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Telescope purchase questions

Need our opinion on a telescope Optics Planet has on sale, go ahead and ask! Post some hints and tips on various telescope brands and configuration.

Telescope purchase questions

Postby JDBfromMKE on Thu Apr 07, 2011 10:24 pm

I am a novice stargazer that dabbled in astronomy when I was a kid (over 50 years ago!). Now that I recently retired, I would like to purchase a good, all-around telescope that will have expansion capability should I decide I want to go further in the hobby. In particular, I would like to get into astrophotography of planets and deep space objects at some point down the road. At the same time, I would like to have a scope that is good for visual observation. I live in a light-polluted suburb of Milwaukee and my house has a front and back yard with a limited view of the sky, so the ability to transport the telescope to a better observing site would bean important consideration. I borrowed an 8" Dobsonian telescope from a local astronomy club a week ago as a first stab at this and enjoyed the experience very much (saw the Orion Nebula and Saturn while observing from a city park only 3 blocks away from my house). However, I discovered that the telescope was bulky and hard to transport (it fit ok in my minivan but not my compact car), and from what I've read Dobs are not suitable for astrophotography, so I am thinking this is not the way for me to go.

I asked an astronomy-savvy friend for advice, and after relaying the above information and needs (good for visual observing and astrophotography, reasonably good portability and compactness, expandability for more sophisticated astrophotography) and my preference for getting a go-to scope of some kind (to help with my limited knowledge of the sky), my friend recommended that I purchase a Celestron C8-SGT (XLT) advanced series telescope. Most of what I have read about this telescope and mount is quite favorable, and it may be the best choice for me, especially, since the telescope is currently on sale this month for . After doing some additional reading, I had a few questions:

1) Is there such as thing as a good "all-around" telescope of the type I am trying to find, and if so, is the Celestron C8-SGT a reasonable choice? Would spending a bit more money buy me another model that would fit my needs better?

2) I saw that Meade also sells a similar scope (LXD 75 SC-8AT) for the same price. Which is the better choice, and why?

3) Some of the people in the local astronomy club have steered me away from an equatorial mount and strongly recommended that I buy a scope with an altazimuth mount because of its simplicity, but I realize that in order to do any serious astrophotography, I will need an equatorial mount. Am I setting myself up for too much frustration in the beginning by getting a scope with an equatorial mount given my current level of experience? (I am a retired research biologist with some familiarity with sophisticated laboratory equipment, but I am a novice when it comes to stargazing). I gather that I can convert an altazimuth mount to an equatorial mount with a "wedge" (not sure what that is), but I don't know how satisfactory a solution this is, how much it costs, how much weight it would add, and how much additional set-up time it would require.

4) If I do go with an equatorial mount, are there accessories that are worth purchasing that would be helpful in aligning the scope (e.g. the GPS accessory for the Celestron, a polar finder) or is it easy enough to do without these accessories?

5) Speaking of accessories, I was thinking of buying the Celestron eyepiece and filter accessory kit. What is your opinion of that kit vs others on the market (e.g., Orion's kit, etc) or simply purchasing individual eyepieces and filters as needed? If the latter is recommended, what specific recommendations would you have and which companies would you purchase from?

6) Miscellaneous questions:

a). I am trying to decide whether I need to buy a separate 12 V battery to power the telescope. How long can you power the telescope using a DC adapter connected to your car battery before you have problems starting your car?

b) I read that a field flattener/focal reducer is a good thing to buy for the Celestron C8-SGT because the long focal length (f10) gives you a narrow field of view. Is that something that I should purchase right away? I would also guess that a collimation tool would be important to purchase along with the scope. Any suggestions there

Many thanks for you expert advice!
JDBfromMKE
 
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Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2011 9:36 pm

Re: Telescope purchase questions

Postby Jne_K on Fri Apr 08, 2011 11:06 am

Hi and welcome to astronomy. Excellent questions, by the way!

Hey, my husband and I used to live in Milwaukee. We just moved up here in the north woods last fall when he retired. I could rub it in as to how dark the skies are up here, compared to Milwaukee, but I won't. :)

I am a Dob lover and it is possible to transport Dobs. Years, ago, I managed to do a lot of traveling with a 10” Dob in a Geo Metro Hatchback, of all things. Okay, it was an experience, but I managed. You just have to be careful when you transport any reflector for the sake of collimation. They don’t travel as easily as other scopes, maybe, but they do travel.

