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Best 80 or 102MM Refractor on a Budget

refractor equipment beginner
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#1 CarolinaBanker

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Posted 23 January 2021 - 10:58 PM

I've decided after a lot of research that the ideal scope for me is an 80 or 102mm. I've got a budget of $300-400 all in. I have found a few models that would seem to fit the bill:

  • Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ
  • Orion ShortTube 80-A Refractor Telescope with one of the following tripods: Orion Tritech II Field Tripod with Fluid Pan Head; Orion VersaGo E-Series Altazimuth Mount; or Orion Paragon-Plus XHD Extra Heavy-Duty Tripod
  • Explore Scientific FirstLight AR102 TN Refractor Telescope
  • Orion StarBlast 102mm Altazimuth Travel Refractor Telescope

Any insights are appreciated.



#2 aeajr

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Posted 23 January 2021 - 11:34 PM

I suggest you focus on 1 and 3 which I have listed below.  Note that I included links to the scopes so people can easily look at the package and the specs of each.   When asking about things, it is nice to include a link so we can easily take a look without google searching for each one. 

 

The 80 mm is fine but 100 mm aperture will show you more.  The travel designation of the Orion typically means that it is optimized for weight and therefore a light weight mount that is likely to wobble a lot.  I will say lets eliminate this one. 

 

Of the four you listed I would suggest you focus on these two. 

 

Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ

https://www.celestro...plorer-dx-102az

 

Explore Scientific FirstLight AR102 TN Refractor Telescope

https://explorescien...s/fl-ar102600tn

 

 

Now, do you want to search for and find your targets or would you like computer assistance in finding your targets?   Do you know?

 

The StarSense helps you find your targets.  The ES AR102, you are on your own.

 

The StarSense has slow motion controls.  The ES AR102 does not appear to have slow motion controls.

 

 

Optically, the two scopes are likely to be very similar.   Between the two, I would go for the Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ.  My friend has one and he likes it very much.   And it gets good reviews on Cloudy Nights.  The StarSense Explorer app that runs on your smartphone does a pretty good job of helping you point the scope at your desired target. 

 

 

 

 

Other scopes in your price range:

 

 

Orion SkQuest XT6 kit - 150 mm aperture –– 34 pounds

Gathers about 2X as much light as the 102 mm scope. 
Popular 6” Dobsonian scope package with useful accessories beyond what is part of the standard scope.   Includes 2 eyepieces, 2X barlow, Planisphere, Moon map, beginner observers guide and red flashlight.  All things you will need.  This is a floor standing scope that is very stable and very easy to use.
https://www.telescop...yPriceAscending

 

 

A little over your budget

 

Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian - 203 mm aperture - 43 pounds but can be moved in 2 pieces
I have the computer assisted version of this telescope – Gathers about 70% more light than the XT6 and other 6” scopes. Gathers about 4 times as much light as the 102 refractor. 
http://www.telescope...ByCategoryId=13
Video
https://www.youtube....h?v=kCNUv5Wj4vg
https://www.youtube....h?v=yHwY5qeu9fg

 

 

RESOURCES

 

Seven Ways To Find Things In the Sky
https://www.cloudyni...e-there-others/

 

How Much Does a First Telescope Cost?
https://telescopicwa...telescope-cost/

 

Refractor vs. Reflector – Which is better?
https://telescopicwa...tor-telescopes/


Edited by aeajr, 24 January 2021 - 09:45 AM.

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#3 CarolinaBanker

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Posted 23 January 2021 - 11:49 PM

I suggest you focus on 1 and 3 which I have listed below.  Note that I included links to the scopes so people can easily look at the package and the specs of each.   When asking about things, it is nice to include a link so we can easily take a look without google searching for each one. 

<...snip...>

I plan to look at planets and brighter DSO (Messier). I feel comfortable finding them, but I think having the StarSense at least as an option sounds interesting.


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#4 PPPPPP42

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Posted 24 January 2021 - 08:27 AM

My opinion, the XT8 dob that he suggested would do the job you want the best for the money.  There are guided push to or goto dobs available.

Don't buy less than an 8" dob in my opinion, their strength lies in their massive apertures for very little cost which offsets the somewhat higher hassle factor of storing them and getting them going at night.  A smaller dob would sorta be the worst of both worlds.

