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Advice on new scope for a couple of newbies - ES FirstLight 80mm

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#1 DeeperNeuralNets

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Posted 28 November 2021 - 01:39 AM

Hi all,

 

I'm considering a telescope that I want to gift my wife (and myself smile.gif). We are both complete newbies in astronomy and are looking to get into this hobby more seriously; although I do have some very limited experience doing astrophotography using my mirrorless - without tracking.

In my hunt for a good scope that satisfies our need for visual astronomy, and to some extent astrophotography (both planets and DSOs), I have come across the ES FirstLight 80mm Telescope with Go-To Tracker Combo: https://explorescien...0mm-go-to-combo

 

Searching this forum and the internets, it seems this one could be a good starter scope, and it comes paired with an equatorial mount. However, I am not able to determine if this scope is going to be useful for visual astronomy as-is. Since we would like to observe planets at the least, what eyepieces will I need to buy in order to get started.

 

Alternately, I am open to other suggestions as well. My budget is around $800 for scope and mount. For proper astrophotography, I will eventually go for Star Adventurer, but I won't be buying that until mid next year. So for now, I am looking to get a scope that will primarily be suitable for visual astronomy, but also allow me to get some beginners' experience in astrophotography. Although I live in a Bortle 5-6 zone in SoCal, I would like to have the ability to take the scope out whenever I go to dark sky places.

 

Thanks in advance for your inputs.


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#2 SeattleScott

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Posted 28 November 2021 - 02:11 AM

The package seems to offer a lot for the price, as a GoTo equatorial mount can easily cost $600 alone. But they cut some major corners to get there. The diagonal is for terrestrial viewing and you will probably want to immediately replace it with a 90 degree mirror diagonal, maybe even a 2” one while you are at it. So that could be $125 right there. The mount looks fairly unstable, but would probably suffice for visual use. The refractor is undoubtedly an achromatic one, so really mainly suitable for visual use, particularly low to medium power deep space observing. And while you have a GoTo mount to locate thousands of targets, the small aperture scope will have trouble resolving the majority of them if you have any significant light pollution to contend with.

By comparison, for $600 you can buy about a 8”-10” Dob that will crush this little refractor in terms of resolving power, but wouldn’t have a computer to locate targets, and would only be for visual use. So there are trade offs. I’m not saying it is a bad scope, especially for visual. But most of the money is tied up in the GoTo computer and motors. Which is ok if that is the most important feature to you. The scope itself isn’t anything special, nor is the tripod.

Typically people will get a light weight Alt Az mount for $250 or so to carry an 80mm refractor for grab and go visual use. Then maybe have a more substantial GoTo equatorial mount for bigger scopes or imaging. In this case I suspect the 80mm refractor is about the max the mount will comfortably handle.

Scott
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#3 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 28 November 2021 - 02:41 AM

The refractor is an f/8 achromat so that will be some degree of chromatic aberration (false color) and at any rate won't be well-suited for the other pursuit you mentioned, which isn't supposed to be discussed in this section. To do that properly, you'll have to spend considerably more money.



#4 Ulmer Spatz

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Posted 28 November 2021 - 06:16 AM

The ad photo does seem to show a 45° diagonal for terrestrial viewing. But the ad copy says "90° diagonal". When I enlarged the photo, it looks like a 90° diagonal that has rotated into a sideways position. But I can't be 100% sure.

 

The device dangling from the diagonal facilitates social media interaction. 


Edited by Ulmer Spatz, 28 November 2021 - 07:11 AM.


#5 Sandy Swede

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Posted 28 November 2021 - 06:33 AM

You probably already know this, but the mount in this package does not come with a hand controller.  You must use a tablet, smart phone, or laptop along with ES software (free download) to control the scope for GOTO.  This requires at least modest computer skills.  However, as SeattleScott has said, the ES rig appears to be a good bang for the buck.  Good luck on your adventure and welcome to CN.



