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Orion StarMax 90mm for getting my son started

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#1 AstroVPK

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Posted 13 November 2019 - 12:49 AM

What do people think of the Orion StarMax 90 mm Mak? I'm thinking of picking one up for my son - he's turning 4 at the beginning of Jan. Prime considerations are weight and ruggedness.He'll want to lug it around himself and I don't want something like a Newtonian that'll go out of collimation easily. I want it to be completely manual - I don't want any Goto mechanism. I'll replace the red-dot with my old 9x50 finder and he'll have full use of my Sirius Plossl eyepieces and filters. I'd like nice razor sharp images of the Moon and planets. Last (and first) time I took him to a dark site, he got frightened, so I think it'll be a while before he really gets into DSOs. I like the idea of a Mak because it's compact and free of chromatic aberrations.

 

What do you guys think? Anyone have experience with this scope?



#2 MikeTelescope

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Posted 13 November 2019 - 01:36 AM

The StarMax 90 is the same as the Apex 90 and Celestron C90, but just on a table-top one-arm Dobsonian mount.  It has a limitation that it can't reach the zenith, due to lack of clearance between the base and the diagonal.  It does great on planets, moon, and double stars.  Very sharp and crisp.  It will also show brighter DSOs OK, but nothing like your XT8.  It has a very long focal length, so a small FOV and can't be modified for 2" eyepieces like a ST80 could.  It would need some kind of Rigel or RACI finder to make it easier to find things.

 

But... for a 4 year old, I would go with a FunScope.  Light, inexpensive, wide-angle views.  Spherical mirror, but at low mag that's fine.   I have one and pull it out every so often because it is just so fun to play with.  A kid could easily handle this scope on his own, and it's so inexpensive, you and he won't be so sad when it gets dinged up a bit.  Moon is fun in it, so are Pleiades, M31, Orion Nebula.   

 

Get two, one for you and one for him.  You can find something in yours and then help him to find it in his.  


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#3 AstroVPK

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Posted 13 November 2019 - 01:45 AM

The StarMax 90 is the same as the Apex 90 and Celestron C90, but just on a table-top one-arm Dobsonian mount.  It has a limitation that it can't reach the zenith, due to lack of clearance between the base and the diagonal.  It does great on planets, moon, and double stars.  Very sharp and crisp.  It will also show brighter DSOs OK, but nothing like your XT8.  It has a very long focal length, so a small FOV and can't be modified for 2" eyepieces like a ST80 could.  It would need some kind of Rigel or RACI finder to make it easier to find things.

 

But... for a 4 year old, I would go with a FunScope.  Light, inexpensive, wide-angle views.  Spherical mirror, but at low mag that's fine.   I have one and pull it out every so often because it is just so fun to play with.  A kid could easily handle this scope on his own, and it's so inexpensive, you and he won't be so sad when it gets dinged up a bit.  Moon is fun in it, so are Pleiades, M31, Orion Nebula.   

 

Get two, one for you and one for him.  You can find something in yours and then help him to find it in his.  

I was looking at the FunScope & even let my kid handle it a bit - it seemed to be the right size & weight for him. I'm a little concerned about the speedy f/3.9 optics though - will a scope that fast play well with Plossls?



#4 MikeTelescope

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Posted 13 November 2019 - 03:23 AM

I was looking at the FunScope & even let my kid handle it a bit - it seemed to be the right size & weight for him. I'm a little concerned about the speedy f/3.9 optics though - will a scope that fast play well with Plossls?

Plossls would be more than fine on this small fast scope for a 4 year old.  The Celestron version comes with a 20mm Huygens and a 4mm Ramsden.  I have that one too.  The Orion one used to come with a 20mm and 10mm Kellner.  Now it comes with a 20mm Kellner and a 6mm Kellner, as well as a 2x Barlow.  This gives you 15x, 30x, 50x, and 100x.  The views are just fine for what it is.  I'd say 100x is pushing it with this one.  He'll see the rings of Saturn with the 6mm without the Barlow.  At 15x and 30x, just looking at the moon, scanning the sky for colorful stars, scanning the Milky Way in the summer.  

 

I've tried putting fancier eyepieces in the Funscope, the views are better, but it kind of defeats the purpose of the small simple fun scope.  

