newbie -- asking for some opinions on required equipment

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jamesjv8

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Good evening folks from the Chicago suburbs. Having recently gotten back into astronomy, I have come to the decision that I am going to buy a telescope. Can you give me some guidance?<br /><br />I plan to observe in a couple locations. 2 of them have, what I would call, high amounts of ambient light. All are wide open areas. I have zero experience with telescopes. My budget is around $1000.00 for now.<br /><br />I don't even know what questions to ask you. I just figured I should talk to those who actually observe. Any help you can offer would be appreciated. Or should I just go to Wal-Mart and buy one of those TANDY ones?<br /><br />Thanks,<br />Jason
 
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jamesjv8

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excellent read, never saw it in the forum for some reason, must have scanned right by it. I appreciate the pointout!<br /><br />Jason
 
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petepan

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<font color="yellow">Or should I just go to Wal-Mart and buy one of those TANDY ones? </font><br /><br />never, ever buy one of those types..... <img src="/images/icons/tongue.gif" /><br />
 
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nevers

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I agree with petepan...NEVERS say's NEVER buy one of those "Department Store" telescopes - not even if your in Never-Never Land. You'll never be happy with it, never in a million years.<br /><br />It's hard to answer questions like yours without some specifics of your goals. The thread Thom offered is a great start as you found out. I'll say this without adding anything else - don't buy a "GoTo". One with digital setting circles may be ok and certainly one with motorized tracking would be good - but not "GoTo".
 
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bbrock

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I agree with petepan and Nevers. I would like to add, as always and as a general rule of thumb -- always go with the largest aperture telescope you can afford and transport. <br /><br />There are some other things to consider. The scope you buy will probably come with one or two eye pieces (EP's). Keep enough in your budget for a 2x Barlow Lens. If you buy a reflector then you will want a good collimator. I highly recommend you consider buying a dobsonian reflector of at least 8" aperture. Reflectors give you the greatest aperture for the cost and dobsonians are the easiest to use. Equatorial (EQ) mounted reflectors are a good alternative value that allow you to track objects if fitted with a right assentiohn clock drive. These are a little more complex. If you are just starting out. I would recommend the dobsonian scopes. Get your feet wet, learn your way around the heavens. When you decided to move up then invest in the higher complexity scopes. <br /><br />clear skies<br />Bill
 
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jamesjv8

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Nevers,<br /><br />Regarding the specifics of my goals, it would be easier if you asked me the questions, simply so I don't ramble on about stuff that is extraneous. If you know the questions, I am certainly willing to answer. The biggest problem is that I, myself, don't know the questions to ask myself. See my dilemma. ;-)<br /><br />And herein lies the problem of being a newb. I have always loved the sky. 4 years at Space Camp as a kid, many classes, couple of groups, and now, I fly, and am amazed at what I see at 40,000 feet. Aurora when I am over Jacksonville, too many meteorites to count. The last time I looked through a scope was....can't remember. Just time to get back to it.<br /><br />I can tell you, I would like to look at the planets, galaxies, and just spy the sky.<br /><br />Thanks for the help,<br />Jason
 
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bechcube

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Hi James, Bechcube:<br />Orion has an 8in. reflector package with CCD imaging cameria coupled with your computer for only $1149. Web to oriontelescopenews.com<br />
 
