Jump to content



Sign up for a free account!

Signing up for an account is fast and free. As a member you can join in the conversation, enter contests to win things like this Logitech Harmony Ultimate Remote and you won't get the popup ads that guests get. Click here to create your free account.

Photo
- - - - -

Telescopes


  • You cannot start a new topic
  • Please log in to reply
39 replies to this topic

#1 of 40 KyleC

KyleC

    Supporting Actor

  • 845 posts
  • Join Date: Nov 01 2003

Posted April 23 2005 - 02:49 PM

I'm really looking into getting back into amateur astronomy. I had a telescope when I was a kid, and want to give it another go.

I'm currently looking at the Meade 2130ATS model.
http://www.meade.com.../ds_series.html

Does anyone have experience with any of the Meade brand telescopes?

#2 of 40 Daren Welsh

Daren Welsh

    Supporting Actor

  • 660 posts
  • Join Date: Jan 16 2002

Posted April 25 2005 - 01:58 AM

I've got a 10" LX200. I bought mine used around 1995. I remember saving up forever and being so thrilled to find one used (cheaper) because it was my "dream scope". Sadly, I don't take it out very often for several reasons: TX hazy skies, big equipment to carry out, and I just never plan a star night.

As far as the scope goes ... it's great. I love it. Mine is pre-GPS, so I have to enter in my best guess of local lat/long, but that's no biggie. Set it up, level it, point it to a reference star or two and then go!

I'd say my only legit complaint would be the focuser seems to be "loose". I don't know if this is b/c mine is used and got banged up, but sometimes there's play in the focuser. So if I'm turning the focus knob one way, it has some play in it before turning the other way has any effect. This is a pretty minor nitpick, though. Overall, it's a great scope.
My DVDs ~ Beat Portfolio

#3 of 40 Dan D.

Dan D.

    Stunt Coordinator

  • 215 posts
  • Join Date: Aug 29 1999

Posted April 25 2005 - 02:36 AM

Kyle,
I gave some advice to a while back to someone looking for an inexpensive scope. I think most of the advice still holds true in your case, you can read it here.

http://www.hometheat....ght=telescopes

A few points:

I definitely suggest binoculars first. They are less expensive and you can still see a surprising amount, plus they remain useful for terrestrial use if you move away from astronomy. I have a nice scope, but ever since I splurged on a pair of image-stabilized Canon binoculars last year, I use it much less.

Meade makes a fine scope in the mid- to upper-end of the amateur range. Their lower priced scopes are mass produced and will be optically mediocre at best. Daren has a beautiful scope, but at $3K, his Meade experiece will be different than yours. You can get decent optical quality for reasonable money, but you give up the GOTO mount.

Many hard-core astronomers believe you should learn the sky with a manual mount versus GOTO (computerized). Having upgraded my scope to a GOTO mount, I think there are clear benefits, particularly if you live in a light polluted area where "star hopping" is difficult.

Telescopes are very much a "get what you pay for" type of product. If you are really determined to get a scope instead of binoculars and don't want to give up the GOTO feature, I would suggest looking at the Meade LXD-75 line. I believe there is a 6" Schmidt-Newtonian in that line that starts out around $600. This might seem like a lot, but the LXD-75s are generally considered the best value in GOTO scopes and are decent quality.

You might also consider a used scope like the Meade LXD-55s. www.astromart.com is a good resourse for used astronomy items. Also, one positive thing to remember is that good scopes will hold more resale value, actually a very reasonable amount, so you'll have that option if you buy decent but lose interest in the future.

Hope this helps.

#4 of 40 KyleC

KyleC

    Supporting Actor

  • 845 posts
  • Join Date: Nov 01 2003

Posted April 25 2005 - 01:12 PM

Thanks for the advice guys. I see Meade has refurbished units on Ebay. What do you think of some of them?

http://stores.ebay.c....enameZL2QQtZkm

#5 of 40 Dan D.

Dan D.

    Stunt Coordinator

  • 215 posts
  • Join Date: Aug 29 1999

Posted April 25 2005 - 04:01 PM

I've bought from the Meade Ebay outlet and their customer service is exceptional. They have some very helpful people running the store and it's a good place to find a deal.

