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Question for visual observers

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#1 Eggzactaly

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 01:49 PM

My main interest for getting into this is to visually see things through the telescope. Having looked through an 8” dob many years ago, I always thought that would be my first purchase. I’ve been browsing some of the more recent threads on this site and notice that many members choose to use 4-6” refractors as their preferred choice. Other than portability/convenience(?), what other reasons are there for going with a refractor vs reflector in terms of visual observations? 
 

From what it seems like, the cost:performance ratio seems to favor the more bulky 8”+ telescopes, assuming you have the storage space and are capable of moving it around. I’m still in the market for a telescope, but with how prices currently are, I’ll probably be waiting this out for a while, so I’m in no rush atm.


Edited by Eggzactaly, 22 October 2021 - 01:50 PM.

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#2 Joe Bergeron

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 01:51 PM

I’d rather have an 8” Newtonian than any 6” achromat. 


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#3 ShaulaB

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 02:03 PM

The 4 to 6 inch refractors are used for a variety of reasons. For grab-and-go, a 4 inch refractor is great. A six inch refractor requires a beefy (heavy) mount and a stable tripod, so the weigh of such a rig is higher than with a four incher.

Some of us are getting old and infirm. A refractor, despite the compromise of aperture, gives a befeebled astronomer something useable. Some folks can only fit an hour of their busy lives in looking at the sky. So something portable with a shorter cool down time is needed. Some people heard that only a refractor can show planets well. That is not actually true--there are a lot of "ifs" involved in that assumption. Some people just like the look of a refractor. Everybody is different.

Deep sky object astrophotographer favor fast refractors.

For a beginner, an eight inch reflector is often recommended. So maybe purchase one, use it for a year, and see if it meets your own personal needs. If not, sell it here on CN, and get something more appropriate.

This is a hobby for pleasing yourself. Reading about what other people have is nice, but is maybe not the best strategy.
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#4 Astrojensen

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 02:06 PM

There are many pros and cons to each telescope type, as well as each individual model, so it can be quite a tricky thing to find what's just right for yourself, and it usually involves trying several scopes, before finding the right one. 

 

 

Clear skies!

Thomas, Denmark


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#5 BlueMoon

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 02:11 PM

 

For a beginner, an eight inch reflector is often recommended. So maybe purchase one, use it for a year, and see if it meets your own personal needs.

+1 This. waytogo.gif

 

Generally speaking, the most "bang for the buck" lies with reflectors. An 6-8" reflector is a good starting point.

 

Clear skies.


Edited by BlueMoon, 22 October 2021 - 02:13 PM.

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#6 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 02:35 PM

A 4" apochromatic refractor like my 101mm f/5.4 Tele Vue TV-101 is relatively portable, produces great wide-field views, and is also capable of fairly high magnifications.  However, 4 inches of aperture is only 4 inches of aperture, no matter what the aesthetic appeal of the images may be.

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#7 havasman

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 02:37 PM

My 4" refractor came after I had a good bit of experience with 10 and 16" Dobs and was chosen to complement those scopes by nature of its high capability as a widefield observing tool. Max field of view with the 16" is less than 1.25o, with the 10" it's less than 2o but the refractor gives me a FOV of almost 4.75o.

 

I agree with the consensus here that an 8 or 10" Dob is the most effective and cost-effective first scope for someone who knows they are likely to remain in the hobby. My 1st scope was an XT10i and, heavily modified, I still have it. It was a great starter for me.


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#8 spkerer

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 02:52 PM

I'm a visual observer with a 120mm refractor.  Years ago I had a 10" dob.  After over a decade hiatus, I'm back observing but this time with a 120mm refractor.

 

Why did I choose a refractor this time?  A variety of reasons, but I guess the main ones are:

  • My mount and scope pack and travel easily
  • I can be setup and aligned in 15 minutes
  • I can manage the weight of it all well
  • The amazingly sharp views!

I loved the dob - all manual, great fun and had to learn the sky well and star hopping.  Now I use a nice refractor on a GOTO Alt-Az mount, but I cherish my memories of using the dob.  I was never into having multiple scopes...


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#9 Starman1

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 03:43 PM

My main interest for getting into this is to visually see things through the telescope. Having looked through an 8” dob many years ago, I always thought that would be my first purchase. I’ve been browsing some of the more recent threads on this site and notice that many members choose to use 4-6” refractors as their preferred choice. Other than portability/convenience(?), what other reasons are there for going with a refractor vs reflector in terms of visual observations? 
 

