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Wood&StuffLtd

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Hi,
I'm looking to get a telescope. In the past I have had the £150 ones which did a job but not great. I now have a great building to do some sky gazing. I have a budget up to about £400 for telescope and tripod. Anyone able to point me in the right direction. I will use it randomly to look at the night sky, can't see me wanting to track stuff, take pictures etc.
Put £400 telescope into Google. Celeston and Meade are US good makes. Dobsonians are large aperture models but not very portable. Reflector or refractor is the question and simple books on astronomy may assist your decision. If you want to use the scope for other uses, ie: birdwatching then a spotting scope may be of use. Hope this helps.
 

rwillett

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Would be interested in your opinion on this, very tempted by the 61and the 73. Not on my list yet but definitely a contender.


Would also like to see that if possible, I started a DIY truss unit with a 6" but it's yet to be finished. Have you seen the videos of John Dobson making the mirrors with small groups of students, in particular where they move around the garden as they move up the grits?
The ZS61 is a little jewel. I've got it and the field flattener for it, the field flattener is not a reducer so it stays at f5.9 which is OK, though I'd like a little faster, but it is what it is. I got it all for £280 off eBay a few weeks ago and took a punt. It turned out that the previous owner had stripped a thread in the tube rings so the handle doesn't screw on. I did a litte repair with a 3d printed riser block and two threaded heated M4 inserts and repaired it. There are a lot of 60 and 70mm scopes around at the moment. The WO 61mm is really one of them, with some nice finishing by WO. You can get very similar scopes under lots of diifferent names, look around, but they all seem to be around £400 for the tubes alone.

Quality wise, I like it, however I have not had a clear day to try it out for photography at all. In fact it's been somelthing like 3-4 months of pretty much constant cloud cover in North Yorkshire at night. All of the WO kit is very nice and you are unlikely to go wrong with it. I looked at the 73mm and thought it a little too big for what I wanted, I have a Borg 76mm, a Brandon 92mm triplet and the TMB 100mm so for me it made no sense. YMMV. If I didn;t have the Borg I probably would have one.

My current project is finishing my auto focusor for my Borg. It has a helical focuser so it needs to be custom designed. Once that it finished (next week ish), I'll start designing an auto focuser for the 61mm. I know what to do, just need time to do it from work and home. Then I start work on converting a manual filter wheel to a USB automatic filter wheel. The software is the easy bit, the rest I use Fusion 360 and a Prusa printer.

I made a small 110mm truss scope using an old Tal mirror and a single carbon fibre pole. It was ultra minimalist and managed to get some nice views of Jupiter and Venus. I dropped it and broke the mirror which was annoying. The carbon fibre pole is now the garage brush :)

I haven't seen the video with John Dobson but I can imagine. I've never seen the appeal of making my own mirror but recognise other people like to. I think the last grit they use is something like tissue paper and distilled water :)

Rob
 

shed9

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The ZS61 is a little jewel. I've got it and the field flattener for it, the field flattener is not a reducer so it stays at f5.9 which is OK, though I'd like a little faster, but it is what it is. I got it all for £280 off eBay a few weeks ago and took a punt. It turned out that the previous owner had stripped a thread in the tube rings so the handle doesn't screw on. I did a litte repair with a 3d printed riser block and two threaded heated M4 inserts and repaired it. There are a lot of 60 and 70mm scopes around at the moment. The WO 61mm is really one of them, with some nice finishing by WO. You can get very similar scopes under lots of diifferent names, look around, but they all seem to be around £400 for the tubes alone.