Unfortunately, I don't see much in the current selection that impresses me. The scopes they are showing are really pretty much the bottom of the barrel for Meade, and are mostly the stuff they push in department stores. It's absolutely the same as with home theater equipment - you wouldn't send a friend to buy home theater equipment in a department store, you don't buy a telescope from their either.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking cheap scopes because I'm a snob, it's just that you will simply not get any kind of a decent view through them and it will end up being discouraging. I would really recommend avoiding these.

If you're not sure enough about your interest in astonomy to make the investment in a good starter scope, the binocular route is definitely the best way to go. About an hour ago I noticed Jupiter high in the sky, but when I went outside for a look, my scope stayed in the basement and I took my binoculars. Consider these binoculars for a second...

http://www.binocular....x70_21491.html

Each side of these binoculars has a larger objective (front) lens than the 60mm refractors on the Meade site, which means more than twice the light gathering ability. Remember, magnification is far, far less important in astronomy than light gathering ability - a fact that cheap scope neglect to mention on their boxes.

But of course, I didn't listen to anyone who told me to start with binoculars when I got into astronomy, so I can't blame anyone who doesn't listen to that advice either. That said, you should have a look at the telescopes from Orion (www.telescope.com). They aren't as loaded with electronics like the Meades, but in the lower price ranges they're much better in terms of optical quality, and that's where it counts. The Short Tube 80mm refractor gets some good reviews and is a really good deal. The 90mm and 102mm StarMax cassegrains are a little more expensive but excellent quality and very compact (FYI, I have a StarMax 127mm). The best deals at Orion are probably the XT6 and XT8 Dobsonian scopes. Dobsonians offer the most light gathering capability for the buck of any design, plus they are easy to use because of their simple mount. These are excellent choices for visual astronomy. If you go the the Intelliscope versions of these two, you can add a computerized locator later that will give you GOTO capability, albeit with manual scope movement versus motorized.

#6 of 40 KyleC

KyleC

    Supporting Actor

  • 845 posts
  • Join Date: Nov 01 2003

Posted April 25 2005 - 04:16 PM

Well the reason I was looking at the first Meade was:

1) GOTO function
2) Motorized tracking (my old scope was manual and boy was it a pain keeping things in view)
3) ability to upgrade to the CCD camera
4) ability to hook to my laptop


So with all these in mind, is the 2130ATS a good or bad buy? It has a 127mm lens.

#7 of 40 Mike Brogan

Mike Brogan

    Second Unit

  • 275 posts
  • Join Date: Sep 12 2002

Posted April 25 2005 - 10:50 PM

Thought this might be of interest to you guys;
Rent a telescope

50$ a year lets you join in on nightly "missions" held on one of the Island's 2 observatories. You also get 15 minutes of solo time a year to point the telescope yourself.

Here's the details on the telescopes.
Quote:
Slooh's observatories are on Mount Teide in the Canary Islands. Far more powerful than a backyard telescope, each observatory is enclosed in a motorized dome and has a motorized equatorial mount. On each mount is a catadioptric telescope, which has a focuser, a filter wheel and a CCD camera. Next to the catadioptric is a refractor telescope with a focuser, a filter wheel and a CCD camera, which we use for wide field imaging. There are several computers in the domes, which control the equipment, and which have a telecommunications connection to our web site. Outside the domes is another CCD camera with an all sky lens.


#8 of 40 Dave Poehlman

Dave Poehlman

    Producer

  • 3,817 posts
  • Join Date: Mar 08 2000

Posted April 26 2005 - 02:39 AM

Anyone handy? I've always wanted to try and build my own.

A great way to use up that extra sonotube laying around. Posted Image

#9 of 40 Dan D.

Dan D.

    Stunt Coordinator

  • 215 posts
  • Join Date: Aug 29 1999

Posted April 26 2005 - 02:49 AM

OK, those are all appealing things to have, let me address each.

1) GOTO - As I mentioned above, I can't argue with having this feature, even though most amateur astronomers will tell you to learn on a manual scope first. It's just too helpful to have in light polluted areas. Since you are in New Jersey, I'm going to assume you have at least moderate light pollution to deal with.

