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First Scope Help (small budget)

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#1 MBS

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Posted 24 January 2023 - 12:06 PM

Hi all...New to this forum and to the world of astronomy.  I am looking for some guidance in choosing my first telescope.  Since joining this forum I have read and researched to the point that i now suffer from analysis paralysis.  My needs are pretty simple: must be portable, mostly interested in moon and planets (especially Saturn's rings) but would also like to explore a little, and it must be less than $150. I am open to used equipment but am afraid I wouldn't know a telescope in good shape from one in bad shape.  And finally, the thought of collimation is intimidating.

 

All that being said, two telescopes I am seriously considering are:

          Orion SkyScanner 100mm (based on reviews by aeajr)

          ExploraPro 70mm Maksutov (based on reviews by Jim Riffle)

 

Thanks for any help or additional recommendations.  Ideally, I would get that 6" or 8" dob but that is out of the question for now.


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#2 mikemarotta

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Posted 24 January 2023 - 12:30 PM

Orion will support your purchase by answering your quesitons and standing behind the product. The ExploraPro is sold through Amazon and is popular in Nepal.

 

Generally, you want to do business with people you can get to know. This is a small marketplace. Globally, sales are about $250 million, which sounds large, but it is not in the Top 30 Hobbies.  Everyone knowns everyone - or should. 

 

The Orion Skyscanner will be a great first telescope. You will have to collimate it. I had a hard time learning the process well until I got a tabletop similar to this one (from Astronomers Without Borders). Once I could actually reach everything and work for instance with the Moon and a planet during twilight, when I could see what I was doing and had a useful target, it all came together. Do you remember learning to tie your shoes? This is easier.

 

Let us know how the viewing goes. You have some great opportunities coming up, You mentioned planets, etc., but you are going to be blown away when you view the Orion Nebula with your Orion telescope.

 

Saturn is setting right now. Mars is rising. It is small, very small. However, when the skies were very good, I was able to see it and sketch it with a 70-mm telescope smaller than this. Jupiter will be available for several months. Also high in the sky through March, and near Mars, you can find the Pleiades. Let us know how that goes for you. 

 

Best Regards,

Mike M.


Edited by mikemarotta, 24 January 2023 - 03:31 PM.

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#3 Barlowbill

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Posted 24 January 2023 - 12:47 PM

You are going to find out that a lot of viewing depends on "seeing" conditions.  One night might be great, the next night not so much.  Also applies to minute by minute.  Read up on "seeing" and "transparence" of the atmosphere.  

When viewing the planets a porch light can actually help you.  Not only can you see what you are doing but your eyes can better pick up the colors of the planets.  The eyes are funny that way,  Deep sky observing required dark adapted eyes.  Planetary viewing...not so much.  Lots of tricks.  They are all here on Cloudy Nights.  Good luck


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#4 barbarosa

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Posted 24 January 2023 - 12:57 PM

If no collimation required for ordinary use is a critical criterion for you, the Orion SkyScanner should not be on your list.  If your primary goal is to view the moon and planets, the SkyScanner is not the best choice.

 

It is Newtonian reflector and very likely will require collimation sooner or later. It is an f/4 scope, fast and wide field in comparison to the MCT at f/10, "slower" and with a narrower field of view. An MCT is a good choice for planets but I would recommend you consider a larger 90mm MCT, and from a better known brand.

 

Here is the relative size of Jupiter, using a 9mm Plossl in both scopes (from Astronomy Tools)

 

astronomy_tools_fov (1).png

 

Have you considered binoculars? You can get a serviceable pair for astronomy or for mixed use at your budget.


Edited by barbarosa, 24 January 2023 - 01:00 PM.

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#5 vtornado

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Posted 24 January 2023 - 12:59 PM

I think either of those telescopes you listed will work.

 

I'm not sure if the sky scanner has a collimateable mirror that you would have to deal with.

Some of these scopes have fixed optics, and although that sounds good, if something

happens, the telescope is no good anymore.  And scopes can be really bounced around

during shipping.

 

The big difference is the light gathering capability and the tripod vs. no tripod.

 

The table top will require something to put it on to bring it up do viewing height.

Some tables work others don't.  If you are handy you can craft a small three legged

stool to put the scope.  Others have found other household objects to use.

 

The sky scanner will produce a brighter image, and a wider field.

The wider field may not be sharp on the outside field due to low priced

eyepieces and coma of the fast mirror.

