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Father & son - complete beginners - first telescope buy

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#1 boxerdog

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Posted 16 September 2021 - 11:38 AM

Hey everyone,

 

I'm looking for advice on a first purchase and after quite a few nights of solo research I do need some advices from the community.

 

So here's the deal - I have an 8year old who seems to really passionate about astronomy, we're already looking at the sky almost every evening for weeks now and I'm thinking of buying a telescope.
I've narrowed it down in my mind (and budget) to either a Skywatcher 102/500 on Stardiscovery mount or a Skywatcher 120/600 on a AZ3.

 

We'll be observing from our yard in the city center (Bortle 8, very sad I know) about 75% of the time, from somewhere near the beach/seaside (Bortle 3/4 as I see on the map) about 25% of the time and maybe some dark places in a few rare occasions. Considering we'll have sand around quite a few of the times and also as I would prefer in the beginning to avoid collimation, plus also due to size constaints I excluded the newtonian options. Then, considering the little guy is more passionate about constellations, star clusters and nebulas I've kind of excluded a Mak version - leading to the two refractor options above, for which I see some pros&cons

 

Skywatcher 102/500 on Stardiscovery mount - about 500 euros

- the go-to seems great for kids, gaining time and also for a beginner like me
- on the same mount I could also add later a Mak127 I guess, for observing planets in more details if we'll be into that
- the mount is however limited, that's about the biggest telescope size you can put on it and it's alt-az

Skywatcher 120/600 on a AZ3 - about 420euros
- needs manual adjustment so it will take some learning
- bigger telescope, so more light

- almost at the price of the tube alone
- if we keep to it and get the kicks I expect we will, I can buy later an EQ5 mount ideally with go-to, maybe I'll find a good one used

 

One final comment - while I'm very aware of what AP involves and I'm not getting any hopes up, I still would like to have a tube that allows me to put my D600 or Olympus m43 in prime focus and fool around with some shots especially in some dark sites - one more reason I've excluded for instance the Stardiscovery with 150P. And yes, I know achromats have a bagful of CA :-)

 

Now, any and all suggestions/ideas are welcome. Thank you all in advance for your time and support.


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#2 DSOGabe

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Posted 16 September 2021 - 11:52 AM

I would say the Skywatcher 120/600 is the better option.

1. The larger aperture will be able to give brighter views of dimmer objects. Aperture is always king!

2. The manual mount will make you to have to learn your way around the sky. 

 

I do not do astrophotography so I cannot say if either of the two scopes is good for it, or which one is the better option for AP.


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#3 Bill Jensen

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Posted 16 September 2021 - 12:25 PM

Boxerdog,
Welcome to CN! I hope you are able to post often about your observations with your son. That is a great age to share the joy of the night sky. 

 

Do you already own a pair of binoculars? You may want to try to fit that purchase into the budget, if you don't already own a pair. Even in urban skies a pair of binoculars can help you and your son learn the night sky. 

 

I also suggest getting a copy of Turn Left at Orion, a great book that is translated into many languages. It is a good way to get introduced to the night sky. 

 

Frankly, learning to use go to on a beginning telescope is often more frustrating that being able to just point at the sky and look through the eyepiece. Yet your point about buying "used" is a good one. Most of my scopes have been purchased used. Normally people take good care of their telescopes and eyepieces. Try contacting a local astro club, if you have one nearby. 

 

Good luck!


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#4 MisterDan

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Posted 16 September 2021 - 12:32 PM

Hello!

 

I think my own deciding factor would be the mount choice.  I'm familiar with alt-az mounts with slow-motion controls (such as the AZ3), but I have effectively no personal experience with the Star Discovery mount (almost identical to Celestron's NexStar SLT mount).  If I had any doubts or concerns with regard to the Star Discovery mount's long-term reliability, I (myself) would likely choose the 120/AZ3 combo.  However, I am very comfortable with manual controls and familiar with the sky.  Others may find those controls awkward or unsatisfying.

 

The telescopes, themselves, would certainly factor in my decision, but - for me and my habits and goals - the choice of mount would be more important.

 

You will surely get a lot of good advice.  Best wishes and luck!

Dan


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#5 vtornado

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Posted 16 September 2021 - 12:59 PM

Hello and welcome.

