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Is AWB Scope the Best Entry Level Scope for Most Beginners?

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#1 barbarosa

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Posted 10 September 2018 - 05:48 PM

Is there a best scope/mount for most of us and is it the Astronomers Without Borders reflector? 

 

Let's make some assumptions about us as beginners and where we live. We...

 

- live in an urban/suburban area with significant light pollution (Milky Way not visible or barely seen at high elevations, M31 not visible or difficult to see, cannot see or count the stars in the Pleiades, a few identifiable stars, one or a few constellations) .  

 

- have average day and night vision and age. Beginners over 50 will have significantly less night vision and this may take them to a different  scope.

 

- are not really familiar  with the local night sky (able to point out no or only a few objects other than the moon).

 

- want to see things that at least resemble the pictures that we see on the net u

 

- plan to observe locally.

 

-are not certain that we have a deep or lasting interest in astronomy. 

 

-may want to share the views with others or see children as the primary users.

 

 

Option 1-- buy the $200 (free shipping) table top reflector from  Astronomers Without Borders or a similar scope/mount from another seller. Do not rush out and buy better eyepieces, finder scopes, reflex finders, filter sets, or charts. Books are online or at the library and astronomy apps exist for everything except maybe an old Windows Phone.

 

Option 2-- get on the net and find a used low end scope for <$200. Depending on what you get you will with care and some patience see nice views of the moon, the moons of Jupiter and two or three cloud belts, the phases of Venus, the Orion Nebula. Skip the 50mm toy scopes and be careful of the 60mm refractors. A 3 or 4" Newtonian is generally better.

 

Option 3-- binoculars. Even a 60 year old run of the mill Japanese  7x35 will show you something. But don't get small bins like these for $7.00 at Walmart. Avoid anything with brown, yellow or "ruby" lenses (blue and green are good). Don't go bigger than 10x50, they are harder to hold steady than say an 8 x42 or a 10x42.  Bins are not the best option but with luck you can see the bright planets, the moons of Jupiter, rings of Saturn and some of the brighter DSOs.  Bins are on the list because you may already have them. 

 

Simple, all options  $200 or less. In the CL this morning for my local area there are 6 suitable scopes for under $150 or less, one of them having a go to mount. There is also a Celestron 102mm tube and mount (no tripod) for $200 and a go to Celestron 4/5 SE mount for $250. 150 miles away the selection was smaller only three candidates. 

 

If you take option 1 you get a good scope for the money that has a wide field of view making finding things easier. You may out grow it or not like the hobby but you can recoup most of the price if you resell it.

 

If you take option 2, your chances of doing better are not as good, but you won't spend as much and can move on without regret. As an adult I was given a very used Tasco refractor on a cantankerous mount and tripod and I thought well why not try to see all the planets (except Pluto). It was awful, but I was hooked.  I good willed it with no regret and bout something much better, then something better, then...

 

Option 3 binoculars are always nice to have around.

 

But wait you say, what about all the other things, star charts, better eyepieces, filters for this and that.

 

Not now and maybe never. Get to know what you have before asking people what you should have. If you need a star chart get an app for your phone.

 

 

What if I want to spend more than $200? Then by all means do just that.  Get a go to mount because under light polluted skies it will avoid hours of frustration once you learn to use it correctly.

 

So why is the AWB scope from Celestron or something like it the best scope for most of us as we start out? 

 

Demographics and a low buy in price, and good performance for the money is the answer.

 

A majority of the US population is urbanized (50% in big cities and another 21% in suburbs adjacent to those cities (contiguous urban clusters).  There is a considerable range in population density, which may have a perceptible effect on night sky brightness, but it seems fair to say that most of us live under compromised skies with bright or gray clouds visible at night and little or no trace of the Milky Way. That means that many things suggested for prospective scope owners are not very important, because of the limits on what you can find easily and what will not look like a tiny dot or a gray blur.

 

What no Dobsonians, SCTs and Maks?

 

There is a lot to recommend a Dobsonian and you can get one for about $300+. I've never used an entry level Dob so others can advise on them.

 

SCTs and Maks are good scopes I have both types, but over all night after night an 85mm f/7 refractor (reduced to f/5/6) and a ZWO ASI 294 Pro camera (for real time viewing in lieu of an eyepiece)  gets the most use. But if you know the limitations and are comfortable with them by all means try one. Resale value tends to hold up

 

If you stick with the hobby you will find out that there are going to be other "best scopes" some of which you will own and some you would just like to borrow for a few years.

