Advice for a novice dad and astronomer
Posted 30 November 2013 - 07:01 PM
In thinking about Christmas coming up, I decided that I wanted to get my girls a telescope. I have always been fascinated by astronomy and love staring up at the sky to share with them the knowledge of what I do know. Independent of any prodding by myself, the girls both told me they wanted a telescope for Christmas. We just moved out to the country and the clearer skies have apparently spurred their interests as well as mine.
The girls (15 and 8) love to look at Venus. I think more than anything this as to do with the fact that they can see it so frequently and they can now identify what it is. They are also fascinated by all of the stars they can now see.
I am trying to determine what our first family telescope can be. I saw another post along the same lines and quickly saw so many people recommending the Bushnell Ares 6. As that poster seemed to have nearly identical guidelines to me, I thought I had found my answer. It was just near the end when the poster noticed that scope was discontinued. So my search began again.
Since so many folks seemed to indicate that the 6" DOB was the way to go, I switched my attention there. Right now I am looking at the Orion Starblast 6 or the Orion XT6. I was also looking at the Celestron AstroMaster 140 EQ that won best beginner telescope on telescopes.com. The reviews here seemed to blast the Celestron which was perplexing as it is a two time winner of scope of the year there.
As for what kind of viewing we will be doing, that's tough to say. I imagine we will start with the planets and other clearly visible objects. I'm sure that for some time I will be doing most of the exploring.
If anyone has any other suggestions I would greatly appreciate it. In addition to the suggestions for the scope, I would like to know some other must have accessories that I should go ahead and pick up. I would like to keep my total investment around $500 but I can go a bit higher than I need to.
I know this is a popular topic at this time of the year and I greatly appreciate the time that those who respond put into it.
Posted 30 November 2013 - 07:20 PM
I would not get the Astromaster, the Orion Dob will be a lot more stable (less shake) than a tripod mounted scope. Plus it is simpler to use and can be used without power if you don't need the locator.
The other benefit of the XT6 over the other choices is the longer focus is much more forgiving of misalignment and easier on eyepieces such that cheaper designs work well.
Regardless of what you get, get a copy of "How to Use Your Telescope" by Sam Brown from scientificsonline.com, best few dollar guide to understanding how telescopes work and how to use them ever written for beginners. I also really like their Mag 6 Star Atlas since it has a clear easy style, good advice, and good descriptions of a lot of showpiece objects.
Happy shopping and clear skies!
Posted 30 November 2013 - 07:28 PM
Posted 30 November 2013 - 07:30 PM
A Telescope.com and buy the Orion 8" Dob on sale for $349
B Shorty 2x Barlow to use with the stock EP for higher magnification. You can get better ep's later just use what is their for now
C Star Chart or Sky Atlas- Those can be either bought online at your bookstore or even download them for free from the internet.
Simply put you've spent roughly $500 and have a larger scope. Now a dob is the best bang for the buck simply because the bigger the bucket the more light you take in and the more objects and how well you see them the better.
I'm sure this will work fine starting out and if someone recommends a 10" that knows of one on sale and can still fit in that range grab it instead but this is what I found that you'll be fine with
The other thing with Dob's is learning how to collimate it but youtube and here of course has plenty of "How to's" to do it and once you've done it a couple of times its like riding a bike you know how to do it. enjoy
Posted 30 November 2013 - 07:32 PM
Posted 30 November 2013 - 08:03 PM
Either of these two would be the best bet.
To that I would add a Rigel Quickfinder or Telrad ($40)
Either of those will work well with the optical finder that comes with the scope to help you find your way around the sky easier.
Last but not least a star guide like Sky and Telescope's pocket sky atlas.
The aforementioned books Left Turn at Orion and Nightwatch are also great starter books. Good luck and welcome to CN.
