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Telescope for 11 year old under $250? help!

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#1 danyap

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 10:43 PM

After doing research for several hours on the web, I've come to the conclusion that I'm in way over my head. My 11 year old wants a telescope for Christmas to be able to see the moon and planets. Our budget is $250 or less. Used would be ok with me, but there's just nothing really in my area that looks very good to me (SLC). Please give me a few suggestions for this price range that could give us the best view for our $. Nothing too complicated. He's a bright boy, but I don't want him to get frustrated because the finder doesn't work well or the mount is unstable etc...

#2 kfiscus

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 10:51 PM

I'd recommend Orion's XT4.5 dob or XT6. They're great scopes and real bargains IF you can find them used. (I haven't seen any lately.) Orion has great service and backs their products (if you're the original buyer).

#3 Driven1

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 11:30 PM

I might suggest one of these. Very simple to operate and powerful enough to grab his interest until next year when he wants a "real" telescope. These are great little scopes and will allow him to easily view the moon, some of the larger planets, as well as other objects. This is also a "GoTo" scope. Once leveled and aligned, he just has to pick an object from the controller and it will put the scope right on it. This one also comes with a USB Camera that you can connect to a laptop or desktop to capture video or snapshots from.

http://www.walmart.c...epiece/15125904

$169.00
List Price: $299.00
You Save: $130.00 (43%)

Don't think you can beat that setup for an 11 year old.

The trick with these is to have the mount perfectly level. Once you've got that, they're very easy to align and track really well. I've found a trick to stabilize the tripods for this type of scope. Get a screw in ground anchor from something like a swing set or dog tether. Screw it into the ground under the center of the tripod and then bungee the tripod spreaders to the anchor. Makes for a really stable system.

I will say you're headed on a slippery slope though. It only takes one single look at a planet like Saturn to contract aperture fever. You've been forewarned! ;)

I sincerely hope he enjoys whatever you come up with.

#4 Mike4242

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 11:32 PM

The Orion Starblast 4.5 table top dobsonian might be another option to consider. You will need a fairly stable table for it, but a lot of people really like these scopes and it's within your budget at $190.00.

Starblast 4.5

#5 danyap

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 11:34 PM

Ok, I found this one, would you think it's a good buy at $200 even though it's used?
http://www.ksl.com/i...cat=&lpid=&s...

#6 frito

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 11:38 PM

i second Ken's two suggestions new or used. if going the new route the XT4.5 is going to be right at your price limit

http://www.telescope...-Telescopes/...

the advantage of the 4.5 is its lighter weight and more kid sized. the XT6 is a bit better in what its capable of seeing and is a great beginner scope for even adults, i had one before i bought my XT8 and loved it. the downside it may intially be too much scope for him to carry and setup mainly on a size basis probably more than weight, its only about 40 lbs but its 5 feet tall.

as for used vs new. used offers great value in these sorts of scopes, one can often find them for half retail price, the downside is Orion will not support you in any way. they will not even sell you replacement parts if something breaks. the good news is these basic dobs do not have much that can break on them and if it was to break it would probably be a good time to upgrade to a bigger scope. if you buy new Orion's customer support for products bought from them is excellent.

cheaper options if you're looking to get smaller, cheaper and simpler would be their tabletop dob's. i would stay away from any tripod mounted scopes. keep operation and setup simple and thats what dob's are great at. if you do wish to go with a Tripod mounted say refractor get one on an Alt Az mount rather than an Equatorial mount, learning how to properly setup and use an Equatorial mount is enough to make both newbie kids and adults give up on astronomy when first start out.

#7 frito

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 11:40 PM

Ok, I found this one, would you think it's a good buy at $200 even though it's used?
http://www.ksl.com/i...cat=&lpid=&s...

.

200 is the most i'd tell anyone to pay for an XT6. its a great scope but once again read my possible concerns about it in the post above. depending on his size it may be too big or heavy for him to easily drag out side and use on a regular basis. for a teenager or adult its fine.

#8 danyap

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 11:43 PM

I do like that xt4.5. Very neat! Is this 4.5 an option? http://www.telescope...Telescope/p/... - I never thought about the mount being particularly difficult to use, but watching a youtube video on it made me wonder.