 

Conclusion--  A good but basic scope like the AWB reflector will meet the needs of the majority of beginners, unless the majority of beginners are actually in rural areas in which case the true statement is amended to read "beginners in urban areas". 

 

I know this forum, many will disagree or want to argue the case for X Y or Z and many will have some very good points. The vox populi is often wisebow.gif , but can it beat this $200 scope?


Edited by barbarosa, 10 September 2018 - 05:50 PM.


#2 OleCuss

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Posted 10 September 2018 - 07:31 PM

I once had a Bushnell Ares 5 which was (as best as I can tell) the same thing as is the AWB OneSky.  I believe it is the most optical capability you can get for $200 - and I didn't like the thing.

 

I discovered I do not like a tabletop Dobsonian.  Others do and my blessings upon them, but I found the thing to usually be unpleasant.  It never seemed to be at the right height and if I wanted to look at another part of the sky I'd often have to carry it (and a seat) around the wobbly table in order to do so.  And yup, I could have built or modified a stool to work better with it, but I didn't.

 

I found it needed to be nicely collimated and at F/5 it is a bit more demanding to get it right.  Not a biggie for me as I've got the gear to make it relatively easy.

 

What is more, it seemed to me that I needed to re-do the collimation every time I used it (it's a collapsible).  Again, not a biggie for me, but for a beginner trying to operate on a shoestring this might be a real problem.

 

The helical focuser works, but it is not without issues.  Having to make even minor modifications to a brand new system in order to make it actually functional is not at all good.

 

The red dot finder is incredibly cheap and is only marginally adequate at best.

 

My impression is that the OneSky is being marketed primarily to beginners who have limited funds and experience.  I think the thing is too demanding and potentially frustrating for beginning astronomers.  I consider it to be a bad buy.

 

And yeah, I know that many will disagree with me and again, my blessings be upon them, but my experience and assessment is different.

 

So far as I am concerned most should save up to get something like a Sky-Watcher 150P.  I've used the Orion XT6 (also made by Synta) and found it to be delightful - and I bought it in great condition for $160.

 

I've purchased a great 8" Dobsonian for $180 and I can purchase one locally for $200.

 

Oh, well.  A nice 10x50 binocular is certainly something to consider.


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#3 Tony Flanders

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Posted 10 September 2018 - 08:38 PM

Is there a best scope/mount for most of us?


Absolutely not!

I am a big fan of the AWB OneSky, and I do think that it is the ideal telescope for at least 10% of all beginners. But there are far too many variables for any single scope -- or even a selection of 10 different scopes -- to be ideal for all beginners.

It's pretty clear that an 8-inch f/6 Dob for $400 offers more than twice the value of the OneSky for $200. Not only is it much more capable, but it is also much easier to use. The AWB OneSky has good ergonomics, all things considered. But the simple fact is that the Dob design works better for bigger scopes than for smaller ones. Moreover, any off-the-shelf Dob will have a focuser far superior to the OneSky's helical focuser. And you don't need to make a light shroud for a solid-tube Dob, as any urban observer must do for the OneSky. And an 8-inch Dob is entirely self-contained, needing no supplemental support.

 

The extra aperture of an 8-inch Dob is especially important for urban and suburban observers. A 130-mm scope is very capable under dark skies, but extra aperture is a big help in combating light pollution. And there's a fairly compelling argument that 10-inch Dobs are even better than 8-inchers.

 

Now some people flat-out can't afford $400, and others cannot store or transport an 8-inch Dob. For them, a OneSky may be a reasonable compromise. But make no mistake, the OneSky has compromise written all over it.

Many other people may be happier with a small refractor, which is compact, simple, and maintenance-free.

Yet others really need or want Go To. Some who are eager to get started on astrophotography really require motor drive. And so on.


Edited by Tony Flanders, 10 September 2018 - 08:40 PM.

