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Looking for recommendations on a portable telescope

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#1 Bdiamond1988

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 10:28 AM

Hello! I am just really getting started on this hobby and have been using an old telescope. It is a Meade Jupiter reflector from the 90s I would guess. It was stored in my parents attic uncovered so I took it apart and cleaned all the dust that was caked on it. It works ok and I am able to see Jupiter and 4 of it's moons and very very vaguely Saturn and it's rings but it's almost just a bright dot. The Orion nebula doesn't really look like anything through the scope. I catch a very vague glare that makes it stand out but I'm also not sure if it just me looking for it. Anyways I'm thinking of getting a new scope of higher quality that would also be my primary one. I do a lot of car camping and we are a family of 5. I have a Subaru Ascent and a roof cargo box to help transport. We camp mostly at KOAs and family campgrounds but once and awhile do camping at other places. I would like a telescope that I can take with me and is not a huge pain to take and move around. I know a dob is a great choice for beginners but I worry that it will be too much to move around and transport. I was originally looking at the AWB OneSky and liked that but worried about part of it being open and lights from the campground effecting the view. That lead me to the Orion Starblast 6. I like the larger aperture and that it is a solid tube. The only thing I wasn't crazy about is that they are tabletop models. I could deal with that if they are what is recommended but I would like one on a mount more I believe. The next ones I found was a GSO 6 inch reflector. I also found a Celestron Omni XLT 150. It's higher in price but I'm not sure if it is worth the jump. I would need to buy a mount for this but the tube is cheap and I think I could fine a mount. I check my Facebook marketplace and I found a Meade LX70 R6 for $400 used. I wasn't sure if that was good since I don't see a lot of mention of that specific model on here. I was hoping to get some recommendations from some of the users here. I would like an all around telescope that I can use to view planets, clusters, and nebulas. My price rance is pretty open I was hoping for $500 or less but if I needed to spend a little more I would be open to it if the benefit was high enough. I don't need lenses or any extras right now since I did buy some for my current telescope and I got the 1.25" ones because I figured I could use them in the future. Thanks in advance for the input.
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#2 Tangerman

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 10:32 AM

6" makes a great beginning telescope, and that should be able to fit in your roof cargo box too. The GSO model should be pretty good.


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#3 DAG792

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 10:39 AM

The Starblast 6 is a good scope, but as you said, it requires a table or something to set it on. But, even foregoing that, it has a really bad focuser. First of all, it is only 1.25 inch, which is out of place in such fast scope. It's also made of plastic and slops a lot. 

However, even with a 1.25 inch focuser, it can still manage 2o TFOV, which is -IMO- quite good. Perhaps the tabletop mount's only advantage is that I've found it to be much more portable than a tripod. both the OTA and mount easily fit in the trunk of a small sedan, and with lots of room to spare.

The Omni XLT is a better scope, it has a proper 2 inch focuser, and can achieve a 3o TFOV... and I can assure you, a 3 degree field with 6 inches of aperture is very good. I would recommend the Omni XLT, even though I have the StarBlast 6. But, it is more expensive and the tripod is more unwieldy than the StarBlast's grab-n-go tabletop mount. It will also probably take up more space in your car. So, the choice is up to you.


Edited by DAG792, 23 February 2021 - 10:40 AM.

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#4 Lazaroff

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 10:40 AM

I suggest you take a look at the Orion SkyQuest XT4.5.


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#5 ayryq

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 10:45 AM

I suggest you take a look at the Orion SkyQuest XT4.5.

I don't think this is a good suggestion: too big for a camping scope. However if you decide that's what you want, let me know; I've got one for sale and could potentially meet you along I-90 sometime.

 

When I last wanted a small travel scope, I bought my ETX90, took it off the forks and carried a compact (but nice) ball-head photo tripod. The OTA and accessories fit well in a toolbox I picked up at the hardware store, with some upholstery foam padding. Worked well if you were careful not to jostle it on the tripod.

 

EDIT: found some old pictures: https://www.cloudyni...cope/?p=8697877


Edited by ayryq, 23 February 2021 - 11:01 AM.