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nevers

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Hi James,<br /><br />It's hard to give real advise on what telescope a certain person should buy - especially if the person giving the advise has no experience with a certain 'scope. I can only relate the troubles and positive things from my own experience. And, there is no best 'scope - they all do different things better. The best 'scope is the 'scope that gets the most use. If you get a big honkin' dobsonian, but have no way to transport it: what good is that. On the reverse: if you get something small and easy to transport, you may only be able to see the more brighter objects.<br /><br />My reason for avoiding "GoTo's" - they can be alot of hassle. They may have quirks and nuiances about them that are frustrating - especially for the beginner. You may become unenthused with the hobby. They may be good for "urban" observing but what use is it if the darn thing is not working exactly like it should? It may end up pointing at empty space. You still won't see what you want without "hunting" for it. You'll end up paying for motors and computers instead of aperture. In light polluted skies, and I don't care what anybody says because I know first hand - aperture is a plus and will be your biggest advantage against light pollution.<br /><br />A reason to avoid dobsonians - you won't be able to do astrophotography. Or at least, very limited astrophotography. However, with dobsonians, you'll typically get the biggest aperture for the money. With a dobsonian, you "push" the 'scope (or pull) to see what you want to look at. It can be frustrating in urban skies, but, in the end you will become a much better observer. You will learn the night sky better and remember it better. I've found my experiences with first observing from light polluted skies made finding objects in dark skies like picking apples from a tree rather then finding a needle in a haystack.<br /><br />If you are interested (or think you'll be in the furture) in astrophotography (which can be very expensive and more
 
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jamesjv8

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Good morning Brad, again, I appreciate the help. Here are some answers, and you raised some questions I would have never thought of.<br /><br />- How well do you know the constellations? <br />Not very, I can pick out the basics, but not much beyond that.<br /><br />- What size vehicle do you have to transport your 'scope? <br />I have a Dodge Durango, so I can't imagine transport will be to difficult. It even has a rear 12v outlet. Lucky me! ;-)<br /><br />- How bad is your light pollution (City Population)? <br />In spot 1, probably pretty bad, 15 miles from downtown Chicago, and would most likely be viewing from the airport. Spot 2, 50 miles north of Milwaukee, town of 2000 people, viewing from the Lake Michigan Shoreline. Spot 3, in a word, desolate. The heavens look like nothing I have seen except when I am flying. The Milky Way is easily, I mean EASILY visible to the naked eye.<br /><br />- How often will you be able to travel to dark skies and how far would it be?<br />If I get a weekend, I would most likely fly to Spot 3. 1.75 hour flight. It takes a little scheduling and planning to do this.<br /><br />- Will this 'scope be the only one you will be able to afford for say, the next five years? <br />Yes.<br /><br />- Do you intend this 'scope to be able to be used for astrophotography?<br />Not at the start, but would like to do so when I get comfortable.<br /><br />- If so, does the money you've alloted include needing a camera? <br />I already have a 35mm camera, so no.<br /><br />- If so, do you intend to use film, digital or CCD? <br />Film.<br /><br />- What's your personal PIN and mother's maiden name?<br />McGroin, 5698, but you need my account numbers first, ;-)<br /><br /> Does the money you've alloted include the total or will you use other money to buy "extras": i.e. eyepieces not included with your 'scope and upgrades like filters, a bigger finderscope and "red-dot" finder?<br />The total is not to be more than 1200 to start. Less is better, meaning I don't have to
 
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nevers

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Hi James - <br /><br />Great! You've picked a type of 'scope I know the least about - thanks for that! <img src="/images/icons/wink.gif" /><br /><br />Ok, you know the basic constellations and that's a good start and you have a suitable vehicle to transport something of decent size. The best thing imho is that you've chosen some Orion 'scopes! <img src="/images/icons/smile.gif" /><br /><br />However, I still have one more question for you - you said you would be able to fly to your desolate #3 dark sky site. Will space be limited in the plane? If so, how much space/weight can you take up with your 'scope?<br /><br />I don't really know much about Mak type 'scopes. I've looked through some Cassegrain 'scopes and honestly, I thought the view was "dimmer" then the same view I've seen through reflectors and refractors - especially of Open Star Clusters and Globulars. I've heard of people with these type of 'scopes complain about dew - moisture collecting on the front lense. There are ways to solve this problem but it takes extra money for the equipment.<br /><br />It's good you have a camera although film can be difficult in that you won't be able to see your results until you develop the film. You may find out you're efforts were in vain and then it turns into a learning experience at best! Anyway you go, you'll need someway to attach the camera to the 'scope. Really, plan to hold off on serious astrophotography until you are more familiar with the hobby.<br /><br />Did you want me/us to offer suggestions for a 'scope? You've already gotten some good suggestions but so far I've held off from making one. I will if you want me to. Let us know about the "flying" with your 'scope thing.
 
