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Newbie question:birding scope vs astronomy telescope

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#1 JPinNJ

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Posted 25 August 2019 - 01:22 PM

Hi all, new to astronomy here and have a few questions.   I currently use binoculars and a spotting scope, both originally purchased for birding.   My scope is a Nikon Fieldscope 82ED that I mainly use 38x wide view eyepiece.   It’s an angled scope so it’s not as bad as a straight scope for looking up.    With this set up I can see Saturn and it’s rings, Jupiter and it’s bands along with the moon (obviously) and other stars etc.    My questions are:

 

anyone else start out using a spotting scope?

 

Are there sub-$500 telescopes that will give better views of moon, planets and other beginner astronomical things than my Nikon?

 

my backyard is in a low lying spot with tall trees surrounding so if I did get a new telescope i’d like something that is easy to transport.   I’d rather pay for better glass than pay for goto electronics as well so I’d like something manual.

 

any other suggestions or advice is appreciated!   Thanks!

 

JP

 



#2 Ssayer

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Posted 25 August 2019 - 01:31 PM

I've currently got a 60mm spotting scope set up (it has the angled eyepiece as well) on a tripod. Right next to it is a red dot 0x scope so that I can put the dot on whatever I want to look at first and then check it out with the spotting scope. Jupiter was great last night at 60x in my very humble scope!



#3 Taosmath

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Posted 25 August 2019 - 01:58 PM

I think it depends upon what you want to look at.

 

I have an 80 mm refractor and about 5 years experience.  With my refractor I can 'see' (i.e. locate and detect) many objects.  For instance last night I was able to find and detect the Cat's Eye nebula in Draco and the Blue Snowball nebula in Andromeda.  But I couldn't see any detail in them. Candidly I was faintly surprised I could detect them at all. When I look at larger, brighter objects like the globular clusters M22 in Sagitarius or or M4, I can find them easily enough,  but I get only a few hints of individual stars  and no real observation of structure or details. 

 

So yes, you can see lots of things with your 82 mm Spotting scope, but is that enough to satisfy you?  (There's a recent thread here on Cloudy nights with a member who is trying to see all of the Messier list with a 60mm refractor.  I think that's a challenging observation project).

 

If I want to look at planets, the moon, large structures (e.g. double cluster, pleiades) or double stars then my 80mm refractor is a great choice.

 

However, if I want to see structures in deep sky objects, or more easily detect fainter objects, then I want aperture, so I bring out one of my Dob's.

 

If that's something that you think you might want to see too, then $500 will buy you a kitted out New 8" dobsonian.  Or you could probably get a used 10" Dob for the same money.  If you want a manual scope that you can carry in a car, that's the route I would suggest.


Edited by Taosmath, 25 August 2019 - 02:01 PM.


#4 izar187

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Posted 25 August 2019 - 02:00 PM

Hi all, new to astronomy here and have a few questions.   I currently use binoculars and a spotting scope, both originally purchased for birding.   My scope is a Nikon Fieldscope 82ED that I mainly use 38x wide view eyepiece.   It’s an angled scope so it’s not as bad as a straight scope for looking up.    With this set up I can see Saturn and it’s rings, Jupiter and it’s bands along with the moon (obviously) and other stars etc.    My questions are:

 

anyone else start out using a spotting scope?

 

Are there sub-$500 telescopes that will give better views of moon, planets and other beginner astronomical things than my Nikon?

 

my backyard is in a low lying spot with tall trees surrounding so if I did get a new telescope i’d like something that is easy to transport.   I’d rather pay for better glass than pay for goto electronics as well so I’d like something manual.

 

any other suggestions or advice is appreciated!   Thanks!

 

JP

https://www.astronom...D=U&price=0-527

These are available from the folks who Sponsor Cloudy Nights.

The most bang for you buck will be dobsonian mounted Newtonian reflector, also know as Dobsonian.

For easiest movement around a yard, consider a hand truck.

https://www.google.c...HWn6ChUQ4dUDCAY

Tons of us roll our larger dobs out to use, or around the yard to use. Rather than carry them.