#6 matt_astro_tx

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Posted 28 November 2021 - 07:27 AM

That's a decent starter scope, and used with your phone should be adequate to enjoy.  You'll be able to take pictures with your phone (which won't be great quality, but they'll be good enough to show people) of the moon and planets, but that's about it.



#7 DeeperNeuralNets

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Posted 28 November 2021 - 03:05 PM

Thank you everyone for your inputs. The info does mention 90o diagonal, but its not 2", so I'll keep an eye out for some used ones. Not having hand controls might be a slight bummer as we won't get a complete learning experience, but that shouldn't be a show-stopper since I am proficient with computers and software.

 

I tried simulating the view from the scope using https://astronomy.to.../field_of_view/ , but the bands (and perhaps the moons too) of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn are hard to discern. Will I be able to get better views if I use other eyepieces?



#8 SeattleScott

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Posted 28 November 2021 - 03:32 PM

Thank you everyone for your inputs. The info does mention 90o diagonal, but its not 2", so I'll keep an eye out for some used ones. Not having hand controls might be a slight bummer as we won't get a complete learning experience, but that shouldn't be a show-stopper since I am proficient with computers and software.

I tried simulating the view from the scope using https://astronomy.to.../field_of_view/ , but the bands (and perhaps the moons too) of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn are hard to discern. Will I be able to get better views if I use other eyepieces?

Yes, you don’t use your lowest power eyepiece for planetary. I would think more like 100-150x for planets with that scope.

Scott

#9 Echolight

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Posted 28 November 2021 - 04:19 PM

It says it has a 40mm draw tube. So I don’t think a 2 inch diagonal will fit.



#10 sevenofnine

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Posted 28 November 2021 - 04:59 PM

Welcome to C/N! welcome.gif

 

That's an interesting scope/mount. For the price it seems like a good deal but only if you have to have a refractor. There are much better scopes for visual astronomy out there for about the same price. The mirrored Dobsonian reflector puts your money mostly into the OTA (optical tube assembley) rather than a computerized mount. The fractor is 80mm and a similarly priced Dob will be 200mm. That's a huge difference optically.  A telescopes main function is to gather light. The 3" refractor will show the brighter objects but the dimmer ones will be invisible no matter what eyepiece you use. No one scope can do it all. So if you go ahead with the refractor and stay in the hobby, you will likely buy a scope like this to view DSO's (deep space objects). Best of luck to you and your selection hmm.gif

 

https://www.telescop...ol5-prodimage. waytogo.gif waytogo.gif



#11 matt_astro_tx

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Posted 28 November 2021 - 06:54 PM

Glad you are using the Astronomy.tools calculator. That thing is invaluable. Play around with different focal length eyepieces on there to see what you’ll get.

#12 aeajr

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Posted 29 November 2021 - 08:06 AM

The Starsense Explorer 102 would be my recommendation.  Very popular.

Available from many sources.

https://www.astronom...-telescope.html

 

The scope/mount works with your smartphone to help you find targets in the sky.

 

Video

https://www.youtube....h?v=3Hb0x-IdeDs

 

The Starsense Explorer 130 would also be a good choice.

https://www.astronom...-telescope.html


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#13 DeeperNeuralNets

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Posted 30 November 2021 - 02:03 AM

@sevenofnine, I would love to get a Dob, although to be honest, I haven't gotten around to learn as much about them as I would like. I might probably get a small tabletop one eventually since I don't have a yard where I can comfortably use a big one. Generally speaking, I would like to take the scope with me to some of the dark sky sites or some parks nearby. I am not sure if Dobs fit the bill in this regard. 

 

Thank you @aeajr for your suggestions; I'll add these to my shortlist. The 102mm sure looks like a solid contender here.


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#14 SeattleScott

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Posted 30 November 2021 - 11:28 AM

@sevenofnine, I would love to get a Dob, although to be honest, I haven't gotten around to learn as much about them as I would like. I might probably get a small tabletop one eventually since I don't have a yard where I can comfortably use a big one. Generally speaking, I would like to take the scope with me to some of the dark sky sites or some parks nearby. I am not sure if Dobs fit the bill in this regard.