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jamesjv8

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Space in the airplane won't be a huge deal at all. Weight, well, that would be about 1000 lbs. If I can fit it in it, I can take it in the air. My jet job is my day job. This plane is a Cessna 210. Height would probably be the biggest issue. Otherwise, lots of room. <br /><br />You mentioned dew, that is a $35.00 fix if I read the accesories correctly. Heated dew shield or something like that. It is also at telescope.com<br /><br />Please by all means, offer a suggestion. The more the merrier!<br /><br />I chose #1 simply for the portability factor and ease of use. I am by no means limited to it. It just seems to be the one that continues to pop up. Even when I use the product selector at telescope.com.<br /><br />Thanks,<br />Jason
 
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jamesjv8

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Let's try something different...<br /><br />This is the package I am currently looking at. I will be looking thru one of these Friday night.<br /><br />Telescope: StarMax™ 127mm EQ Compact "Mak" <br />Drive: EQ-3M Dual-Axis Electronic Drive <br /> Dew Protection: 5" Dew Zapper™ <br />Barlow Lens: Ultrascopic™ 2x FMC 3-Element Barlow Lens <br />General Filters: Deluxe Stargazer's Filter Set <br />Solar Filter: Solar Filter for StarMax 127, Apex 127 <br /><br />All this for only $962.80. Perfect. Now tell me what's wrong. <img src="/images/icons/smile.gif" /> <img src="/images/icons/smile.gif" /> <img src="/images/icons/smile.gif" /> <br /><br />Thanks guys,<br />Jason
 
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nevers

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Hi Jason - <br /><br />Nothing is wrong with it! It would be a nice package. There is one thing I would ditch: The Filter Set. And, I would get a different Barlow.<br /><br />However, just for kicks - may I suggest this -<br /><br />- AstroView™ 6 EQ Reflector @ $369<br />- Shorty™ 2x Barlow Lens, 1.25" @ $40<br />- Padded Case for Scope, Tripod and Mount @ $60<br />- EQ-3M Dual-Axis Electronic Drive @ $110<br />- 32mm Sirius™ Plossl 1.25" @ $48<br />- Variable Polarizing Filter, 1.25" @ $30<br />- Solar Filter for AstroView 6 @ $109<br />- EZ Finder™ II Reflex Sight @ $35<br />- http://www.telescope.com/shopping/product/detailmain.jsp?itemID=158&itemType=PRODUCT&iMainCat=6&
 
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bbrock

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Between the two, I have to agree with Brad. The f/12.1 will not be as bright as the f/5 AstroView. However I would like a little longer focal length. But for wide field viewing, the 750mm would be great. Then again, for future imaging, if you use a Meade DSI for imaging, the magnification would be 150x, which is plenty. The focal ratio can be extended using an aperture mask on bright objects. <br /><br />Clear Skies.<br />Bill
 
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jamesjv8

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Nah, that's what autopilots are for, and they fly a lot better than I can!<br /><br />Couple of quick questions.<br /><br />1) What is the difference between a Reflector (EDIT, What was I thinking!) and a Cass-Mak?<br /><br />2) For my 1st scope, I would be afraid that 10" will be too big to move around / transport easily. Is this a legitimate fear?<br /><br />I am not afraid to change, am simply worried about transport. I don't want to get so big that it becomes a pain to transport. I must say though, I like the idea of being able to attach the drive to 12 volts.<br /><br />I am going out this evening to a local star party. I will be looking through a few scopes I hope. Maybe glean a little more knowledge. It seems though that the Cass-Mak is a dead idea. <br /><br />Keep the opinions coming. I do value them. I will let you know what I learn this evening.<br /><br />BTW, my first name is James, I just go by Jason to confuse everyone. <img src="/images/icons/smile.gif" /><br /><br />Thank again,<br />Jason
 
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nevers

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Ah - Jason James: Jesse James lesser known brother huh? I get it now! <img src="/images/icons/wink.gif" /><br /><br />I'm not sure of your first question: the difference between a Reflector of Cass-Mak and what?<br /><br />No, I don't think a 10" 'scope would be too big to move around and transport.<br /><br />Right now I'm fixin' to go camping for 2 nights so I hope others here will be able to answer some of your questions better. (But get ready for this guys - he's probably going to go to this Star Party and look through an APO Refractor - then we'll have a whole new set of questions on our hands! <img src="/images/icons/smile.gif" /> ) Anyway, I hope you have a great time tonight - I think this is your best move on making a choice of what to get.
 