As aperture wins on visual observation of faint dim targets, the 8" f/6 dobs will resolve more and fainter ones.

Smaller 6", 5" and 4" options may be better fit for those who can not roll out an 8", but must carry a scope, due to stairs perhaps, or personal payload restrictions.

 

BTW  

Welcome aboard.


Edited by izar187, 25 August 2019 - 02:10 PM.

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#5 Achernar

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Posted 25 August 2019 - 02:20 PM

Absolutely there are sub $500.00 telescopes that will leave a spotting scope in the dust for visual astronomy. A small Mak, refractor or a 6 or 8-inch Dob can be found on the market for less than $500.00.

 

Taras


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#6 bridgman

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Posted 25 August 2019 - 02:42 PM

Seems like a real nice scope you have there.

 

My first thought re: your spotting scope vs a refractor designed for astronomy is that the 45 degree angle will make looking straight up difficult, but if you are in NJ as I'm guessing from your username (rather than, say, Alaska) then the worst it means is that you might need to wait a few hours until the overhead object moves down to a more viewable location in the sky.

 

You *may* also have trouble fitting sufficiently short FL eyepieces to take advantage of the maximum magnification your scope is capable of. One rule of thumb says that an 80mm scope is useful at up to 160x under ideal conditions, and I believe that higher magnification would make a difference when viewing planets.

 

I went the other way - using my ETX-90 as a spotting scope - but AFAICS the quality of the scope makes more difference than its intended use, subject to the caveats above.

 

Unless you have lost interest in birding, it's probably not worth buying another refractor in the same size range. As others have suggested, going up in aperture via a Dobsonian scope (a Newtonian with an inexpensive but highly useful mount) would probably be the best investment. An 8" is the standard recommendation but if you already have a good 80mm then $500 gets you pretty close to 10" territory with some careful shopping.


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#7 vtornado

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Posted 25 August 2019 - 05:02 PM

Hi and welcome to the forum.

 

To get a much better view than an 80mm ed,  and stay around $500.00, and have portability, is a tough call.

 

Maybe a 6 inch f/5 newt?

Orion has a 6 inch tabletop f/5 newt.  I don't know if a table top would work for you or not.

Putting the scope on a tripod mount is going to start getting heavy.

 

Maybe a 6 inch SCT.

I think a 6 inch SCT will mount on a vixen portamount.  You will to find this stuff used, becasue a porta mount and

a new 6 inch sct will break your budget.  They are narrow field instruments, which I don't like.

 

Of course dobs are the best bang for the buck, but they are big 48 inch tube.



#8 SeattleScott

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Posted 25 August 2019 - 06:35 PM

You are not going to get any kind of premium glass with more aperture than your 82mm for $500 so you are looking at mass produced optics any way you go. I would suggest a 6” Dob or 6” F5 Newt on alt az mount since it needs to be portable enough to easily dodge trees.

A 5” Mak seems pretty ideal for planets and portability but probably at least $600 with mount.

Scott

Edited by SeattleScott, 25 August 2019 - 06:39 PM.


#9 MalVeauX

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Posted 25 August 2019 - 06:42 PM

Hi all, new to astronomy here and have a few questions.   I currently use binoculars and a spotting scope, both originally purchased for birding.   My scope is a Nikon Fieldscope 82ED that I mainly use 38x wide view eyepiece.   It’s an angled scope so it’s not as bad as a straight scope for looking up.    With this set up I can see Saturn and it’s rings, Jupiter and it’s bands along with the moon (obviously) and other stars etc.    My questions are:

 

anyone else start out using a spotting scope?

 

Are there sub-$500 telescopes that will give better views of moon, planets and other beginner astronomical things than my Nikon?

 

my backyard is in a low lying spot with tall trees surrounding so if I did get a new telescope i’d like something that is easy to transport.   I’d rather pay for better glass than pay for goto electronics as well so I’d like something manual.

 

any other suggestions or advice is appreciated!   Thanks!

 

JP

If you can mount it,

 

A 127mm Mak would be the way to go for $500.

