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ST120 as “Best” Beginner Scope?

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#1 WyattDavis

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Posted 01 August 2020 - 06:34 PM

Hi all,

 

I have been active in the New Hampshire Astronomical Society over the past two years, both via online communications with the membership and via public observing sessions – in person before COVID-19 and online via webinars, our Facebook page, etc., ever since. It’s been wonderful to reach hundreds of people in partnership with other NHAS members via these channels. I have had reports of people going out after our outreach sessions with observing lists we have provided and finding object with their naked eyes, with binoculars, and with small telescopes. Comet NEOWISE was also a big hit. I find all of this very gratifying!

 

And, as a result, I have been getting an increasing number of personal inquiries from novice, aspiring astronomers about equipment…

 

I’m fairly experienced and very passionate about visual observing but by no means an expert. (I’m not an astrophotographer.) I also have my own biases about the equipment I like to use personally. All of that said, if put to it right now, I would advise someone with no experience who is just starting out and who wants to get a telescope for visual observing to:

  • Start with binoculars instead – any pair on hand (in almost any conditions except the brightest city centers) plus a planisphere, an S&T Pocket Star Altas or equivalent, something like Gary Seronik’s “Binocular Highlights:  99 Celestial Sights for Binocular Users,” and a red flashlight. (And, yes, maybe Sky Safari or equivalent on an iPhone/iPad/Android, although at some point it seems important to me to be able to find things the “old-fashioned way” without these technology tools…)
  • Always make a plan for what you are trying to observe; make that plan consist of fewer, brighter objects per evening early on/as starting points; and research the objects in advance so you know what you are looking for.
  • Be persistent, work the plan(s), and get basically proficient at finding said objects (bright, prominent ones – moon, planets, open clusters, etc., whatever is interesting and bright) with said equipment under real, varying conditions.
  • Write down basic notes on the conditions you experienced and what you see and maybe even do some basic drawing/sketching of what is seen.
  • Spend some extended time under the stars right where you are using said equipment and said approach and find out if late nights or early mornings out exploring the stars are proving to be gratifying and enjoyable.

And then, if all of the above is working out, to go get….

  • Nicer binoculars if you want/need, plus,
  • An ST120 (or equivalent) on a basic, non-GoTo alt/az mount with RACI optical finder + some type of zero-power finder plus an observing chair and a simple table where you can put charts, a flashlight, binoculars, a notebook, etc., OR
  • An Orion XT6 (or equivalent) dob with RACI optical finder + some type of zero-power finder + provided eyepieces (light, quick to cool down, easy to collimate/very forgiving of collimation errors) OR
  • An Orion XT8 (or equivalent) with RACI optical finder + some type of zero-power finder + provided eyepieces (still fairly light, somewhat quick to cool down, still fairly easy to collimate, and still fairly forgiving of collimation errors) OR
  • An Orion XT8i (or equivalent) with RACI optical finder + some type of zero-power finder (plus all of the above and PushTo comes to the star party)
  • And, with any of these, use your binoculars along with your scope and finders to help find and observe objects in the night sky.

Of these scopes (and I have owned/used them all except the XT8i but do have a PushTo 10” dob), I think I would lean toward the ST120 on a manual, alt-az mount as a recommended first scope because:

  • It’s inexpensive – if it turns out that binoculars are really his or her thing or if astronomy in general really isn’t his or her thing, not much $$$ has been spent.
  • It’s easy to mount, lightweight, and portable.
  • It doesn’t need to be collimated or cooled to get good, low-power views right off the bat during an observing session – even with poor seeing and/or big thermal differentials during the session.
  • It doesn’t need to be aligned beyond basic finder-to-primary alignment.
  • It easily produces clean, low-power, wide-field views that make finding bright objects (like the Pleiades, the Double Custer, the brighter planets, etc.) that much easier.
  • It’s got enough aperture to allow an inexperienced urban observer to see the brightest objects.
  • Most beginners would not find the attendant chromatic aberration on the brightest objects immediately noticeable/objectionable.

