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Subject: What brand/model of telescope for beginner astronomers? rss

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Marina SC
Canada
Vaughan
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EDIT: after more thinking and advice here, I've decided that they're too young for a telescope right now, so help regarding that is no longer needed. Thanks!


Hello! So I'm trying to start Xmas shopping early this year, and I have a question to those of you who are interested in astronomy (I figure the BGG boards would have plenty! )

My sister and I were thinking about getting my brother and his kids (triplets, will be 6 by Xmas) a telescope, as their house appears to get quite good sky clarity and my brother had expressed interest in getting one before. The kids also seem to be at that age where it could hopefully spark a lifelong love of science! However, my sister and I know nothing about astronomy/telescopes, and we're not sure what kind of model/brand would be appropriate. Your help is requested!


Here's our main criteria (which are rather general):

-a good quality starter telescope that needn't be a high-end one, but not just a toy either

-has some longevity in terms of quality if it turns out they want to explore this field more in depth. Something that can grow with them a bit, if you know what I mean

-while we will definitely be emphasizing with the kids to treat it with care, they WILL only be six and accidents happen, so a somewhat sturdy construction is important

-this has the potential to be a combination Xmas/Birthday/Housewarming present so we're willing to spend some $$$, but of course we'd like the most bang for our buck, and the price range of those available seem to be huge so we have no idea where to start

-I'd also like to get them some kid-friendly (but informative and accurate) books about space, planets, constellations, etc; if you've got any recommendations, that would also be helpful!


Any advice as to what kinds of brands/models would be a good starting point to research are welcome. I'm also happy to answer any questions.
Thanks! meeple
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maf man
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[I have no kids of my own yet, my experiences are from me and my cousens/siblings 's kids as they grew up]

I think this has some useful notes:
http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-equipment/how-to-ch...
here's another:
https://www.geekwrapped.com/posts/telescope-buying-guide

Buying with kids in mind is tough because I personally wouldn't trust a 6 year old to handle a nice telescope. But what I mean by that is to make sure a parent carries it and sets it up and is around. Plus the parent can point it faster than a kid can and wont get frustrated how long its taking.

Some quick broken down tips:
a wider telescope is better
it is not safe to assume it comes with a tripod, double check
a "finder" is a little scope on the main one to help you line up what your looking at
If your going expensive the ones that have a little computer on them are used to auto locate what you want to look at (i think its usually refereed to as "goto" if you google it). I'd recommend this if your budget allows

I don't know brands well enough to help there but I always assumed after a price point around not buying it at a big box store your ok with the quality you get. I think reviews per individual scopes would be more useful.

As far as other toys, I'm a fan of star constellation related ones so they can see the constellations then go outside and find them. Planetariums. Just be sure to get one that has decent reviews, there are plenty of cheap ones that are not worth it. As they start on it hopfuly youll be able to tell what about space they like and by more specific toys then, maybe its the rockets, or the rovers, or the sky mapping?

hope that helps!
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Keith "Boaty McBoatface" C
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Years ago I bought an entry level Meade reflector 4.5" scope. It was good for viewing the moon and planets, enough where I could make out Saturn's rings at least.

The larger the aperture, the more light you'll get in, so if you can get a 6" or 8" you'll get better clarity and better magnification. Make sure that whatever you get, it doesn't have a single fixed eyepiece, that way you can swap out eyepieces, which will give you more flexibility. If I recall Meade and Orion were the standard brands, but I've been out of astronomy for a few years now.
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¡dn ʇǝƃ ʇ,uɐɔ ı puɐ uǝllɐɟ ǝʌ,ı
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Chestermere
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In my opinion you are better off using a good pair of binoculars and a sturdy tripod.

You can get very inexpensive telescopes with huge magnification, but the earth is moving so bigger isn't always better.

Case in point: Mars is as close as it is going to get to Earth (10 years ago now?) and I set up a telescope to view it.
I find the right location, and with a bit of good luck manage to get it on display in the eyepiece-- cool!
The next person says, "I want to see!" so I let them have my spot. "Nothing!" they say.
I tell them that they must have bumped the telescope, but they say not. I check, and they are right. Nothing.
I move the scope a bit and find it again. "There."
By the time they get looking, it is moving out of the field of vision.
I then watched Mars travel across the entire field of my vision in the eyepiece in under 5 seconds.

So unless you pay money for a telescope that "tracks" the earth's movement, prepare to be disappointed with a high priced scope without tracking, or a low priced one that is Hell to keep anything in view with.
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Keith "Boaty McBoatface" C
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If you get an equatorial mount and align it properly, then tracking without a motorized tripod isn't that difficult.
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Josh
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It's going to be about tradeoffs, and it's important to recognize that this is for kids.

In telescopes, the three primary variables are price, quality (optics), and portability (weight/size). If two of the three variables improve, the third will worsen. You can get a portable cheap scope, but the quality will be terrible, and it will be a toy. My refracting telescope was $1600 (given to me), and the optics are great, but it weighs 85 pounds and is such a PITA to get set up.

I'd actually recommend astronomical binoculars. You can get a really good pair for about a hundred bucks. However, kids have trouble holding them, so get them a tripod, and make sure the astro binocs have a tripod mount.

Kids being kids, don't be surprised if they are really excited about the scope or binocs and then rapidly lose interest. Stargazing takes a lot of patience. My kids found astronomy to be frustrating.

There are a number of great astronomy books for kids. I can't think of names offhandedly, but R.A. Rey of Curious George fame has one about constellations.

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Rob
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You might take a look at a Celestrion c90. I might be a good starting place.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/677179-REG/Celestron_...
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Erik D
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I got a telescope for Christmas as a kid one year. I loved astronomy, so I was excited. Turned out not to be a good one though. I could make out the craters of the moon and the phases of Venus, but that was about it. It was also shaky as hell.
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Marina SC
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Vaughan
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Thanks for the replies everyone, the links and general advice have been very helpful Looking a bit more into it, I'm starting to think that this might be too "advanced" a gift for them, and this might be better suited in a couple of years.

The problem with triplets is that because you don't have the older ones helping out the younger, it can be sometimes very difficult in getting them to concentrate all at once, and using a telescope seems like something that requires much patience (and sharing). The suggestion of a planetarium or a cheaper pair of binoculars, both of which are a bit more instant-gratification, is something I'll definitely consider

Thanks all!
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John Breckenridge
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If they've got a good view of the sky, you could get them a star map and they can have fun finding all the constellations and other astronomy stuff that doesn't need a telescope.
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Marina SC
Canada
Vaughan
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jbrecken wrote:
If they've got a good view of the sky, you could get them a star map and they can have fun finding all the constellations and other astronomy stuff that doesn't need a telescope.

Yeah, I think something more on this level is the way to go right now, and if it sparks an interest that is maintained then the telescope could make a good future present for they're a bit older
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Keith "Boaty McBoatface" C
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And honestly, even a cheap pair of binoculars are great for moon viewing, and you can get a book of moon craters and they can look for those.
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Josh
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The more I think about this the more I think the answer is three pairs of (normal) binocs, small for small hands, decent but not fancy, each about 30 bucks a pair. Will have a mulitude of uses.
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