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Christmas Scopes - It's that Time of Year

Started by jonisaacs, 12/25/2004 09:26AM
Posted 12/25/2004 09:26AM Opening Post
Hello Folks,

Up on the Soapbox.....

Yes it's Christmas and its that time of the Year when we may be getting lots of questions about new scopes that people have received as Christmas presents. Many of these will be from people who have never looked through a scope before. Some will be from people who have gotten a very nice scope, but many will be from folks who have been given a simple inexpensive telescope, something that many of us would be reluctant to recommend.

I hope that when responding to questions about such equipment, we all make a serious effort to be positive and supportive. It is easy to go into the rant mode and discuss the many woes of department store scopes, I hope we can avoid that and instead remember back to the time when we were first starting, the excitement, the joy, the confusion. Many of us started with 60mm department store refractors, I started with one I bought at a garage sale for $5.

There is no doubt that these scopes have many weaknesses and are not something that most of us would recommend, but, still, in the end, that $5 garage sale telescope was sufficient to provide the spark that has grown into a consuming passion.

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Recently, thinking about this paradox and with Christmas coming, I went to Walmart and spent $50 on the Telstar by Meade 60 AZ-A. This scope is 60mm F11.7 refractor with a plastic 1.25 inch focuser, a simple Alt-Az mount, MA25 and MH9 eyepieces, a plastic barlow and a 5x24 finder.

I have spent several nights using this scope and it is actually quite competent. The long focal length means it is quite color free. The eyepieces are adequate and are all essentially Parafocal including the barlow, a big help for beginners. And surprisingly, the finder actually is not stopped down and is quite good. The focuser is smooth and with care, this scope is definitely functional. In short I have been impressed with what Meade has done for $50.

And I can say I enjoy using this scope. It is sufficiently competent to split double stars like Castor (4arc sec), to show the cloud belts on Jupiter, to see the ring structure of Saturn. But what surprised me was how well it actually does with DSOs. From my light polluted backyard, the Ring and the Dumbbell are reasonable targets. One morning I saw the Crab Nebula. I was amazed at how it showed M93 and I was even able to pick out the Mexican Jumping Bean Cluster from the light pollution. From a dark site, targets like M56 and M71 are quite bright, M76 is on the edge of detection. Many nights after I have put away a larger scope I will bring out this little friend and spend an hour enjoying the color free views of brighter objects...

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This scope and others like it, are capable of providing excitement and joy and while they certainly have their flaws, (a shaky-flaky mount) they can do some surprising things.

So, I hope, that as a group we are make the effort to share our knowledge and skill as observers and keep our comments constructive, helpful and nurturing. What makes an Amateur Astronomer is not the equipment that one has, rather the attitude and appreciation of the night sky. For me, if I had nothing else, the Meade 60AZ-A would be enough. I will remember that when answering questions....

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Best wishes for a happy time as the year ends...

Jon Isaacs