 

As much as GoTo or PushTo can really help – especially in urban settings with a lot of light pollution – I am biased (maybe wrongly) to think that starting off by learning how to find bright objects via manual star hopping from bright marker stars is a good way to build fundamental skills and enjoy the hobby. And, manual rigs are less complex, less expensive, lighter/more portable, don’t need a power source, etc.

 

I acknowledge that I would not be happy owning an ST120 now as an only scope now, but as a beginner I think I might have found it to be a very good starting point.

 

I would appreciate your constructive criticism of all of the above.



#2 ShaulaB

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Posted 01 August 2020 - 07:41 PM

The ST120 is only f5. To get a higher magnification to view planets, an uncomfortable short focal length eyepiece is needed, or a barlowed 12mm. This is just a personal opinion, but I am not a fan of inexpensive refractors on shaky mounts. It seems like it would be frustrating for a beginner.


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#3 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 01 August 2020 - 07:45 PM

My thinking:

 

There is no one size fits all beginners scope.  For some, binos are great, for some, an ST-80, for some an ST-120, for some an 8 inch Dob, for some, a 10 inch Dob, for some an 5 inch SCT.. etc, etc.

 

For someone interested in observing the planets, the ST-120 would be, in my view, a poor choice.

 

My strategy is to try to help someone make an educated decision for themselves..  that means sharing experiences, answering questions. Help them understand.

 

There's no need to pronounce the perfect beginners scope.. not when we can interact.. 

 

Jon


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#4 Redbetter

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Posted 01 August 2020 - 08:38 PM

I don't have an ST120 and haven't viewed through one.  (A club member has one he has wanted to sell for a few years at $150, but I haven't been interested enough to take him up on it.)  However, I have doubts about the comment on chromatic aberration.  I find an ST80 f/5 more than fast enough to show a lot of color and damage to the sharpness of planetary images, and an ST120 f/5 would be considerably worse than that for the aperture.  It would be far more noticeable too, because objects will be brighter at the same magnification.  That is what I have observed with achros.  Younger eyes are likely to be more sensitive to it than I am.   One of the advantages of the smallest aperture achromats is that color is less apparent, even at higher magnifications, because the image is dimmer--therefore fewer stars show obvious color fringes.  However, in the 4 to 5" range that no longer holds.

 

When it comes to visual, I don't see that cooling is likely much of a factor with a 6" or 8" Dob.  I am accustomed to using the provided fan with a 10", and it cools quickly, surging past ED refractors in 10 to 15 minutes.  Orion (Synta) would not be my first choice for basic Dobs as I have not been satisfied with their optics compared to the GSO's.  The GSO's have a better overall package and focuser.  With the GSO variants you have the RACI and only need to add an inexpensive RDF for a complete package.  Laser collimating is pretty easy once you have done it a few times, and for backyard it is typically just a quick check anyway.

 

I'm guessing the ST120 is going to need a roughly $200 alt/az mount for adequate visual support.  That is what I find an ED80 needs which is of similar weight and focal length, and probably less bulky.  The issue with refractors is not the OTA, it is the mount.  For example: I was thinking about loaning a refractor to a family for planets, but realized I only have a single suitable alt/az mount for the service.  (The GEM's are much too bulky for most young novices.)  Unfortunately, it is the mount I use most frequently because the seeing is so poor in the back yard.  Anyway, considering this size of refractor with suitable mount there is some bulk to it.   I would put it on par with a 6 or 8" Dob with regard to bulk.

 

The difficulty at present with scopes is actually finding them in stock, and the 120ST does have that going for it.


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#5 Sketcher

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Posted 01 August 2020 - 09:00 PM

I'm in agreement that a short-tubed, relatively fast, relatively small aperture telescope is one of the better places to begin with visual telescopic astronomy.  Having a wide true FOV is key, in my opinion, when it comes to ease of use -- ease in finding the objects one desires to observe.  Furthermore, casual wide-field viewing in itself can be quite enjoyable.  The Pleiades are nice in such telescopes.

