Amateur Astronomers or Advice on a Telescope

Howdy all. I’ve been out on spring break this last week and haven’t been around the board much. Took some time off from the job, college, and life in particular to just become a complete and utter slob. So I was out at the mall today with the SO and I go past the Natural Wonders store and out of the corner of my eye I see it. It’s one of the most beautiful telescopes I’ve ever seen. Not knowing much about telescopes in general I was very hesitant in purchasing and decided against buying one of them. They ranged in price from approx. $200-1000. I had my credit card with me and I didn’t buy one of them. I’m regretting it so bad right now because it’s one of the most absolutely beautiful and clear nights in awhile. It’s undescribably picturesque outside right now. No clouds, no city lights to mess up the view, no civilization for about a mile in either direction. I’m kicking myself in the ass so hard right now for not getting the one for $200, but I didn’t because I didn’t know enough about them to make an informed decision.

This brings me to my question to all of you. Really your opinion more than anything. I’m looking for a good telescope under $400 if all possible because I want to take up astrology as a hobby. So of all of you out there who own telescopes care to throw out a brand or an url where I can find a decent one?

First thing you should do is not get astronomy mixed up with astrology, because Astronomers hate that.

Hey umm Guano, I didn’t want to get made fun of just some advice :wink: Actually I always make that mistake. The only two friggin’ words in the English language word I seem to always confuse and mix up are them two. Hell my major for a little while was gonna be Astronomy (I got it right this time) and whenever anyone asked I’d say Astrology and I’d get these looks like people were thinking what the hell is this boy on? Then it kicks in 10 seconds later and I realize I’ve said Astrology rather than Astronomy. Anyways anymore wisecracks on my inability to differentiate between these terms should be held to at least a minimum if at all possible.

Wasn’t meant as a wisecrack - it was more a friendly piece of advice (or warning). I know what you meant, and I also know that it’s a common mistake. As long as you don’t assume astronomers tell the future by reading palms, then you’ll probably emerge unscathed. :slight_smile:

Incidentally, I get ‘entomology’ and ‘etymology’ mixed up a lot, too. Not to mention ‘practise’ and ‘practice’.

However, regarding the OP, if you do a search you’ll find a few other threads on buying telescopes. For example here:

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=45929

Thanks for the link, I did a search but I reckon I accidently put it to since yesterday rather than any date when I searched. You’ve got me started and now I’m debating going back and buying one. From what everyone was saying it was a decent brand and for what I’m going to start off as it’d work pretty fine.

Whatever you do, don’t buy one from the Home Shopping Network.

First of all, try this FAQ:

http://www.nhastro.com/misc/patfaq.html

Second, I’ll tell you my experiences with this. I owna 4" Celestron refractor, and I’m VERY happy with it. I made a good purchase because I researched it carefully. Here are a few of the important issues:

  1. Figure out what you want to see. Some scopes are good for “planetary” observing (the moon, planets, etc.), while others are good for “deep sky” observing (galaxies, novae, etc.).

  2. Figure out how much bother you are willing to put up with. My scope is all manual, with setting circles - no fancy computer driven guidance system. But that took me ages to learn how to use.

  3. Think about transportation and electricity. Those big fancy scopes are, well… BIG. And they need an electrical source to do their thing. One friend of mine has a huge Dobsonian reflector, and then his wife made him get a smaller car. Now he can’t transport the scope.

  4. Look on the web. Lots of great sites for this. Be sure to look up Ed Ting’s web site - he does great telescope reviews, and his review tipped the scales on my buying my refractor. His site is here: http://www.scopereviews.com/index.html

  5. Think about your budget. The scope is only some of the cost. The accessories (eyepieces, Barlow lenses, filters) also cost a lot.

  6. Most importantly - don’t buy a scope from one of those nature/science stores in the mall! You’ll likely get overcharged, and their selection is limited.
    Good luck!

Thanks! The shop I was at in the mall was selling the Celestron brand. Most of them were about half off. None of them were exceptionally huge but they did have a couple of models with the computer guidance systems on them. Again thanks for the link I’ll look it over very much while I’m at work tonight!