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New Scope Suggestions-Visual Observing w/Go-To Mount

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#1 freakynorm

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Posted 22 October 2020 - 07:07 PM

I currently have an 8" dob which was my first telescope. It's was fairly inexpensive and sort of an impulse buy. It's not the most portable or easy scope to transport though. I did a few outings with it and it's just awkward to lug around and it can be a struggle to find objects since it's all manual and I can't upgrade it easily to a go-to setup. I ended up getting a small grab and go Meade 80mm ETX go-to scope but it's pretty old and the tripod isn't the most stable so I want something with a bit more quality and durability.

 

So I am wanting to sell my dob and switch to a refractor. I have a good selection of 2" wide field eyepieces already and am looking at a budget of about $3000. There's so much out there to chose from and it seems like so much of it is out of stock or on backorder so I wanted to get some advice and get an order in at some point so I can get back to observing.

 

I mainly like viewing galaxies, nebulae and star clusters. I really enjoy the wide field views and love looking through the eyepiece and drinking in the entire sky. My daydreaming side of the brain thinks that it would like to do astrophotography at some point but my realistic side of the brain begs to differ. So I am thinking just something that is solely for quality visual observing with a good and easy to use go-to style mount. I don't have any brand preference and even something that is used is fine as well. Any other accessories suggestions or upgrades to whatever model suggested is great too.

 

Thanks in advance!

 

 

~Norm

 

 


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#2 DLuders

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Posted 22 October 2020 - 07:26 PM

There are some good deals on gently-used Refractors on the Cloudy Nights Classifieds section.  smile.gif   You can stretch your dollars by getting used equipment.  Some vendors are having problems stocking new equipment, and the backlogs are long.



#3 gwlee

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Posted 22 October 2020 - 07:43 PM

Suggest starting by looking at the AT (house brand) refractors sold by the CN sponsor Astronomics. They are inexpensive, but good quality refractors that fit your budget. They tend to be very well liked and recommended by many CN members that own them. 

 

Generally the larger the aperture, the greater the optical performance, but narrower the field of view. It’s a tradeoff everyone must make, so decide which is more important to you. Then pick the scope. Then pick a mount that’s suitable for the scope. 


Edited by gwlee, 22 October 2020 - 08:09 PM.


#4 ShaulaB

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Posted 22 October 2020 - 07:56 PM

Why not an 8 iinch Schmidt-Cassegrain?


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#5 freakynorm

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Posted 22 October 2020 - 08:12 PM

Why not an 8 iinch Schmidt-Cassegrain?

Well, I am afraid of having to deal with collimation on one of those. Refractors just seem easier to deal with.


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#6 gwlee

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Posted 22 October 2020 - 10:09 PM

Well, I am afraid of having to deal with collimation on one of those. Refractors just seem easier to deal with.

I have an 8” Dob and a couple of small refractors. The refractors are easier to manage because they are more portable, cool down sooner, don’t require collimation, and they offer a wider field of view, but they give up a lot of optical performance compared your Dob.

 

After getting used to the performance of an 8” scope, a small refractor can be a disappointment. If you buy a small refractor, you might want to hang onto your Dob for at least a year to decide how you like the tradeoff. Many people decide the refractor is a better complement than a replacement for a larger scope.

 

A handheld binocular is an excellent complement to an 8” Dob. Nothing else is easier to manage or gives such wide views. When I am star hopping with my Dob, I find it’s sometimes much easier to find the object in  the wide field of binocular first, and then repeat the hop with the Dob. 


Edited by gwlee, 22 October 2020 - 10:15 PM.

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#7 ewave

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Posted 22 October 2020 - 10:22 PM

I have an 8” Dob and a couple of small refractors. The refractors are easier to manage because they are more portable, cool down sooner, don’t require collimation, and they offer a wider field of view, but they give up a lot of optical performance compared your Dob.

 

After getting used to the performance of an 8” scope, a small refractor can be a disappointment. If you buy a small refractor, you might want to hang onto your Dob for at least a year to decide how you like the tradeoff. Many people decide the refractor is a better complement than a replacement for a larger scope.

 

A handheld binocular is an excellent complement to an 8” Dob. Nothing else is easier to manage or gives such wide views. When I am star hopping with my Dob, I find it’s sometimes much easier to find the object in  the wide field of binocular first, and then repeat the hop with the Dob. 

