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Telescope thread


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I know there are many different kinds of telescopes one can buy, so I'm curious about what telescopes people on here have and how they rate them. I'm planning on buying one, but I don't want to invest in some piece of shit that will break or is made with terrible quality and materials. This also goes for the tripod, as that is just as important to ensuring the life of the telescope is intact as it is ensuring the observer is able to get really good views of the celestial bodies in our neighborhood.

Also, since light pollution is a huge factor in being able to properly see anything in the night sky, where do you like to go to set up your telescope to use it? I live in Fort Worth, but will be planning a trip sometime this summer after I make my purchase.

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Astronomy became my hobby after the launch of Sputnik in 1957. Bought a Goto alt-azimuth 60mm refractor which was a quality Japanese scope. When we moved stateside I sold it and bought a Unitron Model 128 Equatorial refractor (60mm) with a Unihex rotary eyepiece holder and an electric motor drive. Got that one in 1962 and enjoyed it for several years until marriage - then it was put away in its wooden boxes. Supposedly they are "vintage collectors items" now. Paid $125 for it plus extras.

When one of my sons expressed an interest in the Unitron after he bought his house in South Austin 15 years ago, I gave it to him. He & his boys have had some fun using it now & then. In action in his back yard with the sun screen during the recent solar eclipse:

 

58_B704_A0_C1_E8_49_F9_B19_D_0_F9083_C84

Edited by Armybrat
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That Celestron S-C Thujone linked to is an excellent recommendation. Meade is the other popular manufacturer of quality S-C scopes.

I've always been a refractor fan, but the S-C type has really taken over the amateur market because of its more practical design, compact portability, & relatively modest cost. If I were to buy another telescope for casual/serious observing, it would be a S-c from one of those two makes. Refractors tend to be rather large, what with the longer "straight through" focal lengths.

The 8" is a great all-around size. Great for wide field star gazing, and the Barlow lens doubling the magnification makes for good planetary observation.

This Meade 8" is pricier, but would be my personal choice:

https://www.meade.com/telescopes/lx90-acf-8-f-10-with-standard-field-tripod.html?___SID=U

of course if $$$$ were no object, the LX200 series or higher would be in the wish list - along with the larger apertures (some of which really belong in a dome)..

 

Edited by Armybrat
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I have the Orion 130mm Reflector, which seems pretty good in the times that I've used it. I'm an astronomy geek, and I took a couple of astronomy classes in college, but I'm far from being able to afford some of the heavy-hitters.

https://www.amazon.com/Orion-SpaceProbe-Equatorial-Reflector-Telescope/dp/B00D05BKOW/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1526251779&sr=8-8&keywords=orion+skyquest+xt8

With a Barlow lens and the included eyepieces, this will resolve the banding and Great Red Spot on Jupiter (along with the Galilean moons), the rings of Saturn, and various nebulae from inside the city limits of Austin. My family has some property up in the mountains in southern New Mexico which is about as perfect for stargazing and using the telescope as you can imagine. The higher you go, and the darker the night sky, the better off you'll be. But really, just about anywhere outside of the lights of the city will be great.

The equatorial mount and tripod both seem sturdy; no complaints here.

Obviously, there are much better scopes out there, but for the price as an intro scope, I don't have any complaints about it.

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As Thujone pointed out, software has made the stargazing a whole new experience in many ways. 

A month or so ago I was reminiscing about Edmund Scientific and how awesome their catalogs were back in the day. They got their start selling war surplus lenses to geeks of all sorts, astronomy buffs included.

/threadderail

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So you are an oldfart too?

I remember they sold mirror grinding kits of different sizes along with some really cheap reflectors and a bunch of optical accessories. I don't recall where I saw the first Unitron ad though. They had a good line of refractors all the way up to a 6", which was literally observatory size. Their 4" pier-mounted model came with a clock drive (non-electric). The quality optics were made in Japan.

To get back on track, if I were going to buy a good size decent refractor, this 4.7" Meade in the link below would be my choice - a damn nice deal for under $600. (the old Unitron 4" sold for around $1,500 in 1960 dollars - about $10,000 today). Of course a few additional eyepieces would run a couple hundred or more. Nonetheless I think it's a huge bargain, but as noted earlier, the Schmidt -Cs offered by Celestron & Meade are much more compact and have larger light gathering apertures.

https://www.highpointscientific.com/meade-4-7inch-refractor-on-lx70-equatorial-mount-270010?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cse&utm_term=MEA-270010&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIiarMq5CE2wIVUr7ACh0xMwaKEAQYASABEgKAa_D_BwE

Edited by Armybrat
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No, not that old yet, I was just a big fan of Edmund and knew a little bit about the company history. Mostly they sold medium grade optics, at least in their catalogs, but they did have a ton of high quality stuff too. You just had to know what you wanted and that they had it. It wasn't really publicized.

