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Jeff2011
Carpal Tunnel
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Reged: 01/01/13

Loc: Sugar Land, TX
Beginner scope stories
      #5599946 - 01/01/13 04:50 PM

I am a new member to CN but have owned a scope for a year and a half now. I would like to start a thread for people to post their stories about their scope choices and experiences in the first few years of scope ownership. I think it may help people who are thinking about getting started. I have not reviewed all threads here so I apologize if a similar thread already exists. I will start with my story. I originally wrote it as a reply to the why AP thread but that appears to be locked.

I bought an OrionXT8 in the summer of 2011 without regard to AP. I did not want to spend a lot on a scope in case I lost interest. By not buying a goto scope it has really taught me the night sky. Locating objects became a lot easier after I purchased my wide angle eyepiece (38mm Orion Q70) which gave me a field of view just over 2 degrees. I also found that smart phone apps such as Sky Safari were more useful to me than sky charts.

I was getting tired of objects quickly moving out of my field of view at higher magnification, so in early 2012 I decided to build my own equatorial platform. I completed it around March. It did a decent job of tracking for visual observing. I enjoy all sorts of visual observing (naked eye, binocular and telescope) but I wanted to share with friends and family what I was seeing.

Even before I built the EQ platform, I started playing around with afocal AP with my IPhone. I bought one of those adapters that clamps on the Eyepiece and started taking pictures of the moon. I bought a solar filter in preparation for the Venus transit and took my scope to work the day of the transit. It was a very rewarding experience showing my coworkers my setup and the transit. I also took video of the sun and moon that I stacked with registax.

Then in October of 2012, I bought a used Canon T3i DSLR camera. My thinking was that I could also use the DSLR to take wide angle pictures of the sky with tracking provided by my EQ platform. Which worked quite well.

I also bought adapters to do eyepiece projection AP. After making stacked video pictures of the moon and Jupiter with the Canon, I decided to target the Orion nebula with some short 2 second frames that I processed in Iris. Although the results paled in comparison to other people's, it was a big step for me in starting to learn the processing techniques.

My next steps are to continue to improve my AP skills with the setup that I have. However I know that I will not be satisfied in the near future and am thinking about buying a short APO refractor with a German EQ mount and auto guider. I also plan on joining the local astronomy club as they have a dark site and an 18 inch scope that members can use. I will also continue to enjoy visual observing.

I like the analogy of a tourist taking pictures on vacation that I read in another post in the why AP thread. That is how I view my AP today. I am just a space tourist. However, I will continue to improve my AP skills until it feels like work and is no longer fun. If you are a beginner I recommend trying AP to see what you can do. But most important, don't hold your pictures to the standards of the expert astrophotographers. Let their pictures inspire you and not discourage you.

You can see my setup and pics at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeff-guck-in-die-luft

I look forward to reading other stories.

Thanks,

Jeff


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MikeBOKC
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Reged: 05/10/10

Loc: Oklahoma City, OK
Re: Beginner scope stories new [Re: Jeff2011]
      #5599991 - 01/01/13 05:16 PM

To me there are several basic considerations that ought to enter into any decisions for someone who thinks "I think I want to get a telescope."

First is what you want to do with it, generally divided into strictly visual observing, AP or both. That will dictate a lot of your choices from the first, and rule out a number of possibilities.

Second is budget, of course. A good general rule is get the most aperture you can for the available bucks, but it is also important to realize that the scope or scope and mount are only the beginning. It's important to also factor in the costs of eyepieces, power units, chairs, etc.

Third, storage and portability. It is often said that the best scope is the one that gets used, and this is where buying too big can make it difficult to haul, store and set up the equipment.

Fourth is available observing sites. A big Dob thrives under remote dark skies, but an 8 inch SCT or mid-sized refractor may be a better choice is you are going to be restricted to viewing from urban light polluted skies.

Fifth is what I would call community -- if there is an astronomy club within range, join it. There is no better set of resources and good fellowship, and even if you prefer solitary observing most of the time, it's still great to get out with -- and learn from -- a group of like-minded astro-buffs.

