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Novice reseaching for first scope

Started by Julian, 01/12/2005 04:49PM
Posted 01/12/2005 04:49PM | Edited 01/12/2005 04:52PM Opening Post
I am a novice and want to purchase my first telescope, but like many first timers, I have reached the "analysis paralysis" stage. However, based on the numerous postings I have read, it seems that most suggest getting the largest aperture possible. I have a budget of about $1500.00 and am leaning toward the Orion XT12 Intelliscope with "push-to" controller. The weight, transport, and home storage is no problem. The cost of the scope with shipping is about $1200.00. This would leave me with some extra for accessories. What accessories would you recommend for this scope? Has anyone heard anything about the performance of this 12 inch scope? Would really appreciate input! Thanks, Julian.
Posted 01/12/2005 05:32PM #1
I am fairly new to this as well, but here is my 2 cents.

I started out with a junk 60mm refractor, so you are at least skipping that step. I now have an Orion 10" Dob, without the "intelliscope" part. I really love this scope, I just wish I had all the money to buy all the accesories I would like to have.

With that in mind I might start with the 10", which gives you plenty of aperture to see a lot of stuff. You will then have spare money to buy the intelliscope controller ($75), a good set of eyepieces ($250 and up), a good filter set ($100 and up), a good set of binoculars ($100 and up) etc., etc.

The accesories you will need may very well cost as much as the telescope you buy.

I am sure others will have better advice than I do......
Posted 01/12/2005 06:42PM #2
I would second what some others have said, 12" will blow your socks off but it's an awful big size and labor commitment for a novice starting out.

For a first scope, it's not a good idea to get something that's going to be a major production to set up, because it will often end up collecting dust. To start out an 8" f/6 is would be a much more convenient size, and you will be much less hesitant to just dash out the back door to set it up on a whim. That sort of 'instant gratification' is useful in keeping a beginner motivated.

I think you are on the right track to be focusing on the dobs, their sheer ease of use makes them instantly accessible to the novice. But 12" is a bit overkill to start with, unless you couple the purchase with a smaller companion, say a 4-6" 'quick look' scope.
Posted 01/12/2005 08:27PM #3

Well, while aperture is the single biggest factor in a scope's performance, I don't recommend getting the largest aperture possible. The cliche' is "the best scope is the scope that gets used the most", and convenience is a factor. big scope aren't just heavy and big, they also require substantial cool-down time to perform optimally, especially at high power. On the other hand, if you're confident when you say:

"The weight, transport, and home storage is no problem. "

Then I wouldn't rule out the 12inch. On the other hand, the 10 inch is still a bigger scope than many folks ever have, is substantially lighter, and leaves that much more room for some quality eyepieces, atlases, books, filters, etc. Trust me, if you stick with this at all, you'll spend more on accessories than you now realize!

Me, I think an 8 inch dob is the perfect all-purpose scope, but I don't have a high tolerance for big heavy clunky things.
Posted 01/12/2005 10:35PM #4
Wow! The 12" Orion intelescope is quite a large beasty to start out with shocked . 6 to 10" in my opinion are good to start with. As you pointed out " that most suggest we get the largest aperture possible" but one has also have to remember the best scope is the one that gets used. As was suggested in another post you might consider a slightly smaller scope 8-10" and with the money saved get a 3-4" quick look scope, that way you can bring out the big scope on nights when you have time to setup and let the scope cool down, especially at a dark sky location. Then use the quick looker for the times when you just don't have time for all that a larger scope needs, i/e cool down and collimation. My big scope is a 10" but I use my 4" Mak or 80mm Stellarvue more as I do most of my observing in my backyard after work and usually I'm to tired to setup the bigun after work. But I LOVE the views in the 10" and I can see soooo much more in it when I have time to set it up correctly. Anyway whichever you choose, enjoy it and USE it.
Posted 01/13/2005 01:24PM #5
Since you've already stated weight, transport and storage is no problem I see no reason not to have a 12" scope.. ( unless you have kids.. it makes it harder for them to get to the eyepiece)I specifically went down in size from a 12" to a 10" because of my children's height.

The one advantage is you can use it as a normal dob or you may be good the the inteliscope part of it right away... only you will know.

