Astronomy / Space Recommend 1st telescope?

Gorgeous :)

It's a big facility, and with a 24", 16", and five 14" scopes we have plenty to work on. I think the only thing that deserves to be percussed is the damnable tube tv that I view the 24" perspective on.

I haven't had much time at her, but there's a pretty 32m dish that the DoD likes to hang out at nearby.

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I recommend taking a look at the length and apparatus width. The more light the telescope lets in the better. After that you can look at eye pieces. these three numbers will equal your magnification.
 
Based in the UK, I am also looking for a telescope, willing to spend up to 350 GBP for one. I'd like:

  • to be able to take pictures of the moon and if possible other solar system objects (Mars, Venus, Saturn, Jupiter etc.);
  • take pictures of notable phenomena, such as the Pleiades and various nebula;
  • store images on an SD card or appropriate storage mechanism;
  • nice to-have: be able to take pictures of the sun to see sun spots;
  • another nice-to-have - take pictures of the ISS!
If you own a telescope, I'd love to see some pictures of the results of your astronomical twitching, if possible! Please post the make and model so I can look online.

However, I'd be willing to spend more if the telescope would be more powerful.

What should I look for when buying a telescope?

Basically looking to get into amateur astronomy, your thoughts please!
 
Honestly? I'd recommend saving up more and buying something more like:


Although expensive, you will rapidly get bored of a smaller scope and always crave a larger aperture. Also a goto makes it very handy for finding stuff and maximising the observing time you may get.
Thanks - that looks like a really nice scope. I checked some of the images it produces on the net and they were really nice.

Sadly I need a new HOTAS (probably going for an X55), and new graphics card (currently on a NVidia 2GB 660), so might need to wait a while for the above scope!
 
@ Comandante: saw your post just now. Looks like you're interested in astrophotography - great! However, I'm afraid that 350 GBP will only cover taking pictures of the Moon and the Sun. (The latter via a filter. Unless you want to go permanently blind, never ever look at the Sun through a telescope!) Not that that's bad, mind you, but don't expect the rest you wrote. Amateur astronomy itself can be costly, and photography, even more so.

Also, I'm not sure I understand this point: "store images on an SD card or appropriate storage mechanism", do you expect your telescope to do that? The way astrophotography works, you'll need to mount a camera on your telescope, and that will handle things. You'll most likely want to use a regular DSLR camera, which you might already have. (There are dedicated astronomy cameras available, but you'd need an expensive setup to actually take advantage of them.)

As for what telescope to recommend for photography... Honestly, since you're starting out in amateur astronomy, I wouldn't recommend trying to shoot anything other than the Moon. (Maybe the Sun, but I've never actually done that.) The problem is two-fold: as you go to planets or deep sky objects, you need far longer exposures, which necessitates precise star tracking, which in turn requires not just expensive equipment, but also experience with setting up and precisely aligning your telescope. Viewing something on the sky with your eye (through the telescope, of course :)) and shooting a good picture of it are two entirely different matters. But you can "get your feet wet" with the Moon, and you'll need to have some experience with the night sky anyway to know what else to shoot, and when.

So, what telescope would I recommend for someone looking to start out, but maybe get some use out of for astrophotography later on? Most likely a Newtonian reflector, or perhaps an achromatic refractor. The latter can be easier to use and set up for photography later on, but the problem is the colour aberration inherent to them. Apochromatic refractors don't have it, but they are far more expensive, so definitely not something I'd recommend to a beginner. Newtonians (especially Dobsons) tend to have great performance for the money, but they are finicky - not only do they need to cool down, but you'll frequently need to collimate them (especially if you drove over a bumpy road!), and for photography, you'll likely need a coma corrector as well. Neither requires large expenses, but they are additional things you'll need to get experience with. (The Maksutov-Cassegrains like the NexStar linked above are great, but even more sensitive to these. Personally, I wouldn't recommend one to a beginner, unless portability were a serious issue.)

If you can give me some sites that you would order from, and a budget limit, I could give you some specific model recommendations. Also, where would you observe, how much would portability be a factor?
 
I was going to write my answer to Comandante, but marx above here pretty much nailed all I was going to add to the thread. Point for point, just clear and sensible informations.👌

350 GBP will put astrophotography out of the equation pretty much but they should allow for a quite decent piece of kit if you only go visual, unless as marx says you don't already own at least a DSLR (not sure how the more recent mirrorless designs fare when attached to a scope, I don't have first hand informations on that). There are also "cheap" dedicated planetary cameras (and for cheap I mean in the 100-200 £/€ range, but they aren't much more than glorified webcams below that price range), but a DSLR would be a good all-around tool and also probably easier to use.

