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Recommendations for New Family Starting Astronomy

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#1 usurpah

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Posted 25 February 2020 - 11:25 AM

Hi everyone,

   Long time lurker, first time registrant.  I appreciate the quality of postings and individuals on cloudynights!  I'm looking to tap into this resource to help me on a few decisions:

 

Background:

  • I'm outside of Pittsburgh, in a Bortle 6 suburb. 
  • We're also on a wooded street, and with our lot and perspective we don't have a lot of "open sky" around us. 
  • I have two boys, 6 and 8 years old.  They have just a little bit of astronomy exposure through field trips, but a lot of questions!
  • Over the next few years/decade, I want to build a better understanding of astronomy, our place in the universe, and open their minds a bit to some larger questions.  An appreciation for the expansiveness of the universe and our place in it.  You know, all that "it's not all about you" type stuff.  :)  

Considerations:

  • I'm expecting some use at home (planetary, moon, etc.), but probably more opportunistic types of situations where we're away from home and packing the scope with us on vacations/weekends.
  • We do a bit of camping, take vacations to the wilderness/mountains, and generally travel a good amount within 10-12 hours from our home.  I have a large pickup with a covered & sealed bed, so transport of things isn't an issue.  There's also bags and other stuff in that truck, so can't be SO large that it takes half the bed.
  • For this use case, I'm not interested in Astrophotography - purely visual.  In fact, with younger kids, the brighter and more impactful the visual the better.  Viewing on a smartphone screen or similar would be fine as well.  I really want to lower the barrier for them to explore and view more than small blurs. I'd like for them to see at least brighter deep sky objects, but even beyond would be interesting.
  • At first I was thinking a "GoTo" situation, but I heard some great feedback from individuals on here with kids around my age that this type of device may reduce their interest in the hobby.  I'm beginning to agree - discovering the sky, finding objects is part of the journey.  I think something manual will be more engaging and interesting vs. a motor finding something and me constantly saying "Don't move the scope!" where they're a participant.
  • However, I have seen some GoTo situations where you can use either the electronics or move manually without having to recalibrate (the Orion Starseeker IV comes to mind).  This may be a great compromise and way for us to enjoy the best of both situations.
  • I would purchase travel cases.  
  • I don't have a budget in mind.  I'm equally open to spending a small amount of money for a "first scope" or $1,500-$2,000 on something if we think it's the right solution for the next 10 years.

 

tl;dr:

  • Travel capable scope, less calibration/adjustments/fiddling time vs. exploration time, young hands exploring and using, visual only/no photography.

 

I have some thoughts, but I don't wait to lead the group.  I'm also inexperienced in this - my last telescope was a 6" Meade back in 1985.  What would everyone suggest?  Thank you all in advance!

 

 

 

 


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#2 JGass

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Posted 25 February 2020 - 11:50 AM

It's too bad that Orion discontinued the XT6i.  The 6" dob format is small enough that the eyepiece position would often be convenient for younger kids, like yours.  The push-to system works well, and is quick to align.  But, there are no clutches to damage if young hands want to grab and swing the scope.  The Intelliscope feature can just be ignored if the kids just want to "point and shoot".

 

You could move up to the still-available XT8i, but that will require packing a stool for the kids, I think.

It might be a bit much for the kids to use hands-on at their current ages.

Newtonian primary collimation is usually quick and can be tweaked in the field, FWIW.

 

Another option might be to start with an AWB OneSky scope.  I don't think that it comes with a 1/4" 20 fitting below the table-top ground board, but you could rig up one, I suppose.  It's compact size, ease of use, and f/5 bright images would make it fun for the kids.  It should be possible to make a storage case do double-duty as a platform for the table top mini-dob mount.

 

The OneSky would be a modest cost, modest size investment for now, and one that wouldn't need much babying.  A bigger, badder scope could wait for a few years down the line, IMO.


Edited by JGass, 25 February 2020 - 12:02 PM.

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#3 Barlowbill

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Posted 25 February 2020 - 11:52 AM

Welcome to CN.  I have 2 grandsons, also 8 and 6.  They have viewed through my 8" Dob when visiting.  About a year ago I bought them a pair of binoculars.  Not expensive.  I'm sure they never use them for stargazing.  The only time they show any interest is when I am around.  Regardless, I think this is the first step.  Get a decent pair of binos.  Let them start learning what is what in the night sky.  Where are the easily visible planets?  WHere are the major constellations like Orion?  How about the Pleiades star cluster?  These and more are easily viewed with binos.  Where is the north star and why is it always in the same spot?  Next would be astronomy books.  I have a bunch but I'm sure other folks here could direct you to some which are geared towards young astronomers.  They will see much more when you are out camping.  Have fun.



#4 JohnBear

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Posted 25 February 2020 - 12:02 PM

Welcome aboard!

 

For a starter telescope, especially with kids, I am quite biased towards recommending the AWB OneSky. It is a 5" aperture Newtonian on a collapsible Dobsonian base with very good optics and "elegant simplicity" that both adults and kids will appreciate. It is small enough to be easily carried as a Grab and Go telescope, and the Dob base makes for very stable viewing just setting on a table or stool.  Plus the opening up of a collapsible Dob has a certain "coolness" that kids will love. From an adult perspective it also performs quite well when compared to other 5-6 inch Newtonian telescopes, AND it only costs $200, which leaves some money for a few upgrade eyepieces.

 

I also view it as a virtual "learning machine" for teaching the basics of astronomy. Its collapsible Dob features help embody and demonstrate how telescopes work. For example you can easily show the secondary mirror when explaing how a Newtonian telescope works. There are also a lot of relatively easy DIY upgrades you can create for the OneSky that the kids can be part of, such a building a light shroud, tweaking the helical focuser, or adding setting circles to make it a Push-To telescope.

 

Be sure to look at the enormous AWB OneSky formun on CN to see how popular this little telescope is..


Edited by JohnBear, 25 February 2020 - 12:04 PM.

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#5 Sky Muse

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Posted 25 February 2020 - 12:11 PM

https://www.bhphotov..._caAiCaEALw_wcB

 

The "Evolution" mount may also be operated manually.  

