Jump to content

  •  

CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.

Photo

Newbie decisions.

  • Please log in to reply
60 replies to this topic

#1 DakGibralter

DakGibralter

    Sputnik

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 45
  • Joined: 08 Jan 2017

Posted 11 January 2017 - 11:42 AM

Hello everyone! Rank newbie here, looking for a bit of advice on my first setup. Apologies in advance for any and all facepalms below.

 

I’ve always been interested in astronomy and am pretty well-versed in the big-picture cosmology and physics etc., but actual observing is something I’m new to. I’ve been wanting to start for decades, but living in a small inner-city apartment with freelancer income has made it a non-starter until recently. I’ve been reading a lot here and in print (picked up Star Ware and Turn Left at Orion, which are both excellent so far) and as you might expect, it's been simultaneously very helpful and very confusing. Hoping you can help a bit on the latter, if you don’t mind!

 

First, some context:

 

- I live in a one-bedroom apartment (in Brooklyn, light-pollution central) with my wife, dog and cat, so besides moon viewing, this scope will be primarily for trips out of town. So while portability is key, I'd rather find room for the right scope than compromise just for something compact.

 

- I’m interested in both deep sky and planetary viewing - I think the Cassini division will blow my mind just as much as a good view of the Messier Objects, so being able to do both would be terrific.

 

- I’m planning to get some binoculars as well, which probably merits its own post. The short version is I’m still deciding, but definitely getting a pair.

 

- My budget is all over the place. I had originally thought to spend about $500, but I’m thinking that if I can get the same performance for something a little more portable/storage-friendly, maybe it’s worth the price. Since I'll only have room for one scope for the foreseeable future, I'm less concerned with the price than the quality. If I can get something (incl kit/accessories) for under, say, $2000, it'll be worth saving up for.

 

With all that in mind, I'm now deciding between a Dob - which I know will be economical, high-quality and versatile - and something like an SCT, which is more portable but pricier and not without its drawbacks. I'm currently looking at these three:

 

- Orion XT8i - perhaps the front-runner here since I’ve heard so much about it. I don’t need a go-to, but I like the idea of a scope that will help me locate something if I want a suggestion or want to give someone a brief tour. I also like the idea of having plenty of budget leftover for eyepieces and filters and stuff.

- Skyline 8” Dob - Does anyone know if the extras (looks like a slightly better mount and a couple pieces of kit) justify the price increase over the Orion?

- Meade LX70 8” - I like the idea of an equatorial mount, but not sure how big a hit I’d take on stability/build quality. Can anyone weigh in?

 

And a couple SCTs:

 

- Meade LX-90 - Again, the go-to isn't really necessary, but the size and portability of a SCT is tempting, and the review here on CN sounds great. Is the main tradeoff here price? Or does the quality take a hit as well?

- Vixen VMC200L - I don’t know a ton about these, but I’ve heard good things and it seems like this may be the only scope I’m considering that makes its own optics (which may not matter, but was appealing to me).

 


That’s it for now.  I’d love to hear if you have any thoughts, advice or additional recommendations. Thanks again for your help!


  • aeajr likes this

#2 Cajundaddy

Cajundaddy

    Vostok 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 153
  • Joined: 27 Dec 2016
  • Loc: Cucamonga CA

Posted 11 January 2017 - 11:49 AM

XT8i is a great 1st scope for most observers.  If planetary were something I had particular interest in I would get one with at least a RA drive for tracking.  A good used C8 can be found fairly often and checks all your boxes pretty well. 



#3 vtornado

vtornado

    Messenger

  • *****
  • Posts: 447
  • Joined: 22 Jan 2016
  • Loc: Northern Illinois

Posted 11 January 2017 - 12:03 PM

Dob's are a really nice starting scope, especially with the object locator.  

 

It is not portable.  It is easy to lug out of a garage of a  suburban house, but being in an apartment do you have stairs or an elevator to contend with?

When you do bring it out of town, how big is your car?  Will you have enough space for the scope and all your other things, like suit cases,

camping gear???, or what ever else you will bring on your trip.