 

I would also lean toward a refractor due to ruggedness, (takes a beating and keeps on ticking), no collimation concerns, a closed tube (the insides stay clean); and it looks like what most beginners would recognize as a telescope.  Glass lenses tend to be easier to clean without causing damage than first-surface mirrors -- particularly for some beginners.

 

As for aperture, some people simply want (and can afford) bigger.  So if they want to start bigger -- OK; yet, smaller would be better (for most people) as one's initial learning tool.  Others will be more restricted in what they could spend, so for them, something a bit closer to an ST-80 would be a better option.

 

As for mount, some people want electronics (I'm not one of them, but this is today's reality).  Some can wrap their brains around the logic behind an equatorial mount, many others cannot.  So I would let the individual decide on their preferred mount.  OTOH, if they don't know what they want for a mount, an alt-az would be a reasonable recommendation.

 

Like you, I'm in the old, traditional camp when it comes to charts, etc; but many of today's beginners are more into the newer technologies.  So again, their choice.

 

Binoculars first?  Probably not for most beginners -- simply because binoculars are not the same as a telescope, and most beginners are going to want a telescope.  Again, I love my small, medium, and large binoculars; but that's probably not where most of today's beginners are going to want to start.  OTOH, for those who would be interested and willing to start out with binoculars - encourage them!

 

A first telescope ought to be looked upon as a learning tool.  This isn't the time to purchase a deep-sky scope, a planetary scope, etc.  As such, a short, fast telescope is adequate for all types of observing -- for a beginner.  Many of us use "fast" telescopes as planetary telescopes.  Add a zoom and a Barlow (or a 3, 5, 6mm, etc. eyepiece) and one needn't be limited to low-power observing just because the f-ratio is small.

 

But one cannot get the wide fields with slow f-ratios (all other things being equal) -- and wide fields make using a telescope, particularly for a beginner, much simpler and easier.  Once they find their "target" they can up the magnification.

 

So what if a fast achromat has CA or a fast Newtonian has coma?  We're talking about a first telescope -- a learning tool.  If a beginner wants to start out with a 10-inch Astro-Physics Macksutov-Cassegrain, so be it.  But they'll likely have their hands full and their brains overwhelmed when it comes to their learning process.  Beginners don't need to start out with the best equipment; and it would be a mistake for them to do so.  The CA (or coma) is a small price to pay for entry into this hobby.

 

Encouraging note-taking and/or sketching is age-old advice that's as valid today as it was hundreds of years ago.  It'll transform the beginner into a more experienced visual observer faster and more effectively than anything else one might attempt to do -- for those suitably motivated.

 

As always, opinions in these areas are going to vary.  So we all ought to take into account that "our way" isn't the only one and isn't going to be the "best way" for everyone -- if only life were that simple.


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#6 Redbetter

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Posted Yesterday, 02:10 AM

A first telescope ought to be looked upon as a learning tool.  This isn't the time to purchase a deep-sky scope, a planetary scope, etc.  As such, a short, fast telescope is adequate for all types of observing -- for a beginner.  Many of us use "fast" telescopes as planetary telescopes.  Add a zoom and a Barlow (or a 3, 5, 6mm, etc. eyepiece) and one needn't be limited to low-power observing just because the f-ratio is small.

 

 

So what if a fast achromat has CA or a fast Newtonian has coma?  We're talking about a first telescope -- a learning tool.  If a beginner wants to start out with a 10-inch Astro-Physics Macksutov-Cassegrain, so be it.  But they'll likely have their hands full and their brains overwhelmed when it comes to their learning process.  Beginners don't need to start out with the best equipment; and it would be a mistake for them to do so.  The CA (or coma) is a small price to pay for entry into this hobby.

