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Beginner Telescope?
Old 01-01-2014, 04:16 PM   #1
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Beginner Telescope?

My DW has expressed an interest in getting a telescope to look at the sky, but I know nothing about what would be appropriate. I suspect that this is something that could be a good Craigslist score if I knew what I was looking for. I was thinking of spending less than $200. Suggestions?
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Old 01-01-2014, 04:22 PM   #2
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Check out the Edmund Scientific Astroscan. The basic model is about $290. Edmund also sells other brands. The astroscan is easy to carry around but is quite a wide field scope, good for deep sky objects and less good for solar system moon and planets. You might want to do some reading up on focal length and field of view.

Telescopes - Meade, Celestron, telescope kits & accessories | Edmund Scientific
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Old 01-01-2014, 05:19 PM   #3
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I bought an Astroscan about 20 years ago, and have been using it regularly ever since. With a few extra eyepieces, it can be used nicely as a terrestrial telescope as well as for stargazing.

A simple, relatively inexpensive gadget, but your first view of Saturn may truly startle you!

The upside of something like this is that you can easily see if you really have an interest. If so, you'll know enough to start looking into higher grade telescopes. If not, you can always sell an Astroscan for much of what you paid for it.
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Old 01-01-2014, 05:42 PM   #4
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Something like this?

Vintage Edmund Scientific Astroscan 2001 Telescope Very Good Condition | eBay
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Old 01-01-2014, 05:47 PM   #5
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That's it. Price seems reasonable.
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Old 01-01-2014, 06:13 PM   #6
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That's it. Price seems reasonable.
This one is a lot less. Is it likely that it would have some issues, like a dirty mirror or alignment problem?

Edmund Scientific Co Astroscan Telescope with Lenses | eBay
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Old 01-01-2014, 07:15 PM   #7
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This one is a lot less. Is it likely that it would have some issues, like a dirty mirror or alignment problem?

Edmund Scientific Co Astroscan Telescope with Lenses | eBay
The Astroscan is sealed so as long as the eyepiece hole is covered the mirror will remain clean and the mirror is fixed in place so alignment is not a problem. The clear cover over the aperature could get scratched but the scope comes with a cover for that so as long as the previous owner kept reasonable care of it there should be no problems. The one at your link shows the aperature and eyepiece covers in place.
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Old 01-01-2014, 07:27 PM   #8
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I like the 6" Newtonian reflector. I built one in high school. It's a standard starter for a serious amateur. The bigger mirror will allow more magnification and a brighter image. However, it won't be very portable.
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Old 01-01-2014, 07:28 PM   #9
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Bought one of those cheap (<$100) refractor telescopes years ago and it was useless for star viewing, too hard to keep in focus. Only use it on low magnification as a spotting scope to check for wildlife in the mountains behind the house.
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Old 01-01-2014, 07:32 PM   #10
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I just wanted to second what Braumeister said about your first view of Saturn, it truly is spectacular. A few years ago I was in the primitive camping area of Icelandic State Park west of my home town viewing Saturn. the park has good dark skies. I had been there about 20 minutes when a guy camping at the park asked what I was doing. I showed him Saturn and we talked for a few minutes and he left. Shortly thereafter he came back with his kids to look. From there it got quite strange and within a half hour I had about 40 people lined up waiting to look. That was with a Questar 3.5 inch Maksutov scope.
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Old 01-01-2014, 07:38 PM   #11
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Bought one of those cheap (<$100) refractor telescopes years ago and it was useless for star viewing, too hard to keep in focus. Only use it on low magnification as a spotting scope to check for wildlife in the mountains behind the house.
The cheap refractors sold by places like Walmart are useless for any sky viewing. I know people that have given their kids one of those scopes and they are so bad they pretty much turn the kids off of astronomy. My first scope was also a 6 inch reflector F8 that I built myself. It worked very well but they're kind of a PITA to haul around and keep aligned. The Astroscan is a four inch relector.
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Old 01-01-2014, 08:58 PM   #12
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Try cloudynights classified
Cloudy Nights Classifieds (CNC) - Main Index - Powered by PhotoPost Classifieds
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Old 01-02-2014, 05:30 AM   #13
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Is it worth buying and messing with the storage of a telescope if you don't live in a reasonably dark sky area?

How about going to McDonald Observatory and enjoying one of their star parties (or equivalent) instead? Great viewing and you don't have to set up any gear!
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Old 01-02-2014, 07:01 AM   #14
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I started with a 6" Dobsonian after researching and discovering that for the money it is better than a refractor. It is not portable but once set up provides better viewing. I lived in the Dallas suburbs at the time and it was useful for a number of deep space objects (Jupiter and Saturn) as well as great views of the moon, who's light you actually have to filter, when full as it is too bright.

The choices really seem to come down to portability and then of course cost. I sought out an astronomy group that met at the local community college for assistance before buying, they will know the best source and may even have used equipment for sale.

Star charts are good for learning when things come into view for the area you are in.

Dark sky areas certainly improve the enjoyment and the astronomy clubs often have private sites for viewing. The Dallas area club used an old house foundation at a site in Atoka, OK.

Happy stargazing!!
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Old 01-02-2014, 08:52 AM   #15
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I like the 6" Newtonian reflector. I built one in high school. It's a standard starter for a serious amateur. The bigger mirror will allow more magnification and a brighter image. However, it won't be very portable.
I built one with my daughter and it works quite well. But it would be a lot more convenient (and space efficient) to buy something like the Astroscan.
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Old 01-02-2014, 08:53 AM   #16
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OP here. Thanks for the replies so far. The compact and rugged Astroscan looks like just the ticket for DW - reasonably cheap, easy to move and set up. I am currently on the hunt via eBay and Craigslist to find a used one.

We live in a darkish exburb and would take it with us camping where we could definitely have dark skies. And they seem to hold their value, so if it doesn't work out it can be moved along.
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Old 01-02-2014, 08:48 PM   #17
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If you ever want to meet your neighbors, just set your telescope up in the front yard and wait for them to come out of the woodwork. It's irresistible.
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Old 01-03-2014, 05:01 AM   #18
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The Astroscan is sealed so as long as the eyepiece hole is covered the mirror will remain clean and the mirror is fixed in place so alignment is not a problem. The clear cover over the aperature could get scratched but the scope comes with a cover for that so as long as the previous owner kept reasonable care of it there should be no problems. The one at your link shows the aperture and eyepiece covers in place.
I ended up buying the eBay Astroscan with an extra lense for about $150 with shipping - half new price. This one is made in Japan, new ones are Chinese.

I hope DW likes it.
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Old 01-03-2014, 07:00 AM   #19
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It is fun manually tracking down Messier objects but if you really enjoy this thing you will start drooling over a 9 or 11 inch "goto" scope where you can just dial in the object you want to view. The market is up and we need diversions in ER so what the heck.
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Old 01-03-2014, 09:16 AM   #20
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It is fun manually tracking down Messier objects but if you really enjoy this thing you will start drooling over a 9 or 11 inch "goto" scope where you can just dial in the object you want to view. The market is up and we need diversions in ER so what the heck.
For now I'm going with the KISS principle. I have several cameras, but the simple one takes the most pictures. Hoping this will apply to telescope use.
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