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Beginners journey via Cloudy Nights. A composite of your collective recommendations and my desires and quirks.

beginner equipment dob reflector outreach
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#1 xanavi



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Posted 06 July 2020 - 08:28 PM

Hello all, my name is William. My first post here or anywhere relating to astronomy.


One day a few months ago I realized that I would have the summer free and the ability to spend a little. I have an 8 year old daughter and so we had to figure out what to do, camping I thought. Excitement building, then I realized I might have a lack of activities.


Later on that week, I was watching something about the Voyager probe, and OMG IT HIT ME, I remember using someones telescope when I was a kid to look at the moon for a few hours and that feeling of being almost in orbit WOW. So it's on, I'm getting a telescope. After all this my feeling is that I hope I can show my daughter that wonder I had when I was a kid looking through some unknown size and model telescope.


After much deliberation and cloudynights research I made my mind up what I was going to get, an AR127 refractor. I starting really looking into what results I was likely to get, and the cost of the telescope and associated mount, I did not want shaking. Then somehow I decided I did want that project like nature and value of a dobsonian reflector since living in a Milwaukee, WI apartment with no chance of casual observation meant it was always going to be a trip with setup anyways. On and on down the aperture rabbit hole I went, weighing the cost versus weight of solid vs truss in the 8-12 inch range. The Apertura AD8 or 10 was almost a done deal, if it were in stock. I really wanted 12"....


I look to used, craigslist nothing but small stuff, hop on to facebook marketplace.... HOLY MOLY What is this I see??!?!?!?!? blush.gif  I MUST HAVE IT!!!!!!  This is what I went out and bought and what came after to complement it.


$750 - USED DEAL 1  - Explore Scientific 12" Truss Tube Dobsonian, included Telrad, Counterweight kit, and flocked secondary cage.

$150 - USED DEAL 2 - HoTech 2/1" Laser Dot Collimator & Zhumell 1.25" O-III/UHC/Skyglow/Variable Polarizer filters

$100 - Explore Scientific Lithium Powerbank 12v 99.6Wh (Might have the future ability to replace 18650 cells inside?)

$080 - Explore Scientific 10/12" Truss Tube Shroud (Still waiting for shipment/response from ES, it was left out original order)

$015 - Explore Scientific Astro R-Lite Variable Red Light

$049 - 2" Riser & Dew Shield+Mirror for Telrad

$035 - Sun Catcher Variable Large Aperture Solar Filter 7-12" (Still thinking about how to securely mount this)

$390 - Baader Hyperion Zoom Mark IV -w- 2.25x Hyperion Barlow

$1,570 - TOTAL


The hotech was used to the best of my ability, I made the secondary appear round in eyepiece hole, lined laser to center of secondary, lined laser to center of primary, and then centered it in the return hole at the eyepiece. There is some play in my focuser so Im not sure if I should collimate while having the tension knob a bit tight, this makes the slop go away, is this normal?

I plan to use chart software on my Android phone, or perhaps an old fire tablet with some red filter wrap on it, in conjunction with the Telrad. I don't know what to do about a finder scope or have the desire to spend any more on one right now, especially as I am mostly targeting planets and the moon to start. Will get an inside/outside thermometer to know when the mirror is ready and to save pack power.


We have a reservation to camp at the darkest spot I can muster for now, its like a yellow green on the map. July 12&13, as our first outing and learning exercise.


I am still wondering why I spent $1500 on a telescope during a pandemic but at the same time, life is short and I can't wait to see what it's like to use. I have been inspired by Dobson and others and want to spark that feeling in people that space is beautiful and attainable. Perhaps in the future I will become more outgoing and really kick up outreach a notch as time goes on. I hope so, it was part of my reasoning for going big.


At this point I can't remember clearly what dark skies are like and my kid has never seen them or used a telescope at all. Thanks in advance to all your advice over the years and I look forward to our future conversations, and suggestions are always welcome.

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Edited by xanavi, 06 July 2020 - 10:22 PM.


#2 kfiscus


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Posted 06 July 2020 - 08:39 PM

Welcome!  Unlike most beginners, you have quality gear.  You deal was a good one.  Do you know how to align your Telrad?  You can get some of the learning curve done under the nearly full moon and try out your collimation and finder alignments before a trip to the dark.  You really want to get some of the mistakes done now (we've all done them) without burning premium observing time.

