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Low-end scope at outreach events?

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#1 amzking

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 04:29 PM

I am new to astronomy, I have joined my local astronomy club and have now attended two outreach events. Last night was our big night, we got well over 1000 people with I believe 8 or 9 scopes, lines at every scope all night long.

Here's my thought. Aside from a nonpowered 10" dob, my 8" Edge SCT was by far cheapest setup there. It was also the smallest aperture aside from what I am sure is an extremely expensive astrophotography setup with a refractor. Despite that, the crowds were sufficiently wowed by one of my favorite little clusters, the Owl cluster.

Several people asked me how much my scope cost. I was too busy to know if they asked the other scope owners the same thing, but my guess is that because my scope was the least imposing of the bunch, they thought they would ask me. My answer, $2400 plus accessories, I am sure was shocking to many.

Now as a newbie, I can tell you that if I attended a star party with the hopes of maybe getting an idea of which telescope to buy, I would have left there quite discouraged. There were tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment there, but nothing in the under-$500 range to show people that yes, this hobby can at least start out reasonably affordable.

Do any of you outreach folks ever have a "cheap beginner" scope at your events, with maybe some basic instruction on how it works? Maybe to show people that a "cheap" scope will still show beautiful things? I would love to hear about your experiences if you have. I am considering floating this idea to the club for our next major outreach in February.
 

#2 leveye

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 04:34 PM

There are a ton of excellent abandoned telescopes out there on the net for sale for super cheap. Some are exceptional quality. Give them a good home I say. Help the ones who can't afford em. 


 

#3 nighty

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 04:37 PM

I like to bring at least one scope that I made from cheaply sourced parts. Usually a refractor with a pvc tube. The moon and planets look awesome in these scopes.

 

Also I use a home made dob. It helps to take away sticker shock.

 

Terry


Edited by nighty, 31 December 2017 - 04:37 PM.

 

#4 wrnchhead

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 04:48 PM

I really feel like my 8" GSO is pretty darn good for entry level at $440. I only have about 3 months experience with it and I've seen some amazing things. 


 

#5 msl615

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 04:48 PM

It is so great that you are moving quickly into public viewing events...they are really fun. 

 

I was out the other night with a simple Celestron 4SE OTA on a simple Vixen alt-az mount. Total cost maybe $300, and three Vixen LV eyepieces, total cost about maybe $200. I showed the moon terminator to family and friends who were here for the holidays. They were stunned at the shadow details and wanted to know more and more. I showed them a few doubles and the Pleiades....again, they were so excited.

 

I have also done this with a small, SV Nighthawk II for wider views and might even go for that over the 4SE, as people seem to like to see star fields.   I would use the 4SE for planets doubles, and the moon.

 

When I am by myself, I work on edge performance, enhancing eyepieces for various scopes, looking for good diffraction rings, etc.   In a crowd, the simpler the better and I always take eyepieces that are easy to use for everyone. 

 

My $$$ scopes are awesome for the quiet time, research, photos, etc, but given that the first question I almost always get in public environments is "how much does this telescope cost?", I agree that something less than $500-$600 total would be a great target. 

 

 

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#6 Taosmath

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 04:48 PM

I am contemplating buying an XT8 (if I can find one at a good price) for exactly this purpose.


 

#7 Ken Sturrock

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 04:53 PM

I try to take less expensive (often "classic") gear to outreach events. Our club actually has a section at events known as "learners' land" where we try to have smaller & more modest equipment. We also let people actually handle it for themselves. It's nice when new astronomers bring their own gear and set it up with you. Just last night, CN member jgroub was braving the cold to help a new Denver astronomer learn about his GoTo system. Yes, it takes a certain amount of fortitude to work in learners' land.

 

The cost question is always a loser. Talking about types of gear and generalities can often help folks understand the options.


 

#8 grif 678

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 05:14 PM

I remember reading a few years ago, where a man took his high priced ED refractor to a star party. Some one's kids came running by, knocked over the scope, dented the tube pretty bad, and I think it damaged the lens. So that is another reason to take the cheapest scope you can that will still put on a pretty good show.


 

#9 amzking

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 05:35 PM

Wow, thank you for all the awesome replies everyone! I will gently make the suggestion before our next outreach, unfortunately my setup below is the only one I own so I have no "cheap scope" I can bring myself, but perhaps if I volunteer to man the "learner scope" I might be able to make something happen. Of course, I would need to learn it myself first, LOL, since the scope below is also my first scope and I am totally spoiled by StarSense. But I do love to teach, and an outreach event is not typically a night where I get to go look at what I want anyway, I won't mind leaving mine at home. I will let you know what the reaction is when I bring it up at our meeting in a couple of weeks.
 

#10 gitane71

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 05:45 PM

I think this is important.  

Some people wonder why younger people aren't as engaged in astronomy.  I think a lot of hobbies are experiencing this problem.

I suggest getting a cheap 60mm scope from craigslist or something, modding it so it has a focuser that will take standard 1 1/4" eyepieces, and build a better base or tripod.  Also, if you have an inexpensive scope, you can let them use it, especially if the moon is out.  If you have a scope you are not sure of, there is nothing wrong with admitting you are learning it, and they can learn it with you.  The best teachers are those that enable someone, not humiliate someone with their 'expertise'.   


 

#11 PETER DREW

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 06:04 PM

I'm responsible for a major outreach facility. Although we have some large and expensive equipment we also deploy a few telescopes that visitors may consider looking for their own use. We make sure that these are models that represent good value, good performance for the price and are easy to use. The majority of the visitors are amazed at how little some of these cost and for some objects, how little the difference between them and the main instruments.  


Edited by PETER DREW, 31 December 2017 - 06:05 PM.

 

#12 sg6

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 06:15 PM

Tends to be 2 approaches:
People take along their biggest most impressive to show it off, or, they take a scope that real beginners are likely to consider getting as a first entry. Maybe it is just they take less costly scopes in case of curious fingers and accidents - these tend  to be the smaller options.

 

Sounds like yours has fallen into the big impressive way of doing it.

 

Where I occasionally help they use small scopes, 90mm Mak and 150mm SCT, such as people may purchase. I was also suggested not to bring an expensive one in case anything happened to it.

 

Have to be honest a small scope will often have a bigger queue then the larger scopes. Maybe people are less intimidated by it. One young lady dished out "violence" at a person who "insulted" my smallest scope. The person laughed and commented that it was such a small scope that they had finder scopes bigger. She kicked him in the ankle. I had shown her how to use it and she had taken a likely to it.

 

I don't take either of the apo's or the ED doublets, but I did in effect buy a 102 Bresser for use at these events. Oddly the Bresser is the biggest scope I have, but also theleast expensive and I also got it at about 1/2 cost in a clearance on the Bresser site. Sort of ideal for outreach.

 

However still the small ETX 70 gets a lot of people, occasionally have to drag one person away so another can have a look.


Edited by sg6, 31 December 2017 - 06:16 PM.

 

#13 amzking

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 06:33 PM

I'm responsible for a major outreach facility. Although we have some large and expensive equipment we also deploy a few telescopes that visitors may consider looking for their own use. We make sure that these are models that represent good value, good performance for the price and are easy to use. The majority of the visitors are amazed at how little some of these cost and for some objects, how little the difference between them and the main instruments.


That is exactly what I want to introduce. I don’t know why, but the guys seem to want to bring their most expensive equipment to outreaches. Honestly, speaking as a newbie, even a 10 inch manual Dob looks intimidating. I do happen to have a extremely rickety 70 inch refractor that I purchased off craigslist at a lark, I was going to just equip it with a homemade solar shield, but maybe I will get it going as a beginner scope instead for outreaches. The only problem is, the motion controls have a slightly bent part which makes it difficult to operate, and it’s rather loosey-goosey. I will also check to see if any of them have inexpensive beginner scopes that I can volunteer to man.

Edited by amzking, 31 December 2017 - 06:34 PM.

 

#14 wrnchhead

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 10:10 PM

I think this is important.  

Some people wonder why younger people aren't as engaged in astronomy.  I think a lot of hobbies are experiencing this problem.

I suggest getting a cheap 60mm scope from craigslist or something, modding it so it has a focuser that will take standard 1 1/4" eyepieces, and build a better base or tripod.  Also, if you have an inexpensive scope, you can let them use it, especially if the moon is out.  If you have a scope you are not sure of, there is nothing wrong with admitting you are learning it, and they can learn it with you.  The best teachers are those that enable someone, not humiliate someone with their 'expertise'.   

This right here I think captures the essence of the point. I really have no experience with high end stuff., but I spent a few years chasing planets with a super cheapo dept store refractor, then on Craigslist got a 60mm refractor, then my 8" dob. I got no less wow from my friends looking at saturn in my light polluted city with that Meade than I do with my dob. 

 

Snobbishness is understandable, I wouldn't want to go back to my 50mm Meade, just like someone with a fluorite  scope would scoff at my dob, but really, even with binoculars, there's so much wow to be had. 


Edited by wrnchhead, 31 December 2017 - 10:14 PM.

 

#15 The Ardent

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 10:18 PM

Usually at outreach there is a mix, and we bring an XT6 for kids and the curious to play with. 

 

Now tell me this: when the classic car guys are set up in the parking lot for a public viewing, are the majority high or low-end? Should astronomy be any different? 


 

#16 Jay_Bird

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 10:47 PM

I often bring binoculars on a parallelogram mount or a 80mm small refractor with wide field eyepieces to show a wider view and inspire use of family binoculars or spotting scope, compared to the larger scopes at outreach.  It also has a modest answer for "what did that cost?", although lately the eyepiece answer has caught up to the scope cost...   Other members of local club bring a range of equipment up to higher-end refractors or large go-to scopes, and those have the longest lines!  One of the most gifted outreach astronomers has a moderate size Dobsonian that is also a good "how much does something like that cost" answer for an interested family. 


 

#17 gitane71

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 10:57 PM

sg6,

  Love your story about the young lady defending your scope !!!  


 

#18 csrlice12

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 11:52 PM

Last time I went, I took the 102XLT, guy next to me had an old Tasco 60mm, another guy had a 4SE....we all had plenty of viewers...Yes, there was also a long line for the 25" dob....but the star of the show is still the 1894 20" Clark-Sagmueller in the observatory.  By the way, that 60mm had great optics.


 

#19 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 01 January 2018 - 12:25 AM

Tends to be 2 approaches:
People take along their biggest most impressive to show it off, or, they take a scope that real beginners are likely to consider getting as a first entry. Maybe it is just they take less costly scopes in case of curious fingers and accidents - these tend  to be the smaller options.

 

 

At the outreach events I attend,  there seems to be a balance and most of the equipment is decent but not fancy,  an older 8 inch non-Goto SCT or an 8-10 Dob is pretty much the norm. 

 

The goal seems to be showing some of the wonders of the night sky to people who've never looked through a decent telescope.  I think it's important to have equipment capable of providing reasonable views of the showcase objects. 

 

I get two types of questions.  The vast majority are interested in what they are seeing,  understanding what they are looking at,  where it is in the sky,  how far away it is or something about the object itself.  Those experienced in outreach have developed a well thought out set of simple explanations to questions about orbits and such. 

 

The second kind of questions are technical.  Most often someone has a scope and needs help with it.  I offer whatever help I can and also offer to help them later with the scope itself.  Very occasionally someone will ask about buying a scope.  I'll answer their questions best I can and also offer a loaner scope ..

 

My own attitude is that I want to show the interested public the best possible view.  I am not trying to seduce them into buying a telescope, my goal is just to provide that opportunity in those few moments to see something they've never seen before. 

 

Jon


 

#20 Kunama

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Posted 01 January 2018 - 01:23 AM

Tends to be 2 approaches:
People take along their biggest most impressive to show it off, or, they take a scope that real beginners are likely to consider getting as a first entry. Maybe it is just they take less costly scopes in case of curious fingers and accidents - these tend  to be the smaller options.

 

Sounds like yours has fallen into the big impressive way of doing it.

 

 

I don't agree with the underlined statement, it is far too much of a generalisation and I doubt it actually applies to many people freely giving their time at outreach events.

Up until recently I took my 18"F5.6, not to show it off to people but to give them an opportunity to see the differences which sometime are not as much as people would think.

I recently bought a 10" all manual Dob for future outreach events as my concern was for people climbing my ladder in darkness. 

 

I think the reason many take their GoTo mounts and scopes is so that they don't have to spend the evening hand tracking while peering through the finderscope.  

Our outreach events are usually attended by 1500 visitors and with about 10 scopes, it gets very tiring to hand track for five hours while trying to see through a Telrad.

This year I will also be taking along a GoTo mount with a smaller scope...

 

Alice, I am impressed that you're getting involved in outreach so early in your time in the hobby. Some people have no interest in sharing their eyepiece time with strangers at all, I think they miss out on a lot as a result.  The excitement of a visitor at seeing Saturn's rings or Jupiter's moons for the first time is a great reminder of what got me into this hobby over 4 decades ago...


Edited by Kunama, 01 January 2018 - 09:29 PM.

 

#21 amzking

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Posted 01 January 2018 - 07:35 AM

Yeah, I don't want to ascribe any motivations to people I have only met a few times.  I think they just want to show cool stuff in the sky.

 

Binoculars are another great idea.  I have them, and a mount to put them on a tripod. I also have a monocle, which believe it or not is quite pleasant to look through, steadier then binos.  All good ideas to show off the "cheap" side of the hobby.

 

Thanks again for the discussion.


 

#22 amzking

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Posted 01 January 2018 - 07:47 AM

Usually at outreach there is a mix, and we bring an XT6 for kids and the curious to play with. 

 

Now tell me this: when the classic car guys are set up in the parking lot for a public viewing, are the majority high or low-end? Should astronomy be any different? 

 

Good point, but at car shows most people know what cheap cars look like!  lol.gif   But I get it, it is nice to show all that a scope can do, and that means the pricy stuff.

 

Although since many star parties are held during full and near-full moons, the general public is still severely limited in what they can see either way.


 

#23 amzking

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Posted 01 January 2018 - 07:53 AM

 

 

 

Alice, I am impressed that you're getting involved in outreach so early in your time in the hobby. Some people have no interest in sharing their eyepiece time with strangers at all, I think they miss out on a lot as a result.  The excitement of a visitor at seeing Saturn's rings of Jupiter's moons for the first time is a great reminder of what got me into this hobby over 4 decades ago...

 

I am a bit of a natural teacher, it is something I very much enjoy, give me a topic I know and I will go on and on about it.  Outreaches are fun for me.

 

It was at the VERY SAME event as Saturday, about 15 or so years ago that I saw Jupiter and its moons for the first time.  It was really uncrowded, a much smaller event at the time, and I could not tear my eyes away from his eyepiece.  Whoever that amateur astronomer was, he told me he was thrilled at my response and that it was the best response he had gotten all evening.  I have never forgotten that first view of Jupiter.  And now I have returned to the very same event with my own scope.  Love love love it.


 

#24 edwincjones

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Posted 01 January 2018 - 09:47 AM

I have three thoughts 

 

1- I do not go to outreach events just to do outreach, but to also enjoy my observing experience, so I want optics "good enough" for all to enjoy.

2- Never own stuff that you cannot afford to lose/damage, so assess the risk.

3-For most of the public bigger is better, a 10" dob draws a bigger crowd that high end Questar.

so

If I were getting a scope primary for outreach, it would be a basic 8-10" dob with a low power, wide field EP,

and if someone asked the price the answer could be  $500- $1000 new.

 

edj


Edited by edwincjones, 01 January 2018 - 09:54 AM.

 

#25 Nikonuser

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Posted 01 January 2018 - 09:50 AM

NOT being rude at all but only in the US could this be said "my 8" Edge SCT was by far cheapest setup there"


 


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