Thank you @aeajr for your suggestions; I'll add these to my shortlist. The 102mm sure looks like a solid contender here.

6”-10” Dobs are universally designed for the tube to fit across the back seat of a typical American car. Base can go in trunk or passenger seat.

#15 rhetfield

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Posted 01 December 2021 - 09:02 AM

The 130mm and 150mm F5 dobs and minidobs make great general purpose travel scopes.  A 150mm with a 2" focuser is just about as general purpose as it gets - wide field of view combined with enough high magnification capability to be often limited by atmospheric viewing quality.



#16 aeajr

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Posted 01 December 2021 - 09:58 AM

@sevenofnine, I would love to get a Dob, although to be honest, I haven't gotten around to learn as much about them as I would like. I might probably get a small tabletop one eventually since I don't have a yard where I can comfortably use a big one. Generally speaking, I would like to take the scope with me to some of the dark sky sites or some parks nearby. I am not sure if Dobs fit the bill in this regard. 

 

Thank you @aeajr for your suggestions; I'll add these to my shortlist. The 102mm sure looks like a solid contender here.

A Dobsonian, Dob, might not be the right scope for you.  Here is some general information you might find helpful on telescopes in general.  

https://telescopicwa...tor-telescopes/



#17 DeeperNeuralNets

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Posted 06 December 2021 - 12:27 AM

Hi everyone,

Thanks for your responses. Although, I haven't gotten around to discuss much on this thread, I have been seriously considering all the suggestions. Thanks to Ed for the helpful article link, I also went down the rabbit hole of reading a couple of other articles on the site smile.gif

 

Although I feel analysis paralysis setting in, I believe I have a clearer picture of what I want now. I think I'll keep my two interests separate for now and just focus on visual observation for the time being. Not only am I interested in this, but so is my wife and a few from my family, including nephews and nieces, aged 8-12. I would like to get something that would keep us all engaged in learning about the universe. I understand that aperture is king, and the higher I go, the better views I can get. But I I'm limited by some practical considerations.

 

I live in an apartment in a suburban sky, bortle 6 perhaps. The balcony/patio I have got is not so big, about 5'x12' with around 3-4' high parapet. With some patio furniture, I have limited space available, so I won't be able to keep a scope outdoors all the time. Besides that, I would like something that is portable enough to be carried in the trunk of my sedan to some nearby parks and an occasional trip to a couple of dark sky locations a bit farther away from me (Joshua Tree NP being one). Although I understand some OTAs can be put in the back seat, however, many of my trips will be together with my aforementioned family. 

 

I'm not sure if all these conditions will put this hobby out of reach for me. Is there a scope that can satisfy my needs and yet get me started and keep me occupied for at least a year or two? Some scopes that I have researched and really like, for example, the Celestron 6SE, are out of stock everywhere and unless I find something in the used market, I won't be able to get started anytime soon. Will one of the suggestions mentioned in the posts above fit the bill for me?


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#18 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 06 December 2021 - 01:13 AM

You may want to choose something that's relatively easy to carry out of and into an apartment such as the the Starsense Explorer 102 achromatic refractor that aeajr suggested.  Keep in mind that there will be some longitudinal chromatic aberration present on bright objects with a 102mm f/6.5 achromat.


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#19 rhetfield

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Posted 06 December 2021 - 02:59 PM

I like the tabletops for transport.  The OneSky/heritage is especially compact.  They do need something to set them on.  A 5 gallon bucket, a small stool, or a small table work well.  On your balcony, one might be able to sit on the patio table.  I  have a small travel tripod that I will sometimes use, but it is not as steady as the stock mount.

 

A full size dob will be hard to do on a small balcony.  The eyepiece may hang out over the rail where you can't get to it.  The SCT's are easier on the balcony due to eyepiece location and the shortness of the scope.  They do lose a lot in field of view though.  In general, balconies vibrate and do not make good high magnification platforms as a result.