From what it seems like, the cost:performance ratio seems to favor the more bulky 8”+ telescopes, assuming you have the storage space and are capable of moving it around. I’m still in the market for a telescope, but with how prices currently are, I’ll probably be waiting this out for a while, so I’m in no rush atm.

Simple:

--due to light pollution, they ONY observe Moon and planets

--they want to pick up the scope and mount in one piece and move it outside.

--they use the scope for photography AND visual observing.

--they want something that comes to thermal equilibrium very fast.

 

However, and I say this as an owner of a 4" refractor AND 12.5" reflector:

--small refractors (5" and less) don't have enough aperture to really most see deep sky objects well.

--an 8" reflector CAN be just as portable and easy to move in one piece.


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#10 drd715

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 04:20 PM

For visual a nice XT8i or similar or a 127mm F-8 works for me.

 

I happen to like the 102mm F-11 ed scopes also, but the extra light gathering of the 127mm is noticable.  My 152ed F-8 is fantastic, but it requires a large mount and some  extra setup time.. My first good scope was a 127mm F-8 achro.  A lot of ed doublets available in modern times.  Maybe a Sky-Watcher 120 would fit this space. And the skywatcher 100mmed F-9  is an excellent visual scope.  Astronomics has a nice 125ed doublet too.  Lots to chose from.



#11 Sketcher

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 06:42 PM

The original question by Eggzactaly:

 

Other than portability/convenience(?), what other reasons are there for going with a refractor vs reflector in terms of visual observations? 

A response by Starman1:

 

Simple:

--due to light pollution, they ONY observe Moon and planets

--they want to pick up the scope and mount in one piece and move it outside.

--they use the scope for photography AND visual observing.

--they want something that comes to thermal equilibrium very fast.

Addressing the above:  I don't only observe brighter objects.  My larger refractors cannot be picked up and carried out (scope, mount and tripod) in one piece.  I don't use any of my scopes for photography.  I do enjoy the benefits of quick cool-downs; but my 5-inch oiled apochromat actually does need some care when being taken out (and being brought back inside) in some of the temperatures than can be encountered in Montana winters.

 

As a visual observer who prefers using refractors, I can try to put into words my reasons.  Note that I'm not writing about why "they" (other people) prefer to use refractors.  I'm writing about why I prefer using refractors:

 

First off, I've lived and observed under some of the darkest skies for the past 40 years or so.  And yes, I do enjoy observing the moon and planets.  But I consider myself to be primarily a deep-sky observer.  It's not unusual for me to see more with a small refractor than many can see when using larger reflectors.  The first sketch below was made when observing with an itty-bitty one-inch aperture:

 

M31 32 110  1 inch aperture 5 Dec 2018 20x Sketcher   text 1
 
And the second was made with a 5-inch refractor -- (without the use of any filters):
 
B33   IC434   NGC2023 Sketcher

 

Note that B33 is the Horsehead Nebula -- often a challenging visual object for many using telescopes of more than double that 5-inch aperture.  Also shown are IC 434 and NGC 2023.

 

My 6-inch and smaller refractors, under my skies, can show me far more than enough to keep me busy (and content, and very happy) for the rest of my life.

 

Consider that a 1-inch aperture can show this much on our moon:

 

Arzachel Alphonsus Ptolemaeus 1 inch aperture 18 Oct 2018 67x Sketcher
 
My larger refractors can clearly show far more detail than I could ever document.  I don't need larger than the (6-inch and smaller) refractors I currently use.
 
What is it about refractors for me?
 
It's not something that's easily pinned down.  Ease of use is a factor; but I use to have one of my larger Newtonians housed in a roll-off roof observatory.  That was pretty easy to use as well -- always at ambient temperature, always in pefect collimation.  But it was big -- bigger than necessary for my purposes.  I don't need larger apertures.  I don't crave larger apertures.  I no longer even enjoy looking through larger aperture telescopes.  Yet, if I change my mind, I still have a couple of larger (than my refractors) reflecting telescopes that I could use -- if I decide I want to use them.
 
I can comfortably sit on my observing chair, with both feet on the ground, and do my observing and sketching while using my refractors.  The refractors are easy to take outside, setup, use, break down, and bring back inside.
 