 

The 8 inch f/6 dob tube is about 50 inches long and 10 inches in diameter weighs about 20 pounds.  The base is about 20 x 20 x 20 and weighs 20 lbs, unless you disassemble it.   In which case it is about 20 x 20 x 6.

 

An SCT offers a smaller package.   I prefer the dob view over it, but portability is one of your restricting parameters.


  • aeajr likes this

#4 Penarin

Penarin

    Surveyor 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 1608
  • Joined: 22 Nov 2004
  • Loc: Orion, IL

Posted 11 January 2017 - 12:05 PM

If portability is a factor, maybe cross the Meade LX70 8" off your list.  I have always liked GEMs, but a full size 8" reflector on a GEM might not be much fun to pack up, drive to dark skies, and set up.

 

An 8" SCT can be more compact and easier to deal with.  It's still an 8 incher, but the tube is a lot smaller and more compact.  And the f/10 SCT design should be a bit more rugged compared to the f/5 reflector, and not as sensitive to collimation and eyepiece choice.

 

Since you are in New York, would you have a chance to see any of these scopes in person, at an astro store?

 

Go for the binoculars!  Some 10x50s and a star chart / planisphere is great way to learn the night sky. 


  • Mitrovarr, Kimbo_2112 and aeajr like this

#5 DakGibralter

DakGibralter

    Sputnik

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 45
  • Joined: 08 Jan 2017

Posted 11 January 2017 - 12:30 PM

XT8i is a great 1st scope for most observers.  If planetary were something I had particular interest in I would get one with at least a RA drive for tracking.  A good used C8 can be found fairly often and checks all your boxes pretty well. 

I'll look into the C8. I know there are a ton of models so I'll have my work cut out for me. Tracking would be nice, I agree.

 

Dob's are a really nice starting scope, especially with the object locator.  

 

It is not portable.  It is easy to lug out of a garage of a  suburban house, but being in an apartment do you have stairs or an elevator to contend with?

When you do bring it out of town, how big is your car?  Will you have enough space for the scope and all your other things, like suit cases,

camping gear???, or what ever else you will bring on your trip.

 

The 8 inch f/6 dob tube is about 50 inches long and 10 inches in diameter weighs about 20 pounds.  The base is about 20 x 20 x 20 and weighs 20 lbs, unless you disassemble it.   In which case it is about 20 x 20 x 6.

 

An SCT offers a smaller package.   I prefer the dob view over it, but portability is one of your restricting parameters.

I'm up a flight of stairs, but it's not too bad. I have a stationwagon so I'd be able to pack it in there without too much hassle. I am concerned about getting it in with everything else I'd be bringing though, so thanks for the heads-up. Measurements are very helpful, thanks.

 

If portability is a factor, maybe cross the Meade LX70 8" off your list.  I have always liked GEMs, but a full size 8" reflector on a GEM might not be much fun to pack up, drive to dark skies, and set up.

 

An 8" SCT can be more compact and easier to deal with.  It's still an 8 incher, but the tube is a lot smaller and more compact.  And the f/10 SCT design should be a bit more rugged compared to the f/5 reflector, and not as sensitive to collimation and eyepiece choice.

 

Since you are in New York, would you have a chance to see any of these scopes in person, at an astro store?

 

Go for the binoculars!  Some 10x50s and a star chart / planisphere is great way to learn the night sky. 

I'll lose the LX70, thanks. It does seem to be the most cumbersome of the bunch. 

 

Am I cutting out a lot of my options by going from f/5-f/10?

 

Yes, I'm planning to head to B&H or Adorama this week, they have many of these on display. I just knew I'd be overwhelmed so I wanted to get a little input first so I can have a rough list of preferences.

 

And yes, binoculars are definitely the first on the list! Thanks!



#6 Noah4x4

Noah4x4

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 665
  • Joined: 07 Apr 2016
  • Loc: Colchester UK

Posted 11 January 2017 - 12:35 PM

If you have $2000 I would seriously consider the Celestron Evolution 8.  $1,699 from Bhpotovideo.

