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Hello, I live way out past the NW suburbs, in Cary. I have a wife and two small children, and would like to introduce them (and myself) to astronomy. I don't have a telescope yet, just a pair of Bushnell 12x32 $10 binoculars. I am looking at a used Meade DS2130AT on their website, or a local person has a DS90EC w/ Autostar offered for $185 (craigslist). Any advice? I would like to start out less than $300, and I am happy with starting small and with something that has the proper mounting to make the sky search time shorter. I know the traditionalists would say I should earn my stripes and find things first with my binoculars, and I'll try that, but I also want to start clearly seeing Saturns rings and the moons craters etc within a week or so of getting whatever telescope I get. I have had an interest in astronomy since I was young, but it never really got advanced enough to actually make me buy something. But now my son is 8, and I want to explore the skies with him. I've spent time around optics a little, I went to school in Rochester NY (a big optics mecca), my job involves (electro-)optics as a defense contractor engineer, and my wife works at Kreischer Optics, so hopefully this background can help me avoid buying something I will be disappointed with, and allow me to use the equipment properly. I look forward to finding some local enthusiasts that can help get me up and going as painlessly as possible. Thanks, Kenton
Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Dec 22, 2006 3:03:13 GMT -6
Welcome to the Chicago Astronomer family, for your interest in amateur astronomy and your question.
Let's start with the Meade DS2130AT first:
It is a sound scope with wide enough aperture to catch a lot of Deep Space Objects. Comes with two eyepieces - 1.25” 9.7mm (103x) and 26mm (38x) Super Plössl eyepieces and the scope is a go-to.
My slant on it...
I have always been suspicious on the single fork design cradle this like this scope is. I think that the weight of the tube and accessories puts too much stress at that single pivot point and with the go-to feature, make the little motors strain to fight gravity un-neccessarily.
It's not a great scope, but...depending on the price, (going new for $399.00 +/-), it could be a good begining scope to try out and will do what it is asked. For how long is another matter.
Your other choice is the 90mm refractor.
I like refractors. They provide better contrast and sharpness than a reflector, but at the expense of aperture. Here, you will be losing about two inches in light gathering ability over your first selection. But...
In tests at the Adler Planetarium and Chicago Astronomer star parties, I have conducted shoot-out tests between refractors and reflectors...and the refractor has won out most of the time. Maybe the image isn't a bright as in the reflector, but the overall sharpness and contrast of the object was most appreciated.
It looks like that it's a discontinued model, but for $185.00...it's an ok telescope to get. It's not a "serious" scope, but could offer some nice views of the heavens. The finder scope will dissapoint, as it all plastic - including the lens objective. Not good. Also the tripod is of average quality.
Again, this scope for the price is good, but I think the seller will jack it up some, and it's not worth $399.00 either.
My choice for an entry scope is neither.
I think you would do better with a 8" Dobsonian telescope. For the price, (Orion scopes selling for $299.00), and the size of aperture, I think it's the best telescope to get for the beginner.
You do not get the "go-to" or electronic controls that the above telescopes offer, but you can get it as an option on some models. But to fully appreciate the sky, you must take the time to learn where the objects are...and this means a sky chart, your binoculars and a clear night.
Once you learn the basic and brighter targets in the sky, it will become quite easy to find objects in your scope. I admit I have used the electronic controllers as well, but these were for really faint and otherwise difficult objects, but for the majority of my observation sessions, it manual all the way.
But...if you are intent on the two mentioned scopes, I would go with the $185.00 scope...if you can get it at that price. If not, then the DS2130AT.
Either way you go, we would be interested in your evaluation process and final decision. If you have any more questions, we will be happy to lend our experience and advice.
Chicago Astronomer Joe Founder, Administrator and Chief Astronomer
Telescope/Observatory Docent Facilitator Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum
Astronomy Instructor Instituto Del Progresso/IHSCA
Astronomy Program Instructor British International School of Chicago /Lincoln Park Campus
Resident Astronomer Chicago Park District Nature Oasis/Night Out in the Parks/ 606 Trail
Thanks Joe, I'm grateful for the input. I am looking for a Dobsonian. It does sound like the best choice after reading some of their pros and cons-- except the part about not having a motorized mount for a reasonable price. However I'm pretty stuck on not buying new, and I've yet to find a used Dobsonian, while the other two I've mentioned I've found for much less than 'MSRP': less than $200 for each. So, I'll continue looking for the Dobsonian, but if my eagerness wins out over patience, and I pull the trigger on the $185 refractor, that I won't be too unhappy at least for the first year or so. Thanks, I'm also working on getting my family to a local star party, that should help us learn the ropes and see what the proper expectation level is, as well. Kenton
Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Dec 29, 2006 12:04:59 GMT -6
My first addvice is to take your time, and don't rush into anything. As often quoted, the best telescope for you is the one you will use often. Many times at the Adler Planetarium, we get individuals who are perplexed on the scope they bought on an impulse, get frustrated and often leave it in a closet or under a bed.
You live quite a way away, but if you are close to Chicago on the first Friday of each month, we conduct public observation sessions at the Adler Planetarium. Here we bring out various types of telescopes - from different Dobs, Maks, SCT's & refractors. You can look thru these and compare the views and get a feel for the operation of each.
Our next Adler session will be the 5th of January 2007, starting around 6:00pm and ending at 10:00 pm.
It looks like your in McHenry county. That's Skyinsight territory. Our fellow astronomer pal Al Degutis organizes astronomical activities in the area, and I have had the fun of experiencing an overnight session in his huge backyard. Great stuff.
He was organizing a McHenry Astronomical group, but I don't know the status on that effort.