#9 NeuWerld

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 11:49 PM

If you do end up getting that scope I'd be willing to send you an extra Apertura 9mm super plossl I have free of charge. The EP supplied with that scope would provide a good but distant view of planets. The 9mm would give you 133x on the 6" compared to the 48x of the 25mm. Grab a barlow and you've got 25, 12.5, 9, and 4,5m...that should provide enough views for a while :). Even if you don't get the 6" and would like the 9mm I'll send it, I'd just like to see it get used, especially as a Christmas present

#10 TahoeNoob

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 11:51 PM

You'll have to buy him some books and a planisphere too. Also, something like this: might take the place of star charts for the time being.

You're aware that he's going to need some help/encouragement from you, right? You're going to be on the hook to help him. The good news is that his could turn into a family thing!

You've come to the right place... lots of good advice here. :)

#11 danyap

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 11:54 PM

That would be so awesome! I would sure appreciate that! I can tell that this is just going to be the beginning of his love for astronomy. He's been asking for a telescope since last year and we made him wait a whole year to see if he would change his mind. (mean huh)! LOL! He's still asking...this is a slippery slope for sure! So yes, if you are willing to send it, I know it will get used!

#12 frito

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 11:55 PM

I do like that xt4.5. Very neat! Is this 4.5 an option? http://www.telescope...Telescope/p/... - I never thought about the mount being particularly difficult to use, but watching a youtube video on it made me wonder.


I would stay away from that scope for a few reasons.

#1 its an Equatorial mount scope. as I said before stay away from them for kids and even as starter scopes for anyone. they are a pain to setup properly and if used not setup properly, which involves both leveling the mount and polar aligning it they become extremely hard to use. Alt Az mount scopes like Dobs are simple left, right, up, down pointing. no leveling or aligning necessary just plop the scope out where you want it and get to observing.

#2 that is a very fast scope at F/4. collimation will be very important and it will be hard on cheap eyepeices and this means time and money. F/6 and faster Newtonian scopes are not very sensitive to collimation so doing a simple job with the collimation cap they come with is good enough and only takes a few minutes and often they do not even require it to be adjusted in my experience with my XT6 and XT8 i now have.

#13 danyap

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 11:56 PM

Wow! That's an awesome map! We'll definitely need that!

#14 NeuWerld

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 12:01 AM

I'll drop it in the mail on Monday, just send me a private message with your shipping address.

#15 danyap

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 12:11 AM

Ok, those are very good points! I have never seen telescopes that sit on the ground before (honestly, the last time I used one, it was a tripodmount, I was a kid myself and that was about 25 years ago). How do people use these. Just sit on the ground or in a chair?

#16 frito

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 12:22 AM

Dobsonian telescopes are typically large scopes. one can use them standing up if they are large enough and pointed at/near zenith. most often one would use one these smaller ones sitting down in a chair. quick adjust height astronomy chairs are best but really any chair can work as long as the height is right. generally unless you had the scope pointed at the horizon or at something terrestrial you would never need to be on the ground. the XT4.5 is much smaller and shorter than your typical Dob however, thats why i say its a "kid" sized scope. if i recall from seeing it in the Orion store its only about 4 feet tall at most off the ground pointed straight up. adults can use it but they would probably want to put it on a small table or something to boost the height at times.

#17 danyap

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 12:24 AM

Ok, so I think we have it narrowed down to a couple...

http://www.telescope...sonians/Orio...

http://www.telescope...-Telescopes/...

I like that used xt6 that's for sale near me, but I'm hesitant just because it is used. I'd like to have a warranty. Just makes me feel better. Thoughts on that or the 2 links above?

#18 frito

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 12:25 AM

here is a good size chart from Orion's site

Posted Image

#19 TahoeNoob

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 12:27 AM

The telescopes that sit on the ground, like that, are called dobsonian telescopes. Dobsonians are a good way to go because you can get a larger size aperture for a lower price. (You can see more, for the same amount of money.) Dobsonians are a good beginner scopes, but many experts like them as well... because of that aperture advantage.

Dobsonian telescopes are reflector telescopes, which means that they work with mirrors instead of lenses. It's easier to make a large mirror than it is to make a large lens. Telescopes that have a lens in front are called refractors.

