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Telescope advice?

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by pigpen02, Apr 10, 2005.

  1. pigpen02


    Mar 24, 2002
    Any one else interested, or pursue astronomy as a hobby? I've always had an interest, but have never owned a telescope, and would like some advice on purchasing one. My new apt. building has a rooftop garden/sitting area that would be perfect for it.

    I'd like something reasonably priced, automated/finds constellations readily, maybe something i can use w/ my laptop to find new locations and record photos. Anyone have any thoughts?
  2. I've been into astronomy for years. (I've got a 10" reflector....it's a Dobsonian mount which means it has no motors or guides or anything fancy, it's just a big mirror in a tube.)

    Economical gets you a Dobsonian mount or a small refractor.

    Motor drives cost money, and computerized software-driven motor guiding won't be cheap. Expect to spend close to $2000, by the time you get various lenses... But this is the easiest to use. You set it up on the tripod, level it with a lttle bubble level, and point it to a couple of stars to get it aligned. Then you use the software to tell it what you want to look at, the software will tell you what's available to look at one a given night from your location. A friend of mine has an 8" Meade computerized scope of this type, I think he's got $2500 or so in it. It does interface with laptops and programs such as "the sky"

    Meade or Celstron are the two "biggies". There's a store called Orion, www.telescope.com, that sells lots of scopes but I don't know if they still carry Meade or Celestron, I think now they sell their own brand.

    Unfortunately, astronomy is best done in dark light-free areas, the darker the better. Most astronomical targets are extremely faint, so any light pollution from streetlights will completely obscure the object. From a city, you can observe the planets or the Moon or even the Sun with proper filters, but you can almost forget looking at nebulae or comets or galaxies...

    For serious astronomers, the size of the telescope is what's important. This is NOT the length of the telescope--many ads mislead the beginner by touting the focal length of the scope, which is relatively unimportant. The size that matters is the objective lens for a refractor or objective mirror for a reflector--referred to as aperture. Refractors are generally 3 to 4 inches (80 to 100 mm). Reflectors can be as small as 4 inches but go up much bigger, the big scopes in observatories, such as the 200 inch Mt. Palomar scope, are reflectors. There's a hybrid between the two called a Cassegrain that generally is in the 8 to 12 inch range. From an economy standpoint, reflectors are cheapest, but are kinda big. Refractors are very expensive, especially considering their their size, but give very sharp images. Cassegrains are also expensive, but they are very compact in size, considering their fairly large aperture.
  3. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    A guy I used to work with was an amateur astronomer...believe me, he shoulda been a pro.
    Anyway, I went out once to one of his club's "Star Parties"...awesome, is all I can say.
    I live in the city, so quality viewing is impossible.
    Out in the dark...amazing, I stood open-mouthed just staring at the Milky Way. I woulda been happy just to do that all night long.
    Meteorites streaked by all night. With the naked eye, one could make out the Andromeda galaxy(small grey splotch), all the stars of the Pleiades cluster, etc.
    Saturn was in view that night...with the rings & moons. Very cool.

    Some guys had major scopes...one guy had a pair of ships' binoculars. He said, "...there's no challenge with those monster scopes, binoculars is where it's at". If you sat very still, it was amazing what those things could see.

    ...ever catch Venus during the daytime?
    My only time was an 'in the city gathering' with the same group of guys mentioned above; pretty sure they had a Sun filter going on + they knew exactly where to look...otherwise, it's worse than a needle in a haystack.
  4. Selta


    Feb 6, 2002
    Pacific Northwet
    Total fanboi of: Fractal Audio, AudiKinesis Cabs, Dingwall basses
    I've an 8" Bushnell (can't remember how to spell it) and a 13" homemade (I even ground the lens) dobsonian. Eventually I put a computer controlled motor on the 13".
    You may want to look into Cassegrain or a short tube reflector for apartment viewing. Hit up www.telescope.com, it's run by Orion, one of the biggest telescope/binoculars/scope makers now, and they have a lot of how-to and what-to-buy guides that will give you a good starting point.