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bbrock

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To be honist, my Orion 10" dob is the easiest and fastest sccope for me to set up and use. The next easiest is the 120mm refractor on the EQ mount. The most difficult and least used is the same Orion 10" reflector mounted on the Atlas EQ. Each is a tool with it's own properties. A cuple of nights ago I had the operatunity to image the Supernova in M51. I can't image with the Dob Mount. I learned from experience that the 120mm aperture is great for bright objects but doesn't work well on long exposure - dim galaxies. The answer was the 10" on the Atlas. The 10" Dob would ab about the same as a 6" Dob if you keep the scope in a carry case and the base separate. <br /><br />Here is the picture of M51 and the Supernova. <br /><br />Clear Skies<br />Bill
 
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bbrock

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Lets try that again. I don't think the image went through. Probably too big. I croped it. <br /><br />Bill
 
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nevers

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Awesome picture! And thanks for pointing out the Supernova - I did some observing over the weekend and looked at M51: that's exactly where I thought I noticed a difference in the Galaxy but I wasn't sure.<br /><br />Anyway...Eddie brings out another point that I'd forgotten about: cooling down times. The Schmidt-Cass/Mak-Cass take the longest to cool down of all telescope designs. Next would be Reflectors followed by Refractors. However, Refractors (especially of Apochromatic design [check their cost versus Achromatic design!]) have the highest cost per square inch of aperture.<br /><br />So, how did the Star Party turn out?
 
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jamesjv8

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Hey Brad,<br /><br />I hope camping was fun. Anyway, Friday evening's party was, to say the least,a disappointment. It appeared that of the 20 or so folks out observing, all but one couldn't be bothered about their equipment. I was to look, but not ask questions. I got the distinct impression that they simply wanted to show off. One person did talk quite a bit with me. I came to the conclusion that I am not ready to buy a scope just yet. I did find out though that my uncle will be plitting the cost with me, just so he gets to look as well. So I suppose, for the moment, the scope is off. However, we are now looking at a larger scope, and when I get another $1000 put aside, we will invest then. Sorry to disappoint <img src="/images/icons/smile.gif" /><br /><br />The scope will be much better though. I will letyou know in a few months what happens. Before you ask, no, I am not too concerned with these punks at this party. I just won't be joining their club.<br /><br />I can not tell you how easy you made this. You help has been more than appreciated. Thank you so very much for speaking with me. I think in the next few months, I will be looking thru a 14" scope of some type.<br /><br />Again, thanks, and I will speak to you soon.<br /><br />Jason
 
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nevers

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Hi Jason -<br /><br />Camping was fun, you can read about it in the Dark Sky Thread if you want. I'm sorry your weekend experience was a disappointment. The behavior you discribed sounds very odd - but I guess it takes all kinds. You know, I think we have to commend you for actually going out to a star party. Of all the people that have come here asking questions about telescopes, I think you're probably the first one that actually followed our advise and took the time to attend a star party before buying a telescope. I guess in the end it was a postive event because you did learn something - that's what it's all about!<br /><br />I'm glad all of us here at SDC were able to help you in some way - it's our pleasure. Although I've never met most of these people here, they are part of my family. When I have problems or need a "sounding board", they are here to help. Not just about things concerning Astronomy but things in a wide topic - I've never felt they were "punks". So, even though you don't have your 'scope yet, I hope you stick around to participate in the many discussions here at SDC. And, when you do get your 'scope, you'll have to tell us all about it! Until then my friend...
 
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