Yes, GOTO in the city makes a lot of sense. I learned to navigate the old fashioned way – with star map and star hopping – but that is something that must be learned under dark skies where you can see enough stars to navigate and acquiring this skill doesn’t happen overnight, either. It's difficult to impossible to learn in the city because of light pollution and the inability to see enough stars. I survived six years in the Chicago suburbs without a computer only because I had already acquired the skills, but, even so, it was quite a challenge at times.

Yes, either the Celestron Advanced C8 SGT or the Meade LXD75 is a great way to start. Really very little difference between the two, so go with whichever offers the best price. I know owners of both that are very happy with their scopes.

I am with some of those others as to going with a fork mounted SGT, such as a CPC or LX rather than an equatorial as a better choice in terms of versatility and ease of use. There is a reason that an 8” fork mounted SGT is the world’s most popular entry level serious telescope. Pointing and handling a fork mounted scope is intuitive and user friendly. Pointing and handling an equatorial is not. Just getting the scope pointed from here to there on the other side of the sky can be a can of worms with an equatorial, at least at first. It takes plenty of experience to feel at home with a big equatorial. Finally, an equatorial is the least portable mount there is. Usually need to break down the scope in three parts – counterweights, mount and OTA – to even move the telescope into the backyard. If I never have to transport another equatorial mount, that is fine with me!

Yes, an equatorial is the best platform for astrophotography because of its tracking precision. However, this was far more important in the days of film astrophotography. CCD imaging is more forgiving as to tracking. You can even do some limited CCD imaging on a fork mount without a wedge, but you will want to add a wedge if you get serious about astrophotography. A wedge just goes between the tripod and the fork and tilts the OTA on its side so that you get equatorial tracking. Not quite as accurate as an equatorial, but more than adequate, especially for digital.

However, I would not jump right in on astrophotography. It takes a lot of experience with your telescope and a fair knowledge of the night sky to do it right. Get some experience under your belt before you go down that road. Too much to chew all at once. Besides, there is a chance that you may find that astrophotography is not for you. A good many of us are content with visual astronomy only. Be a shame to buy equipment based on astrophotography and find out that it is not for you. Then, too, with a fork mount you still have an option of adding wedge if you do decide on astrophotography. In the meantime, you still have the fork mount for ease of use and better portability.

A GPS makes aligning the computer quicker and more accurate, but it won’t solve polar alignment headaches. You will need a polar scope for that, yes.

If you have access to an astronomy club, the best option on eyepieces is to walk up and down the scope line and actually talk with other astronomers and actually see what different eyepieces can do or not do and get opinions (no shortage of opinions on eyepieces, as you will discover). Problem is that there is a lot of personal preference as to eyepieces, but you won’t develop those preferences until you’ve had some experience. Those kits with basic Plossls will get you started, yes, but I guarantee you will end up with better eyepieces if you decide to stay with astronomy. If you just have to get started and can't wait, go with a kit, otherwise head to the next astronomy club outing and do some chatting. Astronomers talk shop on eyepieces as much as telescopes, believe me.

A Powertank is a good idea, definitely, if, for nothing else, to have as a backup to your car battery. Highly recommended unless you will have permanent access to AC. Sure, you can go a couple of hours by hooking up to the car, but what are you going to do on those nights when you just can't bring yourself to tear down the scope and call it quits, not to mention draining you car battery in cold weather? Get a Powertank.

One of the great advantages of the SGT is it’s ability to be any kind of scope you want it to be with the addition of the right accessory. As delivered, an SGT is perfect for planetary work and mid power DSO work. If DSOs are going to be your passion, though, yes, a focal reducer will help get you down into some more DSO friendly magnifications. In the city, though, you should also be thinking in terms of a UHC filter or even an O-III filter for nebulae work.

I think I answered everything, but, if not, let me know.

Enjoy!
Thanks for posting with us
Joanie K - Your personal optics expert

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Re: Telescope purchase questions

Postby JDBfromMKE on Fri Apr 08, 2011 7:21 pm

Thanks for the very helpful advice! You answered just about everything that I needed answered for the time being. Getting a fork-mounted SGT sounds like a good idea, especially if I can still do astrophotography later by getting a wedge. The only remaining question is collimation of a SGT: How often does this need to be done and what is the best way to do it?