Your first and second paragraphs says it all.  Good advice!


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#8 freakynorm

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Posted 23 October 2020 - 02:47 AM

I've had the dob about 2 years now. I have my small Meade refractor so I know what the differences can be between the two sizes/types.

 

It's more about ease of use and convenience. I am way more likely to get a smaller refractor with a go-to mount out and about than lug the dob out and manually try to find stuff. 

 

For me the dob is just too cumbersome for me at this point.

I am really liking the idea of the iOptron AZ mount pro. It's a bit pricey but seems super easy to use and breaks down into a nice carry case. 

https://www.ioptron....duct-p/8903.htm

 

I was thinking of a larger refractor like the Explore Scientific 152mm

 

https://explorescien...tor-fl-ar152760



#9 knight_parn

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Posted 23 October 2020 - 05:54 AM

Depending on what GOTO mount you've got. If you had an EQ6-R for example, you could go for a 6" refractor and you wouldn't notice the aperture downgrade. However such a setup would be even more cumbersome to move around than your 8" dob.

 

For portability an 80 - 102mm ED doublet would be perfect. But be prepared for a massive downgrade in light gathering capability. If your main visual targets are galaxies and nebulae, I'd strongly recommend you keep the dob (unless you will be doing wide field imaging only).

 

Someone also mentioned a C8. It's a good compromise for visual between a large dob and a small frac. Personally I'm not a fan of SCTs due to their long cooldown time. But if you don't mind about this, a good 8" SCT like the C8 EdgeHD could be an all-in-one scope: large aperture, compact size, long focal length for planets & distant galaxies (both visual and imaging) and finally with the HyperStar upgrade kit good for fast wide field imaging.


Edited by knight_parn, 23 October 2020 - 05:54 AM.

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#10 Reid W

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Posted 23 October 2020 - 06:31 AM

Norm, there is an app that might assist in the use of your current 8"

 

Skeye     by rj Harstad

 

This app has an "indirect mode".

 

If you have a solid phone mount on the tube, launch indirect and align on 2 stars, your pointing guidance will be close.  It won't be as accurate as wired encoders since it's using your inclinometer and compass on your phone, but other than a phone attachment mount, it's free.

 

As other comments noted, if you want to see the faint stuff, aperture is king. 



#11 bobhen

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Posted 23 October 2020 - 08:21 AM

You did not mention the moon and planets, so if what you say: "I mainly like viewing galaxies, nebulae and star clusters. I really enjoy the wide field views and love looking through the eyepiece and drinking in the entire sky" is true, then consider an inexpensive Orion 120mm F5 refractor ($300 plus accessories) You can put it on an alt/az goto mount from Ioptron or use a manual alt/az mount. Keep in mind that these scopes are not the best for the moon and planets but nice for wide field, low power, deep sky views.

 

Keep the Dobsonian and you will have 2, nice, complementary scopes.

 

HERE is a review of the Orion 120 scope.

 

If the moon and planets were also targets, then one of the Astro-Tech apo refractors would be a strong consideration. There are many to choose from but something in the 100 to 130mm size would be a consideration.

 

The Sky Watcher 100mm ED and 120mm ED refractors are also very nice for the price and get good reviews.

 

There are many GOTO mounts that would work with your budget, The Celestron AVX GEM or one of the Ioptron alt/az mounts come to mind, but there are others.

 

Bob


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#12 Alrakis

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Posted 23 October 2020 - 09:56 AM

I would agree with Bob. If I was in your position I would get a used AVX (I have one and like it) and a used SW 120ED or the ES 152. I have the 100ED and the AVX and I can take the whole setup out in one trip.

 

If that works for you then you can decide if you want more aperture and/or less CA.

 

 

Chris 



#13 Alrakis

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Posted 23 October 2020 - 10:08 AM

Also, don't let anyone tell you that the AVX can't handle a 6 inch refractor. I have a Jaegers 6" f/10 and the AVX can handle it just fine for visual. With your interests, the ES 152mm at f/6.5 would be great, especially with a 40mm 70 degree EP (nearly 3 degree TFOV!). See Uncle Rod's missive on a typical 6" f/8.

