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Important things for buying first telescope?

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#1 All_bran

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 08:22 AM

I'm looking to buy a used scope around town and there's quite a few options in the $75-$125 range. But I am overwhelmed with all the different options/features/data. 70mm? 114mm? So many different eye pieces! And all you get in the listings is a brand and model number. "Celestron StarSense 114eq blah blah"

Can someone just give me a couple major important things to look for so I can whittle down the options?

I'm just looking to see Saturn's rings and Jupiter's 4 moons. The red spot would be nice but not necessary if cost goes up significantly.

Thanks!
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#2 All_bran

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 08:22 AM

I'm located in northern metro Detroit BTW...

#3 lee14

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 08:40 AM

There are frequent listings on CN which would fit your budget. A small refractor would probably be your best bet, but keep in mind a steady mount is just as important or you'll have difficulty achieving a decent view. As for models, if you see one you'd consider, just Google the stated model number for more detailed information. To be honest, if you want to include a couple of eyepieces in the purchase, your budget is going to make that a real challenge. Plossl eyepieces would be a good choice, but your best option is probably purchasing them separately.

 

Lee



#4 MikeTahtib

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 08:42 AM

If those are all you want ot see, then almost any telescope will work.  Also, be sure to look at the moon, it is one of the best things you can look at in the sky, through any telescope.  I would say, when you see something posted, google it and see what it is.  Don't bother with computer guided go-to telescopes, the moon and planets should be easy to find.  Electronics will only be a pain to align, break down, generally not work, etc.  Read the reviews, and especially look for a steady mount. 



#5 AstroVPK

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 08:58 AM

The first number to pay attention to is the aperture which is the diameter of the main mirror or lens inside the telescope. The more aperture the better, though as the aperture increases, the scope also gets more and more bulky and cumbersome, all else being equal. Try to aim for something in the 100mm to 200mm range for starting out.
The second thing to keep in mind is the mount. A poorly made mount will not let you hold the telescope stay and will not let you enjoy the view provided by the telescope. Mounts come in two varities - those that move up-down and left-right (called alt-az) and those that have one axis pointing at the pole (equatorial). Equatorial mounts can track the stars with only one axis motorized while alt-az mounts require motors on both axii to track stars. As a rule of thumb, most alt-az mounts, particularly those of the Dobsonian kind, will perform well because it is hard to get that wrong. However, it is not uncommon to see poorly engineered German equatorial mounts supporting small telescopes - here the manufacturer is trying to add the feature of being able to easily track the stars without spending enough money on making the mount stable.
Unfortunately, it is difficult for newcomers to judge how good a given mount is and you'll have to ask around for specific scopes.

If you want to err on the side of safety, you can't go wrong buying a 4.5" to 8" Dobsonian telescope from one of the big box manufacturers such as Orion, Zhumell, or Apertura.
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#6 CassGuy47

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 09:15 AM

I'm looking to buy a used scope around town and there's quite a few options in the $75-$125 range. But I am overwhelmed with all the different options/features/data. 70mm? 114mm? So many different eye pieces! And all you get in the listings is a brand and model number. "Celestron StarSense 114eq blah blah"

Can someone just give me a couple major important things to look for so I can whittle down the options?

I'm just looking to see Saturn's rings and Jupiter's 4 moons. The red spot would be nice but not necessary if cost goes up significantly.

Hi,

 

As has already been pointed out, it will be extremely difficult to buy a quality scope (even used) within your limited budget.  If you know an experienced observer who can accompany you, that would be helpful.  I, and most experienced observers, can tell within 30 seconds if a scope is worth buying. 

 

It's really difficult to speak about a scope purchase in general terms, because price, condition, design, focal length, type of mount, eyepiece type and focal length, finderscope, etc. all play a role in a telescope's final value.  I think you get the picture.

 

In addition, the focal length and focal ratio of the telescope plays a huge role in the eyepieces that you will need to best meet your observing objectives.  I agree with those who suggested that you give us a specific telescope that you are interested in purchasing, along with info about the included accessories.  That's the only way that our input can be of real value to you. 