A lot of what they sold was to dreamers, folks who couldn't afford a telescope but thought they could build one. Edmund encouraged that dream by selling them telescope kits. Can you imagine how hard it would be to build a quality telescope in your home? It wasn't that it couldn't be done it was just the average Joe didn't realize or have access to the level of precision that would be required. Much of what they sold got thrown away due to a shitty finished product/project and an unhappy customer or boxed up and stuck in an attic due to a frustrated customer.

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Unfortunately there is no big established optics name like Zeiss of Swarovski to set a benchmark in the space.  Only old mail-order-catalog brands and small mostly Far East-based independents with small distribution network.  Guess the market is too small for a large ecosystem to thrive.  

We use skywatcher refractor.  80mm APO I think.  Tripod is a steel equatorial and it's a fucking beast.  Steady and tight enough for fine tuning.  Didn't want to jump directly to the Computer-controlled go-to mounts.

Setup is fine.  Lady likes it enough and has no real basis for comparison 

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I forgot to mention about the types of refractors - the achromatic & the apochromatic - the former is less expensive and the latter is better quality for astrophotography.

The OP can Google up the detailed differences between the two if he choose to go the refractor route.

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Kind of off topic, but if you're a little bit interested in casual stargazing I highly recommend a book by H.A. Rey, "The Stars: A New Way To See Them". All you really need to enjoy the night sky is a decent pair of binoculars and this book and the book is less than $20. I was given a copy by a navigator on one of my ships and it's brought a lot of good times with family and friends. You'll also want a flashlight with a red lens so that you don't ruin your night vision while looking thru the book. If you don't want to buy a flashlight just for that purpose you can use red fingernail polish to make one (and who among us doesn't have red nail polish in the house?).

I'm old and blind now but I'll tell ya I was pretty mind blown when it was pointed out to me as a youngster with 20/10 vision that a person with good eyesight can see Andromeda with the naked eye on a good night. With even just a pair of 50 power binoculars you can see the swirl of the arms as it's a spiral galaxy; same as our own. I imagine that those folks looking back at us see the Milky Way the same.

Anyway, back to telescope talk.

Edited by El Diablo
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Fun hobby but can get expensive as shit, I had to get out of it mostly when we started having kids.  Some really good scopes are posted here already and a site I use to frequent quite a bit was scopereviews.com. 

I use this site to determine sky darkness and expected cloud cover: http://cleardarksky.com/csk/.  Some of, if not THE darkest skies in the entire country are in West Texas.

If you don't have it, the Sky Guide app is a must have...even on your phone it can be supremely helpful with understanding where things are in the sky and help get your telescope lined up initially.

For planetary viewing, can't beat a refractor (I used to own a Stellarvue 90mm APO and loved it).  For all-around usage though, it's hard to go wrong with a Schmidt-Cassegrain. 

Eyepieces are where it's at though...I think at one point I spent 6-7x on Televue eyepieces than I did on my telescopes...they make a big difference.

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  • 2 months later...

PSA (will crosspost in the "Astronomy Pic Of Day"  thread, too):

This is the closest thing to an "astronomy" thread so I put it here...

If you haven't been paying attention, over the next couple of nights, one of the best planetary alignments in a couple of ten thousand years is occurring right now.  If you go out about 9-10 p.m. you'll see in order, from W to E, running along the (obviously expected) elliptical:  Venus, Jupiter, (Pluto, well it's there anyway), Saturn, and Mars.

I say "in ten thousand years" because 1) Mars is the second closest to us it's been in 60,000 years (a bit closer only in 2003), and certainly you notice it in the SE sky after sunset - it's almost as bright as Jupiter.  2) Saturn is high up in the sky almost smack in the middle between both horizons, and fairly bright (for Saturn), but more importantly, the rings are inclinated at about 24 percent, almost the max it gets (they actually were at the max for the last year or so).  You can see the northern half of Saturn with the rings really wide open from our viewing angle.  

To get the 4 planets so high in the sky with their closeness/best angle is not unheard of, but it's pretty unusual.
Pluto is a bitch of course, can only be seen with maybe an 8" reflector or 6" refractor (minimums) but even there you'll just see a cluster of shit and it's hard to discern Pluto without going out the next night to see movement, etc.  

Anyway, the other 4 planets are really putting on a show.

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  • 4 months later...

My 11yo is asking for a telescope for Christmas, and this stuff is outside of my experience.  Do the Celestron that Thujone linked or the Meade from Armybrat seem like reasonable places to start?

Thujone, does the control app you were talking about require the wifi module?  Is there anything like that for the Meade which would make the initial learning curve less steep?

Also, it looks like the Meade uses GPS to align automatically, correct?  I suppose that would be one less step than the Celestron, but is it that big a deal?

