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Dob vs. GoTo - A 9 year olds decision

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#1 Staz

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Posted 19 March 2005 - 01:34 AM

Hey everyone. Some of you may remember me but those that really need the info wont so this is going to be a long winded post. I am going to give you some background and tell a story but if you are a parent who knows nothing about astronomy and have a young science geek that wants a telescope I hope this will be worth your time.

About a year ago my wife hit me with "Nate want's a telescope." I said ok. Later that day my wife went to pick up a scope at Toy's R Us in thier knowledge center. I stoped her and told her to wait and let me check it out before we spend $100 on a scope to make sure it was a good one. I think it was the fact that they had a reflector and a refractor and I didn't know which was which or which was better, but anyway. So I decided to use the internet to find some resources that would tell me what kind of scope to get.

I found what I think is the best resource on the net, this forum. And if you are reading this then you have gotten as far as I had at that point. Keep reading and you'll see why I keep coming back.

Well I read all the beginners guides and learned the diference between apochromatic and achromatic and Dob and GEM but I still didn't know what was right for an 8 year old. The guys on here gave me many options but most were more than I could afford at the time. It seemed that the best option for a begginer on a budget is a 4.5" Dob. Then one of the members here made me an offer I couldn't refuse. He sent me a 4.5" Dob, some eyepieces, planisphere, book of the stars, and even a small flashlight. He paid shipping and I was to use it for a month. If I didn't like it I could send it back and only pay return shipping, if I liked it I could keep it and pay for it when I could afford it. Are these guys awesome or what?!?

I was also warned that I wopuld get hooked.

So I took our benifactor up on his offer and agreed that I would retun the favor if and when I could. I got the scope and found that I suffer from an all to common new bee desiase called CFS or can't find stuff. Apperently the cure for CFS is a trip to Barnes and Noble, a larger planisphere and countless hours learning the constilation. Only problem is that the cure to CFS has a nasty side effect called GAS or Gear Accusition Syndrome. GAS is offten characterized by appeture fevor, but this is not the only symptom. Also GAS has no cure, only a life long wallet draining treatment that is not covered under any health insurrance plan.

OK so here I am with a 4.5" Dob and some time to use them while my grandson is not here. First I used the scope with Nate, after all it was his. He couldn't use it without help. I could find planets and so could Nate, the Moon was also an easy target. But everything else eluded us. Also once I was locked onto one of the planets or the Moon Nate would have to track by hand and sometimes lost the target due to everything being ratated 135 degrees. While trying to find other objects Nate would become bored and go off into his own world or would run or skip or just try to keep his mind busy. I wished for a GoTo scope.

Don't get me wrong. The Dob would have been the ideal scope for me. I loved it. I really enjoyed sitting in the dark and the quiet and searching for DSO's. If I didn't find them it was still the most relaxing and stress free experiance anyone could ever ask for. And when I did find what I was looking for it was such a rewarding feeling. But this scope wasn't mine. So Nate wasn't happy searching, he wanted to observe.

I enjoyed this so much that my wife bought me a 12" Dob for my birthday. (She also supports my computer overclocking hobby). Anyone who wants to know if she has a sister the answer is yes. But her sister's are already married and wonder why my wife "Lets" me spend money on ME! I love my 12" Dob!

Back to Nate. He was not having so much fun. I work as a diver and when I am offshore he could not carry the scope outside by himself. My wife had to do it for him. Then the only targets he could lock onto and track was the Moon and Jupiter and Saturn while at low powers of about 91x. If I were to center it for hime he could track at higher powers but once he lost it that was it, so he couldn't use it by himself.

Also Nate likes to run outside and take a look up then go and get his scope and he wanted to look now. His scheduale doesn't include cool down time.

With Nates wanting to run out and take a quick peak and his ability to find and track the planets and the Moon I thought that I should get him a small refractor on an alt/az mount. I thought that would fit his observing style. I started looking here in the swap and shop forums and also on astromart. I soon saw a number of ETX 70 telescopes on sale for cheap. I picked up an ETX-70AT with tripod and carrying case and 2 supplied eyepieces and a 2x barlow and a modified webcam.

Now I sat Nate down and explained to him that he had one month to choose which scope to keep and which to pass on. Due to bad weather and cloudy skys it turned into 2 months. The firsrt time we used the small goto refractor I showed him how to use it and he kind of got the hang of it. Then we took the small Dob out again. Then last night Nate took the small goto refractor out again and got more used to it. At this point he started asking about the colors on the edges of bright stuff. That goes to show you that if a 9 year old complains about it, there is definately a problem with false color. Nate was so excited that he could find stuff without my help. Also the interface is natueral to him (we bought him his own computer for his 4th birthday cause he wouldn't let us on ours).

