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What is the best beginner scope for an uninitiated new comer?

beginner equipment observing
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#1 Prasad

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 09:04 AM

I am asking this question because I have a request from a Facebook person. This person, a lady, wants to buy a telescope as a birthday present for her husband. Obviously he is not into astronomy but he has indicated his interest when they go to their seaside home where they are able to see stars in the sky. I assume they are not very limited by their budget. 

 

As I see these are their options. 

1. Low end non-goto scope like 8" Dob. 

Advantages: Low cost hence low financial risk in case he loses interest, decent aperture to view fair amount of DSO's. 

Disadvantages: Operator has to learn to navigate the sky which can be tough and can become the reason for losing interest

2. Low end Goto scope such as a iOptron Smart Star Cube mount with 80f5, (there are similar units from other manufacturers)

Advantages: Nice portable unit, easy to carry and set up. Goto feature helps easy location

Disadvantages: Small aperture will be a disadvantage if used at light polluted location. Goto feature can kill the challenge and become a reason for losing interest (if the user likes to be challenged)

3. Medium and high end scopes - Many wide scopes to choose

Advantages: Too many to list

Disadvantages: Most of these are heavy and need plenty of experience to set up and to operate. Probably not the best choice for a beginner.

 

My intention is to make sure that the this person gets a scope that will eventually make him sustain his interest. 

 

Thank you for your opinions, I know I will not be getting one single advice that will be agreeable to all. That is perfectly fine to me. 



#2 Barlowbill

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 09:15 AM

The $64,000 question.  Hard to know if you have no idea how much interest an individual has.  Binoculars and a bino specific book might be the way to test someone's interest.  I would strongly suggest the gentleman sign on here at CN.  There is no better place in the cosmos (that we know of) to learn.  After that, a table-top Dob.  Small and very portable.  Easy for kids, grandkids to use.  After that, take out a loan and have at it!  Good luck


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#3 Starman47

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 09:15 AM

There is no guarantee that anyone will take to this hobby. But if you want to proceed, then one option is to buy a good set of binoculars and an inexpensive book such as

 

The Year-Round Messier Marathon Field Guide: With Complete Maps, Charts and Tips to Guide You to Enjoying the Most Famous List of Deep-Sky Objects Hardcover – July 1, 1997
by H. C. Pennington (Author)

 

If this gentleman takes to the hobby, then think telescope by Christmas.If he does not take to the hobby, then the expense is under $150.

 

This is how I started, and now I have a substantial investment in the hobby. See the signature below.


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#4 Alex McConahay

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 09:34 AM

A six inch Celestron SCT on their one arm mount will show lots of things, and is not too expensive. There is some learning involved (in setting up the scope) but not much. And one does not need to know the stars to align it. 

 

About $700.

 

this is my "outreach" scope. And it serves me well. 

 

Alex


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#5 sg6

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 09:39 AM

Almost impossible. You will get every option supplied.

Scope is to an extent easy: 80mm f/8, 102 f/6 in refractor, say 150P if dobsonian, similar if on a mount. I would initially avoid an SCT or Mak. Their narrower resultant field of view adds to the initial difficulty.

 

The mount is the "problem". Alt/Az or Eq, manual or goto. Will the recipient want to stick a DSLR on to show people things - these days everyone wants images.

 

Assume the "worst" case. They will want pictures the week after they start. Means an equitorial goto. Smallest I can think of is the Skywatcher EQM-35. I prefer the Skywatcher EQ5 but they are specified almost identical and the EQM-35 is smaller.

 

Problem is an EQ is a real pain to get used to, Alt/Az are a lot more obvious, but you effectively lose the image collection option.

 

I have a Bresser 102/600, think there is a Meade the same. Nice all rounder. It is achro but you can stick a DSLR on the rear. Images won't win contests but are images. Equally to get images means getting say 20 and stacking them.

 

The 80mm line there is an ES Firstlight 80/640, nice introductory size. If the 102 was too big.

 

Really if a total introductory item and to investigate possible future interest the Meade ETX-80. Probably the simplest scope to actually use. Meade setup and alignment is easy. Drawback is likely not quite enough to see the rings of Saturn, you need 100x - 120x and might be difficult. Jupiter is OK.



#6 Starman47

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 09:40 AM

a P.S. to my post above. If the person does not take to astronomy, then the binoculars can be used for other purposes: e.g. bird watching etc.