Thanks again for the very valuable advice. I'm envious of your north woods sky!
JDBfromMKE
 
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Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2011 9:36 pm

Re: Telescope purchase questions

Postby Jne_K on Sat Apr 09, 2011 6:44 pm

You are very welcome, of course.

Yes, a fork mounted SCT is about as versatile a scope as you can get. May not be the very best scope for a specific application, but always a good scope. Just a matter of adding the right accessories.

Collimation on an SCT is rather rare, compared to a reflector, for instance, and easily done by adjusting the screws on the secondary. Not an issue, to be honest.

Enjoy!
Thanks for posting with us
Joanie K - Your personal optics expert

Forum: http://www.opticsplanet.com/msgboard
Blog: http://blog.opticsplanet.com/
Store: http://www.opticsplanet.com/

Phone: (800) 504-5897
Fax: (847) 919-3003
Jne_K
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Re: Telescope purchase questions

Postby JDBfromMKE on Mon Apr 11, 2011 6:27 pm

Thanks again, Joanie! Very helpful advice and information. If I do go with a fork mounted scope, I'm thinking that it comes down to two in my price range: the Celestron CPC800 and the Meade LX90. The fact that the Meade scope has ACF and the Celestron does not would seem to be one point in favor the Meade, especially since I eventually want to get into astrophotography. On the other hand, I've read that Meade has had some quality control issues recently, and most people that I've found posting in formums prefer the Celestron software to the Meade software. I really don't know which scope has the better mount (and wedge, if I plan to get into astrophotography later) What is your impression of these two scopes?

Thanks again. You're advice has been really invaluable.
JDBfromMKE
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2011 9:36 pm

Re: Telescope purchase questions

Postby Jne_K on Tue Apr 12, 2011 12:28 pm

Glad to help.

Yes, if I was really going to get serious about astrophotography, I would opt for the ACF in the Meade, though that is not to say the CPC would not be a good choice for astrophotography, of course.

As to mounts, I would rate them equivalent. As to software and computer, the CPC is more user friendly, up front, but the Meade is anything but difficult to navigate. Just be a matter of getting familiar with it.

Yes, customer service is a valid concern, as is quality control. Celestron, these last few years, has been more consistent on these two issues. That's being as up front and honest as I can be with you. That said, I can easily show you literally dozens and dozens of happy and satisfied Meade owners for everyone with a gripe and I'm talking about recent purchases, here, too. Then, too, nearly all the issues I've seen as regards quality control issues with Meade are obvious from the get go and straightforward to resolve under Meade's one year warranty. Would I, myself, personally take the chance and buy another Meade telescope, today? Yes, I would. The odds against getting a defective product and needing customer service are still rather small, despite the gripes you read on forums. Those still only involve a small percentage of Meade owners and users.
Thanks for posting with us
Joanie K - Your personal optics expert

Forum: http://www.opticsplanet.com/msgboard
Blog: http://blog.opticsplanet.com/
Store: http://www.opticsplanet.com/

Phone: (800) 504-5897
Fax: (847) 919-3003
Jne_K
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Re: Telescope purchase questions

Postby New tack: go to dobsonian on Sat Apr 23, 2011 5:55 pm

After thinking more about what my priorities are, and after having some recent viewing experience through a Meade 10 inch SCT (which I found to be inferior to the dob that I borrowed recently), I'm now thinking that I would get better image quality with a dob for a lot less money. So...I'm now thinking a go-to dob might be a good choice (specifically I am thinking about an Orion XT10g). I know they are bulkier, but if I purchased a padded case with carrying strap for the OTA, I think it would be easier to transport. I also found a collapsible utility dolly that I could use to transport the base/mount. The other plus for me, since I want to start dabbling in astrophotography, is that the Orion go-to scopes apparently have some auto tracking capability, which would allow me to at least try out planetary imaging (using the Orion Star Shoot Solar System CCD imager IV, which apparently interfaces well with this scope based on what I am told by the people at Orion). What do you think of this telescope and do you see any flaws in my logic?