 

Another route to go is to look for a used 80mm refractor on craig's list or

facebook market place.  Do not under estimate the importance of the mount.

long/large telescopes on a spindly mount are frustrating.

 

If you have a photo tripod, and are handy, you could find a used short 80mm

f/5 refractor on this.

 

If you are handy again you can build a pipe mount.  These are very sturdy

and it would allow you to buy a optical tube only.  this would open you up

to have something shipped to you.  Tripods due to the length are

not economical to ship.

 

A surveyor's tripod is again another option for a very sturdy tripod at a good

price.  You would have to be able to fasten the scope to it.


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#6 vtornado

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Posted 24 January 2023 - 01:10 PM

I forgot to talk about the mak.

 

This is probably a nice scope for moon and planets.  It can reach high power (100x)

with cheap eyepieces.  Thes small size makes it easy to mount on a small tripod

without a lot of vibration. It looks like it comes with one 20mm eyepiece.

You would need to either buy another one or a 2x barlow for good lunar viewing.

 

maks need time to thernally acclimate if you do not insulate it.

This means don't take it out of a warm house to a chilly outside.  The views

will be mushy, until it cools down.

 

The corrector plate is suseptible to dew.  A dew shield may be needed.


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#7 rob1986

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Posted 24 January 2023 - 01:20 PM

Get a used 114mm f8. Theyre cheape and everywhere.
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#8 Supernova74

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Posted 24 January 2023 - 01:41 PM

Without coming across overly harsh or rude a budget of only $150 dollars is going to be unrealistic to a certain degree! As from a beginners perspective many other essential accessories seem to go astray and often missed to help aid your overall observing experience.No one exspects you to get it exsactly right the first time round In using and purchasing your very first telescope however many newbies and even more experienced amateurs kind of put the cart before the horse kind of analogy in the mount the telescope is partnered with.

 

the issue is with spending $150 or so is your entering the realm of more toy grade telescopes and should avoid like the Black Plague with online merchandisers on ebay and amazon etc unless your 100% sure you are certain and understand what you are looking at in the first place.its not so much about the optics which are key here! It’s the mount it’s on as there’s nothing worse in being able to focus upon a star or planet at a relatively high or even medium magnification if the mount is very unstable and the tripod legs are wobbly as a blancmange.so while we are on this note I personally would double that budget if you can as it will open more doors for you in choice and it would be money well spent.

 

when it comes to the actual telescope itself I would definitely recommend a Refractor optical type instrument as this will serves your needs better also a lot easier to use and in most cases maintanence free!.if you don’t like complicated arrangements and more lengthy set up times I would stick with a good azimuth mount for now as some beginners find the unorthodox movement of an EQ mount differcult to use.


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#9 jwnrw59

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Posted 24 January 2023 - 01:54 PM

+1 on a pair of binoculars. Then you may want to wait until next Christmas comes around and see whether Costco still get supply on the Omni102 AZ refractor. Not perfect, but good to start with. There's an entire thread on that scope already in this forum here --> https://www.cloudyni...f65/?p=12420544


Edited by jwnrw59, 24 January 2023 - 01:55 PM.


#10 Paul Sweeney

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Posted 24 January 2023 - 02:02 PM

First off, it would be good for you to get some experience. So look up your local club and contact them. Go observing with them and get an idea what various scopes can deliver. You might decide that some other scope fits your needs better.

With such a small budget, I would also aim you to the used market. The above mentioned 114/900 is a time tested design that will deliver super images and is easy to collimate. Here again, a club would offer help in picking a good used scope.

Clubs and libraries sometimes have loaner scopes. This lets you try various scopes before you buy.
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#11 MBS

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Posted 24 January 2023 - 02:09 PM

Thanks for all the suggestions.  I have looked into the local club and they will resume viewing in the spring.  I am looking forward to that.  I realize the budget is small. Just looking to get my feet wet and learning while at the same time seeing a very small part of the universe.  This summer I will be on Cape Cod so I was hoping to take it with me to the darker outer cape skies.


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#12 Anony

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Posted 24 January 2023 - 02:11 PM

Hi all...New to this forum and to the world of astronomy.  I am looking for some guidance in choosing my first telescope.  Since joining this forum I have read and researched to the point that i now suffer from analysis paralysis.  My needs are pretty simple: must be portable, mostly interested in moon and planets (especially Saturn's rings) but would also like to explore a little, and it must be less than $150. I am open to used equipment but am afraid I wouldn't know a telescope in good shape from one in bad shape.  And finally, the thought of collimation is intimidating.