Edited by CassGuy47, 25 October 2021 - 09:16 AM.

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#7 All_bran

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 12:47 PM

Is this one junk?

https://www.facebook...07282347534543/

I asked him what lenses were included and he said
So I believe it’s a x45, x72, and 225. And yes tripod is included

#8 JohnnyBGood

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 12:59 PM

I have a lot more experience than most people on this site with using low end telescopes so I'll do my best to give some general guidelines from my experience.

 

First, it's absolutely possible to enjoy using an inexpensive scope. I use my cheap small scopes as much as my larger ones.  My work travel scope is a 70mm scope I bought for $25 including shopping from Goodwill. I made some modifications and improvements but I've still got definitely less than $75 invested in it. However, obviously a cheap scope has some compromises or else no one would buy an expensive one. Most are going to be more prone to vibration when you touch them, for instance, so they require some patience and tolerance for imperfection. But not all cheap scopes are created equal.

 

At the entry level, scopes come in basically two flavors: reflectors (Newtonians) with mirrors and refractors with lenses. For reflectors, you can usually find 76mm and 114mm scopes within your budget pretty easily. Refractors are usually smaller: 50mm, 60mm, and 70mm scopes should be fairly easy to find.

 

Next they come in two basic mount styles: Altitude-Azimuth ("alt-az"), which is up-down-left-right or Equatorial ("EQ") which sit at an angle so they move in arcs across the sky enabling them to follow the same path the stars and planets take. Makes it easier to follow objects as they move across the sky. Alt-Az mounts are a little more intuitive to use but low end versions usually don't have much, if anything, in the way of slow motion controls. EQ mounts take a little practice to get used to, but once I got the hang of them I fell in love with the concept and never wanted to use an alt-az mount again. Even the lowest end EQ mounts generally have workable slow motion controls which makes it much easier to follow objects, pan around the moon, etc. They also usually have very smooth movement and most can be balanced so that you can move it around the sky by pushing with your little finger. The other downside to EQ mounts is they have a counterweight so they're a bit heavier. This is more of an issue for giant scopes with EQ mounts and it's not such a big deal for the scope you're looking to buy.

 

If you go the alt-az route, there are different types of mounts. The two best options are the ones with a yoke/horseshoe looking setup and the ones that mount side-saddle. What you don't want are the ones with a mount that looks like a video camera mount (usually with a panhandle for controlling it). Those are fine for looking at things on the ground, but they aren't balanced so when you point them up they tend to flop over until they're pointing straight up and they're hard to control. There are camera mounts that will work better but those are usually $$$. If you're handy with tools, some people actually make their own side-saddle mounts using iron pipes from the hardware store.

 

For the minor cost difference there's little reason to get a 50mm or 60mm refractor instead of a 70mm, which is a really good starting size. I'd suggest one with 600mm-900mm focal lengths for maximum versatility.  d=70mm f=700mm is my favorite. The first time I saw the shadow of one of Jupiter's moons moving across the planet was with my cheap little 70/600 scope.

 

Reflectors require more maintenance because you have the align the mirrors now and then, so you should probably budget in a $25 tool (a "Cheshire/sight tube") or make a collimation cap. Some scopes come with collimation caps but they always seem to have gotten lost before you buy them used. There's little difference between what you can see with a 70mm refractor and a 76mm reflector but you can definitely see more with a 114mm (you can see fainter things and you can "zoom in" more). 76mm reflectors can more commonly be found with yoke-type alt-az mounts while 114mm scopes are almost all on EQ mounts. There are short and long versions of the 114mm scopes. Short ones are called "Bird-Jones" scopes and you should completely avoid them until you really know what you're doing. You want a long one with a tube about three feet long.

