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Kid's Telescope Advice

Started by eyork, 01/01/2009 08:51AM
Posted 01/01/2009 08:51AM Opening Post
Happy New Years everyone!

I could use a little advice. I have a couple of reflectors that I use for star parties at my kids' elementary school. I have what is fundamentally an Orion 8" SVP setup and a Celestron 114 Nexstar.

The 8" is a fair bit to drag out/setup and can be big for the kids to get to the eye piece. The 114 is on a GT alt/azimuth mount and can be problematic in less then ideal skies. For these nights, I am typically pointed at planets or the moon and I am in bright skies (about 1-1/2 miles from downtown Houston)

I was thinking about something a little more grab/go specifically for the star parties. I prefer an eq mount but not a deal breaker. I was also leaning to a refractor. It seems more compact, more in mind of what a small kid thinks about a telescope and the ep position would be easier for a small kid. I like the idea of something I could put the scope and mount in one divided case and carry with one hand. The scope needs to be small enough to have a lighter mount then my SVP.

This scope will not be the scope I grab for my nights out, just for star parties for kids in bright skies pointed mostly at bright planets and the moon. So what scope would you get for this use?
Posted 01/01/2009 09:35AM #1
Ed, IMHO, neither one of those scopes/mounts are KID oriented...
If you want to have a dedicated KID scope, nothing beats one of the Orion Starblasts (4.5" or 6"), or their 4.5" Skyquest Dobs... and you can carry them in one trip.

Of course, this is just my humble opinion... 8)

Clear skies!

Ivan Gastaldo 8)
Coconut Creek, FL

Ivan's Observatory
Lat 26N 16' 48" Long 80W 10' 48"
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Posted 01/01/2009 09:56AM #2
My experience with star parties for kids--and I have lots, is that a driven mount is good. It means you don't have to keep butting in and adjusting things. And a good quality refractor (not necessarily APO) is quite nice. It is big enough to pick up all the objects you can really see from the city, and relatively easy to carry around. There are a jillion good refractors to choose from about 80-90 mm.

Also important is a short (two step) ladder with a top that rises up to three or four feet. IT can be used by short people to get to height, and by tall people to lean against. (It gives people a place to grab besides the scope.)

Posted 01/01/2009 01:29PM #3
Tracking makes public sharing a whole lot easier. If the SVP is too bulky, try Orion's TeleTrack mount, or, for a little more money, the iOptron Cube, which Orion also sells.

For weight and size considerations, I like the Borg refractors, but a small Mak might be a good choice for the brighter showpieces (Moon and planets) you can see readily from light-polluted locations.

Hugh Bartlett

"Praise the Lord for the expanding grandeur of creation, worlds known and unknown, galaxies beyond galaxies, filling us with awe and challenging our imaginations." 2007 Reform Siddur
Posted 01/03/2009 03:25PM | Edited 01/03/2009 03:27PM #4
Thanks for all of the advice. I chose not to decide and follow eveyone's advice.

First, I made a deal on a Stellarue 809D refractor in the classifieds. This scope on a tracking mount will be ideal for the smaller kids (3-6 year olds) that aren't ready to hand track or find anything. With a smaller mount (suggestions?) the EP can be close to kid height but I do intend to use a small ladder as suggested. I too find that requesting them to hold onto the ladder "for safety reasons" keeps the scope from getting moved off target as frequently.

Second, I really dig the idea of having them find some stuff themselves. By now I know a lot of the older kids and they're repeating on stuff (their parents too). I think the 7 year olds are ready to find some stuff. I'm going to keep by eye out for a used, beat up, or parted out 4.5-6" dob and get them setup. I've already started sketching out ideas for a lit instruction stand complete with a red light, battery pack, sky chart and instructions. The chart/instructions page will have a mounted protector that is lit up by the red light. I can train a teacher in about 3 minutes to manage this station.

Back to the refractor, any suggestions on a diagnol? I have several series 4000 SWA with the 1-1/4" barrel so would I need the 2" diagnol. We'll be looking at bright stuff not widefield or deep sky. I must admit that I like the big honking wide 2" EP's but this scope will rarely be used by me. Everytime I try to slide over to cluster or nebula, I get asked to put it back on the moon or planet. I have 2" filters, but probably won't be using them much on these things. Orion has their diagnols on sale so I was thinking about using the sale to bump up in coatings. Are the quality of these good enough for what I need or am I just making that Stellarvue limp?

Again thanks for the help.