Sixth, and perhaps most important, is patience. It takes time to learn the sky, master equipment and become accustomed to teasing out a faint object from the background, which on many nights may be hazy or turbulent. This is not a hobby to be approached casually; it's more like golf or fishing or learning a musical instrument, where experience brings mastery and maximum enjoyment.

Finally, it is important to know that as with any hobby strongly pursued, one's tastes and needs will change over time. I would doubt that ten percent of people on this site still have the first scope -- and only that scope -- they bought. Astronomy equipment also evolves over time; witness the go-to revolution and the arrival of wide-field eyepieces as just a couple of examples.

The bottom line is that this is not a hobby that is best approached with a "just jump in the water" mindset, if one is to derive the most enjoyment from it.

Edited by MikeBOKC (01/01/13 05:25 PM)


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Jon Isaacs
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Reged: 06/16/04

Loc: San Diego and Boulevard, CA
Re: Beginner scope stories new [Re: MikeBOKC]
      #5600124 - 01/01/13 06:44 PM

Quote:


The bottom line is that this is not a hobby that is best approached with a "just jump in the water" mindset, if one is to derive the most enjoyment from it.




I don't know.. getting started in a hobby like amateur astronomy is easy to over-analyze. You are standing on one side of a closed door and you are trying to figure out what is on the other side of the door without going through it.

We are all different... I got started in this hobby because I bought a broken down 60mm refractor at a garage sale for $5 (that was about what it was worth too) and just wanted to see what I could see. I had no expectations, I was essentially ignorant but I was/am patient and curious. And early one morning out on the Arizona desert, I stumbled upon a small bit of nebulosity (I later found out it was M42) and I was hooked.

From where I sit, some 20 plus years later, what is most important is to jump in the water and get your feet wet, discover what this hobby is really about and discover what it is you enjoy about it. It's the self-discovery that is most important.

The important things, the things that determine whether observing (or photographing) is a passion or a just a passing fancy, you cannot know without experiencing them. Is it really all that much fun to be tired and cold to the bone, the wind blowing in your face, your hands and feet stiff and your ears burning just on the hope you might see an elusive faint glow in the eyepiece?

For some, it's a passion, for most, it's a passing fancy.

Jon


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Tim2723
The Moon Guy
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Reged: 02/19/04

Loc: Northern New Jersey
Re: Beginner scope stories new [Re: Jon Isaacs]
      #5600343 - 01/01/13 09:09 PM

As another old timer in the hobby, I must agree with John. I come from the days when any mirror bigger than about 8" had to ground in your own basement. When the 6" refractor was beyond the dreams of avarice, when the Maksutove was a picture on the inside cover of S&T well beyond the means of the average mortal.

My first look at the Moon was through a pair of opera glasses. As a boy I tried to build a refractor from a discarded pair of eyeglasses and a paper tube. My first actual telescope, if you could call it that, was a Jason closed-tube Newt on a little table top mount.

But why bother mentioning that? It's not different than a thousand other stories. But the theme is the same. That first fleeting glance, the first hint of wonder, the sense of something bigger and better to come, the knowledge that there are things larger than yourself. As John said, a passion or a passing fancy. For me those first struggling steps kindled a passion and a hope for yet another elusive faint glow in the eyepiece.


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lamplight
Carpal Tunnel
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Reged: 09/18/12

Loc: western MA, U.S.
Re: Beginner scope stories new [Re: Jon Isaacs]
      #5600452 - 01/01/13 10:22 PM

Quote:

Is it really all that much fun to be tired and cold to the bone, the wind blowing in your face, your hands and feet stiff and your ears burning just on the hope you might see an elusive faint glow in the eyepiece?




Sold!


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Dave74
sage
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Reged: 10/23/12

Loc: Gelatinous, MA
Re: Beginner scope stories new [Re: Tim2723]
      #5600479 - 01/01/13 10:36 PM

I bought an AD10 in October 2012 after months of research. I had gotten hooked when I saw Jupiter and the Pleiades through a 60mm Tasco.

Since then I've probably spent about 14-16 hours observing during probably about a dozen sessions. What I enjoy is coupling my observing sessions with research of the objects before and after I observe them. I've learned more in three months than I learned of the sky in 37 years. And having knowledge of what I'm observing greatly increases the experience for me.