 

Not sure what to tell you but I will give you some thoughs.

 

For New folks, light pollution make it hard to find anything that is not naked eye visible.

Therefore goto helps.  For any goto mount I recommend one with clutches.  That allows

you to manually move the scope without the hand box.  For two reasons.  One if the  mount

does not have clutches if your batteries die or are weak your scope is inoperable.  Second

after you get familar with the sky or for looking at easy stuff like the moon waiting for the

scope to slew may become annoying.

 

The AZ3 mount of the 120 is kind of finiky.   When viewing high up in the sky scopes can drift upward.

You can increase friction by tightening, but then the scope does not move freely.  There are

home made tricks to get the mount to work better.  Do you want to do that?  This mount is 

would be better with a smaller short scope like a 100 f/5 or 80 f/7

 

Is there the same package as the 120 with a 100 f/5 scope?  The mount would behave much better.

 

A 120mm f/5 achro is more suited to wide field viewing and wide field is diminished in a light

polluted location.   

 

Large fast achromats will have chromatic abberation.   This is the inability to focus all the light to the

same point.   Bright stars will have purple halos around and over them,  Jupiter, Saturn, Mars

will have some loss of detail.   You could stop the scope down with an aperture mask to

reduce CA, but this leads to loss of light, resolution, and you are mounting a big scope

when it is acting like a little one.


Edited by vtornado, 16 September 2021 - 01:08 PM.

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#6 macdonjh

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Posted 16 September 2021 - 01:02 PM

Boxerdog,

 

Welcome to Cloudy Nights again.

 

I was in your shoes, twice.  Both of my kids were interested in astronomy when they were about your son's age.  

 

I agree with your assessment: go-to is a good thing when observing with kids.  If your son is like either of my kids, he'll get bored waiting for you to find something, but he'll enjoy "driving" a go-to mount across the sky.  What kid these days doesn't like buttons?

 

An alternative, one which my son and I used, is a small Dobsonian.  In our case, a 6", but 8" Dobsonians can be had within the budget you've hinted at in your post.  While, for that money, you wouldn't get go-to, a 6" f/8 or 8" f/6 Dobsonian is the perfect size for an 8 year old to operate himself.  My son liked moving the scope across the sky and seeing what he could see.  Of course, a Dob won't be good for even simple prime focus photography, so there is that.

 

Good luck with your search.


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#7 Paul Sweeney

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Posted 16 September 2021 - 01:30 PM

Hi and welcome to CN

I have the AZ3, and it is not a good choice for such a large scope. I have a 70/500 on it and it is okay, but a big scope will totally overload it. You should keep an eye out for something like a Vixen Porta.

I have a 120/1000, and the views are significantly brighter than in a 100mm scope. Even with light pollution, you will see a lot with a 120/600. A little CA won't be a problem on the vast majority of your targets.

Light pollution will be an issue with galaxies and some nebula. Clusters and double stars will be far less affected. You will probably find that the light pollution is not equally distributed. Some parts of the sky might be better than others.

#8 sevenofnine

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Posted 16 September 2021 - 02:06 PM

Welcome to C/N flowerred.gif  You will get lots of good astronomy related information on this forum. However, as on any forum there will be conflicting answers to your questions. If most of your viewing is done from a very light polluted city environment then I suggest researching a 5" Mak on a go-to mount. Specifically, the Sky-Watcher "Skymax 127 AZ-GTi. ($760.) This scope and mount will be great on solar system objects from a light polluted city. It will also show the brighter DSO's when you get to darker locations. Another huge benefit is this scope will travel much better than any long tubed heavy refractor. And finally, no false color on bright objects like the Moon or planets. 

 

I own a scope like this and it is a pleasure to work with. No regrets...ever! The choice for a first scope is always difficult especially for those living in a city. A 5" Mak is kind of like the Swiss Army knife of telescopes. It's not the best at everything but it usually gets the job done. Best of luck to you and your son. These will be great times for you. Cherish them! waytogo.gif


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#9 rhetfield

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Posted 16 September 2021 - 02:41 PM

Boxerdog,

 

Welcome to Cloudy Nights again.

 

I was in your shoes, twice.  Both of my kids were interested in astronomy when they were about your son's age.  

