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Need suggestions for small relatively inexpensive air travel scope

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#1 Ihtegla Sar

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 01:14 AM

I need suggestions for a small, relatively inexpensive ($200 to $400 for the OTA) scope for air travel. I live at 45 degrees north and early next year I am planning a trip to 8 degrees north, which will bring a lot of the southern sky into view. The purpose of the trip isn't primarily astronomy and I am not sure how time I will be able to devote to astronomy or whether I will be able to get to dark skies. So I don't want to take an expensive telescope that I would be constantly worrying about getting damaged or stolen. But I want it to be good enough that I won't be too disappointed with its performance since it will be my first and maybe only opportunity to view the southern sky.

I'm thinking about a C-90 Mak or maybe a small fast refractor, like an AT60ED. What are your suggestions and why? Feel free to suggest a mount as well. I'm thinking of a small lightweight but not too expensive alti-azimuth. I could pack the mount in checked baggage but would carry on the OTA.

#2 Sleep Deprived

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 02:18 AM

I don't have one, but I always hear about the great quality of William Optics.  They make 51, 61, 73 (??), and 81 mm refractors.  Yes, they are more expensive than your stated budget, but they have the right size for travel.  Maybe you can find a used one?  That 51 ($698 new, I think) could fit in your hip pocket!  Anyway, just a thought.  Good luck with your decision, and have fun looking at new sky on your trip!


Edited by Sleep Deprived, 19 June 2019 - 02:19 AM.

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#3 Redbetter

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 03:15 AM

What month (and will it span a new Moon period?)  Southern hemisphere/tropics observers might be able to help you pick the best targets and scope for those at the time.  It looks like Puppis, Vela, and parts of Carina will be well placed early.  You might be able to see some of the Large Magellanic cloud, but it will be very low early and I generally have not found the horizon to be very clear when I have been that close to the equator--but I have also been near the ocean and sea level rather than at elevation.   It won't be planet observing time so a planetary scope is not a factor.  Instead globular clusters, open clusters, and some nebulae will probably be on the menu.   

 

The ST80 (Meade Adventure Scope 80) in its stock 1.25" format would probably fit the bill providing great bang for the buck with little economic loss if it gets wrecked by the trip.  It can provide a fairly wide field even in 1.25" since it is only 400mm focal length.  Physically it is fairly small for the aperture--although the dew shield is removable, but not retractable so this makes it a bit longer than it otherwise could be, especially compared to something like the AT60ED with its retractable dew shield.  But the extra aperture of an 80 vs. 60 will be helpful/provide a little more punch.   The AT60 is quite compact, so that could be the key factor for travel.   It really depends on how much luggge space you have set aside for this, as the mount requirements should be similar.

 

Since both are short ratio scopes, some sort of mirror diagonal would be best.  Assuming you are trying to keep weight down, a 1.25" mirror makes sense (of good quality, well collimated since good alignment is critical at short ratios...don't skimp here as I have had zero luck with cheap mirrors, you are paying for a well aligned/properly machined housing/nosepiece/eyepiece holder.)  Combine with something like a 24 Panoptic or 24 ES68 to maximize field in 1.25" and to use as a finder eyepiece in conjunction with an RDF of some type.  I don't think carrying a 2" mirror diagonal and any massive/bulky 2" eyepieces would be warranted.


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#4 sg6

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 04:07 AM

Have a WO ZS 61, guess a match to the AT 60ED. Nice for portability and my 3.2mm Paradigm works in it so around 110x. 5mm gives 72x. Guess a 4mm ES52 (90x) will be interesting.

 

Actually suspect a 72mm would work better however, exoerience makes me think a 72 would be better overall. My WO is on a Skywatcher AZ GTi with Android tablet.


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#5 Stevegeo

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 04:11 AM

I recently took my meade mak to NM via plane from NY using nothing more then a tool bag from harbor freight, some foam padding to set it in, and a cheap the camera tripod bought at the flea market.  This was with my carry on.   Travel light I say.

And it was great.   I have a C90 as well, and have taken it many times, it's robust, like the meade, and simple.

No electronics, go-to, or other stuff to foul up.   A couple eyepieces,  Andi was set .

If you have a camera, keep it simple, and I suggest small.  But if you decide NOT to carry on, get a foam hardcase he put your name on it..

Attached Thumbnails

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#6 kurbs

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 04:50 AM

I have taken my ETX-70 all over. Case is small and protective. Tripod is light not the best but doable. However it be set down on a  table too. The ETX80 is very close. Why those vs. a 90 MAK? Lighter, and they are  refractors that can give a decent wide field view in the 70 and 80mm. A lot wider than the MAK.

 

All have GOTO ability. Make sure you bring a voltage converter or plan to use batteries a lot. 

 

The 90mm MAK are compact and give great solar system and some bright globular views. Better on some things but narrower FOV. Depends what you like to look at. Heavier too. 