 

Note that the 6" Schmidt has a rather large secondary-obstruction, however.  I would suggest the 8" variant, but its focal-length is greater than that of my 5" f/15  Maksutov.


Edited by Sky Muse, 25 February 2020 - 12:12 PM.

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#6 rhetfield

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Posted 25 February 2020 - 12:30 PM

I would add my vote to the Onesky.  It really is a good thing to go look at the Onesky thread (located on the beginner forum) and binge reading it.  You will learn a lot about that scope and astronomy in general there.  That is where you find about all the tweaks and hacks.  As noted by others, the scope is good for tinkering and that would be part of the fun and education for the kids. 

 

The optics are good and the scope is quick and easy to setup.  It hits a nice sweet spot for wide field viewing while having enough magnification to max out atmospheric conditions on most nights.  At the star parties, I am usually setup and have seen numerous objects by the time most of the others see their first thing.  It it compact, light and easy to carry.  Many keep it around as a quick grab and go travel scope even after moving on to bigger and better things.  Often it ends up on a new mount.  With the right mount, it can go as airline carry-on or backpacking.  One guy I know is working on a modified base and travel container so it can go on a rafting trip.

 

The only bad thing is that it has limited me in that the wife can't see enough of a difference in what she sees through the Onesky and the 12-15" scopes that the others bring to the star parties to allow me to buy bigger toys.  The other guy's 15" dob did show a bit crisper view of Orion nebula - though even I would have a hard time justifying the expense and hassle of the big gun based on the difference.


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#7 sg6

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Posted 25 February 2020 - 12:31 PM

On the manual aspect then a 6" Skywatcher dobsonian which is f/8 so fairly easy on eyepieces.

A dobsonian has the problem that everyone has to learn to use it. If one doesn't click with one then they get left out.

 

In the goto line a Skywatcher AZ Gti and a 72ED or maybe an 80ED - no bigger.

Goto's need power and the AZ Gti runs sort of best with Skysafari on an Android tablet.

So you need to be able to recharge a tablet and a small Lithium battery for the mount when not at home.

 

Will say don't get bothered by aperture overly. I used 60mm and 72mm 90% of the time with the occasional jump to 102mm the rest. I have nothing over 102mm.

 

Unfortunately the 102 is just too big for the AZ Gti mount I have.

 

It will be little use getting a sort of big but more specialised scope, keep it to a simple, relatively small, all round scope. Will say never found a kid yet that hasn't had a problem with a goto. The alignment needs learning and I suppose setting up the mount is the troublesome part for them.



#8 SeattleScott

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Posted 25 February 2020 - 12:39 PM

GoTo or even push to may be out if you don’t have a lot of open sky . Will you need to move the scope around the yard to dodge trees? Guess what happens to your GoTo alignment when you pick a scope up and move it?

Portability might also be key. If you are going to be tree dodging, it is really helpful if you can pick up the whole scope at once to move it.

A 6” F5 newt on a manual alt az comes to mind. Portable, decent light grasp and good wide field abilities to help locate targets without GoTo. Also adjustable height, so you can set it lower to help the kids, although they might still need a step stool.

For moon and planets, a 5” Mak would work well and be very portable. Could even get a CG4 Mount with tracking for extended viewing at high power. Narrow view though so hunting down DSO is tricky.

A 4” Apo is portable, good on planets and has good wide field capabilities. Expensive though but can be had within your budget. Not a lot of light grasp for DSO. Still can do justice to bright DSO from Bortle 6 skies.

The 6” Evo is nice and can be used manually or GoTo. But from what I have heard, the manual operation is really more of a fail safe in case your battery dies. It isn’t really optimal for using manually. It is really designed for GoTo.

Smartphone pics of the Moon and planets works ok. DSO are too dim. For viewing DSO on a smartphone you are looking at EAA. I have a flip diagonal, Mallincam and WiFi adapter on my Apo. So I can view things visually or I can flip to the camera and stream the image to my phone. Comes in handy but requires a tracking mount. Or night vision, which would probably exceed your budget.

Scott
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#9 PNW

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Posted 25 February 2020 - 02:02 PM

I really enjoy my Nexstar 8. Setup is simple: level the tripod, level the OTA and point it North, then push AutoAlign. If you partner with software like Stellarium and turn on the Alt/Az grid, finding targets in your cone of view should be easy. I don't believe kids today are intimidated by push button technology. In fact, they would probably enjoy observing a half dozen objects more than learning the sky and star hopping to find one or two. The new SE versions will take up about 1/4 of a pickup bed with all the accessories. Have fun in your search and....Enjoy


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#10 zleonis

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Posted 25 February 2020 - 04:30 PM

A few disconnected thoughts: 

I've never owned an SCT (like those from Celestron, Meade), but at outreach events I've attended with my club they're popular and effective - tracking and goto seem especially helpful when there are several people observing, and it breaks down into a more convenient size than a reflector of a similar aperture (at ~3x the cost or thereabouts). An SCT on a computerized mount probably fits the bill of being travel capable, limited fiddling (after initial setup / alignment), and providing bright impressive views better than other scope designs. 

 

I have an 8" Dobsonian reflector and with a bit of Tetris it fits in the trunk of a compact SUV (Nissan Rogue) along with all our gear for camping trips / vacations with my family of four (kids ages 2 and 4). An 8" Dobsonian is at about the limit of what I'd want to carry any distance in one piece (to dodge trees etc). For some people it could be above that limit.

 

I enjoy using a manual scope. For many targets, like the moon and planets, and DSO that are visible to the naked eye or near bright stars, goto doesn't make finding the target much easier. A tracking mount would come in handy for high power observing, but nudging the tube / turning slow-motion cables slips into the background for me. For more challenging targets, using a manual scope slows me down and encourages me to spend time with the target that took some time to find, in some cases. If I could move on to the next target with the press of a button, I'd probably do so sooner, and miss out on things that I could see with more contemplation. This is of course just me, I can certainly see how a more disciplined observer, or someone with more specific goals would prefer goto.