 

All that being said, two telescopes I am seriously considering are:

          Orion SkyScanner 100mm (based on reviews by aeajr)

          ExploraPro 70mm Maksutov (based on reviews by Jim Riffle)

 

Thanks for any help or additional recommendations.  Ideally, I would get that 6" or 8" dob but that is out of the question for now.

With a limited budget, I strongly suggest the used market. If you see any 'possibles', you can always list them here and folks will let you know if it's a good deal or not. Typically I see refractors go pretty cheaply -- 80mm-100mm sometimes for $50-75 or so. And occasionally cheaper. Maybe you'll see a starblast for <$100 ... or AWB... never know.

 

Check your craigslist and facebook marketplace.

 

If buying new... hmm... at $150...

 

The Mak seems a tad small to me, and the 100mm reflector has a fixed mirror I believe, so it can't be collimated. But it may be okay-ish?

 

If you could save to $250, I'd suggest the Astronomer's without borders scope --

https://shop.astrono...ector-telescope

 

$190 will get you a Starsense 80mm  (Costco).

 

https://www.costco.c....100837207.html

 

And it is probably not such a great scope, but I also see a Celestron 90AZ F/7.3 for $130 at Costco as well. I own an Inspire 90Az (F/10) (similar mount) and I find the mount usable, but not great. So... if you go that route, I expect it'd be 50/50 as to you wanting to return it. But, Costco is great with returns, so not really a risk besides your time.

 

https://www.costco.c....100788143.html

 

The 102AZ at Costco would be a better deal, but not sure if they carry them anymore. They'd be in-store only.


Edited by Anony, 24 January 2023 - 02:24 PM.

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#13 vtornado

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Posted 24 January 2023 - 02:14 PM

My needs are pretty simple: must be portable, mostly interested in moon and planets (especially Saturn's rings)  -- MBS

 

Binoculars are not the right tool for this.  Binoculars are low power wide field wonders.

Moon and planets need around 100x to reveal small details, and that is just to start.

 

Planets will appear as white disks. moon will show seas, and some major craters.

at 10x.


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#14 Anony

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Posted 24 January 2023 - 02:17 PM

 

 

The Orion Skyscanner will be a great first telescope. You will have to collimate it. I had a hard time leaning the process well until I got a tabletop similar to this one (from Astronomers Without Borders). Once I could actually reach everything and work for instance with the Moon and a planet during twilight, when I could see what I was doing and had a useful target, it all came together. Do you remember learning to tie your shoes? This is easier.

 

Pretty sure the Skyscanner can't be collimated as it has a fixed primary. Secondary can be collimated, but that's not quite the same.

 

I used to own the Zhumell flavor of this scope. It's something I really wanted to like... it was so cute. But everything outside the center of the view was problematic for me.

 

Maybe I got a dud, but it's just something to be aware of.



#15 CBM1970

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Posted 24 January 2023 - 02:34 PM

You will get a lot of recommendations here, and my voice is just one of many...

 

If the $150 budget is a very strict one, I would probably pursue the 90mm f7.3 Celestron refractor from Costco that Anony references above. 

 

There are a number of 90mm f7.3 and f6.7 refractors out there, and they may all come from the same factory (there's even an Explorapro version - from the same folks who make that 70mm mak.)  However, I have not seen one for $130 which sounds like a bargain - at least in view of the return policy.

 

A 90mm refractor at f7.3 (or 6.7) is going to be more versatile than either the 70mm mak or the 100mm minidob. It will give you wide field views at low power that are likely equivalent to the 100mm minidob, and it will probably outperform the 70mm mak on planets. It will have false color, which the mak does not, but the larger and unobstructed aperture will probably give more detailed planet views than the mak anyway.

 

The mount may be terrible. That is the only way the 90mm refractor comes in last. Still, there is the return policy...  I expect there are ways to make it work "enough".

 

A 90mm f6.7 refractor (the no longer available Meade model) was reviewed quite favorably in Sky and Telescope. The review stated that the optical tube was good, that the planet views did not have excessive false color, and that they outperformed the 4.5 inch Starblast tabletop (a popular telescope that undoubtedly gives better planet views than the 100 mm minidob).

 

Anyway, my voice is just one in this chorus, but if I were in your shoes, that is what I would choose.

 

Very best of luck to you!