While I use fast scopes as planetary scopes, I also recognize this poses more of a problem for novices who lack the hardware that I keep for the purpose.  It is the interaction of the lack of experience, accessories, the mount mechanics, and the scope itself that complicate things for novices.  Smaller fast achros (not necessarily the ST120) are about the worst possible combination for planetary.   Running through a few of the issues:

  • A fast achro takes a fairly substantial hit for planetary detail/crisp image, my experience is that a good one runs about 2/3 the optimal magnification/detail of a decent ED of the same aperture.  I don't find the planetary images in fast achros to be particularly satisfying because of the obvious damage to the crispness of the view.  (I am not likely to recommend an ED refractor to a novice unless I expect they are the type that will retain the scope as a leaping off point.)  Mid and long focal length achros are a different matter.
  • The eyepiece/barlow proposition is problematic.  Being able to reach a range of magnifications on the "high" end is valuable to find the sweet spot for the observer's eye, the scope, and the seeing (yes, the seeing still matters, even with 50 or 60mm scopes.)  Plossls/orthos and the like have diminutive eye relief and small fields of view in the 10mm range and below.  I use a 3-6mm TV planetary zoom for most of my refractor planetary observing, which neatly skirts most of these issues, allowing a full range of useful planetary magnifications.  However, that isn't a realistic suggestion for a novice.  I use other eyepieces too, but tend to come back to this one.
  • Undriven mounts with fast acros (or ED's) for planetary somewhat favor wider apparent field of view as well.   When I swap out the 3-6 zoom it is usually for a 3.5 or 5mm Nagler depending on the scope and conditions.  This isn't usually for extra field of view (the 3-6 zoom has somewhat wider true field at the 6 setting than the 3.5 Nagler); instead it is typically because I want to use the zoom to get the sweet spot of 3 or 4mm in another scope.  
  • Finding a combination of mount/eyepieces/and effective resolution of planetary detail is key.  That depends very much on the user and expectations.  Some of us are happy with mounts that others don't find usable, or that require some experience to get the most out of for planetary magnification in prevailing conditions (e.g. wind.)  While I use Twilight Nano as a quick and easy mount for small achros/ED's, even for planetary when the Twilight I is taken, it is not something I will recommend to novices because of the lack of stability, long damping (even with VSP's) and most importantly a lack of slow motion controls.
  • Another frequent problem with beginner fast achros is poor diagonals and is something I assume must be addressed up front when I recommend one.  Some are shipped with RACI diagonals, others tend to have indifferently/often badly misaligned mirrors.  These both can have seriously negative impacts on planetary viewing and make it hard for a new observer to recognize a problem with the scope or its accessories..  Getting a decent 1.25" diagonal is not so easy...the first two "1/10 wave" mirror diagonals I purchased were junk because of the housing build.  I have a couple of other mirror diagonals that were even worse ("in the box.")  I paid twice as much to get a decent one...which is problematic for making recommendations to novices.  One thing the ST120 has going for it is a 2" focuser.  I have yet to get a bad/misaligned 2" diagonal, but most of the 1.25" I have tried were not even passable.  When the focuser is compatible, it is better to spend the extra $30 for a 2" diagonal, and skip the 1.25" altogether.    

CA and coma do not have anywhere near the same impact on planetary observing with fast achros and Dobs.  CA robs detail, and filters don't bring that detail back even if they clean up some of the cosmetic affects.  Coma is a negligible concern for planetary with an f/6 or f/8 Newt (the latter being more typical for 8" and 6" Dobs respectively)...or even an f/5 for that matter.   The Dob's planetary limitations have more to do with central obstruction and diffraction spikes and such--fair points.  Coma is more of an issue at the periphery (and for that matter with fast achros and ED's, field curvature has a substantial impact in the outer field at low/moderate power.)


Edited by Redbetter, Yesterday, 02:48 PM.