 

If there are logistical reasons you chose a refractor then maybe not since a dob is the opposite of light quick and convenient like a refractor.

 

I have a 127mm that is about 4 times your budget for just the tube itself and I can tell you that its maximum magnification is barely enough for me on planets and only then because the image is so perfectly clear (on good seeing nights) due to the high quality optics that I can make out super fine details even with the small image.

 

As for DSO's the brightest ones are all visible to me but many of the details are lost or very dim and the 127 has something like 40-45% more light gathering power than the 102 (too lazy to do the math look it up).

 

A refractor is really a poor way to do things cheap because you have to get higher quality optics to really make the most of them and they get very expensive around the size where they become useful as a single scope.

Astrophotography or portability and quick setup as a priority are the reasons people use refractors.

Unless of course you have $12,000 to spend and a strong back, then the refractor you could get would stomp anything else out there.


Edited by PPPPPP42, 24 January 2021 - 08:28 AM.

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#5 Hesiod

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Posted 24 January 2021 - 08:41 AM

If want to look planets you want also a fairly slow achro: the models you listed are better suited to low-power observations of deep sky objects

A good model was the Celestron OMNI 102 cg4, a 4" f/10 achro paired with a decent equatorial mount.

Another suitable model could be the Vixen 80Mf bundle with the altazimuthal Porta mount

 

If want a more compact tube, either a 5" f/5 Newtonian reflector or a small catadioptric (depending on the budget may opt for the 3.5", 4" or 5" size) are IME much better suited to observe the targets you are most interested in.


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#6 RobertMaples

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Posted 24 January 2021 - 09:55 AM

I'll reiterate what Alberto said - a fast (small focal ratio) achromatic telescope is not ideal for planetary viewing.  I've a couple and while I really enjoy there wide sweeping views of he Milky Way and there views of open star clusters, if I am going to be doing planetary viewing I always get out one of my reflectors.

 

To explain further, an achromatic refractor does not focus all of the wave lengths of light to the same plane.  The shorter the focal length of the telescope the worse this issue is.  It's also worse at higher magnifications and on brighter objects, which is what you are dealing with when doing planetary viewing.  Apochromatic telescopes overcome the issue with better glass and more lenses, but they are much more expensive and would be out of your stated price range.


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#7 aeajr

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Posted 24 January 2021 - 10:23 AM

I plan to look at planets and brighter DSO (Messier). I feel comfortable finding them, but I think having the StarSense at least as an option sounds interesting.

Would you share the criteria you used to decide on the first four scopes?   You see, you have asked us to evaluate them but we don't know all of your criteria.  And since you have fairly few posts and are posting in the beginner forum I presume you don't have a lot of experience to draw on.  So share the basis of your decision. 

 

The three links/articles I put in the RESOURCES section of the second post in this thread explain the detail of what I am going to layout here. 

 

Any telescope can be used to view the Moon, planets and the Messier objects.   The power of telescopes is that they gather light, and they don't care where the light comes from.   However, if you are deeply focused on one type of object, say the Moon and planets, then certain scopes are more optimized for that task, but it can still be used for other things. That is why many of us have more than one scope. 

 

For a telescope, aperture is like horsepower in a car, the more you have the more powerful your telescope will be when you are viewing the Moon, planets and DSOs.  The larger the aperture of the telescope, the more detail you can see.

 

The Sun is the one target where larger aperture is not really needed. It is so bright we have to block out over 99% of its light in order to observe it. 

 

Messier saw the items on the list and his scopes were not likely much better than the three 102 mm scopes you listed.  However his sky was likely much darker than yours, and that makes a big difference.

 

The Messier list is a collection of things he did not want to look at.  He was primarily a comet hunter so the list was of things that might be mistaken for comets.  But we like it because they are some of the brighter DSOs, though several are quite challenging in today's light polluted sky. 

https://en.wikipedia...Charles_Messier

 

About 3/4 of the Messier objects can be seen with binoculars from darker locations, so that 80 mm will do the job too.  But there is the ability to identify that something is there and there is the amount of detail you can see.  They are not the same.  The more aperture you have the more detail you can see.

 

Messier with Binoculars
https://www.astrolea...s/binomesa.html

 

The Moon is there pretty much all the time and you can spend a lifetime observing the Moon.   Planets are not always in the sky and other than Jupiter and Saturn, are basically round balls with little to no detail.   You will spend more time on DSOs than you might think and DSOs benefit from aperture above all else. 

