Can I buy a decent telescope for $200 US?

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by AllanN, Jul 15, 2003.

  1. AllanN

    AllanN Supporting Actor

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    I've always wanted one to do some amateur astronomy after reading this thread maybe now is a good time to pick one up? I don't really know that much about them. Id like something that is easily portable and easy to set up. Im sure id have to take a drive to a more country part of town to get away from all the city light. One feature I would like to have is to be able to hook my 35mm P-30t pentax SLR camera. The camera support Pentax K and KA mounts. My big question is can this be done for around $200 US? Thanks in advance for your help and suggestions.
     
  2. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Opt for something relatively simple as a first 'scope. A Newtonian-style reflector of about 4.5 inches (up to six inches) with an equatorial mount and a clock drive would be nice, but more than $200. These things aren't toys. Folded Cassegranian designs are much more expensive.
     
  3. Zen Butler

    Zen Butler Producer

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    to help your search Allan
     
  4. Dan D.

    Dan D. Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi Allan,
    $200 is going to be tough for visual astronomy, and impossible for photography. Astronomy is a great hobby, but it requires a bit of research and consideration of your needs. There are a lot of choice facing people wanting buy a scope these days, and unfortunately a lot of garbage out there.

    Most amateur astronomers will recommend that you start with a good pair of binoculars. You'd be surprised what you can see with them, and they will help you learn to navigate the night sky. These would also fit you budget. This is not to say that you can't just start with a scope, but binoculars are usually a safer, less expensive first stepping stone. You've got to understand what you are actually going to be able to see with a small scope. Things don't look like Hubble photographs, not even close, and many people get discouraged by this. I could write a ton about this subject, but it would probably be better to direct you to the link below, which has excellent advice for first-time scope buyers.

    http://www.scopereviews.com/begin.html

    Orion Telescopes have about the best bang-for-the-buck out there (stay away from department store telescopes!!!) One of their Dobsonian scopes is recommented in the article. I have one of their scopes and I love it. They are having an internet sale on their XT6 Dobsonian for $259 right now, which is a excellent beginner choice. It's a 6" Dobsonian reflector which gives it a good amount of light gathering ability. Remember it's about light gathering, not magnification!

    http://www.telescope.com

    The XT6 is an easy to use beginner scope for visual viewing, though it will not work well for photography... though you really shouldn't think about that right now. One of the biggest (and costliest) mistakes people make is trying to jump right into astrophotography. This is not a simple activity however, and getting good results, i.e. something other than fuzzy blobs, requires investments in equipment and time.

    There is an excellent book available in most bookstores called The Backyard Astronomers Guide. I think this is hands down the best book for someone whating to learn all the basics, from scope types and choices, to accessories, to star navigation, etc. It's a bit pricey at $40, but it is a worthwile investment.

    I'll see if I can find some more beginner links for you. It is a great hobby, but if you do a bit of research before running out and buying a scope you'll enjoy it much more.
     
  5. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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  6. Dheiner

    Dheiner Gazoo

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    What Dan said.
     
  7. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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  8. Matt_Marlow

    Matt_Marlow Stunt Coordinator

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    Hardin Optical (hardinoptical.com) has their 8" Dobsonian reflector for $299 and their 6" version for $239. Either one would be a great beginner's scope. They're basically the same thing as the Orion versions. Of course, they'd be useless for astrophotography.

    I think a beginner would be happy with a pair of 7 x 50 binoculars and one of those Dob reflectors. Other than that, a basic star chart and a red light flash light and you're all set. Additional eyepieces can be purchased when you decide what you like looking at. Of course, the most important thing you can do is to get to a dark sky site away from the city where you can actually see the Milky Way. I think even a 6" reflector would be more enjoyable under truly dark skies than would a 12" reflector under heavily light polluted skies.

    Anyway, the minimum size for a reflector that you'd probably be happy with is 6". For a refractor you could go smaller because there's no central obstruction, but in general a decent refractor is going to be a lot more expensive.

    My $.02
     

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