Ivylad wants a telescope for his birthday. His mother bought him a Walmart special several years ago and it worked as about expected.
Knowing these things can run tens of thousands of dollars, what’s a good scope for not a huge fortune appropriate for an amateur?
Well, it depends. How far away is the backyard Ivylad wants to see clearly?
Okay, walked into that one. :smack:
Ahem. We would like a decent telescope to be able to set up in our backyard to look at the stars and other stellar objects. We do not have the budget for a planetarium-style telescope.
For simplicity and fun (as long as you don’t have to move it too far from the backyard) a “push-to” reflector telescope like those at orion.com offer a LOT of light-gathering ability for not a lot of money. The beauty of these it that your money goes more into the optics and not into a complicated “equatorial” mount. Of course, another suggestion (and the one I would choose if I could afford it) would be to have a setup of giant astronomical binoculars on a dedicated binocular mount. Nota bene, if you’re shopping for a big photography buff, a motorized equatorial mount would be practically mandatory. You can always buy your telescope separately.
Many people find a good pair of binoculars to be an excellent starter for backyard astronomy.
Checked my link. Should be telescope.com.
- Are there specific targets he prefers to view, or does he prefer to see “a little bit of everything?”
- How light and/or portable does it need to be? How much weight can he comfortable lift? Even just schlepping something out from inside the house to the backyard can be tricky in some cases.
- Is he comfortable locating objects himself, or does he need computer-aided aiming (which adds to the cost of the setup)?
“Best bang for your buck” is usually a Dobsonian telescope design. Common models of this type are the Orion SkyQuest XT6 Classic/XT8 Classic or the Sky-Watcher 6"/8"; they run about $300-$400. About as simple as you can get; these are tubes containing two mirrors and a focuser, all mounted on a simple base that swivels and pivots. Dobsonian mirrors require occasional minor adjustment and realignment; not a difficult procedure once you get the hang of it, but it is something to keep in mind.
Another advanced-beginner option is a 5" Maksutov-Cassegrain design, such as the Orion Apex 127mm. On the plus side, you don’t have to periodically realign anything in a Mak-Cass, which is nice. The downsides are that they are more expensive; a 5" runs $400 just for the tube itself, and you’d still have to shell out another $200+ or so for some kind of tripod. Because of the higher cost, you get a smaller scope at any particular price point when compared to a Dobsonian. Smaller scope diameter translates to dimmer/fainter viewing images.
Most telescopes come with options to have a computerized and/or motorized base or tripod, which helps you more easily locate objects in the sky. But these options typically add a couple hundred bucks to the price tag.
Thanks for the pointers! You’ve given me a good place to begin the research.
I bought this small Celestron, which is listed as a 5" spotting scope. It’s terrific in that role for wildlife, but works like a charm for moon viewing. I looked at Jupiter one night, and although we live in the city, I could see the red bands. Whatever you buy, make sure you buy the right filters for what you want to view, and invest in a quality eyepiece.