Telescope Blogging

Clayton is offering advice on telescopes for Christmas. This is kind of timely, because after our star tour to the top of Mauna Kea last year, I’ve been thinking I should get one. But it’s a daunting topic. Reflector or refractor? And which kind? What are the advantages and disadvantages? Do I want one that would be easy to schlep to Hawaii? I’d definitely need one that would be easy to transport, because there’s not a whole lot that be seen sandwiched here between Philadelphia and New York.

I’ve also thought that astrophotography would be pretty cool, but I’m guessing pretty expensive as well.

16 thoughts on “Telescope Blogging”

  1. Potter county has pretty good sky-watching potential, given the flaw of being located on the eastern seaboard.

  2. Come on, a real geek would build his own. You can also join LVAAS, and get to use there monsters.

  3. I’ve not owned a scope for quite some time now, but I did use to sell them for a living.

    1. Optics matter.
    2. Good eyepieces matter more. All that light sucked in the front end gets focused on the back end, and if that back end sucks, everything sucks. Meade Super Plössl eyepieces are great to start with.
    3. Mounts matter. I like equatorial mounts for tracking stuff, but they cost more than alt-azimuth mounts. Whatever you get, don’t skimp on the tripod.
    4. The bigger the front end, the better the view. Forget the “12,000 power scope” crap. A big objective lens = more light sucked into the system = better viewing.
    5. There is a definite role for purpose-built deep-sky scopes, it’s just not my cup of tea.
    6. There should be a local astronomy club near you, and I’ve found they rival the shooting community for friendliness, knowledge and encouragement.

    If I had to buy a scope RIGHT NOW, I’d look long and hard at a Meade starter scope, something like this, perhaps:

  4. Depends on what you want to see. I always understood that a reflecting telescope would be superior for star / galaxy viewing, and a refracting better for planetary viewing. Dunno if it’s true or not; it’s been a long time since I broke out the old el cheapo one I had as a kid. Mine was fine for viewing the rings on Saturn or the Great Red Spot on Jupiter, but it kinda sucked for anything else.

    1. For the same size objective, the refractor is almost always a better telescope. But anyone can afford an 8″ reflector; few people can afford an 8″ refractor.

  5. Astrophotagraphy is not that expensive; my brother does it with a regular small digital camera and a homemade mount. You don’t need extra optics, just have the camera at the right distance from the eyepiece.

  6. Wow. You have received some really good advice. I would second the idea, that some good binoculars are a good way to start to find your way around the night sky. Hidden in the comments is a topic that is of some importance, Light Pollution. If you live in urban/suburban area, most deep sky objects will not be visible no matter the quality of your equipment. If this is the case, you will almost certainly be traveling to use your telescope.

    I would suggest you visit a star party, you will have the opportunity to see what equipment people are using, and you may even find a source for used equipment.

    A really good book on getting the most for your money is Astronomy Hacks, O’Reilly. The book will suggest some common sense accessories. Astronomy, just like your other interest can really devolve into obsessions about gear – and that’s when it get’s expensive. 8) at least that what happens to me …

    (2) 80mm refractors, (1) 12″ Meade LX200GPS, assorted mounts, tripods, etc, etc.

    p.s. I have a full gun cabinet so that was the other interest that can devolve into an endless quest for the right gear.

    1. Yeah, a good pair of night binos (70mm objective lens size or better) is both a good way to start, and useful after you get a good scope as well.

  7. Built my own mount using a bicycle wheel and a windup kitchen timer. Mounted my 35mm Olympus with a 200mm telephoto lens, and got pics as good as ones I see published. Yes, it won’t expose the galaxies in the cosmic dark spot, but if it’s visible with an affordable telescope, it’s photographable with this rig. Plus you get to store the pictures for later. I use ASA1600 film.

    Best picture of Haleys comet I’ve seen was done with a 35mm camera, 35mm lens, ASA1600 film, and 15 second exposure. Showed the comet, Mars, the Galactic center and everything, suitable for framing, which I did.

    It doesn’t have to be expensive.

  8. Astrophotography used to be more expensive because in the past, good tracking mounts were expensive and film can be expensive when you are learning. Today, digital cameras adaptable to telescopes are cheap. Now the only bar to astrophotography is that it takes time to learn to make acceptable photos. We get spoiled seeing great shots in magazines and on the web and it takes some time to be able to produce something satisfactory.

    Going to star parties put on by your local astronomy club before buying anything is a good idea. Amateur astronomers are very friendly and love to let people use their equipment to learn. I think it was three years of going to the local clubs events before I bought a scope.

  9. Don’t get any of the cheap made in china crap from any big box store. As a matter of fact, don’t get anything made in china. Start with a good pair of binoculars with the largest you can afford, that can be mounted on a tripod to help keep them steady.

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