Telescope Questions - Fiberglass RV


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Old 12-05-2012, 05:25 AM   #1
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Telescope Questions

If there are any stargazers out there, could you help me with a question about buying a telescope for two kids (age 8) for Christmas.

I am looking at BJs website and there are two that look fairly good. One is $129 and is 225x and the other is $139 and is 250x. I would go with the second except that it is short and squatty rather than long. It is 17" vs. 40". Does that make a difference?

Are these too minimal to really see the stars?

Thanks!
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Old 12-05-2012, 06:49 AM   #2
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The long one is a refractor. It also has a small objective (larger lens at the end of the barrel) which generally means less light gathering ability than the other telescope. What you look at is likely to be right side up in the eyepiece. Light comes in, through the lenses and out the eyepiece.

The shorter one is a Newtonian reflector. It should be better at gathering light to see dimmer objects. What you see in the eyepiece is usually upside down but this one has optics to keep the image right side up. The light enters an open tube, hits a concave mirror at the back which focuses and bounces forward again to a small 45 degree mirror that deflects it sideways and out through the eyepiece. There is the potential that this scope has more knobs to fiddle with since the mirror at the back needs to oriented carefully to hit the small 45 degree target mirror. I don't know any specifics about this unit in terms of adjustability.

Both have a small "starfinder" telescope attached (with a wider field of view) to help point the big lens/mirror into the vicinity of the object of interest. It's like the main lens is looking through a paper towel roll with one eye and the star finder is like your other eye.

Both telescopes show altazimuth mounts on tripods. These mounts have a bit of learning curve with learning how to aim the scope. In these scopes the telescope fine tuning of the aim is done with the knobs on the end of the two flexible stalks shown. They don't have motor mounts so once you get an object into the big lens/mirror's field of view, you have to constantly move the scope to account for the earth's rotation.

Stars are still going to be points of light (not counting the sun). With a dark sky (far from the light pollution of even a modest sized town) you may be able to see some of the brighter nebula. The Newtonian should be better in terms of light gathering. Both should be able to see the moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, Mars and Venus (trickier). Conventional wisdom has it that refractors are better for planet viewing but my sense is that common refractors usually come with a simpler mount than the alti-az mount that are easier for the occasional user to manipulate. Since these both have the same mount these scopes would point the same with the Newtonian able to see slightly dimmer objects.

Generally, for a number of mind-numbing reason, the max magnification is not a important number.
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Old 12-05-2012, 07:03 AM   #3
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Celestron makes some good telescopes. I have a Meade (8" Newtonian). Its sort of a Pepsi/Coke, Yakima/Thule, paper over the top/under the bottom thing. The difference between these and the more expensive units include: stability of the tripod, quality of the lens, lens coatings, motors, automatic tracking programs,focusing system, diameter of the lens/mirror etc. There is a continuum of features. These are their idea of entry level scopes. It behooves them to make a quality scope so you'll keep them in mind for the upgrade if the hobby catches on.

I make no recommendation either way. In which case I suppose my posts on this are largely useless. Nevermind.
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Old 12-05-2012, 07:36 AM   #4
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My rec for the young astronomer is the Celestron "First Scope" sometimes discounted as low as 25$ on Amazon. Compact Newtonian reflector on a reasonably rigid and responsive tabletop alt/az mount (think about a canon that can be elevated and lowered and swiveled left and right), amazingly dependable rack & pinion focuser for the price, three eyepieces of relatively low power (a good thing! believe it or not), non-adjustable primary and secondary mirrors. I know it sounds cheap, but with its wide field of view, simplicity and portability, relatively slow fogging of the primary, and the ability of its short tube to damp vibration after adjustment, it will provide more quick "finds" and visual resolution than any $125 refractor. I got one for each of my grand nephews Christmas '11 and managed to resolve two moons of Jupiter thru one of them. (I did cheat and use one of my eyepieces but that's another story having to do with old eyes, corrective lenses, etc.) Only downside is it doesn't have the flashy, inviting look of a refractor on a tripod with a nearly non-functional, tinpot equatorial mount. I'd rather see something thru a little cardboard pot of an instrument than be promised the universe thru a colossally high power piece of junk and see nothing. Some 8 yr. olds will see it that way also if you give them the chance.

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Old 12-05-2012, 09:31 AM   #5
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Thank you! I have learned so much in one morning...I knew nothing about telescopes other than looking through one from a boardwalk or the Empire State Building! I'll check around and study the different types and price ranges.
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Old 12-05-2012, 09:38 AM   #6
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They might have been binoculars!!
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Old 12-05-2012, 09:41 AM   #7
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Actually, a set of nice binoculars isn't that bad an idea. What you are looking for is light-capturing ability. The high-powered 'scope, unless you pay Big Bucks, isn't going to be that much fun. Dim and yucky images. With a nice pair of binoculars you'll be able to see cool stuff like the rings on Saturn and M31.
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Old 12-05-2012, 09:46 AM   #8
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I bought a Celestron scope this year and it came with a pair of binoculars, for scoping the sky first before pointing the telescope. Amazon.com
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Old 12-05-2012, 10:30 AM   #9
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+3 or 4 on a pair of 8X50 binos and maybe a tripod clamp of some sort. Probably as good or better for planetary, moon, bright clusters (Pleaides) as scope. Eschew refractors; they aren't worth the pain unless maybe short tube and expensive, corrected glass.

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Old 12-05-2012, 10:46 AM   #10
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Binoculars are my choice. I have a pair with 100mm (4") objective lenses. I saw a pair with 70mm lenses, at Canadian Tire, for less then $100. You still need a tripod.
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Old 12-05-2012, 01:33 PM   #11
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It is amazing what you can see with binoculars at night, especially on the moon.
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Old 12-05-2012, 03:54 PM   #12
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I've had the pleasure of using a wide variety of scopes via the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. (RASC). I second the idea that Binoculars are a great beginners tool that will continue to be used. However there's nothing like a real scope for a kid. Avoid long refractors with cheap stands. High magnification is a false selling point for low quality scope. It actual makes for a much poorer viewing experience. Harder to find objects, extremely shaky images, darker images.

Steve L. had some great points. Rabbits recommendation of the table top newtonian is excellent. The amazon price quoted though is probably rare but still best bang for you buck at full price.

Look into a local Astronomy Club. They are often a mix of old pros and beginners. Some with great kids programs including badges for things found.

Perhaps a book and the promise of a scope could be great start point.

This one is probably the most common and easy to use for kids yet in depth enough for adults and future reference.
Firefly Books
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Old 12-05-2012, 04:09 PM   #13
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Another thing to consider is where to look, supposedly the best place to observe, this side of the Mississippi is located within a day's drive, they even have red down lights for night vision observance PA*DCNR*-*Cherry Springs State Park
it appears to be about 6 hours from you.
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Old 12-05-2012, 04:34 PM   #14
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Celestron FirstScope currently $38.99 free shipping from Amazon Prime. No finder scope at this low price and you don't need one as you can sight over the tube to align with the wide field. There are some good offerings in alt-az reflectors from Orion (4 to 6" primary mirror) also. Big light gathering possibilities in 8-10-12" Dobsonian mount reflectors (Orion, Zhumell) also. These long tubes are a bit much for the size and motor skills of an 8 yr. old but workable with supervision (aren't they all!!). Absolute best buy in inches of aperture but unwieldy to transport (particularly 12" or larger.

Thanks for the headsup on the central PA observing site, Jim.

jack
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