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Old 03-07-12, 09:15 AM   #1
Will G
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Telescope Suggestions

For you astronomy inclined folks, my son wants a telescope for his 14th birthday. Thinking about something in the $200 to $300 range. Not sure how much interest he really has so I don't want to buy the Hubble. I was thinking about something like this: http://www.telescopes.com/telescopes...header-CELE248 . We live in the country so lights are not a problem and I don't need to transport the thing. I would guess we will start near, like the moon, and work our way out to other stuff.

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Old 03-07-12, 09:23 AM   #2
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14th b'day?
Get one with the computer thingy that let's him use a laptop to point the scope in the right direction...and automatically follow the intended veiwing.

This looks pretty nice
http://www.telescopes.com/telescopes...rtelescope.cfm
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Old 03-07-12, 09:39 AM   #3
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14th b'day?
Get one with the computer thingy that let's him use a laptop to point the scope in the right direction...and automatically follow the intended veiwing.

This looks pretty nice
http://www.telescopes.com/telescopes...rtelescope.cfm
+1 on something with PC Interface. The problem with kids & manual telescopes is that the time required to find/focus an object vastly exceed the attention span of the average teen-aged operator.
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Old 03-07-12, 09:46 AM   #4
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I wasn't too happy with my Meade. It was a 90mm refractor I believe. The laser 'sighting' thing got loose easily, the eyepieces they send are mediocre, narrow FOV, etc. Plus, the cap for the telescope (to protect the lens) was broken upon delivery; I called Meade and they said I'd have to ship back the entire telescope and they'd send me a brand new one!! No way was I waiting, I wanted to play with my scope immediately. Made some awesome sightings, Andromeda, orion nebula, jupiter of course, venus, etc. The quality of the lens was great, as far as I'm qualified to tell; but 90mm was just too small.

Just saying in case you considered any Meade telescopes.


It's too bad that kids have too short of an attentions pan to learn how to find the objects they're looking for. I printed out some awesome star charts and it's pretty cool knowledge to have.

I like that reflector you posted. Maybe a tad on the expensive side but it should serve him well. I like reflectors over refractors myself. It's larger than mine was as well, for roughly similar price.

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Old 03-07-12, 10:55 AM   #5
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Shouldn't need anything fancy to see across the street into the neighbor girl's window
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Old 03-07-12, 11:14 AM   #6
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Regrading the GO TO function on some telescopes, is it better, i.e. more educational, to use that or to dig out the charts and find it? The telescoped I linked did have a motor to follow the object once you have found it.

Does it matter to have the image corrected left/right, up/down or is that irritating?
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Old 03-07-12, 12:09 PM   #7
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The GoTo thing is of great help. When you are trying to find a specific target it can be a lesson in frustration. Honestly, everything just looks like little blue dots and you can get really lost.

Check out http://www.cloudynights.com/
They have great reviews and their forum board is amazingly helpful. Also be careful looking through their members' photo galleries. A few of the board members are master astrophotographers and some of those images are stunning. You can loose hours perusing through them.
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Old 03-07-12, 12:12 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Will G View Post
Regrading the GO TO function on some telescopes, is it better, i.e. more educational, to use that or to dig out the charts and find it? The telescoped I linked did have a motor to follow the object once you have found it.

Does it matter to have the image corrected left/right, up/down or is that irritating?

On an astronomical telescope, image inversion is utterly irrelevant.

I would, however, go against the grain here and recommend a telescope with the largest diameter mirror that fits in your budget. Refractors ( i.e., telescopes that use lenses ) in that price range tend to have very small objective lenses. Reflectors, which use mirrors, can be much larger at a given price point. Generally, you want to get the largest possible light-gathering surface possible, and a large reflector beats a small refractor every day of the week. Plus, inexpensive refractors tend to have issues with color banding, etc. on bright objects.

The one exception is that a refractor can be preferable for solar system objects like the moon, planets, etc. But for deep space objects ( galaxies, nebula, etc ) a larger reflector is absolutely the way to go.

As for go-to mounts - I have one, and it comes in very handy. But especially at the low end of the price range you're looking at, they're not necessarily all that accurate, and you have to have at least a basic ability to do an initial alignment on particular stars before subsequent slews will get you in the neighborhood of what you're looking for. So developing some knowledge of the heavens and the ability to do manual star hopping is still a necessary and valuable skill.