2) Motorized tracking is a great benefit. Most scopes these days at least have it as an inexpensive add-on if they don't come with it already. Most of the Orion telescopes will have it, except for the Dobsonians.

Let me come back to #3

4) Hooking up to a laptop is cool, but can get cumbersome. It's hard to absorb this when your enthusiasm is so high, but simpler is better when it comes to telescopes. If you end up lugging too much stuff around and taking too much time to set up (in the dark!), your interest will decline rapidly. This is especially true as the weather gets colder - lots of great observing in the winter sky and by far the best air quality. A laptop is great for a full night of observing, but probably a bit of overkill for a casual astronomer. The 2130 ATS comes with Meade's base AutoStar controller (#494) with holds 1,500 objects in it's memory. This is a great start. The next tier of Meade scopes will come with the AutoStar #497, which holds over 30,000, and can be updated for newer objects like comets. Something to consider.

3) CCD camera - OK, this is the big one. EVERYONE, myself included, who gets into astronomy wants to do astrophotography. One cannot overstate how difficult this subset of the hobby is. For decent results, you need

- A rock solid mount and tripod. It should be an equitorial mount (as opposed to an Alt-Azimuth mount) or at least have an equitorial wedge option. Astrophotography exposures are typically over a minute long, and most Alt-Azimuth mounts are fine for visual astonomy, do not track accurately enough for photography. Also, the mount and tripod can't shake or vibrate at all.
- The skill align the mount very accurately.
- Good quality optics. The telescope is your camera lens.
- A good quality CCD
- Hours and hours and hours of patience.

The 2130 looks like an OK scope for visual astronomy, but realisitically, it's not going to function well for astrophotography. The tripod is light duty and will shake. The mount will locate and track OK visually, but is not going to have anywhere near the accuracy for long exposure astrophotography.

What will generally be available to you with this scope is basically a webcam converted for astronomy use, such as Meade's LPI imager. It will be limited in exposure time, which means it will be good for the moon and planets only, not deep sky objects (nebulae, clusters, galaxies - IMHO, the interesting stuff) Resolution will be fine for viewing on a computer screen, but not so much for printing. If this is OK with you, that's fine, but do your homework and become familiar with what the real world results of this setup so you aren't disappointed. DON'T go by what is on the Meade website. There are tons of Yahoo telescope groups, may dedicated to specific scope models - join one and look at the members photography. These groups will also be helpful in helping you chose the best accessories. If you are OK with what you are seeing, then go for it.

I mentioned this in the other thread, but it holds true here as well. You should pick up The Backyard Astonomer's Guide and give it a read. This will explain everything you want or need to know about telescopes and astronomy in a very easy-to-read manner. You can find this at almost any Border's or Barnes & Noble, or you can get it at Amazon for $31.47 with free shipping. It's invaluable information for buying a telescope, and a great reference once you've purchased one. Trust me, if you are excited about astonomy now, you will be 10 times more excited after reading through this book, and you'll be armed with some good info. Not convinced? - if you have a Border's or B&N near by, just stop by at lunch or on the way home from work and flip through the book for 5 minutes before you purchase a scope.

Your situation is exactly the same as nearly everyone who entered the hobby. Problem is, the vast majority of first-time telescope buyers end up buying the wrong scope and become discouraged or bored. If you are really determined to get the 2130, it's OK, but understand its limitations. My father-in-law bought a Celestron 114GT few years ago, which is a very similar scope, so I'll use that for reference. The 2130 is going to be purely a visual astronomy telescope, with maybe some ability to do low resolution photographs of the moon. Photos of planets will generally look like fuzzy dots. The mount/scope is too weak to support a heavy CCD or digital camera, and the tripod is too shakey for long exposures. The optics are probably better than what you remember as a kid, but you will likely have some chromatic aberration (red and blue fringes on stars and bright objects) and edge focus will be soft so stars in the center may look sharp but fuzzy on the edges of the field. You will probably see some banding on Jupiter, but it will appear very dim and fuzzy under higher magnification (and we haven't even talked eyepieces yet!). I doubt you'll be able to see the Cassini division in Saturn's rings. Mars will look like a tiny, fuzzy pink dot, and under the best conditions you might see a hint of the ice caps. Since it is a Newtonian relector, you'll need to learn to collimate (align the mirrors) properly - best done with a collimation tool which vary in price.

