Help me make the right choice

Talk or ask questions about the hardware used in astronomy.
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Craig8sm
Posts: 2
Joined: October 4th, 2011, 7:42 am

Help me make the right choice

Post by Craig8sm » October 4th, 2011, 8:26 am

Hi, I’ve been lurking here reading and observing for a while and wanted to get some guidance in making a first telescope purchase. First, I know some of you hate these which is better or what should I buy questions so I apologize for boring some of you. I know a lot of this is preference, and there are about a bazillion variables that go into getting the right equipment, but some things I have narrowed down are;
1. I plan to spend $400-$500 initially.
2. I'm interested in more than just the moon but I know I won't get very deep into space for my light budget.
3. Something portable in a must since I live in BR, but will have the ability to visit areas in the Midwest void of city lights for miles a few times a year. (But want to use it at home also.)
4. Very interested in filters and such for solar viewing.
5. motorized object finding capable.

I’m sure there are a lot of important things that I’m not even considering so any advice or suggestions would be appreciated.

Oh so far I've read up on the, Celestron NexStar 4SE, Celestron NexStar 130 SLT and the Orion StarSeeker 130mm, Orion StarSeeker 130 GoTo. I hate doing all this on the web, is there any (Good) places in Baton Rouge to go and look and talk other than the junk in the department stores around here?

Thanks
Craig.

Christopher K.
Posts: 4376
Joined: October 12th, 2009, 3:28 pm
Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Re: Help me make the right choice

Post by Christopher K. » October 4th, 2011, 8:25 pm

If you know you want to do deep-sky observing (star clusters, nebulae, etc.) most BRAS members, I guess, would suggest a reflector--anywhere from 10cm to 20cm (4- to 8-inches) depending on how dark the skies are at your home and whether you were planning on regularly transporting it elsewhere. Of course, any go-to technology would add to the cost.

(Please read up on all safety procedures and make sure you understand them before engaging in any activity involving the Sun.)

btoman
Posts: 208
Joined: October 12th, 2009, 10:35 pm
Location: Baton Rouge

Re: Help me make the right choice

Post by btoman » October 7th, 2011, 11:25 pm

Hi Craig,

We actually encourage folks to ask these kind of questions! There's nothing that can squash a budding interest in astronomical observing more than a poorly chosen telescope purchase.

That being said, if you stick to name brands such as those you've mentioned (Orion, Celestron...you can throw Meade in there, too) you shouldn't have too much to worry about in regards to a poor quality scope. Those companies make great equipment and stand by it. I'll hit your 5 points, not in order...

#2. Believe it or not, you can see some pretty nice deep sky objects with relatively small scopes. Of course, the darker the sky, the better your views of these objects. But even with only a 4" scope, you would be able to see some galaxies, nebulae, and loads of open and globular clusters. (And, of course, the Moon, rings of Saturn, Jupiter, etc.)

#3. Portability is a must at the beginning stages. They say the best scope is the one you USE. Many people go out and buy large aperture (10" - 14" +) scopes and end up not using them very often because moving a larger scope around can be quite an ordeal sometimes.

#5. "Motorized object finding capable" or GOTO. As Chris pointed out, this can add to the cost, for sure. You have 2 computerized options, though. Full GOTO, which (after an initial alignment) will point the scope (slew to) at an object you choose from the computer's database and track it. (Meaning you won't have to keep "nudging" the scope as the earth turns to keep your selection in the field of view.) Or you can get what is known as a "Push to" scope. These have a computer hand controller attached that (after an initial alignment) will guide you to the selection you choose from the database. (But these scopes do NOT track, so you have to "nudge" to keep the selection centered.)

Both have their advantages. Full GOTO is great for quickly finding new objects and keeping them centered. With a good initial alignment, you can get a tour of more objects in less time each viewing session because the computer knows right where everything is. The drawbacks are...expect to use more batteries or get a good power pack to provide power for the GOTO and be careful of bumping the scope off target as no manual moving can happen without having to then REalign the telescope. Also, getting a good initial alignment can sometimes be tricky. It's all in the details...have the scope level, if it needs to be oriented to polar North, make sure you get it as close as you can, etc.

