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Looking for guidance on buying the "right" family telescope.

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crimson_ghost

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I have never owned a telescope before (actually, only looked through one scope once in my life). But I have always been interested but could never bring myself to spending the money. Now I have a family and a very curious 6 year old, I suppose thats the finaly push I needed.<br /><br />I don't wish to purchase something I am going to outgrow - and I don't want to buy something that makes me skip a mortgage payment. So my friend (the one with the scope) mentioned this site to me.<br /><br />My children want to see the plantes - I want this as well as deep space. I have thus far selected Meade Starfinder Equatorial 16" F/4.5. I have done a fair amount of reading and still cannot make any difinative claims of one scope vs. another. <br /><br />I know I want to take pictures and I would love to have the ability of connecting a Laptop to the scope. It must have a computer and auto tracking. <br /><br />Thats about all I can think of now - can anyone point me in the right direction. I really need some guidance on what scope to buy. I live in eastern PA near NJ -- I don't know of any shops here, can anyone suggest a good online store to purchase from?<br />
 
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newtonian

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crimson -Well, I also await guidance for a good first telescope, preferably not expensive.<br /><br />I think a tripod should be helpful and inexpensive.<br /><br />I have not yet purchased a telescope - just binoculars! <br /><br />My astronomy has been naked eye (in a dark rural location) and internet.<br /><br />It is awesome!
 
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nevers

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Hi Crimson - <br /><br />Welcome to SDC! Hopefully after you've gotten your 'scope you'll still hang around here.<br /><br />Ok, the 'scope: I have a Starfinder 16" Dobsonian. I've not seen the EQ model so I can't relay anything on that. A 'scope with 16"'s of aperture will certainly last a lifetime and will be able to see just about everything you want. Some objects will be too big (like pleiades, the rosette nebula and a few others) unless you get the right eyepieces. The planets will jump out at you for sure and I can't imagine anybody "growing" out if this 'scope. My main concern would be the transport and set-up of the thing.<br /><br />For somebody that has never owned a 'scope before, this is quite a first step. If you can afford it, I'd go for it. Other views may differ I'm sure. It's bound to have it's drawbacks and downsides but if you've done a fair amount of research I would think you've already read about what they could be. (You'll want to replace the focuser right off the bat. There's nothing "deluxe" about it.<br /><br />Well, I'm off to take my 16" out to semi-dark skies. Good luck to ya and please keep us informed.
 
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igorsboss

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If you want great visual astronomy, get the 16" dobsonian. However, give up on long-exposure astrophotography if you go this way.<br /><br />If you want piggyback astrophotography, all you really need is an equitorially aligned clock drive to guide the camera. The telescope will be a lot smaller than 16".<br /><br />Prime-focus astrophotography is mostly about how much money you are willing to spend on the telescope, equitorial mount, CCD camera, etc etc etc.<br /><br />For the most bang for the buck, do this:<br />1) Buy the 16" dobsonian for visual observations.<br /><br />2) Build a barn-door mount (for less than $100) and take your first 2-minute exposure astrophoto with it. After that, you'll know a LOT more about astrophotography. That's when you'll know if you want to spend more money to get better astrophotos.
 
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newtonian

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Nevers- Hi!<br /><br />So how much would a 16" Dobsonian cost and where would you buy it.<br /><br />I assume not at Walmart (they do sell telescopes).
 
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newtonian

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crazyeddie- Hi!<br /><br />Thanks for the tip on the sale. Crimson may well want to spend $339. <br /><br />Walmart is cheaper. So what is the advantage of the more expensive scope?
 