 

And furthermore, the binoculars are still a great tool in my collection. On many a night, I use the binoculars to find the area where I will be looking for a faint fuzzy. Then after finding the area, I will locate the area again with the finder on the scope, and then I look in the eyepiece and bingo there it is.


Edited by Starman47, 11 June 2019 - 10:35 AM.

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#7 havasman

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 09:40 AM

Binoculars, especially the Canon IS binoculars.


Edited by havasman, 11 June 2019 - 09:41 AM.


#8 treadmarks

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 09:59 AM

I would recommend either a small and cheap refractor on an alt-az mount, or a small go-to SCT like the Nexstar 5/6SE. Reason being, we don't want our newbie to get discouraged right away. We want them to see some things and get a fair hearing of what amateur astronomy is all about and what you can see. We don't want them fiddling with telescopes and star charts too much, we want them looking at objects and deciding whether this is interesting to them.

 

It doesn't matter if your first telescope is "the best" because most people who take up the hobby end up having more than one telescope. How is someone supposed to decide what is the best telescope for them in a position of complete ignorance? The first telescope should be good enough to see the basics, easy to use, and cheap.


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#9 CappyLovesMittens

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 10:09 AM

I'll throw my vote in to the "good pair of binoculars" pool. If that's not sufficient, and it's fair if they want the initial buy-in to be greater, at least $200 for a decent reflector or refractor. I dunno much, just that I started with 10 x 50 binoculars and bumped up to the OneSky 130 ($200 5" reflector) as a starter scope after about 6 months and have absolutely loved the experience. I've also heard the Meade Infinity 90mm Altazimuth Refractor is a good choice for around $200 if you would rather get a refractor, but I don't know much about it.

 

Good comparison of the two scopes plus another reflector here: 

https://www.skyandte...ds/3-scopes.pdf

 

Basically, if you are ok spending $200 on a scope you can get a pretty good starter telescope that should work well for someone interested in the hobby. If you don't want to spend that much, you're definitely better off with binoculars, because binoculars can still give great views and cheaper scopes ruin the viewing the experience and snuff out any budding interest in amateur astronomy.

 

I should also add if they are willing to go $300 and above that opens up a ton of possibilities too numerous to summarize quickly.


Edited by CappyLovesMittens, 11 June 2019 - 12:31 PM.


#10 midwestastronomer

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 10:12 AM

Go find a used 6" dob, you can get one for $150-200



#11 zleonis

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 11:53 AM

A few thoughts

- I have a couple of scopes from your category 1, an 8" Zhumell dob and a 4" f/6 achromatic refractor. The increased aperture of the dob is terrific, but it's also ahead of budget refractor/mount setups in terms of the stability of the mount and the action of the focuser. The dob is not a 'high end' scope, but nearly every aspect of its operation is satisfying, and fades into the background so you can focus on observing. The fast achro is fun and portable, and an overall good value, but it announces itself as a <$300 scope, especially in the wobbly mount, jerky movements, and somewhat rough focuser.

- In my experience, a manual scope can be satisfying for a beginner, even if you don't particularly relish the hunt for targets. There are plenty of targets that are hardly more difficult to find than alignment stars, which could certainly be enough to keep a beginner engaged while they got more comfortable with the sky. Tracking is another consideration - I don't mind tracking by hand, although I can understand why some people would want a scope that tracked, especially for high power viewing or for sketching.

- I enjoy binoculars, but for me observing with binoculars is very different experience than a telescope, and more of a complement than a substitute. Binoculars are great for getting to know a region of the sky better or for sweeping the Milky Way, but for the moon, planets, and almost every DSO, I almost always prefer the view through a telescope. I wouldn't argue against binoculars, but if someone is serious about wanting to observe through a telescope, binoculars might not meet that need.

- I'm not sure exactly what the observing location at the seaside home is like, but it could be worth considering a refractor to open up the possibility of terrestrial observing if they'd have a clear view of ships, wildlife, etc.


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#12 cuzimthedad

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 12:11 PM

Our club recommends the 8" dob as a first scope. They are often found used in good condition and even new, are not a major expense. They cross the threshold into deep sky observing and can provide years of exploration satisfaction to the user.



#13 KerryR

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 02:04 PM

I think the best solution would be to buy the husband "NightWatch" (Terrance Dickinson), and add a card to the package that states that the gift includes an astro device of the recipient's choice. That way, he can learn about the options, what can be seen with what where, decide on  his own level of interest and commitment, and make an informed choice... if his interest in piqued.