 

This SCT oozes quality; built in battery; brass worm gears; WiFi; great mount; robust tripod. I love it! Easy to set up and very portable (loads of packaging suggestions in these threads)


Edited by Noah4x4, 11 January 2017 - 12:36 PM.

  • JohnMurphyRN and Spacefreak1974 like this

#7 astrosky123

astrosky123

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 590
  • Joined: 28 Jan 2015

Posted 11 January 2017 - 12:36 PM

if u want something  biggish to see dso planets good and be portable look no futher then the nexstar 8se i carry it with one hand not for long distances, its only 35 lbs total weight, tripod scope mounts etc.

 

most dobs wont be portable if you are moving down the stairs and to a park, or even moving them inside to a patio may be abit hard.

 

Even the 8lx90 will be abit heavy if you are moving it around alot, the 8se fits the bill perfect, just get a few more ep, dewcap filters, telrad finder  etc and gtg

j


Edited by astrosky123, 11 January 2017 - 12:38 PM.


#8 astrosky123

astrosky123

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 590
  • Joined: 28 Jan 2015

Posted 11 January 2017 - 12:41 PM

remember a dob will be 2 pcs now that you said stairs, so will it be outside alone while u grab the 2nd pc? if so that will not work.

 

also another note on my 1st post a 8" size will cut throught some of that light pollusion so you will aso see some dso objects like open clusters, some gobular clusters and some nebula galaxies will be the hard one where you may have to get to country skies for but you can see some galaxies but basically the cores only.

 

i also live in a white zone worst like yours

j



#9 Adun

Adun

    Vostok 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 166
  • Joined: 02 Dec 2016

Posted 11 January 2017 - 12:50 PM

+1 on the binoculars.

Q:"Am I cutting out a lot of my options by going from f/5-f/10?"

A: I think you are, I got an F13 C90 a month ago and I already ordered an F4 Z114 to supplement it. I'd stay below F6 if I were you. Wider FOV and more portable.

Your crux will be "only having space for one scope".

How dark are the skies where you are traveling to?

#10 DakGibralter

DakGibralter

    Sputnik

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 45
  • Joined: 08 Jan 2017

Posted 11 January 2017 - 01:01 PM

If you have $2000 I would seriously consider the Celestron Evolution 8.  $1,699 from Bhpotovideo.

 

This SCT oozes quality; built in battery; brass worm gears; WiFi; great mount; robust tripod. I love it! Easy to set up and very portable (loads of packaging suggestions in these threads)

Good to know, I'll add it to the list. 

 

if u want something  biggish to see dso planets good and be portable look no futher then the nexstar 8se i carry it with one hand not for long distances, its only 35 lbs total weight, tripod scope mounts etc.

 

most dobs wont be portable if you are moving down the stairs and to a park, or even moving them inside to a patio may be abit hard.

 

Even the 8lx90 will be abit heavy if you are moving it around alot, the 8se fits the bill perfect, just get a few more ep, dewcap filters, telrad finder  etc and gtg

j

Awesome. Looks like Celestron has a number of good STC options (including the Evolution 8 above) so I'll do a little more research.

 

remember a dob will be 2 pcs now that you said stairs, so will it be outside alone while u grab the 2nd pc? if so that will not work.

 

also another note on my 1st post a 8" size will cut throught some of that light pollusion so you will aso see some dso objects like open clusters, some gobular clusters and some nebula galaxies will be the hard one where you may have to get to country skies for but you can see some galaxies but basically the cores only.

 

i also live in a white zone worst like yours

j

Yeah, I'd have to have my wife fire watch, which wouldn't be a big deal for moving both pieces. But something to think about. And good to know I might be able to see some clusters and galaxies from here! I wouldn't have expected it. I can get roof access so maybe I won't have to travel all the time like I thought. 



#11 DakGibralter

DakGibralter

    Sputnik

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 45
  • Joined: 08 Jan 2017

Posted 11 January 2017 - 01:09 PM

+1 on the binoculars.

Q:"Am I cutting out a lot of my options by going from f/5-f/10?"