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#4 clearwaterdave

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Posted 11 September 2018 - 04:33 AM

I think the best scope for a beginner is someone else's scope.,

  If they are living in the city or the burbs there will be a club near by.,

  Join the club and you get to try before you buy.,as well as getting a helping hand with many other choices that a beginner finds themselves faced with.,

 I have a Onesky and it's a wonderful scope.,but I think a refractor is more intuitive to use for beginners.,or a mac/cat type where you sit behind the scope and point it up/down.,left/right.,

  A 4" scope would be a good size to start with.,imho.,but no ONE scope is BEST for everyone.,


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#5 dmgriff

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Posted 11 September 2018 - 11:37 AM

The parabolic 130mm f/5s are decent scopes, ones like the Z130 with rings and dovetail are more versatile than the AWB, imo.

https://www.amazon.c...e/dp/B07BRLSVWM

 

A 6in f/8 used newtonian ota with metal rack and pinion focuser on a dob mount should be about 150-200 usd. A more capable all around scope imo, albeit larger and heavier. At f=1200mm and f/8, relatively inexpensive plossls and a 2x or 3x barlow can provide high power magnification.

 

Good viewing,

 

Dave


Edited by dmgriff, 11 September 2018 - 11:49 AM.

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#6 Binojunky

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Posted 11 September 2018 - 12:53 PM

Had the Heritage which is the same as the AWB 130, hated the helical focuser , now have the Lightbridge 130 which I much prefer, also picked up the Orion XT 6"F8 basic dob, now maybe I got lucky but the extra 20mm of aperture seems to make a huge difference, for me the ideal beginner scope is the 6" f8 dob, not to shabby for experienced users also D.


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#7 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 11 September 2018 - 04:05 PM

Had the Heritage which is the same as the AWB 130, hated the helical focuser , now have the Lightbridge 130 which I much prefer, also picked up the Orion XT 6"F8 basic dob, now maybe I got lucky but the extra 20mm of aperture seems to make a huge difference, for me the ideal beginner scope is the 6" f8 dob, not to shabby for experienced users also D.

:waytogo:

 

I have had both the Aries 5 and the AWB models.  The focused is a weak point and table top mounts look cute but the reality is they seem much better than they are.  That mythical table rarely exists.  Scopes come with tripods for a reason. 

 

For $200, its about as much scope as one can buy. But when $300 buys a 6 inch F/8 and $400 buys an 8 inch F/6 ($450 for an Apertura with the two speed 2 inch etc), spending the extra buys a much more capable and usable scope. 

 

A 6 inch F/8 or an 8 inch F/6 can be a lifetime scope.

 

And there are refractors to be considered as well.

 

So I would say the 130 mm AWB is not the best all around beginners scope.. It's a decent scope but depending on ones circumstances , there are clearly better choices. 

 

Jon


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#8 SteveG

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Posted 11 September 2018 - 06:43 PM

I'm still enjoying and using mine, and I do recommend this as a good starter scope. One provision is that the purchaser will need to construct a light baffle for the open truss. I've had no issues with the focuser, and mine has held collimation for at least 2 years. The optics are very good, showing detailed and crisp planetary views.

 

The table top mount on mine was useable, but because I have a Porta II it rides on that most of the time.



#9 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 12 September 2018 - 12:41 AM

The table top mount on mine was useable, but because I have a Porta II it rides on that most of the time.

 

Suddenly it's a $500 scope ..

 

Table Top = Useable is probably an apt description and my suspicion is that you wouldn't be using it as much,  enjoying it as much if you were forced to use the table top mount. 

 

The focuser: Useable is a good description. These scopes will go to 300x on a solid mount but focusing is an issue.  Compare the focuser to a single speed Crayford.. 

 

Jon


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#10 Shneor

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Posted 12 September 2018 - 01:26 AM

Suddenly it's a $500 scope ..

 

Table Top = Useable is probably an apt description and my suspicion is that you wouldn't be using it as much,  enjoying it as much if you were forced to use the table top mount. 

 

The focuser: Useable is a good description. These scopes will go to 300x on a solid mount but focusing is an issue.  Compare the focuser to a single speed Crayford.. 

 

Jon

A bit of teflon tape makes the focusing much smoother on the AWB. I have only used mine on a table, my 2.5x5 foot foldable. Even on the street in front of my house, with cars occasionaly driving by, I don't see a need for a light baffle. If I had one, the headlights would still bother me. I have not taken it to a dark sky; it's a great grabn'go.