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#20 aeajr

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Posted 06 December 2021 - 04:32 PM

Hi everyone,
Thanks for your responses. Although, I haven't gotten around to discuss much on this thread, I have been seriously considering all the suggestions. Thanks to Ed for the helpful article link, I also went down the rabbit hole of reading a couple of other articles on the site smile.gif

Although I feel analysis paralysis setting in, I believe I have a clearer picture of what I want now. I think I'll keep my two interests separate for now and just focus on visual observation for the time being. Not only am I interested in this, but so is my wife and a few from my family, including nephews and nieces, aged 8-12. I would like to get something that would keep us all engaged in learning about the universe. I understand that aperture is king, and the higher I go, the better views I can get. But I I'm limited by some practical considerations.

I live in an apartment in a suburban sky, bortle 6 perhaps. The balcony/patio I have got is not so big, about 5'x12' with around 3-4' high parapet. With some patio furniture, I have limited space available, so I won't be able to keep a scope outdoors all the time. Besides that, I would like something that is portable enough to be carried in the trunk of my sedan to some nearby parks and an occasional trip to a couple of dark sky locations a bit farther away from me (Joshua Tree NP being one). Although I understand some OTAs can be put in the back seat, however, many of my trips will be together with my aforementioned family.

I'm not sure if all these conditions will put this hobby out of reach for me. Is there a scope that can satisfy my needs and yet get me started and keep me occupied for at least a year or two? Some scopes that I have researched and really like, for example, the Celestron 6SE, are out of stock everywhere and unless I find something in the used market, I won't be able to get started anytime soon. Will one of the suggestions mentioned in the posts above fit the bill for me?

Now we have a better view of your situation and who you are.

If you are going to use the scope on a balcony, I would suggest a tripod mounted scope so it can clear the balcony fairly easily. Considering your living arrangements, your travel wishes, I would again suggest the Starsense Explorer 102 with the 130 as a second option.

The nice thing about the 102 is that it can also be used as a daytime spotting scope. This is not practical with the 130.

The biggest challenge faced by newbies is finding things in the sky, ESPECIALLY if you don't live in a dark location. The Starsense Explorer uses your smartphone (asuming it is fairly recent) to help you find things in the sky through a process called plate solving. If your phone is more than 5 years old, check the Celestron compatibility chart.

You don't have to understand plate solving other than that it is real easy to use and works well. Watch the video below. And, you don't have to use the phone. You can use the scope without the phone, as a manual scope too. Has nice slow motion controls on the mount. Will pack up small to take on vacation.

My friend, who has a bunch of scopes, knows I work with a lot of new people. He called me last night to ask what to recommend to someone who is a beginner. This Starsense Explorer 102 was also a good fit for that person.

Big enough aperture to let you see a LOT of deep sky objects while doing a good job on the Moon and planets. Later, if you get really deeply into this you can pick up an 8" or larger scope to supplement this one. Most of us who have been in this for a while have:
  • Binoculars
  • Grab and Go scope (the Starsense Explorer for example)
  • A light Bucket - typically 8"/200 mm aperture or larger

So don't think you are going to buy this and it will be a waste of money. 10 years from now you may still have this scope and another, bigger scope and you will be set.

I have been through 9 scopes. What am I using today?

12"/305 mm Dobsonian ( upgrade from an 8")
New 102 mm refractor (upgrade from an 80 mm)
Binoculars.

Everything else is either in storage, sold or given away. This covers all the bases and I don't plan to add or upgrade to anything else.

The Starsense Explorer 102 would be my recommendation. Very popular.
Available from many sources.
https://www.astronom...-telescope.html

The scope/mount works with your smartphone to help you find targets in the sky.

Video
https://www.youtube....h?v=3Hb0x-IdeDs

The Starsense Explorer 130 would also be a good choice.
https://www.astronom...-telescope.html


Edited by aeajr, 06 December 2021 - 08:11 PM.