 

Questions:  When I am helping someone pick a telescope, these are my first questions along with an estimated budget.

 

  • Where will you store the scope?   Do you have a garage or a shed?
  • Where will you use it?  Home?  Remote sites?  Take it on airplanes?
  • How will you move it?   Carry by hand, cart, ???
  • Does it have to fit in a car?  What Car?
  • Is this for family vacations so it has to be small and compact?

 

Budget: What did you include?

  • Telescope = optical tube, mount
  • Eyepieces - you will likely want more than what comes with the scope
  • Observing chair - adjustable height is best
  • Case for accessories - can be anything, I use a cat litter bucket.
  • Binoculars - excellent companion to any telescope
  • Charts, apps to help you identify what there is to see and how to find it

 

What is your light pollution situation? This will greatly impact what you can see. 

 

Light Pollution
https://telescopicwa...ight-pollution/

 

Logistics

 

If you live in a third floor walk up apartment, then size and weight are critical.  That 8" Dob that I listed in my first post would not be a good choice.

 

If you have a home, or access to ground level storage, than that 6" or 8" Dob might be your best choice. I keep all of my observing equipment in the garage.   My scopes range from 80 mm to 305 mm/12". 

 

The smaller scopes I can pick up and carry, fully mounted and ready to go.   My larger scope is on a hand truck so I can just tip it and roll it out, almost as easily as the small scopes.  So where you will store it and where you will use it are significant factors in choosing a telescope.

 

I started with an 80 mm and enjoyed it a lot.  However, within two months I purchased an 8"/203 mm Dob and quickly learned how to make it easy to move around.  I have since upgraded that one to a 12"/305 mm Dob. but I still have the first 80 mm which I use for outreach events because it is a tracking scope. 

 

Finding Things

 

Depending on your light pollution situation, you may have lots of stars in your sky, or very few.  After pointing the scope at what you can see with your eyes, you will need to adopt a method of finding things.  These are discussed at the link, Seven Ways to Find Things in the Sky, that I posted earlier.   Which do you plan to use?

 

If you are in a very light polluted area, star hopping can work but it can be quite challenging.  This is like following turn by turn written directions at night when you can't see some of the street signs, or the signs are not there at all. 

 

If you are in a fairly dark area, star hopping can be very rewarding.  Start at a bright object and work your way to your target.  Many people find the hunt by this method as much fun as the actual observing. 

 

Some people, like me, prefer to use other methods that do not rely on what can be seen naked eye or in the finder on the scope.  I rarely star hop. 

 

So, share your selection criteria so we know how best to advise you. This is more about you than about the telescope. 


Edited by aeajr, 24 January 2021 - 10:43 AM.

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#8 spaceoddity

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Posted 24 January 2021 - 10:47 AM

Agreed on the 6-8" dob. Best bang for the buck and even the 6 will show planets and brighter DSO's pretty well. For a refractor that would somewhat fit your criteria without being super expensive, I'd look at the ES102 f/9.8 refractor on the twilight I mount but at $550, it's still a bit over your budget. Of the scopes you listed, either 1 of the 102 mm models would be the best bet. As mentioned already an achromat doublet refractor at f/6.5 is gonna have a fair amount of chromatic aberration on bright objects like planets, and probably a wobbly mount. You may find it acceptable though. Any telescope is better than nothing and a fast 102mm achro can certainly be an enjoyable scope. Definitely get a 102 instead of an 80 if you are set on a refractor.  



#9 spaceoddity

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Posted 24 January 2021 - 11:00 AM

The ES102 f/9.8 does come with a german eq mount within your budget, not sure if it is in stock anywhere. https://explorescien...fl-ar1021000eq3



#10 Hesiod

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Posted 24 January 2021 - 11:48 AM

Another thing I forgot to underline in my previous post: to observe planets you will use very high magnifications, from 100x up.

It is therefore of the utmost importance to have a steady mount which allows to track smoothly your target.

Often "entry-level" telescopes are paired with very weak mounts: that is a strong advantage of Dobsonian telescopes, whose "mounts" are on the other hand quite stable and sturdy (and easier to improve if do not like the feeling).