 

Most entry-level scopes come with low end eyepieces, so figure that into your budget. If they say Huygens ("H"), Ramden ("SR"), or just a generic "F" on them then you'll probably want to upgrade immediately and replace them. Modified Achromat ("MA"), Kellner ("K"), or "Super" eyepieces are good enough to get you started. Ploessl/Plossl eyepieces are probably the best value and will be what you eventually want for your scope. Basically, the better eyepieces are a bit sharper than the cheap ones and have a larger apparent field of view so the "circle" you see when you look through them physically looks bigger, like looking though a bigger diameter straw. Makes the scope a lot more enjoyable to use. Some older scopes and the very cheapest new scopes will have old-fashioned 0.965" diameter eyepieces. You don't want those, so make sure the scope uses 1.25" eyepieces.

 

Specific scopes I'd suggest:

 

The absolute best would be a Meade StarPro 70. Hands-down the best mount (side-saddle), comes with okay MA eyepieces. But there aren't many on the used market (people like them and don't want to sell) and they'll probably be above your budget. Still, you might get lucky.

 

The Meade Infinity 70 and Celestron Powerseeker 70AZ are good alt-az choices, too. The Meade has a better tripod and better eyepieces (Meade has MA, Celestron has H) but it sometimes a little more expensive. Both also come in EQ versions as well, called a Polaris 70 (which is a little longer) and a Powerseeker 70EQ. I have an older Meade 70az scope that I like, but it's not quite as good as the Infinity 70.

 

Celestron Astromaster AZ scopes have annoying camera mounts that are only usable with the smallest scopes.

 

Meade and Celestron have reflectors, too, which are usually fine. Bushnell sells 76mm and 114mm reflectors that usually have acceptable mounts but normally come with lower end eyepieces.

 

Orion sells the same stuff and Meade and Celestron, but it has Orion printed on the side so they can charge 50% more for the same thing. And if you buy it used they refuse to provide technical support or sell you parts. I refuse to buy Orion scopes, so we're even.

 

Tasco has a 114mm reflector (Luminova) that is okay optically, though the mount isn't quite as good as the others and the eyepieces are pretty crummy. There's an older Tasco Galaxsee 114mm that has a short focal length (500mm) but from what I've heard those don't have sharp images. The 60mm Luminova alt-az scopes are actually pretty good (with eyepiece upgrades). I had a 60/700 scope that I was really impressed with after some modification to the tripod (gave it to the neighbor's kid), and I have an old Tasco 60/900 scope on an EQ mount that is my favorite moon scope. That one underwent quite a lot of modification, though. Still, a 70mm is noticeably better so only go with a 60mm if you have no other choice.

 

National Geographic has a 70mm side-sddle scope that is okay but out of balance. If you have a drill and don't mind taking the scope apart you can move it further forward in the mount and make it work. I think Toys-R-Us used to sell a 70mm EduScience scope that was pretty much the same scope. On the upside, they come with Ploessl eyepieces.

 

I started out with my first scope (a Rokinon 76mm reflector on alt-az mount) thinking I'd use it to look at the moon now and then but I was amazed that there were many, many other things I could see. My most used telescope accessory has been the book Turn Left at Orion (4th or 5th editions are best). There are a lot of things you can see even from fairly light polluted skies if you know where to look.

 

If you see something you're considering, post a link or picture and I'll see if I can come up with some insight for you.


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#9 JohnnyBGood

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 01:04 PM

Is this one junk?

https://www.facebook...07282347534543/

I asked him what lenses were included and he said
So I believe it’s a x45, x72, and 225. And yes tripod is included

It's main optics are okay, but is probably worth only half the asking price. It has a lighter-duty mount than most other 114mm scopes and you'll need something to align the mirrors with. The eyepieces are pretty low end as well, H20, H12.5, and SR4. You'd be happier with an eyepiece upgrade, which would probably set you back about $50 for two Ploessls and a 2x Barlow lens. This scope will do what you want it to, but I'd suggest seeing what other options are out there before committing to it.



#10 All_bran

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 03:55 PM

I can't thank you guys enough! I will do some looking and post if I find anything worth investigating.

#11 All_bran

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 06:24 PM

I have a lot more experience than most people on this site with using low end telescopes so I'll do my best to give some general guidelines from my experience.