For the Push-to...these scopes are usually a bit more inexpensive. (No motor drive.) Again, with a good initial alignment, you can tour lots of objects in less time due to the computer's database and direction. Another bonus, these scopes can be used with the computer controller guiding you (after alignment) or just manually without any computer help. (And I think they don't mind if they get bumped off target after initial alignment...at least some of them don't.) The biggest downside...no tracking. You'll have to "nudge" occasionally to keep the object centered. Usually, that isn't a big deal, though.

#4. You can get a solar filter for most of the scopes sold by any of these companies. The full aperture solar filter for a 6" Orion SkyQuest Dobsonian is about $119. That's retail, though. You can probably find one cheaper.

#1. Any of the stuff we've covered here would be within your budget. It's just a matter of which scope you choose. You've found the GOTO options in that price range, it looks like. The Push-to that I recommend would be the Orion SkyQuest XT6i. It retails for $419.99.

OTHER THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND....

1. Your new scope will probably come with one or two eyepieces. Think about getting some more soon to give yourself different magnification options.
2. Check out the Telrad w/base. This is a superior finder device that mounts to the telescope instead of the small finder scope that usually comes with a scope. It only costs about $35-40 and can be a great help in quickly finding those objects you want to look at.


FINALLY...if you are still reading :D the best...and ONLY...place in Baton Rouge to look at and talk about telescopes is the Highland Road Park Observatory. Unfortunately, Louisiana has NO shops that deal in quality telescopes anymore. But feel free to come to an Astronomical Society meeting (2nd Monday of each month at 7PM at the HRPO...in fact we have one this coming Monday) or stop out to the HRPO on a Friday or Saturday and ask around for a Baton Rouge Astronomical Society member and odds are you will find someone more than willing to show you some of the different scopes around the observatory and help try to answer any questions you may have. (I know I would!) And just a shameless plug for the club... our meetings are always FREE and OPEN to the public. (But if you would like to join, it's only $20 per year prorated by quarter.)

I hope this wasn't info overload. It really is a lot more simple than it sounds. If you want my honest opinion...go with the Push-to. Much of the fun in viewing for me has been actually learning the night sky on my own without the aid of the computer. A couple of years ago, I only knew the Big Dipper...now I can go out and point a scope at a couple dozen or more deep sky objects on any given night of the year. (Depending on the darkness of the sky, of course.) The Push-to gives you a really nice manual scope that is easy to transport around (heck, the 6" SkyQuest comes with a carrying handle on it letting you carry it like it was a suitcase!) and also gives you the option of computer guidance for when you just want to set it up and take a tour of the universe.

Feel free to ask ANY astronomical-type questions here anytime! We'll try to get you some answers, or at least point you in the right direction. (Speaking of which, you can also consider buying USED equipment. I know cloudynights.com has a vast classified section and many of the scopes we've been talking about are listed on there regularly. Sometimes you can get really good deals with extras, but of course, you have to beware of dishonest sellers. It will also show you that, when taken good care of, your equipment can have a good resale value if you decide to upgrade someday.)

Let us know if we can be of any more help!
Ben

Craig8sm
Posts: 2
Joined: October 4th, 2011, 7:42 am

Re: Help me make the right choice

Post by Craig8sm » October 10th, 2011, 8:41 am

Thanks for the help. I'm sure I'll have a ton more questions the more I attempt to learn but hey, I guess thats learning.

I thought about the "buying used" thing but not yet knowing the right questions to ask I'm fearful of the scammers. I'll keep it in mind though.

Thanks again.

conn96
Posts: 33
Joined: May 20th, 2011, 1:49 pm

Re: Help me make the right choice

Post by conn96 » November 13th, 2011, 2:18 pm

I have an 8" Dobsonian for sale (I live in the area), the only problem is that it does not have GOTO capability. It's a wonderful scope though, if your interested.

Christopher K.
Posts: 4376
Joined: October 12th, 2009, 3:28 pm
Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Re: Help me make the right choice

Post by Christopher K. » October 23rd, 2017, 2:52 pm

HRPO's annual "Buying Your First Telescope" lecture will take place on Friday 3 November at 7:30pm. The talk has no admission fee and is aimed at a general adult audience. If one actually does purchase a scope after the lecture, one should not forget the four-hour Learn Your Telescope course in January (date and time to be announced later this week).

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