Tonight he picked the scope up by himself, set it up by himself, went through the goto set up by himself, and started observing by himself. His newest thing is galexies, he can't get enough of them and this scope finds them for him. He loves it cause there is no waiting or delay and he doesn't need to rely on anyone else.

The thing that may sway you is what Nate said to me tonight after his viewing sesion (without any prompting, just out of the blue). "Papa, we got to sell one of my telescopes right?" Yep. "Well are you gonna keep yours?" Yes Nate I am keeping mine. "Well if you are keeping yours I want to keep the new scope (the goto) and sell the old one (the 4.5" Dob). then if I want to get a good look at something I can use yours, but for just looking I can use the new scope. But if you are going to sell yours I want to keep the old one so I can get a good look."

That is the part that gets me. So the GoTo will do the work for you, and if you are an instant gratification personality then you want the goto. However if you are more patent than most the extra apeture will be more helpful than the electronics.

To be totally honest I feel that a better goto scope is needed. The focal length and apeture of the EXT-70AT are just not enough. But if you are strapped for cash and can afford only what you can afford and are faced with the choine of a goto or a dob, the small Dob is better for a mature person with patience that wants to do this to relax. However if you are the type to want instant gratification then a smaller goto would be a better fit.

I hope this helps

Maurice

BTW
I will soon have a 4.5XT and planisphere and book and eyepieces and flashlight for sale to someone in need but without the finacial means.

#2 Bill Grass

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Posted 19 March 2005 - 01:47 AM

Good to hear from you again, Maurice! I always enjoy hearing your stories about Nate & your adventures with the telescopes. So you're looking for another goto scope to replace the ETX-70, huh? I have zero experience with goto scopes, so I'll let somebody else help you there.

Take care!

#3 Staz

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Posted 19 March 2005 - 01:53 AM

Not looking for a replacement if wife has her say. Just kidding. Maybe.

Bill, did you know that there was a star party a Kistachey state park last weekend? I was going to go but spent the time offshore. Anyway we still need to get together and do some star gazing.

#4 Bill Grass

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Posted 19 March 2005 - 02:00 AM

Yep! I was tempted to go, but I really didn't have the time.

Yeah, let's get together sometime!

#5 werewolf6977

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Posted 19 March 2005 - 03:48 AM

Maurice, that was a heart-warming post. I'm getting my gf's 12 year old nephew started today by giving him a pair of 10X50's for his birthday.

#6 NewAstronomer

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Posted 19 March 2005 - 03:50 AM

Good story. I think the personality part plays alot into scope decisions, especially early on. Type A = should have GOTO or at least some type of motor controls (thats me, and I don't have it, but its cloudy again at 3AM so I don't mind :) )

I think dexterity for push and track on a Dob would be tough for a kid, but its the apeture bang for a buck feature that gets alot of people.

Staz, you should contact a CN member with a name "scopefreak" , PM me if you want his email address. I was going to buy a used Meade 4504 from him (4.5" GOTO with ALL amenities) but I didn't have the cash, last October. He's frome Georgia or Alabama I think. That scope got great reviews, I'm switching to a 6" Newt tho, trying my hand at setting circles!

#7 gettr

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Posted 19 March 2005 - 08:41 AM

Nice write up Maurice.... I think you hit the nail on the head with the dob vs goto ... Sounds to me like you have a very smart grandson that was able to figure out how to get the best of both worlds. You might want to be very careful with that one.... :lol:

#8 miniventures

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Posted 19 March 2005 - 09:12 AM

Nice write up Maurice.... I think you hit the nail on the head with the dob vs goto ... Sounds to me like you have a very smart grandson that was able to figure out how to get the best of both worlds. You might want to be very careful with that one.... :lol:


I agree wholeheartedly here---have a hunch that young one is going to be quite the catalyst for you to dig deeper and deeper into astronomy (and, perhaps, your wallet---keep him away from CN for as long as you can, these guys love to spend everyone else's money :grin: )

#9 Echo

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Posted 19 March 2005 - 10:26 AM

Maurice,
Nate and I would get along very well as observing partners! I hate false color, love aperture and have the attention span of a gnat when it comes to finding things. I imagine his ultimate scope will be a very large truss dob with goto!
Your post expressed the learning curve and individual preferences quite well. I think it's going to be very helpful to others in your position. Congratulations on having an excellent viewing buddy and on your new Dob.