Thanks again for all the helpful advice.
New tack: go to dobsonian
 

Re: Telescope purchase questions

Postby Jne_K on Mon Apr 25, 2011 10:10 am

Hi

Although we don't sell Orion, here at OP, I have to say that it would be a an excellent choice if those are the features you want. Wish we offered a Dob with GOTO, but we don't. Most of what I have read on forums about that Orion has been positive, so if you want a Dob with GOTO at a reasonable price, go for it. You can, of course, add DSC (digital setting circles) to any dob by buying an aftermarket setup, but by the time you price it out, you'll still be ahead with that Orion. In the meantime, I'm going to push to see if we can get a GOTO Dob added to our OP telescope selection.

As for me, I am old school when it comes to celestial navigation - I still use a star chart. I don't want electronics or computers on my telescopes, because, as a writer on the computer for hours and hours, it is too much like being at work. LOL. Seriously, though, if you are going to be dealing with moderate to severe light pollution, a computer is the way to go.
Thanks for posting with us
Joanie K - Your personal optics expert

Forum: http://www.opticsplanet.com/msgboard
Blog: http://blog.opticsplanet.com/
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Re: Telescope purchase questions

Postby JDB on Wed Apr 27, 2011 9:00 pm

Thanks again for all the helpful advice, Joanie, and thanks especially for your candid assessment of a scope that OP does not sell (Orion XT10g). If I decide to buy this telescope, I would like to get your input about accessories.
1) Eyepieces. The scope comes with a 28 mm "DeepView" 2" and a 12.5mm illuminated Plossl 1.25". What other sizes/FOV of eyepieces would you recommend for starters with this scope given its focal length (1200mm) and f ratio (4.7). I know that Teleview is the gold standard with eyepieces, but is there another manufacturer of quality eyepieces that rivals Televue performance but costs a little less?
2)Some people have recommended purchasing a laser collimater and a Telrad. Are these things I should get right a Away? The scope comes with a collimation cap and a finder scope that is non-magnified and has a small red LED dot in the middle to indicate precisely where the scope is pointed.
3) What would you recommend to buy initially in the way of filters, and are there differences in quality between manufacturers?
4) I would need to purchase a power supply, but I would guess there is little difference between different brands in terms of performance. Do you agree?
5) Are there any other accessories that I should purchase right away?

Thanks in advance for your help.
JDB
 

Re: Telescope purchase questions

Postby Jne_K on Thu Apr 28, 2011 11:20 am

HI

Good choice. Enjoy your new scope.

Eyepieces are first and foremost when it comes to accessories. The biggest issue you face is personal preference and, make no mistake, this is really the biggest issue when shopping for premium eyepieces. The problem, of course, is that you may not have been observing long enough to develop preferences as to what you do or do not like, but, trust me, you will, eventually.

Yes, Televue is the gold standard, but some good alternatives beyond basic Plossls and typical 50-60 degree apparent FOV are the Vixen LV-Ws, Celestron Ultima LX or the Meade Series 5000 Ultrawides

Yes, I would get a collimator and the Tel-Rad sooner, rather than later. The laser will get you collimated quicker and the Tel-Rad will make life easier at the scope. You are going to need them, anyway.

If you are going to be hunting nebulae and you will with that kind of scope, oh yeah, time for filters. Yes, there can be a difference in filters as to performance. The cheaper filters can distort images and suffer from glare and so on. The overall most useful will be a UHC, such as the Televue Bandmate, followed closely by an O-III with an H-beta a very distant third. One look at the Veil with a UHC or an O-III from a dark site will make you a believer in filters, trust me.

I agree. A power supply is pretty much a power supply, but the Celestron Powertank is hard to beat.

Just little things, beyond these basics. I like a foam lined hard case for my eyepieces, a chair for observing when the scope is pointed a lower angles and, of course, a red lens flashlight, notebook, pencil - the usual stuff. Even though you have opted for digital, I would still get a good star atlas. My favorite is the S&T Pocket Sky Atlas
Thanks for posting with us
Joanie K - Your personal optics expert

Forum: http://www.opticsplanet.com/msgboard
Blog: http://blog.opticsplanet.com/
Store: http://www.opticsplanet.com/

Phone: (800) 504-5897
Fax: (847) 919-3003
Jne_K
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Posts: 7665
Joined: Wed Sep 24, 2003 3:09 pm