As an example the Skywatcher Heritage 130 (available in the USA also as AWB OneSky), despite a tag price under 200€ works very well up to 260x (here is at 130x with a 5mm eyepiece)

gallery_215679_8115_79012.jpg

 

Mind that if a telescope is priced like the Heritage 130 and bundled with a full-sized mount, that mount ranges from bad to horrible: in my experience to attain decency with this kind of setup you should look to 400-500€ models.

Good compact alt/az mounts are the Vixen Porta, the Skywatcher AZ4, the ES Twilight 1 (there are many more other good options, but tend to be more expensive since usually have to purchase the tripod too).

Of the Porta and Twilight there are also smaller versions (called "mini", or "nano", or something similar): are still not bad, but should be paired only to very compact tubes such as the 3.5" or 4" MCTs.

These diminutive telescopes are a nice alternative if are interested in a very compact rig: I have used for several years a 3.5" Skywatcher MCT as "holiday telescope" and have enjoyed it very much on deep sky

gallery_215679_8115_2334460.jpg



#11 CarolinaBanker

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Posted 24 January 2021 - 12:47 PM

Would you share the criteria you used to decide on the first four scopes?   You see, you have asked us to evaluate them but we don't know all of your criteria.  And since you have fairly few posts and are posting in the beginner forum I presume you don't have a lot of experience to draw on.  So share the basis of your decision. 

 

The three links/articles I put in the RESOURCES section of the second post in this thread explain the detail of what I am going to layout here. 

 

Any telescope can be used to view the Moon, planets and the Messier objects.   The power of telescopes is that they gather light, and they don't care where the light comes from.   However, if you are deeply focused on one type of object, say the Moon and planets, then certain scopes are more optimized for that task, but it can still be used for other things. That is why many of us have more than one scope. 

 

For a telescope, aperture is like horsepower in a car, the more you have the more powerful your telescope will be when you are viewing the Moon, planets and DSOs.  The larger the aperture of the telescope, the more detail you can see.

 

The Sun is the one target where larger aperture is not really needed. It is so bright we have to block out over 99% of its light in order to observe it. 

 

Messier saw the items on the list and his scopes were not likely much better than the three 102 mm scopes you listed.  However his sky was likely much darker than yours, and that makes a big difference.

 

The Messier list is a collection of things he did not want to look at.  He was primarily a comet hunter so the list was of things that might be mistaken for comets.  But we like it because they are some of the brighter DSOs, though several are quite challenging in today's light polluted sky. 

https://en.wikipedia...Charles_Messier

 

About 3/4 of the Messier objects can be seen with binoculars from darker locations, so that 80 mm will do the job too.  But there is the ability to identify that something is there and there is the amount of detail you can see.  They are not the same.  The more aperture you have the more detail you can see.

 

Messier with Binoculars
https://www.astrolea...s/binomesa.html

 

The Moon is there pretty much all the time and you can spend a lifetime observing the Moon.   Planets are not always in the sky and other than Jupiter and Saturn, are basically round balls with little to no detail.   You will spend more time on DSOs than you might think and DSOs benefit from aperture above all else. 

 

Questions:  When I am helping someone pick a telescope, these are my first questions along with an estimated budget.

 

  • Where will you store the scope?   Do you have a garage or a shed?
  • Where will you use it?  Home?  Remote sites?  Take it on airplanes?
  • How will you move it?   Carry by hand, cart, ???
  • Does it have to fit in a car?  What Car?
  • Is this for family vacations so it has to be small and compact?

 

Budget: What did you include?

  • Telescope = optical tube, mount
  • Eyepieces - you will likely want more than what comes with the scope
  • Observing chair - adjustable height is best
  • Case for accessories - can be anything, I use a cat litter bucket.
  • Binoculars - excellent companion to any telescope
  • Charts, apps to help you identify what there is to see and how to find it

 

What is your light pollution situation? This will greatly impact what you can see. 

 

Light Pollution
https://telescopicwa...ight-pollution/

 

Logistics

 

If you live in a third floor walk up apartment, then size and weight are critical.  That 8" Dob that I listed in my first post would not be a good choice.

 

If you have a home, or access to ground level storage, than that 6" or 8" Dob might be your best choice. I keep all of my observing equipment in the garage.   My scopes range from 80 mm to 305 mm/12". 

