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#1 kraberus

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 12:16 AM

Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

Three weeks ago I bought a pair 15x70 binoculars. You know, the cheap ones from Celestron. All it took was Jupiter's moons and M44 and I haven't been the same since. I'm hooked and I'm convinced I need a telescope. To live.

This will sound like it's another which-scope-should-I-get post. But really I think I just want sympathy at this point.

I'd like a scope I can use from my LP'd (red zone, yo) driveway and also pack in an overloaded minivan on camping trips. I'm also a father of two kids just old enough to be curious about the stars and knock over large tubes. Eventually I'd like to get a light bucket for now I need something smaller.

Here's what I've considered so far.
* C8 NexStar SE - Top end of my budget. Seems too automatic for me. I like star charts and want to teach my wife and kids.
* 8" Dob - I said CAMPING.
* Omni XLT 102 - intriguing. Perhaps too big/long though?
* C6 Advanced VX - Nice. Like the idea of an EQ mount and maybe some AP (much later). VX might be overkill. What happened to the C6 XLT?
* Orion StarMax 127 - Nice. Half the price of the C6 VX. Not as flexible though. Narrow FOV might be annoying.
* About 6.022e23 other options.

I've been reading CN pretty much non-stop for the last two weeks and have come to the conclusion that there's simply too much valuable information here.

As part of the helpful, informative CN community, I feel YOU are responsible (in part) for my inability stop needlessly combing forums and just BUY something. I'm not asking much, really. A kind word. A quick anecdote about how maybe you were once like me...
:help:

#2 GOLGO13

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 12:56 AM

Sounds like a good problem to have :jump:

I think it's a tough call. Sounds like you want something portable, yet has some good aperture. I'd agree the 8 inch dob is not very portable in a packed minivan.

The celestron SE scopes wouldn't be a bad choice. Maybe the 5 or 6 SE vice the 8...save you a little money for other stuff which you will want to get eventually.

The C6 advanced VX would be nice, but EQ mounts like that can be a little heavy. I guess it's portable if you take it apart a bit. What I like about this option is you could use the same mount for another telescope. Maybe something like a smaller refractor for a wide field of view.

I'd take the 5SE over the Orion Starmax myself. Not saying the starmax is bad...but seems a little high in price when you can get for just a little more the 5SE with go to capability. Although since "go to" isn't much of an issue to you, you may be able to get a little more scope without it. I will say the kids may get bored if it takes awhile to find stuff. Go to is certainly a nice to have feature...but you also want to have a scope that you don't need to use the electronics in case there are issues.

A refractor would also be a good choice. They cool down quick, are normally pre setup for optical allignment (collimation). The Omni 102mm is a great starter scope. But it is a fairly long scope.

I guess if it were me, I'd probably lean toward the SE series. I had the Celestron 5i (the predecessor to the 5SE) and I thought it was a great scope. It was pretty portable. But like any scope, there are pluses and minuses. These scopes need to cool down to the outside temp to perform their best. That can take some time with a closed tube setup like this. Collimation (lining up optics) is something to at least understand. It's pretty much electronics driven, which you stated a desire to learn it yourself. I personally think it's nice to have go to...and tracking is especially nice when showing the objects to others (especially kids).

After reading my post, not sure I helped much...but you already have been hit with too much info I can tell.

A really good book for explaining scopes is Star Ware by Phillip Harrington. Might be able to find that on Amazon. It's a little out of date for some of it's content. but I think it's great for learning about what scope to choose.

Good luck!

#3 David Ault

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 01:17 AM

Nick,

Welcome to Cloudy Nights! I certainly feel your pain. My draw to astronomy has come and gone over the years, starting when I was in Scouts. A few years ago I found this forum, got some good advice and have been hooked ever since.

I think the best suggestion I can make is to join your local astronomy club. You don't need your own scope and frequently clubs have loner scopes and will give you some lessons on how to use them. Also, a lot of clubs have star parties and outreach events and these are great opportunities to ask questions, see what types of equipment people are using and get to peek through their eyepieces. This will really help you form an opinion about what you want to view and what equipment might work best for you.

I certainly understand the temptation to just go ahead and purchase a scope and I don't think you would be disappointed with anything on your list. I started with a C6 CG-5 Goto (the precursor to the VX) and loved the views and it worked quite well for me right up until I got hooked on astrophotography. The whole thing was fairly light and I could pick it up assembled (minus the counterweights) and move it to the backyard.

