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
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:
- 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)
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.
The scope/mount works with your smartphone to help you find targets in the sky.
The Starsense Explorer 130 would also be a good choice.
Edited by aeajr, 06 December 2021 - 08:11 PM.