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Amature wants a decent telescope

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#1 gannebraemorr

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 12:17 AM

Disclaimer: I know nothing about telescopes nor astronomy. The closest I got to astronomy was with a cheap telescope from Wal-Mart as a kid over 30 years ago, and present day with just the Google Sky app on my phone. In my 40's now, I'd like to get a decent telescope for amature or better observing.

Desired features:
- USB/Firewire/etc connection to my Windows or Linux computer
- position the telescope look-angle / sky coordinates and focus from the computer or control panel
- auto-tracking of currently-viewed celestial body would be nice, but not mandatory
- capture video, or at least still pics, to the computer (If PC-capture isn't possible, my daughter has a Nikon D3100 that I can use if there are 35mm mounts.)

Desired targets:
- our moon of course
- planets through Saturn at least
- ISS, if trackable
- comets, major asteroids
- Are galaxies viewable with consumer telescopes?

Cost: I don't know what decent telescopes cost, but I'd like to keep it under or around $300. I may be WAY off, so if it's more, still let me know and I'll decide if it's still worth it to me.

Thank you VERY much for your feedback or pointing me to a good amature telescope purchasing FAQ.

#2 kfiscus

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 12:32 AM

Welcome. You'll find lots of help here on Cloudy Nights. I'd suggest that you re-post on the Beginners Forum and look through posts from others like you that are getting ready to take the leap.
Many of us will recommend not trying to mix your start in stargazing with astrophotography. It's doable but not recommended.

#3 starrancher

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 12:43 AM

300 bucks won't get ya what you want unless you get real lucky in the used market from someone that doesn't have a clue as to what they are getting rid of .

#4 starrancher

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 01:14 AM

There is some great galaxy detail that can be had from a good dark sky location with an 8 inch scope . An 8 inch Schmidt Cassigrain on a go to mount will start at maybe 1400 bucks new . Or an 8 inch Newtonian on a go to mount at about 1200 bucks . A go to 8 inch solid tube Dobsonian about 1000 bucks .
The cheapest 8 inch you could get would be a standard Dobsonuan at about 500 bucks . Visually , an 8 inch will show lots under good dark skies and keep you busy for years to come . As was already mentioned , you might hold back on the photo aspect and get affluent with the scope visually and learn the ins and outs of photo before jumping in .
The forums here should bring lots to light .
Bottom line , take some time and make a well informed decision . And remember that extra eyepieces and other accessories are goin to add to the price of your journey .

#5 Al8236

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 04:27 AM

Starrancher,
Don't throw him under the bus quite yet! If someone had told me that the only way to view the stars back in the 60's was to spend $500.00 I would have run screaming and never looked back!
Although the OP is probably a little short on what a beginner setup will run, He might be able to get an 114mm F/8 on an EQ Goto that will see if he "catches the bug" this is a simple system that will allow the OP to see weather it continues to captivate his interest.
It is also capable of web cam planetary video if that is the direction he follows.

#6 sg6

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 08:20 AM

With the features you ask I would agree with Starrancher, you are not going to get it all.

The interface to a PC you need a goto, to change focus you need an electric focuser for the scope used and I am not sure how many of these can be run fron a PC.

For video then a webcam, to attach a DSLR then a Nikon T-piece and the mount would need to be a fairly solid EQ mount type. Although some have a "camera" in them this is used for self alignment and from what I have read is no use for imaging.

Most goto's need you to set them up and perform the alignment.

For the ISS I suspect this is not sensible, some planatarium packages will provide a plug in for it but it does not move as the celestrial objects do and it moves fast. It is one of those things that I would say is not sensible to expect a good result.

To get what you have said I would realistically expect $3000 not $300.

The mentioned 8" dob would show planets and some galaxy's but it is manual, does not connect to the PC, does not do imaging. To see anything you have to locate everything your self any to follow anything means nudging the scope round.

Amateur scopes have improved but those improvements still cost money.