 

There's also the 100mm Skyscanner by Orion.  Parabolic mirror, but can't be collimated (unless you modify it).  Big step up in views for about $30 more.  But heavier for a 4 year old.  Still not as heavy as a Starblast, which is an excellent small scope for kids and adults.   Have one of those too.  Too much for a 4 year old to handle on his own, but a good next scope after the first one.


Edited by MikeTelescope, 13 November 2019 - 03:25 AM.


#5 Tony Flanders

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Posted 13 November 2019 - 05:10 AM

Although pricier than some other options, I strongly recommend the Orion 80-mm TableTop Refractor. It cannot reach the zenith, but it is otherwise fantastically easy to use, and the optics are startlingly good considering the price. It has great low-power capabilities, and everything is easier to do at low magnifications. The high-power eyepiece supplied with the scope yields 35X, which is just enough to show Jupiter's belts and Saturn's rings. The optics hold up fine to 100X and higher, but that requires some rather exotic eyepieces.

 

It works fine on a table, but best of all when the base is threaded onto sturdy tripod legs.

 

The 100-mm SkyScanner TableTop Reflector is very similar. Not as good optically, which probably doesn't matter much for a beginner. A bigger issue is the inverted image, which makes it a bit odd to use on terrestrial objects. And I guarantee that any kid (or adult) is going to want to use both of these scopes on terrestrial objects. Mind you, upside-down terrestrial images never bothered me when I was a child -- and still don't.


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#6 Ulmer Spatz

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Posted 13 November 2019 - 06:48 AM

 I'll replace the red-dot with my old 9x50 finder...

With the significant weight difference (from about 80 grams to 500 grams or so) and the relatively short dovetails of some of the scopes in question, re-balancing the optical tube will probably require some kind of workaround. Not a show stopper--just something to think about.

 

I wonder if a 4-year wouldn't be frustrated by a focusing knob with many turns from lock to lock. Depending on where focus was achieved when the scope was put up last, getting the thing to focus when first using it again might be vexing for a child.



#7 ascii

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Posted 13 November 2019 - 09:01 AM

I can't comment on some of the other scopes, but my StarMax 90 Mak can easily reach zenith with a good half inch of clearance between the diagonal and the base.  It's a decent little scope but with a somewhat narrow maximum field of view of about 1.24 degrees.  That should be fine for a small Moon and planet scope.  I have the one that comes with a lightweight tripod that the mini-Dob base attaches to.  It's kind of shaky at higher magnification.

Even so, I'd defer to Tony Flanders' advice.  His experience and credentials (Sky & Telescope magazine contributing editor) far exceed mine.



#8 Ulmer Spatz

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Posted 13 November 2019 - 09:30 AM

I have the scope Tony Flanders recommends. True, it cannot quite reach zenith. But if the scope sits on a tripod head, tilting back and locking the tripod head just a bit (I estimate about 12 degrees) will allow the scope to point straight up. If there's no tripod head, shortening one tripod leg will accomplish the same thing. The mount works fine at such a slight tilt.

 

As a child-friendly bonus, even such a slightly tilted scope would serve nicely as a demonstration of how equatorial mounts work.



#9 rhetfield

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Posted 13 November 2019 - 10:00 AM

Think about what that scope will end up doing after the 4 year old outgrows it.  Will it become a travel scope, go to another kid, or get mounted on something bigger as a spotter scope?  There are a lot of options for small scopes that can be useful to both the father and son over a long lifetime.  



#10 Sky Muse

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Posted 13 November 2019 - 11:10 AM

I started out with a 60mm refractor, with a moderate focal-length, and at the age of 9.  I still have it...

 

kit5.jpg

 

Isn't it a beaut?

 

Any telescope in most any condition, new or used, even those abused and neglected, will deliver decent images at the lower powers; why, those mis-collimated as well.  No, it's at the higher and highest powers where a telescope needs to be collimated as precisely as possible, and for sharp, pleasing views.

 

Refractors have the tightest construction, and therefore do not require collimation; normally, usually.  Maksutovs are next up in that; and with Newtonians last, requiring regular maintenance.

 

https://www.amazon.c...1/dp/B06XR5L9TK

 

The refractor is good; the mount, not so much.  A quality photo-tripod would be a welcome addition.  The refractor would need a proper, star diagonal; a mirrored-star, for use at night.  32mm, 20mm, and 12mm Plossls would round it out nicely.  A barlow might be had in future.