 

https://uncle-rods.b...rt-iii.html?m=1

 

Chris 



#14 MrRoberts

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Posted 23 October 2020 - 10:19 AM

For purely visual (or some eaa):

AZM Pro

C-8XLT

AT80ED/EDT

 

If down the road you want to try your hand at some ap start watching for a used eq mount

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#15 KTAZ

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Posted 23 October 2020 - 10:27 AM

Personally I'm not a fan of SCTs due to their long cooldown time.


This is a point that has been countered many times. Cool down can be a problem on larger SCT' if it is not managed. Management is easy with a layer of $10 Reflectix insulation. Search these forums for many posts regarding it's effectiveness.
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#16 MalVeauX

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Posted 23 October 2020 - 10:49 AM

Heya,

 

Well, the subjects you are wanting to view mostly require aperture to show off. So going down to a tiny aperture will reduce your ability to even see a galaxy or nebula, clusters are different and will show up, but what magnitude stars that will show up will change which will alter just how deep you can go on a them. Also, the subjects you are referring to are mostly low contrast brightness, so again, aperture and a dark sky is what it takes to see them ideally. Going to a tiny aperture refractor will not enhance this, but rather, you will lose subjects. But that said if you're not using your current system, you will not see anything, so whatever gets you out there will be better if it means you spend more time out there under the stars. Because most of the subjects are not bright point light sources, they will not suffer from CA degradation, so you don't have to have purely apochromatic optics for ideal viewing. Some clusters will have CA on the brightest stars at medium to high magnification, but not at low magnification as much so less noticeable.

 

So really, a 150mm F5 achromatic doublet would be a great refractor for your goals coupled with a dark sky. Or at the least, a 120mm F5 achromatic doublet (these are cheap and great for this).

 

Otherwise, frankly, your 200mm aperture is more ideal for what you want to see, than a small aperture refractor (say 80mm to 120mm to keep the size/weight reasonable).

 

$3k is a very healthy budget for visual. Your subjects you want to see are best seen with a dark sky as they are heavily effected by light pollution due to surface brightness (galaxies & nebula); clusters not so much, but still a bit depending on how deep you want to go with them (which takes aperture to increase minimum magnitude of stars you can pull in). So getting a high quality 102mm APO for example will not do a better job at all on these subjects, magic glass won't help, apochromatic glass will not help, a dark sky and large aperture is what will bring out these faint objects you're saying you want to see.

 

So if a 8" dob is too much, here's what I would propose:

 

Instead of getting a small scope, maybe consider what would it take to allow your bigger aperture scope to permanently be setup so that you can use it at will without setup time and without having to move it. Is this possible? Think observatory/shed/TG365 cover, etc. What would be possible? If you could do this, you could use a big aperture and enjoy those faint fuzzies without the physical issues of big aperture scopes. I would start thinking this direction, if you can with property, etc, obviously this may not work depending on the land/property issue or where you live, etc. But if you have the option to have something permanently setup, I would pursue this rather than trying to get by on faint fuzzies with a tiny scope, unless you have supremely dark skies.

 

You can find and see the faint fuzzies with a small aperture with experience and a dark sky. But you still won't see their entirety, you'll just see the bright cores or brightest section, which is entirely different than actually seeing the full structure. An example would be seeing the faint core glow of a galaxy in a small aperture and just having to be ok with that you found a galaxy but can't really see much other than a faint glowing core, versus using a larger aperture and seeing that same core but also being able to see spiral arms around it and actually see the structure. Some are ok with the "idea" of seeing an object, and checking it off a list, others want to actually see stuff and not just imagine what it looks like other than the fuzzy glow and knowing what it is and it being mostly a thought experiment. You gotta sort out what you want out of this and what your expectations are.

 

Very best,


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#17 havasman

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Posted 23 October 2020 - 10:51 AM

Get some SCOPE TOTES for your XT8 and it will become much easier to carry around. Or buy a 2-wheel dolly from Harbor Freight to haul it on. Giving up a bunch of aperture or using a less optically efficient design will make your favorite observations less rewarding. Of course the very best way to make your XT8 much less burdensome is to buy a 14 or 16" scope. That 8" will immediately become the light little scope.