Anyone ever try the Celestron smartphone adapter, and would that work for either of these?  It would be fun for him to snap some basic pictures without the complexity of full-on astrophotography.

Just trying to figure out if one of these is better than the other for a kid starting out, and which will reward his curiosity rather than crush it.  Or if there are any other recommendations, I'd love to hear them.

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I just saw this thread and have something you guys might like.  Comes with case.  Does not come with tripod.  Mega huge binoculars.  It's standing at about 23.5 inches.  Could get a tripod or make one.  Or, mount it on your deck at a ranch house or something.  I wasn't planning on an add in the for sale forum because an obscure item.  If there is any interest I'll post an add over there.  

 

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3 hours ago, PRONG HORN said:

I just saw this thread and have something you guys might like.  Comes with case.  Does not come with tripod.  Mega huge binoculars.  It's standing at about 23.5 inches.  Could get a tripod or make one.  Or, mount it on your deck at a ranch house or something.  I wasn't planning on an add in the for sale forum because an obscure item.  If there is any interest I'll post an add over there.  

 

thumbnail-IMG-0341.jpg

What are you thinking you would want for it?

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On 12/6/2018 at 3:33 PM, PRONG HORN said:

I just saw this thread and have something you guys might like.  Comes with case.  Does not come with tripod.  Mega huge binoculars.  It's standing at about 23.5 inches.  Could get a tripod or make one.  Or, mount it on your deck at a ranch house or something.  I wasn't planning on an add in the for sale forum because an obscure item.  If there is any interest I'll post an add over there.  

 

thumbnail-IMG-0341.jpg

In other words, yes, post if for sale.

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I bought my son a Celestron 80LCM about 5 years ago.  It has the automatic motorized aiming thing and we bought the attachment so it syncs with the phone to aim via the star map for our area and date.  The telescope itself is great.  The moon looks amazing.  

 

But I hate the whole aiming process and equipment with a white hot passion.  So finicky and difficult. I can never get it right without at least an hour of fucking with it.  

 

So we never use the damn telescope for anything but the moon because it’s findable.  Again, the moon looks amazing. 

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On 12/6/2018 at 3:33 PM, PRONG HORN said:

I just saw this thread and have something you guys might like.  Comes with case.  Does not come with tripod.  Mega huge binoculars.  It's standing at about 23.5 inches.  Could get a tripod or make one.  Or, mount it on your deck at a ranch house or something.  I wasn't planning on an add in the for sale forum because an obscure item.  If there is any interest I'll post an add over there.  

 

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Kinda looks like the bridge binoculars we used in the Navy. Google up "navy 'big eyes'" for images. When we were overseas and in port it wasn't uncommon for there to be high rise apartment buildings nearby. We called it "long glass liberty" - known to most common folks as peeping, lol. Sailors. What ya gonna do?

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29 minutes ago, Liquor and Poker said:

I bought my son a Celestron 80LCM about 5 years ago.  It has the automatic motorized aiming thing and we bought the attachment so it syncs with the phone to aim via the star map for our area and date.  The telescope itself is great.  The moon looks amazing.  

 

But I hate the whole aiming process and equipment with a white hot passion.  So finicky and difficult. I can never get it right without at least an hour of fucking with it.  

 

So we never use the damn telescope for anything but the moon because it’s findable.  Again, the moon looks amazing. 

You may have already done the simple star gazing thing and if so ignore this but I recommend everyone start there. See my post above about the H.A. Rey book. It's a great and easy way to get a kids attention. Very rewarding, almost instant gratification. That book, a clear night away from city lights and at most a pair of binoculars is all you need.

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Ordered the Meade as well as the HA Rey book, we'll see how it goes.

Decided against the wifi adapter to connect to the phone/tablet.  I may add it in the future, but it occurred to me that paying another $200 for another screen to distract him kinda undermines the point of this whole thing.

Thanks, y'all.

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  • 1 month later...

 

When I was a kid my parents gave me a Celestron refracting scope since Halley's comet was on its way.  I don't remember the aperture, but I bet it was 60 or 70 mm.   I had a good time with it and actually managed to locate Halley's comet which wasn't more than a ghostly blob through the telescope.  I loved astronomy, but it wasn't powerful enough to really keep me going.   As an adult, I had convinced myself I wouldn't really care about using a telescope anymore.  I thought a proper telescope would be too expensive, it's too bright in town to really see anything and,  I mean, you can just pull up better pictures online, Right? 
My wife gave my youngest (and essentially me) a 90 mm Celestron refractor for Christmas.  I've been using the shit out of it and I'm back to being obsessed with astronomy.  I've been looking at the moon, found the orion nebulae and made three attempts at seeing Comet Wirtanen, but no luck.   I wish I'd had it last summer for all the planets that were in the evening sky.  Now I want a larger telescope again.

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  • 2 years later...

