Old 04-11-2023, 01:31 PM
StargazerMan (Frank)
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Gift of a hobby killer

Starting around this time, I've been asked every year for the last 30+ years from at least one person what is the best scope to buy someone for Christmas/Holidays. Usually the budget is around $250 so I have a stock answer! 🙂
No.1 rule: Do not buy them a hobby killer!

I'm interested in hearing what others think of my take on it.
In short (the long is below) if they are new to astronomy I simply recommend binos and a book. I know, it sounds hella boring but I've seen so many times kids and adults getting gifted scopes that literally destroy any interest they had.

Selecting the best astronomy gear for a novice under a budget of 200-ish can be a rewarding and thoughtful Christmas gift. However, making the right choice is crucial to ensure the recipient's budding interest in stargazing doesn't fizzle out.
Here's a guide to the what I think is the ideal piece of equipment for various age groups and interests:

Under 14 Years Old: - For young stargazers, it's important to keep it simple and user-friendly. - Avoid German Equatorial Mounts and traditional long-tube telescopes as they can be cumbersome and challenging for kids. - A better option is actually a compact and robust 'Spotting Scope' with a handle for easy pointing. - Top of the list must be a good pair of 10x50 binoculars with a tripod is an excellent choice. Pair these with a good beginner's guide to observing the night sky with binoculars and this is what I highly recommend.

Above 14 Years Old: - As the novice astronomer gets older and more serious about the hobby, consider an 8-inch Dobsonian telescope. - Dobsonian telescopes offer the best value for money in terms of light-gathering power. - Remember, in astronomy, it's not all about magnification; the size of the mirror matters for detailed observations. - Anything smaller than 8 inches may limit the ability to see faint celestial objects, especially in areas with significant light pollution.

Limitations of the 200-ish Budget: It's essential to manage expectations when working with a tight budget. A quality 'go-to' or motorized telescope is out of reach in this price range. Telescopes in this category with motorized features typically compromise on optics or mount stability. Instead, prioritize the quality of the optics and the overall build of the telescope, even if it means forgoing automated tracking.

Additional Considerations: Contact you're local astronomy club for recommendations on gear / shops. Stress the importance of patience and practice, as astronomy can be a challenging but incredibly rewarding hobby. Consider gift options like astronomy-related books, stargazing apps, or a red flashlight for preserving night vision during observations. Keeping warm while outside is also super important so consider, a hat, gloves, scarf as the other 'observing accessories' as I can tell you from experience, these are needed!

In conclusion, the best astronomy gear for a novice under $200 ish depends on their age and level of interest. For young beginners, a pair of binoculars will spark their curiosity, while an 8-inch Dobsonian telescope provides excellent light-gathering power for older enthusiasts. By keeping the equipment simple to use and basic, the right balance can be struck between gear and learning. The key is to foster a love for the cosmos and encourage learning and exploration in the night sky rather than battling with gear and giving up.

Have extra cash to splash? I think the perfect scope for the ‘serious about visual astronomy’ young adult/adult is a 10’’ Dobsonian. It will still be in the realm of ‘easy to use’ / ‘move around’, have a very respectable light gathering ability and deep sky objects really begin to get exciting at 10’’ with the right combination of eyepieces. Starting off I’d recommend just getting a decent set of branded ‘Plossel’ eyepieces. As you gain more experience and want to get the best from your gear, your next big purchase will be one or two good EP’s (that may well cost the same as the scope!) but you will understand why when you use them. Before you spend any money, again I strongly recommend that you join a local astronomy club as you will get the best advice from them.
Clear skies!
(YT vid)
Don't gift 'Hobby Killer' telescopes for Christmas! Do this instead...
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Old 05-11-2023, 01:22 PM
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Many years ago I worked in one of the leading optical stores in Australian for 10 years. Every Christmas, stock would arrive with the obligatory cheap 70mm refactor on an equal cheap AZ2 mount, IMO a hobby killer.

I would refuse to sell these and would make a point to custom how useless these telescope are and the customer would be better leaving their money on the side of the road. Much like what happens to these hobby killers.

Sales pitch would be to selling the appropriate optical equipment for said age group. Generally, publications to help learn the night sky, binoculars, but sell them as general purposes, never know, they may get into bird watching. Telescopes that come equipped with a stable and easy to adjust mount E.g. AZ3 and Dobsonian. If a kid is involved the 70mm on an AZ3 was a good multi purpose telescope as it can be used for both land viewing and astronomy, bit of a win, win.

Try to steer first timers away from EQ Mounts but would always have those who what to do photography, so general sales pitch is to impress on them they need learn how to navigate the night sky before jumping into astrophotography. Most important if your goal is to photograph nebulae. I would sell them a telescope but would ensure they have the right publication and that they join an astronomical society and get in touch with the Astro photography section to learn the finder art.

Finally with all my costumer I would direct them to their local Astronomical Society, which is a good way for them to learn the art of astronomy.

Those hobby killers I mentioned, they were always the last stock in the storeroom at Christmas Eve.

That’s my take.
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Old 08-11-2023, 07:52 AM
N1 (Mirko)
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Son: I want to see the rings of Saturn
Dad: Here's a pair of 10x50s

I've been involved in outreach with kids for years. To them (and most adults really), astronomy means using an actual telescope. On the bright stuff initially, then possibly something a little more challenging. 10x power doesn't cut it on the vast majority of targets.

I had access to some excellent binoculars as a kid and looked at the stars through them from a young age, but it took a look at Jupiter through a proper telescope to really kick off my astro 'journey'. I came to fully appreciate binoculars for astronomy much later, and I keep this sequence in mind when making recommendations to (young) beginners.
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Old 15-11-2023, 07:02 PM
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Max Vondel (Peter)
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Yes the 10x50 would be my suggestion too, with a cheap tripod from another relative or friend. Then a chair and some stars. Perhaps a small pocket atlas of the stars and planets.
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Old 21-11-2023, 09:15 PM
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JeniSkunk (Jenifur)
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Can't see the YT video, it's set Private.
If the prices in that YT video are US ones, then they're more than a fair few years old. 8 inch Dobsonians are currently showing up for $600 USD to over $800 USD.
The cheapest GOOD telescope I know of, is the Sky Watcher Heritage P130, or its Saxon equivalent, about $400 AUD.
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Old 30-11-2023, 10:47 AM
Shasta55 (Chris)
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I have had a good pair of 10x50's for years. I was never that satisfied stargazing with them and bought a 4 inch refractor a couple of years ago. I'll probably get something bigger - but not for a while. Recently took a trip to the NH & took my binos so I could view M31 & 33 a bit higher in the bortle 3 sky. TBH I was wishing I had my little refractor with me.
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