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Best scope? Beginner family with unknown interest

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#1 davidpitre

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 09:09 AM

A question to both beginners and veterans.
I'm considering donating a telescope to a school (K-8) benefit auction. I would also include a nights instruction in how to operate as well as bringing my own scopes to show them around the sky.
I'm wanting suggestions on the best scope. I obviously know nothing about the winners of the auction, and so need to consider lots of possibilities, needs, interests. I'm not really a goto person myself, but realize many are, and it helps many get aquainted with the sky as well as helping in the early stages of finding objects. Then again, alignments can be intimidating to some, and might make them feel like it is too much to tackle.
I'm also concerned with collimation. It might also be a put-off.
So. Reflector or refractor?
Goto or not?
My budget is $3oo. $400. total.

#2 Tank

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 09:42 AM

I would say go with a 8" or 6" solid tube DOB
Do one collimation at the begining and should hold for a while.
The GOTO mounts cost alot and hard to operate at the start.
DOB will be ready to go once you pull it out of the car also the 6" or 8" DOB will show you alot more than a frac can for $400 total package!
my 2 cents

#3 dpwoos

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 09:57 AM

Binoculars.

#4 Madratter

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 10:07 AM

I second the vote for a good pair of binoculars. As much as I love my Dob, I don't think a Dob is a good idea for this case. If you don't like binoculars, maybe one of the small goto Refractors.

#5 Tony Flanders

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 10:17 AM

I'm considering donating a telescope to a school (K-8) benefit auction. I would also include a nights instruction in how to operate as well as bringing my own scopes to show them around the sky. I'm wanting suggestions on the best scope . . . My budget is $3oo. $400. total.


I would stay away from Go To, especially in that price range. It can be very helpful once you get into the great list of DSOs. But anybody can find the Moon and planets by sighting on them directly, and those are the targets most likely to interest beginners. And doing it yourself gives you a great feeling of confidence and control.

I'd say there are two reasonable choices. One is a 6-inch Dob. 6 rather than 8 inches will save a bit of money, and it's ample for someone who may or may not end up interested. Moreover, at f/8, once the scope has been collimated the first time it will probably remain collimated well enough for any but the most critical observers more or less forever.

The other alternative would be a small refractor. Orion's 80-mm Go Scope is a particularly good deal, and at that price point you could throw in a 2X Barlow, which would be hugely helpful for such a small, fast scope.

I don't think binoculars are such a great idea. In some ways, they're harder to use than telescopes. And they certainly won't give the same knock-your-socks-off views of Jupiter and the Moon.

Moreover, people are more likely to own binoculars already.

#6 uniondrone

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 10:24 AM


I agree with Tony's assessment. :like:

#7 csrlice12

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 10:36 AM

Agree with Tony, the 6" will only very rarely require collimation,yet provide good views. As we are also dealing with K-8 graders here, the 6" would allow comfortable viewing for all in those age groups, most you would need is a small stool for the youngest ones. The Dob will definitly be easier to view thru then a refractor, where they'll end up in some uncomfortable positions. Wow, a 6" Dob as a first scope.....that's gonna be some lucky kid (and parents too).

#8 dpwoos

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 10:53 AM

I build dobs, I love dobs, but I wouldn't do a dob without knowing who it was going to. If you don't want to do binos then a small refractor.

#9 JLovell

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 11:32 AM

I'd look around for a "like new" used Intelliscope Dob. Didn't they used to make a 6" version? You can use it entirely manually like a standard Dob, or with the push-to electronics when they learn enough stars to align the scope. Might be able to find a really nice used one for that budget, especially if you talk to the seller about what you want it for.

#10 Jarrod

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 11:37 AM

As a beginner myself, with school-aged kids (and especially since you are going to give them one-on-one instruction on setup and use) I would go with a little mak-cass on an EQ mount with an RA motor (or a goto alt-az would be even better). For me and the kids, who don't know the sky, the most frustrating thing is finding and then keeping the object we want to observe in the FOV. Once we do find it, even a lazy, eyeballed polar alignment is accurate enough for the RA slow motion control to track an object for more than the attention span of the kids and me.

For my wife, the most frustrating thing is the space the kit takes up. That's why the mak-cass recommendation. You do not want it to look like some hulking thing (Dob) if you want lots of people bidding on it. I think you'd find that many moms won't tolerate that.

#11 MikeBOKC

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 11:39 AM

I think the little tablestop Orion Starblast 4 inch reflectors are pretty nice beginner scopes, very kid friendly yet with pretty decent optics. I know club members who bring those scopes to outreach events for the convenience of transport and use.

#12 Jarrod

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 11:41 AM

And by the way, what a GREAT and generous thing to donate for a school auction. Kudos to you. If that had been my son's school, I'd have bid it up pretty good :grin:

#13 Thomas Karpf

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 11:51 AM

An ST-80 on an alt-az mount with an erecting prism and an inexpensive 8-24mm eyepiece. Very intuitive to use. Usable under the stars, for birding, etc.

#14 csrlice12

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 11:59 AM

"You do not want it to look like some hulking thing (Dob) if you want lots of people bidding on it."

Good, means I get a better scope for a cheaper price......

#15 NeilMac

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 12:04 PM

I don't think binoculars are such a great idea they can go missing.

8" dob would be the best general purpose/simple and inexpensive.