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#18 gwlee

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Posted 23 October 2020 - 11:11 AM

I've had the dob about 2 years now. I have my small Meade refractor so I know what the differences can be between the two sizes/types.

 

It's more about ease of use and convenience. I am way more likely to get a smaller refractor with a go-to mount out and about than lug the dob out and manually try to find stuff. 

 

For me the dob is just too cumbersome for me at this point.

I am really liking the idea of the iOptron AZ mount pro. It's a bit pricey but seems super easy to use and breaks down into a nice carry case. 

https://www.ioptron....duct-p/8903.htm

 

I was thinking of a larger refractor like the Explore Scientific 152mm

 

https://explorescien...tor-fl-ar152760

I agree that an 8” can be cumbersome for some, especially at some observing sites, which is why I am using a refractor more these days. However, I prefer using an alt/az mount with my refractors because alt/az mounts are less cumbersome and less troublesome than other types.

 

On of my alt/az mounts has Digital Setting Circles (DSCs), This “push-to” technology allow me to find DSOs as easily as “go-too” technology, but does not track the DSOs; I must nudge the scope to track the object, same as a Dob. It also doesn’t require an external power source, which is a great convenience. When you don’t need the DSCs to find objects you don’t need to turn them on. The 9v internal battery that powers the DSCs can last for years before it needs to be replaced. 
 

I think you will find a 6”f8 refractor on a tracking mount to be much more cumbersome to use than your 8”f6 Dob, so recommend trying one before you buy one. 


Edited by gwlee, 23 October 2020 - 11:19 AM.


#19 RAKing

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Posted 23 October 2020 - 11:54 AM

I mainly like viewing galaxies, nebulae and star clusters. I really enjoy the wide field views and love looking through the eyepiece and drinking in the entire sky. 

 

Personally, I am happy to help you move into refractors.  But please keep in mind that of the things you mention in your first sentence, star clusters are probably the objects that will look best - galaxies not so much and nebulae might require a filter.

 

I have been using and loving refractors for 60+ years and you can certainly see all of the Messier objects with a 4-inch refractor as well as enough other things to keep you busy for at least one lifetime.

 

Decent Goto mounts start at about $900.00 (Celestron AVX) and go up from there.  A decent 102mm ED doublet can be had for under $700.00 (Astro-Tech f/7 102ED)!  Use the rest of your budget for a good quality 2-inch diagonal and an eyepiece or two. 


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#20 jimandlaura26

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Posted 23 October 2020 - 12:53 PM

As others have commented, there are constraints on what you can observe well with refractors of reasonable size and weight; dark skies, image scale, etc. So recommend you focus on optimizing all factors influencing entire observational experience for each astronomy tool combination you will own - to have them perform in a manner that emphasizes their strengths. Many of us have been where you are. You can see from my signature what my arsenal entails, to include interchangeable/swappable hardware. I did have a dob (10”) but concluded that most dim DSOs involved small field of views, so I evolved to an 8” SCT and 6” Mak-Cass for ease of transport and mounting on either a modest size GEM or alt-az mount. Getting back to your original question, there are many good to excellent choices here for a refractor - but equally important is the mount, to help achieve the best integrated experience. Long ago, I invested in a Discmounts DM-6 and have evolved to their DM-4 (4 inch vice 6 inch bearing) mount with digital setting circles (Sky Commander). I have successfully mounted everything from an 8” reflector to (today) 3”-4” apo refractors. And in short - it’s arguably one of the best of the best and my most often used mount with refractor scope combinations. Easy to store, transport & use; very accurate searches with only two initial guide stars; very high quality design & manufacturing. So given the $3K budget, I would consider spending a good portion of that on a high quality alt-az mount (like Discmounts). Below are some pictures. And then there are eyepieces, filters, etc., for other future posts... and recommend don’t consider selling that dob for awhile yet.

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Edited by jimandlaura26, 23 October 2020 - 02:33 PM.

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#21 freakynorm

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Posted 23 October 2020 - 02:09 PM

I actually made a custom base for the dob to level it and added a setting circle to the base and put an inclinometer on the tube and it works ok to find stuff. It can get to be a bit tedious but it does work.

 

Thanks for the suggestions so far. My yard is pretty crappy for a permanent set up like a shed/observatory. I can only see about 1/3rd of the sky from it. My in-laws have some property out in the sticks about 20 minutes from me where it's a very dark sky and I have about 90% of the sky visible to me. 