 

I agree with your assessment: go-to is a good thing when observing with kids.  If your son is like either of my kids, he'll get bored waiting for you to find something, but he'll enjoy "driving" a go-to mount across the sky.  What kid these days doesn't like buttons?

 

An alternative, one which my son and I used, is a small Dobsonian.  In our case, a 6", but 8" Dobsonians can be had within the budget you've hinted at in your post.  While, for that money, you wouldn't get go-to, a 6" f/8 or 8" f/6 Dobsonian is the perfect size for an 8 year old to operate himself.  My son liked moving the scope across the sky and seeing what he could see.  Of course, a Dob won't be good for even simple prime focus photography, so there is that.

 

Good luck with your search.

One advantage of a dob is that it can be fitted with degree circles to aid in finding objects in light pollution:

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

 

A 6" newt with a 2" focuser has a very good combination of wide field of view capability and high magnification capability that makes it a very good option as a general purpose first scope.  Most other scopes are specialized in some way or another.


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#10 TheUser

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Posted 17 September 2021 - 12:36 AM

if your son is interested in deep sky objects than:

 

- you should think about traveling in less polluted area;

- your choice is Newtonian telescope with biggest aperture possible;

- you need an astrophotography kit.

 

Despite common situations in your case first scope can become a hobby-killer for your son I'm afraid. You need a scope be able to provide a "Wow" effect.


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#11 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 17 September 2021 - 01:16 AM

It's a good idea to temper expectations of just what a telescope is capable of and to be aware of the limitations of human vision.  The planets will be rather small at magnifications that are appropriate for many telescopes, nebulae and galaxies will be fuzzies, most of them "faint fuzzies", and color will be seen in relatively few objects.  Seeing or atmospheric steadiness and light pollution will limit telescope performance. 

 

So enjoy what you are able to see in the eyepiece and forget about the picturesque images that are prevalent on the Internet and in magazines.


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#12 osbourne one-nil

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Posted 17 September 2021 - 02:33 AM

My advice...and I'm on my 4th child now...is to make sure there are marshmallows, hot chocolate and some form of camera so he or she can see what the eye can only suspect. So much fun!



#13 boxerdog

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Posted 17 September 2021 - 06:03 AM

Wow! Everyone, thank you so much, such a great warm community, really did not expect so many replies. My thanks and warm thoughts to all of you.

 

The reality is that like anything in life, no matter the budget, any purchase is a compromise and I know I'm there as well. I would have loved the SW120/600 on the star discovery mount for instance but it's just impossible. Or on the motorized EQ5 and probably I would be very happy for a while but not willing to spend that money (yet).

 

Now, to the point

- dobsons - for me it's a no go, I have a much better sky at our seaside place so maybe we'll use that place more than expected now, but that's a flat in an apartment building so I need something than can be relatively easy carried even in an elevator for instance.

 

- newtons - kind of worried about collimation and about getting a lot of sand in it when at the seaside. I did find today on classifieds a very nice SW 200/1000P on EQ5 (non motorized) - how much would that be worth do you think?

I know prime focus won't be achievable with the DSLR, maybe with the Olympus mirrorless? Can't have everything.... For a good price the one mentioned above could be a nice solution, although the size does scare me a little.

Are there any protective filters or sorts to put on the newtonians while observing so nothing gets in?

 

- mak 127 suggested above - it's a nice lil thing, I quite like what I see on youtube. I could get that with the Stardiscovery goto mount which seems sturdier (both mount and tripod) that the AZGti. It's a stretch on the budget but maybe worth it? Would that be able to get some DSOs as well in less light polluted areas? I know a lilttle bit of AP is possible at prime focus

 

Regarding "AP" and I'm putting in brackets intentionally - I'm quite aware what to expect and know the results will be most likely similar to the cell phone photos of 10/15 years ago. I'm an advanced hobbyist photographer who doesn't have the time to practice that hobby, but that does hep me realize all the limitation, CAs and other challenges. Not going for the cover of NationalGeo, just for the whatsapp family group and it would make it more fun for me to also be able to have some memories of what we saw and I think for the little guys as well.



#14 LDW47

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Posted 17 September 2021 - 07:01 AM

Hey everyone,

 

I'm looking for advice on a first purchase and after quite a few nights of solo research I do need some advices from the community.