I would seriously consider getting a good set of collimating tools.. unless it's collimated properly no eyepiece is going to perform well..

Just my .02

Mark Visser
Posted 01/14/2005 06:33PM #6

I just finished building a 12.5" scope and I love it! I would shop around though and maybe buy a used one. A few notes:

- Cool down is not as bad as it sounds. You just plan for it. Worst case, add the fan (if it doesn't already have it) to cool down with convection rather then conduction.

- High power is much better with a GEM. If your primary targets are planets and will remain that way, get an 8" reflector or 6-7" Mak on an equatorial mount with tracking. If you want some planets with a bunch of DSO's, get the big dob.

- Setup on a dob is simple and quick, IF you can handle the weight length of the 12"

- Recheck your transportation and storage. An occassional trip to dark skies with a big scope is a wonderful thing. If you can store and drive it out to dark skies with everything else you will put in your vehicle, then do it. If not, figure out the biggest scope you can do for the space.

- On the computer - nice but not a must. A few good charts will start you on your way. Once you find a few good markers, if you can read a map, you can find almost anything. The computer will help you find it faster and help you find it in light pollution (fewer markers, harder to find things).

- Save some money for EP's. Space them out (1.5x to 1.8x jumps) and get something wide. Wide EP's will likely be 2", so check the focuser.

- Get a Crayford focuser. Smooth easy motion helps find the sweet spot in the focus. If you can't quite get the exact focus, the scope underperforms.

- ENJOY ENJOY ENJOY - It's a hobby. You spend time and money to enjoy it!

Posted 01/15/2005 09:09AM | Edited 01/15/2005 01:14PM #7
I have an older SkyQuest XT8 dob and it is my most used telescope of the four that I own. I keep it in my garage and have it sitting on a 28" x 28" sheet of 3/4" birch plywood with heavy-duty castors attached to the bottom so I can roll my scope out onto the driveway for those impromptu viewing sessions. It's a nice setup, because I just roll my scope around the driveway or sidewalk to re-position it if the house is in the way of my intended target, instead of having to pick it up and carry it.

Here's something to consider; a telescope may have the best optics in the world, but if you have crappy eyepieces, then the views through the EP are going to be crappy. On the other hand, a really nice set of EPs can make the views in a decent telescope look really good. As a rule of thumb, you should spend at least 1/3 of the cost of your telescope on a set of EPs. So, for a $1000 telescope, the minimum spent on your EPs should be about $334.

Obviously, with a budget of $1500, if you bought either an XT8 or XT10 IntelliScope w/Object Locator for $689.40(shipped) and $872.90(shipped)repsectively, that would leave you $810.60 and $627.10 for EPs, a padded telescope carrying case, and other accessories like Telrad or Rigel zero-magnifaction, reflection viewfinders.

IMHO, a 10-inch dob is the largest telescope that a novice should start with. The best telescope is the one that gets used the most and sets up with the least amount of time and hastle. Starting with a telescope of modest aperature will allow you to properly accessorize now and provide you with the opportunity to enjoy the hobby from the very beginning, then, if you come down with a severe case of "Aperature Fever", you can look at upgrading in the future.

I hope I've been able to help and look forward to finding out what you finally decide to do. Clear skies.
Posted 01/16/2005 06:26PM #8
A good sized dob is a great first scope, but a 12" one is larger than I would recommend. I'm a pretty avid amateur with 2 12.5" scopes. I only use them once a month, and I'm thinking about getting a smaller "grab n' go" scope. Toting around a 12" isn't easy, especially if stairs are involved. My scopes are 60lbs each and that's the limit of how much I can lift, carry, and put down (probably the hardest part on the back, since careful aim is necessary to get the tube on the dob rocker). My first scope was an 8" dob, and I wish I still used it more. It was light, easy to carry, and indestructible, and I used it all the time, and I would recommend something like this for a first scope. It's big enough to show you tons of deep sky stuff (and they're no slouches on the planets either), without getting into the back-ache territory of 12" scopes.
If it is at all possible, go to a few star parties, look through as many scopes as possible, and ask lots of questions. If you're there when folks are setting up or breaking down, and you see a scope you like, watch how it goes together, and ask if you can lift the heavier parts. Remember, the best scope is the one that gets used the most often.

Mike Connelley