 

I was at an outreach event at a state park one evening and I was pleasantly surprised when a short line formed behind my inexpensive 4" Meade Infinity refractor, despite being in the company of many much larger and more capable telescopes. This was 100% because the sun had not yet set and we were looking at a building on a hill a mile or so away. Point being, on camping trips with the kids, it's worth considering terrestrial observation. I'd never claim that a cheap, short focal length refractor an ideal terrestrial scope, but for scanning distant ridges, tracking aircraft, or following reasonably slow moving wildlife, they're enjoyable. (a side note, the mount on the Meade Infinity 102 is adequate if you're charitable in your definitions, but the weakest link of the package. The same holds, as I understand it, for other inexpensive refractor/mount packages.)

 

Seeing different telescope setups firsthand might help you figure out what most appeals to you, to gauge your kids' interest. It looks like the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh has frequent events that are open to the public. Good luck!


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#11 vtornado

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Posted 25 February 2020 - 05:36 PM

For a starter scope I like these, none of these is a toy, but each has strong and weak points.

I have each of the these scopes and use them based upon where I am going, weather, time I have

object I want to watch etc.

 

AWB one sky /Zhummel 130 table top.

Plus

good aperture,

very portable, and car stowable

wide field

You can make a push to system for $50.00.

Cheap $300 for a usable setup.

 

Minus

f5 has coma

will require frequent collimation for high power. 

hard on eyepieces.

Need something to put the scope on, plastic bucket, small table etc.

 

6 or 8 inch dob.

Plusses

Will give the best views

Easyer on eyepieces than f5 dob.

home-made or store bought push-to available.

 

Minus

Much larger than a table top dob

May not fit in a car that is packed with wife, boys, luggage, and camping equipment.

May be too big for tree dodging, or carrying when at a remote site.

Requires a short cool down.

Medium field of view.

Medium cost $500 for a useable setup.

 

80/100mm refractor short refractor

Plusses

No collimation.

Wide field.

No cool down.

Effiecient.  For  a given aperture, delivers the most light to the eyepiece.

 

Minuses

To mount a 100mm requires a good, not light ,kind of expensive mount.

80's are easier to mount.

Limited aperture.

An achro will have purple glow on bright objects, but cheap $300

If ED price goes up fast. $1000?

 

A long achro refractor gives better color correction at the expense of a wide field and easy mounting

requirements.

 

 

SCT/MCT

Plusses.

Smallest scope for the aperture.

Easy to put on a tracking mount.

Infrequent collimation.

 

Minuses.

Cheap tracking mounts can't be used manually.

Narrow field of view.

Thermal and dew issues to mitigate.

Expensive $750 for entry level

 sub 5 inch don't deliver a lot of light.

 

One positive about a tracking mount not mentioned is that someone can find the object, and others can

share, the object will not constantly be drifting out of the field of view.

 

When you take your scope camping that brings up a set of questions.

1) how much space is left in the car when packed up?

2)) how far from your campsite will you be observing from?  Want to carry a dob 1/2 mile?

3) power issues for tracking mounts, dew heater.


Edited by vtornado, 25 February 2020 - 05:40 PM.

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#12 thomasr

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Posted 25 February 2020 - 06:22 PM

GoTo or even push to may be out if you don’t have a lot of open sky . Will you need to move the scope around the yard to dodge trees? Guess what happens to your GoTo alignment when you pick a scope up and move it?

I'm personally a big fan of goto, but let me add another related point of caution here...

When I'm observing on my back deck, pretty much the entire western half of the sky is obscured behind my house. If I try to use one of the "tour of the night sky" functions or even just randomly try objects in the database, odds are close to 50/50 that any given object will be unviewable. Motors start turning, scope starts slewing, slowly turning and rotating to face a brick wall, keeps turning, keeps turning, looks like it might clear the wall, and then stops ... almost clear of the wall but still pointing at bricks.

It's a little bit frustrating for me, as a grown-up, when that happens. I imagine it would be significantly more frustrating for a child, especially if it happens for 3 or 4 targets in a row.

Of course nobody says you have to use the sky tour, or select objects randomly with the controller. In fact you can easily plan an entire observing list to target only the slice of sky available to you, but I'm just pointing out a potential area of frustration with kids.

Sent from my LM-G820 using Tapatalk

Edited by thomasr, 25 February 2020 - 06:23 PM.


#13 Volvonium

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Posted 25 February 2020 - 06:55 PM

Hello, and Welcome!

 

My son turned 3 in December has been around telescopes since he was 2.  Astronomy is still my hobby for the most part, but my son always enjoys taking looks with me every now and then.  He understands planets and their brightness, all the parts of dobsonians, as well as there being a lot more stars viewable in the telescope than what we can see in our Bortle 8 backyard.  I'm not sure he will be into astronomy as he gets older, but I've been letting him engage with telescopes and astronomy in guided phases, without much pressure.  "Check this out."  "Do you want to see Venus? It's bright isn't it?" "There's a lot of stars here, how many do you think there are?" etc.

 

Whether an observer is a child or an adult, I feel that a hook or telling sign that astronomy can be a good fit is whether the ability to see anything- whether it's a faint trace of a nebula, or just a bright star- illicits a "wow" and instills a sense of wonder / curiosity to try to see what else there is out there.  A few days ago, i had an interesting experience demoing a 10" telescope- that I was trying to sell- to a man in his 50's. This particular telescope had excellent optics and I had excellent eyepieces in the focuser. He had not used a telescope in 30 years.  I showed him M42, the Orion nebula, during a new moon, and it barely registered a reaction.  The night had excellent seeing, with the tiny, elusive Trapezium E and F stars being easily visible... the nebula is one of the most brilliant objects in the night sky right now and was looking absolutely amazing that night... but it didn't even really trigger anything with this guy.  I immediately knew he wouldn't be a good fit for the telescope, which wasn't necessarily the fault of him as an observer/person...nor the fault of the limits of the 10" scope...he was just someone that needed something else to catch his attention and curiosity.  Even if he bought my telescope, which was a really fine performing example, I knew it would just wind up gathering dust, rather than being enjoyed.  I was happy to let him to take a look, but also happy he passed on buying.  I hate to see a fine instrument go to waste.