 

But for me the smaller ETX refractors have done well for traveling. ETX70 you need to buy used ( or like my 1 used but never used  I have 2).

 

The ETX 80mm will open up more for you and is a good compromise  and they are new for under 300 bucks on Amazon and Meade sells the hard case for 69 dollars. And comes with a full tripod. Or you can pick up the older tabletop tripod legs for less than 20 bucks now and possibly use those. Either is a solid travel option and you can always sell them without much loss if you don't like them when you return.


Edited by kurbs, 19 June 2019 - 04:59 AM.

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#7 cookjaiii

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 05:48 AM

I took an AWB OneSky to Italy in a well-padded checked bag.  It was very compact yet had a big 130mm aperture.  Mounted it on a Manfrotto 055 photo tripod with a ball-head in a side-saddle configuration.  The combination weighed about 15 pounds.

 

Enjoy your trip!  Let us know what you choose and how it worked for you.


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#8 jaraxx

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 06:14 AM

I would consider the following:

1) ST80, mostly because I already have one, but if I didn't I would go to choice #2

2) One of the Chinese 90mm f5.5 scopes (Altair, Svbony, etc). Very good 2 speed focuser, 2 pounds heavier and 1 inch longer than the ST80 (dew shield retracts). Well built and easy to mount. Cheapest I've seen is about $230. Odds are I'd go here.

3) More mag, better correction: The AT72EDII would be a fine scope. Have to be used to fit in the budget, but I've always wanted one of these. 

4) The different direction: A Mak, 127mm or below, probably have to buy used to make budget. I've got a 127 Mak, it would be better on some things (planets, globs, etc), but I can look at planets here and it would be very hard to give up on the rich field view (for me).

 

So my top recommendation would be the Chinese 90mm. Very good value for the dollar and about the same cost as a used ST80 if you upgraded the ST80's focuser to a decent one to make them comparable. If something travel-loss wise happens you don't lose much. Unless I took the trip as an excuse to buy an AT72, which I've always had a hankering for....


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#9 rustynpp

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 07:50 AM

I'd like to make an unconventional suggestion - instead of buying a scope with which to travel, buy a used pair of Canon IS binocs for ~$800, then sell them again when the trip is over (assuming you don't have the budget to keep them).

 

I find traveling with astro gear on a non-astro focused trip to be a hassle, and one that rarely pays off. The necessity of a tripod almost always requires an extra bag, and if you don't know how much time you will be able to devote to astronomy it usually means there won't be much opportunity, and I think you'll find that lugging all your gear around is more trouble than it's worth.

 

A pair of image-stabilized binoculars, on the other hand, are small enough to fit in a carry-on, don't require a mount or tripod, are always ready to go, and don't give up much to a small scope. They're expensive, but that's why you should buy used and plan to re-sell after the trip. If you get a decent price, you could end up with a high-quality rental for just the cost of shipping. 

 

Something to think about.


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#10 Phil Sherman

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 09:03 AM

I second the Meade 80mm. I recently purchased one that came with a carry backpack that's perfect for airline travel. I've also travelled with a 114mm short tube reflector. That one fit into a carry on suitcase with a goto mount, battery pack, and accessories. The only thing that didn't fit was the tripod legs which went into the checked bag.


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#11 DavidWasch

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 09:39 AM

At that price point, I think you should consider a good pair of binoculars. $200-400 could get you a really nice pair, particularly if purchased used. The objectives on them won't be much smaller than what you're looking at in a refractor, but you'll be able to use BOTH eyes. You'll also be able to make good use of them in your day-time adventuring.

 

Spend a little more and you could get a used pair of Canon's image stabilized binos. There's a pair of 15x45s up for sale on a certain other site for $550.

 

On the other hand, you could build your own 8" travel reflector for $400-- but that would be a labor of love.


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#12 Hesiod

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 10:10 AM

A pair of binos sounds the most obvious option, even if this means just low-power observations.

I have recently come back from a flight carrying this as under-seat bag; until the last had the option to add something in the standard cabine-trolley (or even as checked luggage), but for simplicity's sake ended carrying just this small, albeit heavy (7.5kg!), bag

gallery_215679_8115_264992.jpg

Besides photographic stuff,which took most of the room and weight,  inside there is a small refractor with its phototripod and a ball-head as mount, 4 eyepieces, the stardiagonal and a pair of nebular filter (OIII, UHC):

gallery_215679_8115_2418226.jpg

 

Small refractors are handy since can space from low-power views to fairly high magnifications, but usually I prefer a tiny CAT for more apertur; last year I replaced the SkyWatcher 90/1250 with the Vixen VMC95 (a very nice option IF can find one in the 200 USD range), which has a couple of nice perks (flat and larger field, faster focal ratio):

gallery_215679_8115_4206266.jpg

If opt for the CAT, I suggest to add also a small, widefield binocular; if plan to go to fairly dark sites, the Vixen SG 2.1x42 is really amazing (as I suppose would be the similar model offered by Kasai)


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#13 cuzimthedad

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 10:24 AM

I asked a similar question last month in the refractor forum. Here's a link to it which you may find helpful.