Is it a "passion" for me? I don't know, probably not. It's something I can share with friends and family who may be interested in the night sky but were intimidated by the science of astronomy. It's something I can entertain house guests with. It's something I enjoy. And it's something I plan to do for as long as I can see. I'm never going to make some huge discovery or design a new observing device. I just plan to relax and enjoy it. I find it exciting and at the same time it reassures me and gives me peace of mind. It's a great hobby to enjoy.


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Dave74
sage
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Reged: 10/23/12

Loc: Gelatinous, MA
Re: Beginner scope stories new [Re: Dave74]
      #5600493 - 01/01/13 10:49 PM

Quote:

I'm never going to make some huge discovery or design a new observing device




I just wanted to clarify that I didn't mean that as a slight towards Jeff2011's EQ platform. I looked at your photos, Jeff, and that thing is awesome!


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Jon Isaacs
Postmaster
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Reged: 06/16/04

Loc: San Diego and Boulevard, CA
Re: Beginner scope stories new [Re: Dave74]
      #5600498 - 01/01/13 10:55 PM

Quote:


Is it a "passion" for me? I don't know, probably not.... It's something I enjoy. And it's something I plan to do for as long as I can see. I'm never going to make some huge discovery or design a new observing device. I just plan to relax and enjoy it. I find it exciting and at the same time it reassures me and gives me peace of mind. It's a great hobby to enjoy.




Dave:

Like it or not... it's not a passing fancy, you're in it for the long haul...

The thrills one experiences as an amateur astronomer are seemingly small, it's no like rushing into a turn at 140mph... But one never asks if it's worth it because it just is.

Jon


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City Kid
Carpal Tunnel
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Reged: 05/06/09

Loc: Northern Indiana
Re: Beginner scope stories new [Re: Jon Isaacs]
      #5600508 - 01/01/13 11:05 PM

Quote:

Is it really all that much fun to be tired and cold to the bone, the wind blowing in your face, your hands and feet stiff and your ears burning just on the hope you might see an elusive faint glow in the eyepiece?



Dang Jon, it's 11:00PM here in Indiana and it's 14ºF outside. I'm getting ready to go out for a couple hours and observe and thought I would check Cloudy Nights before I head out. Now you've got me questioning the sanity of going out there in this weather! I guess this must be more than a passing fancy for me.


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lamplight
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 09/18/12

Loc: western MA, U.S.
Re: Beginner scope stories new [Re: MikeBOKC]
      #5600532 - 01/01/13 11:26 PM

Quote:

There is no better set of resources and good fellowship, and even if you prefer solitary observing most of the time, it's still great to get out with -- and learn from -- a group of like-minded astro-buffs.




Been dragging my feet on two local resources.. Decided I'm going to join a small mountaintop nonprofit club with events, classes and a dark mountaintop. 27 miles away. I'm not really a people person and am just fine observing alone (help from here) but I really want those dark skies. Have never experienced it yet. If the people are like most of you guys I bet I might even enjoy the camaraderie. Decided last night to try. Be nice to share the enthusiasm with people who gets it.

Quote:


where experience brings mastery and maximum enjoyment.



It gets better?


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lamplight
Carpal Tunnel
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Reged: 09/18/12

Loc: western MA, U.S.
Re: Beginner scope stories new [Re: Dave74]
      #5600544 - 01/01/13 11:39 PM

Quote:

It's something I can entertain house guests with.




Think its pushing things to make everyone dark adapt their eyes before we go out? . Seriously, I've enjoyed sharing some sky with relatives over the holidays myself this year. Everyone has some interest at least which is nice.