You'll notice that there's another difference between reflectors and refractors, the eyepiece on a reflector is at the front end of the tube... which makes the ground mount possible. On very large dobsonian telescopes, it's not uncommon for people to use stepladders to access the eyepiece! The eyepiece on a refractor is at the rear of the scope, which mean they pretty much have to be mounted on a fairly tall tripod.

Alt/Az mount simply means "left/right up/down." Those crazy looking mounts that look like a big knuckle? They're called Equatorial, or EQ, mounts. To be used effectively, an EQ mount has to be set up correctly... which is a bit of a problem for beginners.

#20 frito

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 12:28 AM

both good choices. the XT4.5 will probably have a bigger wow factor as its well bigger but both will work very well. the XT4.5 will also be easier to collimate and comes with better eyepieces and finder scope.

#21 danyap

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 12:34 AM

Wonderful! Thanks so much for all your help everyone! I knew I came to the right place for help! (and thanks for steering me away from the junk out there)! I really wanted to get a telescope that will last a while and inspire our son (and the rest of the family as well)! You are a wealth of knowledge! Thanks again!

#22 danyap

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 01:03 AM

Thank you everyone for your input! I knew I came to the right place! This is going to be a great adventure for our whole family. :) You are all amazing and I thank you for helping us get our feet wet in astronomy. Hope you all have a blessed season!

#23 frito

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 01:08 AM

you too, we're all just glad you didn't run to the nearest department or electronics store and picked up one those junkers that would have been a waste of 100 to 200 dollars.

#24 GOLGO13

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 01:50 AM

do you have a costco near you? they have a 4 inch goto refractor thats getting good reviews for 200. nexstar 102gt i think. hard to say on those two scopes. i would probably go just a little higher for the xt6. i suppose i like the xt4.5 of those 2. dont need a table to set it on.

#25 frito

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 02:21 AM

IMHO a GoTo is not the way to introduce folks to astronomy and thats the only reason i would not suggest it.

there are many reason to get a GoTo scope but getting one with little to know knowledge of the night sky is a sure fire way to either result in one of two things happening.

#1 get them frustrated having to setup the 2 star alignment or what ever requirement it has. if you don't know what the stars are above you, you cannot properly align a GoTo scope and an improperly aligned GoTo is about as bad as an improperly aligned EQ mounted scope. end result they get frustrated and give up or just learn to find a few bright guide stars and nothing else.

#2 is what i said at the end of #1, they end up only knowing how to find a few guide stars on their own and nothing else. there is a big sense of accomplishment when one finds an object on their own. using star charts can be daunting for a beginner however so i'm a pretty big advocate of using interactive hand held star chart programs on phones or tablets like google sky map or for the more advanced observer skysafari plus or better. the end result is you learn the constellations doing so and with time and practice it becomes second nature finding many "show" objects manually.

I often go to public star party's put on by my club. very often i get requests to see common objects like Andromeda galaxy etc. because i know the sky so well i don't need a thing to locate that and many other show objects in the night sky currently and i can go from showing something completely on the other side of the sky to showing someone the ring nebula or M31 in a matter of 10 seconds at most. even goto scopes can't slew over to an object that fast if they are pointed somewhere completely wrong.

good reasons for goto are, imaging and showing large groups of the public a single object at time. i usually deal with small 2-4 person groups at a time while others at a party are showing other guests objects in their scopes so having goto is not a huge requirement.

anyways i've gone way off topic for the OP's purposes. all i'm trying to say is GoTo sounds cool to beginners but in reality it can turn out to be a roadblock or a crutch that can rob them from learning the whole experience.

edit: oh and there's one more wildcard with a cheap goto scope like that one. if the mount breaks its pretty much trash and while i know it gets good reviews from new owners i'd wager that if it got used heavily for many years the goto mount would be the very first thing to break on it. don't get me wrong, i'm not saying i know it to be a common thing with that scope, i don't but then again i don't know much about that scope either never researched into it because i have not had an interest in buying one but it only makes sense that a goto refractor that is that cheap has to have corners cut somewhere and the mount/electronics is going to often be where they get cut IMO, the accessories is also where they are almost always cut.






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