.,. .

 

If you see something you're considering, post a link or picture and I'll see if I can come up with some insight for you.

Hi!  How about this one?  Over 1000 focal length?  He said he would take $150.  

 

https://www.facebook...37003453639837/



#12 ulrichsd

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 06:39 PM

Hi!  How about this one?  Over 1000 focal length?  He said he would take $150.  

 

https://www.facebook...37003453639837/

 

I have a 130mm newtonian and you can see a lot with it. Be aware that it probably doesn't come with any eyepieces (it looks like they put a cork in the focuser to keep dust out), so you will have to purchase a couple of those. Since it is a newtonian (and probably fairly old), you'll need to get a collimator, but they aren't too expensive.

 

I can't tell from the picture, but maybe someone else can tell if it is missing the 2" to 1.25" eyepiece adaptor, which could buy if needed as well.

 

If you do buy it, you will want to make sure the focuser moves smoothly and look down the tube to make sure that the primary mirror (at the bottom) isn't cracked or anything.



#13 sevenofnine

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 07:18 PM

Welcome to C/N! welcome.gif Low end used market is a tough place for a beginner to start this hobby. Telescopes are instruments and inexpensive ones can be easily damaged beyond repair. I would avoid unsealed mirrored optics. Damage can happen there that the seller is honestly unaware of. So no scopes with exposed mirrors in the bottom called Newtonians. Sealed Maksutov's can be good but should be demo'ed by the owner first. They can be set up like a spotting scope on a distant land object.

 

If you have someone who knows what to look for in a Newtonian then that's a different matter entirely. Careful examination can give you incredible value for not much money. However, if you don't know what to look for then it might be a lemon.

 

So I would look for a refractor in the 100mm range on a sturdy mount with the brand name Celestron or Meade. Stay away from off brands and anything that looks like it came from a department store. If it looks well used, that's ok. It was loved and probably gave good views. Best of luck to you! wavey.gif



#14 Anony

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 07:45 PM

I think you should seriously consider this scope, it has most of everything you need to start viewing.

https://www.highpoin...telescope-22452

Unless they changed something recently, that one is a bird-jones. And I'm not saying the OP won't like it... just that it may be a pain to collimate.



#15 SECTOR 001

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 08:02 PM

I'm looking to buy a used scope around town and there's quite a few options in the $75-$125 range. But I am overwhelmed with all the different options/features/data. 70mm? 114mm? So many different eye pieces! And all you get in the listings is a brand and model number. "Celestron StarSense 114eq blah blah"

Can someone just give me a couple major important things to look for so I can whittle down the options?

I'm just looking to see Saturn's rings and Jupiter's 4 moons. The red spot would be nice but not necessary if cost goes up significantly.

Thanks!

Everything you want and need to start plus a very good price and it's new.

 

https://www.astronom...d.html?___SID=U

 

Another one here.

https://www.telescop...yPriceAscending

 

 

Kenny


Edited by SECTOR 001, 25 October 2021 - 08:06 PM.


#16 Meterman

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 08:13 PM

Best thing I can offer is find local astronomy clubs and go to star parties they put on. You can ask questions, look through different scopes, etc. When you look to purchase frequent the used or 2nds listing at retailers sites and here at CN. My last scope was an EQ130 ST (130mm/5" aperture on an equatorial mount). Actually picked it up on Orion's site for $239. Came with a couple eyepieces too.

Edited by Meterman, 25 October 2021 - 08:13 PM.


#17 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 08:25 PM

I think you should seriously consider this scope, it has most of everything you need to start viewing.

https://www.highpoin...telescope-22452

Judging from the length of the tube and the stated focal ratio of f/9 that looks like a Bird-Jones catadioptric and not a Newtonian reflector.


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#18 Anony

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 08:26 PM

I'm looking to buy a used scope around town and there's quite a few options in the $75-$125 range. But I am overwhelmed with all the different options/features/data. 70mm? 114mm? So many different eye pieces! And all you get in the listings is a brand and model number. "Celestron StarSense 114eq blah blah"

Can someone just give me a couple major important things to look for so I can whittle down the options?