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Gert K A
sage


Reged: 07/16/12

Loc: Copenhagen, Denmark
Re: Beginner scope stories new [Re: Jeff2011]
      #5600557 - 01/01/13 11:54 PM

Talking about a leap of faith, I too think that’s the way.. you got to start someplace.
For me.. I knew nothing about this hobby, I just wanted a telescope to see something in the sky really, I had no idea of what lol
I was lucky enough that the guy in the local telescope shop was knowledgeable, more astro than business, and btw. the shop too was random, no research on my behalf.
He helped me a lot, we figured to get a ~ 5” newton scope on an adequate EQ mount, supposedly a good starter scope.
When I got home and put it together it happened that I couldn’t figure how to lock the mount clutches (terrible noob lol)
So I returned the scope as faulty (witch it clearly wasn’t) and bought the step up a 6” on a beefier mount
The guy in the shop even added a small clock drive for the mount, free of charge as compensation for my self inflicted troubles.
Anyway it all worked out and now around 10 years later I still got no regrets it is a great little scope witch gives up nice views, a 6” inch Newton is a winner in my book. You can certainly learn a lot by owning a scope like this.

@Jeff digiscoping or light AP is cool, a great way to share your joy, I like that exact level.. nice pictures.


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SteveTheSwede
member


Reged: 09/28/09

Loc: Stockholm, Sweden
Re: Beginner scope stories new [Re: Jeff2011]
      #5601128 - 01/02/13 11:53 AM

I got started when I and my wife was at my fathers summer-house one summer. We noticed a bright "star" that was impressive with bare eyes and we wondered what it was. By chance my fathers spotting scope (used for birds at the feeder) was standing nearby. In a flash of inspiration I grabbed the tripod and turned towards the mystery "star".
We watched the little smudge which didn't at all look star-like in the spotting scope, trying to figure out what we were looking at. Then I noticed four little "stars" in a line around the smudge... unbeknownst to me at the time, I then drew the same conclusion as Galileo Galilei once did - the little stars had to be moons! I was looking at a planet! My guess was on Jupiter and some quick googling on the computer confirmed it. This was literally a mind-expanding experience. Both I and the wife was taken aback by the realisation that we were seeing moons around a different planet. Jupiter have a special place in my heart since then.

After that I actually didn't do everything wrong, just most of it. The right part was to read and ponder. I found the typical advice for a total noob wanting a telescope; namely to not get one but instead to get a pair of binocs and join the local astronomy club. Thus armed with excellent advice I ignored it all and ran out to buy my first telescope.

I bought a fast 5" newt on a flimsy equatorial mount. As far as I can tell the optics were (and still are) decent but to start with an EQ mount was not a good idea. It is a daunting task to figure it out for the complete beginner, not impossible, but the time and brain power spent on the mount is better used for other things. What I should have done and what I recommend is to get a dob. The same money I spent could have bought me a 8" dob, much more bang for the buck as well as the intuitive point-and-shoot dobson mount that is instantly understood by anyone. By the time I realised that I had made my life unnecessarily complicated I had finally got a pair of binocs and joined the astronomy club.

Long story short, I stayed with it, learned things (though initially in the wrong order) and have gained much joy and knowledge from the experience.

More than anything my experience convinced me that the best advice is what I ignored - get a pair of binoculars, start looking at the sky and if possible join an astronomy club. For those who choose to ignore it (like I did), I firmly claim that a dobson is the best first scope for anyone and everyone. It's just the right place to start; intuitive, educational and the money goes to aperture not gizmos.

Steve

EDIT:
P.S. Just to be clear, I was not comparing myself to Galileo His conclusion was a tad more impressive than mine since I was previously aware that there is such a thing as Jupiter - but still an amusing parallel I thought.

Edited by SteveTheSwede (01/02/13 12:00 PM)


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csrlice12
Postmaster
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Reged: 05/22/12

Loc: Denver, CO
Re: Beginner scope stories new [Re: SteveTheSwede]
      #5601139 - 01/02/13 12:07 PM

I don't regret getting my dob for a second, nor do I regret getting the refractor, about the only thing I do regret is buying that Orion Trimag, used it once...hasn't been out of the case since then....

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lamplight
Carpal Tunnel
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Reged: 09/18/12

Loc: western MA, U.S.
Re: Beginner scope stories new [Re: csrlice12]
      #5601358 - 01/02/13 02:34 PM

" Thus armed with excellent advice I ignored it all and ran out to buy my first telescope. " -Steve

Sounds vaguely familiar. I have a few purchase regrets. Not the keep me up at night kind though. I guess I like to learn in reverse order, the more expensive way.