 

The smaller scopes I can pick up and carry, fully mounted and ready to go.   My larger scope is on a hand truck so I can just tip it and roll it out, almost as easily as the small scopes.  So where you will store it and where you will use it are significant factors in choosing a telescope.

 

I started with an 80 mm and enjoyed it a lot.  However, within two months I purchased an 8"/203 mm Dob and quickly learned how to make it easy to move around.  I have since upgraded that one to a 12"/305 mm Dob. but I still have the first 80 mm which I use for outreach events because it is a tracking scope. 

 

Finding Things

 

Depending on your light pollution situation, you may have lots of stars in your sky, or very few.  After pointing the scope at what you can see with your eyes, you will need to adopt a method of finding things.  These are discussed at the link, Seven Ways to Find Things in the Sky, that I posted earlier.   Which do you plan to use?

 

If you are in a very light polluted area, star hopping can work but it can be quite challenging.  This is like following turn by turn written directions at night when you can't see some of the street signs, or the signs are not there at all. 

 

If you are in a fairly dark area, star hopping can be very rewarding.  Start at a bright object and work your way to your target.  Many people find the hunt by this method as much fun as the actual observing. 

 

Some people, like me, prefer to use other methods that do not rely on what can be seen naked eye or in the finder on the scope.  I rarely star hop. 

 

So, share your selection criteria so we know how best to advise you. This is more about you than about the telescope. 

The criteria I choose to select those 4 scopes were well reviewed 80-102MM refractors that fit into my budget of $300-$400. I wanted only either Alt Az mounts or a scope without a mount below 2-300 and then I’d buy a separate Alt Az. I have a poor view of the northern sky from my backyard so polar alignment is made more difficult. Also compared to my 7x50s an 80 or 102MM is a huge step up.

 

Here are the reasons for each scope:

  • Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ - Strong reviews, StarSense
  • Orion ShortTube 80-A Refractor Telescope with one of the following tripods: Orion Tritech II Field Tripod with Fluid Pan Head; Orion VersaGo E-Series Altazimuth Mount; or Orion Paragon-Plus XHD Extra Heavy-Duty Tripod x Ed Ting had a video that mentioned this as a solid starter, I like that I can buy my own mount and get something decent.
  • Explore Scientific FirstLight AR102 TN Refractor Telescope - Respectable optics and a good mount
  • Orion StarBlast 102mm Altazimuth Travel Refractor Telescope - Optics are supposed to be good, I know I’ll need a new mount at some point

 

  • Storage: A bonus room on the second floor
  • Location: Mostly my backyard, post-COVID mostly locally
  • Moving the scope: Hand carry
  • Car: It would have to fit in a Jeep Grand Cherokee 
  • Vacations: It’s just my wife and I, so there are fewer concerns about a long tube, but a Dobson will still be too bulky, my in laws are in a Bortle 3/4 area, so I’d like to bring it then 
  • Budget: My budget of $300-400 is for the OTA, Mount and tripod only; I figure I’ll wind up buying another Plossl or 2 (budget $50-100), a planisphere, a moon filter and a light pollution filter, I already have a pair of 7x50s, and star software.
  • Light pollution: Varies between Bortle 5 and 6
  • Logistics: Due to having to schlep the scope from upstairs, liking the ability to have shorter observing sessions if I desire and not wanting to deal with collimating frequently a Dob is a poor choice, I know I won’t use it as often as a refractor
  • Star Hunting: I’ve not been dissatisfied looking with binoculars, the SkySense app seems like a great way to do push to, but I’ve been leery of paying a massive premium for GoTo/PushTo.


#12 Hesiod

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Posted 24 January 2021 - 01:40 PM

All those telescopes are just too fast to deliver good views on planets. In fact are popular choice to observe deep sky objects at low or very low power (as a sort of "more powerful" bino)

Of course are better than nothing, and of course are better than common binos or your naked eye to observe the Moon or the planets but among astronomical telescopes their performance for such observations may be summarized as poor.

By comparison a 5" tabletop Dob (like the one I have posted: mind that the whole thing can be moved by a single hand. In fact it is smaller and lighter than my 66/400ED plus its Porta mount) would bring you a wholly different level.

A 5" f/5 Newtonian can be also mounted on smallish alt/az mounts if prefer a more conventional system (e.g. the Vixen bundle).