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#11 sg6

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Posted 12 September 2018 - 02:05 AM

First apologies but I really dislike those table top scopes, so basically bias before we get going. So in my opinion not the best. Those reviews would make anyone think it will surpass even huibble. Sorry they have to be made up, also I have read similar about bird-jones scope designs - brilliant scope, amazing scope, best scope ever, amazing views - and as experienced people we say how poor they are all the time. Reviews are a waste of time.

 

I would say a 6" f/8 dobsonian mounted newtonian is likely the best, and I have no idea of cost.



#12 aeajr

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Posted 12 September 2018 - 04:33 AM

Is there a best scope/mount for most of us and is it the Astronomers Without Borders reflector? 

 

snip...

 

I know this forum, many will disagree or want to argue the case for X Y or Z and many will have some very good points. The vox populi is often wisebow.gif , but can it beat this $200 scope?

I don't think there is a single best scope as we all have different issues to deal with and different desires.   I have never used a tabletop dob personally but I have read a LOT of very positive reports so I know they work and can be the right scope for some people.  That is why they are on my recommended list for people with a budget in this range.

 

In fact I have considered adding one just to get some experience with the table top Dob.  But, as Jon said, you need that table and that can be a huge issue for many people.  If you can't provide that stable platform a TT Dob is going to be a disaster. 

 

Thinking back to when I was looking for my first telescope I look at my table inventory and observing location options and it just wouldn't have worked for me as a first scope.   I would have needed to buy a table or stool and that was not something I would have wanted to do. 

 

The AWB does need to be collimated and maintained.  For some, this is going to be a barrier to getting any kind of Newtonian.  Again, I wanted to avoid this with a first scope.   For them the 80 to 100 mm refractor will likely be a better choice in this price range.

 

For some a tripod mounted scope is the only thing that will work.  In this price range, that is that 80 to 100 mm refractor.   

 

I often include tabletop dobs in my recommendations in this price range.  I think the AWB is a very good choice for a lot of people, but I would not put it at greater than 20% of the newbies I help.  

 

I would say that less than 20% who are looking in this $150 to $250 price range ultimately get a tabletop Dob. Far more opt for a tripod mounted refractor or newtonian. 


Edited by aeajr, 12 September 2018 - 04:43 AM.

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#13 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 12 September 2018 - 05:58 AM

A bit of teflon tape makes the focusing much smoother on the AWB. I have only used mine on a table, my 2.5x5 foot foldable. Even on the street in front of my house, with cars occasionaly driving by, I don't see a need for a light baffle. If I had one, the headlights would still bother me. I have not taken it to a dark sky; it's a great grabn'go.

I did the T-tape thing . In today's world of $450 8 inch Dobs with excellent 2 inch 2 speed focusers,  this focuser makes it difficult to get that sharp focus on a Dawes limit split or a planet at 200x .

 

Nearly every scope at this price point suffers from a weak focuser , that's the reality of $200 scopes and one reason to consider spending more and getting a really decent focuser along with a solid mount and 8 inches of aperture. 

 

Jon


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#14 SteveG

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Posted 12 September 2018 - 04:44 PM

Suddenly it's a $500 scope ..

 

Table Top = Useable is probably an apt description and my suspicion is that you wouldn't be using it as much,  enjoying it as much if you were forced to use the table top mount. 

 

The focuser: Useable is a good description. These scopes will go to 300x on a solid mount but focusing is an issue.  Compare the focuser to a single speed Crayford.. 

 

Jon

My first several uses was with the stock mount, and it really gave me no issues. Yes, not as convenient, but it worked fine. I look at a starter scope as something you buy and add to as you grow in the hobby.

I paid $140 new for the scope (on sale), and the mount is $260. If I couldn't afford the mount, I would have simply build a wooden tripod for the stock mount.

 

I used heavy bearing grease on my focuser, and it has worked perfectly for me. It will easily support my heavy Meade 24/68, as well as Morpheus and XW's. A threaded helical focuser will never slip.


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#15 Shneor

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Posted 13 September 2018 - 12:31 AM

My first several uses was with the stock mount, and it really gave me no issues. Yes, not as convenient, but it worked fine. I look at a starter scope as something you buy and add to as you grow in the hobby.

I paid $140 new for the scope (on sale), and the mount is $260. If I couldn't afford the mount, I would have simply build a wooden tripod for the stock mount.