 

That one would last for decades, to grow with and delight.  I have a short 80mm myself; built like a tank...

 

Antares 805p.jpg   


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#11 vtornado

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Posted 13 November 2019 - 11:32 AM

For a beginner, I do not like MCTs because of their long focal length.  In this case 1250mm.

This leads to a narrow field of view, and will make it difficult to get dim items into the field of view.

(anything that is not really easy to see like planets, and moon).

 

Another thing to think about is MCTs are great for travel because of their size, but they are

not so efficient.  A 90mm MCT is probably operating around a 70mm refractor.

You can get a dirt cheap 60-70mm achro refractor that has a long enough F ratio to avoid lots of color.

An f/7 refractor would be fairly color free and have a tube length of around 500mm

 

 

Zhummel Z130?  Yes it can go out of collimation, but you could collimate it for him.

The FL is 650, so much wider.   And much more light gathering than the 90.

I have the AWB version. If I don't go high power, it holds it collimation over a long period of time, and I don't

baby it either.  A 5 gallon bucket as a stand brings the eyepiece to kid height.

 

BTW table tops that "cannot" reach zenith, can reach zenith if you put a block of wood under the front foot.

If you have a drill with an auger bit, you can drill a hole in the wood block where the leg can sit, so it won't slip off.


Edited by vtornado, 13 November 2019 - 11:33 AM.


#12 MalVeauX

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Posted 13 November 2019 - 11:46 AM

Heya,

 

Even a Mak technically needs collimation.

 

The long focal length on a F11~13 instrument will make things difficult, on a manual mount, even for an adult, let alone a 4 year old.

 

I do visual astronomy with a bunch of kids, my own and their cousins and friends. For kids, I would honestly just use a refractor. Even a short fast achromatic doublet. No collimation. Light weight. Small. Easy to use. Wide FOV (essential). Short simple device. Yes, there will be CA, but it won't take away from the far more important things they'll be able to see and do. Otherwise, if you really wanted a mirror, the 114mm short reflectors and 130mm short reflectors can be pretty good (collimation is not a big deal for wide FOV use).

 

Here's some 80mm scopes on various inexpensive small Alt-Az mounts with wide FOV, but still plenty good for planets and lunar (and solar!).

 

ST80

GoScope 80

 

45540591892_f5d5e60c16_c.jpg

 

45239014774_8a8fc40295_c.jpg

 

32092445848_77368e7aae_c.jpg

 

Here's a 114mm F4.5 reflector on the same little alt-az mount

 

23978855207_7917318dcc_b.jpg

 

The ST80 again, this time with narrowband solar for day time astronomy:

 

39557553344_1206da721c_b.jpg

 

Very best,


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#13 Tony Flanders

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Posted 13 November 2019 - 08:34 PM

Even so, I'd defer to Tony Flanders' advice.  His experience and credentials (Sky & Telescope magazine contributing editor) far exceed mine.

I wouldn't if I were you! I can easily imagine somebody who prefers a StarMax 90 to an 80-mm GoScope. Different strokes for different folks. And they're both good -- though flawed -- telescopes.
 
But I do think that a low-power scope is least likely to frustrate a child, especially a young one. Even 13X is an amazing improvement over 1X, especially if you can do it all on your own. That's certainly how my daughter treated by 4.5-inch StarBlast way back when.


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#14 ascii

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Posted 13 November 2019 - 10:19 PM

I wouldn't if I were you! I can easily imagine somebody who prefers a StarMax 90 to an 80-mm GoScope. Different strokes for different folks. And they're both good -- though flawed -- telescopes.
 
But I do think that a low-power scope is least likely to frustrate a child, especially a young one. Even 13X is an amazing improvement over 1X, especially if you can do it all on your own. That's certainly how my daughter treated by 4.5-inch StarBlast way back when.

Tony, you're too modest.

 

You're almost certainly right about low power for a child.  I'm reasonably patient and adept with slightly ornery scope mounts and narrow fields, so the StarMax 90 worked out ok as a small lunar/planetary scope for me.  A four year old - I'd doubt that he would adapt as well.  Plus the GoScope is less of a financial sacrifice if he has an accident with it.