Quality wise, I like it, however I have not had a clear day to try it out for photography at all. In fact it's been somelthing like 3-4 months of pretty much constant cloud cover in North Yorkshire at night. All of the WO kit is very nice and you are unlikely to go wrong with it. I looked at the 73mm and thought it a little too big for what I wanted, I have a Borg 76mm, a Brandon 92mm triplet and the TMB 100mm so for me it made no sense. YMMV. If I didn;t have the Borg I probably would have one.
Thanks for that, the feedback is appreciated. I do try to remember to curtail the aperture appeal as it's all to easy to convince myself to go up one size, it's only a little more which then repeats itself to the next size again. I do like the finish WO puts to the end product. You have a nice collection there. I'm early in with a few on order (due next year hopefully). Spending most of the time making the spaces to place the scopes permanently. I'm incredibly fortunate as I live in a Dark Skies area and own a bit of land that is fairly elevated. That was what put me on the astronomy path - seemed rude not to use that opportunity.

My current project is finishing my auto focusor for my Borg. It has a helical focuser so it needs to be custom designed. Once that it finished (next week ish), I'll start designing an auto focuser for the 61mm. I know what to do, just need time to do it from work and home. Then I start work on converting a manual filter wheel to a USB automatic filter wheel. The software is the easy bit, the rest I use Fusion 360 and a Prusa printer.

I made a small 110mm truss scope using an old Tal mirror and a single carbon fibre pole. It was ultra minimalist and managed to get some nice views of Jupiter and Venus. I dropped it and broke the mirror which was annoying. The carbon fibre pole is now the garage brush :)
I keep reading up on the various Raspberry Pi / Arduino projects and get tempted but then remember I don't have enough time as it is. Would really like to see some images of your projects (as I suspect others will). I have a small hobby machine shop (CNC, Lathes, etc) so tempting to machine up a robust slab alloy mount and power it with nema motors, but again - time.

I haven't seen the video with John Dobson but I can imagine. I've never seen the appeal of making my own mirror but recognise other people like to. I think the last grit they use is something like tissue paper and distilled water :)
I see the appeal but I know I don't have the headspace to do it. I just found the process and the approach of John Dobson entertaining to watch. I find it fascinating that a lot of process is without any instruments.
 

Inspector

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Spot on advice.

1. Most decent binoculars have a 1/4"-20 thread in the joint in the middle. It's normally covered by a cap and most people never know its there. You can build a decent parallelogram in a few hours with 10mm aluminium box section and some nuts. I did and I have ten thumbs.
.......
rob
Well wadiya know. I had decent binoculars all this time and didn't even know it. Appreciated.

Pete
 

Craywater

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@doctor Bob

I have a few telescopes and a few mounts to go with them. I also used to teach and do viewings at the Greenwich Observatory so have some idea of what is out there.

1. Astronomy is fun and you can do it cheaply.

2. Once you really enjoy it, you can also spend a lot of money :) You think buying tools is expensive, wait until you see the price of astronomical glass :)

3. Start small. You can do an awful lot with a pair of ordinary (and decent) binoculars costing £50 new. Lower magnification is probably better than a pair of 20x80 binos that you can hardly hold. Since you are on this board, build a parallelogram to hold the binos up. (parallelogram binocular mount plans - Google Search)

4. The mount you use is just as important as the telescope. Do not put a larger telescope on a small and unstable mount. All you will see is wobbly stars and planets. If tou can build a simple wooden tripod to help, thats great. This is one of the two main problems buying a scope.

5. The first main problem buying a scope is there is so much garbage out there. Look on eBay and you will see hundreds of ads for 'professional' telescopes, with oustanding magnifications. That's complete b0ll0cks. The mounts are junk, the lenses are plastic or cheap glass, they have very long tubes (focal length) to get rid of chromatic aberation (distortion and false colour around objects). Theoretically you can get 800x magnification but the result is so dim and out of focus that it's pointless.

6. Avoid anything with the name Tasco, just about anything with the word professional in. The best telescopes do not advertise themselves like that. Anything with a kid pointing at the stars or moon. Anything with a mount that has a half circle mounting ring under the telescope. Anything that advertises something like 675x magnifcation. Anything with the word Kid in the title, In fact ignore just about all of the eBay stuff unless they have the following names, Celestron, Meade, Televue, Takahashi (look at their prices and wince), Skywatcher, Altair, Williams Optics, TAL (Russian telescopes, built like a T34 tank and remarkably good value, though a little dated). Also the cheap Celestron and Meade stuff is pretty rubbish. made down to a price.