A: I think you are, I got an F13 C90 a month ago and I already ordered an F4 Z114 to supplement it. I'd stay below F6 if I were you. Wider FOV and more portable.

Your crux will be "only having space for one scope".

How dark are the skies where you are traveling to?

Yeah, that is definitely the downside of the SCTs it seems. Looks like all the ones mentioned are f/10. 

 

There are a couple places within a couple hours that are green or blue, so with a scope in tow I'll be checking them out. My in-laws make a yearly trip to Block Island which has very little light pollution and often incredibly clear skies (at least to my naked eye) so I look forward to checking that out (we're taking our car on the ferry so transportation will be easier).


  • aeajr likes this

#12 astrosky123

astrosky123

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 590
  • Joined: 28 Jan 2015

Posted 11 January 2017 - 01:17 PM

 

+1 on the binoculars.

Q:"Am I cutting out a lot of my options by going from f/5-f/10?"

A: I think you are, I got an F13 C90 a month ago and I already ordered an F4 Z114 to supplement it. I'd stay below F6 if I were you. Wider FOV and more portable.

Your crux will be "only having space for one scope".

How dark are the skies where you are traveling to?

Yeah, that is definitely the downside of the SCTs it seems. Looks like all the ones mentioned are f/10. 

 

There are a couple places within a couple hours that are green or blue, so with a scope in tow I'll be checking them out. My in-laws make a yearly trip to Block Island which has very little light pollution and often incredibly clear skies (at least to my naked eye) so I look forward to checking that out (we're taking our car on the ferry so transportation will be easier).

 

no dont worry about that all sct can add a focal reducer on it changing it to a f/6.3 and or you can also add a 2" diagonal with a 2" ep maybe 40 to 50mm that will give a really wide field low power views.

 

thats another reason y scts are popular and you will never run out of focus on scts since it turns maybe 30 full times of travel, where most reflectors or refrctors will give 2 to 4" of travel and you can run out of focus when using different options like binos cameras etc, it is do able just saying sct las tons of focaus travel too.

j


Edited by astrosky123, 11 January 2017 - 01:20 PM.


#13 andycknight

andycknight

    Ranger 4

  • -----
  • Posts: 320
  • Joined: 13 Aug 2010
  • Loc: UK

Posted 11 January 2017 - 01:18 PM

The biggest issue with an 8" scope is the size and weight.

 

I would consider putting some bricks/wood etc.. in two suitable bags / boxes (i.e. the same weight & size of the scope and mount) and see just how difficult it really is to lug up and down those stairs. If it seems too much hassle for every time you want to observe, you may need to re-consider.

 

An easier option may be leaving a simple manual EQ Mount in the trunk of your car and only carry the OTA & Eyepieces indoors (perhaps a 6-8" SCT to minimise space and weight) in a suitably padded carry bag.

 

Something like a cheap 2nd hand manual SP/GP/CG5/clone Mount + Tripod + Counterweights are not that expensive and it would not concern me to leave it in the trunk. It's rather heavy and not worth much... (But obviously don't have it in clear view as that's just asking for it!)

 

I guess it all depends how much you want a computerised mount... Note: There is nothing to stop you from also having a fully computerised mount, for when you plan a special trip / photography etc...

 

Edit: Note this may also apply to other scope types... e.g. with say a 8" F5 dob, you could leave the basic wood mount (i.e. base) in the trunk.

 

Regards

 

Andy.


Edited by andycknight, 11 January 2017 - 01:26 PM.


#14 DakGibralter

DakGibralter

    Sputnik

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 45
  • Joined: 08 Jan 2017

Posted 11 January 2017 - 01:19 PM

 

 

+1 on the binoculars.

Q:"Am I cutting out a lot of my options by going from f/5-f/10?"

A: I think you are, I got an F13 C90 a month ago and I already ordered an F4 Z114 to supplement it. I'd stay below F6 if I were you. Wider FOV and more portable.

Your crux will be "only having space for one scope".

How dark are the skies where you are traveling to?

Yeah, that is definitely the downside of the SCTs it seems. Looks like all the ones mentioned are f/10. 