I don't want to sound discouraging, it's a great hobby and loads of fun. Too many people jump into it without realizing all of the realities and end up with the telescope gathering dust in the basement. Homework will pay off on this one - even more so than with home theater equipment. Check out book above.

#10 of 40 Dan D.

Dan D.

    Stunt Coordinator

  • 215 posts
  • Join Date: Aug 29 1999

Posted April 26 2005 - 02:52 AM

Mike - that's a cool link!

Dave - Yeah, I've always wanted to try that too. It seems like if you can hook yourself up with the right info and/or people, it's not as hard as you might think. It seems like a really fun project and a cost-effective way to get a big scope.

#11 of 40 PeterK

PeterK

    Supporting Actor

  • 519 posts
  • Join Date: Jan 14 2004

Posted April 27 2005 - 02:09 PM

Kyle. If you are a beginner, really really listen to Dan D. If you go and buy some automatic telescope, you will be able to use it for maybe a few weeks or months and then you will have seen everthing in the data base worth seeing. Then you will be bored. Start by getting some quality binoculars. If you go for those big ones Dan linked to make sure you get a really nice sturdy tripod becuase you WON'T be able to hold them steady to your face. I personally have the Celestron ultima 10x50 which I like. those are about 400 CDN. If you want to really treat yourself go for those canon stabilized ones. I have never actually used them, but have heard great things. Then go buy some good astronomy books and use those to learn your way around the sky. DON'T BUY A TELESCOPE. Atleast not yet
Vin Diesel will never, ever buy Bose

#12 of 40 Greg_R

Greg_R

    Screenwriter

  • 1,997 posts
  • Join Date: Apr 09 2000
  • Real Name:Greg
  • LocationPortland, OR

Posted April 28 2005 - 12:51 AM

Dan's advice is gold. Get some binoculars (10x50 w. hands or 10x70 w. stand... both with BAK4 lenses) and JOIN A CLUB. You will get to try out everyone's scopes (certain designs are optimal for certain uses). Additionally, you will probably stumble onto some used gear for a great price.

Dave P., I've seen some homebuilt scopes (usually 8ft+ tall Dobsonian reflectors) that have yielded spectacular results. However, most that I've seen were built by PhD-types with access to the machines to grind the lenses and mirrors.

#13 of 40 KyleC

KyleC

    Supporting Actor

  • 845 posts
  • Join Date: Nov 01 2003

Posted April 28 2005 - 01:08 AM

Dan, I do appreciate the advice. Like you said I'm just really excited to "see" things. I will do my homework and try to be patient. I think at this point I won't be able to afford anything over $400. Maybe I should wait and save up for the ETX-125AT.

My wife finally broke down and let me buy a Sony GWIV 42" LCD HDTV in January (plus I got an SVS sub). So, I'm not trying to press my luck. I'm really in no rush. I'll take a look at that book too.


OT: I was thinking of going down to FL for the re-launch of the shuttle next month, anyone else going or ever been?

#14 of 40 Dan D.

Dan D.

    Stunt Coordinator

  • 215 posts
  • Join Date: Aug 29 1999

Posted April 28 2005 - 02:41 AM

Peter and Greg have some very good advice too. Without a little deeper understanding of what there is to see in the night sky, you will burn through the stored objects in the telescope computer fairly quickly. 1,500 objects sounds like a lot, but don't forget that's the entire sky, not just the setion you are viewing at a given hour, season and location. The club idea is also something to think about. You'll get to try different types of scopes and learn a lot, plus there will likely be some people looking to sell equipment to upgrade or just make room for the next new toy.