 

I got back into the hobby in early 2019, after not touching a telescope since I was 10 or 11.  It only took a subpar performing 5" Astromaster, on a terrible performing mount to hook me.  That first look at the moon, and locating a few star clusters- even at low magnification- was all it took for me to become obsessed and get real deep into telescopes, really fast.  I wanted to see more and see what else I could find in the night sky, in spite of all limitations that were presented to me.

 

Visual astronomy has some hard practical limits-- you could try to buy your way into seeing more things by getting as much aperture as possible, but even at 16" of aperture, most of the things you will observe are just faint traces and repeated viewings of the same objects, such as planets, that may require additional investing in some expensive eyepieces.  I personally enjoyed those faint traces, and repeat viewings of the same old stuff... regardless of whether they're in a huge 16" scope, or a small 60mm one.  I enjoyed these glimpses when I was a child, and I still enjoyed them as an adult.  They drove my curiosity.  While these things don't necessarily provide a ton of visual feedback, for certain people, they provide an incredible source of mental and emotional stimulus. 

 

Rather than initially approaching the hobby with what will be the most visually rewarding right off the bat, I would gauge whether just looking through a telescope will be mentally rewarding and make the new observer hungry to see more.

 

The most visually rewarding and visually stimulating setup would be something like a decent 6" telescope that is assisted by Night Vision.  This kind of setup could cost anywhere from $3-6k, but would provide electronically assisted/image intensified views of things like nebula that one could never hope to achieve with a regular visual use telescope...even those visual telescopes with 30" of aperture couldn't ever hope to provide a view of nebula that a night vision setup can provide.  With that said, such expensive and robust fancy night vision setups might not keep the attention of someone whose mental stimulation preferences don't align with astronomy.  They may take a few looks and not have any interest in revisiting after that.

 

The most mentally rewarding and mentally stimulating setup, on the other hand, can cost as little as a few hundred dollars, with a few hundred more on eyepieces.  A small 5" telescope with decent eyepieces can be immensely rewarding for the right type of person, child or adult.  

 

I would recommend starting with a smaller reflector telescope that is 5-8" of aperture and uses an alt azimuth mount to just gauge who's curiosity is piqued through its use.  If one or more members of the family get hooked, then you can really start thinking about those long term solutions, where the initial cost is amortized over years and decades of enjoyment.

 

 

 

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mPEH7XNh.jpg


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#14 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 25 February 2020 - 08:17 PM

vtornado has covered the possible choices and their respective pros and cons quite well. 

I'll add that, although I enjoy binocular observing and rich-field telescope observing with my small, fast refractors from dark sites very much, I would definitely choose a much larger aperture, if I could only have one telescope.

 

Perhaps the 8" Orion SkyQuest XT8i IntelliScope Dob would fit the bill in your case.

 

https://www.telescop...pe/p/102012.uts



#15 treadmarks

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Posted 25 February 2020 - 08:30 PM

People have made a lot of good points here and I will try not to repeat them. I will just cast my vote for the Nexstar Evolution mount because it covers all the bases, in my view. You can use it manually, you have go-to for when you can't find something, and you have powered tracking capability so that things stay in the field of view.

 

Do not underestimate that last point: when you are magnifying at 200X, you are magnifying the Earth's rotation by 200X. Things move out of the eyepiece quickly. My experience is that children typically have a hard time finding things in the eyepiece, tracking could save you a big headache.



#16 usurpah

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Posted 25 February 2020 - 10:45 PM

Wow!  A lot to digest today.  Thank you to all that replied.  There were some similar comments, so I just quoted one of those points.  Some comments and questions inline below.    

 

 

It's too bad that Orion discontinued the XT6i.  The 6" dob format is small enough that the eyepiece position would often be convenient for younger kids, like yours.  The push-to system works well, and is quick to align.  But, there are no clutches to damage if young hands want to grab and swing the scope.  The Intelliscope feature can just be ignored if the kids just want to "point and shoot".

 

You could move up to the still-available XT8i, but that will require packing a stool for the kids, I think.

It might be a bit much for the kids to use hands-on at their current ages.

Newtonian primary collimation is usually quick and can be tweaked in the field, FWIW.

 

Another option might be to start with an AWB OneSky scope.  I don't think that it comes with a 1/4" 20 fitting below the table-top ground board, but you could rig up one, I suppose.  It's compact size, ease of use, and f/5 bright images would make it fun for the kids.  It should be possible to make a storage case do double-duty as a platform for the table top mini-dob mount.

 

The OneSky would be a modest cost, modest size investment for now, and one that wouldn't need much babying.  A bigger, badder scope could wait for a few years down the line, IMO.

 

The AWB OneSky wasn't on my list - I wasn't really aware of the program or the whole "extending" dob format.  That's pretty great.  I read about 150 pages of the OneSky thread here and there's definitely a following for this scope.  The size, ability to travel/pack, extension and format are all positives.  I worry a bit about the comments on building a "tube" for the extension are and some of the comments about it not being able to handle heavier eyepieces. 

 

The Orion XT dobs were under consideration here.  I looked a lot at the XT8i, but I agree that it may be just a bit too much to handle here.  

 

Welcome to CN.  I have 2 grandsons, also 8 and 6.  They have viewed through my 8" Dob when visiting.  About a year ago I bought them a pair of binoculars.  Not expensive.  I'm sure they never use them for stargazing.  The only time they show any interest is when I am around.  Regardless, I think this is the first step.  Get a decent pair of binos.  Let them start learning what is what in the night sky.  Where are the easily visible planets?  WHere are the major constellations like Orion?  How about the Pleiades star cluster?  These and more are easily viewed with binos.  Where is the north star and why is it always in the same spot?  Next would be astronomy books.  I have a bunch but I'm sure other folks here could direct you to some which are geared towards young astronomers.  They will see much more when you are out camping.  Have fun.

 

I do have some binoculars and we have been doing this a bit.  My challenge here is that you have different sized heads/eye spacing, challenges in getting the optics correct, different focus challenges, and a real difficulty in sharing an experience of finding something.  I agree that it's a great conversation starter and that's where we've started.

