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Looking for information regarding the purchase of a new telescope for the viewing of Messier objects

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posted on Jul, 1 2012 @ 01:44 PM
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I've been deeply intrigued by the cosmos since I was a kid, and this passion hasn't gone anywhere over the years. I've owned cheap telescopes in the past and have spent countless hours reviewing the many objects of both the Messier objects and NGC on the internet. I've just recently purchased a very solid pair of 15x70 Astrobinoculars which have already aided me in observing four Messier objects the past few nights. M31 (Andromeda) being my particular favorite, as the sheer immensity of the galaxy is chill inducing.

Now that this passion has completely rekindled, I'd like to go ahead and purchase a good telescope. Price is capped at $2000 USD or so, and ideally it will contain some auto-star or go-to system. Reason being is that my life is particularly busy and although I'm capable of tracking these objects unaided (been putting my 15x70's to good use) I'd like to maximize my celestial viewing time. This is also my ploy to drag my mostly indifferent fiancee into the hobby who would likely "get bored" of the hunt.

In addition, I have a Canon T2i which I'm very capable with. I'd LOVE to get into some astrophotography with a scope that is capable of supporting it. So please recommend scopes that may also serve this purpose.

I've been looking at the Celestron NexStar 8'' due to the larger aperture, auto-star, and compact form factor. I've also been looking at some larger Dobsonians with even greater magnification that have the auto-star feature in the base.

Any advice from well-versed amateur astronomers here? This is a lifelong passion I'm looking to become more experienced with and I need help selecting a more powerful tool. My binoculars have been invaluable (it actually stunned me how powerful they are), but I'm looking to set my sights a bit deeper.

Edit: I am mostly a newb when it comes to scopes, but I'm informed on the different types and basic features that you want (larger aperture, more light for deeper viewing, etc). I'm a fairly proficient amateur photographer and some of the concepts carry over.

Thanks guys.
edit on 1-7-2012 by SaosinEngaged because: (no reason given)

edit on 1-7-2012 by SaosinEngaged because: (no reason given)




posted on Jul, 1 2012 @ 02:15 PM
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reply to post by SaosinEngaged
 


I used to have a Celestron C8 with a Super Polaris mount. When I got everything lined up just perfectly it was amazing but the set up time always took so long for my occasional use that the Dew limit would normally hit before the skies were dark enough. I donated it to a college and purchases a smaller Meade ETX 90 with goto a few years ago. Much better and very fast to set up but the tiny size of those objects is a bit of a disappointment after the 8inch. Optically both of the scopes were top notch, though they are no longer being made in the US, so I can't attest to the quality recently. The Meade LX600 is the one I would go for today If I wanted to plunk down a lot of cash. But the Meade 8" LX90 SC Telescope might be perfect for your needs.



posted on Jul, 1 2012 @ 03:38 PM
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reply to post by SaosinEngaged
 


Its funny how threads pop up when the subject is relative to one's personal situation at that moment.

Last week I bought a pair of 20 x 100 Astro binoculars. Though, I have not had a chance to get outside and use them yet. But I am eager!

I used to have a Meade LX200 many years ago. It was a very fine 12" scope.

I currently have a Meade 125 ECT, which, again, is fine quality, but disappointing compared to the 12" obviously.

For Deepspace observing though, you are better off with a Dobsonian scope like the Meade Lightbridge 12". You can get a new one for under $1000 and a used one at a pretty good price on Ebay.



posted on Jul, 1 2012 @ 04:05 PM
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There are many aspects of astrophotography. I'd recommend that you really get it clear in your head.

If your talking Messier objects, many of them are fairly bright and large (I believe Messier had something a bit smaller than the typical 60mm refractor we all had!), and you could take multiple fairly short exposures and, using software recombine them and get astounding results.

If you want the best quality, deep sky kind of objects, you'd really want to pier mount it (maybe your own permanent observatory?), and carefully polar align it. Even then, you can take multiple exposures, only longer now, and recombine them.