Mak-Cass like the C90, Skywatcher 90/1250 and 100/1300 (these are also available from Orion), the Bresser 90/1250 are all extremely compact and rugged telescopes well suited to observe at high power.

Compared to the 5" Newtonians are less versatile (their widest field of view is around 1°, while a 130/650 can hit 2° and half with just 1.25" accessories) and of course could not match the resolution and brightness of a 5" but are smaller, lighter, works well also as spotting scopes and are more rugged (just as refractors, with the difference that have better mechanics and in the worst case could be adjusted by the user)



#13 CarolinaBanker

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Posted 24 January 2021 - 03:24 PM

My opinion, the XT8 dob that he suggested would do the job you want the best for the money.  There are guided push to or goto dobs available.

Don't buy less than an 8" dob in my opinion, their strength lies in their massive apertures for very little cost which offsets the somewhat higher hassle factor of storing them and getting them going at night.  A smaller dob would sorta be the worst of both worlds.

 

If there are logistical reasons you chose a refractor then maybe not since a dob is the opposite of light quick and convenient like a refractor.

 

I have a 127mm that is about 4 times your budget for just the tube itself and I can tell you that its maximum magnification is barely enough for me on planets and only then because the image is so perfectly clear (on good seeing nights) due to the high quality optics that I can make out super fine details even with the small image.

 

As for DSO's the brightest ones are all visible to me but many of the details are lost or very dim and the 127 has something like 40-45% more light gathering power than the 102 (too lazy to do the math look it up).

 

A refractor is really a poor way to do things cheap because you have to get higher quality optics to really make the most of them and they get very expensive around the size where they become useful as a single scope.

Astrophotography or portability and quick setup as a priority are the reasons people use refractors.

Unless of course you have $12,000 to spend and a strong back, then the refractor you could get would stomp anything else out there.

I'm not considering dobs at this point, I don't have outside storage and I like short observing sessions (30 minutes - an hour). Having to haul it downstairs from the bonus room would be a pain point for me and I know it would translate to less observing. I'm ok with the inherent tradeoffs of less aperture as it means not dealing with routinely collimating, more observing sessions and a huge improvement over my handheld 7x50s. A basic dob 8" would also cost more than I'm willing to spend (they seem to start at $450). 



#14 aeajr

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Posted 24 January 2021 - 03:32 PM

<p>

The criteria I choose to select those 4 scopes were well reviewed 80-102MM refractors that fit into my budget of $300-$400. I wanted only either Alt Az mounts or a scope without a mount below 2-300 and then I’d buy a separate Alt Az. I have a poor view of the northern sky from my backyard so polar alignment is made more difficult. Also compared to my 7x50s an 80 or 102MM is a huge step up.

Here are the reasons for each scope:

  • Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ - Strong reviews, StarSense
  • Orion ShortTube 80-A Refractor Telescope with one of the following tripods: Orion Tritech II Field Tripod with Fluid Pan Head; Orion VersaGo E-Series Altazimuth Mount; or Orion Paragon-Plus XHD Extra Heavy-Duty Tripod x Ed Ting had a video that mentioned this as a solid starter, I like that I can buy my own mount and get something decent.
  • Explore Scientific FirstLight AR102 TN Refractor Telescope - Respectable optics and a good mount
  • Orion StarBlast 102mm Altazimuth Travel Refractor Telescope - Optics are supposed to be good, I know I’ll need a new mount at some point
  • Storage: A bonus room on the second floor
  • Location: Mostly my backyard, post-COVID mostly locally
  • Moving the scope: Hand carry
  • Car: It would have to fit in a Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • Vacations: It’s just my wife and I, so there are fewer concerns about a long tube, but a Dobson will still be too bulky, my in laws are in a Bortle 3/4 area, so I’d like to bring it then
  • Budget: My budget of $300-400 is for the OTA, Mount and tripod only; I figure I’ll wind up buying another Plossl or 2 (budget $50-100), a planisphere, a moon filter and a light pollution filter, I already have a pair of 7x50s, and star software.
  • Light pollution: Varies between Bortle 5 and 6
  • Logistics: Due to having to schlep the scope from upstairs, liking the ability to have shorter observing sessions if I desire and not wanting to deal with collimating frequently a Dob is a poor choice, I know I won’t use it as often as a refractor
  • Star Hunting: I’ve not been dissatisfied looking with binoculars, the SkySense app seems like a great way to do push to, but I’ve been leery of paying a massive premium for GoTo/PushTo.