 

I am honestly ok with seeing the Messier catalog. I don't really try to find the faintest of fuzzies. I can sit and stare at M31 all night long and be happy. A nice clear view of a wide field of stars is great too. I will sit and look at the Double Double cluster all night too. 

 

I am really liking the idea of the iOptron mount paired up with a Astro-Tech AT102ED. Down the road, I could add a Mak or SCT to the setup like MrRoberts has. There are 2 AT102 models, one with higher end glass and the price difference is substantial, about $500 but not sure if it would be worth it for just visual usage.  


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#22 rustynpp

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Posted 23 October 2020 - 02:26 PM

I am really liking the idea of the iOptron mount paired up with a Astro-Tech AT102ED. Down the road, I could add a Mak or SCT to the setup like MrRoberts has. There are 2 AT102 models, one with higher end glass and the price difference is substantial, about $500 but not sure if it would be worth it for just visual usage.  

This sounds like a good plan to me. The 4" f7 ED doublets that are offered by several manufacturers are really terrific visual instruments. Personally I wouldn't hesitate to pay a bit extra for the higher-end model from AT - the improvement from the better glass will absolutely be noticable (at least with regard to CA), and the rotating focuser and handle are two highly underrated ergonomic features that will greatly improve the user experience of the scope (at least they have in my experience).

 

If I were in your shoes I would spend the money that you plan to put towards the go-to iOptron mount instead towards a really high-end manual alt-az mount, like the DM4 or 6 that Jim suggested. But that's just personal preference. 

 

Cheers,

Nick


Edited by rustynpp, 23 October 2020 - 02:26 PM.

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#23 Rollo

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Posted 23 October 2020 - 08:12 PM

I currently have an 8" dob which was my first telescope. It's was fairly inexpensive and sort of an impulse buy. It's not the most portable or easy scope to transport though. I did a few outings with it and it's just awkward to lug around and it can be a struggle to find objects since it's all manual and I can't upgrade it easily to a go-to setup. I ended up getting a small grab and go Meade 80mm ETX go-to scope but it's pretty old and the tripod isn't the most stable so I want something with a bit more quality and durability.

 

So I am wanting to sell my dob and switch to a refractor. I have a good selection of 2" wide field eyepieces already and am looking at a budget of about $3000. There's so much out there to chose from and it seems like so much of it is out of stock or on backorder so I wanted to get some advice and get an order in at some point so I can get back to observing.

 

I mainly like viewing galaxies, nebulae and star clusters. I really enjoy the wide field views and love looking through the eyepiece and drinking in the entire sky. My daydreaming side of the brain thinks that it would like to do astrophotography at some point but my realistic side of the brain begs to differ. So I am thinking just something that is solely for quality visual observing with a good and easy to use go-to style mount. I don't have any brand preference and even something that is used is fine as well. Any other accessories suggestions or upgrades to whatever model suggested is great too.

 

Thanks in advance!

 

 

~Norm

I love my 6in. F/8 refractor and wish I had bought one sooner than I did.   If you are strong and in good health I would recommend getting one.   I am 62 and have no problem setting it up.   Lol  wink.gif



#24 RazvanUnderStars

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Posted 28 October 2020 - 03:01 PM

I'm in a similar position with some of the posters. Moved from a 10" (visual) to imaging with an 8" SCT then changed to a 120mm refractor this year which should be the lifetime scope. I have a GEM for imaging but have been missing the winter sky. It's too cold here in Ontario to go through the full setup with all the cables. Not at -10C or lower, at least.

So recently I've started to consider getting a manual mount for grab and go sessions, including lunar observations. To put the scope out, let it cool down for an hour and then start to observe right away. I've been waffling between a Stellarvue M2C and a Discmount DM-4. I think the first one requires rebalancing as eyepieces are changed between light Plossl and heavier Televues but stillness have concerns given that the OTA + FeatherTouch focuser + rings + eyepieces goes over the limit of DM-4. Rowan's AZ100 seems too much given that I don't have two scopes. If only they had a version with a single scope. EDIT: all these leave a DM-6 as the most likely candidate.


Edited by RazvanUnderStars, 28 October 2020 - 07:26 PM.



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