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Best telescope under $4,000?

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#1 Sasquachh


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Posted 14 October 2021 - 02:29 PM

Hi all,

I really did look around to make sure I wasn't repeating what's been asked a thousand times, though I know it has been. smile.gif

I am so new to astronomy I don't want to admit it. Last time I played around was on the telescope my dad made when he worked for McDonnell Douglas and that was several decades ago.

So, I am looking to buy the best telescope that (up to) $4,000 can buy me.

I will probably use it at home so weight isn't an issue.

My light pollution is at (SQM) 20.92

I'm in Strasburg, Virginia.

I would like a Go-To (preferably).

If I need to buy a little cheaper to allow better options (eye pieces, etc.) then I will.

I want to buy a 16" (or larger) in a few years but for now I want something descent already so I figured $4k was a good starting point.

I've looked around at different makers (Meade, etc.) but having no information to make a good decision thought I'd ask you guys.

ANY input will be appreciated and if a similar question has been asked recently please just slap me and send me on my way. smile.gif

Thank you,

Larry, er Sasquachh

Edited by Sasquachh, 14 October 2021 - 02:40 PM.

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#2 Bigal1817


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Posted 14 October 2021 - 02:33 PM

If you’d like to buy a 16” telescope in a few years, my advice is to get the same type of telescope now, only in a smaller package. For example, if you’d like to buy a 16” dobsonian, then buy an 8” Dob now. There will be a lot of basic similarities and skills you will need to develop (collimation, scope/finder/reticle alignment, travel, storage, setup, etc). Good luck!
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#3 gene 4181

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Posted 14 October 2021 - 02:41 PM

 Are you in the northwestern  US  ,   Seattle area ?

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#4 Mike G.

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Posted 14 October 2021 - 02:41 PM

Personally, I would hesitate on Meade.  they have been in financial trouble for some time and just recently acquired by Orion.  Companies in this situation frequently have done cost cutting in a number of areas and if you buy a new scope, and it has problems (go-to makes that more likely, simply because there is more stuff to go wrong), you may not get the same level of service you would from someone who is not in financial crisis mode.  Key word is 'may'.


Also, is your Dad's scope still around?  it's quite possible his scope would be equal to or better than what you can buy now for $4k.

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#5 vtornado



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Posted 14 October 2021 - 02:48 PM

I would advise you against buying a 16 inch scope as your first too.


You may not like faint fuzzies, which is what this scope excells at. 

And I don't care how big your scope is most faint fuzzy things look terrible in town.

The scope needs to be moved to a dark site.

Unless you live on the coast it is overkill for lunar and planets.

Cooling a 16 inch mirror takes hours. 

I would guess the optical tube weighs 90 lbs. 

A goto base for this is huge and heavy too.

1800mm focal length makes the field of view a bit narrow even with 2 inch eyepieces.

Wide field eyepieces will not perform well at f4.4 unless you pay top dollar (approx $300.00)

With wide field eyepieces you may not like the coma.


I would get a 10 inch goto dob.   

Reasons ... 

f/5 and 1200mm focal length

much lighter ota is 40 lbs, and base is 40.

solid tube, holds collimation better, no stray light issues, easier to keep clean.

easier to cool.

still could be a forever scope for you.

Edited by vtornado, 14 October 2021 - 02:52 PM.

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#6 rhetfield



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Posted 14 October 2021 - 02:49 PM

For visual, I would get a 6", F5 or F6 dob with a good 2", dual speed focuser and spend the other $3500 on gas driving to darker places.  Your light pollution is not horrible, but it is not good either.  The 6" transported to a dark place will show more than a big scope in your backyard will due to the light pollution.


A big factor regarding what you get will be what targets you want to see and do you want to take pictures.  Planets do not care about light pollution and a big scope in your backyard will work well.  Many DSO's need dark skies.  Astrophotography is about the best mount and camera with the scope itself being whatever goes with the mount and camera.


Another factor is the atmospheric conditions outside of light pollution.  Atmospheric haze and turbulence can often mitigate the benefits of having a larger scope.

Edited by rhetfield, 14 October 2021 - 02:51 PM.

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#7 YeloSub


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Posted 14 October 2021 - 03:00 PM

I would second buying an 8" f/6 dobsonian to learn on and then use the extra money to build a solid eyepiece collection based on your needs and budget. Once you learn how to use it and learn what you like to look at then you can make the "upgrade" accordingly. And then keep the 8" as a more mobile scope.

An 8" is a lifetime telescope, whether you end up buying bigger and smaller telescopes, the 8" will always have a place in the fold.

Clear skies!
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#8 scadvice



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Posted 14 October 2021 - 03:05 PM

Based on the size scope your talking about your wanting to view objects not image them. Is this correct? Because they are apples and oranges no one scope will give you the best view and image also. 