#16 NeilMac

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 12:04 PM

I don't think binoculars are such a great idea they can go missing.

8" dob would be the best general purpose/simple and inexpensive.

#17 Madratter

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 12:20 PM

I build dobs, I love dobs, but I wouldn't do a dob without knowing who it was going to. If you don't want to do binos then a small refractor.


I've been thinking this over some more, thinking back to when I got my first scope and what I did with it. Likewise, I have a friend who just got a telescope. The moon and the planets are the likely targets. As such, a refractor makes a great scope but I'm not a fan of the very short focal length refractors for that purpose.

And I still think a Dob is a really bad idea.

#18 csrlice12

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 12:28 PM

Maybe the best to do is a scope that is a "jack of all trades, master of none" and get one of the 102mm F9.8 acromats, Preferrably on an alt/az mount. These scopes do well with most any eyepiece, they're tough, you'd almost have to beat them against a tree to hurt them, and they're easy to use, and will give you both decent DSO and Planetary/lunar views. They also allow you to view using both low and high powers. Considering this will be used by multiple people, it just might be the best all-round deal.

#19 John Kuraoka

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 12:41 PM

I'll just throw this in, as a parent with two school-aged kids who has attended such fundraising auctions.

I think the ability to use the scope in daytime will dramatically increase the chances for uptake; school-aged kids must go to bed early to be up and ready to go by 7 the next morning. So any reflector will be non-school-night-use only, which significantly limits its use.

So, another vote for a small mak-cas or refractor, preferably also equipped with a correct-image diagonal for terrestrial use.

Also, I'd recommend including some books in the package: a basic star chart or kid-friendly star atlas (as much as I like my new S&T atlas, I wouldn't recommend it as part of an auction package to non-astronomy people) and Turn Left at Orion.

Last but probably foremost, thank you for your generosity! :bow: :bow: :bow: Schools today are really strapped, and I hope your donation raises a nice chunk of money.

#20 WaterMaster

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 12:53 PM

What a great thing, David :bow:

I'll also agree with Tony. :ubetcha:

To sweeten the deal you have my permission to throw in a free membership to Cloudy Nights!

#21 Tony Flanders

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 01:14 PM

The Dob will definitly be easier to view thru then a refractor, where they'll end up in some uncomfortable positions.


Why do you say that about refractors? I certainly wouldn't recommend a big refractor, but short refractors -- anything with a focal length less than about 500 mm -- are fantastically easy and comfortable to use. And I agree with whoever said that for kids in particular, the ability to use them on terrestrial subjects is a big plus. Though I've known plenty of kids who happily viewed things upside down in reflectors, too.

With something like the 80-mm Go Scope or the ubiquitous 80-mm f/5, you just have to accept that you're not going to use high magnification. In which case tracking (or the lack thereof) is a total non-issue.

That's just as well, because Go To scopes present a significant entry barrier. But Go To scopes are the easiest motorized scopes to use by a huge margin. The entry barrier posed by equatorial mounts is much, much higher.

35X may not sound like a lot to an experienced observer. But to somebody who's never been above 1X -- or even somebody who's used to 8X in binoculars -- 35X is totally mind-boggling. Especially on the Moon.

As others have said, the biggest argument against a Dob is its physical size. That can be an issue both practically and psychologically. On the other hand, Dobs are probably the easiest scopes of all to use. And obviously they will provide by far the most impressive views of any scopes mentioned so far in this thread.

#22 Erik30

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 01:31 PM

What a great thing, David :bow:

I'll also agree with Tony. :ubetcha:

To sweeten the deal you have my permission to throw in a free membership to Cloudy Nights!


How about talking to your local Astronomy club to see if they will throw a free year membership in with the scope also?

#23 Jarrod

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 01:42 PM

Regarding the many Dob recommendations in this thread:

I completely understand that this provides best view per dollar, and agree it is one of the best recommendations for someone who is already motivated. For example, to someone who comes to an astronomy forum and asks "what is the best beginner telescope?"

But that isn't the use case here. David is essentially asking multiple people to bid against each other to make an impulse buy. The manufacturers have already done the market research on impulse-buy scopes for you. How many times have you seen a Dob pop up in a Wal-Mart or Costco?? Exactly.

This is as much a marketing exercise as it is an astronomy one. The goal is to raise money for the school *and* give someone the opportunity to have a good first experience. Both considerations must be weighed equally. I think you are putting the first consideration at a disadvantage if you put a Dobsonian in a school auction. Its appeal will be limited primarily to people who already know what they are looking at, not the average parent.

And John's point about bedtimes and daytime use is very practical. Although this point is not likely to be obvious to the prospective buyer, it is still a good one. Also, he had great idea to put a book in the package. I recommend NightWatch by Dickinson. It's a terrific intro to all the main aspects of astronomy - I'm still getting through my copy and it's tremendous.

#24 csrlice12

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 01:50 PM

What a great thing, David :bow:

I'll also agree with Tony. :ubetcha:

To sweeten the deal you have my permission to throw in a free membership to Cloudy Nights!


How about talking to your local Astronomy club to see if they will throw a free year membership in with the scope also?


Now there is a FANTASTIC idea. :waytogo:

#25 kenrenard

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 02:01 PM

What do folks think of the Starblast 6 inch? I see that is just under $300 and pretty portable. Even kid height. Just curious!


Ken






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