7. Avoid astrophotography unless you have deep wallets and love suffering, frustration and downright pain. Ask me how I know!

8. The Dobsonian telescopes are probably the best entry level scopes. These are reflectors rather than a refractor, so they have a mirror at the bottom of the tube and a small mirror at the top. They use a very simple gun turret type base which is great for quick viewing and setup. The alternative to the gun turret or alt-az mounts are called equatorial mounts. These need to be setup very carefully, point a fraction off Polaris, be perfectly level and then you can track the stars with a simple motor. However they are very, very tricky to get setup right, we're talking about perhaps one - two degrees of turning of a screw in two dimensions and perhaps less. I wouldn't advise an equatorial mount as your first mount.

9. Aperture costs money, aperture on a refractor costs a lot of money, the cost goes up as the square of the radius of the aperture and then sometimes by the cube for the big telescopes. Costs for a reflector are fairly linear as making a mirror is a lot easier than configuring 2-3 bits of glass.

Something like this


is way under your budget and this allows you to buy eye pieces. Reputable brand, decent aperture at 200mm, simple to use as you point and look, then nudge, look, nudge and look. You will get very good views of Saturn, Jupiter and their moons. You'll see Messier objects (these are clusters of light).

One of these though


will probably drive you up the wall. Good telescope tube as all it is a tube, two mirrors, two bits of plastic to hold the mirrors and a focuser, However the mount is junk, the motor is rubbish and it'll just wobble. The Dobsonian would be a far better buy.

You can of course buy a refractor telescope, these would be the ones most people think of. The cheap ones are rubbish e.g.


The decent brands are excellent but you get a lot less aperture (light gathering) for the money. This one is an exellent bundle but it's 'only' 73mm of aperture vs 200mm for the reflector.


I have the smaller brother of the above, a Williams Optic ZS61mm for Astrophography and it's superb but that;s all I use it for. You have to add in a mount for most of them, a decent Alt-Az mount is £150+. Something like this


So if I had £400, what would I get? Check out this page


I'd probably look for a new (Dobsonians | First Light Optics) or just second hand Dobsonian telescope. You will probably need a laser collimator to check the alignment of the mirror if it's second hand, but thats a nother subject altogether.

If you fancied a refractor, then open your wallet and just don't look at the prices :)

e.g.

and see if you can get a decent alt-az mount for circa £200 which shouldn't be a problem.

If you have any questions, just ask :)

Rob

My scopes
TMB 100mm F8 Refractor - Visual use mainly. Superb scope for planets. This will be buried with me when I go.
Borg 76mm refractor, travel scope. Fantastic modular scope.
William Optics 61mm refractor - Dedicated for astrophotography
Lunt Solar Scope 60mm
Home made 9" Dobsonian reflector - Brilliant for demos and Saturn, the moon and planets
EQ6-Pro mount - Far too big and heavy
Giro II Alt-Az - Grab and go mount
EQ1 mount - Brought to find out how rubbish it is and it is.
Too many eye pieces to count.
Thanks for the information. Starting to take an interest as I live in the Beacons and only recently appreciated the clear polluted free sky.
 

paulrbarnard

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Alternatively if you already blew all your money on your photography hobby you can just use that. This is a home made type 4 barn door tracker. The polar scope is the only astronomy specific kit and helps with the polar alignment and then as a lower powered finder to align the camera which carries a 600mm lens.
E5C04532-1015-493E-9824-6FE532501921.jpeg


I’m fortunate enough to live on the top of the mendips with very little light pollution to the south.
 

rwillett

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Thanks for that, the feedback is appreciated. I do try to remember to curtail the aperture appeal as it's all to easy to convince myself to go up one size, it's only a little more which then repeats itself to the next size again. I do like the finish WO puts to the end product. You have a nice collection there. I'm early in with a few on order (due next year hopefully). Spending most of the time making the spaces to place the scopes permanently. I'm incredibly fortunate as I live in a Dark Skies area and own a bit of land that is fairly elevated. That was what put me on the astronomy path - seemed rude not to use that opportunity.