The dob will require frequent collimation to get the most out of it. The SCTs need this too, but I've found the smaller scopes like the C6 and C8 don't require it very frequently. The Maksutovs and Refractors don't require this at all, which is one less thing to worry about as a beginner. I tend to recommend the latter two types of scopes for this reason, but it really depends on your personality.

Hope this helps. Oh, and just to make things a bit more confusing and open up a whole other can of worms, don't forget to include the selection (and cost) of eyepieces ;)

Regards,
David

#4 Maverick199

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 02:00 AM

I'd like a scope I can use from my LP'd (red zone, yo) driveway and also pack in an overloaded minivan on camping trips. I'm also a father of two kids just old enough to be curious about the stars and knock over large tubes. Eventually I'd like to get a light bucket for now I need something smaller.

Here's what I've considered so far.
* C8 NexStar SE - Top end of my budget. Seems too automatic for me. I like star charts and want to teach my wife and kids.
* 8" Dob - I said CAMPING.


Simply put, the 8" Dob. Light gathering, you like star charts, camping, portability ( though this may vary from person to person ). Best bang for aperture and easy on collimation. In fact, once collimated, you only need to tweak a bit. Eyepieces are forgiving on this F/6 and you will have enough to get a Telrad to help with star hopping as well as a couple of decent eyepieces and barlow. You will still have some funds left over with this keeper.

Another option in case you find star hopping difficult is to get an intelli scope.

#5 Startraffic

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 04:25 AM

Nick,
Welcome to the Zoo! Camping, smallish kids, packed minivan = ETX90. I have one & take it on Boy/Cub scouts trips. The OTA is fairly durable, you are doing AP, enough aperture to go semi-deep from a darkish site, light enough to carry with one hand. Be careful with the tripod otherwise have at it.

Clear Dark Skies
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#6 Tony Flanders

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 05:00 AM

* 8" Dob - I said CAMPING.


I don't see the problem. The Dob's tube is just 4 feet long, and can easily pack in any corner of a minivan. And the base doesn't really take up any space at all, since you can pack stuff inside it.

I sometimes go camping with my wife and daughter taking my 7-inch Dob in a compact station wagon (Elantra Touring). Two kids is more than one, and an 8-inch f/6 Dob is significantly bigger than a 7-inch f/5.4. But even the smallest minivan has twice the storage space my car.

#7 Gert K A

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 05:02 AM

-Nick

But really I think I just want sympathy at this point.

Hi Nick Welcome to CN and you got it :grin:

#8 Momerath

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 06:10 AM

+1 on the 8se

#9 howard929

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 06:14 AM

Have you considered a 6" Star Blast?

#10 lamplight

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 06:33 AM

Welcome.. You can put a sleeping bag or two in the DOB tube. ;)
Seriously.. Tough choice.. A compromise has to be made somewhere .. My opinion would be the xlt but in red zone you will be limited in what you see.. So up in aperture...the SCT 's are nice but then , as you said yourself, are now looking at a computer setup, need to add space for batteries, dew protection.. It's a whole new can of worms as soon as you consider powered scopes. Certainly not to say impractical as the ETX person points out.. I did not know about maksutovs not needing collimation.. Hmm... Still with your budget and situation I might buy a used DOB, cheap yo, and give it a go.. You can't guarantee the wife and kids will maintain interest longer than one or two sessions (trust me) , so maybe get what works for you. If a used DOB isn't your cup of tea you will lose practically nothing and can try the next option, without using them you just don't know what's going to work for you. You may end up really preferring one of the bulkier setups and have to get a roof rack for one of the kids to ride on.

#11 Thomas Karpf

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 06:49 AM

For what it's worth, I really don't understand how a SCT is substantially more compact than a dobsonian. Once you add a tripod, a SCT is really not much more compact.

#12 JLovell

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 06:55 AM

I've taken my 8" Dob camping a number of times. I have a long, skinny roof top box the tube rides in, along with some other similarly long and skinny gear that keeps it from rolling around. As Tony said, stuff gets packed inside the base (very carefully, in my case, with the wires and the alt sensor circuit board being in there). I've never had a problem.

#13 newtoskies

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 06:58 AM

Welcome Nick. I was in the same place you are now...um, I still am..lol
Lots of good choices. I'd go with either an ETX,SE or even an Orion 80st with vixon alt-az mount. All would give good views if the camp site is dark. Then the money saved can go toward the lightbucket for at home.

#14 RussL

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 07:07 AM

I hear ya. It's like going to the paint store and looking at a wall of varying shades and not being able to decide because there are too many to choose from.

Get an ST80 rig for the camping trips, and you'll be surprised how well it does for other things, too. Then, an 8" SCT can cover the rest.