Definitely check out the book - it might be the best investment in astronomy you'll ever make. Very informative, a great reference and a fun read. Also, give the binocular idea some consideration. You'll be amazed what you'll be able to see with a $100-200 pair of binoculars. You might even have a pair or can borrow some from friends or family for a few nights. Do that and pick up the latest issue of Sky & Telescope at the newsstand (always a good read, or their new magazine for beginners called "Night Sky"). They have a section in each issue on the highlights of the month and even include charts for finding them. It will be a great and really cheap intro.

As for the telescope, the ETX is a nice choice and is very easy to transport. Quality is good, and there is a huge user community, so there is lots of support to be found and tons of aftermarket add-ons. If you're serious about saving up for a bigger scope (and I would still recommend the book and binoculars as a first step), I would also have a look at the LXD75 SN-6AT. This is a 6" Schmidt-Newtonian, so it will have about 44% more light gathering ability than the ETX-125 (assuming the central obstruction is roughly the same and my geometry is correct), the mount and tripod are sturdier, it uses the exact same AutoStar computer (the #497) and costs a couple of hundred dollars less.

Let me know what you think of the book if you get a chance to check it out - and have fun!

#15 of 40 KyleC

KyleC

    Supporting Actor

  • 845 posts
  • Join Date: Nov 01 2003

Posted April 28 2005 - 03:27 AM

Dan, you've given me alot to think about and I thank you for that. I joined a group on Yahoo dedicated to the 2130ATS and one of the first messages I read was:

Quote:
Well I have just purchased a Meade DS2130ATS and I have a problem. BTW I did not know of some of the drawbacks of this model (I should have done my homework but didn't)but I have it now and thats is that.


So it's looking more likely that I'll rule out the 2130ATS. That LX is very nice but according to telescopes.com it's near the same price as the ETX. The LX looks nice and has some nice add-ons (like GPS). I'm going to order that book, do some research and probably make a decision towards the end of May. Thanks again all.

#16 of 40 KyleC

KyleC

    Supporting Actor

  • 845 posts
  • Join Date: Nov 01 2003

Posted May 03 2005 - 09:13 AM

The book came today Dan. I have lots of reading to do. Posted Image

#17 of 40 Dan D.

Dan D.

    Stunt Coordinator

  • 215 posts
  • Join Date: Aug 29 1999

Posted May 03 2005 - 10:07 AM

It looks a little uncomfortably like a textbook at first, but even if you just flip through it you'll start to see lots of interesting stuff. The first chapters should be very informative. Let me know what you think after you've read a bit. Enjoy!

#18 of 40 KyleC

KyleC

    Supporting Actor

  • 845 posts
  • Join Date: Nov 01 2003

Posted May 09 2007 - 06:30 AM

Wow it's been two years since I started this thread. I got sidetracked with other issues and never got a scope but might try again soon. I still have the two scopes I was looking at bookmarked. Any thoughts on these two?

http://meade.telesco....ngs-18207.html

http://meade.telesco....ngs-28009.html

#19 of 40 Greg_R

Greg_R

    Screenwriter

  • 1,997 posts
  • Join Date: Apr 09 2000
  • Real Name:Greg
  • LocationPortland, OR

Posted May 10 2007 - 10:14 AM

I am not an expert but I like to take my (nice) binoc's out and view the stars. I've been to a few star gazing parties and really like the Dobsonian-style telescopes. You can build your own (from scratch or via a kit). Deep sky and planetary observation is excellent with these units (they pull in huge amounts of light). Disadvantages are that they typically don't have a motor tracking the Earth's movement (you need to move the scope every so often to track an object) and that they are not small (although many break down into small pieces). You can buy a decent 12" commercial unit for ~ $800-$900.

Also keep in mind that you will need a variety of eye pieces with your telescope and they are NOT cheap!

#20 of 40 Greg Kettell

Greg Kettell

    Screenwriter

  • 1,108 posts
  • Join Date: Sep 15 1998
  • Real Name:Greg K.
  • LocationNY Capital Region

Posted May 11 2007 - 01:05 AM

Might I make a plug for another forum I belong to:

http://www.cloudynights.com

There are loads of experts on that forum who can answer any questions you might have regarding how to get started in amateur astronomy.




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Forum Nav Content I Follow