#15 AstroVPK

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Posted 13 November 2019 - 11:38 PM

I'm leaning towards the FunScope. Once someone pointed out that at f/13+, any deficiencies in the mount will become intolerable, I'm inclined to pass on the Mak. In the end, what will probably happen is that we'll drive down to the Orion store and let my son pick out what he likes best. 

 

The other thing about the funscope is that when my son's friends come over, I won't be stressing about potential damage to the scope.


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#16 Tony Flanders

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Posted 14 November 2019 - 06:50 AM

I'm leaning towards the FunScope. Once someone pointed out that at f/13+, any deficiencies in the mount will become intolerable, I'm inclined to pass on the Mak. In the end, what will probably happen is that we'll drive down to the Orion store and let my son pick out what he likes best.

Great idea! When I decided I wanted a small, cheap 4.5-inch reflector, I gave my daughter a choice between the 4.5-inch StarBlast and the XT 4.5. She chose the StarBlast, and that went a long way to making her feel as though it was her scope, not just mine. I would have been happy either way.


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#17 JohnnyBGood

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Posted 14 November 2019 - 11:25 AM

I think small, compact, easy to use, and expendable are the most important factors for small children. I bought my son a short tube 70mm scope (Venture rx280, very similar to the Celestron and Orion 70mm Travel Scopes) and he likes it. Easy to set up and carry around. At low power (17x) it's easy to find things, and it's not too bad a medium power (40x). Shaky and hard to use at high power (100x), but it is *possible*. I use a set of the generic Aspheric 23mm-10mm-4mm eyepieces with it. The eyepieces are easy to use, better than what it came with, and expendable.

 

Unlike the FunScope reflector, the things you see are not upside down. The Celestron and Orion 70mm Travel Scopes and the Meade 60mm Adventure Scope (the 80mm is a bit much) all come with either 45-degree or 90-degree correct image prism diagonals, making them useful in the daytime as well. My son uses his more in the day than he does at night (after some careful talks about pointing anywhere near the sun and a demonstration of burning leaves with the scope). Plus they come with some sort of carrying backpack, making them easy to store and transport. And they're not terribly expensive, so if the kid isn't interested you haven't lost much investment. Plus as small as they are they don't take up much room in the back of a closet in case you want to hang on to it and try again later when the kid is older.



#18 AstroVPK

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Posted 15 November 2019 - 06:47 AM

I think small, compact, easy to use, and expendable are the most important factors for small children. I bought my son a short tube 70mm scope (Venture rx280, very similar to the Celestron and Orion 70mm Travel Scopes) and he likes it. Easy to set up and carry around. At low power (17x) it's easy to find things, and it's not too bad a medium power (40x). Shaky and hard to use at high power (100x), but it is *possible*. I use a set of the generic Aspheric 23mm-10mm-4mm eyepieces with it. The eyepieces are easy to use, better than what it came with, and expendable.

 

Unlike the FunScope reflector, the things you see are not upside down. The Celestron and Orion 70mm Travel Scopes and the Meade 60mm Adventure Scope (the 80mm is a bit much) all come with either 45-degree or 90-degree correct image prism diagonals, making them useful in the daytime as well. My son uses his more in the day than he does at night (after some careful talks about pointing anywhere near the sun and a demonstration of burning leaves with the scope). Plus they come with some sort of carrying backpack, making them easy to store and transport. And they're not terribly expensive, so if the kid isn't interested you haven't lost much investment. Plus as small as they are they don't take up much room in the back of a closet in case you want to hang on to it and try again later when the kid is older.

That looks like another great option. I like the idea of selling the scope with a carrying backpack. Thank you for the recommendation!



#19 Ulmer Spatz

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Posted 15 November 2019 - 09:05 AM

I think small, compact, easy to use, and expendable are the most important factors for small children.

I agree, but would like to add the need for an easy-to-use and rock-steady mount. Most of these travel scopes come with a cheap tripod guaranteed to frustrate a child to no end. In my view, the one-armed dobsonian table-top mount can't be beat in this $100-200 price bracket. 



#20 JohnnyBGood

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Posted 15 November 2019 - 09:46 AM

I agree, but would like to add the need for an easy-to-use and rock-steady mount. Most of these travel scopes come with a cheap tripod guaranteed to frustrate a child to no end. In my view, the one-armed dobsonian table-top mount can't be beat in this $100-200 price bracket. 

