Any astronomers out there?

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Looking for advice on buying a software-driven telescope, I don't want to iterate from an entry level model, the budget max is £1.5k.

I was looking for something British made, but they do not seem to exist, with most coming from the US, where Meade seems to be a good name, but any expert guidance would be appreciated.

Thanks

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  • thumpingrugthumpingrug Frets: 1458
    I did a lot of research into this a couple of years ago and the Celestron 11069 Nexstar 8" SE was the best i could come up with.  Currently available for around £1200.  I never got round to purchasing as other things got in the way.

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  • littlegreenmanlittlegreenman Frets: 3341
    edited January 11
    Not an afficianado myself, but my brother has stuff from Orion Optics and he has telescope GAS (TAS?) as bad as most. They're UK based but I have no idea on pricing


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  • vizviz Frets: 5329
    Personally I’d go with manual with equatorial mount. I know the advantages of motorised digital but it took all the fun out of it, for me anyway. I wish I’d got a 10” newtonian. 
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  • MyrandaMyranda Frets: 2819
    If I remember on Tuesday I'll ask my co-worker who used to work at an observatory and is an amateur astonomist still who frequently calls me into the office to show off photos of galaxies or nebulae - and occasionally makes me run outside so he can point out Venus - which was cool)... he does the whole automated tracking software stuff and he's practically allergic to spending money (like walk a mile to get a 9p banana so he could get a free coffee, rather than buy coffee) so it's unlikely to be an expensive solution
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  • docbakerdocbaker Frets: 15
    Thanks all, manual does overcome the risk of any mechanical problems, I wonder how robust they are, and then I do know my way around the sky from having to navigate by the stars and planets before GPS.

    Myranda, any advice from your co-worker would be very welcome.
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  • NomadNomad Frets: 513
    The Stargazer's Lounge forum is well worth visiting (and joining)...

    https://stargazerslounge.com/

    In general, it helps to start with what you want to look at. Planets are tiny and need a lot of magnification to get them bigger than a little dot. Lots of magnification tends to need a wide aperture (objective lens diameter) to get the resolution to see better detail. For example, my scope has an aperture of 127mm and when used at 150x mag, I can make out the rings on Saturn, but not much detail beyond that. If you want to look at nebulae and large star clusters, a lower magnification is better because they're quite wide in terms of angle of view. The max angle of view I can realistically get from my scope is about 1° (60x mag), which is a bit too tight for larger nebulae and clusters, but very good for the moon (0.5° wide). By changing eyepieces (to increase mag), I can get in pretty close to the moon's details.

    Most of the stuff at Orion Optics is very expensive, although they have some options that are within your budget...

    https://www.orionoptics.co.uk/OMC/omc140maksutovca.html

    https://www.orionoptics.co.uk/VX/vx6-6l.html
    https://www.orionoptics.co.uk/VX/vx8-8l.html
    https://www.orionoptics.co.uk/VX/vx10-10l.html

    (Prices are ex-VAT.)

    You'll need to add eyepieces, and for the OMC model, a star diagonal (90° mirror or prism that goes between the scope and the eyepiece to get a comfortable viewing angle). It's not clear if a finder scope is included, so possibly budget for that as well (especially with a manual mount).

    Goto mounts (computer controlled) are generally very reliable, and are very convenient if you just want to look at stuff, so I wouldn't dismiss them. To put it another way, the typical mounts (like EQ3, EQ5, etc) can be retrofitted with the motors and other bits, but that works out more expensive than buying the goto version up-front - and you can still use the goto mount manually if you want. If you get a goto, you'll need to supply it with 12V at a decent current (various battery packs are available).

    Definitely do your research before spending. Work out what scopes suit the main things you want to look at, and consider things like bulk and weight - scopes can be bulky, and mounts can be heavy. There are loads to choose from, especially if you don't limit yourself to made in the UK. As you home in on candidate equipment, narrow the list down to stuff that is consistently well spoken of and recommended.


    Nomad
    Nobody loves me but my mother... and she could be jivin' too...

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  • Bygone_TonesBygone_Tones Frets: 1376
    Nomad said:
    Planets are tiny

    I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure this is wrong.
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  • NomadNomad Frets: 513
    Nomad said:
    Planets are tiny
    I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure this is wrong.
    It's all a matter of degrees.

    Nomad
    Nobody loves me but my mother... and she could be jivin' too...

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  • docbakerdocbaker Frets: 15
    edited January 13
    thanks nomad, having read around further today, for my interest, which is exploring the sky, rather than being guided - looking at planets and beyond, then non-goto seems the obvious choice, and cheaper, which then might allow a larger aperture.

    it would need to be compound as I want to take it by 4wd on our regular trips to the south of france, and fit in the boot with loads of other stuff. The atmosphere seems cleaner there, with much less cloud.

    The orion omc140 would fit the bill, but i wonder if I should look at a wider aperture for my purpose, not at orion though, as there is a big step from 6 to 8 inch.