I keep reading up on the various Raspberry Pi / Arduino projects and get tempted but then remember I don't have enough time as it is. Would really like to see some images of your projects (as I suspect others will). I have a small hobby machine shop (CNC, Lathes, etc) so tempting to machine up a robust slab alloy mount and power it with nema motors, but again - time.

I see the appeal but I know I don't have the headspace to do it. I just found the process and the approach of John Dobson entertaining to watch. I find it fascinating that a lot of process is without any instruments.
Aperture fever should be a recognisable mental condition as it affects so many people. You start at 60mm and then think well, a 72mm is only a little more, and then 80mm is just a bit more and I get so much more light gathering, and perhaps a 90 mm might make all the difference to split that double, and there's such a good deal on a 100mm, and that's seriously wide, but Tak are now doing their 120mm on offer and oh, Astro Physics have a new 140mm and TEC are doing 180mm refractor. Anything beyond 100mm gets into serious money as you also need a decent and humungous mount to carry it, no point spending £8,000 on a refractor without a new mount capable of doing it justice. I have seen pictures of peoples personel astronomy kit that comes to circa $200K. in the US. Thats university research level. My next scope (when I win the lottery) is a Takahashi FSQ-85 and a high quality lightweight mount to go with it. I do have a bit of a refractor habit.

I did build a CNC machine last year as a lock down project.

1634626717715.png


1634626790194.png
 

rwillett

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Alternatively if you already blew all your money on your photography hobby you can just use that. This is a home made type 4 barn door tracker. The polar scope is the only astronomy specific kit and helps with the polar alignment and then as a lower powered finder to align the camera which carries a 600mm lens.
View attachment 119958

I’m fortunate enough to live on the top of the mendips with very little light pollution to the south.
Very nice. Barn door trackers are quick and easy to build. If you get the polar alignment right, and you've got a nice guide scope to do it, you can get great results.

Also very portable. I don't have a decent 35mm camera but I sometimes think this approach is easier and far cheaper.

Thanks

Rob
 

rwillett

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Thanks for the information. Starting to take an interest as I live in the Beacons and only recently appreciated the clear polluted free sky.
Get a pair of binoculars, a deck chair, a flask of something warm and a sleeping bag. Lie back and enjoy the night sky, even a £20 pair of binos wll be enough to pick out a few of the moons of Saturn and will get a hint of the rings (depending on the dark sky). However there is nothing like a f^%*^&*^&*^&*^ big reflector to get the oohs and aaahhs for the rings of Saturn. The sole reason I keep the big Dob is for star parties and showing people Saturn. If you have never seen the rings of Saturn through a big scope, find a club with one and book yourself in. Fight off the kids and keep looking.

Rob
 

doctor Bob

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I hope this thread proves useful to others as well. I'm a little out of my depth. I think I was really looking for something where once every few weeks I decide to have a peak at whatever, or if we have guests around offer them a view of the night sky.
I shall contemplate my next purchase very carefully but thinking of combining terrestrial observation with limited sky viewing, so maybe a good spotting scope is the answer.
 

hairy

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I looked into buying a small bright of binos last year and learnt then about my shrinking pupil diameter as I got older.

Why are there star gazing binos? Is there an advantage?