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#14 Binojunky

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 11:54 AM

Meade Adventure ST80, or a C90 Mak, a couple of decent eyepieces and a good diagonal, all fit in the supplied backpack,D.


Edited by Binojunky, 19 June 2019 - 03:24 PM.

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#15 jaraxx

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 01:16 PM

I re-read your post and read the replies. I didn’t really consider that you are uncertain about both opportunities to observe and how dark your skies will be. Considering those constraints, I think the folks advocating for binoculars have a pretty good argument.
I would have never thought of this argument because a set of binoculars goes with me NO MATTER WHAT. Scopes often do as well, but if time/weather is a major constraint my scopes may lose out to binoculars. The only discussion about binoculars for travel is over which binoculars?
Binoculars simplify things. No mirror, finder, eyepieces. If you go with 10X and below (or imaged stabilized) you lose the need for a tripod/mount, and not dealing with a tripod is a big benefit to both travel and usage. (Tho 12X50s and a monopod is a decent compromise.)
Binoculars are a lot more useful (day and night / any subject / anyplace - If you’re using your eyes binoculars are an asset.)
You may be able to significantly expand your budget by buying binoculars and then selling them on return (renting them, sort of). This idea has a lot going for it. If you buy a good used set they would be worth pretty much what you paid for them on return. Also, this strategy might put a pair of IS binoculars within budget range and that’s a very enticing idea.
While you won’t be resolving any globes with binoculars, you will get great rich field stuff and decent open clusters. You can cherry-pick the best binocular targets out of new sky; not a bad goal if you don’t have much time!
Having said all that, I would have to think long and hard about excluding a scope from my first and maybe only trip to southern skies. (I’d have to think longer and harder if the alternative was a pair of Canon IS 15Xs.)


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#16 ShaulaB

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 01:27 PM

When we went to the Big Island of Hawaii, we only took 10x50 binocs with us. But we got to look through an 11" SCT with a tour group at 9,000 feet and that was enjoyable.

Maybe you might want to spend some Internet time googling for Astro clubs and universities near your destination to see if they do public telescope viewing.
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#17 Ihtegla Sar

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 03:28 PM

Thanks everyone for the replies.  I have a lot of scopes to research. 

 

I was planing on also bringing a pair of binoculars.  I will have to think about only bringing binoculars and whether to get image stabilized binoculars.  I was hoping to have a telescope for higher magnifications, but image stabilizing binoculars might be a lot more convenient.  Something to consider

 

Searching for a local astronomy club is also a good idea.  Not sure what they have in Vietnam and I don't speak the language but my wife and her family do, so that's a possibility.  If I can hook up with a local club, then the binoculars only route might be the way to go, sicne it would offer the most convenience and I could also look through a local club's scope.



#18 cuzimthedad

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 04:02 PM

I was planing on also bringing a pair of binoculars.  I will have to think about only bringing binoculars and whether to get image stabilized binoculars.  I was hoping to have a telescope for higher magnifications, but image stabilizing binoculars might be a lot more convenient.  Something to consider

 

We just returned from a little over a month in Hawaii. I used my Nikon 10x42s extensively on this trip and I have to say, I've begun giving serious consideration to upgrading to a pair of IS binox. Even been lurking in the binocular forum lately to see what there is to see. I am becoming of the opinion that the investment in a pair of Canon IS 10x42s or 18x50s would be just as good as investing in a travel scope and mount combo. Less worry of damaging same too.


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#19 areyoukiddingme

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 09:29 PM

A Celestron C6 is $400, and packs about as much aperture as you can fit in a carry on bag.

 

I used to travel with my 80 mm apo, but every time I got to where I was going, I was craving more aperture. The C6 scratches that itch, and the optics are very good.

 

If I dropped it down some stairs, no biggie. If dropped my 80mm apo down some stairs, I'd be inconsolable. 


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#20 tony_spina

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 09:41 PM

 

ST80 on a photo tripod with dwarfstar mount. 3 eyepieces and a barlow. Compact and lightweight 

 

IMG_5727-35.jpg

 

 


Edited by tony_spina, 19 June 2019 - 09:44 PM.


#21 Traveler

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 10:23 PM

...and cooled cool.gif



#22 mrsjeff

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Posted 20 June 2019 - 05:22 AM



ST80 on a photo tripod with dwarfstar mount. 3 eyepieces and a barlow. Compact and lightweight


That backpack cooler is an interesting transport solution. Does it work well?

#23 tony_spina

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Posted 20 June 2019 - 01:30 PM

That backpack cooler is an interesting transport solution. Does it work well?

Yes.

 

It keeps the scope cool on hot days or if left in the car like I do


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