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#9 Sasquachh


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Posted 14 October 2021 - 03:21 PM

Can't believe you all replied so quickly. Thank you!! 

I just updated my location (I'm in Strasburg Virginia).

Also want to mention a 16" will be what I'll look for in the future. Right now I would like to see Nebulas or the such. Or whatever will allow me to see some of the cool stuff out there. :)

I was considering this Meade (https://www.meade.co...pe-10-f-10.html) but after reading Mike G's post I'll keep looking. Thank you Mike! Also, my dad actually ground his own lenses for his telescope (built it before the first moon landing in 1969) then built a small observatory on top of the Den. Was sweet. Unfortunately when he passed away a few months ago someone (a family-member) got their hands on it, so it's gone. :(

Rhetfield, very good advice. Thank you. I am a couple hours from the highest mountains in Virginia so maybe some travel-time would be in order. I am looking forward to taking some pictures so narrowing down the size, and weight is a VERY good idea.

Thank you all again for replying. I am no longer considering a Meade and am looking at a smaller size and I've only asked for help about an hour ago. At this speed I should be placing an order for.. something soon. :)

Thank you all!

#10 Brent Campbell

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Posted 14 October 2021 - 03:27 PM

I would not spend the entire amount of money on just the telescope.  I think that the mount is 60% of the package.  The best optics are useless if you can't get the scope on target!  You also have eyepieces to content with.


Now I am going to give you advice that beginners just don't get.  Go for a two scope "package" rather than one scope to do it all.


Scope #1:  A 102 MM F7 APO Refractor on a Quality ALT/ATZ Mount.  Here is a nice one:  https://www.astronom...-7-doublet.html

(The same as my 102 mm Stellarvue Access).   


Read this thread and look for a mount:  https://www.cloudyni...-alt-az-mounts/


You will also need a finder for said scope:  https://www.astronom...age-finder.html


And a diagonal....https://agenaastro.c...2EaAviAEALw_wcB


(You may spend as much on the mount as you will the scope)  So  $2,500 for the refractor "package".


Now take the rest of your budget and buy some sort of reflector telescope - say a 10" dob.  Here is a popular model:  https://www.highpoin...OwaAuMMEALw_wcB $800 approx. cost.


Total to date: $3,300.   


Now buy a widefield eyepiece that can be used for both:  This one is highly rated (warning never have used it before) but people "rave about it" ...https://www.eyepiece..._p/17102030.htm


This adds another $249 to the cost.  


Now your at $3,600.  


Most important....Add this book  "Turn left at Orion"



Now the cost is $3632...


Spend the rest of your 4K on Eyepieces such as the astrotech paradigm.  Do not buy the entire "Set"

Go onto the eyepiece forum and ask advice....


IMPORTANT CONCEPT:  To save money (very good plan in this economy) buy one scope or the other and wait until you get more experience.  Both scopes compliment each other and make an excellent "grab and go" if you purchase a larger scope.

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#11 YeloSub


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Posted 14 October 2021 - 03:47 PM

If you want goto, I would recommend and goto dobsonian in the 8-10" variety. The focal lenght has wider range of capability compared to an SCT like the meade you posted. Down the road you may want something like the meade, but for the money, a dobsonian is the way to go in my opinion. Especially as a first telescope.

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#12 DaleEh


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Posted 14 October 2021 - 04:10 PM

I will go against the grain. Since you want go to, you could consider an EVO 8" SCT (or other brand or model of go to SCT) with some good eyepieces that are good enough to be used in a faster scope in the future, a 2" diagonal and (if you need it) dew control. Like others have already said, if you buy an 8" scope of any kind, you will probably keep it when you move to a 16". I started with a 4", added a 8", and now i am looking at a 16" dob (push to would be nice, go to is optional). Good luck and enjoy - what ever you purchase, be prepared to pivot after you have used it a bunch of times as you will learn the most by doing. If you are fortunate, go to a astronomy club meeting or a star party, and actually see if you can try out a telescope or look through other scopes first (and eyepieces). 

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#13 Dennis Tap

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Posted 14 October 2021 - 04:58 PM

It seems money isn't an issue here. Maybe start with an 8 inch Dobsonian telescope. And then spent some money on a decent eyepiece set. This costs less than your 4K you have available.


PS. You want the best telescope for 4K. I think other people can give you some directions about that.

Edited by Dennis Tap, 14 October 2021 - 05:00 PM.

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#14 Brent Campbell

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Posted 14 October 2021 - 05:56 PM

I would never have less than two scopes.   There isn't a refractor available that can do what any 8" - 10" reflector (SCT or DOB) can do, and there is not any reflector that can do what a refractor can do.  Each has its own niche, and the two scopes that I mentioned compliment each other nicely.  You would have to spend A LOT more money to get one scope that can cover the bases as well as the two scopes that I mentioned.  This is why I steer beginners from going and buying ONE expensive scope.  Your better off with two! 