#6 rhetfield

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 11:39 AM

I have the AWB OneSky and take it camping.  I usually put it on one of my folding camp tables.  I was gifted a small photo tripod that is intended for spotting scopes sold by cabela.  The Onesky is technically too big for it, but the scope and tripod combo fit into an airline carry-on or daypack and the tripod seems able to manage adequately for visual use.  Probably could backpack with it (not much bigger than my down sleeping bag).

 

The OneSky has a vixen dovetail and can be put on a lightweight astronomical tripod.  The starblast 6 has rings and will also fit on an astronomical tripod (but will probably need a little beefier one).

 

It is easy to put a retractable shroud on the OneSky.  Another useful thing to add to it or any other dob is degree circles for navigation.  I like that the OneSky is a simple device that can be easily disassembled and cleaned in the field.  Even the helical focuser is forgiving of dirt and grime.  It has proved to be pretty rugged and forgiving.  Both the OneSky and the Starblast 6 are nice general purpose scopes that get both wide field and high magnification and they perform wonderfully under dark skies.  If I were to go with the Starblast 6, I would seriously consider investing in a nice duo speed 2" focuser for it.   

 

Look at the following threads.  The OneSky thread details the shroud and other modifications that people do to the little scope.  It is a good scope out of the box and becomes a great one with only a little work:

 

https://www.cloudyni...ithout-borders/

https://www.cloudyni...degree-circles/


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#7 Ehanc

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 11:47 AM

I'd like to recommend the Vixen vmc 110 bundled with a porta mount.  This was my first scope and I still enjoy using it as a grab and go and also for travel - its really light weight and has 4" of good optics.  I'll install a correct image diagonal and use it for bird or squirrel watching or other terrestrial viewing too - something you cant really do with a newtonian.  The alt az portamount is simple to set up and use which is a plus.  Hope this helped - Good luck with your selection!


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#8 izar187

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 12:22 PM

Another vote for short tube newts.
5 or 6 inch f/5's work great as first scopes.
As 2nd, 3rd or 4th scopes too. : )

2 to 3 degree low power fields in view, for finding stuff.
Up to 150x to 200x(and more).

Store easy in the corner of any car, for road trips.

Easy to mount.
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#9 krokodilce

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 12:45 PM

+1 for 6-incher, it got me pretty hooked into astronomy and is portable


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#10 Bdiamond1988

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 02:16 PM

I definitely think I want to stay with at least a 6 inch aperture. Do any of these 6 inch models stand out from another? Is there any models I should stay away from?
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#11 dmgriff

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 02:17 PM

For a 6in newtonian, suggest a SkyWatcher Classic 6in f/8 dob (~40 lbs. or so assembled), one of the usual CN suggestions. Taller than the f/5 "table top" dobs, but, a f/8 ota is a better all around scope for lunar/planetary/clusters/doubles/dso. Also, no coma, and a larger selection of eps.

 

That said, a 6in f/6 GSO ota will have less coma than f/5. At f/6 and f~900mm you get more magnification than f/5 f~750mm with the same eyepiece. The GSO newts are heavy. My f/6 is about 14 lbs. Mounting on a Alt/Az will require something above a standard Vixen Porta II for solid stability. For a newt on a equatorial mount, you want at least a EQ3 (preferably a EQ5) with a short tripod for stability. The "long leg" tripods such as the Celestron CG4, put the eyepiece too high for my comfortable use with a chair. Also more height to transport/store, etc.

 

A 5in/130mm f/5 newt (preferably a Z130 or Vixen R130Sf that have included rings/dovetail) ota on a Vixen Porta II (or similar) alt/az is a nice comfortable combo for DSO/clusters/lunar/planetary.

 

Good viewing,

 

Dave


Edited by dmgriff, 23 February 2021 - 02:32 PM.


#12 James_5474

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 03:05 PM

I don't think this is a good suggestion: too big for a camping scope. However if you decide that's what you want, let me know; I've got one for sale and could potentially meet you along I-90 sometime.

When I last wanted a small travel scope, I bought my ETX90, took it off the forks and carried a compact (but nice) ball-head photo tripod. The OTA and accessories fit well in a toolbox I picked up at the hardware store, with some upholstery foam padding. Worked well if you were careful not to jostle it on the tripod.

