Some questions answered from members of the Society for Popular Astronomy and readers of the Stargazing books.

Please note that I do not keep prices updated.

List of topics:
Starter scopes
Telescope under £300
What can you see with a 110 mm reflector? What about Sun filters?
What eyepiece to use with Tasco 76 mm reflector?
I need a portable telescope for my holidays
ETX telescopes – pros and cons
Sunagor Super Zoom binoculars
TAL refractors
Sky-Watcher and Synta refractors
Should I buy this small Tasco reflector?
Tasco 114 mm reflector from Argos
How easy is it to use an 8-inch Dobsonian?
How do I collimate a reflector?
Choosing a holiday telescope – the Konus Motor 500 Electronic
How easy is it to find objects without a GO TO telescope?
Helios or Skywatcher vs Celestron or Meade telescopes
Seben telescopes
Observing from a wheelchair

Starter telescopes
My name is Andy and I am a 33 year old dad that is completely uneducated when it comes to telescopes and astronomy. Fortunately I have been blessed with a very bright child who is coming up for his 11th birthday and has a fantastic interest in science and wants to become an astronomer when he is older.

I am hoping that you do not mind answering a question for me please; is the following specification any good for 11 year old boy starting out in astronomy. Unfortunately we cannot afford much but the following has been offered to me (new) at £40 - and I am always sceptical about cheap items. Any advice would really be appreciated:

• Aperture: 76mm
• Focal Length: 700mm
[information snipped]
• 1x Seben Big Pack 700mm Reflector-Telescope
Click here for the reply

Telescope under £300
I can't tell what telescope would be best for me.  I want to look at some planets and nebulae etc and would prefer something with a motorised drive unit (but only if it is easy to use and is reliable).  I might also want to take photographs of some images.

So, all that in mind... do you have any particular recommendations to make?  I'm willing to spend maybe £300.00 but that is flexible.  I'd especially like to use the Starguide CD-ROM to find my objects. -- Spencer

Click here for the reply


What can you see with a 110 mm reflector? What about Sun filters?
I have been making some enquiries about the models you recommended and the one that keeps cropping up is a TAL-1M 110mm 4.5".
   Many user reviews says it is a very good entry level telescope but before I
commit to anything, could you tell me exactly what I could expect to see (in
fairly good detail) with this?  I have no idea about what is
realistic...seeing the craters on Pluto?  Seeing the Horsehead Nebula under
Orion’s Belt? (At least I think it’s the Horsehead).
   Oh, and another thing...it's probably a really dumb question but I was always under the impression that you NEVER, with exception, look at the Sun through a telescope...does this "Sun/Solar filter" thing change that?  Or is it only to enhance the image you would project onto a piece of paper? –
Spencer
Click here for the reply


What eyepiece to use with Tasco 76 mm reflector?
I have recently joined the SPA and was hoping you could answer a
query regarding my telescope. It was a Xmas present last year : TASCO, 76MM ALUMINISED MIRROR, 280X REFLECTOR FOCAL LENGTH
700MM, with 5 MM AND 20MM  EYEPIECES

I PLAN TO DO SOME PLANET SPOTTING AND WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHAT EYEPIECE YOU WOULD RECOMMEND AND WHAT YOU THINK OF THIS TELESCOPE IN GENERAL, would appreciate your comments – John H

Click here for the reply


I need a portable telescope for my holidays
Would you please inform me as to where I might purchase a telescope to view the moon and planets. I just need something I can take to Gran Canaria with me on a yearly basis obviously something portable to a max  of  £1000  I don’t mind buying second hand with all the literature around and all  the tech jargon I am afraid I am at a loss as to what to go for      regards  Anthony B
Click here for the reply



Click here for pros and cons of ETX telescopes in response to many questions


Sunagor Super Zoom binoculars
Some time ago I asked you for some advice on buying a Tasco telescope for which I found valuable indeed however it has developed a fault and I am now going to buy a powerful set of binoculars. The spec for these are Sunagor 18-100x30mm super zoom advertised as the world’s most powerful compact zoom binoculars.

I would really appreciate any advice you can offer.

                    regards    John H

Click here for the reply


TAL refractors
I wonder if you could assist me. I have been talking to a chap at Beacon Hill Telescopes (nice man) and he passed on your details.

I would like to purchase a telescope for my wife who has started showing a interest in astronomy. I am not looking at expensive ones but I am at a loss. The one I have in mind is the Tal 100R refractor or would the Helios range be worth a look. Any ideas.
Jonathan H 

Click here for the reply



Sky-Watcher and Synta refractors
I require a telescope that is compact and easy to set up and that will provide me with excellent views of deep-sky objects (nebulae, star clusters and galaxies) as well as reasonable views of the planets. I have been looking through Astronomy Now and have seen two scopes that I think may be suitable: 
(1) Helios Startravel-102 short tube refractor, objective lens 102 mm, focal length f/5;
(2) Synta Skywatcher Maksutov Viewmax D90, focal length 1250 mm. 
Both scopes come mounted on EQ1 mounts. My budget is £300 and I do not wish to purchase a reflector.
Wayne L

Click here for the reply



Should I buy this small Tasco reflector?
I have attached a pic of a telescope I have seen: what is your opinion of it as a starter scope? – Aswad

Updated reply now includes Telstar and Celestron 76 mm reflectors.
Click here for the reply