Necro bump. I was always mildly interested in astronomy but never made much of an attempt to educate myself. Now the boy has shown interest, so I dove in and got the Celestron SE 8" and some eyepieces including a Barlow. The only chance I've had to work with it was the week of Thanksgiving and it was really windy and the moon was bright so I wasn't able to get auto-aligned properly. Still got a few glimpses of Jupiter and some closeups of the moon, so that was a dad win. I'm heading back out to east TX Sunday so hoping for clear skies.

I'm also going to join the Texas Astronomical Society of Dallas http://texasastro.org for no real reason other than its only $50/year, you get access to their viewing camp up near Atoka, OK, and I might just learn a thing or 2 during their monthly meetings. Wife loves nerd me so that will probably work in my favor too...

Really just bumped this to see if anyone else wanted to chime in and keep this thread somewhat active. I did get the phone camera adapter thing too but haven't had a chance to play with it but hope to post some pics in the future.

 

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I only have a shitty ass telescope, but someday I'd like to get a nice one.  Thanks for bumping this thread.

FYI, for the next few weeks or so there's a comet out there, named Leonard, that you can see before sunrise.  They say you might be able to see it with binocs, but a telescope would be better.

 

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  • 1 month later...
On 12/3/2021 at 12:48 PM, Jackson P. Neighbors said:

Necro bump. I was always mildly interested in astronomy but never made much of an attempt to educate myself. Now the boy has shown interest, so I dove in and got the Celestron SE 8" and some eyepieces including a Barlow. The only chance I've had to work with it was the week of Thanksgiving and it was really windy and the moon was bright so I wasn't able to get auto-aligned properly. Still got a few glimpses of Jupiter and some closeups of the moon, so that was a dad win. I'm heading back out to east TX Sunday so hoping for clear skies.

I'm also going to join the Texas Astronomical Society of Dallas http://texasastro.org for no real reason other than its only $50/year, you get access to their viewing camp up near Atoka, OK, and I might just learn a thing or 2 during their monthly meetings. Wife loves nerd me so that will probably work in my favor too...

Really just bumped this to see if anyone else wanted to chime in and keep this thread somewhat active. I did get the phone camera adapter thing too but haven't had a chance to play with it but hope to post some pics in the future.

 

Is this the one that you got?  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000GUFOC8/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_4N0HRZTSR7RF7BKSJG7V?th=1

I've been looking at them for years but have never pulled the trigger.  Are you enjoying it?  Easy to use and the auto-alignment works as advertised?

I live out in the sticks and can see the stars very well with the naked eye, so I think I'm finally going to pull the trigger on something.

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On 12/3/2021 at 4:43 PM, miguelito said:

I only have a shitty ass telescope, but someday I'd like to get a nice one.  Thanks for bumping this thread.

FYI, for the next few weeks or so there's a comet out there, named Leonard, that you can see before sunrise.  They say you might be able to see it with binocs, but a telescope would be better.

 

we had one for the kids for looking at the moon years ago, i was thinking of getting another one for nostalgia when our house is done.  skies are dark enough to see a few things out at the lake but mostly just the moon.  even that's pretty fantastic.

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On 1/14/2022 at 12:39 PM, The Royal We said:

Is this the one that you got?  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000GUFOC8/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_4N0HRZTSR7RF7BKSJG7V?th=1

I've been looking at them for years but have never pulled the trigger.  Are you enjoying it?  Easy to use and the auto-alignment works as advertised?

I live out in the sticks and can see the stars very well with the naked eye, so I think I'm finally going to pull the trigger on something.

That one, yes. I recommend but if you aren’t experienced, there will be a learning curve. I have learned a whole lot but still am a total novice because I have very little committed to memory. I mentioned this in another thread, but along with the scope, take a week to read and re-read The Stars by HA Rey (at least the first half). Makes it so much easier to identify a good 2nd star for auto-align. Polaris and……….

Being in the sticks will be a major benefit also. We have it out at a weekend place and the number of nights where conditions are very good for viewing have been a handful so far. Trying to view on a windy, cold, full moon night sucks, especially compounded by a frustrated and impatient 9 year old.

I will say that the night or two that I got lucky with all conditions and had the perfect eyepiece and filter in place to view the moon made it all worth it. Both me and the boy freaked when we focused that image on the lens. Do it. The world needs more telescope owners IMO.

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  • 10 months later...
On 1/14/2022 at 12:39 PM, The Royal We said:

Is this the one that you got?  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000GUFOC8/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_4N0HRZTSR7RF7BKSJG7V?th=1

I've been looking at them for years but have never pulled the trigger.  Are you enjoying it?  Easy to use and the auto-alignment works as advertised?

I live out in the sticks and can see the stars very well with the naked eye, so I think I'm finally going to pull the trigger on something.

I never pulled the trigger and looking at current prices, holy shit I should have.  I still want one and @Spoosner bumping this thread reminded me.

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