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#15 seasparky89



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Posted 14 October 2021 - 06:30 PM

Ask yourself how you intend to use the scope.  Every day, weekends, at remote sites?  And what do you want to view?  Also, how quickly do you want to be able to set up/take down, and how much weight do you want to carry at a time?  If you have a club nearby, check out their scopes at a public star party.  I am fortunate to have several scopes, all major types.  All have their unique capabilities.  However, the scope that satisfies most of my needs is an  8” SCT on a go-to GEM.  it’s not the best at any one thing, but it can do most anything you would need for many years.  And it’s nice if the GEM has decent setting circles, so if, on occasion, you don’t want to use go-to (or if you lose power), you still can find objects relatively easily.  (My Atlas and Sirius mounts do this very well.)



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#16 sevenofnine


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Posted 14 October 2021 - 06:53 PM

Welcome to C/N! flowerred.gif If your second scope is going to be a 16" truss Dob then your first one should just be one that's a lot more portable and easy to set up IMO. The Meade you are considering is a pretty scope but I'd go with a similar Celestron version. That company is here to stay (I hope wink.gif) Something like this is probably a better choice.




It's half the aperture of your future big scope and has the automatic features you are looking for. It will also leave cash in the budget for accessories that will certainly come. Chair, charts, books, eyepieces, binoculars, binoviewer, barlow, etc...Best of luck to you and your decisions! waytogo.gif

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#17 drotto25


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Posted 14 October 2021 - 06:57 PM

Having just done this.  Go slightly cheaper than right up to your budget.  Once you get the scope you will likely find accessories you want. So you pay $1200 for the scope.  Then you discover you need or want more eyepieces.  Suddenly you find yourself paying several hundred for a few eyepieces each.  The you may need a Barlow. Perhaps a cover for the scope.  Maybe you find the finder scope that came with it is not to your liking, so you want a to replace that. Maybe you eve want a cheap astrophotography camera to test the waters (yes, I know a dob is not the best picture scope). 


You will find it all adds up very quickly.  Point being the scope is just part of the budget. 

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#18 BFaucett



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Posted 14 October 2021 - 07:55 PM

Can't believe you all replied so quickly. Thank you!! 

I just updated my location (I'm in Strasburg Virginia).



Just FYI: If you updated your location in your member profile, then it is not appearing here as it should. It should appear where the red arrow is in the attached pic (under the Joined date).


Cheers! Bob F.



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#19 Notdarkenough



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Posted 14 October 2021 - 08:40 PM

I have loved learning on my Celestron Evolution 8HD with StarSense on Alt/Az. A very different scope than your dream rig, but that is the point, right? Learn, but still keep? These Evos have internal batteries, wifi, clutches for both manual push/pull and GoTo, automatic tracking etc... and the EdgeHD optics are wonderful. The Evo 8HD is very popular, so lots of accessories, lots of folks who can help, and a very solid reputation with good resale value if it comes to that.


Not the best at astrophotography of large nebula, but you aren't getting those from your house with any scope. It can do wonderful planetary imaging. Another great feature of an SCT is getting to sit in a chair! 


The standard CN-forum recommendation for any first scope always seems to be an 8" Dob, and maybe rightly so. I, and others, have successfully and enjoyably gone down another path. Enjoy!

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#20 weis14


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Posted 14 October 2021 - 09:45 PM

The number one thing anyone starting out in amateur astronomy in Virginia should do is join the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club or NOVAC (https://www.novac.com/wp/) or your local club.  NOVAC is a great club with a ton of resources, including loaner scopes, though it might be a bit too far from Strasburg to attend meetings regularly.  Club members also have periodic access to an observing site on Spruce Knob in West Virginia, which is one of the best astronomy locations east of the Mississippi and a few other sites that are between the DC metro area and where you live.  I was a member for a few years when I lived in Alexandria and it was great.  I still have fond memories of observing at the club's Turner Mountain site.


As for scopes, many of the others here have given you good advice already.  A well-made 8-10 inch dob would be great, so would an 8 inch Schmidt Cassegrain. 


I think the key is to get something and get out and start observing.  Only then will you know what you like and don't like.  The advantage of astronomy equipment is that there is a relatively healthy used market, so if you buy a scope you don't like it is pretty easy to sell it after a few years and put the money towards something else.  Save your boxes!  

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#21 Bistromath


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Posted 14 October 2021 - 09:51 PM

Take a look at this video on YouTube:  https://www.youtube....h?v=NvslqVTNEWs


In the video, Ed Ting discusses "best" telescopes at various price points.