#15 GOLGO13

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 07:38 AM

For what it's worth, I really don't understand how a SCT is substantially more compact than a dobsonian. Once you add a tripod, a SCT is really not much more compact.


When I think back to the 5SE I had, it was pretty compact. The tripod wasn't as big as an 8 inch dob tube.

The ETX70 I had was super compact. I'd suggest the ETX90 though over the 70. The 70 was a short tube refractor. It had a very wide field of view, but wasn't really good for getting close up on objects.

The ETX90 would be another good choice. Something we didn't mention is a dew shield. You can add one to an SCT or MCT (Maksutov Cassegrain Telescope). It doesn't have to be fancy, but if there is a lot of dew out, you'll want one.

#16 CharlesW

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 08:44 AM

This is a dangerous road you have found yourself on. I bought an 8" Celestron back in October. The fever hit hard and I sold it in February so I could get the stuff below. There is no turning back once you've seen the stars.

#17 Silver Bear

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 10:33 AM

This is a dangerous road you have found yourself on. I bought an 8" Celestron back in October. The fever hit hard and I sold it in February so I could get the stuff below. There is no turning back once you've seen the stars.


Truer words could not be spoken.

I cannot "blame" CN for my current star addiction, it certainly hasn't helped me to recuperate from this fever. Between info and friendly folks here, I get anxious for the weather to clear out so I can get back under the skies.

I thought I would be happy with my little 4" 'scope, but to see what others are seeing in the night skies, I realize I do need a bigger scope. :grin:

If one thinks it's now too late to turn back...you've got a lot of good company.

#18 Thomas Karpf

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 10:35 AM

...I realize I do need a bigger scope. :grin:


I think that says it all for ALL of us. :grin:

#19 Thomas Karpf

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 10:36 AM

Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.


Thank you, Mr. Montoya!

#20 kraberus

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 10:47 AM

Sounds like a good problem to have


Yes a good problem to have indeed. Thanks for the perspective :)

#21 Jarrod

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 10:50 AM

I'm in the "just buy something" camp. A few months back, Avogadro was working against me as well, causing me to seize up with all the options. I wanted to learn how an EQ mount works so, almost out of frustration, I purchased an inexpensive Orion Observer EQ (70mm refractor on on EQ mount) right here on the CN classifieds. It was possibly the absolute best way I could have spent $100 at that point. I learned a huge amount from owning that little scope for a couple of months. Not only about using the mount and scope itself, but also about my personal preferences. For example, I learned that tracking was something that I'd have to have in my next scope. Even with an aligned EQ mount, adjusting the slow motion control every minute or two, to track the object I was observing, significantly detracted from the experience for me.

And the scope itself, while extremely inexpensive, was not half bad. In fact, I'd have kept it for camping and travel, but agreeing to sell it was part of the negotiations that took place with the spouse before I purchased an 8" Goto Dob. :grin: I guess I'll have to settle for binoculars when camping, which we don't do that often anyhow.

#22 kraberus

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 10:55 AM

I think the best suggestion I can make is to join your local astronomy club. You don't need your own scope and frequently clubs have loner scopes and will give you some lessons on how to use them. Also, a lot of clubs have star parties and outreach events and these are great opportunities to ask questions, see what types of equipment people are using and get to peek through their eyepieces. This will really help you form an opinion about what you want to view and what equipment might work best for you.


Wise words! I'm checking out the local club, looks like they have a star party in May.

Also, your astrophotos are awesome.

#23 RussL

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 11:03 AM

Just for info, I have a 1999 model Celestron Celestar 8 (8" SCT) that uses just one 9v battery for tracking, and provides about 50 hours of operation. There is only one motor on one axis. The scope rests on a U-mount that is mounted on a wedge, making it equitorial. Yes, I have to tweak the other axis once in awhile, but I also don't ever have to use two or three stars for alignment before viewing. Just set latitude and plop the whole thing down generally aiming north, and I'm good all night. They don't make the scope anymore, but I see them for sale often for around $500.

Just something more to think about.

#24 kraberus

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 11:10 AM

Have you considered a 6" Star Blast?


I had not...looks interesting, though I wonder about the lack of a tripod...

Thanks for the suggestion!

#25 kraberus

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 11:16 AM

If a used DOB isn't your cup of tea you will lose practically nothing and can try the next option, without using them you just don't know what's going to work for you. You may end up really preferring one of the bulkier setups and have to get a roof rack for one of the kids to ride on.


Ha! Yeah the Dob is definitely on my wishlist. Along with a roof rack for the kids. That's totally legal, right?






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