EDIT: found some old pictures: https://www.cloudyni...cope/?p=8697877

It really depends on what you mean by camping. If you're camping at a site near your car, the XT4.5 would be probably be fine, assuming your car isn't filled to the brim with people and stuff. I actually bought my XT4.5 with this in mind - our car is never packed full when we go camping, leaving plenty of room to put the scope in the backseat.

#13 laurelg9

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 03:33 PM

I have two telescopes: one a 10" dob and one an Orion ST80.  The ST80 is portable, small, easy to set up and shows a lot.  You might look at the Meade camping ST80 (ST stands for short tube), which comes with a backpack and small tripod.  Or, the new Orion red ST80 with the goto mount (which wouldn't be good for camping, but you could by the goto ST80 and buy a regular tripod.....


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#14 rhetfield

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 03:56 PM

I definitely think I want to stay with at least a 6 inch aperture. Do any of these 6 inch models stand out from another? Is there any models I should stay away from?

It would be harder to find than other things (largely because it is primarily in Europe), but the Heritage 150p is a 6" version of the OneSky.  Another thing to look at is the skywatcher flextube 200.  That is a collapsible 8" dob.  Probably bigger than what you want but would up the game a bit.

 

6" reflectors as a general rule are good across the board.  Some will come with better focusers than others, but otherwise not a lot of difference.  The bigger difference will be with mounts.  Expect to pay a premium for a good one.  Otherwise just make sure you pay attention to size and weight of both the scope and mount.  The slower scopes will get long and the mounts can also take up a bit of space.

 

You can buy a head and tripod separately in order to get a tripod that folds up more compact, but that will add quite a bit of expense.  Make sure you have a good idea of how much space you have available ahead of time so you can purchase accordingly.

 

Also keep in mind that most scopes only come with one or two eyepieces and you will eventually need to invest in at least a couple more along with maybe a couple other things to get the most out of the scope.  Plan on around $200-300 for that.


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#15 sevenofnine

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 07:30 PM

The table top reflectors like the AWB Onesky or similar make decent travel scopes but the common complaint is "what do I put it on?" when you get there. That can be perplexing at times. The typical camp picnic table is awful and rarely in the right spot for viewing the sky. For a camping trip I would take my Celestron C-90 in it's padded backpack plus a travel tripod like the Manfrotto Be Free Advanced. Lighter yet would be my Oberwerk 15x70 LW binoculars and the Oberwerk monopod. If you plan ahead, they can all be enjoyable. Good luck with your choice! hmm.gif


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#16 teashea

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 08:18 PM

Whatever telescope you get I would suggest that you pay more attention to the mount than the telescope.  The mount is really more important.  So many people put a good scope on a poor quality mount.  This is a terrible mistake.


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#17 Lazaroff

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 08:27 PM

Read this Cloudy Nights review of the Orion XT4.5 before you decide:

 

https://www.cloudyni...-reflector-r813

 

 

Then consider:

 

--solid, steady mount makes it hard to tip over and easy to focus

 

--eyepiece height is great for kids (and adults can use it sitting down)

 

--ready to go--no need to make a shroud or buy a tripod and mount

 

--fabulous optics

 

--easy to collimate

 

--works well with inexpensive eyepieces

 

 

If it's too big for your car, buy something else. Good luck!


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#18 Stevencbradley

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 08:55 PM

I would add, look at Ed Ting's videos on YouTube. He reviews a lot of scopes, but more importantly he stands by them or puts them on his desk so you can get an idea of their relative size and portability. Also, remember that whatever mount you use will have a great deal of influence on portability. 

If I was buying a scope today with budgetary constraints, I'd probably go for a short tube refractor, but Newtonians certainly give you more aperture for your dollars. 

Others have also made excellent suggestions. 

I re read your post, and if you don't mind the long focus, nothing is really more portable for its size than a Mak-cass. You can buy an Orion 5" maksutov for around $500. I have a Celestron  C5 that works great, and is also quite portable.however, I have it on a photo tripod, which I'm sure cost about as much as the 'scope (I.got it as part of another purchase). Once again, the mount is as important as the scope.