Edited by kfiscus, 06 July 2020 - 08:42 PM.


#3 havasman


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Posted 06 July 2020 - 09:02 PM

Welcome indeed!


Remember, if you're havin' fun you're doin' it right! But I expect you know that.


#4 rk2k2



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Posted 06 July 2020 - 09:03 PM

Welcome William!  That was my oldest brothers name (passed 2 years ago), which I mention BECAUSE ...


I never knew Bill was ever into astronomy other than he had bought some 'telescope' back in the late 80's/ early 90's, a Parks 16" Why?  He said because he 'got a deal he couldn't pass up'- didn't matter he never had anything to do with astronomy!  Never knew anything about it other than it was HEAVY.  After his passing I looked it up because his daughter asked about it, and today's 16" cost is $20K.


All of which I mention is because all 3 of his kids (now in their 30's) have the fondest of memories growing up with their dad spending hours upon hours observing through that telescope!  So you may question your expenditure now, but it very may well be one of the wisest decisions you've ever made smile.gif


With that I say I hope you and your daughter also develop 'fond memories' spending special time with your telescope!





#5 MalVeauX



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Posted 06 July 2020 - 09:13 PM

Excellent choice, that's a life-time scope, all metal. Can't go wrong. Enjoy!


Very best,


#6 wky46



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Posted 06 July 2020 - 09:16 PM

Any hobby costs money

Golf, fishing, hunting, train sets, whatever.....

$1500 is kind of entry level


Life IS short

Enjoy y’alls new scope!


#7 sunnyday


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Posted 06 July 2020 - 09:31 PM

wellcome to CN , have fun with your daughter, who knows what seeing the stars can awaken in her.

a future astronaut or whatever.


#8 bjulihn


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Posted 06 July 2020 - 09:35 PM

Hi William;


Some good tips already posted here like making sure your Telrad is aligned to the main scope. You don't necessarily need a finder if your telrad is set up and you a low power eyepiece to give you a wide field of view to find objects with. I think that Baader zoom eyepiece goes to out to 24mm which should give you a magnification about 62X magnification. That is really a medium power for your scope. It would be nice if you had an eyepiece with a little longer focal length to give you a lower magnification and wider field of view while you are hunting targets. Not a crisis, but nice when you are star hopping. Much less of an issue when after the moon and planets.


My next tip/question for you is do you have any knowledge of the brightest stars or major constellations. Can you recognize Cygnus the Swan, the Big Dipper, or Cassiopeia. Learning a few bright stars and constellations will really help you orient yourself to the sky a bit. The book that really helped me quickly and easily recognize constellations and bright stars is called "Nightwatch" by Terence Dickenson. His technique of using your hands at arms length to roughly measure how far away a star was from another enabled me to confidently figure out a lot of constellations in a single night.


This time of year just after dark, Cygnus will be rising in the east and the Big Dipper will be nearly overhead to the North. Cassiopeia looks like a giant "W" in the Northwest with the bottom of one of its "Vees" point toward the Andromeda galaxy rising in the east. Jupiter and Saturn should be due South of you. Seeing the rings of Saturn in a borrowed telescope when I was in high school is what hooked me into this hobby fifty years ago.


Best wishes in this adventure!




#9 bjulihn


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Posted 06 July 2020 - 09:37 PM

Correction: Cassiopeia will be in the Northeast!


#10 wky46



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Posted 06 July 2020 - 10:01 PM

Those fans can suck the batteries dry pretty quick.

I point a small fan at the bottom of the mirror box right after I set up my scope (*tilted ~30 deg.)

I keep the bottom of the shroud rolled up a foot or so, then down when I’m ready to observe.


I’ll plug in the mirror fans only for a few minutes before observing to get rid of any boundary layer air

Seems like it works

Don’t know if it’s the best way to cool the mirror but it’s sure saving on batteries, ha!

Edited by wky46, 06 July 2020 - 10:21 PM.


#11 xanavi



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Posted 06 July 2020 - 11:02 PM

Thank you to everyone for your well wishes and time spent.


Not much knowledge about the night sky but I do know Polaris and the dippers! :bawling:  Planning on spending the next week all over Youtube and the internet getting acquainted. The book idea is saved in bookmarks.