 

So here's the deal - I have an 8year old who seems to really passionate about astronomy, we're already looking at the sky almost every evening for weeks now and I'm thinking of buying a telescope.
I've narrowed it down in my mind (and budget) to either a Skywatcher 102/500 on Stardiscovery mount or a Skywatcher 120/600 on a AZ3.

 

We'll be observing from our yard in the city center (Bortle 8, very sad I know) about 75% of the time, from somewhere near the beach/seaside (Bortle 3/4 as I see on the map) about 25% of the time and maybe some dark places in a few rare occasions. Considering we'll have sand around quite a few of the times and also as I would prefer in the beginning to avoid collimation, plus also due to size constaints I excluded the newtonian options. Then, considering the little guy is more passionate about constellations, star clusters and nebulas I've kind of excluded a Mak version - leading to the two refractor options above, for which I see some pros&cons

 

Skywatcher 102/500 on Stardiscovery mount - about 500 euros

- the go-to seems great for kids, gaining time and also for a beginner like me
- on the same mount I could also add later a Mak127 I guess, for observing planets in more details if we'll be into that
- the mount is however limited, that's about the biggest telescope size you can put on it and it's alt-az

Skywatcher 120/600 on a AZ3 - about 420euros
- needs manual adjustment so it will take some learning
- bigger telescope, so more light

- almost at the price of the tube alone
- if we keep to it and get the kicks I expect we will, I can buy later an EQ5 mount ideally with go-to, maybe I'll find a good one used

 

One final comment - while I'm very aware of what AP involves and I'm not getting any hopes up, I still would like to have a tube that allows me to put my D600 or Olympus m43 in prime focus and fool around with some shots especially in some dark sites - one more reason I've excluded for instance the Stardiscovery with 150P. And yes, I know achromats have a bagful of CA :-)

 

Now, any and all suggestions/ideas are welcome. Thank you all in advance for your time and support.

Get the 120-600 but avoid the AZ3 it will be uncapable right from the start  I owned both so experience with both is kicking in  The 120 is a wonderful. very capable widefield scope but mount it on something like a Twilite I or a Porta II mount  Also from my experience from owning 3 AZ4 models of various brands they have their operatinal problems  Just IMO, my extensive experience   PS  I would avoid an EQ mount for a beginner, it will just complicate your learning curve


Edited by LDW47, 17 September 2021 - 07:04 AM.


#15 Tony Flanders

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Posted 17 September 2021 - 07:05 AM

- dobsons - for me it's a no go, I have a much better sky at our seaside place so maybe we'll use that place more than expected now, but that's a flat in an apartment building so I need something than can be relatively easy carried even in an elevator for instance.


Carrying a Dob in an elevator is the easiest thing in the world. It's not quite so easy for me, since I live on a 3rd-floor walkup. Even so, it's only a minor nuisance.

In general, a Dob is far more portable than an equatorial-mounted Newtonian of equal aperture.
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#16 JohnnyBGood

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Posted 17 September 2021 - 07:31 AM

Every kid is different, but my children enjoy having their own (light, modest, expendable) telescopes to use. I put an inexpensive green laser on my big scope, find something to look at, mark the target with the green laser and the kids can follow the laser beam with their finders or red dots and view the target with their own scopes. Works great with my father, too. After they've looked in their scopes, they can come look in mine. While I'm finding the next thing to see they're playing with their scopes, looking around aimlessly exploring around the target or trying different magnifications with the target we'd just been looking at. When they're ready, I mark the new target and we do it all over again. It keeps them engaged longer than if they were standing around waiting for me to find something.


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#17 TheUser

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Posted 17 September 2021 - 07:38 AM

key thing is that your son is interested with deep sky objects. so to be able to observe such an objects there are big instruments required. and yes they will be heavy, bulky and need in transportation management.

 

so in your case everything is reversed. you will achieve portable and easy to transport telescope, but it will be the second scope.


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#18 TheUser

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Posted 17 September 2021 - 08:00 AM

- newtons - kind of worried about collimation and about getting a lot of sand in it when at the seaside.

this is another specifics of open telescopes. and there's not only sand that can be a problem. just live with it. close it while not watching, apply necessary cleaning techniques, etc.