Tasco 114 mm reflector from Argos
 
I have just read your book 'Stargazing with a Telescope and just want to get a bit of advice.
  The telescope I may go for is based on your info. on page 48 regarding the 115mm reflector as I wish to see planets in some detail, galaxies, nebula and track down comets. I will be going mobile to avoid light pollution, but i'm fairly fit so lugging weight is not a problem. I may be doing an Open Uni. course on the subject.
 The telescope I'm thinking of is a 'Tasco Starguide 114 motorised telescope', Argos catalogue page 571.
 Am I wasting money on the motorised drive or will assist adequately in my work?
 Also £400 in book but internet £350 is this realistic price?
 Thanks very much in anticipation and I thought your book to be most informative. – Rich
Click here for the reply


How easy is it to use an 8-inch Dobsonian?
Further message from Rich:
Based on your information I have closed the Argos catalogue and have further researched Dobsonian telescopes. In fact I phoned Beacon Hill Telescopes and spoke to a Mr Barry Watts, who was very, very helpful.
Anyway, he agrees with you that the Dobsonians are very good and stocks the Skyliner 8 inch for £300.00 and he also has a Beacon Hill-made 8¾ Dob.
  BHT say they do not compete with smaller Dobs these days because imports are that good & cheap.Barry says import mirrors he gives 8 out of 10. But home mirrors he uses, 10 out of 10.
 Would 8¾ inch be too much for a beginner or is bigger the better even
for a novice like myself? – Rich
Click here for the reply


How do I collimate a reflector?
I don’t seem to be getting good images with my reflector. How do I go about collimating it, and it is necessary?  – (several questioners)
First you need to be sure that your telescope needs collimation by testing it. Then you have to adjust the mirrors in the correct order, working from the eyepiece end downwards. Click here for a special page all about collimating a reflector.


Choosing a holiday telescope – the Konus Motor 500 Electronic
I'm about to buy my first telescope,  intended to be used at my holiday house in France, where there is very little light pollution. Portability and weight aren't an issue, as we travel by car. I'm looking to spend up to £300 on a scope, and in this price range, basic reflectors seem to offer the best value. I'd like to be able to do both planetary and deep space observation, and it would be nice although not essential to be able to take some short exposure photos of the planets. I'd be prepared to spend more if I could get reasonable photographic results.
   I have seen the Konus Motor 500 Electronic, a short tube 114mm f4.4 reflector with an EQ1 motorised mount, aluminium tripod, 1.25" eyepieces of 20mm and 6mm, 4 x 24 finderscope, on offer at my local camera / telescope shop for £150. Apparently the blurb says it will track objects once found, but I can't see how it would do this automatically as it isn't a GOTO type system.
  Alternatively would it be worth paying a little more (£350) for a Meade DS2 114ATS, a 114mmf8.8 reflector, with computerised alt-az mount, aluminium tripod, 1.25" eyepieces of 25mm and 9mm, 6 x 30 finderscope. – Chris
How easy is it to find objects without a GO TO telescope?
Just one more question – if, in order to improve the performance/price ratio, I don't get a GOTO telescope, how much practice and search time is it going to take to be able to locate objects? And if I dispensed with a motor altogether,how difficult is it to track objects once found? – Chris
Click here for the reply


Helios or Sky-Watcher vs Celestron or Meade telescopes
As a newcomer to astronomy, I was wondering what your opinion was of the cheaper range of telescopes especially those by Helios and Sky-Watcher? Are they very much inferior to more expensive products by manufacturers such as Celestron and Meade?
Click here for the reply

Seben telescopes
Hoped you might answer some queries I have regarding a company called Seben who advertise their products on Ebay.

This company Seben, apart from also selling various accesories and entry level scopes, have two main products of interest to me.They have a 'Big Boss' catadioptric 1400 mm focal length, 150 mm aperture, EQ3 mount, two "Plossl" eyepieces and tripod for ~£100+ p+p. Or they have a Navigator II catadioptric 1000 mm focal length, 203mm aperture, EQ8V mount, three Plossls and a Barlow, 8x50 finder, pole finder and tripod for ~£200 + p+p.

I wondered if you (or anyone you know) had any experience of this make or if you think that at least on paper they seem reasonable pieces of equipment for the money. There is least one scope a day being sold and not too many "re-auctions".

I have a related query. Should I expect the RA and Dec scales on this kind of instrument to be accurate enough to use them for finding deep sky or other low mag. objects or is this just wishful thinking?

On another subject, you have expressed doubts over the merits of GOTO technology because of difficulties in leveling a scope properly - does this apply to EQ mounts the same way?
– Derek

Click here for the reply

Observing from a wheelchair

I have an arthritic condition affecting my spine and neck. Looking upwards with bins or looking through an eyepiece in the dark gives me real problems. My balance is poor even in daylight so night time things become hazardous!
I wonder if anyone else has a similar problem and, if so, would love to hear from you with your ways of coping with viewing the heavens.

At the moment, I use my birdwatching bins (8 x 40) and sit on my even patio with streetlights all around me. This is hopeless for all except the moon.

I want to get a telescope but have no idea where to start. I have a wheelchair and was wondering if there are any devices that aid my viewing sitting in the chair?

Mike

Click here for the reply

Return to Stargazing With a Telescope home page
 

Page updated 8 May 2009
Please send your comments and questions to me at

Please retype the address shown here. Put ‘Stargazing’ or ‘Telescope’ as part of the subject as I tend to delete unread any mystery mail that I suspect is either spam or a virus.