I'm just looking to see Saturn's rings and Jupiter's 4 moons. The red spot would be nice but not necessary if cost goes up significantly.

Thanks!

There are a lot of things to consider, which most here already mentioned.

 

I'll also throw in some general used, local deal rules I tend to go by...

 

Use ebay as a general price gauge. And only look at closed sales/auctions. If it's a modern scope, check what it goes for new (and I don't mean the low stock, 3rd party sales places)... and figure used should be at least 50% off.

 

Refractors for whatever reason tend to go for less on CL than other scopes (at least that has been my experience). You may be able to find a 70-90mm refractor for like $50 or less. Just make sure it uses 1.25" eyepieces... older models have smaller eyepieces.

 

General dob prices (until recently)... typically $100-$150 for 6", $200-$300 for 8".

 

Check out reviews on any models you are considering. Just google the model for reviews and see what pops up. Avoid bird-jones (typically celestron 127, and some 114 models)... they will have long focal lengths, but be short scopes, so they use a corrector mirror. But they are a pain to collimate.

 

If you want new, and something inexpensive-ish, maybe take a look at a Zhumell 114 at $150, (or better yet, Zhumell 130 at $200 if you can find it in stock.)


Edited by Anony, 25 October 2021 - 08:27 PM.


#19 Dan84

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 09:15 PM

Unless they changed something recently, that one is a bird-jones. And I'm not saying the OP won't like it... just that it may be a pain to collimate.

Thank you, I didn't pay close attention when fast searching inexpensive scopes for the OP.  I was unaware of how horrible that scope is until I searched for problems.  Thank you for giving me a heads up, I removed my earlier post.


Edited by Dan84, 25 October 2021 - 09:27 PM.

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#20 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 09:41 PM

Just so All_bran is aware, the following articles discuss the Bird-Jones design as it's implemented in inexpensive reflectors, and why it's less than ideal.
 

http://astrowiki.jmh...Jones_Telescope
 

https://telescopicwa...lescope-review/
 

https://skyandtelesc...pes-not-to-buy/



#21 NTR180

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 10:36 PM

One thing you might consider is shopgoodwill.com.  I haven't been paying attention to the Detroit area, but here in AZ, just about every week or two there are a couple of beginner scopes that come up for about 8 bucks (plus another several dollars handling fee).  Most people don't bid on them.  I probably wouldn't go for one more than 20 bucks.  It is a bit of a risk because there is no guarantee that a scope will be complete or in working order.  But you can get a pretty good idea based on the pictures if the scope is clean, if it has eyepieces, if the tripod and mount are included, etc.  Avoid electronics because no way to tell if they work and chances are they are missing something.  You can set the search criteria so it only shows stuff in the Detroit area so you can go pick it up and don't have to pay shipping (which I wouldn't trust them to pack it safely either).  If you have an idea of a type of scope you like, check out the site and see if those go somewhat regularly on the site.  Then you can see if they go somewhat regularly in your area.  If you are patient you can pick something up for almost nothing.  If it turns out to be a bust, then you only spent 15-20 bucks.  

 

For example, I just picked up a 70mm Gskyer travelscope type refractor.  70mm aperture, 400mm focal length.  Got it for 14 bucks total.  Similar to this one:   The scope isn't bad for a very basic, look at the moon and Jupiter scope.  The mount is flimsy and pretty horrible so I wouldn't recommend it for a first scope since you'd probably get frustrated trying to keep things in view.  The diagonal not very good.  It was missing some of the set screws and the barlow is smashed.  The 2 eyepieces are in really good condition.  And it was all $14. I'll probably modify some things and it should turn out pretty well eventually. 

 

But I have seen a lot of the 114mm reflectors and 70mm longer focal length refractors over the last few months.  Those are pretty commonly bought and then forgotten about scopes that then get donated regularly.  No else seems to want them so you can probably pick one up for the opening bid.  