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#16 CarolinaBanker

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Posted 24 January 2023 - 02:39 PM

I’d look at used equipment, maybe a ST80 or a vintage Japanese 60mm. $150 new is not enough. Maybe you get lucky and find someone letting a decent 4” achro, C90 or a mini dob go at a good price.



#17 Anony

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Posted 24 January 2023 - 02:55 PM

 

 

The mount may be terrible. That is the only way the 90mm refractor comes in last. Still, there is the return policy...  I expect there are ways to make it work "enough".

 

 

The Inspire 90Az I have (bought used, new in box for $50 ... hint for the OP to look at the used market) -- has a very similar style mount.

 

Basically it holds the scope fine, is a tad shaky, but not really more so than the Omni 102AZ + mount ... but it's missing slow motion controls. However since the OP never owned a scope, nor used slow motion, they may not miss it.

 

It pretty much comes down to if that budget is locked... if the OP is a member of Costco (or knows someone) and is okay with returning it if it doesn't work out.

 

At $130 it leaves $20 left for a svbony barlow, which would be needed.


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#18 CarolinaBanker

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Posted 24 January 2023 - 03:45 PM

Another option, ST80 on an EQ1, I don’t love GEMs for a beginner, optically can someone opine if it’s equivalent to the other ST80s (white OTAs)? https://www.telescop...ts?keyword=St80

#19 barbarosa

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Posted 24 January 2023 - 03:46 PM

My needs are pretty simple: must be portable, mostly interested in moon and planets (especially Saturn's rings)  -- MBS

 

Binoculars are not the right tool for this.  Binoculars are low power wide field wonders.

Moon and planets need around 100x to reveal small details, and that is just to start.

 

Planets will appear as white disks. moon will show seas, and some major craters.

at 10x.

Had you followed the link in my post you would have seen a range of bins some suitable for a tripod, monopod and astronomy. Some of them may, according to reports made on CN, are not well collimated when they arrive. The defects are normally obvious, and that is a good reason to buy from a dealer with a good return policy. As for the difference in details that might be seen or the moon or Jupiter and Saturn, many new observers might describe them as trivial. Later they might have a different opinion but that is just as likely for anyone who buys a $100 starter telescope.

 

One thing we tend to do here on CN is to tell the new fellow or gal that the scope they want to buy is not a good choice. Then we up the budget for them and suggest whatever Cassegrain, Newtonian/Dobsonian or refractor we like or wish that we had as a first scope. We overwhelm them.

 

If the OP buys almost any of the inexpensive scopes mentioned there are two good possibilities.

  1. He will like observing and hate the scope. He is hooked and will buy a better one informed by his experience.
  2. Visual astronomy will pall, and he will move on to Olympic snowboarding or lawn bowling. 

Collectively we told him his choices are not good ones, given him both accurate and inaccurate information, and effectively told him to start again.

 

To the OP: my suggestion is that you read this thread carefully, take note of all points made, then go buy something that you think will work. Buy it from Amazon or any place with a no hassle return policy. Don't buy this one used unless it is very cheap, and you can shrug it off if it disappoints you. Save the used market for your second or third upgrade.

 

This is really a great hobby. I would give you my first or second scope (both bought used), but GW long ago disposed of them. I was warned that the first one was junk, and it was, but for $1 who cared. The second was better than the first, I was learning. 

 

Good luck to you and hopefully clear sky the night you get the scope.


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#20 mikemarotta

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Posted 24 January 2023 - 04:41 PM

Based on the replies here, I went shopping. I see that I was wrong. I have not looked at this market since the Pandemic. Having checked Astronomics, Explore Scientific, Orion, and Celestron, and then the usual retailers such as OPT, Mile High, and Oceanside, there is really not much without problems for less than $500. The Celestron Starsense and Astromaster are possible. See the Astronomics listings. They do come with the usual entry-level trade-offs in the mounts and eyepiees that other people here will disrespect. (I have a Celestron 70-mm refractor and the telescope is fine. The pan-tilt movie camera mount made using the telescope difficult. Fortunately, I have an Explore Twilight I tripod and mount. but that was $329 already invested.)

 

Also, the original poster does not want to buy used and that is a good decision. People here who recommend buying bargains on Craig's list and Amazon are knowledgeable hobbyists. See their thousands of posts here. If you do not know what you are buying -- telescopes, cars, refrigerators, whatever -- buying used is just buying someone else's problems.

 

 

This all raises a more basic question: What is the threshold for entering the hobby with a new purchase from a reputable seller?

 

Clear Skies,

Mike M.