I'd suggest looking in your local area for a club and an "Elmer" of sorts that could walk you through it.

Don't do like me and .spend a couple of grand and leave it in a case for years!

Dark Skies!



posted on Jul, 1 2012 @ 04:09 PM
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reply to post by SaosinEngaged
 
Hiya Saos, ngchunter is one of our resident experts and can probably give you as much advice on the subject as you can stand. If he misses the thread, send him a u2u and see if he can help you out.



posted on Jul, 1 2012 @ 05:05 PM
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reply to post by Kandinsky
 


Thank you very much, I appreciate your recommendation of me.

To the OP, it sounds like you're well on your way to navigating the night sky with binos, and I see you want to view messier objects and you want to do astrophotography with your T2i. You don't really specify what kind of astrophotography, but if the T2i is your weapon of choice (and it is a very fine camera indeed) then deep space photography is where that camera will really excel. I think for about $2000 I can price out a scope system that will more or less duplicate my setup except for the cameras, goto, equatorial wedge, autoguiding and all (shameless self plug so you can see what my setup is: www.abovetopsecret.com... ). The only catch is that you're willing to shop for a used telescope, but fortunately you already have your main camera. I've bought used equipment before, including a scope, and some of it was quite expensive. I've never had a problem buying used so I really recommend it as a great way to get the most bang for your buck. Like you I'm on a tight budget, so stretching every dollar counts. So here's my proposed scope buying plan:


For the main scope, an 8" LX200 like mine, I would recommend keeping an eye on the used market, but aim to spend between $1,000-1,400 on the scope. $1,200 is fair price imho. Here's an ad for one for right at about $1200. It's the newer GPS cousin to my LX200 classic, just needs a new hand controller:
www.cloudynights.com...
For long exposures of deep space objects you'll need an equatorial wedge, figure about $170:
www.ebay.com...
For autoguiding and widefield imaging I use one of these, a simple achromat, but it's surprisingly good for $120, currently on sale for about $100 :
www.telescope.com/Telescopes/Refractor-Telescopes/Refractor-Optical-Tube-Assemblies/Orion-ShortTube-80-Refractor-Telescope-Optical-Tube-Assembly/pc/1/ c/10/sc/346/p/9948.uts
Of course, you need a way of mounting it on your LX200, so you need to get these parts as well:
Dovetail plate ($69):
www.optcorp.com...
Dovetail adapter (you need 2 for a total of $50):
admaccessories.com...
Rings ($20):
www.optcorp.com...
To offset the weight of the 80mm scope you need a counterweight system ($125):
www.optcorp.com...
And to autoguide you need an autoguider (since you already have a DSLR, you might find this to be your best option, $239):
www.optcorp.com...
Final price? $1,973. This is essentially my setup with a few slight changes. I've spent way more than this over the years experimenting with various things that didn't work, but for just under $2,000 you can replicate what I use now for still photography of deep space.

edit on 1-7-2012 by ngchunter because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 1 2012 @ 05:26 PM
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reply to post by ngchunter
 


Kudos go to you, and I'll agree with Kandinsky. you are the current expert. I'm still at the 6" reflector range.

I've adapted a mount for live webcam, but don't have the budget for true astrophotography. Your post is very informative, and it's nice to know we have members like you.




posted on Jul, 1 2012 @ 11:57 PM
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reply to post by ngchunter
 


Just wanted to personally thank you and the other posters for taking the time to make recommendations to me. Tomorrow I'm going to review the information and be on my way to a purchase decision.

Thanks again guys.



posted on Jul, 2 2012 @ 02:38 PM
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reply to post by ngchunter
 


I hope the OP doesn't mind if I hijack this thread, but I would also like to ask for advice.

In the next few years I plan to build myself a mini observatory somewhere in north west europe, so UK or France is quite likely. I would likely want to pillar mount a scope but there's so many options out there it's hard to know what would be best.