 

 

https://www.bhphotov..._caAiCaEALw_wcB

 

The "Evolution" mount may also be operated manually.  

 

Note that the 6" Schmidt has a rather large secondary-obstruction, however.  I would suggest the 8" variant, but its focal-length is greater than that of my 5" f/15  Maksutov.

 

The Evolution 6 was on my list, as was the NexStar 6SE and 8SE.  I did see that the Evolution can be operated manually, but I don't think that's possible on the NexStar.   The Evolution 6 (or 8) look pretty incredible.  I didn't understand your last comment - what's a secondary obstruction?  Also, why wouldn't you recommend the 8"?

 

On the manual aspect then a 6" Skywatcher dobsonian which is f/8 so fairly easy on eyepieces.

A dobsonian has the problem that everyone has to learn to use it. If one doesn't click with one then they get left out.

 

In the goto line a Skywatcher AZ Gti and a 72ED or maybe an 80ED - no bigger.

Goto's need power and the AZ Gti runs sort of best with Skysafari on an Android tablet.

So you need to be able to recharge a tablet and a small Lithium battery for the mount when not at home.

 

Will say don't get bothered by aperture overly. I used 60mm and 72mm 90% of the time with the occasional jump to 102mm the rest. I have nothing over 102mm.

 

Unfortunately the 102 is just too big for the AZ Gti mount I have.

 

It will be little use getting a sort of big but more specialised scope, keep it to a simple, relatively small, all round scope. Will say never found a kid yet that hasn't had a problem with a goto. The alignment needs learning and I suppose setting up the mount is the troublesome part for them.

What did you mean by "if one doesn't click with one then they get left out"?

 

 

GoTo or even push to may be out if you don’t have a lot of open sky . Will you need to move the scope around the yard to dodge trees? Guess what happens to your GoTo alignment when you pick a scope up and move it?

Portability might also be key. If you are going to be tree dodging, it is really helpful if you can pick up the whole scope at once to move it.

A 6” F5 newt on a manual alt az comes to mind. Portable, decent light grasp and good wide field abilities to help locate targets without GoTo. Also adjustable height, so you can set it lower to help the kids, although they might still need a step stool.

For moon and planets, a 5” Mak would work well and be very portable. Could even get a CG4 Mount with tracking for extended viewing at high power. Narrow view though so hunting down DSO is tricky.

A 4” Apo is portable, good on planets and has good wide field capabilities. Expensive though but can be had within your budget. Not a lot of light grasp for DSO. Still can do justice to bright DSO from Bortle 6 skies.

The 6” Evo is nice and can be used manually or GoTo. But from what I have heard, the manual operation is really more of a fail safe in case your battery dies. It isn’t really optimal for using manually. It is really designed for GoTo.

Smartphone pics of the Moon and planets works ok. DSO are too dim. For viewing DSO on a smartphone you are looking at EAA. I have a flip diagonal, Mallincam and WiFi adapter on my Apo. So I can view things visually or I can flip to the camera and stream the image to my phone. Comes in handy but requires a tracking mount. Or night vision, which would probably exceed your budget.

Scott

 

Excellent points.  I'm sure we'll have to move around the yard a bit.  

 

I really enjoy my Nexstar 8. Setup is simple: level the tripod, level the OTA and point it North, then push AutoAlign. If you partner with software like Stellarium and turn on the Alt/Az grid, finding targets in your cone of view should be easy. I don't believe kids today are intimidated by push button technology. In fact, they would probably enjoy observing a half dozen objects more than learning the sky and star hopping to find one or two. The new SE versions will take up about 1/4 of a pickup bed with all the accessories. Have fun in your search and....Enjoy

 

Good point, I wasn't thinking they would be intimidated by technology, quite the opposite.  I was more worried that the technology wasn't keeping up with how they're used to interacting with it.  GoTos that can be moved manually but then can still track back to an object, for example.  Thanks for the info.

 

A few disconnected thoughts: 

I've never owned an SCT (like those from Celestron, Meade), but at outreach events I've attended with my club they're popular and effective - tracking and goto seem especially helpful when there are several people observing, and it breaks down into a more convenient size than a reflector of a similar aperture (at ~3x the cost or thereabouts). An SCT on a computerized mount probably fits the bill of being travel capable, limited fiddling (after initial setup / alignment), and providing bright impressive views better than other scope designs. 

 

I have an 8" Dobsonian reflector and with a bit of Tetris it fits in the trunk of a compact SUV (Nissan Rogue) along with all our gear for camping trips / vacations with my family of four (kids ages 2 and 4). An 8" Dobsonian is at about the limit of what I'd want to carry any distance in one piece (to dodge trees etc). For some people it could be above that limit.

 

I enjoy using a manual scope. For many targets, like the moon and planets, and DSO that are visible to the naked eye or near bright stars, goto doesn't make finding the target much easier. A tracking mount would come in handy for high power observing, but nudging the tube / turning slow-motion cables slips into the background for me. For more challenging targets, using a manual scope slows me down and encourages me to spend time with the target that took some time to find, in some cases. If I could move on to the next target with the press of a button, I'd probably do so sooner, and miss out on things that I could see with more contemplation. This is of course just me, I can certainly see how a more disciplined observer, or someone with more specific goals would prefer goto.

 

I was at an outreach event at a state park one evening and I was pleasantly surprised when a short line formed behind my inexpensive 4" Meade Infinity refractor, despite being in the company of many much larger and more capable telescopes. This was 100% because the sun had not yet set and we were looking at a building on a hill a mile or so away. Point being, on camping trips with the kids, it's worth considering terrestrial observation. I'd never claim that a cheap, short focal length refractor an ideal terrestrial scope, but for scanning distant ridges, tracking aircraft, or following reasonably slow moving wildlife, they're enjoyable. (a side note, the mount on the Meade Infinity 102 is adequate if you're charitable in your definitions, but the weakest link of the package. The same holds, as I understand it, for other inexpensive refractor/mount packages.)

 

Seeing different telescope setups firsthand might help you figure out what most appeals to you, to gauge your kids' interest. It looks like the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh has frequent events that are open to the public. Good luck!