Edited by Stevencbradley, 23 February 2021 - 09:07 PM.

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#19 Lazaroff

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 09:11 PM

I would add, look at Ed Ting's videos on YouTube. 

Speaking of Ed Ting, here's his written review of the XT4.5.

 

http://www.scoperevi...m/page1s.html#3


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#20 izar187

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 09:24 PM

The table top reflectors like the AWB Onesky or similar make decent travel scopes but the common complaint is "what do I put it on?" when you get there. That can be perplexing at times. The typical camp picnic table is awful and rarely in the right spot for viewing the sky.

 

 

---------------------------------------------------------------

 

They do. : )

Yes there is sometime perplexity.

Pic-a-nic tables are frequently awful.

 

So...

http://umich.edu/~lo...3/dnelle.1.html
https://eyesonthesky...diy/2x4-tripod/
https://www.cloudyni...-forgedaboutit/
https://www.cloudyni...etop-dob-needs/

https://www.cloudyni...etop-dobsonian/

https://www.tableleg...ach-table-legs/  plus a trip to home improvement store.


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#21 Bdiamond1988

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 10:42 PM

Can you transport a dob in a car cargo roof box? That is my big concern. I dont do backpacking so my car is close but I might have to walk around to find a good view.
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#22 JohnnyBGood

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 09:46 AM

Depending on if you want to buy used or not, I use my ETX-90 as my compact travel scope. An older ETX and a tripod for it can probably be found for $300 or so. The ETX can be used as a tabletop scope as well if you didn't want to bring the tripod. Newer GOTO versions are a little pricier but probably still within budget. Something like a NextStar 4SE or C90 might be a good consideration, too. Granted, you can see more with a 6" scope but it's hard to beat the portability of a 3.5" or 4" MCT or SCT.



#23 Ulmer Spatz

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 10:07 AM

The typical camp picnic table is awful and rarely in the right spot for viewing the sky.

That's true. But it's easy to come up with your own stand for a table top scope. One of our forum members made a simple stand which, if turned upside down, serves as sort of a transport cage for the scope. Scope and stand merge and the combo takes up very little room. All sorts of possibilities open up if you rid yourself of the notion that table top scopes must be used on a table. In fact, tables are pretty much the worst thing on which to put a table top scope, just as sevenofnine said.

 

Pro tripods work well, yes. But they're expensive, especially compared to a home-made stand.


Edited by Ulmer Spatz, 25 February 2021 - 10:39 AM.


#24 Bellke

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 10:15 AM

This may be a little more than you want to transport, but I'm hooked on my Celestron 6SE.  I'm relatively new to this as well, and like everyone else had "scope envy", wanting a larger one than I could really afford or needed at the beginning.  But as I use this more and more, I love it.  It's not hard to transport and give great (for me anyway) images.  I've replaced the toy finder scope and 90% of my negative thoughts went away.  The cost may be a little more than you want right not, but I see several in the Classified area at decent prices.  I'm sold on my 6" SCT.


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#25 Hexley  Happy Birthday!

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 10:55 AM

This may be a little more than you want to transport, but I'm hooked on my Celestron 6SE.  I'm relatively new to this as well, and like everyone else had "scope envy", wanting a larger one than I could really afford or needed at the beginning.  But as I use this more and more, I love it.  It's not hard to transport and give great (for me anyway) images.  I've replaced the toy finder scope and 90% of my negative thoughts went away.  The cost may be a little more than you want right not, but I see several in the Classified area at decent prices.  I'm sold on my 6" SCT.

Same here (although I like the red dot finder - I only use it to align Polaris and one more star usually). The 6SE is a fantastic family scope. I have two daughters (3 and 5) and a wife who isn't into astronomy. Compared to my manual dob, the 6SE is just easy to use, it will track objects all night, gives excellent planetary views with reasonably priced eyepieces, and punches above its weight class owing to the automation. You definitely will want a lithium battery pack for it, but otherwise, it's quite fantastic. It travels very well, so I take it out to Bortle 3 skies pretty often.




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