I will try my best to align the telrad with an object in the distance like I have seen in finderscope videos. I'll have time during the day for sure. If the telrad wasn't included I might have tried to go fancy with an illuminated finderscope but now that I have it, the ability to dim so good, referenced in charts and software makes it a keeper. I want to put it one spot up on the cage, and scope in the middle, for a 1-2-3 approach eventually, budget is locked until I see more of the fall/winter outlook. This purchase is a large one for me.


The fans I know are using an amp which is ridiculous, but I have experience with computers and fan control. I may splice a turn knob controller in, or replace the fans with some 80mm noctuas and use pc connectors /y adapter/speed knob as well, the thermometers will teach me a bit about the time curve and conditions. I will have the ability to use car power, but don't want to lean on a car battery too hard while camping. I'll be hammering that pack and it's typical for those products to contain standard lithium cells I can swap out potentially.


A 2" wide view would be a dream come true but I want to wait, really want to avoid reselling gear. I already have an extra Hotech now through a mistake when ordering. Drop ship and all that. Planning to list that when my account will allow it. I have my eye on maybe the ES 68' 30/40mm from memory, I spent about 2 weeks going back and forth and waxing about cost and quality on everything.


My big takeaway from this ES 12" Truss is that it can fit on 2/3 of a backseat area in my wagon, strapped in like a baby. The mirror box is rather like a bag of rock salt with handles. I can assemble it in like 10 minutes or less, easier to take down. Collimation seems easy as pie with the rod system and hotech unless I'm missing something. Its smooth, I can adjust balance, the current build of these seems really nice and solid, more like version 4/5 compared to the early reviews I have seen.


I want to take it out to try in a park before camping perhaps but in the city I'm not keen with having this thing setup and my kid around, where I might have to defend both in a moving situation. Seems odd but I've been around the block and it happens and bothers me. Might have to just spend two whole nights going nuts camping. Probably going to stare at the moon all night, jupiter/saturn if I can.


#12 StarHugger


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Posted 06 July 2020 - 11:32 PM

My daughter has been an awesome observing partner for many years, best of luck all round and welcome to the forums.

#13 rhetfield


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Posted 07 July 2020 - 06:41 AM

I would suggest learning how to star collimate.

Also get a good phone/tablet app like sky safari to know what objects are around.

If you do not have a push-to system, add degree circles to the scope to help with finding objects.

#14 bjulihn


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Posted 07 July 2020 - 01:38 PM

Hey William;


I started with a 10" coulter dob as my first scope with a red dot finder like yours. It was a great combination. If you have a low power eyepiece, that should be all you need. The main value of a finder scope is mostly that is a very low power(usually 5-10X) and has a wide field of view. But if you decide at some point to go for a finder, be aware that there are a lot of super cheap finders that you almost can't see anything at all through. You don't have spend a ton of money for a finder, but the super cheap ones are pretty much worthless.


One other thought, did you get any filters other than the solar filter? The moon in a 12" scope is like staring into a searchlight!!! And color filters can bring out subtle details in planets that are not evident without them. There are lots of inexpensive filter kits out there. A polarizing filter is often helpful for viewing the moon. You will have plenty to learn about as you go, and filters are not critical. But you might want to have your sunglasses available when you try looking at the moon in that lightbucket of your!


Have fun!



#15 psychwolf


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Posted 07 July 2020 - 02:23 PM

Hey and welcome. I'm also from Milwaukee, in Riverwest, so I do often set up in the backyard to do DSO imaging and it's possible. This weekend I got in some subs on the Elephant Trunk, which is more of an imaging target under light pollution, while listening to the warzone of fireworks out there.


That is some nice gear - I've never used a dob so I wish I was more of an expert to help with it, but I'm in roughly the same boat just starting in a field where the learning curve gets steep fast. Don't feel too bad about just getting into the hobby with initial expense. The equipment as long as it is taken care of, lasts a lifetime and retains value - so it's less variable than other investments these days. I also did the same and recently bought an APO and upgraded to a Go To rig in a pandemic, as my wife reminds me...


