focuser on it and also put a dob driver from tech 2000.

Its been sitting in my garage for several years now, mirrors are probably in dire need of recoating. I have been thinking about taking the optics out and installing them in a truss tube kit. I bet a proper mount would do wonders for the primary mirror.

Remember the Coulter CT-100? That was my first scope as a kid. My uncle steered my parents in the right direction - I got a decent reflector instead of a POS 60mm refactor that boasted 400x of magnification.

I also have a 5" Celestron SC which is 1200mm at F10. I have used my Canon DSLR with this telescope to shoot wildlife with adequate results. Camera shake is a big issue, going to try and forgo the tripod and use bean bags or something to reduce shake and see if the images get better.
 
Back
Top