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petepan

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Welcome to SDC. <br /><br />Ditto to everything everyone else said.<br /><br />Good luck on buying your scope <img src="/images/icons/wink.gif" /><br /><br />Cheers<br />
 
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crimson_ghost

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Nevers - Thanks for the response. That 16" Dobsonian was somting I was hung up on too. Why is there a 1,600 price difference beterrn the two scopes? Is it all in the drive that mimics the earths rotation? I realize its a big first step, but I would rather do it right the first time - its a lot harder to get "wife buy in" a second time arond :) Am young and very athletic, the size and awkwardness of a scope will not be a concern (I realize this scope is about 250 pounds, that won't be a problem)<br /><br />Igorsboss - I Think I understand now that the 16" dobsonian lacks the ability to negate the earths rotation, but would the 16" Equatorial resolve this issue and permit proper picture taking?<br /><br />Hi CrazyEddie....ok, your post is the one I was looking for - the one that talks me out of it. Unfortunatly (for me) you mention one of the other scopes I have been looking at. I do like the Orion XT, but last month when my new catalog showed up I liked the XT12 alot more. Especially when it tells me it can see 126% more than a 8". Honestly, in this price range cost is just not a factor - I would have a hard time getting 5,000 or so past the wife, anything less is a non-issue. Speaking of non-issues, I am a body builder and picking up a 250 pound scope would not be a chore. However, if you really want to talk me out of it - please tell me about the set up? Whats involved with going from the garage to looking in the eye peice? hours, minutes ? (thank you for those links)<br /><br />Just one thing, you posted the 16" dobsonian is about $2,900 and thats wrong. It's a $1,200 scope and the 16" Equatrial is the price you quoted - and part of my question is why the price difference and is it worth it?<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
 
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crimson_ghost

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ok, I looked up the Nexstar 8I, I don't understand the differnece between something this small and a huge tube scope? (not the apature size, jus the tube length). This scope can find 40,000 objects for me, but does it have a tracking feature? <br /><br />When I looked at the moon while on vacation, I would see a really cool spot of the moon (for example) as the wife to look and by the time she got there it was gone. That was bad, I do not want to buy something that will not resolve this, amature or not - I will not be buying a scope that does not negate the earths rotation (I don't know what the feature is called).<br /><br />Anyway, this scope is $1,400 (already more than the 16" Dobsonian mount) - is it a better scope in general (ie, see more stuff?) It's substantially lighter (but the Dob 16" is only 100 pounds - hardly a factor to anyone)<br /><br />Oh I just thought of a good questions too. When I used the telescope the fine focusing and adjusting (manual tracking/finding is what I mean there) was VERY bouncy - even when I looked in the eye peice if I touched the piece with the lightest of pressure the entire thing would shake -- do these scopes do that? Also, the eye piece was incredibly small to look in, are they all that way?
 
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crimson_ghost

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one more thought (sorry, sitting here doing morning coffee and reading)<br /><br />What about the Meade LXD75 Series - 10" Schmidt-Newtonian Telescope ?<br /> I *think* it has the capability of doing what I want (I couldn't find its weight) and its only $1,200. I found it on that web site CrazyEddie dropped a link to :<br /><br />http://www.digitecoptical.com/tel-meade-lxd75-10-schmidt-newtonian.htm<br /><br /><br />
 
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kelle

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Uhh... May I also ask a small question here? I am also thinking of buying a telescope at some time, but here where I live, it's only dark in the winter, and in the winter it's very cold. So how do normal telescopes behave when it's very cold? Will it be a problem if it's like -20 degrees C (about -4 fahrenheit)?
 