I could recommend a few of my favorite spots in Ozaukee and Waukesha, when you want semi-dark sky but don't want to camp completely either. At some point this year once you've got setup down, you'll want that Dob under a certified dark sky site in Newport Beach SP if you can reserve a spot there still, otherwise drive in and drive out to a nearby county site, the rangers are friendly toward astronomy. Are you a member of the area astro groups yet? The Northern Cross Science Foundation is worth joining, they've got decent activity and are typically up at Harrington Beach SP on any given clear night - in fact I do plan to be up there the next weekend now that the moon isn't at peak. The other active group around here that I'm a member of, the Milwaukee Astronomical Society, is also great - they've got a playground of equipment to use at their club site on Members Nights with plenty of people around to help you use and try the equipment as well.






It's good to know there are nearby astro nerds. PM me if you're looking to head out in the future, and I'd be happy to have some socially distant company.




#16 aeajr



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Posted 07 July 2020 - 02:35 PM

Congratulations on a great scope.  I am jealous, but not too jealous as I have a sold tube 12" that I keep on a  hand truck in the garage.  Very easy to move about.


Here are some things that might be helpful.


New Astronomer Quick Start Guide



Using an angle gauge to help find targets - especially helpful in a light polluted location




Observing Saturn




Observing Jupiter




Observing Venus




Create a list of targets sorted by constellation using Tonight's Sky -



Understanding Telescope Eyepieces- There are recommendations, based on budget,
but the meat of the article is about understanding the considerations and specifications
to know when selecting eyepieces.



Observation Chair- Denver Chair – Works Great!
I built this one .  It took about 2 hours.  Can be built from scrap but if
you went all new, about $30.


#17 aeajr



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Posted 07 July 2020 - 02:43 PM

If it would be helpful, I will be doing a virtual presentation for the Custer Observatory on Saturday night, July 11.  Free.



The discussion is aimed at beginners and will review some of interesting things to see in the July sky.  You are only 3 degrees further north than I am so the presentation should be very applicable.


I do presentations for them quite often, all focused on beginners.  This season I will be doing monthly reviews of the sky.  You are always welcome.  Just note that they have a limit of 100 people so if you plan to come, register soon.


#18 Echolight



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Posted 07 July 2020 - 04:27 PM

That's a really cool telescope.


I had not considered a truss dob. But it really makes a lot of sense for a BIG travel scope that's also easy to store at home.


#19 MellonLake



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Posted 07 July 2020 - 05:09 PM


I am jealous that is a nice telescope!


 Your timing is perfect for viewing Jupiter and Saturn. While they never look big in a telescope, they are spectacular objects.  With that telescope you should be able to see 6 moons of Saturn and 4 of Jupiter.   Remember that seeing conditions, the turbulence in the atmosphere, will often not let you view beyond 150X or 180X.  Take time with that zoom and don't push to the maximum magnification. Start low and work higher and see where objects look best.


If you want to look at Nebula a UHC filter will help (Lumicon brand is very good).   This removes the light not produced by the Nebula and only allows the light from the Nebula to the eyepiece. 


Especially for the planets, make sure you set the telescope up on grass and don't look across/over buildings, roads, or parking lots.  The heat rising from these objects will make the views much poorer.  


I view regularly with my 12 and 16 year old daughters.  Remember that they may not have the patience you have.  I would get used to using the telescope and know how to find a few things first and how to get and keep objects in the eyepiece.  Then you can help guide your daughter finding things (get her to use Stellarium or similar on a phone and then find the objects, Messier objects will be best).   Twilight ends very late right now (like 11pm) and Jupiter and Saturn are really not high enough to view (well) until midnight (the higher they are the less atmosphere you are looking through and the better they will appear).  Being so late, kids can get cold and tired.  Snacks and warm close (even in July) are a must.  Also BUG SPRAY!!!. 


Remind your daughter not to breath on the eyepiece as it will fog (and as you only have 1 it will really complicate things).  


With kids, I would check out the DSOs in Sagittarius (Small Sagittarius Star Cloud, Lagoon and Swan Nebula), Ursa Major galaxies (M81/M82, Sunflower, Whirlpool), DSOs in Cygnus, M57 in Lyra, Double Star Alberio, and for sure M13 in Hercules (spectacular in a 12").  My kids love these objects.  Later in the night M31 (Andromeda Galaxy) is also visible.   If you stay up really late, Mars comes up as well.  