There's just something about using an unobstructed aperture that's different -- better.  I enjoy the wider true fields of view offered by my shorter focal-length refractors.  Yet, they're also usable at much higher magnifications as well -- a Jack of all trades.
 
Refractors are easier to care for.  Refractors are easier to safely clean.  The sealed tubes keep insects, spiders, dust, etc. out of the optical tube assemblies.
 
I enjoy using the (strictly manual for me) GEM mounts that go out with my refractors.
 
My larger refractors can handle all the magnification I care to use when it comes to planetary observing.
 
So, for me, part of the reason is the darkness of my skies -- at least when it comes to the deep-sky aspects of my observing.  Another part is me and my attitude toward visual observation.  It doesn't take much to satisfy me.  I care about seeing all that I can see, regardless of the telescope I'm using.  I'm not so interested in seeing more.  Seeing enough is good enough for me.  And my refractors can handily show me "enough".

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#12 clearwaterdave

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 07:03 PM

Everyone has a different way to observe.,I have an 8" and a 10" dob but my 102ed refractor gets more startime than both combined ,It's not because of ease of setup,.,I have a hand truck.,but because of comfort.,And because I can enjoy the sky with or without a scope.,A scopes view is amazing to me.,no matter the size.,I know bigger scopes can show more..Being happy to be out is the key.,and a little glass goes a long way.,

 

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#13 MikeHC8

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 09:05 PM

I really like my C-8, I always wanted this from looking at Sky and Telescope or visiting a telescope store.  It usually takes me 20 minutes to setup and for me I set up almost always a few hours before sunset.  My dream scope for many years was 6 inch refactor, but at least f-12 to f-15 and yes for DSO also.  I could afford it but when I got my C-8 I knew it was a match.  I would keep looking for what your want, and keep asking questions.  I give my vote for C-8 because I can break it up into easy parts to setup and I use a cover now and go to bed and take it down the next day.  If you want photograph I am not the one to ask, but for visual the C-8 gives much joy with out breaking the back or the bank.


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#14 Rollo

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 10:00 PM

Refractors are low maintenance,, no checking the collimation every time you set up, no re-coating the lens and faster cool down time.  And, generally speaking, you don't have to clean the optics as often as a reflector.   I like using a GEM mount with my refractors because they have motors and can track a object, it's nice when your viewing the moon and planets at higher powers.   Only expensive dobs have tracking and goto.   Hand tracking at high powers can be difficult.   I have owned many big dobs and loved them, but none of them had tracking.   Be prepared to travel to dark skies to realize the full potential of any scope regardless of the size or type.   Good luck and clear skies !   


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#15 mrlovt

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 10:44 PM

It's not something that's easily pinned down.  Ease of use is a factor; but I use to have one of my larger Newtonians housed in a roll-off roof observatory.  That was pretty easy to use as well -- always at ambient temperature, always in pefect collimation.  But it was big -- bigger than necessary for my purposes.  I don't need larger apertures.  I don't crave larger apertures.  I no longer even enjoy looking through larger aperture telescopes.  Yet, if I change my mind, I still have a couple of larger (than my refractors) reflecting telescopes that I could use -- if I decide I want to use them.

 
I can comfortably sit on my observing chair, with both feet on the ground, and do my observing and sketching while using my refractors.  The refractors are easy to take outside, setup, use, break down, and bring back inside.
 
There's just something about using an unobstructed aperture that's different -- better. 
 
Refractors are easier to care for.  Refractors are easier to safely clean.  The sealed tubes keep insects, spiders, dust, etc. out of the optical tube assemblies.
 
I enjoy using the (strictly manual for me) GEM mounts that go out with my refractors.

 

 

 

Refractors are low maintenance,, no checking the collimation every time you set up, no re-coating the lens and faster cool down time.  And, generally speaking, you don't have to clean the optics as often as a reflector.   I like using a GEM mount with my refractors because they have motors and can track a object, it's nice when your viewing the moon and planets at higher powers.

 

The two comments above hit home for me.  I have two SCTs, a 6" newt, and a 5" refractor.  Each serves a different purpose for me, but all things considered, the refractor gives the most pleasing views.  I've owned other smaller refractors in the past, and the felling with them was the same.  The unobstructed view is just cleaner, for lack of a better word. Refractors are robust, easy to take care of, easy to use. 