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#14 Prasad

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 03:41 PM

I think the best solution would be to buy the husband "NightWatch" (Terrance Dickinson), and add a card to the package that states that the gift includes an astro device of the recipient's choice. That way, he can learn about the options, what can be seen with what where, decide on  his own level of interest and commitment, and make an informed choice... if his interest in piqued.

I received several excellent replies and I rate this the best. Giving a book and a gift card to the husband would be a great idea. He can, after looking at or reading the book can decide if he wants to proceed further and spend the money to get an telescope of his choice. 

 

Thanks 


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#15 KerryR

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 09:53 PM

Thanks! Glad to help!



#16 ShaulaB

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 10:05 PM

Learning to use an 8 inch classical Dobsonian is not that difficult. I don't know why so many people are intimidated by the thought of learning where some sky objects are located and how the sky moves. Isn't part of taking up a hobby learning new things?

A Sky Watcher brand collapsible Dob with Goto electronics is an option. These are sold through the Astronomics site, host of Cloudy Nights.

10 x 50 binoculars provide a classic way to become acquainted with the sky.

Best option: visit a local astronomy club. Actually look at, and through, different instruments.
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#17 Tony Flanders

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 05:46 AM

I received several excellent replies and I rate this the best. Giving a book and a gift card to the husband would be a great idea. He can, after looking at or reading the book can decide if he wants to proceed further and spend the money to get an telescope of his choice.

Sounds like a great idea! But it would probably be a good idea for the husband to read some other advice about buying a first telescope. Night Watch is a great book, but the author has his own slant, which doesn't necessarily reflect consensus in the community.

There are some superb articles on the web about buying a first telescope. One that influenced me greatly when I was starting out was the one by Jay Reynolds Freeman.

There's a huge amount of useful information for beginners on the Sky & Telescope website -- some of it penned by yours truly. But like Terry Dickinson of Night Watch, I have my own slant, which isn't necessarily gospel.


Edited by Tony Flanders, 12 June 2019 - 05:48 AM.

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#18 Prasad

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 06:21 AM

Sounds like a great idea! But it would probably be a good idea for the husband to read some other advice about buying a first telescope. Night Watch is a great book, but the author has his own slant, which doesn't necessarily reflect consensus in the community.

There are some superb articles on the web about buying a first telescope. One that influenced me greatly when I was starting out was the one by Jay Reynolds Freeman.

There's a huge amount of useful information for beginners on the Sky & Telescope website -- some of it penned by yours truly. But like Terry Dickinson of Night Watch, I have my own slant, which isn't necessarily gospel.

Wow! Never imagined that my post would get a response from you. Thank you. (I always read your articles). Yes, I agree with you. I had suggested, immediately after posting it on CN, that they should follow this thread on CN. I hope they do. I am sharing your advice now. 

 

Thank you for your comment and everything on S&T 



#19 Spacefreak1974

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 06:36 AM

At one point i'd say no to a dob, but i's say an 8" dob but get an Orion Lasermate laser collimator as well. Collimation is always one of the things people overlook when just saying "get a dob". So many forums have "Dob" as the knee jerk answer to every "what scope to get?" post. 

 

Collimation is doable with a collimation cap, but some manufacturers don't even include one of those. For a plastic dohicky manufacturers are pretty stingy 

 

Some brands include a basic laser collimator which is nice but some have been known to not be aligned themselves. As a cheap laser collimator the Orion ones seem to be the most consistent for the money. I started managing our club's equipment loan program 4 years ago and collimation was unnerving to me at first, but I quickly figured it out and a laser colliamtor should be part of any newtonian owners kit in my opinion especially for a new user.

 

Another good first scope is a 6" short newtonian on an alt az mount like a VIxen Porta 2 or GSO Skyview Deluxe. My 10 yr old has a 4.5" short newtonian on a GSO Skyview Deluxe and I think thats the perfect combo for a child because you can change the eyepiece height given its on a tripod. He's ready to move up to a 6" so I might look on the classifieds

 

Jon


Edited by Spacefreak1974, 12 June 2019 - 06:37 AM.


#20 JohnnyBGood

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 07:34 AM

For a contrarian opinion, I'm a big fan of small, entry level telescopes, no more than, say, 130 or 150mm. Reasons being portability, ease of use, and set up hassle. The best telescope is the one that actually gets used, and a scope that is light, easy to move around, and can be set up to use on a whim has a lot going for it. Got 15 minutes to go take a look at Jupiter before bed? You might do it with a seven pound 70mm refractor that's ready to go as soon as you step outside but you aren't going to do it with a fifty pound 8-inch Dob that needs to cool down for 30 minutes or more (unless you put it on wheels and store it in a non-climate controlled space).