 

I used heavy bearing grease on my focuser, and it has worked perfectly for me. It will easily support my heavy Meade 24/68, as well as Morpheus and XW's. A threaded helical focuser will never slip.

I have used a 6mm Ethos on mine, no issues with balance or slippage.



#16 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 13 September 2018 - 02:56 AM

My first several uses was with the stock mount, and it really gave me no issues. Yes, not as convenient, but it worked fine. I look at a starter scope as something you buy and add to as you grow in the hobby.

I paid $140 new for the scope (on sale), and the mount is $260. If I couldn't afford the mount, I would have simply build a wooden tripod for the stock mount.

 

I used heavy bearing grease on my focuser, and it has worked perfectly for me. It will easily support my heavy Meade 24/68, as well as Morpheus and XW's. A threaded helical focuser will never slip.

 

It's not handling a "heavy" eyepiece that I found problematic, it's getting sharp focus at high magnifications. I have owned more 130 mm F/5s than I can remember. They can be good performers at high (>200x) but generally the focuser is an issue, it contributes to scope jiggle. The plastic upper cages of the doesn't help. Imagine an 130 mm F/5 with a really good focuser mounted on the Portamount: 

 

Skywatcher 130 with JMI focuser CN.jpg

 

This thread is about this scope being the ideal beginners scope. For $200, it's about as good a good scope as one can find.

 

But for many beginners $450 is well within reach and an 8 inch GSO Dob not only has the benefits of the greater aperture but the mount is solid and doesn't require a table and the focuser sets a high standard for affordable scopes. 

 

Bottom line: At the $200 price point, the focuser is a liability. Spend enough to buy an 8 inch with a 2 inch Crayford and you're getting a more more capable all around scope with a nice focuser that's a pleasure to use. It sets a high standard mechanically that $200 scopes can't match.

 

Jon 


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#17 SteveG

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Posted 13 September 2018 - 03:44 PM

It's not handling a "heavy" eyepiece that I found problematic, it's getting sharp focus at high magnifications. I have owned more 130 mm F/5s than I can remember. They can be good performers at high (>200x) but generally the focuser is an issue, it contributes to scope jiggle. The plastic upper cages of the doesn't help. Imagine an 130 mm F/5 with a really good focuser mounted on the Portamount: 

 

 

 

This thread is about this scope being the ideal beginners scope. For $200, it's about as good a good scope as one can find.

 

But for many beginners $450 is well within reach and an 8 inch GSO Dob not only has the benefits of the greater aperture but the mount is solid and doesn't require a table and the focuser sets a high standard for affordable scopes. 

 

Bottom line: At the $200 price point, the focuser is a liability. Spend enough to buy an 8 inch with a 2 inch Crayford and you're getting a more more capable all around scope with a nice focuser that's a pleasure to use. It sets a high standard mechanically that $200 scopes can't match.

 

Jon 

Jon, I would agree on every point, and if it's available I always recommended the Zuhmell variant with its solid tube and tube rings. But I don't have any issues with my helical focuser at all. I wonder if there's a sample variation here? I just spent a week in Hawaii with mine, and it performed flawlessly using a 22 LVW, a 12.5 Morpheus, and a 2.2x barlow. I don't use super high powers, so I suppose that could be the difference. 

 

I know this is not the point of the thread, but so far, I haven't found a better travel scope. I throw mine in as checked baggage, and bring my eyepieces as carry on.


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#18 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 13 September 2018 - 04:23 PM

Steve:

 

The 12.5 mm with the 2.2x Barlow provides 112x. I regularly used my SpaceProbe 130ST fitted with a 2 inch at 200x -300x.   

 

But my point here is not that the AWB is not a good choice for beginners but rather its a good choice at it's price point and that there really is no one best beginners scope . I liked the way Tony said it:

 

"I am a big fan of the AWB OneSky, and I do think that it is the ideal telescope for at least 10% of all beginners. But there are far too many variables for any single scope -- or even a selection of 10 different scopes -- to be ideal for all beginners."

 

Jon


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#19 Shneor

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Posted 14 September 2018 - 01:25 AM

It's true, limiting budget is the major factor. For some, a Celesron 76mm Firstscope or similar is all that's available. That's a usable telescope (OK, depending on QC). But it's also a good idea to check the used market.


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