#21 claysshotgunner

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Posted 06 December 2021 - 07:26 PM

I have the ES Firstlight 80 mm on a plain mount since I do not care for the EQ mounts. Due to an auto accident, I just sold my Dob.  This 80 mm has been a very useful scope.  Easy to carry. Easy to store. 

 

For a starter until you are sure you will continue, I feel this is a good value. 

 

Be sure to check the classifieds here also.


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#22 DeeperNeuralNets

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Posted 17 December 2021 - 01:23 AM

Thanks everyone for your responses.

I've been researching all your inputs and discussed with some of you here as well as called some of stores and talked to the associates there to better help me find something that is available and can get in the next week. With that I have narrowed down my option to the StarSense Explorer 102 and (surprisingly!) Nexstar 6SE.

I'm able to get the latter in new condition for about ~$1100 after tax and shipping. Even though this is a little over my budget, I have read many good things about this scope to justify this extra overhead if it means I will be getting something really good. However I'm not sure if this price point is good to jump for this scope even though I have been meaning to get one of this for a while.

The StarSense Explorer surely has some favorable things going for it, namely the lower price, the lighter weight, the fact that it won't need batteries and a potentially easier setup and alignment (and the StarSense is a huge plus!), but obviously it has a lower aperture (4" vs 6") and lower focal length (660mm vs 1500mm). Can anyone help me decide if these positives are significant enough for me to go for the 102 and not the 6SE?

Appreciate all your inputs!

Edited by DeeperNeuralNets, 17 December 2021 - 01:35 AM.


#23 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 17 December 2021 - 01:52 AM

The StarSense Explorer surely has some favorable things going for it, namely the lower price, the lighter weight, the fact that it won't need batteries and a potentially easier setup and alignment (and the StarSense is a huge plus!), but obviously it has a lower aperture (4" vs 6") and lower focal length (660mm vs 1500mm). Can anyone help me decide if these positives are significant enough for me to go for the 102 and not the 6SE?

If you'll be spending more time observing the Moon and the planets, the 6SE is going to be the obvious choice.  The additional aperture will also be more useful for DSO observing in most cases.  On the other hand, the maximum true field of view will be smaller and using the go-to on the 6SE may prove to be more difficult. 


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#24 DeeperNeuralNets

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Posted 18 December 2021 - 01:24 PM

If you'll be spending more time observing the Moon and the planets, the 6SE is going to be the obvious choice.  The additional aperture will also be more useful for DSO observing in most cases.  On the other hand, the maximum true field of view will be smaller and using the go-to on the 6SE may prove to be more difficult. 

Thanks for that tip. What will I be missing out with the smaller FoV? I'm assuming I won't be able to fit in any large DSOs and some celestial phenomena? 

Can having a pair of binoculars be sufficient to complement this scope?



#25 Anony

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Posted 19 December 2021 - 01:47 AM

Thanks for that tip. What will I be missing out with the smaller FoV? I'm assuming I won't be able to fit in any large DSOs and some celestial phenomena? 

Can having a pair of binoculars be sufficient to complement this scope?

Star clusters probably will look better in the 102mm vs the 6" SCT.

 

At $1100, I'd say that is way too much to spend for a 6SE. Maybe I'm just remembering pre-covid prices, but the 8SE didn't even used to cost that much.

 

You could wait until stock comes back in stock and for $400-$500 buy a Starsense DX5 instead. Or DX6 (if they ever release it in the US).

 

Or buy a 5" tabletop or 6-8" dob AND a 102mm refractor for less than $1100.

 

And binoculars can be useful, but personally they don't replace any size scopes in my opinion (unless it's like a 50mm refractor).

 

The 102mm refractor would get my vote. And for planets, try to hunt down a used (slow) 80mm acro on the used market ... typically they go for less than $75. Or maybe you could even find a used Mak reasonably priced.

 

The 6SE should beat a 102mm on the planets and most targets (again, not larger star clusters), but I don't think it's worth the price difference. $1100 is a crazy price to me for a 6" SCT.


Edited by Anony, 19 December 2021 - 01:53 AM.



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