 

Sure, big mirrors are cheaper than big lenses, so a big newt or even SCT will give you more aperture for your money.  But there's more to observing and imaging than aperture.  Too often overlooked is what the user enjoys looking at, and thus even the aperture required for any given target. 

 

Your own enjoyment should be top of the list.  So, ease of use, suitability for your desired purpose, and how pleasing you find the views are all important.  

 

I say buy (or borrow) a scope to try out, and then try something different, and something else after that.  Find out first hand what you enjoy the most.  You don't have to keep more than one scope at a time.  (Admittedly, I find it near impossible to let go of tools and telescopes, but you can do better than I.)


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#16 DAG792

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 01:16 AM

For small, grab and go setups, refractors are excellent scopes. 

 

There's not much in the way of other scopes that can pull off both low power views and high power views with ease. You can have one or the other.

For example, you can have a 6 inch F/8 or F/9 Newt that can have a <20% obstruction and will rival a 5 inch APO on the planets, but will have a narrow(<2 degrees max) or vignetted FOV.

You can, on the other hand, design a 6 inch F/4 or F/5 with a 2 inch focuser that will rival the 5 inch refractor for low-power vistas(it'll need a coma corrector though) but will likely have at least a 30% obstruction and will be slightly lacking on the planets.

 

I personally have a 6 inch F/5 Newt with a 30% obstruction and a 1.25 inch focuser, and it can achieve a 2 degree FOV as well as 200X or thereabouts on Jupiter. My friend's 5 inch ED refractor however, can achieve a 3 degree FOV and do 200X on Jupiter as well, if not better than my scope. I guess you could say his scope has a greater 'range-of-usability' and is kind of an all-in-one scope. 

 

In conclusion, a 4 to 5 inch APO refractor requires no cooldown(well, almost) and collimation, is portable, and very versatile. You can have low-power wide field vistas of the night sky- which look exceptionally good with a field flattener, as well as high power planetary views upto about 200X. These size APOs really are the have-all scopes. And personally, I believe this is the biggest advantage to having a refractor. 

 

But I don't like APOs when they are bigger than 6 inches in aperture. And well 6 inch achromats I like even less. I would much rather have a 10 inch Dob if I want to deal with that large a scope.


Edited by DAG792, 23 October 2021 - 01:17 AM.

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#17 TheUser

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 03:06 AM

there's no common reasons and one-for-all decisions. every type of telescope is supposed to be suited for each particular case. one of the important factor is observation conditions.



#18 maroubra_boy

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 04:59 AM

Ok, a different point of view now.

I have 9 scopes: 5 Newts, 2 Maks & 2 refractors. It is the refractors I use the LEAST. I find all my reflectors (Maks & Newts) much more versatile, 4 of which are a cinch to set up compared to the fracs.

Collimation is hardly a point of contention for me. Checking it takes mere moments & is a TLC routine. Cooling of my Maks is no issue as they are insulated so they are ready to go as soon as they are set up. Rich field is also hardly an issue as 2 of my Newts/dobs are 8" f/4, which adds more aperture grunt than my fracs.

But every scope of mine has its place, including the fracs, even though one of them is purely used with outreach because most people's idea of a scope is "what pirates use" & they hesitate if you only turn up with a dob... I haven't done any outreach in over 18 months now.  

the other frac I use for solar which has had very little use over the last three years because of this last deep solar minimum.

So while most people who have replied to this thread say they prefer fracs, I find them lacking from what I find my two types of reflectors offer me.  More than 95% of my sketching is done with my Maks and Newts/dobs.  But like I said, I keep the scopes I have because they all offer something different.  The sketch collage below has pieces done using all the different scopes I have.  They all serve different purposes.

Alex.

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Edited by maroubra_boy, 23 October 2021 - 05:14 AM.

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#19 Eggzactaly

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 07:51 AM

Just for the record, I have read a few threads that talk about comparisons between both types of telescopes in terms of what each one can do or which one is better/not better, but my main focus was on why people chose the refractor over the larger reflector scopes for strictly visual viewing. I understand and appreciate that ultimately, the best telescope is the one you use the most. I just wanted to get that out there laugh.gif And thanks for the replies


Edited by Eggzactaly, 23 October 2021 - 07:53 AM.

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#20 Asbytec

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 08:03 AM

Well, wonder no longer. Here I am. 

I apologize for being suspicious. Glad you are engaged. Sometimes folks don't do so. This is a great forum for those who want to learn, a lot of the best are right here. We have differing opinions, at times, and similar opinions at other times. You've already gotten some good stuff. I'll add later. Cheers. 