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#22 Shinzawai



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Posted 15 October 2021 - 06:30 AM

Don't spend nearly that much cash before you know what works for you. You mention having your eye on getting a 16" later on in your journey, so;

  • 8" dob (manual or push to)
  • Telrad w/ heightened base
  • APM 30UFF
  • Morpheus 12.5mm 
  • (Maybe a 2x barlow)
  • As for collimation tools; Astrosystems short lightpipe & Catseye TeleCat XLS
  • The book Turn left at Orion and the Pocket Sky atlas 2nd Ed.
  • Either SkySafari pro on your phone/tablet or stellarium/starry night on your pc

The above could last you a lifetime, allows for great enjoyment, is qualitative so you can sell it onwards without an issue if you want to upgrade still and will give you an idea where you might want to do so.

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#23 Illinois



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Posted 15 October 2021 - 06:30 AM

16 inch is great for deep sky objects but it’s a BIG telescope. I have it for over 10 years now. I homemade base with ball bearing wheels for easy move in and out of garage! I enjoy my 80 to 150 ED refractor.  If I must have only one telescope would be 10 inch dobsonian.  I like 80 or 100 ED refractor for grab and go like get up early morning to grab to look at stars.  16 inch is great for dark sky to see lot of faint deep sky objects that you can’t see it near town.  For $4,000 then I would have 10 to 16 inch dobsonian and 102 ED refractor. 3 good eyepieces! 30mm, 12mm and 5 mm eyepieces for low , medium and high power.  Good luck ! 

Edited by Illinois, 15 October 2021 - 06:33 AM.

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#24 Sasquachh


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Posted 15 October 2021 - 10:23 AM

Thank you all for all this information. With everything in mind I believe this is what I'm looking at. I will wait about a week before ordering the telescope to hear more ideas, suggestions:  :)

1: Orion SkyQuest XT10i IntelliScope Dobsonian.


2: Telrad w/ heightened base. 


Not sure if this is needed with this Dob, but if so I'll grab it.

3: APM 30UFF


4: Morpheus 12.5mm


5: 2x Barlow


6: I have already ordered Turn left at Orion.

Most of these are suggested by Shinzawai. Thank you for taking the time to detail these. Thank you!!


While the Dob seems a bit larger than expected, I think a 10" would be a great start. I am signing up for the NVAC and am within an hour of their monthly meeting place so that works out well. (Thanks weis14).

I would really like to take pictures so I'm going to look into a camera mount for a camera, or my cellphone (Samsung S21+) since it takes great pictures.

I am also going to look into a tripod. Not sure how this can mount on one but I'm going to look into possible solutions.

I'm also going to look into an easy way to move or transport this between locations, a cart or ?

I do thank you all for everything, I really do. I now have a solid lead for the telescope as well as a lot of very useful upgrades. As I mentioned before, I am going to wait a week before ordering anything specific so if there's something I'm missing or if anyone knows an upgrade I'm missing I'd sure appreciate the heads-up. :)

Thanks again everyone. Looks like my boss is coming around so I'd better get back to work. :)

Thank you!!

#25 csrlice12



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Posted 15 October 2021 - 10:44 AM

+1 on the two scope solution, three if you get into solar down the road.  Like food at a buffet, you can pile your plate high, but can you eat it all...just a few other things to consider...your health, are you ready to be a weight lifter; dew formation and possible dew equipment; power supply for everything; do you like cold weather (best DSO viewing is in Winter and early Spring; Are you a mosquito buffet?  And a biggie....how old are you?  We don't like to think about this one, but we have had at least two members sell their big scopes because it got to be too much to handle it, or they can't drive anymore.  I bought my 10" dob first and love it, but the majority of my viewing is from an intown White zone (bad, really bad) with my 81mm ED refractor on a Twilight 1 Alt/As mount looking at the moon and planets and brighter DSOs.  When I go to the dark site, the dob goes with me.  JMHO, if you are over 65 and plan/must load up/setup/teardown a dob...it's hard to beat an 8 or 10" dob.  Go-to really, really makes a dob heavy, cumbersome, and if something stops working, you have a paperweight in the dark as the gears provide a lot of resistance. Also, don't find yourself after the fact,"Hey, I gotta get a bigger vehicle".


Another option is pushto like the Intelliscope by Orion or an aftermarket addon.  The Intelliscope will guide you to an object, but you move the scope by hand, with the Intelliscope, if the controller/locator goes bad you can still use the scope manually


Ooops, was typing this as you were posting....sounds like you took some of what I was thinking.... that's scarey.

Also, the Intelliscope does not track...cell phone pics of the moon and Whiteball planets are about all you will get.


If you are considering remounting the 10" on a tripod mount....be prepared to spend your entire budget on the mount and a set of rings, which may necessitate removing the dob ears.  Also note the controller and setting circles are part of the dob base, not in the scope.....way too much work if you plan on swapping it back and forth.

Edited by csrlice12, 15 October 2021 - 10:58 AM.

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