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Meadeball
sage


Reged: 10/22/12

Loc: Midlothian, Virginia
Re: Beginner scope stories new [Re: lamplight]
      #5601457 - 01/02/13 03:44 PM

It never ceases to amaze me when I go through a thread like this ... a thread about a very high-tech, mathematically intensive hobby ... a hobby that requires thinking and an analytical mind ... yet when it comes down to it, underlying all of that math, physics and things scientific ...

We're all a bunch of hopeless romantics!

I'll add my echoing thoughts here too ... it all goes back some 35 years to an el-cheapo (cardboard tube, plastic eyepiece) 2-1/2-inch reflector my parents bought me from Sears for my 11th birthday. Landfill-fodder it was; it didn't stop me, however, from getting my first-ever looks at the moon and Saturn. That tiny little image of Saturn with its featureless rings, hanging there like a finely carved piece of ivory on a coal-black sky, is indelibly etched in my soul. Yep, it's a romance thing. And maybe a bit of ego too ... how many of you have astounded your neighbors when you've remarked out loud how bright Jupiter is tonight? We have a special relationship with the sky that, for some reason, not many people ever get to know. Funny how we are taught every world capital and the topographics of our homely globe in school, but no class I can recall named even one star in the sky other than our Sun. Pity!

Here's that little baby ...



Edited by Meadeball (01/02/13 03:52 PM)


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Jon Isaacs
Postmaster
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Reged: 06/16/04

Loc: San Diego and Boulevard, CA
Re: Beginner scope stories new [Re: Meadeball]
      #5601479 - 01/02/13 03:55 PM

Quote:

We're all a bunch of hopeless romantics!




It comes with the territory... no sane person would find joy in being tired and cold to the bone, the wind blowing in your face, your hands and feet stiff and your ears burning just on the hope you might see an elusive faint glow in the eyepiece...

Jon


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Meadeball
sage


Reged: 10/22/12

Loc: Midlothian, Virginia
Re: Beginner scope stories new [Re: Jon Isaacs]
      #5601505 - 01/02/13 04:06 PM

That romance is only reinforced when I hear (and indeed I have heard) things like this while standing at the eyepiece ...

"Just think; the light from that galaxy traveled for two and a half million years just to fall on your retina right now."

"It may very well be that right now, at this moment in time, you are the only human on the face of the Earth looking at this star."

"That little dot in the eyepiece is an entire other world, where it's not out of the realm of possibility that other beings are living their lives ... and maybe a few of them are even gazing back at us, wondering the same thing."

Think I'll go hug my cat now.


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SteveTheSwede
member


Reged: 09/28/09

Loc: Stockholm, Sweden
Re: Beginner scope stories new [Re: Jon Isaacs]
      #5601832 - 01/02/13 07:48 PM

Quote:

Quote:

We're all a bunch of hopeless romantics!




It comes with the territory... no sane person would find joy in being tired and cold to the bone, the wind blowing in your face, your hands and feet stiff and your ears burning just on the hope you might see an elusive faint glow in the eyepiece...

Jon




It is interesting though, isn't it, that knowing what one is looking at actually changes your aesthetic appreciation for it. What is really just a smudge in the viewfinder becomes a thing of beauty when its true nature is known to the observer.
Some psychologists should (and probably have) look at this.


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newtoskies
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 07/15/12

Loc: SE Ma.
Re: Beginner scope stories new [Re: SteveTheSwede]
      #5601859 - 01/02/13 08:04 PM

Well I guess I'm a bit late with my boring story. I got started in July last year and bought my very first scope, an Orion XT6 due to all the great advice given here on CN. I had always been just interested in astronomy especially after seeing the ultimate dark skies in the deserts of Saudi and Iraq. The moon was so big it looked like you could reach up and touch it. That was long ago and I hadn't thought much about astronomy until my buddy gave me a couple of his S&T mags in the Spring of last year. i've been hooked ever since.
Then of course when I found this great forum and all the VERY friendly and helpful members.
Now, if it weren't so darn cold outside tonight I'd be out there with the Dob. Suppose to be down to 10F tonight....buuurrrr. Might just pull out a lawn chair and binos again.


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