They'll say you that when choosing a scope, aperture is paramount, and it is indeed in some ways, but there are other factors to take into account. So adding on what marx already wrote:

- Newtons are the best bang for buck, but they require some moderate skill to be used and mantained. It's an open reflector design (light enters the tube and gets reflected by the large mirror on the bottom on the small mirror at the front, that will converge it to focus on the eyepiece), meaning that mirrors need to be kept clean and collimated from time to time (not a daunting task, but still something that takes time and knowledge). They also tend to get quite bulky once you get past the 5"-6" of aperture.
Something to take note of, the secondary mirror in front of the light path means that part of the entering light gets obstructed by it, leading to a slight loss in light gathering capability compared to a refractor of the same aperture.

- Refractors are the oldest type of telescope (same as Galileo's one), great all-rounders, virtually zero maintenance aside from keeping the front lens clean. Great for photography but with the caveats cited by marx, achromats will have optic aberrations, apochromats will give exceptional images but you won't see them, 'cause you'll have sold both corneas to afford one probably. :D They are limited in available apertures to 6" (larger than that and they get quite tricky to produce for the mass market), but having no obstructions on the light path they compare very well with Newtons and Catadioptrics (Maksutov/Schmidt-Cassegrain and the likes).
If you go the refractor way you'll have to choose carefully your visual priorities: short tubes are great for wide fields of view and deep sky photography but they'll lack in magnifying power unless going quite heavy on eyepieces/barlow lenses, and they'll add lots of aberrations at high powers. Long tubes on the other hand are great for planetary and high power work (like splitting binary stars), but with a narrower field of view and less suited for deep sky photography.

- Catadioptrics like the Celestron linked above (a Schmidt-Cassegrain) are a bit of both worlds, they are primarily a reflector design as the Newton but they also use a front lens to cancel out chromatic and focus aberrations. Due to the way they fold the light inside the tube they can be made a lot shorter than the focal length would suggest and this makes them just about the best for portability. The view quality is similar to that of apochromatic reflectors at a fraction of the price, the downside being that having a frontal obstruction images will be dimmer, and they also have a very narrow field of view that makes them optimal for planetary viewing, but not the best for low power, wide field views of starfields and large deep sky objects. They usually cost halfway between Newton of similar aperture and high-quality refractors.

And this pretty much covers the main things to know about different designs. But that's just half the instrument! Never underestimate the mount you're going to put that on, any scope is usually just as worth as the mount it gets used on. To put it shortly, Alt-Azimuth mounts are the easier to use (horizontal movement parallel to the horizon) but are not suited for long exposure photography because the object will rotate in the field of view while you track it. Equatorial mounts are more complicated to set up and use (horizontal movement needs to be parallel to the equator, and they need to get perfectly aligned to the North Pole for this to work) but they are the only ones allowing long exposure photograpy. The more sturdy the mount the better of course, some scopes comes with decent mounts out of the box already, some not, it's a thing that need to be checked before buying.
 
It would be a cheaper investment if you were to buy a pair of 10 or 20 by 50 binoculars. They work the same as a 10 or 20 by 50 cheap telescope, but there are two of them thus one can actually see better with both eyes vs squinting one and utilizing the other. In addition they work extremely well at object right here on the planet such as birds, and the lady in the apartment two block away taking a shower.

Should your interest actually get better, than the first one should have an aperture of at least 90, along with a few eye pieces such as a 26 and a 50.
 
@Patrick_68000 These are not some cheap 10x50 binoculars, the lady two blocks away must be worth the additional expense :p

A pair of binoculars is sound advice too, they won't replace a telescope but they are a great complement to it, extremely straightforward to use, you can carry one just about anywhere, and sweeping the night sky with those can be a humbling experience, especially from darker skies. Good for the Moon and the Sun too (if properly filtered, NEVER watch the Sun without proper filtering, NO handmade solutions!) but won't be of much use for planetary viewing, even a 20x50 will barely be enough to spot the Jovian moons and see the gas giant as a small yellow dot, see the phases of Venus or noticing that Saturn has something strange to it and is not really a pinpoint of light.

If you own a telescope, I'd love to see some pictures of the results of your astronomical twitching, if possible! Please post the make and model so I can look online.
I've posted some of these countless times around here during the years (I'm a exhibitionist! 😅), but here you go:


 
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