 

Very best,



#10 Sky Muse

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Posted 25 August 2019 - 07:40 PM

Telescopes are much more versatile than spotting-scopes, which you may suspect or know already.  With a telescope, there are lots of eyepieces and other optical accessories available which enhance the experience immeasurably.

 

Your spotting-scope is grouped under the refractor category of telescopes.  All other telescopes use mirrors, and are reflectors instead.  A refractor with a larger aperture within your budget is not going to contain ED glass, therefore you will see false-colour, chromatic aberration, when viewing brighter objects; a purplish halo around Jupiter, for example, and the image of the planet a little less clear and sharp as a result.

 

You would see an improvement with a 102mm astronomical refractor; for examples...

 

https://www.walmart....zBoCWxcQAvD_BwE

 

That achromat(refractor) is shorter, and would exhibit more false-colour, but it would also be easier to store and transport.  It comes with a simple-to-use alt-azimuth mount.  

 

https://optcorp.com/...3BoCdg4QAvD_BwE

 

That achromat is longer, but would exhibit less false-colour, however it would also be harder to store and transport, the mount in particular.  Although, that type of mount, an equatorial, would allow you to track the objects in the sky.  The mount can be motorised, simply, to track for you automatically; just to track, and once you find an object manually.  It is not a go-to.

 

The longer refractor is available as an OTA only... https://www.highpoin...r-ota-21088-ota

 

That way, you can place the refractor upon a simpler alt-azimuth... https://www.astronom...muth-mount.html

 

With that combination, or that of the shorter refractor and its alt-azimuth, there's a certain freedom in pointing the telescope to this object and that, most easily, and without having to worry with aligning an equatorial mount.  However, there are pros and cons to both types of mounts.

 

Among the reflectors, a Newtonian, and usually mounted on a Dobson alt-azimuth, is "the best bang for the buck".  Mirrors are easier to produce than lenses of clear optical-quality glass, and are therefore cheaper.  For the price of the longer 4" refractor, just the OTA, no mount, you can get a 6"(150mm) Newtonian on a Dobson alt-azimuth mount...

 

https://www.astronom...0.html?___SID=U

 

...or an 8"(200mm), and still within your budget... 

 

https://www.highpoin...ahoC_g0QAvD_BwE

https://www.highpoin...IBoC_gsQAvD_BwE

 

With a Newtonian, you would need to learn how to collimate it, perhaps initially upon its arrival, and on occasion thereafter.  The refractors would not need to be collimated; normally, usually.

 

Recently, I got my own 127mm Maksutov.  Maksutovs are oft used as spotting-scopes, for surveillance even...

 

kit3b.jpg

 

...but they have very long focal-lengths.  That one has a focal-length of 1900mm, and almost to that of a Celestron C8.  As a result, they're a bit blind when used on a manual mount.  They need help to see, to find things in the sky.  They're usually placed on go-to mounts, but that's not a hard-and-fast rule.  At the lowest power, only a small part of the sky is seen.  They're very good however for seeing things up close, and closer still.  They're like a microscope, but for the sky...

 

https://www.bhphotov..._15_alt_az.html

 

Now, that kit's mount is a bit small, not very supportive of the telescope, but you can get it and an Astro-Tech Voyager II alt-azimuth listed previously, and that combination will be at least $50 less than this kit...

 

https://www.highpoin...-mc1271900maz01

 

You'd then have the little alt-azimuth, in addition, and for your spotting-scope.

 

Then, that same Maksutov also comes with an equatorial mount, and for less.  That mount would be a bit more supportive of the telescope compared to the smaller alt-azimuth...

 

https://www.highpoin...fl-mc1271900eq3



#11 JPinNJ

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 07:27 AM

Thanks everyone for the responses!   There’s a lot to absorb!    I’ll definitely need something somewhat portable, the 6 and 8” dobs look pretty hefty, are they easy to breakdown for short car ride and set up at a viewing site?   

 

The table top dobs/Newtonian looks easier to transport but I’d need a table (or stand) to set them up on. 

 

This gives me an opportunity to much to research further into the different choices. 

