Tell me about telescopes.

I live very high in the mountains, far from any city lights. It’s time I take advantage of that.

I’ve always had an interest in astronomy, and would like to do some star gazing.

I’d like something to view the planets, and perhaps be able to pick out galaxies.

So, could I find something in the $300-$500 range that isn’t a piece of crap?

What type? Reflector or refractor. Wiki describes them but I don’t see the different advantages.

You want a Dobsonian if you want the most bang-for-the-buck. They’re not sexy, but they work, and you probably can pick up a used one in the price range you’re talking.

You’re best bet is to find a local star party and go hang out there for a while. People will have a variety of different telescopes and are generally VERY happy to talk about them. Plus you can try out the different types of scopes and see what you like.

And you’re right, you’re gonna get some GREAT views up there. Heck, we got good views in our backyard in the Boulder/Longmont area. Definitely saw planets, galaxies, and even smaller stuff.

I’ve got an 8" Dob and it’s pretty great. I don’t find it too hard to move around and the views can be really good. I do wish I knew more about how to optimize my viewing but the Moon, Orion Nebula and the clusters I could find from my driveway in Ottawa were great. Yours will likely be fantastic.

It also gave me a chance to ask for a big solar filter for Christmas which worked out great this year. Even *I *can find the sun.

I’ve got a bit of everything for different viewing, but Athena’s right. Aperture is king, and the best value on aperture is a Dobsonian.

Take a look at this introductionand browse the website and get a better idea of what you’d like to get. A local astronomy club is an excellent resource for learning and getting equipment.

Also, people tend to get bored with scopes, so look at Craigslist or Ebay for bargains.

Your main brands to consider are Meade and Celestron, but the Orion house brand is perfectly acceptable as well.

Thanks all. Great link Ducati. I’ll look at the Dobs. They seem kinda big and awkward though.

I have two 14,000 foot peaks that make up the other side of the valley I’m above, and would like to look at wildlife and stuff on them too.

I’ve got my eye on a 6" Orion Newtonian reflector

Note that that is 5.1", not 6"

I’ve got an 8" Orion Dob (older model). A little cumbersome to transport in a car, but quick to set up.


Thanks I noticed that after I posted. 130mm.

You are kinda running into the “piece of crap” range when you’re talking $300 brand-new price. They’re hard to collimate, if you do manage to get it collimated, it doesn’t hold, the mounts are rickety, bad mirrors, etc. If you need to keep it that low, really, look at the used market. You can find good deals at, for example.

If you want to do wildlife viewing, be aware that any scope that’s good for astronomy is going to be crap for closer wildlife viewing. If you’re talking miles away across the valley, they’ll be OK (and that’s what it sort of sounds like you’re doing?)

Dobsonians are going to be bad for wildlife viewing if only because you’d probably have to be laying on the ground to look through the viewfinder. They are slightly big & awkward, but they just work. It’s just one of those things where the Big Ugly Thing actually performs the best and tends to be inexpensive as well.

This guy looks pretty good, but it’s a little outside your price range new. A used one would be miles above the Orion you linked, though, and might be in the same price range.

Really, go to a star party and look through people’s scopes before you buy. They’re really fun, and you’ll get a much better idea about what is what.

A couple of (egad!) decades ago I worked for Orion Telescopes. (I was also married for a short time to the Meade Instruments owner’s sister, but that’s another story.)

I have a very high opinion of Orion, even after all of these years. You’ll find them to be honest and friendly and very knowledgeable. Do as others suggested, and browse their website for a lot of introductory material.

Good Luck,

I’ve had this tabletop model on my wishlist for a while, mainly because I hate dealing with tripods, and I’d like a scope that can tell me where to find the cool stuff, because I suck at locating it manually. They get bigger and bigger as you get willing to spend more.

I also am contracually obligated to mention binoculars, as theey are a great into to astronomy and can be used for birdwatching and stuff I have these– I like the eye releif (you don’t need to mash the lenses into your eye)


I’m new to telescopes myself. Back in February of this year is when i got interested. I found a local society/club and started going to their meetings and viewing nights and enjoyed it very much. I purchased an Orian SpaceProbe 3" equatorial mount reflector. It was very easy to setup, but I had no idea how to find much more than the moon/Venus/Jupiter at that time of year. At the first viewing party I brought it too, they were looking at Saturn. I figured that my little scope couldn’t see that, but was I ever wrong! It was a bit hard with the 25mm lense, but the 10mm would let me see Saturn, and the rings pretty clearly. I knew right then that I needed something bigger. I have been dragging my feet, but plan to sell it soon and get a 4.5" reflector (I’m an equatorial mount kind of guy right now).