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#7 sg6

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Posted Yesterday, 02:44 AM

Personally I would never recommend an f/5 achro and not at 120mm aperture. Would expect too much chromatic aberration and also a softer image from spherical aberration to be in the mix. I have a 102 f/6 and it does the job but not exactly does it well.

 

One other I do disagree with is the idea of binoculars instead of a scope. They are different items and perform different functions. I tend to consider that if an 8 years old wanted a scope and received a set of binoculars they would be disappointed. If someone wants a scope then don't go around saying buy something else.

 

The idea of "fast" as being the way to go may, only may, hold for imagers but for visual it is rather simply a poor idea and an unnecessary poor idea. For visual an easy f/8 is a lot better in several aspects - cost, maintenance, ease.

 

Also a 120mm is not exactly small. Too big to maybe start with, will need more $ spent on a suitable mount for it. This reads more like "Aperture is everything" not a "Beginners scope" topic in disguise.



#8 bobhen

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Posted Yesterday, 06:54 AM

Telescope for a beginner...

 

First is to forget recommending binoculars. Many already have binoculars in the closet. They want a telescope.

 

For a beginner (not a kid) with a limited budget, I always recommend a 4” achromat like one of the Omni 102mm F9.8 refractors, or a 102mm achromat on an alt/az mount. Why?

 

1. Reasonable cost – this is important for a beginner
2. No collimation – this is big for a beginner
3. Quick cool down – also important for a beginner
4. Excellent thermal characteristics in falling temperatures - also important for a beginner
5. Very good portability and ease of use.
6. Getting out and observing quickly and easily with as little frustration as possible is what’s important for the beginner – and refractors just do that better.

7. Very good on the moon and bright planets: first targets for many beginners.

 

Removing complications that can cause frustration and disappointment for the beginner is more important than aperture. If a scope is frustrating for a beginner, he or she might not take the next step.

 

A 4” refractor is no slouch. The brighter deep sky objects are well within reach and the lunar and planetary images will be very nice, even in locations with falling temperatures and average seeing, which can really impact the image quality of larger mirror scopes – something the beginner might not fully understand.

 

If they stick with things, there will be plenty of time down the road to get that 12-inch Dobsonian or that apo triplet imaging refractor.

 

Walter Scott Houston used a 4” refractor for many of his deep sky observations.

 

Ken Fulton recommended a 4” refractor as a first scope in his book “The Lighthearted Astronomer”.

 

Ed Ting recommends and liked the venerable Celestron 4” F-9.8 in his review.

 

Bob


Edited by bobhen, Yesterday, 06:58 AM.

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#9 WyattDavis

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Posted Yesterday, 08:34 AM

Thanks for the thoughtful responses all. This is a challenging topic for me, and I want to provide good advice! I appreciate having some broader perspective on it.

 

Jon, I agree that digging in to any given beginner's interests is the right starting point. That said, one basic assumption I am making is that many beginners don't know what may end up being engaging and interesting and are going to need to get some experience to find that out for themselves. So, I default to putting a lot of emphasis on simplicity, ease of use, versatility, and low cost as general starting points for a first telescope - the "initial learning tool" that Sketcher describes.

 

The points about the planetary limitations of an ST120 are well taken - although I will point out that you can stop one down with its lens cap and end up with a "classic f/11 53mm achromat refractor" that Galileo would have drooled over!  :^))  

 

It does seem that if staying with a refractor then a longer achro or an ED refractor might be better. But then you may get into increased size/weight, increased mounting requirements, and increased costs. And, if trying to stay on a small budget, you are still probably not going to end up with more than 120mm of aperture.

 

I'm not arguing that aperture is everything - not at all. But, it seems to me that more experienced observers know how to do more with smaller aperture and that having a little more raw horsepower as a beginner can be a helpful thing. I do think 80mm is small for a beginner who is trying to view DSO objects (especially if not under dark skies). I also think reasonable size/manageability is equally or even more important. So, the 6" and 8" dobs seem like sensible options and I wouldn't think to advocate for anything larger as a starter scope. These could be easy to use and useful on a wide range of objects including planets, the Moon, DSO's, et. al. And, they would still be reasonably portable, affordable, wouldn't absolutely require cooling, etc. All good.