Thank you to rwillett for the offer of a sun viewing telescope but I never went down that route because I don't think I would maintain enough interest for the money. Maybe you could rent it out, timeshare telescopes? :)

I do have an ex German army Optolyth 30x80 telescope that a few years ago were about £90 (on a camera tripod) which is just used from the house for birds, so I need to point that up a wee bit more! I also have a heavy surveying tripod I could maybe use if i got a "proper" telescope. And a refurbished WW2 aircraft sextant so I can work out where I am, yet to be tried out though.
 

shed9

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I hope this thread proves useful to others as well. I'm a little out of my depth. I think I was really looking for something where once every few weeks I decide to have a peak at whatever, or if we have guests around offer them a view of the night sky.
I shall contemplate my next purchase very carefully but thinking of combining terrestrial observation with limited sky viewing, so maybe a good spotting scope is the answer.
On that basis, a Dobsonian is just perfect as it's within budget, has a simple design and will be great for viewing the sky with friends:


Maybe one of these:
Drops to 6 inches but more likely to engage more with some people more than a manual hunt scope. It actually has encoders which means you can use it manually and switch back to GOTO mode. Not sure I've seen encoder based GOTO mounts at this price point before (and no I have affiliation with RV optics).
 
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Sachakins

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Astro photography can be a deep money pit, but just my phone and a £4.99 plastic mount got me these basic shots.
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rwillett

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I looked into buying a small bright of binos last year and learnt then about my shrinking pupil diameter as I got older.

Why are there star gazing binos? Is there an advantage?

Thank you to rwillett for the offer of a sun viewing telescope but I never went down that route because I don't think I would maintain enough interest for the money. Maybe you could rent it out, timeshare telescopes? :)

I do have an ex German army Optolyth 30x80 telescope that a few years ago were about £90 (on a camera tripod) which is just used from the house for birds, so I need to point that up a wee bit more! I also have a heavy surveying tripod I could maybe use if i got a "proper" telescope. And a refurbished WW2 aircraft sextant so I can work out where I am, yet to be tried out though.
Star gazing binos theoretically have a different set of coatings on the lenses. I'm exceptionally sceptical to the value of these coatings. I got a decent pair of normal binos (10x50's around £50) and they've been perfectly good.

Your 30x80 telescope should be fine. Not sure how the eye pieces work, can you move them or adjust them upwards. The Japanese eschew using diagonals as they feel it interferes with the optics and they lay on the floor and look through the scope that way. If I did that here, I'd have a very wet back very quickly and the farmers would laugh at me.

No issues with using your own tripod. My best tripod is a Hercules Quickset which was designed for film use in the 60's. It was given to me by a recycling person and cost me nothing. It's light and rock solid with no vibrations. If your surveying tripod works, then use it. It might be worth putting a simple wooden spreading plate to tie the legs together but go for it.

Rob
 

Sachakins

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I can't see SWMBO, let me go down the astrophotography route, I've maxed out on coronet herald lathe and all that you need for wood turning game.
I had to resort to buying a mini lathe for her own use, but it did allow me to get more bits, ostensibly for the mini lathe honest, but with all the necessary adaptors so they fit herald too.

Saying that, I did manage to sneak in an Antares V60 spotting scope, to mount on the LX90, an extra fine focus mount,
Oh and a colour version of this,

1634668550078.png


but not had chance to use it yet, plus SWMBO doesn't know fully what it is, I think I said is was mobile phone scope, which are about a tenner, if she ever finds out it's a usb cmos colour camera for the telescope, then you are likely to suddenly see all my turning kit, my telescope kit, crafting press and die cutters up for sale on here, along with a free pair of freshly cut gonads........
 

ColinH2O

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In the early 80' I built an 8" f5.6 reflector telescope, including grinding and polishing the mirror. This scope gave excellent views of the night sky and had a reasonable magnification of about X350), sufficient to see the rings of Saturn, Jupiter's red spot and the "canals" on Mars. Regrettably it was badly damaged during removal so I purchased a Seben 6.25" short tube which performs reasonably well. If I had the money I would opt for a 14" Mead cassagrain with all the toys! I am waiting to win the lottery!
 

Illy

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Well wadiya know. I had decent binoculars all this time and didn't even know it. Appreciated.

Pete
Putting your binoculars on a tripod for everyday use (wildlife watching for example) makes an enormous difference - it feels like you have upgraded to a whole new pair.
 
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