 

Honesty, I got out observing far more often *before* I got my 8" SCT. The Polaris 130 got used a lot more frequently (and the views in the 8" aren't *that* much better), but I don't have room to keep more than a couple scopes assembled at a time so it sits in its case now. I end up using a 60mm refractor or the ETX-90 more often than the LX10 because they're less hassle carrying down the stairs in the dark. Plus, I either have to carry my scope a long way or else relocate around trees every time I want to change targets. Ease of use matters to me.

 

In any case, starting with a modest scope allows you to figure out what you enjoy observing and what your needs and wants really are which can make it a lot easier to confidently buy a nicer scope later on. If I'd started with binoculars I would have lost interest immediately ("Oh, that's all there is to see?"), and an 8" Dob (or SCT) would have been too much hassle to use and I never would have gotten hooked.


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#21 scott_larry_d

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 12:55 PM

Everything you need to get started in amateur astronomy:

 

- Binoculars (8x40 or 10x50, resist the urge to go big)

- Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe (a great book to start with, the charts are perfect for beginners learning the sky)

- A dim, red light. (gotta save that night vision)

- Lawn chair. (Comfort is key to visual observing)

 

Optional but highly recommended:

 

- Join a club and/or go to a star party.

 

All opinions are solely those of the author and should be compared to the opinions of others.

 

smile.gif

 

Cheers.

 

 

 



#22 Bowlerhat

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 02:42 PM

For a contrarian opinion, I'm a big fan of small, entry level telescopes, no more than, say, 130 or 150mm. Reasons being portability, ease of use, and set up hassle. The best telescope is the one that actually gets used, and a scope that is light, easy to move around, and can be set up to use on a whim has a lot going for it. Got 15 minutes to go take a look at Jupiter before bed? You might do it with a seven pound 70mm refractor that's ready to go as soon as you step outside but you aren't going to do it with a fifty pound 8-inch Dob that needs to cool down for 30 minutes or more (unless you put it on wheels and store it in a non-climate controlled space).

 

In any case, starting with a modest scope allows you to figure out what you enjoy observing and what your needs and wants really are which can make it a lot easier to confidently buy a nicer scope later on. If I'd started with binoculars I would have lost interest immediately ("Oh, that's all there is to see?"), and an 8" Dob (or SCT) would have been too much hassle to use and I never would have gotten hooked.

I don't know why it's unpopular- I think it's reasonable. I don't start with dob myself because I can't see myself hauling it around. Some people don't even bother to stay up at night, I don't see how they'll be interested in taking an eleven kilograms instrument for a spin.


Edited by Bowlerhat, 13 June 2019 - 07:25 AM.

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#23 pmch

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 02:47 PM

I am a beginner also so take it with a grain of salt. For me, I found the best starter scope was the largest one I thought I could move by myself. It ended up being an ES 16" Dob. For me to gain interest in astronomy, I wanted to be able to see a big improvement in viewing over binoculars and that did it. Being older, I did find moving it around was a strain on my back so I sold it and purchased an ES 12" Dob that was more manageable for me. I still miss the 16" though and most likely wouldn't have gotten as interested in the night sky with a small scope. My most used scope, since it is so portable, is a small 102mm that I just leave set up on its tripod to just bring it outside for a few minutes if something interests me. Not that exciting for me though. Since I am a beginner and don't know the sky very well, I did purchase a Celestron Evo 9.25 with Starsense which finds everything for me easily from my iPad. This may become my favorite, one of the main reasons being that I don't need to view in contorted positions. As you can tell, I am still experimenting. I did give up on astrophotography but that is another story. Just my two cents but wanted to throw in another opinion.



#24 SgtSluggo

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 02:52 PM

I didn't get a dobsonian mostly because of the form factor and size.  My 90mm refractor has been out twice this week for 45ish minutes each time because it is easy to haul out of the garage and set anywhere in the yard.  

 

Having no experience with other scopes makes me thing just this: there are bad scopes, but there really isn't a "best first scope" that fits everyone.  Budget, desire, and plans can make all things different.  


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#25 MalVeauX

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 03:30 PM

It likely needs to look nice sitting near a set of windows facing the beach.

 

So, go refractor and get one of those smaller Moonrakers made or a brass model.

 

If the person is into astronomy and wants to observe, they need to select things themselves. These are huge cumbersome and often gaudy looking things for gifts and its very personal.

 

Very best,




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