Sky @ Night

  Dragon_Heart 23:52 23 Mar 2011

I have an old Russian built telescope ( great optics ) that I sometimes use to show our son the moon ( have you notice how large it appears at this time … that's cus it's at it's closest to Earth for some time ).

I thought as he was taking an interest I would get him a 'proper' telescope.

First gripe, went into W H Smith and saw a mag called Sky & Telescope which on the front cover said “Test Report 3 low cost telescopes p52” so put it in my basket with my other mag, FE Annoyers Weekly. Got it home to find it was a US mag with the $ price for the mag covered with a sticker.

The other gripe is the price of the telescopes. The three on test were all about $100 which is about £62. Quick look at the prices for same / similar models from UK outlets they were £105 + !!!!

I knew it was like this with PC's but it appears it's almost everything.

  Forum Editor 23:56 23 Mar 2011

Must be a pretty neat magazine - does it contain hints and tips on how to do it, and where can I get a copy?

  MAJ 13:40 24 Mar 2011

"Sky and Telescope" is one of the best astronomical magazines around, but yes it is American and all prices (from memory) are in dollars. Most of the manufacturers of the telescopes are American, Meade, Celestron, Orion, Obsession, etc. but they do have agents in the UK. As you have discovered, with import duties, taxes, shipping costs, markup, etc., the Pound Sterling price normally is the same as the Dollar price i.e. $100 = £100. It has been so for many years in the telescope industry. There are some good UK manufacturers but their prices are also expensive.

What size is your Russian telescope and what type/size of "proper" telescope do you want to get for your son? Be careful when buying a telescope, some are advertised using their magnification rather than their mirror or lens size and focal length. Stay away from telescopes advertised only by their magnification.

  MAJ 14:05 24 Mar 2011

Just to elaborate a little more, Dragon_Heart, those telescopes advertised by their magnification will generally be small refractors i.e. they use a lens rather than a mirror to collect the light, and the lenses are usually 40mm to 60mm in diameter. Telescopes that use a mirror to collect the light are called Reflectors and the less than useful models use a mirror from 3 inches to 4.5 inches in diameter, although a decent 4.5 inch reflector can give reasonable images of the moon and some star clusters.

The magnification of a telescope is worked out by dividing the focal length of the main mirror or lens by the focal length of the eyepiece used, e.g. a 10mm eyepiece used on a telescope with a focal length of 1000mm will yield a magnification of 100. All good telescopes will be advertised with their focal length shown. As a rule of thumb it is best to stick to 50x magnication per inch of aperature, e.g. a 6-inch reflector is good for a magnification of 300. I have seen 2-inch reflectors advertised with their magnification given as x500 and more, again, stay away from those.

  Dragon_Heart 00:36 28 Mar 2011

I did wonder how you would react to that one :-)

Where can you get a copy ? I will sell you my back copies for £50 each.

Thanks for the info MAJ. I was aware of the pitfalls in buying a 'cheap' scope. My Russian telescope is 'only' like a ships captain would use but it is very good for it's size and the price I paid ( they used to get a big sub of their gov' to build them for export ). I too have seen 2-inch reflectors advertised with their magnification given as x500+ ... waste of money !

  Aitchbee 19:58 28 Mar 2011

I am not very surprised that high quality high magnification astronomical telescopes have not been let loose on the public.I would love to get my hands on one.
We are in a niche market. (astronomy)
Naked eye astronomy I can afford.
Look to the skies.

  Aitchbee 20:35 28 Mar 2011

Creatures of the night (owls, squids, foxes) probably don't have to bother with telescopes.
Insects already have telescopic eyes.
I am with you Dragon_Heart. I need a big eyeglass.

  MAJ 21:25 28 Mar 2011

"Naked eye astronomy I can afford."

A common held misconception is that Astronomy is an expensive hobby, yet it needn't be. A pair of binoculars can show quite a lot of astronomical objects, from the mountains and valleys on the moon's surface, to star clusters, some nebulae like the Orion nebula, even some distant galaxies. The important thing is that they are keep stable. Most decent binoculars are far better than some of the cheapish telescopes on sale today. Binoculars also give a wider field of view and so are better for star clusters and nebulae. Magnification is over-rated in that the higher magnification the narrower field of view, also few astronomical objects can hold a high magnification, except some of the planets. Charles Messier, a comet hunter, in the 18th century compiled a list of over 100 astronomical objects that he kept mistaking for comets, a decent pair of binoculars (held steady) should be able to show most of them. My favourite is M1 (Messier 1) the Crab Nebula in Taurus.

  Armchair 10:28 29 Mar 2011

If the magazine wasn't sealed, I would have just read the test reports while in W H Smith, and made a note of which telescope(s) were worth buying.

  gardener 11:45 29 Mar 2011

You certainly get what you pay for when buying a telescope. I bought a Meade 125mm scope last year and it set me back nearly £600, this scope would be regarded as a reasonable beginners scope.

Dobsonian telescopes are regarded as a good compromise between price and quality, shop around on the net, some of the astronomy shops offer 'bargains'.

As MAJ has said, it's not all about magnification; the aperture is very important, the larger it is, the more light gathering capacity.

I found this book to be a very useful guide in deciding what is suitable for your needs:

click here

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