Also - under no circumstances should you ever get taken in by the idea that magnification is important. Many inexpensive scopes tout "300-500x magnification!" for example. In practice, the atmosphere is almost never good enough for that level of magnification, and for that matter, only very expensive scopes and eyepieces could make use of it, anyhow. Deep sky objects often require magnifications of 20-40x at most, somewhat more for solar system objects. But it's just about the least important specification of a scope.
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Old 03-07-12, 01:11 PM   #9
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The GoTo thing is of great help. When you are trying to find a specific target it can be a lesson in frustration. Honestly, everything just looks like little blue dots and you can get really lost.

Check out http://www.cloudynights.com/
They have great reviews and their forum board is amazingly helpful. Also be careful looking through their members' photo galleries. A few of the board members are master astrophotographers and some of those images are stunning. You can loose hours perusing through them.
+1000. This is where you want to go for suggestions. People starting out are encouraged to start with a good pair of binoculars & some star charts. The larger field of view makes it easier to find various objects. If you end up not liking stargazing then you'll have some nice binoculars for other uses. A popular 1st telescope is this one (or the XT6): http://www.amazon.com/Orion-SkyQuest.../dp/B001DDW9V6 which can be found cheaper than the Amazon price. It does a good job with close (lunar) and far (deep space) object viewing. The GOTO scopes in your price range do not work well, sacrifice scope quality for electronics, and will frustrate your son. I would avoid them. Finally, keep in mind that you'll need a stand (usually included with cheaper scopes) and a good eyepiece or two ($50 a pop). Some scopes come with decent eyepieces, others do not.

Some good tips / suggestions can be found here:
http://www.rocketroberts.com/astro/first.htm
http://www.rocketroberts.com/astro/firstscopes.htm

Last edited by Greg_R; 03-07-12 at 01:24 PM.
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Old 03-07-12, 01:18 PM   #10
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One more suggestion: Take your son to a star party. Having someone around who knows what they are doing is a HUGE, HUGE, help (where the heck is Jupiter, etc.). This is a hobby of patience and humility.
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Old 03-07-12, 01:22 PM   #11
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My local planetarium is 4 bucks.
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Old 03-07-12, 01:26 PM   #12
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+1000. This is where you want to go for suggestions. People starting out are encouraged to start with a good pair of binoculars & some star charts. The larger field of view makes it easier to find various objects. If you end up not liking stargazing then you'll have some nice binoculars for other uses. A popular 1st telescope is this one (or the XT6): http://www.amazon.com/Orion-SkyQuest.../dp/B001DDW9V6 which can be found cheaper than the Amazon price. It does a good job with close (lunar) and far (deep space) object viewing. The GOTO scopes in your price range do not work well, sacrifice scope quality for electronics, and will frustrate your son. I would avoid them. Finally, keep in mind that you'll need a stand (usually included with cheaper scopes) and a good eyepiece or two ($50 a pop). Some scopes come with decent eyepieces, others do not.

Some good tips / suggestions can be found here:
http://www.rocketroberts.com/astro/first.htm
http://www.rocketroberts.com/astro/firstscopes.htm

Binoculars are an excellent suggestion. I use an older version of these Eagle Optics Rangers ( http://www.eagleoptics.com/binocular...0x42-binocular ) for my astronomy work. They're right on the edge of being too heavy for long-term holding, but they have a decent field of view and reasonable objective lens size for astronomy.

Plus, if the kid ends up not being all that interested, they're supremely useful for other things, as well.
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Old 03-07-12, 02:13 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mulveyr View Post
On an astronomical telescope, image inversion is utterly irrelevant.

I would, however, go against the grain here and recommend a telescope with the largest diameter mirror that fits in your budget. Refractors ( i.e., telescopes that use lenses ) in that price range tend to have very small objective lenses. Reflectors, which use mirrors, can be much larger at a given price point. Generally, you want to get the largest possible light-gathering surface possible, and a large reflector beats a small refractor every day of the week. Plus, inexpensive refractors tend to have issues with color banding, etc. on bright objects.

The one exception is that a refractor can be preferable for solar system objects like the moon, planets, etc. But for deep space objects ( galaxies, nebula, etc ) a larger reflector is absolutely the way to go.

As for go-to mounts - I have one, and it comes in very handy. But especially at the low end of the price range you're looking at, they're not necessarily all that accurate, and you have to have at least a basic ability to do an initial alignment on particular stars before subsequent slews will get you in the neighborhood of what you're looking for. So developing some knowledge of the heavens and the ability to do manual star hopping is still a necessary and valuable skill.