#7 MikeBOKC

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 08:42 AM

Are you located within a reasonable drive of an astronomy club? If so get thee hence and sign up and attend some of their events, especially star parties and public viewing nights. Looks through a wide range of telescopes, ask questions, etc. Buying a telescope is something like buying a car . . . it is an instrument to take you places and you want some specific features or accessories to meet your particulat needs. You would test drive the car before buying it; same applies here. As to the price range, there are some decent smaller scopes in that range, but none that will do what you wish. A common misconception among newbies is that the cost of the scope is the major expense; not so. Mounts, eyepieces, power sources, photo accessories . . . all are going to cost at least as much, and probably more than, the scope itself. The good news is that you can add items at your own pace once you have assembled a basic package; the bad is that to track, locate, view and photograph a range of celestial objects with any degree of satisfaction is not a cheap endeavor. Nor is it vastly expensive, unless you choose to make it so. Yuo might also compare it to fishing. Yuo can stand on the bank and catch some fish witha bamboo pole and some worms, but it takes a boat and some decent rods and reels to go for the big ones out in deep water. (I have now exhausted the analogy bank!)

Bottom line: this is a great hobby, but like any worthwhile hobby it demands some minimal level in dollars and time.

#8 csrlice12

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 08:56 AM

Mike's right; the scope itself will probably end up about only a third of the cost of everything else.

#9 Eddgie

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 09:18 AM

I don't think you will get even a fraction of what you want in the price range you stated.

Many of the functions you want can be accomplished with Go-To mounts and aftermarket software or even some freeware, but most Go-To mounts will cost $400 or more even used.

The Meade LXD-75 mount may be desirable to you because Meade used to provide various downloads for doing things like tracking ISS or for comets and things. These were updated from time to time. I don't know if they still keep this site up though.

A nice little Telescope like a Celestron C6 OTA is a good all around instrument and you can outfit if for imaging at a resonable cost. These can be purchased used for about $300 or so.

These would be the most crucial ingredients but you would still need to get the software and the cameras and stuff, so by the time the dust settles, you could be spending much more than this.

Meade makes on product that you may be interested in though.. It is the Meade Light Switch. I don't own one and have never owned one, and likely never would own one, but it has a great many of the features you might find desirable. It is a very integrated package that even includes a camera built right in.

I would rather build my own system, but if you want to keep it as simple as possible and as integrated as possible, you might want to look at it. I have seen the show up used a a nice discount.

http://meade.com/ls

But at your price point, I doubt that you will find anything that is of acceptable qualtiy. For $300, mostly what you will get (new) barely classifies as a toy. and will fall far short of the feature content you have specified.

Do more homework to see what you really want/need and up your budget.

#10 Startraffic

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 07:33 AM

gannebraemorr,
Walk first, then jog, run, marathon.
Walking is visual observing. Alt/Az or a Dobsonian scope.
Jogging is motorized observing German Equatorial.
Running is a A GEM with Goto
Marathoning is AP. Not for everyone. Your gear needs to be pretty close to perfect, dead on for deep space long exposures. No compromises. I am NOT there, yet.

If I were just starting out, for your budget, I'd get as big as I could comfortably carry in one trip. This would probably be a small/midsized refractor on a GEM, or something like an ETX. My reasoning is: No Columnation issues with a refractor, quick & easy setup, fairly straightforward operation. If you can pick it up & carry it outside without a hassle, you'll use it. If it's a PITA to use, or setup, or too big to carry outside, it'll sit in the corner collecting dust all to quickly. $300 will get you a pretty fair ~2-3" refractor on a GEM or a new 80mm ETX. HTH

Clear Dark Skies
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39.138274 -77.168898

#11 orion61

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 10:29 AM

To get him started he can get a Celestron NexStar 4 GT possibly se with an eyepiece or 2. that would be enought for him to see if he wants to stay in the hobby, if not it makes a good bird watcher.






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