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Old 05-10-2015, 12:44 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by mrprez View Post
What would be a good entry level telescope for gazing, not taking high def images.
A decent refractor, with an altazimuth mount, IMO. Quick to set up, easy to carry. Watch out for anything that advertises itself by "power". Look for something a step up from toy store telescopes. I like Televue (and have long used a Televue 85), but it depends on what price point you are looking at.


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Old 05-10-2015, 02:43 PM   #16
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I am more partial to reflectors than refractors; but either will do you well. jCL is spot on for refractors - televue in my opinion as well. On the reflectors side of the house I am more partial to Meade for the optics, but to Celestron for the control systems. It had been twenty years however since I last purchased a consumer grade instrument.

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Old 05-10-2015, 03:11 PM   #17
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actually you can get a decent spotter scope at Cabella's for less than five hundred. You will need a tripod though....

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Old 05-10-2015, 04:19 PM   #18
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I have a decent spotters scope and some nice binoculars. Also, have a good tripod.
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Old 05-10-2015, 05:41 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by mrprez View Post
What would be a good entry level telescope for gazing, not taking high def images.
Dobsonians are the best bang for the buck but are not very portable.

Computerized-Goto scopes like the Celestron Nextstar series are fairly small, portable, easy to use, and not too expensive. Easiest scope for the beginner but will probably leave you craving better optics and more stable mounts.

If you like better optics and don't care about computer Goto mounts, by far the best option would be the small Televue refractors, like a Televue 76. These offer superior optics, are light, small and portable. However they are more pricey and can be very expensive if you want larger aperture views.

The problem with Telescopes are that there are trade-offs. Best light gathering ability come with larger apertures which means less portability, larger size and weight. Small apochromatic refractors can give you excellent optics, sharp views, and portability but will never come close to a large dobsonian for shear light gathering ability and more visible nebulosity.

Most people that want portability and ease of use would probably be best served by the entry level computerized goto scopes.
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Old 05-10-2015, 06:40 PM   #20
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A lot to take in here. We visited Skyline Drive today, and saw that on May 16th, they're having a sky party, weather permitting. Trying to talk the wife into it. Might be going alone since we have the little ones.

We've got nice dark skies here at Highland Haven Airstream Park in Va. At least I can spark some interest.

PS: SteveSueMac, we also have the Sky Guide app and I actually enjoy it. I think it's a tad off, but still, it's helped us locate Jupiter and Venus this week. That's what really sparked this thread.
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Old 05-10-2015, 07:54 PM   #21
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I have a Celestron Nextar 8" and love it. I havent used it as much as I'd like due to light pollution at home but i have the padded traxel case for it and have been wanting to take it along. Mine is the version that has the three star alignment routine in the controller. Not hard to set up. I think i read that they were sued for infringement and had to take that routine out so that may be what Stephanie was referring to. Your post inspired me to look for star parties and Chiefland Star Party Group has one every month at their site in Chiefland FL, about a three or four hour drive. I think there is one of those in my near future.

Our trailer is at Out of Doors Mart for repair. If they finish it in time (Wednesday) we are going to come to VHH for a couple of nights.


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Old 05-10-2015, 08:49 PM   #22
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Asking "what is the best telescope for me" is kinda like "what's the best tv for me".

I know you did not ask that question, but it is just to give you an idea there are lots of right answers.

I always recommend for a beginner the following:

1. Go to a star party!!
2. The book "turn left at Orion"
3. The best telescope is one that you will use, start small and simple. A 6.5i ch dobsonian will be great and you can tinker with it, but. 90mm refractor will be great in dark skies.
4. Star charts are your friend, be it in a book or you iPad, star hopping to find something is so rewarding!

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Old 05-10-2015, 08:58 PM   #23
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I have Celestron nexstar evolution 6. Really nice go to scope with wifi iPhone control. iPhone has a planetarium app that uses 3 star alignment. Aligning scope takes about 2 or 3 minutes. The iPhone provides motion sensing real world view of night sky: hold it over your head to see names of stars and objects you are looking at. Pick one and the scope slews to it. Also provides audio and written notes on thousands of objects. Amazing technology. Tracking on scope is spot on.

Go to scopes are a huge boon to first timers. Removes the frustration of trying to find, align and track dim objects. Keep in mind that you not only have to find it and get it centered but then follow it as the earths rotation moves it out of the field of view. Department store scopes almost always end up in a closet. Just too frustrating to use.