 

there’s an astronomy club nearby that meets every clear Friday night, fingers crossed that this Friday is clear and I’ll be able to bring my list of questions and hopefully get a chance to see what the club uses.


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#12 Taosmath

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 12:17 PM

Thanks everyone for the responses!   There’s a lot to absorb!    I’ll definitely need something somewhat portable, the 6 and 8” dobs look pretty hefty, are they easy to breakdown for short car ride and set up at a viewing site?   

 

The table top dobs/Newtonian looks easier to transport but I’d need a table (or stand) to set them up on. 

 

This gives me an opportunity to much to research further into the different choices. 

 

there’s an astronomy club nearby that meets every clear Friday night, fingers crossed that this Friday is clear and I’ll be able to bring my list of questions and hopefully get a chance to see what the club uses.

Visiting a club is an excellent idea.

 

Most 6" & 8" dobs break down into the same two basic parts.  The first a tube which is about 48" long (the 6" dob tube will be about 8" in diameter ; the 8" dob will be about 10" in Diameter.) and which fits across the back seat in a car.  The second piece is the base which consist of a board about 24" in diameter fixed  onto the rocker box which is about 20" high and forms three sides of a box about 15" or so wide.  Both parts will weigh 20lbs or so (maybe less).  To reassemble you put the base on the ground and put the tube on the top.   It takes longer to get them out of the car than to reassemble.

 

You can probably look at one at the club meet.


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#13 Tony Flanders

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 03:14 PM

Hi all, new to astronomy here and have a few questions.   I currently use binoculars and a spotting scope, both originally purchased for birding.   My scope is a Nikon Fieldscope 82ED that I mainly use 38x wide view eyepiece.   It’s an angled scope so it’s not as bad as a straight scope for looking up.    With this set up I can see Saturn and it’s rings, Jupiter and it’s bands along with the moon (obviously) and other stars etc.    My questions are:
 
anyone else start out using a spotting scope?
 
Are there sub-$500 telescopes that will give better views of moon, planets and other beginner astronomical things than my Nikon?


The Nikon ED Fieldscopes have an excellent reputation, and should do fine for deep-sky observing as long as you can put up with the 45-degree viewing angle. For me, frankly, the 45-degree viewing angle is a very big deal indeed, and I would rather use a scope with a 90-degree viewing angle, even if it has considerably inferior optical quality.

For the Moon and planets, magnification is everything -- assuming that your scope has optical quality to back up the extra magnification. With an 80-mm scope, I would generally want to view Jupiter and Saturn using at least 120X. I'm not sure how hard it would be to achieve that in your Fieldscope.

There are plenty of inexpensive achromatic refractors in the 80-100 mm range that can deliver 120X just fine -- albeit with a bit more false color than your ED spotting scope -- and also deliver a 90-degree viewing angle.

Consider, for instance, the various incarnations of the ST80, an 80-mm f/5 refractor or the Meade Infinity 90 or 102. The latter come with lousy mounts, but you presumably can re-mount them on whatever you're using for your Fieldscope.

The various tabletop Dobs in the 112-130 mm range are also an excellent portable alternative for way under $500.
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#14 JPinNJ

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Posted 31 August 2019 - 02:11 PM

So last night I went to a public viewing event at the local observatory and learned a lot!   The observatory telescopes were phenomenal of course and I had great views of Saturn and M13.  Outside the observatory itself folks were setting up their own scopes for viewing.  But by far the best part was just listening to the more experienced amateur astronomers explain what was in the sky.  

 

I went back this afternoon as the astronomy club was hosting a solar viewing event, which was also amazing!   

 

My takeaway regarding buying a telescope was that I don’t necessarily need to buy a new telescope to get started.  I can use my birding binoculars (10x42s) and my birding scope to see a lot in the night sky.   I will probably get an 8” dobsonian at some point in the near future though.   

 

I also picked up some literature at the event and purchased NightWatch by Terence Dickinson.


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#15 ShaulaB

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Posted 31 August 2019 - 02:31 PM

I carry a 10 inch Dob in a compact VW. Consider that reflectors are tubes full of air. They are not nearly as heavy as you might think.