Thanks.

I too started with Binos.

I feel you have reasoned this out fairly well.

While an f9 or higher refractor or Mak would be better optimized for the moon and planets, the F6.5 Starsense will work. I did my first planet viewing with an F5 refractor and enjoyed it very much.

You can go for the big scope later. This will be your quick grab and go scope when you get the big scope.

There are always compromises to be made. I think you have struck a good balance, within your budget, with the two scopes I recommended in my earlier post.


Edited by aeajr, 24 January 2021 - 03:56 PM.


#15 vtornado

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Posted 24 January 2021 - 03:53 PM

80mm f/11 delivers good planetary views.

So does a 100 f/10.   The 100 f/10 will be hard to mount, because the tube is long.

https://www.celestro...t-102-telescope, but this leaves you with no money for extras.

 

 

100mm f/10 scopes come up here on the classified for around $100.00 for the tube.

Your budget also puts in in striking distance of a used Orion ED80.

 

If you are handy you can build a pipe mount with surveyor's tripod for a stable low cost mount.


Edited by vtornado, 24 January 2021 - 03:57 PM.


#16 CarolinaBanker

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Posted 24 January 2021 - 04:54 PM

80mm f/11 delivers good planetary views.

So does a 100 f/10.   The 100 f/10 will be hard to mount, because the tube is long.

https://www.celestro...t-102-telescope, but this leaves you with no money for extras.

 

 

100mm f/10 scopes come up here on the classified for around $100.00 for the tube.

Your budget also puts in in striking distance of a used Orion ED80.

 

If you are handy you can build a pipe mount with surveyor's tripod for a stable low cost mount.

I’m a bit leery of the equatorial mounts, unfortunately my view of the northern sky is largely blocked.



#17 vtornado

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Posted 24 January 2021 - 05:36 PM

The EQs  are a bit less intuitive than the alt-az, however the CG4 is probably the strongest mount at this price point.

The popular side arm alt-az jobs, like the explore scientific twilight 1 and vixen porta mount are  not quite

up to holding a 100 f/10.

 

If you are worried about not being able to see the North Star, for visual astronomy it is not necessary.

If you level your scope and point it close to north you get about 15 minutes of tracking without using the declination control.

I am on the midwest road grid system, and if I make the back legs parallel to an East-West road that is good enough.


Edited by vtornado, 24 January 2021 - 05:39 PM.

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#18 RobertMaples

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Posted 25 January 2021 - 08:47 AM

I’m a bit leery of the equatorial mounts, unfortunately my view of the northern sky is largely blocked.

For visual use, simply set the angle of your RA axis to your latitude and using a compass (or even just Google maps) to point your telescope close to North and you'll  be fine.

 

 

The criteria I choose to select those 4 scopes were well reviewed 80-102MM refractors that fit into my budget of $300-$400. I wanted only either Alt Az mounts or a scope without a mount below 2-300 and then I’d buy a separate Alt Az. I have a poor view of the northern sky from my backyard so polar alignment is made more difficult. Also compared to my 7x50s an 80 or 102MM is a huge step up.

 

Here are the reasons for each scope:

  • Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ - Strong reviews, StarSense
  • Orion ShortTube 80-A Refractor Telescope with one of the following tripods: Orion Tritech II Field Tripod with Fluid Pan Head; Orion VersaGo E-Series Altazimuth Mount; or Orion Paragon-Plus XHD Extra Heavy-Duty Tripod x Ed Ting had a video that mentioned this as a solid starter, I like that I can buy my own mount and get something decent.
  • Explore Scientific FirstLight AR102 TN Refractor Telescope - Respectable optics and a good mount
  • Orion StarBlast 102mm Altazimuth Travel Refractor Telescope - Optics are supposed to be good, I know I’ll need a new mount at some point

 