 

My only real hesitation with the dobs is that I view systems that need to be collimated (which would include SCT's, etc.) as being more complicated for a beginner than systems that don't - thus the notion of a refractor if the solution is going to be a single scope. Maybe collimation on a 6" f/8 dob is close enough to set it and forget it that I shouldn't be concerned about it.

 

It seems that my "binoculars first" recommendation isn't getting a lot of support here. Maybe instead I should consider suggesting that if someone has binoculars it might be an interesting idea to use them along with a new telescope.

 

Thanks for the input. Additional points welcomed!



#10 WyattDavis

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Posted Yesterday, 08:55 AM

Telescope for a beginner...

 

First is to forget recommending binoculars. Many already have binoculars in the closet. They want a telescope.

 

For a beginner (not a kid) with a limited budget, I always recommend a 4” achromat like one of the Omni 102mm F9.8 refractors, or a 102mm achromat on an alt/az mount. Why?

 

1. Reasonable cost – this is important for a beginner
2. No collimation – this is big for a beginner
3. Quick cool down – also important for a beginner
4. Excellent thermal characteristics in falling temperatures - also important for a beginner
5. Very good portability and ease of use.
6. Getting out and observing quickly and easily with as little frustration as possible is what’s important for the beginner – and refractors just do that better.

7. Very good on the moon and bright planets: first targets for many beginners.

 

Removing complications that can cause frustration and disappointment for the beginner is more important than aperture. If a scope is frustrating for a beginner, he or she might not take the next step.

 

A 4” refractor is no slouch. The brighter deep sky objects are well within reach and the lunar and planetary images will be very nice, even in locations with falling temperatures and average seeing, which can really impact the image quality of larger mirror scopes – something the beginner might not fully understand.

 

If they stick with things, there will be plenty of time down the road to get that 12-inch Dobsonian or that apo triplet imaging refractor.

 

Walter Scott Houston used a 4” refractor for many of his deep sky observations.

 

Ken Fulton recommended a 4” refractor as a first scope in his book “The Lighthearted Astronomer”.

 

Ed Ting recommends and liked the venerable Celestron 4” F-9.8 in his review.

 

Bob

Bob, all of this makes a lot of sense to me.

 

I know I really struggled early on with mushy/fuzzy views through my C6 and my first 8" dob by mistaking bad seeing, OTA thermals, and/or poor collimation for "problems with my telescope..." I just didn't know what to expect and didn't know what to do about these issues. A simple refractor does go a long way toward taking these challenges out of the equation.

 

I clearly remember an evening early on in my journey when I casually pointed my little ST80 + a 25mm Plossl at M42 (after ignoring it for months in favor of my larger, "better" scopes) and being shocked at all of the tight, pinpoint stars I was looking at... I stayed with the hobby and learned through a lot of trial and error, but I could indeed see a lot of beginners giving up when struggling with views in the eyepiece that are easily seen as poor quality.

 

I have never observed with a 4" f/9.8 achro, but I can see how it might be a better alternative than an ST120. 



#11 WyattDavis

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Posted Yesterday, 09:45 AM

Three of many possible options from a cost perspective:

 

6" dob $299:  https://www.telescop...60/p/102004.uts

 

4" f/9.8 achromat with no mount $299:  https://www.highpoin...r-ota-21088-ota

 

4" f/9.8 achromat + mount (enough mount???) $549:  https://www.highpoin...-ar1021000maz01



#12 bobhen

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Posted Yesterday, 09:58 AM

Three of many possible options from a cost perspective:

 

6" dob $299:  https://www.telescop...60/p/102004.uts

 

4" f/9.8 achromat with no mount $299:  https://www.highpoin...r-ota-21088-ota

 

4" f/9.8 achromat + mount (enough mount???) $549:  https://www.highpoin...-ar1021000maz01

The Celestron Omni XLT 102 F9.8 from OPT with mount is $437:  HERE is a link.