My budget for scope + accessories would probably be around the €10,000 range, but obviously this is subject to change depending on what can be had for these prices. Ideally I want to remotely control this entirely so I can stick it as far away from people and roads as possible and operate it from a nice warm house, but I appreciate this probably adds a huge amount of expense so I would probably end up hacking this up myself.

So I guess my question is, if you wanted to set up a universal imaging system (so Sun, Planets, DSOs) for a low 5 figure number, what would you build?

Thanks in advance.



posted on Jul, 2 2012 @ 08:02 PM
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reply to post by exponent
 


Go right ahead.


There's some insanely intelligent people here, and it's now made this daunting task of selecting the right equipment (when there's literally limitless configurations) a bit easier.

I've been researching the Meades mentioned all day and I'm closer to a purchase decision. I like what I see.

BTW, last night I mounted up my 15x70's and viewed both Andromeda once more and saw a faint hint of the Pinwheel Galaxy. It was immensely exciting to glimpse something so massive yet so far away. I had to use averted vision, but it was there. Can't wait to put a scope to it.

And it truly is fun to locate these objects. Certainly isn't a "piece of cake," but so far putting in the effort to track them down is half the fun. I do think the star finders on modern telescopes are infinitely useful, however, you can't beat increasing your viewing time!

As we're all essentially stardust, astronomy really makes you feel connected to the universe when daily life grounds you to earth.
edit on 2-7-2012 by SaosinEngaged because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 3 2012 @ 12:24 AM
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Originally posted by exponent
reply to post by ngchunter
 

10,000 Euros you say. Not sure if you're trying to include the permanent observatory building costs in that or not. I helped a guy who built a permanent observatory with 3 domes/3 permanent piers specifically designed to be 100% remote controllable over the internet. The baseline price was about a quarter million dollars (to be fair, that's including scopes), and I know for a fact he's dumped even more money into it since then. Now, you don't have to go nearly as fancy as he went, but I think 10,000 might be a bit on the tight side of building your own fully remote controllable observatory.

The scope equipment necessary for a full remote setup you can get for about that much, but I hope you have more money to use for building the building, etc. The latter I can't really help with because I'm just not a construction guy. I can recommend some high end domes and associated equipment, but that too can be expensive if you really want it "done right" for full-remote purposes - the guy I helped had to have another contractor completely re-engineer the domes themselves because they were just rubbish to start with, so if you ever decide to go "full remote" DO NOT go cheap on the dome. It's usually much easier and cheaper to build an observatory you can operate at least partially "on-site," whether you build a roll-off shed type:
www.skyshed.com...
or buy a pre-made one of these:
www.skyshedpod.com...
You can still operate the telescope and camera from inside your nice warm house (though you'll have to go outside to rotate the dome if you switch hemispheres of the sky unless you build a roll-off shed), but of course if you live in the middle of a major city you're going to fighting light pollution.

Now for the scope, assuming the entire budget goes to it and not to building the observatory itself, let me see what I can price out here:
First you want the best mount your budget can afford, I would say that would probably get this (about 7000 euros):
www.rothervalleyoptics.co.uk...
The quarter million dollar observatory I helped with uses two of these, they work well as long as you don't load them up with heavy equipment close to their weight limits, leave them out of balance, or let them get hit by lightning. In other words, common sense and careful use. Celestron's been good about under-warranty repairs and replacements too in my experience.
So that leaves us with 3000 euros for the scope, accessories, etc. That's where it starts to come down to personal preference. I would keep the scope under 14" for the above mount though, based on personal experience. That's fine though since that'd be beyond this budget. The question is whether to get a schmidt-cassegrain or similar reflector, or a widefield refractor. I would personally get this (about 1057 euro if I'm right):
www.rothervalleyoptics.co.uk...
It's basically the celestron equivalent of my telescope's optical tube assembly. Nothing too fancy, but effective. Then I would get this for your guidescope, but call and ask if you need another mounting bar to attach it to the C8 main scope listed above, I think you will and I list it down below. This is still pretty affordable though for a whole guidescope package (209 euro):
www.rothervalleyoptics.co.uk...
So now we have 1734 euro left for accessories if my math is right. You'll need a CGE (losmandy type) bar to attach that guidescope to the top of your main 8" scope, call and double check that this is compatible (another 100 euros):
www.rothervalleyoptics.co.uk...
So now 1634, now we have to get cameras. We need an autoguider for the guide scope and a main camera for the main scope. Here's an autoguider for 228 euros that can probably double as a decent planetary imager:
www.rothervalleyoptics.co.uk...
Now comes the tricky bit, finding an excellent deep space camera that will fit the remaining budget of 1406 euros. You could just get a dSLR, but if you want to operate it from the comfort of your living room it's easier to get a dedicated astronomy CCD. Here's probably the best choice, made by a company based there in the UK:
www.green-witch.com...
I have one of their Titan cameras and absolutely love it. I think you'd be well-served by this one, it's got active cooling, high res, and decent pixel size. 1,470 euros, more or less in-budget.
edit on 3-7-2012 by ngchunter because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 3 2012 @ 07:58 AM
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Originally posted by ngchunter
10,000 Euros you say. Not sure if you're trying to include the permanent observatory building costs in that or not.