Schmit cassegrain optic tubes are more expensive but generally provide the best trade off between aperture and portability. I like the 6" as it provides decent views of deep sky and you don't need Hercules to help move it around. Dobsonians are most aperture for dollar but can be beast to move around in larger sizes.

You will always want more aperture but will learn that portability (and of course cost) become the limiting factors. Assuming you get a scope with decent optics, don't overlook eyepieces. Wide field of view and long eye relief really make observing much more immersive and comfortable.

Planets and nebula are always great viewing and are certainly the big draw for first timers, but with experience you will come to appreciate the thousands of stars visible in a wide field on a dark night. Airstreaming on the edge of a dark, wide open meadow is an awesome way to spend the evening. Just leave the scope up in the field, observe awhile, take a break at the camper, fix a drink, go back and look for new objects. Secondary reward is learning the constellations and night sky. Everything bright has a name, and people generally love a sky tour even without a scope.

Observing chair and portable table is also a great thing to have. It is a lightweight folding chair with a height adjustable seat. Depending on what your looking at, eyepiece height will change and observing chair allows you to sit comfortably at the right height. If your over 50 like me, it's a must have.



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Old 05-10-2015, 09:10 PM   #24
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We bought a go to scope years ago when the technology was new. We chose a Meade EXT 125. It is small enough to be portable and fits nicely in the camper. Even though it is about 10 years old it still gives great views of the planets and moon.
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Old 05-10-2015, 10:38 PM   #25
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My problem with moving my 8" Nexstar isn't so much the setup, as just the act of actually diassembling it from it's huge tripod, securing it during transport, getting it all setup at the new location, which takes a couple trips back and forth to the car (and it's quite heavy for me to move). I worry about it every step of the way. While the Dob was made to travel, and is tough enough to handle getting bumped around a bit, breaks down into lighter sections, and of course once you set it up you just point it somewhere and look through it. After a couple sidewalk astronomy sessions with the Nexstar, I decided it was better off safe at home! But there's no reason you couldn't have one all set up to travel with you. The other guys are right, the alignment part really doesn't take that long.

I used to have a Meade 90mm ETX scope as well. Mine was non computerized, but they have made computerized ones since then. I thought it was very portable, and had very good optics. One of those would make a nice travel scope, particularly for looking at the planets and bright deep sky objects.

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Old 05-11-2015, 12:36 AM   #26
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Some good suggestions above.

I agree strongly with the phrase that the best telescope is the one that gets the most use. Sometimes the best 'telescope' is actually a good pair of binoculars, along with a book and a folding chair.

My Televue 85 was purchased as a compromise between the very nice 100 mm scopes that were harder to carry along, and the smaller Televues that didn't gather as much light. It has a padded case and works well on a simple tripod mount for trips. At home, I have a computerized Vixen go to mount with a heavy tripod, but I find it a pain to drag it along so it doesn't travel with us.

I like the sharp views of an apochromatic refractor, and can use it as a spotting scope as well. It doesn't take any time to cool down, so quick looks are easy.

With this type of scope, you need eyepieces as well. I use Televue Naglers, Radians, and Panoptics. A collection of those can be expensive. I have them all fitted into two medium sized Pelican cases, along with photography accessories, so they travel safely.

A star party is a great first step. There are a lot of telescopes collecting dust in people's closets.

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Old 05-11-2015, 03:06 AM   #27
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Some good discussion here, thanks for all the advice and to BoldAdventure for starting the thread.
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Old 05-11-2015, 05:41 AM   #28
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I am a retired Science teacher, and used to teach a semester Astronomy high school class among many other things over the years. There are quite a few observatories scattered all over the US that have open houses and public viewing nights, often free of charge (or maybe ask for a small donation). Some are small private or local observatories, some are parts of colleges and some are large well known institutions. I have sometimes altered my plans to take advantage of these programs, and have definitely altered my plans so that I can be in a dark sky area where I can watch a meteor shower.
Of course if you can't afford a telescope of your own, then use a decent quality 10 x 50 pair of binoculars in a dark sky and it is amazing what you can see (like the Galilean moons of Jupiter).
Just a few links below.

Public Programs at U.S. Observatories - Galileo to Gamma Cephei
2015 List of Astronomical Observatories in the U.S.

Plenty of websites that can clue you in as to where and what to look for with the naked eye or whatever, such as:
Space | EarthSky
Sign up for any of these and you can get daily or weekly updates about what to look for such as meteor showers, visible planets, eclipses, etc.

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