 

Bob


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#13 Jon Isaacs

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Posted Yesterday, 10:48 AM

Jon, I agree that digging in to any given beginner's interests is the right starting point. That said, one basic assumption I am making is that many beginners don't know what may end up being engaging and interesting and are going to need to get some experience to find that out for themselves. So, I default to putting a lot of emphasis on simplicity, ease of use, versatility, and low cost as general starting points for a first telescope - the "initial learning tool" that Sketcher describes....

 

My only real hesitation with the dobs is that I view systems that need to be collimated (which would include SCT's, etc.) as being more complicated for a beginner than systems that don't - thus the notion of a refractor if the solution is going to be a single scope. Maybe collimation on a 6" f/8 dob is close enough to set it and forget it that I shouldn't be concerned about it.

 

 

 

You're making a lot of assumptions about this hypothetical beginner.  My real point is there is not typical beginner. I don't think that way.

 

For example, for some, collimation is a deal breaker, for others, it's a trivial exercise. When I gave a Newtonian to a machinist friend, I had no concerns about collimation...

 

Portability, it depends on the person, it depends on their vehicle. I had another friend, he was going to borrow my 10 inch Dob but couldn't lift it. Another guy, the guy who bought my 25 inch, loads it himself and puts the 100 plus pound steel ladder on the roof of his van all by himself.

 

My point each individual is an individual with different capabilities, resources, priorities, interests.  It's a mistake to assume a beginners scope should be inexpensive. That's what we think and often it's true but inexpensive for me might be $300, inexpensive for someone making $250K might be $3000.  A 5 inch apo on a decent mount with some decent eyepieces might be a good way to start.

 

In my mind, after having been active in web based beginners forums for at least 20 years, I think trying to determine the best beginners scope is an academic exercise. It's best to deal with each individual as an individual. 

 

I do not recommend any particular scope as the optimal choice.. there are many.. I try to get to know the person, ask questions, share my experiences. Help them decide.

 

Jon


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#14 WyattDavis

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Posted Yesterday, 10:51 AM

Come to think of it, all of this talk of 4" f/9.8 achromats recalled to mind this very informative test of the ES FirstLight 102mm f/9.8 achro by Bomber Bob:

 

https://www.cloudyni...hinese-imports/

 

I think this is the same OTA as the one linked to above but different mount with both mounts looking/being pretty small and non-substantial. Bob's mission was to evaluate the ES FL refractor from the perspective of a new/first-time buyer. If you don't want to ready the whole thread, post #101 provides a summary of Bob's thoughts:

 

https://www.cloudyni...-imports/page-5

 

I know from personal experience that the basic Orion XT dob mounts aren't Cadillacs but are functional. It seems a lot easier to "go wrong" as a beginner with lower end refractor/mount setups. The Celestron Omni XLT bobhen posts above seems to get higher marks but is GEM vs. Alt-Az. 



#15 WyattDavis

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Posted Yesterday, 11:09 AM

You're making a lot of assumptions about this hypothetical beginner.  My real point is there is not typical beginner. I don't think that way.

 

My point each individual is an individual with different capabilities, resources, priorities, interests.  It's a mistake to assume a beginners scope should be inexpensive. 

 

In my mind, after having been active in web based beginners forums for at least 20 years, I think trying to determine the best beginners scope is an academic exercise. It's best to deal with each individual as an individual. 

 

I do not recommend any particular scope as the optimal choice.. there are many.. I try to get to know the person, ask questions, share my experiences. Help them decide.

 

Jon

 

I see those points and am probably superimposing too many personal biases and limitations of personal experience with the notion of a "best" beginner scope. 