  5. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    I'd recommend a Dobsonian to start out. You can get them relatively cheap giving you the most aperture for your dollar. Once you get into motor drives and CCDs for these scopes you are talking big bucks.
  6. Leigh (khay0s) is into that too, you could PM him as well.
  7. pigpen02


    Mar 24, 2002
    Thanks for all the useful information.

    I'm thinking relatively economical, nothing over $500 to start, and am considering buying a used instrument. The light from atop the apt. building is rather minimal, compared to many others: even though it sits very close to downtown Tampa, it faces the bay with a great view of the water, and in that direction, when there are no ships coming in, its just pitch black at night. The roof is brilliant, great views in every direction, easy access, etc. Going to be playing bass up there of an evening as well. I've attached a pic, truly a beautiful building.

    I'm really interested in astrophotography, and would love to be able to send pics directly to my laptop, but again, don't want to spend a small fortune at present. Also, i'm not terribly spatial-mechanical in my brain orientation: i have trouble changing the oil in my car, so the simpler the better. Thinking of alignments and such, i'm not confident of getting it right without having a go-to. I'm going to check out some of those sites and see what i can learn.

    Thanks again.

    Attached Files:

  8. Selta


    Feb 6, 2002
    Pacific Northwet
    Total fanboi of: Fractal Audio, AudiKinesis Cabs, Dingwall basses
    Taking pics with a telescope is rather easy, and cheaply done - especially if you have an older 35mm laying around (all you need then is the adapter ring and preferrably a motor drive, but that's not needed). good luck, after bassing skywatching is my #2.

  9. glnflwrs


    Jan 25, 2005
    Hesperia, CA
    I have a 8" Tasco reflector, 600x, w/equatorial mount. I bought it at Penny's in 1978 for $310.00. It's a great lunar scope but is no good at planets etc.

    If you want the absolute best amateur scope money can buy check out obsession telescopes.


    30" pri. mirror, approx 9'-0" long. One guy is shown sleeping in his. They look like a cannon. $13,500.00.

    Serious astral GAS
  10. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    "Serious astral GAS"...LOL.
    Looks like the Astonomy nerds have a lot in common with some of the dunderheads here at TB.

  11. yes, I have seen Venus in the daytime--and Saturn too IIRC ...with help from Astronomy magazine telling me where to look!! Actually with Saturn, I think I was observing it before dawn, but could continue to observe after the sun came up.

    I went to a star party in Oklahoma, one guy had a pair of 18 inchers made into binoculars :cool:

    Another guy had a 28 inch mounted on a trailer, you needed a ladder to get to the eyepiece. Absolutely awesome.

    If I win the lottery, I'll buy me a few thousand acres down in southwest Texas and build me a little remote-controlled observatory. That way I can sit in comfort in my luxury house in Tahiti...and observe via computer :D
  12. Vorago

    Vorago (((o)))

    Jul 17, 2003
    Antwerp, Belgium

    Being an amateur astronomer myself, I have a TAL 110 reflector. I paid about 500$ for it, new, and I am very happy about it.

    Now, you say you want to set up on top of that building..I just want you to warn you, that even if light pollution is minimal, your image might still be interfered. Why? Because you are on top of a building, and a roof (or the chimneys) is like a vent for all the heat that is going on in the building. Especially in winter time (when the nights are at their brightest, when Jupiter and Saturn are high up in the sky), when everybody likes to have a nice warm room, this might cause trouble. You're view will become a bit troubled, because of the hot air clashing with the cold winter air. Best idea is to have a little forrest hut outside of town , where you can set up and drive to whenever you feel like.

    If you go buy one ( a reflector !), I suggest you to take somebody with you, who knows about it. It's like the same thing with basses, there might be little things you don't notice as a noob, but that can be very important.

    Good luck with it and let us know what you bought!
  13. Here in the North East USA, Stellafane is the astronomers' Mecca. Up until last summer, there was also E.G.G.O., but the owner has moved to Estonia - eventually E.G.G.O. will rise again, perhaps. I have the original E.G.G.O. construction pictures somewhere - if I get some time, I'll post them.

    - Wil
  14. Here's one place where I buy a lot of my photography gear.

    They have a lot of scopes and binoculars. If nothing else, use it for price comparison. http://bhphotovideo.com

    Good luck.

    Mike ;)