#10 Sue

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Posted 19 March 2005 - 10:55 AM

What a great story! Stargazing with a loved one is so great, my three year old grandchild loves to look at the moon with me. Keep up the good work Gramps! :waytogo:

#11 MMICKELS

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Posted 19 March 2005 - 12:00 PM

Maurice, what a great story. Sounds like your grandson is a sharp kid! How dark are your skies? Can you see most of the stars in the various constellations?

#12 oldsalt

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Posted 19 March 2005 - 12:23 PM

Great story, my 3 year old granddaughter is the same way. About 3 months ago see asked me if she could get a "telethescope". A little taken back I asked why not being sure she would know what it was for, and she promtly replied , "so I can look at the stars and fireworks grampa". Whenever she is over at the house now we go out and observe together. She can identify Orion, the Big and Little Dipper, and loves looking at the Moon. To quote her "Its so cool".

#13 erik

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Posted 19 March 2005 - 02:38 PM

great story, maurice! glad to hear that nate is really getting into viewing. kids are such an inspiration! :)

#14 lighttrap

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Posted 19 March 2005 - 03:18 PM

Maurice,
As always, it's great to hear how you and Nate are doing with your astronomical pursuits. Thank you, sir, for sharing that update. Nate's experiences with that little XT4.5 Dob have really had an impact on how I recommend 1st scopes to parents and kids. I particularly appreciate you highlighting the troubles you & he had locating objects with that little scope. That helps me better understand things from a different perspective. I think Nate made the right choice. I'm really glad that you both have decided to stick with this absorbing hobby.

Warmest regards,
Mike Swaim

#15 SAL

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Posted 19 March 2005 - 04:46 PM

Thank you for sharing that update with us Maurice. Isn’t it funny how we strive as adults to teach children things and they seem to teach us far wiser lessons! My boys (8 & 11) are just the same when it comes to observing. If I can show them an object immediately they really like it for about 5 minutes. If it takes me more than 30 seconds to find, they are already loosing interest.

Glad to hear you liked the 4.5XT Dob as I just encouraged one of my friends to buy that same scope as his first telescope. He lives in an upstairs complex and needed something portable and large enough to see things with. He is very interested in trying his hand at DSOs so I knew a 70mm refractor would quickly prove inadequate for him. The 4.5XT should provide a great introduction to astronomy and he will be able to see enough things with it to decide if he wants to wade further into the waters of gear acquisition syndrome.

Your post is very informative regarding a child's perspective on astronomy and observing. Thanks again for sharing it with us. Keep us posted.

#16 Starman1

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Posted 19 March 2005 - 05:41 PM

Sounds like the next scope for him might be a 6" dob with GoTo (like the one from Orion).
Advantages:
--transportable in pieces a child can carry(heaviest piece is under 20 pounds)
--Easy to set up (alignment, that is)
--Large GoTo object memory (love the Tour of best objects)
--low price ($510 with computer)
--No drive batteries required
--80% more light gathering than the 4.5"
--hundreds of deep-sky objects visible in the finder (finder is of decent size)
--If the object gets lost, it's easy to reacquire (with the finder or computer)
This would be a good gift for, say, a birthday.
Unfortunately, you can't add GoTo to the 4.5" for a reasonable price, or that would do it for right now.
A friend of mine gave this to his nephew at his 10th birthday. I don't think it gets used every day, but it has seen the stars a LOT.
Thanks for the post.

#17 sixela

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Posted 19 March 2005 - 07:20 PM

Sounds like the next scope for him might be a 6" dob with GoTo (like the one from Orion).


PushTo, not GoTo, IIRC, if you mean "Intelliscope™".

#18 Starman1

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Posted 20 March 2005 - 11:16 AM

Sorry, Alexis, you're right.
The Intelliscope is a "Push To".
But, as it allows the finding of objects without star-hopping, it is the same "general" idea as a GoTo system, but with the viewer providing the power to move the scope.
Finding the objects in such a scope is considerably easier than in a non-computerized scope, like his 4.5" dob.

#19 Staz

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Posted 29 March 2005 - 11:53 PM

Hey guys

Thnx for all the replies. I was just trying to help those who were in my situation when I started. I personally like the Dob. I get a sense of satisfaction when I am able to tar hop and find what I am looking for. Kind of "The thrill of the hunt" thing. But Nate loves the goto. He has even been using it while I was offshore. That's good news.