 

Thanks for all of this info.  We pack the back of an F150 short bed truck pretty well, but I'm sure I could make room along the top of the bed across the back.  I think the 8" is just a bit too unwieldy for us at this time.  Thanks for the info on your experiences.  You're right, the AAA of Pittsburgh does have events, we're going to make the next one.

 



#17 usurpah

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Posted 25 February 2020 - 10:46 PM

For a starter scope I like these, none of these is a toy, but each has strong and weak points.

I have each of the these scopes and use them based upon where I am going, weather, time I have

object I want to watch etc.

 

AWB one sky /Zhummel 130 table top.

Plus

good aperture,

very portable, and car stowable

wide field

You can make a push to system for $50.00.

Cheap $300 for a usable setup.

 

Minus

f5 has coma

will require frequent collimation for high power. 

hard on eyepieces.

Need something to put the scope on, plastic bucket, small table etc.

 

6 or 8 inch dob.

Plusses

Will give the best views

Easyer on eyepieces than f5 dob.

home-made or store bought push-to available.

 

Minus

Much larger than a table top dob

May not fit in a car that is packed with wife, boys, luggage, and camping equipment.

May be too big for tree dodging, or carrying when at a remote site.

Requires a short cool down.

Medium field of view.

Medium cost $500 for a useable setup.

 

80/100mm refractor short refractor

Plusses

No collimation.

Wide field.

No cool down.

Effiecient.  For  a given aperture, delivers the most light to the eyepiece.

 

Minuses

To mount a 100mm requires a good, not light ,kind of expensive mount.

80's are easier to mount.

Limited aperture.

An achro will have purple glow on bright objects, but cheap $300

If ED price goes up fast. $1000?

 

A long achro refractor gives better color correction at the expense of a wide field and easy mounting

requirements.

 

 

SCT/MCT

Plusses.

Smallest scope for the aperture.

Easy to put on a tracking mount.

Infrequent collimation.

 

Minuses.

Cheap tracking mounts can't be used manually.

Narrow field of view.

Thermal and dew issues to mitigate.

Expensive $750 for entry level

 sub 5 inch don't deliver a lot of light.

 

One positive about a tracking mount not mentioned is that someone can find the object, and others can

share, the object will not constantly be drifting out of the field of view.

 

When you take your scope camping that brings up a set of questions.

1) how much space is left in the car when packed up?

2)) how far from your campsite will you be observing from?  Want to carry a dob 1/2 mile?

3) power issues for tracking mounts, dew heater.

 

Thank you!  Great breakdown.  To answer your questions 1) Enough space is available.  It's all about prioritization.  2) Nothing that far, we're usually pretty close to the car.  Less than 100 yards.  3) Yup, power.  I see everything from people using car/motorcycle batteries in some situations, then you have some of these SCTs that have just 6 AA batteries?  I don't get it.  But avoiding all that initially sounds like more and more of a good plan for my situation.

 

 

I'm personally a big fan of goto, but let me add another related point of caution here...

When I'm observing on my back deck, pretty much the entire western half of the sky is obscured behind my house. If I try to use one of the "tour of the night sky" functions or even just randomly try objects in the database, odds are close to 50/50 that any given object will be unviewable. Motors start turning, scope starts slewing, slowly turning and rotating to face a brick wall, keeps turning, keeps turning, looks like it might clear the wall, and then stops ... almost clear of the wall but still pointing at bricks.

It's a little bit frustrating for me, as a grown-up, when that happens. I imagine it would be significantly more frustrating for a child, especially if it happens for 3 or 4 targets in a row.

Of course nobody says you have to use the sky tour, or select objects randomly with the controller. In fact you can easily plan an entire observing list to target only the slice of sky available to you, but I'm just pointing out a potential area of frustration with kids.

Sent from my LM-G820 using Tapatalk

 

This would happen here as well.  Thanks!

 

 

vtornado has covered the possible choices and their respective pros and cons quite well. 

I'll add that, although I enjoy binocular observing and rich-field telescope observing with my small, fast refractors from dark sites very much, I would definitely choose a much larger aperture, if I could only have one telescope.

 

Perhaps the 8" Orion SkyQuest XT8i IntelliScope Dob would fit the bill in your case.

 

https://www.telescop...pe/p/102012.uts

I think it's pretty close.  I feel it's just a bit TOO much.  I agree with the first post, that if there was a 6" version of this, it might be a really good fit.

 

People have made a lot of good points here and I will try not to repeat them. I will just cast my vote for the Nexstar Evolution mount because it covers all the bases, in my view. You can use it manually, you have go-to for when you can't find something, and you have powered tracking capability so that things stay in the field of view.

 

Do not underestimate that last point: when you are magnifying at 200X, you are magnifying the Earth's rotation by 200X. Things move out of the eyepiece quickly. My experience is that children typically have a hard time finding things in the eyepiece, tracking could save you a big headache.

 

Excellent point, treadmarks.   Your point on tracking is right on and the one part of a computerized system that's really intriguing to bring forward into this purchase.

 

Well, you've all given me a lot to think about.  Since this is so early in our journey, I'm leaning towards a 6" dob, maybe the OneSky or similar that doesn't expand.  Not too large, somewhat portable, start with something manageable in price, see where it takes us.  Get to know it a bit and then see if it makes sense to upgrade eyepieces or similar.



#18 Anony

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 12:56 AM

GoTo or even push to may be out if you don’t have a lot of open sky . Will you need to move the scope around the yard to dodge trees? Guess what happens to your GoTo alignment when you pick a scope up and move it?
 

 

 

I'm hardly one to recommend a scope, since I'm a beginner myself with limited experience. But when I read this I wondered if one of the Starsense explorer scopes might make sense for the OP?

 

Push to via phone app, so it's sort of inbetween goto and star hopping... and he can always just ignore the app if he wants to wing it. Should also be moveable, as it doesn't rely on typical alignment.

 

The DX130 should (in theory) be similar to the Onesky, just on a mount with the app ability. But it'd be $200 extra for that mount/app. Not sure if there are any reviews yet on them or how the 4" refractor version compares, however, so no clue if that mount is decent or a piece of junk.


