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Short (sort of) Intro and Help With Future Planning

Meade beginner astrophotography reflector
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#1 TheBallistician


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Posted 16 July 2019 - 11:38 PM

I'll try to keep my introduction to the forum as brief as proper introductions can be, please forgive me I can be fairly long-winded.

I don't attend forums regularly, in fact I shy away from them more often than not even browsing general questions online. I feel this is important to mention as I want very much to be a part of this wonderful community sharing a beautiful hobby that, unfortunately, far too many people never experience.


I've always thought astronomy and such was neat as a kid, drooled over the chance to look through telescopes but never had one of my own. Somewhere shortly before my teenage years there was a family reunion at a family lake and an older cousin brought his telescope and for the life of me do not remember what it was but I distinctly remember a tiny CRT TV hooked up to it and the moment he slewed over to Saturn and Jupiter. I was fascinated and wanted to see everything.


Teenagers do what teenagers do and I had other hobbies get in the way of pursuing lifelong and more meaningful hobbies. Fast forward to recently, a friend knew I was handy with scopes of another variety and handed me a dirty old 60mm Jason 311 complete with box, wooden mount, eyepieces, and filters! He wanted to see if I could clean it up so I quickly started and tested my work, giving me absolutely impressive views of a few planets and reconstructing what I thought was possible in my backyard. He offered to give it to me after I showed him every planet we could see last summer/early fall and I couldn't bear to take it from him.


In February after doing a lot of homework to dip my toes in the hobby I settled on a Meade 114 Mini Lightbridge f/3.95 and have been very impressed and frustrated at the same time, this is where my reasons for the post come into play. I knew instantly that the collimation was absolute garbage and suspected it would be as I mistakenly ordered it from an unnamed major online retailer that is known for having some rough warehousing practices, preemptively bought a laser collimator and a few Celestron X-Cel eyepieces and 3x and 2x X-Cel barlows.

I collimated as best as I could with the laser and an untrained eye and was absolutely blown away when I peeked at the Orion nebula in February. Mars seemed less impressive than the Jason telescope. Jupiter hits opposition and again I'm blown away at how much better it looked, albeit better at collimating, Saturn hits opposition and I have good and bad nights while seeing conditions have been decent. Spied a faint cigar galaxy and Bode's, peeped the Eagle nebula on a terrible night, gazed at a handful more nebula, and can't really resolve star clusters fainter than 5 or 6 more than faint smudges and blobs, yet. Most nebula have been very dim and hard to see any sort of shape. I've gazed upon many things that I had no idea what they were for lack of... something. I want to think I have the aperture for what I've tried to look at so far and I don't believe I have my hopes up too much for the nebula I've tried when comparing some peoples sketches with similar sized scopes but correct me if I'm wrong. I have access to very decent skies in town and excellent skies in a very short drive and am mindful about lights and eye adaptation.


I've recently figured out how to collimate the laser collimator, took the secondary through a major adjustment, and the skies have not given me the opportunity to re test my work since. I hoping this improves my DSO and star cluster wants for a scope of this limitation., I truly believe garbage collimation has made me more disappointed than anything further than the big planets (can't wait to check them again after messing with the secondary!) so I need advice there as well, do I need a Cheshire if I don't trust that I've 100% collimated the laser collimator? Any other tools to help? I want to ask before wrapping up money in tools I do not need. I haven't quite figured out the star test very well for this scope, very warbly images but I do try to make the black dot in the center stay concentric when attempting in the past. Again, I'm hoping my secondary adjustments pay off in a bunch of ways.


Planning for the future, I like Newtonians and this has not scared me away from them at all, even in bad collimation I was impressed with many things. Cats and Casses are appealing but I'd rather not focus so much on the planets? Refractors are awesome, but again I'm just concerned about seeing more DSO and star clusters? So for the future, should I bump up aperture in a small increment to 150 or 200? Go for broke with an 8" or 10"? Seriously consider a large achromatic refractor (APO is most likely out of budget), or something else entirely?

I understand so much of this is subjective, personal preferences, and etc. But I am asking for your opinion. What did you settle on and why? Did you also have a bad experience with collimation and have a story with it? What would you do if you were me, based on the information available?  I'm open to absolutely any advice one could offer on anything above or anything I haven't mentioned.

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#2 SeattleScott


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Posted 17 July 2019 - 12:13 AM

Last year Mars was at opposition. This year it was not. Might explain why it looked better through the Jason last year.

At a minimum go for 8” reflector or 6” refractor. Otherwise the aperture gain won’t be that dramatic. You could go all the way with a 10” but now it will be heavier, more sensitive to collimation and show coma. Not as bad as your Meade, but worse than a 8” F6 Dob. Also you would need to buy quality eyepieces under F5, whereas an 8” Dob can get by with rather average lenses. Granted, a 10” will deliver 50% brighter views, which is a rather noticeable difference. But the 8” is as good or better in every other way (except resolution, and 80% as good with that). Seems like as many people buy a 10” as 8” so there isn’t a right or wrong answer. More about personal preferences, are you fit enough to easily carry around 30+lb components, do you want to invest in quality eyepieces, etc.

