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 wise , but can it beat this $200 scope?
Edited by barbarosa, 10 September 2018 - 05:50 PM.