 

I will confess that I did, in fact, pick up a used heavier-duty alt-az mount for use at home (similar to the Celestron AstroMaster mounts) because I personally didn't like the tripod it came with but it adds so much weight and bulk that it's less user-friendly for kids. The relatively flimsy tripod and mount it came with does not work well at high magnifications but it's really not that bad at all at low powers. It's better to think of the scope as half of a 15x70 binocular on a tripod with the ability to use a little more magnification (with patience) if desired.

 

With that said, though, given the choice between the two tripods and mounts, my son usually chooses the lighter one. A tabletop reflector *would* be ideal if a kid-friendly and kid-transportable sturdy table could be found along with an erect image eyepiece. My kids, at least, do *not* like upside down or mirror images since they use the scope during the day more than at night.



#21 Sky Muse

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Posted 15 November 2019 - 11:35 AM

80mm is the barest minimum nowadays, given what's available; hardly too large.  60mm and 70mm telescopes are too dim, particularly under light-polluted skies.  At least with an 80mm you'd have a sporting chance of actually seeing something at night.

 

In that Newtonians are not ideal for use during the day, the less likely one would be pointed at the Sun; the safer alternative.  Nighttime instruments they are, exclusively even, but requiring regular maintenance.

 

Maksutovs make for excellent spotting-scopes during the day, for those up-close views of critters and what-not far away; some dangerous, and where you wouldn't want to get too close. 



#22 Sky Muse

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Posted 15 November 2019 - 12:41 PM

This 80mm f/8 has a versatile focal-length; not too short, not too long, just right...

 

https://telescopes.n...QoaAiTdEALw_wcB

 

I have the alt-azimuth mount that comes with that kit.  It had come with a 127mm Maksutov.  But I had been looking at that wee mount alone some months before, and for my smaller telescopes...

 

https://www.telescop...ts?keyword=1.25

 

...like this 80mm f/6 refractor...

 

Antares 805s.jpg

 

Too large?  A bit much?  Really?  

 

Diagonals can be rotated, and so to place the eyepiece at a height suitable for the wee folks...

 

diagonal2.jpg



#23 Ulmer Spatz

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Posted 15 November 2019 - 01:05 PM

 My kids, at least, do *not* like upside down or mirror images since they use the scope during the day more than at night.

Agree, that's pretty much how I used my childhood scope. My father and I put together a scope from parts sold by a German educational materials company ("Kosmos"). That scope got a lot of terrestrial use.


Edited by Ulmer Spatz, 15 November 2019 - 01:27 PM.


#24 Achernar

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Posted 17 November 2019 - 11:00 AM

Four is on the very young side to turn him loose with any telescope by himself, but by the time he's 8 or 9 years old he should be perfectly able to use it on his own. Children as young as your son would do alright if you're with him. As for the telescope, I have a 90mm Orion Apex Maksutov. It's a very good spotting scope for the shooting I do, but it also does well for observing the Sun with an over the aperture solar filter, and at night it works well on the moon, planets and the brightest deep sky objects. You will however want to avoid the inexpensive 45 degree correct image diagonals for astronomical observing, I find they cause flaring on bright objects. If it comes with one, you can still use it for daytime viewing, and they are fine for that purpose. A good mirror or prism star diagonal is a must, and so is a suitable aiming device or finder scope. The views are sharp and have good contrast, and on good nights it can easily handle 150X on bright objects like Mars when it comes to opposition next October. What are the cons? Well the field of view is narrow, so a pair of binoculars is a good compliment to this telescope, and a dew shield is needed to keep the meniscus corrector clear of dew on damp nights. It needs to be mounted steadily as well. The good news though is there is vast array of eyepieces that work well with this telescope and other accessories that enhance it's functionality. It is also a good travel scope, and ideal for solar eclipses, such as the ones that are coming to the United States in 2023 and 2024. It could even be used for photography, though it's not expressly designed as such.

 

Taras


Edited by Achernar, 17 November 2019 - 11:02 AM.


#25 sg6

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Posted 17 November 2019 - 12:10 PM

I would say too narrow a field for someone that age.

A wider field 80mm would be a lot easier for them.

I have a 105 and rarely use it owing to the final field from it. No point in making life difficult, and if you want them to be interested and enjoy it then go for easy.




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