Also - under no circumstances should you ever get taken in by the idea that magnification is important. Many inexpensive scopes tout "300-500x magnification!" for example. In practice, the atmosphere is almost never good enough for that level of magnification, and for that matter, only very expensive scopes and eyepieces could make use of it, anyhow. Deep sky objects often require magnifications of 20-40x at most, somewhat more for solar system objects. But it's just about the least important specification of a scope.

this^


With the caveat that binoculars and star charts may be a better start, to see if the interest holds, and if so, then make an effort to put a little more money into a scope. A cheap scope will only frustrate a beginner.
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Old 03-07-12, 03:15 PM   #14
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Ok, I'm going to make an unconventional suggestion. For less than $300 you can get a 6" Dobsonian. The 1.5" difference between a 4.5 or 114mm may not sound like much but it makes a huge difference especially for the fainter DSOs. That being said it's more challenging to use but well worth it.

http://www.telescope.com/Telescopes/...PriceAscending
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Old 03-07-12, 03:25 PM   #15
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I'm no expert, but the couple of times I was invited to look at objects through a friend's Dobsonian I was very impressed....downright awed in fact.
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Old 03-07-12, 04:20 PM   #16
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If you want to be awed, go to a star party. Often someone has an "Obsession Dobsonian". Ridiculously large aperture, 18-25". Mind boggling. You stand on a ladder to see thru the eyepiece.
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Old 03-07-12, 04:33 PM   #17
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Have you read this? http://www.skyandtelescope.com/equip.../12511616.html
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Old 03-07-12, 04:35 PM   #18
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good call^
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Old 03-07-12, 05:29 PM   #19
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Ok, I'm going to make an unconventional suggestion. For less than $300 you can get a 6" Dobsonian.
Or you can make it into a father and son project. Dobsonian Telescope DIY


John Dobson's Class

Telescope Dobsonian
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Old 03-07-12, 06:03 PM   #20
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We went to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History a couple months ago and there were several home built telescopes on display built by some local folks. Very cool. Very large, too. Not sure we'll hit that level of enthusiasm.
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Old 03-07-12, 06:51 PM   #21
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Wouldn't recommend you start on the 'very large' side of things, but an 8" Dob makes a good home-build project at reasonable cost and provides enough aperture to see reasonable detail on the moon, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn and some structure in a wide variety of nebulae and galaxies. I second the recommendation to go with your son to some star parties held by a local astronomy club. That way you can look through a variety of telescopes and talk to the owners. Make note of the size of each and how much detail it reveals - especially if several telescopes are looking at the same object.
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Old 03-07-12, 07:05 PM   #22
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http://cleardarksky.com/csk/prov/Texas_charts.html

Here's someting for you.......dark sky areas mapped in Texas. That way, as his skills get better, he can find and photograph stuff like the Messier Objects, etc.

Also, here are some serious deals

http://www.telescopes.com/telescopes...4295055991.cfm

I'd reallly suggest a reflector, rather than a refractor, by the way. Or, you could go nuts and get hi9m a Schmidt-Cassegraine, but that would be over a Thousand bucks, but worth every penny.

Here's something between, at ~$500

http://www.telescopes.com/telescopes...=pjn&aid=19373

Get a BIG objective, that way, you can gather more light. I use an 18" Schmidt-Cassegraine, myself. That's pro equipment, though and they start around $3K.
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Old 03-08-12, 09:25 AM   #23
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How much difference is there between a 4.5 inch reflector and a 4.5 inch Dobsonian in image, etc.?
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Old 03-08-12, 09:49 AM   #24
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How much difference is there between a 4.5 inch reflector and a 4.5 inch Dobsonian in image, etc.?
A 4.5" dobsonian is a reflector - the "Dobsonian" refers simply to the way it's mounted.
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Old 03-08-12, 09:56 AM   #25
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http://cleardarksky.com/csk/prov/Texas_charts.html

Here's someting for you.......dark sky areas mapped in Texas. That way, as his skills get better, he can find and photograph stuff like the Messier Objects, etc.

Also, here are some serious deals

http://www.telescopes.com/telescopes...4295055991.cfm

I'd reallly suggest a reflector, rather than a refractor, by the way. Or, you could go nuts and get hi9m a Schmidt-Cassegraine, but that would be over a Thousand bucks, but worth every penny.

Here's something between, at ~$500

http://www.telescopes.com/telescopes...=pjn&aid=19373

Get a BIG objective, that way, you can gather more light. I use an 18" Schmidt-Cassegraine, myself. That's pro equipment, though and they start around $3K.
I have a 5" Maksutov-Cassegrain.... A little more expensive than a reflector, but decent size and remarkably good optics.

http://www.cloudynights.com/item.php?item_id=495
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