 

There are a couple places within a couple hours that are green or blue, so with a scope in tow I'll be checking them out. My in-laws make a yearly trip to Block Island which has very little light pollution and often incredibly clear skies (at least to my naked eye) so I look forward to checking that out (we're taking our car on the ferry so transportation will be easier).

 

no dont worry about that all sct can add a focal reducer on it changing it to a f/6.3 and or you can also add a 2" diagonal with a 2" ep maybe 40 to 50mm that will give a really wide field low power vies thats another reason y scts are popular and you will never run out of focus on scts since it turns maybe 30 full times of travel where most reflectors or refrctors will give 2 to 4" of travel and you can run out of focus when using different options like binos cameras etc, it is do able just saying sct las tons of focaus travel too.

j

 

Oh great! That's good to know.



#15 DakGibralter

DakGibralter

    Sputnik

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 45
  • Joined: 08 Jan 2017

Posted 11 January 2017 - 01:22 PM

The biggest issue with an 8" scope is the size and weight.

 

I would consider putting some bricks/wood etc.. in two suitable bags / boxes (i.e. the same weight & size of the scope and mount) and see just how difficult it really is to lug up and down those stairs. If it seems too much hassle for every time you want to observe, you may need to re-consider.

 

An easier option may be leaving a simple manual EQ Mount in the trunk of your car and only carry the OTA & Eyepieces indoors (perhaps a 6-8" SCT to minimise space and weight) in a suitably padded carry bag.

 

Something like a cheap 2nd hand manual SP/GP/CG5/clone Mount + Tripod + Counterweights are not that expensive and it would not concern me to leave it in the trunk. It's rather heavy and not worth much... (But obviously don't have it in clear view as that's just asking for it!)

 

I guess it all depends how much you want a computerised mount... Note: There is nothing to stop you from also having a fully computerised mount, for when you plan a special trip / photography etc...

 

Regards

 

Andy.

That's a good idea! I don't really need a computerized mount. It would be nice to have for certain occasions, but you're right - having both to increase my options of how and when I can go out is a great compromise. 



#16 astrosky123

astrosky123

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 590
  • Joined: 28 Jan 2015

Posted 11 January 2017 - 01:34 PM

with the 8se you can easily carry it alone i garrenty its probally the only scope that size u can carry whole setup one one shot tho so this is a huge plus, no fire watched needed with this scope.

 

go see it in a store see if they will let u collapse the tripod down to its min then tuck the ota inside the arm and carry it. if they say no think about a 25 lbs weight on a 10 lb bar thats what whole thing will be.

j



#17 DakGibralter

DakGibralter

    Sputnik

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 45
  • Joined: 08 Jan 2017

Posted 11 January 2017 - 01:39 PM

with the 8se you can easily carry it alone i garrenty its probally the only scope that size u can carry whole setup one one shot tho so this is a huge plus, no fire watched needed with this scope.

 

go see it in a store see if they will let u collapse the tripod down to its min then tuck the ota inside the arm and carry it. if they say no think about a 25 lbs weight on a 10 lb bar thats what whole thing will be.

j

Great idea. I'll go check it out.



#18 Penarin

Penarin

    Surveyor 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 1608
  • Joined: 22 Nov 2004
  • Loc: Orion, IL

Posted 11 January 2017 - 01:43 PM

Yep, the f/6.3 focal reducers available for SCTs make them rather versatile instruments.  f/10 and f/6 all in one scope!

 

http://www.highpoint...CFYOGaQod7TIN0g


  • DakGibralter likes this

#19 aeajr

aeajr

    Skylab

  • *****
  • Posts: 4302
  • Joined: 26 Jun 2015
  • Loc: Long Island, New York, USA

Posted 11 January 2017 - 05:21 PM

Welcome to Cloudy Nights from Long Island, Nassau County.   In fact I am on the LIRR as I type this.  We are neighbors and my light pollution issues are almost as bad as yours.

 

I own an Orion XT8i Intelliscope so ask away. I love it.

 

There are clubs in the area so, if you wish you can attend some public observation sessions and see and try scopes.