Now refractor time. I have a 10” reflector, an 8” reflector and a 6” achro. So I basically own one of everything you are looking at. My refractor can go just as wide as my 8”, and wider than the 10”. Technically the 10” has the same focal length but I cannot really use the same max FOV eyepiece with the 10” because the exit pupil gets too big. The refractor is nice because it never needs collimation, it delivers very aesthetically pleasing views of open clusters in particular, and it does better on the Moon than I expected. Not saying it is a good lunar/planetary scope, but it didn’t live up to the horror stories you hear. Brightness is similar to my 8” newt. Overall I tend to prefer the DSO views of the refractor slightly over the 8” but the level of effort for getting it setup is much more than the 8”. Approximately twice the weight, plus complexity like power, controller, potentially GoTo alignment, etc. On the plus side at least I can do GoTo with the refractor, so it might be worth hauling out the refractor if I feel like a GoTo session. Ergonomics generally favor the 8” but my young kids like the short viewing position of the long tube refractor. Nice for outreach events where kids are present too. Finally I like the darker background sky at low power with the refractor. Yes the 8” can go just as wide, but with a brighter exit pupil which makes the sky look more washed out and messes with my astigmatism.

So that gives you a lot to chew on. There really isn’t a right or wrong answer. There are just pros and cons to each, and you have to decide what is more important to you.


Edited by SeattleScott, 17 July 2019 - 12:15 AM.

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#3 TheBallistician


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Posted 17 July 2019 - 12:41 AM

Thank you! It does give me a lot to chew on and I appreciate it. The end result will most likely be several scopes in my future, but you've also helped validate my thoughts in that I might want to gift this scope to the right person after I move on. I'm still learning a bit with this one, getting the bumps and bruises out of the way and learning the road so to speak like a kid with a fresh driver's license.

I've been locked 10" vs 8" and lean to the 10" while I'm still young and can handle hauling something like that around outside of town once in a while. I've nearly pulled the trigger on an Orion Omni 120 XLT f/8.3 and briefly the Orion 120 f/5 achro's but hesitated when a 10" collapsible dob caught my eye. How difficult is collimation on a set-up like that compared to my Meade?



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Posted 17 July 2019 - 12:51 AM

Yes, you need a cheshire.   




If you want to chase DSOs, aperture, aperture, aperture. 8 or 10 inch dob. Now that you know how to collimate a Newtonian, you're pretty much home free. Collimating a Newtonian is collimating a Newtonian. Once you've got it figured, easy peasy.




Caveat. The best scope tends to be the easiest to use. If you are young and fit, the 10''. If not, the 8''. And the classic solid tube dob is half the set up time and better contrast than a collapsible unless you buy a shroud. If you can wait for a used here on CN, do so.

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#5 sg6


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Posted 17 July 2019 - 01:47 AM

Will suggest you avoid the f/5 achro, they will I suspect not deliver what you want and I like refractors.

10" or 8" will your choice. 8" seems the main one but 10" has caught your attention. Make sure that you can easily use a 10".


Say this as I suspect my club think I am a bit "antisocial". I stopped helping them haul out the 14" or 8" SCT's. Reason is simple:

One damaged tendon called Tennis Elbow and recently the shoulder tendon has got damaged.

Neither are a big thing, but if I lift a scope there is a good chance that I will cause more damage and that is likely to result in a scope interacting with gravity and the ground. Sort of thing that can happen to anyone at anytime but can really impact using a scope. At one time the tennis elbow meant I could not stretch out my arm to grab and lift a cup of coffee,


The collimation tool. Generally Cheshires are easiest to use and give good results. The other is if you do not "trust" the one you have then you need another. If you are not confident the present is doing the job then change it.


Buying a scope is the start. Expect to find that you spend about as much on eyepieces as the scope shocked.gif shocked.gif Not extreme as you likely will need 5 eyepieces. Bigger the reflector then usually better and wider eyepieces. So say 5 ES 82's and 68's. Take a guess at $150 each and you have $750. Even at $120 a piece it adds up to $600.

#6 Rustler46



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Posted 17 July 2019 - 03:32 AM

Lots of good advice given here. If you get an 8-inch reflector, try for an f/6 rather than the more available f/5 or f/4.5. These latter two are much less forgiving with slight miss-collimation. Finding an f/6 10-inch might be difficult.


Whatever telescope you get, spend some time becoming proficient in its use. Any telescope is way better than anything Galileo or other early telescope users had. No matter what telescope you have or what light pollution you must endure, there are more than enough objects to observe to last a lifetime. This is true even within the inner city. It's just that you must choose subjects appropriate for your circumstances.


While it is definitely true for DSOs aperture rules. But so does ease of use. If you want this hobby to last, first of all you must expend the effort in learning. Keep adding to your knowledge and experience. Keep enjoying the adventure! Sometimes long periods of cloudy nights can be discouragement. But use that opportunity to read up on interesting astro-subjects. Find a nearby astronomy club to get first hand advice from those further along the astro-road. Go-to telescopes are a great advantage offered by modern technology. But don't forgo learning the constellations and use of a finder scope. These will be of great value if the electronics go up in smoke or the battery is dead.


Welcome to the adventure. There's no turning back now, once you've looked through a telescope.


All the Best,


Edited by Rustler46, 17 July 2019 - 06:25 PM.

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#7 TheBallistician


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Posted 21 July 2019 - 03:22 PM

Thank you all very much for your input. A lot of meat to chew on here and validated some thoughts I was having. Clear skies showed me that my adjustments on the 114mm I currently own will keep me more than pre-occupied until budget will allow me to snag an 8 or 10", which is where my mind is stirring around weighing options :)

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