    I am not far from rother valley optics so i'll take a gander there some time this week, and see what suggestions they have, orion is a similar distance, so i will visit them too.


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  • DodgeDodge Frets: 349
    docbaker said:
    Looking for advice on buying a software-driven telescope, I don't want to iterate from an entry level model, the budget max is £1.5k.

    I was looking for something British made, but they do not seem to exist, with most coming from the US, where Meade seems to be a good name, but any expert guidance would be appreciated.

    Thanks

    I'm pretty sure Meade are Chinese-manufacturered (by Revelation I think).  Synta make Celestron, Skywatcher and Orion (USA brand).  As mentioned, Orion Optics are based in the UK and I'm pretty sure they make all their own stuff.

    For visual, aperture is king.  Most people are disappointed with what they see through small aperture scopes - once you've done the moon, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars - you're not going to see Hubble-like images through a telescope.

    If this is your first scope, I've be inclined to buy a manual Dobsonian from Skywatcher, a decent red dot finder (Telrad or similar) and a copy of Turn Left At Orion.  I'd suggest getting your hands on one before you buy if you haven't done already, all telescopes are heavy and a 200+ mm Dobsonian takes up a lot of space.

    I'd probably buy one second hand too - Stargazers Lounge has been mentioned, there's also here:  https://www.astrobuysell.com/uk/propview.php

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  • 57Deluxe57Deluxe Frets: 6394
    ...tried watching The Sky At Night last night but it is so Cbeebies that I fell asleep. Patrick Moore made it all so much more mysterious and wonder  and a closed club for us cleveros,,,
    <Vintage BOSS Upgrades>
    __________________________________
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  • NomadNomad Frets: 513
    edited January 14
    Compact is a somewhat relative term if you're looking at something that will perform well. Even though the Catadioptric types (like the OMCs) are relatively small and light, they need a decent mount to keep them steady, and the mount goes on a tripod. The mounts tend to be quite heavy, especially an equatorial (the type with a counterweight and a sticky-outy bar), and aren't what you'd want to pack in the same bag as the scope. In reality, you generally have three things to transport - scope bag, mount bag, and the tripod. The scope bag would also have eyepieces and related optics, and a finder scope.

    A Dobsonian, as mentioned by Dodge, is a bigger scope, but the mount is integral to the design and the overall package should be lighter than the above for a similar aperture and focal length. In terms of packing volume, it's probably not that different from a Cat with mount and tripod, but potentially more awkward due to its length and the fact that you can't split it into bits to fit into spaces in the vehicle. Some Dobsonians can be semi-collapsed (look for Skywatcher Flextube models) which would help a lot with packing.

    For planetary viewing, you need lots of magnification, which means some combination of long focal length scope and short focal length eyepieces (mag = scope FL divided by eyepiece FL), and strong magnification needs a larger aperture to work well. A small aperture scope set up for high mag will limit the amount of light coming in (it's darker, basically), and every aperture imposes a theoretical maximum resolution (bigger aperture = better resolution), meaning high mag on a small aperture scope just gets you a larger fuzzy blob...

    ...which leads to what is known as aperture fever - the desire to get bigger and bigger apertures in the hope of seeing the alien attack forces massng on the moon.

    The flipside is that larger aperture scopes are bigger and heavier, and that means a heavier mount to keep a Catadioptric steady, or a bigger, more muckle Dobsonian to lug about. It's always a compromise involving choosing something between the Hubble and a pair of binoculars, and that's why it's important to do plenty of research - there's a learning curve to get over before you're informed enough to make a choice that suits you.

    A visit to Rother Valley is a good idea. Not to buy just yet, but to chat and get a look at scopes to gauge what your limits are in terms of size and weight. For example, this might look like it fits the bill...

    https://www.rothervalleyoptics.co.uk/skywatcher-skyliner-300p-flex-tube-dobsonian-telescope.html

    Good focal length for planets, big aperture for a brighter and more detailed image, and at a price that leaves plenty of budget for eyepieces and other accessories. However, it's nearly 1m long when collapsed, and the diameter of the base will be around 450mm. It might be good, but it's still a lump of a thing, and some sort of case is probably sensible if it's to be transported in a vehicle loaded up with other kit. For a given situation, the best scope tends to be one that you're willing to cart about with you as well as having technical specs that suit what you want to use it for.


    Nomad
    Nobody loves me but my mother... and she could be jivin' too...

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  • docbakerdocbaker Frets: 15
    I think that other than cost, portability and size remain the main limiting factors, which rules out big dobsonians, in favour of primarily?? schmidt-cassegrains ..

    I spent some time with rother valley today looking at celestron and a meade. It seemed at the time that the nexstar evolution 6 (£1349) might be a good setup for a beginner, automated with manual option - though I am familiar with land surveying instruments, which can be much more complex. It's all very well having an internal battery with that model, but it does not supply power to a dew system, so an external battery pack remains necessary.

    One could have an 8SE for the same money (£1299), and from what people say bigger aperture=better for planets and beyond, which would seem to make the 8SE the better value model.

    Still researching ..
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