I'm not. I'll build this by hand and I expect it will take me a few months!


The baseline price was about a quarter million dollars (to be fair, that's including scopes), and I know for a fact he's dumped even more money into it since then. Now, you don't have to go nearly as fancy as he went, but I think 10,000 might be a bit on the tight side of building your own fully remote controllable observatory.

That's fine, I don't have €250k just yet! I'm trying to get an idea of what i should be looking at so that I can estimate cost.


It's usually much easier and cheaper to build an observatory you can operate at least partially "on-site," whether you build a roll-off shed type:
...
but of course if you live in the middle of a major city you're going to fighting light pollution.

My intention is to only build it 500m or so from the property, but to try and avoid as much vibration and environmental light as possible. I'm looking at the middle of normandy at the moment, and the skies should be nice and dark.


First you want the best mount your budget can afford, I would say that would probably get this (about 7000 euros):
www.rothervalleyoptics.co.uk...
The quarter million dollar observatory I helped with uses two of these, they work well as long as you don't load them up with heavy equipment close to their weight limits, leave them out of balance, or let them get hit by lightning. In other words, common sense and careful use. Celestron's been good about under-warranty repairs and replacements too in my experience.

That's much more impressive than I planned! I have some experience with celestron hardware and it seems to be pretty decent quality. Having said that you have also specced up a camera which I intend to be part of a second purchase. I'll be buying some gigantic large format one eventually, but just using a T2i or some IR filter removed SLR until then.

Ideally I'm looking for just the mount and OTA (plus a guide scope etc) and perhaps a secondary refractor or similar. I'm only experienced with small scale astronomy, but I would love to be able to do some nice quality images of planets with a CCD on a refractor, and some DSOs with an SCT. Do you think the guide scope you specified would be 'good enough'? The only guide scope I have has less power than my binoculars


If we were to increase the budget to €14k, leaving €7k for the optical parts, what would you say then? Don't worry about sundries like attachment plates etc, if I can't mill them myself then extra €100 costs are easily absorbed.

Thanks again for the help. If I end up working this out and building it, you're welcome anytime.



posted on Jul, 3 2012 @ 09:16 PM
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Originally posted by exponent

Originally posted by ngchunter
10,000 Euros you say. Not sure if you're trying to include the permanent observatory building costs in that or not.

I'm not. I'll build this by hand and I expect it will take me a few months!

Good to hear!


My intention is to only build it 500m or so from the property, but to try and avoid as much vibration and environmental light as possible. I'm looking at the middle of normandy at the moment, and the skies should be nice and dark.

Awesome, that will make things a lot easier.


That's much more impressive than I planned! I have some experience with celestron hardware and it seems to be pretty decent quality. Having said that you have also specced up a camera which I intend to be part of a second purchase. I'll be buying some gigantic large format one eventually, but just using a T2i or some IR filter removed SLR until then.