An 8 inch Dob or a 6 inch SCT are probably what you would enjoy. In addition to planets and the Moon, there are deep sky objects (nebulae, star clusters, galaxies) for a scope with some aperture. Spend some time with the Cloudy Nights classified ads. What you might like may come up on the used market.


Try using your binoculars to detect deep sky objects. Visit Skymaps.com, and download the monthly map. It lists objects visible in binocs. The darker the sky, the more you will see.

#16 Stephen1952

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Posted 01 September 2019 - 08:23 AM

I would recommend a good 8x42 binoculars to be added to your repertoire.



#17 BFaucett

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Posted 01 September 2019 - 10:04 AM


I would recommend a good 8x42 binoculars to be added to your repertoire.

Just FYI: The OP already has 10x42 binoculars.  See this post by the OP.

 

Bob F.  


Edited by BFaucett, 01 September 2019 - 10:08 AM.


#18 Roger Corbett

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Posted 01 September 2019 - 11:49 AM

Deciding to visit your local group was a brilliant idea!  You can always join them at a future star party when you have a craving for brighter, more detailed views of deep sky objects.

 

Your idea of eventually getting an 8” Dobsonian is a good one!  That's the choice I would recommend,

 

Note:  While the Orion 8” f/6 XT dobs are about 20-21 pounds for tube and 20-21 pounds for the mount, the dobs linked to in the thread — and most other 8” dobs — typically have a tube or a mount that weighs 25-26 pounds, noticeably heavier.  

 

The interesting wrinkle is that the 6” f/8 dobs typically use the same mount, so their heaviest single component is often the same weight as that of an 8” f/6.  Given that — and virtually the same length tube and same size mount — there's little reason weight-wise or size-wise to get the 6”.  (Collimating may be a tad easier with the 6” and lower-end eyepieces may work better, but the difference won't be that big.)

 

One other factor favors the 8” dob.  Many, if not most, of the 8” dobs now come standard with 2” focusers whereas the 6” dobs usually have only 1.25” ones.  That opens up wider field of view with the 8”.  



#19 Alan French

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Posted 01 September 2019 - 12:05 PM

An inherent problem with any "table top" telescope is the need for a stable table. Unless you have the tools and skill to make one, inherently stable tables are generally big and ungainly. Small, portable tables that mimic of the portability of a table top scope are wobbly platforms. 

 

Clear skies, Alan



#20 Tony Flanders

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Posted 02 September 2019 - 05:07 AM

An inherent problem with any "table top" telescope is the need for a stable table. Unless you have the tools and skill to make one, inherently stable tables are generally big and ungainly. Small, portable tables that mimic of the portability of a table top scope are wobbly platforms. 

 

Clear skies, Alan

For the larger ones -- 130-mm f//5 in particular -- I get excellent results putting the scope on a standard chair while sitting in another chair. Chairs are very sturdy and widely available, though like any 4-legged support they wobble unless placed on a level surface. You will probably need to rotate the chair to keep its back from bumping into the telescope, however. Backless stools are better than chairs, but not as widely available.


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#21 izar187

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Posted 02 September 2019 - 05:28 AM

I've found the right car hood works, if flat enough.

Before building a flat topped tripod for a table top scope I was using, made sure my cars(all used) were flat hooded enough. Or bought a different used car. This yields a mobile observing station, that includes a chart table(the hood), and a structure to lean against to steady the head/eye. 

 

Anchored in to the ground flat top platforms work. Out on property you can use. Even more than one, to carry the table top scope across the yard to, to dodge trees. IME

 

Bar stools work, the four legged ones. But you have to spin them around and move them a bit, to find a stable place on the pavement,were they won't rock. But it's usually right nearby. Easier to find that spot that stabilizes them on grass. 

 

One of these would obviously work. Lots of kinds available.

https://www.google.c...7&bih=726&dpr=2

 

Or this, a foldup tripod. A great execution of it too.

http://www.eyesonthe...eTripod2x4.aspx


Edited by izar187, 02 September 2019 - 10:21 AM.

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