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nevers

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Hi Crimson - <br /><br />Hmmm...let's see if I can answer all this. Crazyeddie and the others have done a fair job.<br /><br />- The price difference is because of the two kinds of mounts. The Dobsonian mount is basically a box on Teflon Pads: you push it around the sky. The Equatorial Mount is more of a behemoth then the 'scope itself. I really think it was meant for more of a permanent fixture like in an observatory, not to be transported around. To do long exposure astrophotography you need to be precisely (spelling: too lazy to look it up, sorry <img src="/images/icons/frown.gif" /> ) polar aligned. This can become quite the hassle, especially in the dark. It's not just something you can pick up and move or nudge a little bit once it's all together. If you want to take short duration photos, you'll still need to polar align fairly accurate but then you have the cost of the camera which can add another (at least I imagine) $500 to the bill.<br /><br />The Equatorial WILL track the Earth's rotation but will do no good in photography if not aligned exactly.<br /><br />Here's another thing: The "computer" that comes with the Equatorial is NOT a "GoTo": YOU have to point the 'scope at an object and then it tracks it. It does have digital setting circles but it (if I'm correct) you have to know the declination and right-azimuth of the object. This can be strange for somebody first starting out. If the computer tells you the RA & Dec of say M22, you still have to physically move the telescope until the "computer" confirms you've found the RA & Dec. It won't just go to M22 (a huge globular cluster in Sagittarius) by itself.<br /><br />About eyepieces and "shaking": The higher the power (magnification) the more shaking. I think this is a rule for any 'scope. The bigger they are the worse it gets. This is even worse with 'scopes that are not guided/tracked by a motor. With a motorized 'scope, you can add more power and the object will not only be tracked but you won't have t
 
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nevers

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Hey Newtonian - <br /><br />DO NOT BUY ANY TELESCOPE AT WAL-MART...! Nothing against Wal-mart, I go there all the time, just NOT to buy a telescope. Unless I wanted a toy, but then, I'd know all I was getting would be a toy.<br /><br />Anyway, the Meade 16" Starfinder Dobsonian, after shipping, vital upgrades is about $1500. Then comes more real "toys"! You cannot order them directly from Meade, you have to go to a Telescope Dealer. I got mine from a place called Scope City. I'm sure there are many more out there.
 
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tfwthom

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kelle<br /><br />A scopes main problem in the cold is dew (unless you are in Arizona, I've only been dewed out about 3 times)<br /><br />SCT's and their offshoots suffer the most, the others a lot less. Dew shields are available, the simple wrap kind like http://www.astrozap.com/ or the powered Kendrick http://www.buytelescopes.com/container.asp?dest=/manufacturers/kendrick/dewremover.htm<br /><br />You can make your own with a battery and some resistors http://webhome.idirect.com/~rsnow/resister.html <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <font size="1" color="#3366ff">www.siriuslookers.org</font> </div>
 
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kelle

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Thanks for the info! Now I really want to buy me a telescope! <img src="/images/icons/smile.gif" />
 
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jcdenton

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Here's a table that outlines the main aspects of what each type of telescope is good and bad for. Hope it helps you out and sorry about the formatting, I couldn't get rid of the giant space. <img src="/images/icons/frown.gif" /><br /><br /> <table border="1" align="left" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><br /> <tr valign="TOP"> <br /> <td><b>Telescope Type</b>
 
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nevers

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Oh man... I was ok with outer space but now I have to learn about giant space too!?!?!?!?! I hope there's not a beanstalk involved. <img src="/images/icons/wink.gif" />
 
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jcdenton

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Yup, and it's all because of the forum software. <img src="/images/icons/smile.gif" /><br /> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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nevers

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Another cause of the "shakes" is wind. That thing is a BIG sail.
 
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crimson_ghost

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Hi Brad - thank you. That was very informative – You convinced me on two main points, no “go-to” and *should be* permanently mounted. So now I need more suggestions on what to look into. I like the looks of the Meade 16” Dobsonian, but I need a go-to system as well as the tracking (what is that called again?). <br /><br />Ok, with that said the 16” goliath can stay on the store shelf (that would be the seriously reinforced shelf). There has been some recommendations thus far, but I have not found the right thing yet. Can the Dobsonian (Meade) do what I want it to in terms of computer guidance? I looked at your web site (I read your 3 day adventure in the Valley of Fire where you met Nathan…..that was a great read – I will pour over the others this evening.)<br />
 