A few of our members do have the Orion dobs, and I’m quite fond of them. My current goal is to upgrade to the 4.5", but down the road save up enough for a 10" dob or bigger. I would also recommend Orion scopes. I must say though that most of this comes from reviews on Amazon (I’ve read tons). Orion seems to get high marks across the board. Celestron’s reviews seemed hit-and-miss, though one of our members has a 6" and claims that he has had no problems with it.
Good luck and clear skies to you!

While aperture is king for deep-sky objects, if you have a 30" Obsession that you never take out, what’s the point?

My first suggestion is a minimum of 10" reflector, whether its a Dob or Newtonian.
If you can’t find galaxies and nebula, you’ll be disappointed and quit.

My other suggestion is a Meade ETX or similar. I found a 125mm on my local Craigslist for 600. Benefits are:
computer controlled- you can find anything.
Small and portable -easy to set up anywhere anytime…
Easy to attach a camera for photos.
Useful for terrestrial viewing - birdwatching, neighbor watching, forest firewatching, and more.

Don’t get anything until you test some at a club or star party. Unless you’re like me.
I don’t believe in delayed gratification!

Then you should probably take a serious look at image-stabilized binocs. They are excellent for casual astronomy, and unbeatable for wildlife viewing and birdwatching.

I’ll second Astromart, at least from my experience with it 10 years ago, when I got a great deal on a 12.5 truss tube Dob with an exotic mirror (ASM black vitreous ceramic primary, 1/15[sup]th[/sup] wave - f/5.6 - 1,810mm fl).

Something to consider, there’s a reason used smaller aperture scopes are easy to find. The first time you go to a nice dark sky spot with your 6 or 8 inch scope, and happen upon another dude with a 10 or 12 inch and they offer to let you have a peek at something cool, you’ll understand why “aperture is king” and get bitten by the light-bucket bug, and that’s almost always the reason those smaller scopes are being sold.

Now getting a less expensive, small aperture scope, isn’t a bad idea so you can really be certain that you enjoy being outside on a 20° January night. Hot muggy August nights and cold fogged over glass is much more annoying than freezing your ass off with perfect skies!

I can’t recommend this one thing above every thing else, if you can find a larger aperture truss tube Dob in anything close your price range buy it and avoid solid tube scopes at all costs. There’s nothing that inherently bad about solid tubes in general, they can be annoying on cool nights if your primary isn’t close to the outside temperature, convection currents in the tube are really annoying.

Fully assembled my 12.5 is about 6 feet tall, but broken down (three pieces; mirror box and rocker, secondary cage, and the bag of truss poles) it fits in the back seat/trunk of pretty much any car. Above a certain size a tube scope require a SUV and a 5 or 6 foot tube can be a little difficult for one person to maneuver.

CMC fnord!

Thanks for all the info.

Next question. One of the reasons I’ve become more interested is Google Sky. I have it on my Android. While I’m sure it’s enough for me to locate planets, it also shows where Messier objects are. Would this be enough to get me pointed in the right direction to find things?

I’m wondering about getting a computer controlled scope, and also wonder if half the fun is hunting stuff down (when you basically know where they are).

And for the record, I’m not a person that buys used. Just the way I am.

You want to look into Stellarium for sky viewing or planning. It’s great.

On the “half the fun is hunting stuff down” deal: you may feel differently, but I’m not too keen on spending my telescope time like this:

“Okay, that bright spot there is Jupiter, let’s see if I can dial it in.”

*(sets up scope)

(locates terrestrial object to fine-tune finder scope)

(swings scope toward Jupiter and locks in)

(looks through finder scope and fiddles with three or four levers to make the Jupiter dot appear in the middle)*

“Aha, got it! Now let’s see…”

*(looks through scope, sees nothing)

(tweaks levers a tiny bit in case it’s just a wee bit off, continues to see nothing)*

“Hm. Let’s try this again…”

*(Re-tunes finder scope on an even more distant terrestrial object)

(Re-swings scope toward Jupiter, re-locks down scope)

(Looks through finder scope, more lever fiddling)*

“Finally, let’s observe the wonders of the universe…”

(leg bumps tripod)


Which is how I do things presently.

Another happy Orion 8" Dob Owner chiming in. Besides getting a 25mm lens, also get a 9 or 10mm, and a solar filter for viewing the Sun when there are no stars to view…except the Sun.

A few comments.

A 12 to 14 inch scope is where things in the sky other than planets start to actually look good vs “I think I can see it”. Though a scope that big is going to be outside your price range.

As others have said, join local astronomy clubs and definitely go to their star parties. You will find out how things work and how things actually look through a telescope.

A computer controlled telescope requires several things. An idea of what to expect when you are looking at what you are trying to look at. An ability to work with the telescope enough to use it properly. Enough knowledge of the sky to easily set it up so the computer system to work. By the time you can do all that, you really don’t NEED a computer control system.

Which brings up another point. IMO some of the fun IS the ability to find stuff without using a computer controlled computer.