Posted 30 November 2013 - 08:05 PM
Posted 30 November 2013 - 08:18 PM
maybe throw in a decent quality zoom eyepiece (baader mark III), or, make sure you get get one low, medium and high power eyepiece to start. the two dobs linked above both come with high (9mm) and low power (30mm) so a 20 or 15mm would be a good mid power. if budget allows also throw in a 2X barlow for plenty of options.
the apertura dob comes with a right angle correct image (RACI) finder which i find easier on the neck and more intuitive when reading star charts since it's "correct image". personal preferences vary
part of the fun of observing is experimenting with how much magnification you can get away with on a given night due to the atmosphere.. so some modest additional eyepiece investment is highly recommended.
Posted 30 November 2013 - 08:35 PM
Posted 30 November 2013 - 08:48 PM
Posted 30 November 2013 - 09:05 PM
Posted 30 November 2013 - 09:32 PM
Would there be any value in going with a Goto package. Something like a Nexstar 5SE or something along those lines?
Posted 30 November 2013 - 09:42 PM
With regards to GOTO, a 5 or 6-inch Celestron NexStar is a good telescope with great optics and a mounting that once you learn how to use performs admirably. They do require quite a bit of power and unlike a Dob with digital setting circles the telescope is useless without power or if the electronics develop a problem. I wouldn't be overly worried about that because Celestron services what it sells. NexStars are good scopes for those who want GOTO and do mainly visual observing. They are not made for photography in mind, but you could do it on a limited basis with short exposures or an ultrasensitive video camera. They are more expensive than a 6 or 8-inch Dob. GOTO has its uses, they are a big help in light polluted areas, but you still have to know your way around the sky. At least know it well enough to initialize the computer so it will point properly.
Posted 30 November 2013 - 09:46 PM
Posted 30 November 2013 - 10:02 PM
Posted 30 November 2013 - 10:07 PM
Posted 30 November 2013 - 10:29 PM
Posted 30 November 2013 - 10:42 PM
My personal feelings on goto scopes: The extra cost burns $$$ you could spend on accessories. More importantly, you will deny yourself, and kids, the benefit of learning your way around the sky. After only a month, I know many wintertime sky objects and can point the telescope at them from memory. It seems like an imposing task to find your way around, but with just a little practice it is not bad at all.
In addition to the included 25mm 1.25" eyepiece, I would recommend a good book, or a subscription to sky and telescope. I have not gotten the hang of the color filters included in my kit, but think a "moon" ND filter is imperative. I think there is a lot of focal length overlap in the Celestron eyepiece kit, so I don't know if that would be money well spent, but a higher power eyepiece or two and a barlow would be handy. I am about to add a 38mm 2" eyepiece (About $85 at Agena Astro) for a nice wide view, and just today I made a solar filter from an $18 piece of Baader Solar filter material. (Check out the sun spots. Awesome!)
You should be able to put together a solid kit within your budget if you shop carefully. Have fun and clear skies!
Posted 30 November 2013 - 10:45 PM
Posted 30 November 2013 - 10:56 PM
I want to share Saturn with my girls. That's my dad vision anyway. Fortunately they are pretty early risers.
Alright, right now the group is saying the 8" dob for the most part. A barlow lens, a number of books ( I will get them all). Perhaps a mid power eyepiece. (Size suggestions?)
What do you think of this:http://www.telescope.com/Orion-XT8-Classic-Dobsonian-Telescope-amp-Beginner-Barlow-Kit/p/102029.uts
That comes with the barlow and some other things as well.
If anyone feels passionately about another 8 dob please let me know. Or any other suggestions. I am not sworn to the dob.
Posted 01 December 2013 - 01:15 AM
That book was indispensable to me when I got started. Especially for setting my expectations and helping me get a plan.
Now is a good time to get going as Mars will soon be well placed for viewing (something that happens only every ~2 years). I had similar timing when I started and Mars was one of the early joys!
Posted 01 December 2013 - 01:35 AM
Posted 01 December 2013 - 01:42 AM
Posted 01 December 2013 - 03:36 AM
Posted 01 December 2013 - 04:35 AM