 

I started with 10X50 binoculars, a planisphere and a red flashlight.


  • Kimbo_2112 likes this

#20 noisejammer

noisejammer

    Cloud Magnet

  • *****
  • Moderators
  • Posts: 1140
  • Joined: 16 Sep 2007
  • Loc: Toronto!

Posted 11 January 2017 - 05:56 PM

Welcome to Cloudy Nights - I hope you find it a fun and informative series of forums.

 

Most important, join an active club before you spend a cent. Go out observing with the members, ask questions, help with setup and experience what you can anticipate with different scopes.

 

Given your constraints, I think the idea of an 8" SCT is a good one. Try for one of the flat field / coma corrected versions and consider the classified ads - here and on Astromart. If you know what you want and are patient, you can save a lot of moola.

 

SCT's have long(-ish) focal lengths to I would not really think of using one for astrophotography unless you have a very good reason... so an equatorial mount would be overkill for now. (If you develop an interest in lunar or planetary photography, an after market wedge will solve the polar mounting issue.) If you ever decide to try your hand at deep space astrophotography, a 3-4" refractor is a lot easier place to begin.

 

Don't loose sight of needing eyepieces but try to avoid the bundled sets - these tend to be disappointing. In general, eyepieces with green writing (Takahashi and TeleVue) cost a lot of money but there are budget friendly alternatives that perform  really well. Three or four with focal lengths of 8, 15, 30 mm should do you fine to start.


  • Bjorg63 and DakGibralter like this

#21 aeajr

aeajr

    Skylab

  • *****
  • Posts: 4302
  • Joined: 26 Jun 2015
  • Loc: Long Island, New York, USA

Posted 11 January 2017 - 05:59 PM

BTW, the local Craig's List always has a selection of scopes.  There is a 16" Goto dob out there right now.



#22 DakGibralter

DakGibralter

    Sputnik

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 45
  • Joined: 08 Jan 2017

Posted 11 January 2017 - 06:55 PM

Welcome to Cloudy Nights - I hope you find it a fun and informative series of forums.

 

Most important, join an active club before you spend a cent. Go out observing with the members, ask questions, help with setup and experience what you can anticipate with different scopes.

 

Given your constraints, I think the idea of an 8" SCT is a good one. Try for one of the flat field / coma corrected versions and consider the classified ads - here and on Astromart. If you know what you want and are patient, you can save a lot of moola.

 

SCT's have long(-ish) focal lengths to I would not really think of using one for astrophotography unless you have a very good reason... so an equatorial mount would be overkill for now. (If you develop an interest in lunar or planetary photography, an after market wedge will solve the polar mounting issue.) If you ever decide to try your hand at deep space astrophotography, a 3-4" refractor is a lot easier place to begin.

 

Don't loose sight of needing eyepieces but try to avoid the bundled sets - these tend to be disappointing. In general, eyepieces with green writing (Takahashi and TeleVue) cost a lot of money but there are budget friendly alternatives that perform  really well. Three or four with focal lengths of 8, 15, 30 mm should do you fine to start.

Great advice, thank you.


  • aeajr likes this

#23 DakGibralter

DakGibralter

    Sputnik

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 45
  • Joined: 08 Jan 2017

Posted 11 January 2017 - 07:05 PM

BTW, the local Craig's List always has a selection of scopes.  There is a 16" Goto dob out there right now.

I'll check it out, thanks!


  • aeajr likes this

#24 BigC

BigC

    Fly Me to the Moon

  • *****
  • Posts: 5232
  • Joined: 29 Sep 2010
  • Loc: SE Indiana

Posted 11 January 2017 - 07:28 PM

For limited storage and easier carrying plus good on most views,the 8SCT is hard to beat.



#25 DakGibralter

DakGibralter

    Sputnik

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 45
  • Joined: 08 Jan 2017

Posted 11 January 2017 - 07:45 PM

For limited storage and easier carrying plus good on most views,the 8SCT is hard to beat.

Good to know! Thanks!


  • aeajr likes this


CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.







Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics