I'm new to the hobby and forum, and curious if any of you have found ways to assess whether skies are dark enough to star hop satisfactorily.
A bit of background, I'm brand new to the hobby, for the past few months I've been having a great time getting to know the sky from my backyard with the S&T Pocket Sky Atlas and some cheap 10x50 binoculars. Although I'm not in a rush to get a scope, I can of course come up with plenty of rationalizations for doing so sooner rather than later. Based on this site and the handful of books I've read, I'm more or less convinced to get a dob (maybe this 8" from Skywatcher?), which would see most of its use in my urban backyard (naked-eye limiting magnitude 4.5-5.0). But I've also read a number of well-informed opinions suggesting that goto or push-to is very useful, bordering on necessary, in bright skies.
So, I'm wondering if there's a test like 'if you can find your way to [a somewhat out-of-the way, but still detectable in bright skies binocular object] with binoculars, then you probably have a sufficient combination of darkness/patience to manually find objects in a telescope to your satisfaction.' I'm expecting a learning curve with whatever scope I get, but want to make sure I have realistic expectations for my ability to find things with a manual scope. I imagine I'll spend most of my time at least initially on clusters, planets, and interesting stars (basically, whatever can be seen from my backyard).
My thanks in advance for any insights you all may have - I've loved reading these forums, and have found no other corner of the internet that is so insightful while also being so pleasant and welcoming!
Cheap 10X50s is how I got started. Got mine at Harbor Freight for $20. Worked with a Planisphere.
Your sky is darker than mine. In the darkest part of my sky I can barely make out mag 4 with averted vision. In most of my sky there are very few stars visible to the naked eye.
GoTo and PushTo are very helpful. My first scope was GoTo and it was great. I have 3 scopes now, 2 GoTo and 1 PushTo. But I do star hop and I do use other techniquest to find targets. So having a computerized mount does not prevent you from manually hunting IF you can release clutches to move the scope manually. Also, virtually any GoTo mount can be used with the arrow keys to star hop although I think I would find it tedious.
Thanks to all with the helpful suggestions. NEOhio & ff., I appreciate the guidance on finders. I was wondering if there was some way in which sighting targets through a straight-through finder mounted to a telescope was easier than it looks, and it seems the answer is 'no'. Mariner 2 and Gemini, thanks for your encouragement along the star-hopping path, and I'll definitely take to heart the suggestion to explore binocular objects to gain more familiarity with finding my way around the sky. I had a great time last night finding M3, which granted is close to a bunch of bright stars and even in my skies is hard to miss if you pan over it, but still, the search was a good part of the fun. Thanks again!
When star hopping I often do the hop with my 10X50s first. On the scope, an 8" Dob, I have a 9X50 RACI ( right angle correct image) finder and a red dot finder, RDF. I find the RACI and the RDF a great combination. Some people team a RACI with a Telrad, also a great combo.
But to my West and much of the South there are very few stars in the sky. Even with the RACI and the 10X50s I can't see much in starts. So star hopping in those areas can be more of a challenge than I care to take.
Do your star hops with your 10X50s. If you can't see them in the binos you are not going to see them in the finder scope. And note that you can see more in binoculars than you can see in a comparable aperture and magnification finder. 8X50 binos will show you more than an 8X50 finder.
Thanks to all with the helpful background on different aids for finding your way around. It sounds like between a finder scope, telrad/red dot, and setting circles, there are lots of strategies for finding your way around the sky even in bad conditions, it's a question of figuring out what suits you best. Jon, thanks for the rundown on your process, seems to have served you well. I love SkySafari by the way, I can think of few 99c that I've spent better. Analogkid, I'll certainly follow your advice to check out a club near me (Richmond, VA) so I have a sense of what I'm getting into. I'll report back on what ends up working for me, although it may be a few months - my wife and I are expecting our second child any day now and I certainly don't need an additional thing that keeps me up all night at this point .
These are discussions you might find interesting in the context of your question.
Using an angle gauge to help find targets
Favorite methods for finding targets
EZ Push To from Romer-Optics
A retro fit PushTo package is available from Romer-Optics called the EZ Push
This fits on select Dobsonian telescopes.
This is based on using your phone as the computer/controller – About $100
https://www.cloudyni...l=+ez +push +to
Quick Start Guide
Romer-Optics EZ Push To Page
Edited by aeajr, 15 April 2018 - 09:48 AM.