 

For example right now there is a meade 114 eq in detroit.  Opening bid is $24.99 and has less then 24 hours left, so doubtful anyone would bid on it.  If you look at it, it is pretty dusty and has a huygens eyepiece which is not a good one.  Who knows if the clock drive motor works.  Mount may be ok, and hard to say if the mirrors are ok.  At a price of $24.99 and all the unknowns I'd probably pass on this one.  But those types of scopes in varying degrees of good condition are a dime a dozen.  If you are patient you could probably pick up a decent one for 14 bucks.

 

edit: for some reason I can't figure out how to post links today.  https://www.shopgood.../Item/132234115

https://www.amazon.c...condition=USED 


Edited by NTR180, 25 October 2021 - 10:40 PM.


#22 All_bran

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 10:40 PM

Why are Meade scopes out of stock everywhere?  I think I'm sold on trying to get one of these StarPros, but 70mm seems to be discontinued and 80mm is impossible to find??

 

Thoughts on the StarPro 80mm?  Their site says it should be in stock 10/28...?

 

https://www.telescop...cope/133303.uts



#23 Meterman

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 10:57 PM

Everyone is having issues off and on. It the Covid - high demand - supply chain issue debacle.

Don't loose hope. If you settle on one just understand it may take a minute to get it.....

Edited by Meterman, 25 October 2021 - 10:58 PM.


#24 All_bran

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 11:13 PM

WELP!  Thank you all for the help.  I just impulse-aisle bought a new in box Meade Infinity 70mm AZ off eBay lol.gif lol.gif .  I'm sure I overpaid, was $120 after taxes & shipping.  

 

Yu guys absolutely rock. Thank you for all the help!!! I hope my kids love it!


Edited by All_bran, 25 October 2021 - 11:13 PM.

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#25 JohnnyBGood

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Posted 26 October 2021 - 07:47 AM

Congrats! I think you'll be happy with the Infinity 70. I've bought three of them (and would buy a fourth if I could find a used one locally) that I've loaned to people who never returned them. $120 is more than they were before the pandemic, but in today's highly inflated prices I think that's a fair price for a new one.

 

It's an easy scope for kids to use and comes with everything you absolutely need right out of the box. There's room for upgrades if you like later on but it's not essential to do so right away. Once you get the red dot finder aligned it's extremely simple to get it pointed at the moon or planets. Plus, if you decide you want a different type of finder later on it's really easy to modify the scope to accommodate. It has a sturdier tripod than the Celestron and my favorite style of accessory tray, plus it's light and easy to carry around.

 

What I really like about 70mm sized scopes is that if you fall in love with the hobby and eventually upgrade to a larger scope, the Infinity 70 will always be useful as a grab-and-go or travel scope for when you don't feel like dragging the big scope out. Starting with a midsize scope is nice but you still end up wanting to upgrade to a large one eventually and then you sell the midsize one and buy a smaller one.

 

I do highly recommend picking up a copy of Turn Left at Orion or Nightwatch. You might be able to find them at the library. TLAO is more of a walkthrough of tutorial for how to find a few hundred things (I've seen at least 3/4 of them with my 76mm scope but some did require a trip to darker skies--easy to do with a highly portable scope) while Nightwatch seems more like a science textbook to me, though it does have some charts showing where to find some interesting objects as well. One of TLAO's most fun features is a night-by-night "moon tour" that takes you through about an hour's worth of interesting features each night of the lunar cycle. The 4th and 5th editions really are better (larger pages, spiral binding, better quality charts) but you can pick up a 3rd edition (of either book) for about $5 used. If I were giving the scope as a gift to someone I'd buy a new copy of TLAO and a 3rd edition Nightwatch to go with it and call it good.

 

Last comment: Meade sells carrying bags for the Infinity and Polaris scopes. The bag marketed for the Infinity 60 and 70 is a really snug fit for the 70, so if you eventually decided to try to find one I'd suggest going up a size and either getting an Infinity 80-90-102 bag or a Polaris 70-80-90 bag.

 

Have fun with your scope and let us know if we can help with anything!




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