  • Storage: A bonus room on the second floor
  • Location: Mostly my backyard, post-COVID mostly locally
  • Moving the scope: Hand carry
  • Car: It would have to fit in a Jeep Grand Cherokee 
  • Vacations: It’s just my wife and I, so there are fewer concerns about a long tube, but a Dobson will still be too bulky, my in laws are in a Bortle 3/4 area, so I’d like to bring it then 
  • Budget: My budget of $300-400 is for the OTA, Mount and tripod only; I figure I’ll wind up buying another Plossl or 2 (budget $50-100), a planisphere, a moon filter and a light pollution filter, I already have a pair of 7x50s, and star software.
  • Light pollution: Varies between Bortle 5 and 6
  • Logistics: Due to having to schlep the scope from upstairs, liking the ability to have shorter observing sessions if I desire and not wanting to deal with collimating frequently a Dob is a poor choice, I know I won’t use it as often as a refractor
  • Star Hunting: I’ve not been dissatisfied looking with binoculars, the SkySense app seems like a great way to do push to, but I’ve been leery of paying a massive premium for GoTo/PushTo.

 

I wonder why you are specifically looking at refractors.  You do mention collimation, but that's not near as big of a deal as some people make it out to be.  I've got a Starblast 4.5 EQ (which I consider an excellent starter telescope and would fit your situation well) that I very rarely bother collimating.  Now I will admit that I don't go over 150x with it, not because it won't handle it but because I don't have any decent eyepiece/barlow combinations that will.  Maybe if I was always maxing out it's magnification I would need to collimate it more frequently, but you're not likely going to be going much above 150x with an 80-102 mm refractor very much anyway.  I have nothing against refractors, and as I've mentioned I really enjoy the wide views I get with some of mine, but It's been my experience that getting decent planetary views on a budget is easier with a reflector.  


Edited by RobertMaples, 25 January 2021 - 08:53 AM.

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#19 spaceoddity

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Posted 25 January 2021 - 04:52 PM

90 mm is also a pretty popular refractor size. You might be able to find something 90 mm within your budget. 



#20 CarolinaBanker

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Posted 25 January 2021 - 06:42 PM

As an update I wound up going with the Celestron 102 AZ. StarSense put it over the top. Now the wait begins, I figure I should get my scope in the next few weeks or months.
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#21 sevenofnine

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Posted 25 January 2021 - 07:49 PM

If you've waded through the astro-TMI so far then the consensus is don't get a cheap achro refractor. It's the wrong scope for what you've described as your "needs." Dobs are out too so what's left?? Get a Mak would be my suggestion. I have one and it's fine for planets and any solar system objects. A 5 inch is adequate for your needs. Mine cost about $400 for the OTA and the same for the go-to mount. Another couple hundred for eyepieces and accessories. Setting low budget requirements is not a good idea in this hobby. moneyeyes.gif  Orion offers a no interest payment plan that might help with your decision. Good luck! waytogo.gif



#22 spaceoddity

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Posted 25 January 2021 - 08:46 PM

https://www.bhphotov...RhoC8V0QAvD_BwE

 

Might want one of these for planetary viewing with a fast achro.



#23 CarolinaBanker

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Posted 25 January 2021 - 09:31 PM

https://www.bhphotov...RhoC8V0QAvD_BwE

 

Might want one of these for planetary viewing with a fast achro.

I’ve started looking at filters and eye pieces, I’ve been thinking about a light pollution filter as well as a Barlow and 32mm plossl.



#24 vtornado

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Posted 25 January 2021 - 10:33 PM

Most planetary filters bundled in kits are too dark.  They impart a tremendous coloration to the object, and block a lot of light.

(Light that you are trying to gain by using a telescope).  

 

I have used an 82A light blue to enhance the polar caps on Mars.  

A yellow #8 will  help with chromatic abberation of a short actromatic refractor. 

There are band pass filters like the baader fringe killer that do a better job than the yellow #8, but are much more expensive.

 

For eyepieces start slow.  You need to see what different powers are like in your scope and what targets you most enjoy doing.

 

A UHC filter is a good first filter to get. 

 

Some beginners start with an 8-24 zoom eyepiece.   The upper range suffers from a narrow field of view, but the 8-16 range compares

well with plossl eyepieces.  



#25 aeajr

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Posted 25 January 2021 - 10:57 PM

I’ve started looking at filters and eye pieces, I’ve been thinking about a light pollution filter as well as a Barlow and 32mm plossl.

Light pollution
https://telescopicwa...ight-pollution/

LP filters are becoming ineffective.

32 mm Plossl would be good.

A 25% or variable moon filter would be good for the Moon and Venus.

Hold off on most other filters for a while.

Edited by aeajr, 25 January 2021 - 10:59 PM.



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