My 12 year old usually makes it to about 12:30 and my 16 year old to around 1:30.  They both love the telescopes but do get bored at times (we go out about 3 times a month together in the summer).  My 16 year old is now really into finding DSOs by herself in the telescopes and logging her discoveries.  So the hobby is rubbing off.  At one of our sites she often does impromptu tours of the nights sky for other random people at the site (non-astronomers).    


Enjoy that amazing telescope.


All the best




#20 vtornado



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Posted 07 July 2020 - 05:10 PM

Hello William my neighbor north of the "cheddar curtain"

You got a bang up deal on that scope.   I know one person who has one and it has awesome optics.


You may need a small plastic step stool so your daughter can reach the eyepiece.


I recommend you start easy so you don't get frustrated.  First find some nice double stars, clusters and globs.

They are much easier to spot then nebula and galaxies.

Then go for nebula and galaxies after you have some practice.


The planets are up, but they are best viewed after midnight, I don't know if you or daughter want to stay up that late.


Don't look for the faint fuzzies with the moon near full.   It is nearly as bad as light pollution in the city.


Good Luck

Happy Viewing



#21 wky46



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Posted 07 July 2020 - 05:42 PM

Is dew prevalent in your area?

So far (knock on wood) with the shroud on my ES dob, miraculously, neither the secondary or the primary mirror have dewed up 

However, I still need heated strips for both 1 1/4” and 2” eyepieces

A hair dryer can suffice


#22 xanavi



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Posted 07 July 2020 - 06:55 PM

Hello neighbors! Here is another community I found in the area, Bong State Recreation Area Astronomy, west of Kenosha/Racine. http://www.bsraaa.org/

The rest I have saved, and one of them has regular events I loaded into my Google calendar but I can't seem to find where I got those.


I have 1.25" Zhumell Variable Polarizer/UHC/O-III/Skyglow filters from a deal. I specifically was looking for a polarizer for the moon when i found it.


There is a cheap telescoping office chair that I was going to use at first maybe, chair pillow to give it another 2", it seems to be comfortable from most reasonable angles. My kid might have to use it backwards on knees. Will look around for a chair with sufficient travel, comfort is essential. I can't fabricate anything without the tools or place for it.


I have a 3-way bubble level, and a hanging vane style angle finder, ill print and cut out a circle setting sometime later, One thing at a time. Prob will get the digital angle.


Downloaded Stellarium and input all my parameters for telescope size/focal/flip, barlow. Also the tested fov specs from this site and focal lengths for the Baader Zoom and have been playing around with that. The program has telrad and eyepiece modes to simulate the views. Makes me want a 35mm+ 62deg+ pretty bad already. What is your opinion on the GSO Superview 50mm?


I don't know what to do about dew other than trying to keep good airflow going all night, I do plan to do all nighters until the sun comes up when camping. I think Ill wake her up for a while to check it out if I can get really good seeing going on Jupiter and Saturn.

Edited by xanavi, 07 July 2020 - 08:18 PM.


#23 MellonLake



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Posted 07 July 2020 - 07:22 PM

For a 2" eyepiece in an f/5 telescope unfortunately you need to go for quality.  Low cost eyepieces tend to show a lot of optical issues (field curvature and coma).  Also, it is generally advisable to stick to an exit pupil of not more than 7mm as this is the size of your eye's pupil.   If the exit pupil is larger than your eyes, the eyepiece will make objects dimmer which is not ideal for large nebula (not a huge deal though).   Also over 7mm looking at bright objects you might start to see the secondary mirror.   For you f/5 telescope the exit pupil is 7mm with a 35mm eyepiece.   


As such, I would say the maximum focal length you would want is 35mm but you could push up to 40mm but I would go no further.   The APM 30mm UFF 70° eyepiece is well rated and mid priced (I have one in the mail on the way to me).  It is also smaller and lighter than many of the better quality alternatives which is desirable from a balance point of view.  I have an eyepiece similar to the GSO and would not recommend it for your telescope (the cheaper eyepieces will work well in higher focal ratio telescopes)    


#24 Don W

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Posted 07 July 2020 - 07:39 PM

There's a good club in your area although I haven't been in contact with them for a while. The Milwaukee Astronomical Society:




#25 aeajr



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Posted 07 July 2020 - 07:55 PM

I use the Agena Astro SWA 38 mm/70 degree 2" in my 12" F5. $95. Not top of the line but it works well for me as my low power wide view and finder eyepiece.

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