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crimson_ghost

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I found this info on the Meade web site:<br /><br />.....<snip /><br />Magellan I Computer System: Magellan I directs your manual motions of a Starfinder Dobsonian or Equatorial to locate, in 10 to 15 seconds, any object in the sky, either by calling up an object from Magellan I's database or by moving the telescope to known celestial coordinates (RA and Dec.). <br /><br />Magellan I's database includes 7,840 NGC objects (the complete NGC catalog); 4,093 Index Catalog objects; 110 Messier objects; the 8 major planets from Mercury to Pluto, and more — 12,218 objects in total. <br />............<snip /><br /><br />This is the "go-to" function I want right? so then this would not compensate for the earths rotation? Is this an option for this scope?<br /><br />How does something like this work? Would you need to point the scope to a known location to get it started? I mean, how would it know where to find what I ask it to? There must be some type of initial beraings I must give it right?
 
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nevers

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Hi Crimson - <br /><br />I've never heard of a "GoTo" Dobsonian. Unless maybe it is of a "Truss" design which usually suggests something of very large aperture. "GoTo" systems for large Truss 'scopes are EXPENSIVE! And...I've never seen one in operation.<br /><br />The Magellan System is Digital Setting Circles. I've seen them in operation but not very much. They do work however. Somehow in the set-up of the 'scope, you have to tell the computer where it is located on the face of the Earth. Then, as you physically "push" the 'scope closer to the obect, the numbers lessen util the display says "0". Then, you can look through the eyepiece and the object you wanted to look at should be there in theory. That's if you set the 'scope up properly. I'm not very familiar with Setting Circles though.<br /><br />The Magellan System is available as an ad-on for both Dobsonian and the EQ Starfinder models. But, the 'scope cannot track the sky with just the Magellan alone. For that, you need the motors that come with the Equatorial mounted Starfinder. If you knew the night sky and where objects were and how to find them, you wouldn't need the Magellan System at all. You would find the object yourself and THEN the motors would take over and track the object. Then you could take pictures over long exposure. But then we are back to being able to exactly polar alignment the telescope.<br /><br />In actuallity, it sounds like the Meade 16" Starfinder Equatorial with the Megellan System is everything you dreamed of especially if used to its full potential in optimal observing conditions. I'd just hate to see somebody not familiar with the sky and telescopes themselves get that big honkin' telescope and have the dream turn into an incrediblely expensive nightmare: which, is totally possible.<br /><br />I'm wondering: why did you get interested in Astronomy in the first place and what possesed you to want to get a telescope? Especially one of such size. If you can afford for the 'scope to become a
 
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nevers

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Oh hey - Thanks for checking out my website! Glad you liked it. Another thing, if you can track down the entire database of objects you mentioned: your a better man then I...! <img src="/images/icons/wink.gif" />
 
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crimson_ghost

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Digital Setting Circles…ok, that doesn’t sound too bad. My knowledge of the sky doesn’t run much past knowing to look up – But I’ll learn what I must rather quickly and the rest in time. Why do I want to delve into this hobby ? I have wanted a telescope for years on end (probably about 20). But I could never afford them (not even the cheap ones)….now things are different for me, but in the past 10 years or so all I have done is work – so no time for a hobby. 5 years ago when my son came into my life I realized I could back off the work scene and start to enjoy life. A few months back when he saw a picture of the planets he said he wanted a telescope…..done deal – when I was young I knew I couldn’t even joke about buying something that wasn’t a necessity. It’s time I do a little compensating ya know? You couple that with my own age old desire and I can guarantee you a scope in my house for Christmas. <br /><br />Now, enough painful childhood memories…..back to the scopes. I need to go look at some of the scopes you mentioned – I will do this tonight. I will still hold the theory that bigger is better, I am not sure if I am interested in the Setting Circles (jury still out, but it doesn’t sound to be a turn off) – but I am attracted to the complete “go-to” deal. <br />
 
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