 

by the way sand can also sneak inside refractors and MCs (and mount mechanics).
 



#19 TheUser

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Posted 17 September 2021 - 08:05 AM

- mak 127 suggested above - it's a nice lil thing

not bad but you should know about cooling times on MCs of such size.
 



#20 rhetfield

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Posted 17 September 2021 - 08:05 AM

Every kid is different, but my children enjoy having their own (light, modest, expendable) telescopes to use. I put an inexpensive green laser on my big scope, find something to look at, mark the target with the green laser and the kids can follow the laser beam with their finders or red dots and view the target with their own scopes. Works great with my father, too. After they've looked in their scopes, they can come look in mine. While I'm finding the next thing to see they're playing with their scopes, looking around aimlessly exploring around the target or trying different magnifications with the target we'd just been looking at. When they're ready, I mark the new target and we do it all over again. It keeps them engaged longer than if they were standing around waiting for me to find something.

Things like the skywatcher heritage 130 and zhumell 130 would fall into that category.  The heritage 130 folds up and weighs about 2/3rds what the zhumell does.  Collimation stays pretty much put and degree circles are easy to add.  


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#21 LDW47

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Posted 17 September 2021 - 08:31 AM

I thought the OP was specifically looking at refractors  I guess I missed it



#22 rhetfield

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Posted 17 September 2021 - 09:17 AM

The OP started out that way, but has expanded his search a bit.  He still doesn't want a dob mount (apparently worried about getting it in/out of an elevator).  I replied to the post that suggested a small, inexpensive scope that the child could play with separate from Dad's toy.



#23 Cliff Hipsher

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Posted 17 September 2021 - 09:19 AM

Kids are strange creatures and they are notorious for having very short attention spans.  My middle grandson wanted a telescope so I gave him an inexpensive refractor. He lasted less than a month.  My youngest grandson wanted me to teach him to fly RC drones (I have built several) so I gave him a simple "toy grade" quadcopter.  He has no patience at all.  He would rather "fly" my simulator or play XBox. The quad sits in my closet...

 

My point is, if YOU are interested, then go for it. Be enthusiastic but don't push.  If your son really has the desire then you won't be able to pull him away from the scope with a team of horses.


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#24 LDW47

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Posted 17 September 2021 - 10:06 AM

But the adult, the father has to experience some enjoyment, a great learning curve that can be passed on as well, thus the 120-600 on the appropriate mount  In the meantime, the young person will grow older year after year and will learn to love it or not as he matures, how else can it work  You just don't throw some uncapable scope into it, a high end toy, and expect the enthusiasm to be there



#25 ShaulaB

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Posted 17 September 2021 - 10:27 AM

Kids are strange creatures and they are notorious for having very short attention spans. My middle grandson wanted a telescope so I gave him an inexpensive refractor. He lasted less than a month. My youngest grandson wanted me to teach him to fly RC drones (I have built several) so I gave him a simple "toy grade" quadcopter. He has no patience at all. He would rather "fly" my simulator or play XBox. The quad sits in my closet...

My point is, if YOU are interested, then go for it. Be enthusiastic but don't push. If your son really has the desire then you won't be able to pull him away from the scope with a team of horses.

This is me speaking as a Mom and an educator of many years. A lot of bright kids like to try out many different things. Astronomy, then fossils, then medieval castles, and on and on. As a previous poster said, buy the scope for yourself and if your child is interested, he will enjoy it too.

Please read threads in the imaging forums here on Cloudy Nights before diving into astrophotography. I have read several posts from proficient terrestrial photographers who complained that AP was a completely different animal, with a steep learning curve. It is easy to spend a lot of money with frustration as the result instead of pictures.

A 6 inch f8 Dobsonian can be easily strapped to a hand truck for hauling in an elevator. An optical tube like this shows decent deep sky opject views and nicely magnified planets. People seem so afraid of collimation, but with an f8 scope, that is not so critical.

Small refractors on weak, shaky tripods with difficult mounts are called "hobby killers" for good reason.

A thought. Buy both a 127 mm Mak plus a 6 inch f8 Dobsonian. See which one you like best, and sell the other one.

Sand, both fine and coarse, are death to optics and electronics.

Edited by ShaulaB, 17 September 2021 - 10:28 AM.



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