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#21 maroubra_boy

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 08:10 AM

There are many prod and cons to all scopes.

There are also many different ways that people use their scopes.

But there are also MANY different opinions about the merits of one design over another that are based on personal bias rather than facts. Here in lies one big sting in the arguments about fracs vs reflectors. It leaves a confusing message that is based on ego rather than objectivity.

In my post I said I use my fracs the least of my scopes. I gave my reason as to why for ME. I also said that all my scopes serve different purposes. One thing I didn't say is dismiss fracs. While I may prefer to use my reflectors over fracs, when I do use my fracs there is no feeling that I am somehow missing out on something. Whatever scope I am using is because I made the call that that scope was the best tool for the job at hand.

FWIW, in that sketch collage I posted, the solar sketch was done is a frac, along with that of the crescent moon & of the comet.

Good on ya Eggzactly for replying. It is important to show one's interest & appreciation of the time others have put into posting their own replies. The hardest part for everyone reading this thread is being able to recognise ego and personal preferences AND bias and not take the bait these opinions can throw out.

Yes, as the saying goes, the best scope is the one that gets used :)

Alex
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#22 Eggzactaly

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 08:11 AM

I deleted my last post.. I don't want to get a bad start here. I apologize if I came off a certain way. Mods can delete this thread as well if it is in fact a nuisance to this forum due to the nature/history of these discussions.



#23 maroubra_boy

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 08:16 AM

Eggz,

You've done nothing wrong. It is US that need to behave.

By the way, I am always right & everyone else is playing for second best!... :D

Alex.

#24 spkerer

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 08:18 AM

I deleted my last post.. I don't want to get a bad start here. I apologize if I came off a certain way. Mods can delete this thread as well if it is in fact a nuisance to this forum due to the nature/history of these discussions.

I read your post in good faith as exactly what you described - looking for opinions.  I tried to answer with my opinions.  Others answered with theirs.  However, given the nature of online forums like these and the varieties of personalities, expressions and interpretations, some took this from "what made you decide" to "which is better" and then you get defensiveness, etc.

 

Don't feel your post was inappropriate nor was it inflammatory or intentionally troll-bait.  But it seems to be the nature of people expressing opinions here that they often lead to debate and defensiveness, particularly when people interpret them as attacks (even if they aren't meant as such).


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#25 Asbytec

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 09:36 AM

I deleted my last post.. I don't want to get a bad start here. I apologize if I came off a certain way. Mods can delete this thread as well if it is in fact a nuisance to this forum due to the nature/history of these discussions.

I should have deleted mine. You are not off to a bad start, I am. I deserved it. lol.gif

 

 

Just for the record, I have read a few threads that talk about comparisons between both types of telescopes in terms of what each one can do or which one is better/not better, but my main focus was on why people chose the refractor over the larger reflector scopes for strictly visual viewing. I understand and appreciate that ultimately, the best telescope is the one you use the most. I just wanted to get that out there laugh.gif And thanks for the replies

I believe the reason is smaller refractors are less susceptible to seeing than increasingly larger scopes. They have a certain "sharpness" to them that folks prefer. People often mention pin point stars as a reason. They can be very nice to look through, but as Dave mentioned above...small refractors are still 4" apertures. 

 

For me, I think I prefer as much light grasp as I need or want along with as much resolution I can get, then to have all of that under dark steady skies as nature will offer. I have descent skies and tend to operate in the higher end of the magnification range, so I like a little more aperture. I loved my 6" MCT, but I can "visually observe" a little more with my 8" Dob mounted Newt. 

 

Absolutely, the best telescope is the one we use. We use it often because it pleases us to use it. It pleases us to use it because we learn how to use it. I don't mean putting it on the mount and pointing it at objects. I mean, we train our eye brain system to get the most out of whatever telescope we use. That's when a telescope becomes pleasing to use, so we use it often. That's when it becomes the best scope. 

 

Of course we can see much more in larger apertures, and there is so much more to see, as well. But, I have gotten away from chasing larger apertures expecting them to show me more and began taking responsibility for what I can see in whatever scope that pleases me to use. I stopped worrying about what I cannot see, because the end of seeing more is elusive. So, I appreciate what little I can see. That pleases me. 


Edited by Asbytec, 23 October 2021 - 09:42 AM.

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CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.


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