Edited by Anony, 26 February 2020 - 01:00 AM.


#19 Protheus

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 01:13 AM

Well, you've all given me a lot to think about. Since this is so early in our journey, I'm leaning towards a 6" dob, maybe the OneSky or similar that doesn't expand. Not too large, somewhat portable, start with something manageable in price, see where it takes us. Get to know it a bit and then see if it makes sense to upgrade eyepieces or similar.


There's a lot to line about a 6" dob. It's just large enough to start getting interesting views of certain deep sky stuff that smaller scopes won't handle well. At f/8, they tend to do really well with less expensive eyepieces, and they're light enough to move, with little setup required.

I'd also say that the view through a 6" telescope really does offer you the authentic experience of Amateur astronomy. What I mean is, if you like the 6" scope, you'll love an 8, 10, or 12" instrument. If you don't like the 6" one, you probably won't be all that impressed with the others either. As others have said, there are limitations of physics at play here, and though more aperture tends to improve things, it doesn't work miracles.

Chris
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#20 MalVeauX

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 08:34 AM

Heya,

 

Sounds like you want something smaller than a big 8" newtonian, but portable enough to throw in a truck bed, go camping, and have parts for the kids to manipulate to control things to have fun and have a part in it and not just electronics and drives that require batteries out in the country, if I read everything right. If you're wanting to use a scope on rough terrain, you'll want a tripod base with legs, not some dob-base, especially with kids (my opinion only).

 

For viewing subject matter, with kids, I generally stick to clearly impressive objects like planets and the moon and solar (with suitable filters). Immediately being able to recognize that a bright object is not just a star and see unique features of a planetary disc is instant satisfaction that you're seeing a planet, and not just a colorful point of light, so there's less imagination and required thought experiment to enjoy what you're looking at, which is important for new observers and kids in general, that truly need instant gratification. A young child can clearly see and exclaim that they see bands on Jupiter, rings around Saturn, or describe the shape of Venus or the color of Mars. Other than that, I stick to very bright and very big DSO's like open clusters, globular clusters and bright nebula. We also of course look at constellations as kids are excellent and seeing patterns and describing it, with their Mark I eyeballs, but with a suitable wide field instrument (such as binoculars or a short fast refractor) these constellations take on new form when you can see fainter stars and go deeper on what else is around them and see them brighter to easily identify them. But really, planets are where you can flex your muscles with a scope with some aperture, any age can appreciate seeing Jupiter or Saturn in the flesh.

 

Here's some options I'd explore that will not be outgrown.

 

SkyTee2 mount (handles 2 scopes so you can double up and have two viewers at once) with two saddles.

Or maybe an iOptron AZ Pro mount if you do want full mechanized GoTo and dual saddle for two scopes.

 

And then explore portable aperture scopes like:

 

150mm F6 Newtonian

150mm F10 SCT

150mm F12 Classic Cassegrain

150mm F12 Maksutov

127mm Maksutov

102mm F7 ED Frac

102mm F11 ED Frac

80mm 20x Binoculars

 

Start 'em young! waytogo.gif The kids have way more fun when they get to do it and touch it and control it and just explore (doesn't matter if its manual or motorized as long as they can control it).

 

39864477391_837d819bbe_c.jpg

 

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48696253613_85c5fa41e4_c.jpg

 

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32092445848_77368e7aae_c.jpg

 

36676470016_9a65b3feb0_c.jpg

 

48609878257_0656009a4d_c.jpg

 

Very best,


Edited by MalVeauX, 26 February 2020 - 12:22 PM.

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#21 JOEinCO

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 08:49 AM

I'm a big fan of a Nextsar 6SE with an f/6.3 Reducer/Corrector. Basically gives you two scopes in one (a 1000mm focal length 6"er, and a 1500mm focal length 6"er). It also allows you to keep to a simple set of quality 1.25" eyepieces as you start. 

 

And while you can't manually slew the scope and point it across the sky to something new, you can most certainly use it manually to starhop. I liked very much what you said early on about "learning" the sky with your family. Once you get it aligned, you just use the 4 direction keys to move across your star chart (there are some VERY fast alignments possible when you are just going to hop visually, but I won't confuse you with details now). 

 

In addition, every time you stop to consult your chart or let someone else look, the scope just keeps on tracking. Learning to starhop and being able to keep your place in a field of view that looks very much like other fields of view when you are starting out is a juggled race against time with a Dob. The "Dob-this" and "Dob-that" guys never mention this (and yes, I have a Dob in my stable along with an SE mount). Having your telescope stay at the point in the sky where you last had it is a HUGE help.

 

I think you'll find that once you get into observing, you pick an area of the sky and scrutinize targets there. Jumping from West to East to Northwest to South is much more likely when you first begin and you want to sop up all the showpieces. Being able to zip from one side of the sky to another is an overrated feature.

 

Lots of little reasons the 6SE gets my vote again and again, too. A $30 battery from Amazon you can mount on board the mount will run it ALL night. A medium sized duffle bag and an old blanket is perfectly adequate transport protection if you don't throw it around. Collimation is pretty darn easy, and it holds it very well (again, if you don't throw it around). Solar filters are cheap. 

 

...Joe



#22 Richie2shoes

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 08:53 AM

Welcome!  You've gotten a lot of good advice.  I'm a member of the Pittsburgh amateur astronomers group and we have numerous events through the year.  Our first public outreach will be at our Wagman Observatory by Tarentum on April 3rd & 4th and we'll have one at our Mingo Creek Observatory on April  24th & 25th

 

I'm in the south hills area of Pittsburgh and own the AWB Onesky.  Feel free to PM me if I can be of any help.


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#23 JOEinCO

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 08:54 AM

And.... As Marty just showed in his pictures (I knew he was going to find this thread! smile.gif Those are the most famous child astronomers on the interweb!), you can take the C6 off the SE mount in about 3 seconds, and use it with no additional purchases on something super-simple like an Explore Scientific Twilight I mount because it already has a Vixen-style dovetail rail.