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#16 Jon Isaacs

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Posted Yesterday, 03:26 PM

I see those points and am probably superimposing too many personal biases and limitations of personal experience with the notion of a "best" beginner scope. 

 

Wyatt:

 

When Phil Harrington writes a book, he needs to provide some general advice because he's guiding people reading the book.

 

For you and I, we generally have the opportunity to interact with people one to one and that makes a big difference.

 

It's fun to think about the Wyatt Davis or the Jon Isaacs signature model beginners telescope but it's probably more productive to step back just a little bit and reframe the question as "what are important factors to consider when recommending a beginners telescope?"

 

The very same factors (and more) that you considered in your decision would be discussed but with the intention of developing an understanding of what's important to consider.

 

Portability is important but for someone who can hoist 150 lbs and owns a pickup truck it's a very different concern than for someone who must take public transportation.

 

I'm sure an ST-120 would have been a better scope than what I started with but my budget was $10 and what it bought me was a wornout long focal length 60mm refractor with one two element eyepiece and no finder. 

 

Jon


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#17 johrich

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Posted Yesterday, 04:37 PM

Well to jump in, I am 69 and started getting serious about getting into astronomy about 4 years ago, (not counting when I was in college and had a Tasco Refractor for a few years). So about 4 years ago. I did start out with an Orion 120 ST and the the included Astroview (EQ3) Equatorial mount.  It worked for me to get started.  It took a few sessions to get the hang of the equatorial mount and figuring out how to polar align and find a few simple targets like M42 and M31.  But then I got the motors for the Dec and RA axis, got the adapter for my Canon SL1 and was able to actually put together some of what I thought were great images of Orion and Andromeda. Obviously, to the seasoned APer, they weren't very great, CA, etc.), but it gave me the bug.  I did get a Crayford focuser for the 120ST and a few other things, filters, etc.  After a year or so, I realized I needed better.  I still have the 120ST, though I don't use it much.  I sold the Astroview mount (thankfully).  I went through a Starseeker IV mount for the 120ST, but of course I was limited to only about 15 sec exposures, so that didn't last long.  So to make a long story short, I now have a Stellarvue 102 Access, with an Ioptron EQ mount, the DSLR has been retired for AP in favor of a ZWO cooled color camera.  I have a concrete pad waiting the arrival of my Sky Shed Pod, all because I got interested in astronomy again after 40 years and ordered the  Orion 120ST.

 

johrich


Edited by johrich, Yesterday, 04:38 PM.

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#18 WyattDavis

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Posted Today, 04:06 AM

Well to jump in, I am 69 and started getting serious about getting into astronomy about 4 years ago, (not counting when I was in college and had a Tasco Refractor for a few years). So about 4 years ago. I did start out with an Orion 120 ST and the the included Astroview (EQ3) Equatorial mount.  It worked for me to get started.  It took a few sessions to get the hang of the equatorial mount and figuring out how to polar align and find a few simple targets like M42 and M31.  But then I got the motors for the Dec and RA axis, got the adapter for my Canon SL1 and was able to actually put together some of what I thought were great images of Orion and Andromeda. Obviously, to the seasoned APer, they weren't very great, CA, etc.), but it gave me the bug.  I did get a Crayford focuser for the 120ST and a few other things, filters, etc.  After a year or so, I realized I needed better.  I still have the 120ST, though I don't use it much.  I sold the Astroview mount (thankfully).  I went through a Starseeker IV mount for the 120ST, but of course I was limited to only about 15 sec exposures, so that didn't last long.  So to make a long story short, I now have a Stellarvue 102 Access, with an Ioptron EQ mount, the DSLR has been retired for AP in favor of a ZWO cooled color camera.  I have a concrete pad waiting the arrival of my Sky Shed Pod, all because I got interested in astronomy again after 40 years and ordered the  Orion 120ST.

 

johrich

A good example of what I would not have foreseen with my assumed scenario:  basic AP leading to a next level of AP. My default focus was on visual applications for the ST120. Thx for adding this scenario.




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