Edited by mikemarotta, 24 January 2023 - 04:49 PM.

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#21 Echolight

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Posted 24 January 2023 - 05:10 PM

I’d skip the little newt and tiny Mak and get a refractor.


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#22 KWB

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Posted 24 January 2023 - 06:07 PM

Based on the replies here, I went shopping. I see that I was wrong. I have not looked at this market since the Pandemic. Having checked Astronomics, Explore Scientific, Orion, and Celestron, and then the usual retailers such as OPT, Mile High, and Oceanside, there is really not much without problems for less than $500. The Celestron Starsense and Astromaster are possible. See the Astronomics listings. They do come with the usual entry-level trade-offs in the mounts and eyepiees that other people here will disrespect. (I have a Celestron 70-mm refractor and the telescope is fine. The pan-tilt movie camera mount made using the telescope difficult. Fortunately, I have an Explore Twilight I tripod and mount. but that was $329 already invested.)

 

Also, the original poster does not want to buy used and that is a good decision. People here who recommend buying bargains on Craig's list and Amazon are knowledgeable hobbyists. See their thousands of posts here. If you do not know what you are buying -- telescopes, cars, refrigerators, whatever -- buying used is just buying someone else's problems.

 

 

This all raises a more basic question: What is the threshold for entering the hobby with a new purchase from a reputable seller?

 

Clear Skies,

Mike M.

An excellent question. waytogo.gif

 

In the last couple of years inflation has raised the bar. IMO it is appreciably more than $150.



#23 CBM1970

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Posted 24 January 2023 - 07:56 PM

The Inspire 90Az I have (bought used, new in box for $50 ... hint for the OP to look at the used market) -- has a very similar style mount.

 

Basically it holds the scope fine, is a tad shaky, but not really more so than the Omni 102AZ + mount ... but it's missing slow motion controls. However since the OP never owned a scope, nor used slow motion, they may not miss it.

 

It pretty much comes down to if that budget is locked... if the OP is a member of Costco (or knows someone) and is okay with returning it if it doesn't work out.

 

At $130 it leaves $20 left for a svbony barlow, which would be needed.

 

Well, that sounds promising.

 

I am thinking that a 90mm f7.3 refractor would be lighter than the Omni 102 AZ (same focal length), and both lighter and shorter than the Inspire 90Az f10. It would hopefully be less taxing on the mount than either of those scopes.



#24 CarolinaBanker

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Posted 24 January 2023 - 07:56 PM

An excellent question. waytogo.gif

In the last couple of years inflation has raised the bar. IMO it is appreciably more than $150.


All depends on the individual, you could get a basic kit for that much. But one can easily spend upwards of $600 and still be buying entry level equipment.

I looked on Astronomics and Orion a 3.5” achro is $320 (Astromaster Alt Az 90), a Celestron Smartsense LT 80 is $230 and the 102 DX is $470. On Orion the ST80 on an EQ-1 is $130 on sale. The 90mm Orion Observer is $230 on sale. Moving on to tabletop Dobs the 102mm SkyScanner is $120, the StarBlast 4.5 is $230 on sale. An XT6 Dob is $450 on sale, the SkyScanner 135mm Dob is $300 on sale. Astronomics has a Skywatcher 6” for $460. Add a Barlow ($50), a zoom ($80) and a copy of Nightwatch ($28 on Amazon) and Turn Left at Orion ($30). Depending on scope and which if any accessories you could get away for $150.

#25 Anony

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Posted 24 January 2023 - 07:57 PM

I’d skip the little newt and tiny Mak and get a refractor.

Since the OP is interested in the planets/moon, and especially Saturn, that is the way I'd lean as well -- at least with the mentioned budget.

 

He can't afford a 90mm Mak (at least new). The little 100mm reflector will show the planets, but I can't say they'd exactly be thrilling with that scope. It's not really made for high mag views.

 

Binoculars as mentioned may be fun to play with, but I can't see anyone using them on the planets either.

 

Someone mentioned the library idea, and maybe that is a good way for the OP to play with a scope first before buying something. Sometimes they have starblasts, sometimes refractors... worth checking and see what they have. That way the OP can see for himself how each type of scope works.

 

To my surprise my library had a starblast, which I recently took out to try ... curious how it would look. Of course I've had like a zillion cloudy days, with like 1-2 days to even try the thing. But I can't exactly say the starblast is a planet killer. My cheapo refractors were definitely better with the planets.


Edited by Anony, 24 January 2023 - 08:03 PM.

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