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#24 rhetfield

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 09:37 AM

"The AWB OneSky wasn't on my list - I wasn't really aware of the program or the whole "extending" dob format.  That's pretty great.  I read about 150 pages of the OneSky thread here and there's definitely a following for this scope.  The size, ability to travel/pack, extension and format are all positives.  I worry a bit about the comments on building a "tube" for the extension are and some of the comments about it not being able to handle heavier eyepieces."

 

I wouldn't worry about building the tube for the extension.  That is easy enough that you might even be able to outsource it to one of the kids.  I got the recommended craft foam sheet from Michaels, cut 1/2" off the long side, glued it together with superglue, and taped it on with electrical tape.

 

On the heavy eyepieces, I occasionally use my celestron x-cel 5mm together with my x-cel barlow.  That is about as long/heavy as one gets with 1.25" eyepieces.  The OneSky does manage to handle that.

 

Remember that it is only $200 and really is about as good as it gets for a camping scope.  The similarly sized SCT's that one can get are much heavier in addition to much more expensive.  Same thing with GoTo.  Something to keep in mind when camping.

 

Another thing to keep in mind when camping is that if a newt gets dirty or wet, it can conceivably be field cleaned with care and used right away.  An SCT, refractor, or GoTo mount would need professional cleaning (quite possibly by the manufacturer).


Edited by rhetfield, 26 February 2020 - 11:54 AM.

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#25 JohnnyBGood

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 10:43 AM

I have a 4 year old and an 8 year old and have been down this path for a few years now. Every kid is different and every parent is different so what works for me may or may not work for you.

 

For me I've had the best results by starting out naked-eye observing from birth. Pointing out things in the the sky that were easy to see and letting them know what they were called. "That bright star is called Sirius." When #2 son was two years old he loved to point to a bright object in the sky and (correctly) inform his mom that it was "Doopter" and it was a planet, not a star. Pointing out constellations that actually look like something (Orion, Leo, Scorpio/Scorpius for purists) at a little older age, explaining what the Pleides were, etc.

 

Having their own telescopes helps, too. At about 5 I bought #1 son his own cheap telescope (a 50mm Tasco for $10) as something expendable to play with and to see if he would take care of it. Made some little tweaks and improvements to it, added a 40mm MA eyepiece to make it basically like have of a 15x50 binocular so it was easier to find things. He used it to look at the moon with me now and then and proudly showed his grandmother Jupiter's moons and Mars with it. He took good care of it so I got him an upgrade a couple years later: a short-tube 70mm scope, a Venture RX-280 to be precise, similar to the Orion and Celestron 70mm Travel Scopes. Those scopes (along with the Meade Adventure Scope 60) come with convenient carrying bags/backpacks that are useful for transport and to make sure everything stays together (and dust free!) while in storage in the kids' closets. Those scopes probably need minor eyepiece upgrades and may need different diagonals. "Correct image" Amici prisms win the day when it comes to kids; mine don't like upside-down or mirror images. I also had good results with the cheap "aspheric" 23mm-10mm-4mm sets on eBay for $15-20. Inexpensive, easy to set up, easy to use, expendable: my criteria for kids' scopes. Binoculars are things they haven't been interested in at all. Trying to get them to use them results in looks like I'm trying to substitute bran flakes for the chocolate frosted sugar bombs they would rather eat for breakfast. They don't want substitutes, they want the real thing! A telescope that looks like a telescope! To be fair, I hardly ever use my binoculars so they may be picking up on my bias.

 

Having his own scope allows him to explore on his own and gives him something to do while he's waiting for me to find something to look at in my bigger scope. Standing around waiting with nothing to do seems to be physically painful for kids. The are NOT going to do nothing for very long, especially when the reward is a brief look at a small fuzzy thing you can barely see. That's going to be a lot less exciting that whatever dinosaur fighting game they would be playing on their tablets otherwise. A small scope with correct image optics is also useful during the day (after some careful explanation about keeping the sun behind you and demonstrating how quickly leaves burn with a telescope (which can be an either illustrative or dangerous thing to point out depending on your child's inherent mischief level) . We've carried his little scope to the top of Stone Mountain a few times and enjoyed setting it up and looking at the scenery far away on the ground. Good luck doing that with an 8" Dob. If you like going camping and on road trips a small scope for the kids is very versatile and can be a lot of fun for everyone.

 

Managing *your* expectations is a big deal, too. It's hard to hold kids' interest for long, and they are not going to want to come out all that frequently--and it may take bribing to get them to do so. But when you do get them out, it helps to talk about what you're going to be looking for and explaining why it's cool and interesting. The view is going to be lame compared to Hubble images, so you have to provide the answer to "so what". #2 son asks to look at the moon fairly often, so I of course oblige. He looks for about 1.5 seconds then is done and ready to go in. I take what I can get.

 

To that end a book like Turn Left at Orion is helpful. Shows you how to find a lot of things and has lots of interesting info about them. There's also a night-by-night "moon tour" that is fun to go through. It walks you through a bunch of interesting features visible each night. #1 son has enjoyed doing that with me a few times. Gives him a challenge: see if you can find this crater with your scope, then come look at it in mine and compare. Makes it more interactive and interesting for him.

 

Most recently I tried a new approach that has worked out well so far. I picked up a cheap green laser and mounted it to my 8" SCT. I find something interesting to see that I can find quickly (e.g. nearly anything in TLAO), engage the tracking motor, and light up the target with the laser. A green laser makes an easily visible (from nearby) line that starts at the scope and ends at the target. Kiddo just has to find and follow the beam, put his red dot on the end of the green line, then look though his scope and voila! Andromeda galaxy! Double cluster! Must faster than trying to walk him through how to find things or trying to find them for him and then dealing with the fact that he bumped his scope and we have to start over. While he's looking at one object I'm finding the next while we talk about how amazing it is that we can see for ourselves whatever it is that he's looking at. If he has problems I can also help him knowing my scope is happily ticking away following the target (mine's not GOTO but has a clock drive). Incidentally, the green laser method also works really well with my father who also tend to take a long time to find things to look at since he doesn't have nearly the practice I do. He's got a lot more interest and patience than the kids do, though ; )


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