Alright, fair enough.


Ideally I'm looking for just the mount and OTA (plus a guide scope etc) and perhaps a secondary refractor or similar. I'm only experienced with small scale astronomy, but I would love to be able to do some nice quality images of planets with a CCD on a refractor, and some DSOs with an SCT. Do you think the guide scope you specified would be 'good enough'? The only guide scope I have has less power than my binoculars


Well I wouldn't recommend less than 80mm of aperture for any guide scope, though I used to get away with just using my 50mm viewfinder as a guidescope. My 80mm refractor works great for it, but it's not at all adequate for planetary imaging (nor do I really need it to be). If you want a secondary refractor just so that it can do high quality planetary imaging on top of guiding you'll really be cutting into your budget on the main scope, which you probably don't want to do. What you probably want is the ability to do high quality widefield imaging with the secondary scope as that would really balance out the strengths of a high end main telescope like the one I'm going to recommend. SCTs and other similar scopes are fantastic at planetary imaging. Some would say the large secondary mirrors degrade the views, but aperture still reigns king in most circumstances and you can get some pretty beefy reflectors. Refractors on most rigs these days are more for widefield images and guiding, though particularly beefy refractors can act as the main scope as well (but then you're really blowing a lot of cash per inch of aperture).


If we were to increase the budget to €14k, leaving €7k for the optical parts, what would you say then? Don't worry about sundries like attachment plates etc, if I can't mill them myself then extra €100 costs are easily absorbed.

Oh I think I can have some fun with a budget like that. I would get one of these:
www.rothervalleyoptics.co.uk...
I wouldn't go up to the next level of a 14" scope on a CGE pro mount, I've seen it done but it's really pushing the envelope of what the mount can really do in terms of weight.
Now as for the other 3000 Euro, if you could expand your budget another 500 euros or so, I would recommend ordering one of these:
www.telescopengineering.com...
from these guys:
www.telescopengineering.com...
That's the best of the best when it comes to refractors. It would make a superb widefield telescope. They're made in batches, so delivery times can be a bit long, but it's worth the wait. Unfortunately there's no UK supplier, so you'll have to contact them directly. Now if that's too steep but you still want a good name brand, I'd recommend an FSQ-85EDX from Takahashi:
www.trutek-uk.com...
If you don't care about name brand at all, you can get a much bigger triplet APO refractor:
www.rothervalleyoptics.co.uk...
The takahashi is a four element lens instead of the above 3 element lens, but either one will do nicely for astrophotography.


Thanks again for the help. If I end up working this out and building it, you're welcome anytime.

No problem! I may hold you to that.



posted on Jul, 7 2012 @ 08:48 PM
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reply to post by ngchunter
 


This is a fantastic series of recommendations and bits of info I didn't have before. However, I fear that having seen this I can't wait to be able to buy something. If I was to irresponsibly order a Takahashi 85EDX, what mount would you recommend? The 450mm focal length isn't really suitable for anything but well stabilised tracking imaging in my eyes, but I am a very basic amateur.

I would rather not spend insane money on something that won't have an eventual use, but that telescope is attractive and available in the UK (although at €4000+ it seems) and so very very tempting.



posted on Jul, 10 2012 @ 12:40 PM
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Originally posted by exponent
reply to post by ngchunter
 


This is a fantastic series of recommendations and bits of info I didn't have before. However, I fear that having seen this I can't wait to be able to buy something. If I was to irresponsibly order a Takahashi 85EDX, what mount would you recommend? The 450mm focal length isn't really suitable for anything but well stabilised tracking imaging in my eyes, but I am a very basic amateur.

I would rather not spend insane money on something that won't have an eventual use, but that telescope is attractive and available in the UK (although at €4000+ it seems) and so very very tempting.

Are you talking about buying the takahashi without the schmidt-cassegrain? If you get the SCT, you can just mount the Tak right on top of it. Otherwise I would recommend getting a bigger tak and mounting it on something like a CGE pro.



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