As a side note, Nate is in the "Gifted and Talented Education" program in school. He is required to do a science project. They have choosen that everyone is to build a model of the solar system, then they gave them a list of 3 websites as guides to build it. Nate is totally dissatisfied with the "Models" they are suposed to follow. None of them include the asteoid belt and the only ringed planet is Saturn. Nate tried to tell his teacher that all the gas giants have rings. His teacher then corrected him (incorrectly) that only Saturn and Uranis have rings.

Sometimes I wonder what to do with a child this smart.

Sorry I didn't answer this post earlier but I work offshore and have been offshore lately. As far as the Binos, I got Nate some, he uses them for daytime teresrial viewing. I use them to scout out targets when I use my Dob but Nate never uses them on the night sky.

Nate's ultimate scope being an 18" truss Dob with goto? Nope! Thate is my ultimate scope!

I used to think that my skys were dark, then I got a scope and started observing. Very light poluted to the north. Horizon washed out for atleast 15* and most of the stars are not visible. But we see what we can. If I had to guess it would be the same as an average suburban neighborhood, about mag 4.5 or maybe mag 5 at the most.

Yes the moon is just soo cool!

And I believe that the 4.5XT is an excelent starter scope, it has plenty of focal length and apeture to give good view with pleasing eyerelief and FOV with low and medium powers.

#20 matt

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 03:23 AM

Maurice, this is a very good story. Not only well written, but it also shows the difficulty of holding a kid's attention, even with something he likes, and of the tough choices a beginner has to make when purchasing a scope. Way to go my friend.

#21 GaryB

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 12:10 PM

As a side note, Nate is in the "Gifted and Talented Education" program in school. He is required to do a science project. They have choosen that everyone is to build a model of the solar system, then they gave them a list of 3 websites as guides to build it. Nate is totally dissatisfied with the "Models" they are suposed to follow. None of them include the asteoid belt and the only ringed planet is Saturn. Nate tried to tell his teacher that all the gas giants have rings. His teacher then corrected him (incorrectly) that only Saturn and Uranis have rings.


Agh, now that's sad. Not too shocking given that astronomy is not a required subject in most schools, however. In Florida, I've found that some teachers will be more interested getting their students past the FCAT (a compulsory standardized test given at the elementary level) than concerning themselves with a quality education. Thankfully, my child's been fortunate enough to get the educators who don't succumb to this pressure.

#22 lighttrap

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 12:14 PM

I've added a link to this thread at the bottom of the first post in the Beginner's Scope Buying Guide pinned near the top of this forum. I also added a link to it in the "Best of Beginner's forum" thread pinned near the top.

Thanks again, for the update, Maurice. Your experiences with Nate have greatly helped me see what might appeal to a youngster, and why.

Mike Swaim

#23 imjeffp

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Posted 30 March 2005 - 02:28 PM

Extra credit if the Sola System model is built to scale?

#24 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 31 March 2005 - 02:13 AM

Maurice,

Great write up, sounds like Nate is off to a great start.

This real-life experience sure reinforces the difficulty of finding things for younger folks - hec - I still have trouble finding things! If I were to recommend a starter scope right now that wasn't goto to anyone I guess I'd say for ages up to 11 or 12 an Orion Starblast, for 12-14 or 15 and XT4.5, and for older kids a 6" f/8 dob. The Intelliscope already mentioned seems like a great idea as well.

With a 25mm plossel the Starblast gives you 2.8 degrees FOV - and shows you four times as much sky at a time than the XT4.5. I personally think the red dot finder is easier to use as well than the 6x26 correct image finder on the XT.

As far as larger GOTO scopes goes - no experience there. The new Celestron Nexstar 102 SLT refractor and the Nexstar 130 SLT newt look promising. Both weigh under 20 lbs and aren't that much more expensive than the ETX 70. Seems like most of the GOTO Newts out there use the additional corrector lens to keep the tube short and this approach doesn't yield as good a view - the 130 SLT doesn't and at f5 would still have good wide field of view. Anybody out there have either one of these scopes?

Thanks again for the post,
Bob D.

#25 Starman1

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Posted 31 March 2005 - 10:08 AM

Bob,
Stay away from the small newts with corrector lenses in the focuser. None is very good. You'd be WAY better off with a 6" f/5 newt without the lens--wide field, plenty of aperture, light in weight, and easy to use.
I have very fond memories of my own 6" f/5 on a GEM.


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