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Tags astronomy , telescopes

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Old 26th January 2009, 10:52 AM   #1
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The Astronomy Thread.

There must be a few people here who get out their 5 inch at night to play with? Some of you may even be lucky enough to have 6, 8 or even 10 inches!

February looks to be another astronomy special, with our solar system putting on some great displays - a penumbral eclipse of the moon, several occultations, a close gathering of Mars, Mercury & Jupiter, and maybe a comet for those with a larger calibre. At +5, it should be easiest to find in late Feb as it nears Saturn. (Comet Lulin)

Here's a link to this month's sky map.
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Old 26th January 2009, 11:45 AM   #2
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10" Newtonian reflector on a Dobsonian mount. Half the neighborhood turns out on clear nights.

The other half won't turn their porch lights off, the bas****s.
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Old 26th January 2009, 11:50 AM   #3
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NOOO, too many jokes, cant cope, major joke overload
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Old 26th January 2009, 12:17 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Frinkiak7 View Post
10" Newtonian reflector on a Dobsonian mount. Half the neighborhood turns out on clear nights.

The other half won't turn their porch lights off, the bas****s.
Nice - the scope, not so nice with the neighbours.

Light pollution sucks.

Now, if we can stop the earth's rotation when we need to...
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Old 26th January 2009, 12:26 PM   #5
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(Prepares to sound ridiculously stupid....) What are stars supposed to look like through a telescope? I got a very low-end telescope for free from a friend of mine, and I have tried looking at some of the stars I see from my balcony (I live in the downtown core of a metropolitan city so you can imagine how few stars are visible). Well so far I've managed to look at orion's belt, and through the telescope, they look like tiny balls of dancing electric sparks...is that because there's too much refraction by the atmosphere? I live right next to lake ontario so is the air too moist?
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Old 26th January 2009, 12:38 PM   #6
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After my 6" Newtonian was STOLEN, I have a 4.25 Newtonian and a Meade ETX-90 with the computer drive.

I like the Meade, but its finder is useless, and I need to get a "red dot" finder for it some day.
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Old 26th January 2009, 12:41 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by theneedtoknow View Post
(Prepares to sound ridiculously stupid....) What are stars supposed to look like through a telescope? I got a very low-end telescope for free from a friend of mine, and I have tried looking at some of the stars I see from my balcony (I live in the downtown core of a metropolitan city so you can imagine how few stars are visible). Well so far I've managed to look at orion's belt, and through the telescope, they look like tiny balls of dancing electric sparks...is that because there's too much refraction by the atmosphere? I live right next to lake ontario so is the air too moist?
Focused right, at high magnification, a star ought to be a little point of light with a diffraction ring around it.

In a city, looking over buildings in cold weather, yeah, the stars will shimmer and move around. Very much like images seen at a distance on a hot day over hot roads or flatlands do and for the same reason; Moving cells of hot air that refract the light.
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Old 26th January 2009, 02:27 PM   #8
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@theneedtoknow,

With a smaller telescope, if you want more "Ohh! AHH!" factor, try looking for galaxies, nebulae, and planets. Although with the light pollution you have to deal with, that may be a bit disappointing too.
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Old 26th January 2009, 03:50 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by theneedtoknow View Post
(Prepares to sound ridiculously stupid....) What are stars supposed to look like through a telescope?
Unfortunately, you do need a little bit of grunt to get much use out of a telescope - with a small one the stars still look like stars and the planets look like big, round stars.

You may need to a bigger telescope, although, as already said - you may be able to get some mileage out of looking at galaxies, binary systems, nebulae and the like. If that doesn't work, you're stuck with the moon and bathrooms until you get a bigger one.



Originally Posted by BenBurch View Post
After my 6" Newtonian was STOLEN, I have a 4.25 Newtonian and a Meade ETX-90 with the computer drive.

I like the Meade, but its finder is useless, and I need to get a "red dot" finder for it some day.
Yep, learning to find the damned things is half the battle.
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Old 26th January 2009, 10:10 PM   #10
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I used to have a very good 10.1" Dob. Had to give it up about 20 years ago.

Now I've got a piece of crap 8" on an equatorial mount. It's got so many problems, it's been largely unusable--even after buying a lot of new stuff for it (telrad finder to replace the flimsy finder scope, a new focuser to replace the terribly sloppy one it came with, etc.).
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Old 26th January 2009, 10:13 PM   #11
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I have two telescopes, both of which sit unused. I plan to correct this problem this year.

One is a teenyweeny Celestron refractor which is pretty useless for anything but looking at the moon. Even Mars is still a red dot through it. The other is about a 6" reflector on an equatorial mount. Last time I checked, it had a family of very large huntsman spiders living in it.
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Old 26th January 2009, 10:44 PM   #12
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So, other than me, who here has ground and figured their own mirrors?
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Old 26th January 2009, 10:58 PM   #13
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8" reflector on dobsonian mount here. Skywatcher. Never had any problems with it. Perfectly calibrated when delivered.
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Old 26th January 2009, 11:08 PM   #14
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I own a 6" Newtonian, but it's currently at my dad's house, about 5,500 miles away from where I live.
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Old 26th January 2009, 11:19 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by BenBurch View Post
So, other than me, who here has ground and figured their own mirrors?
I'd guess nobody.

Originally Posted by wollery View Post
I own a 6" Newtonian, but it's currently at my dad's house, about 5,500 miles away from where I live.
Webcam!
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Old 26th January 2009, 11:34 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
Webcam!
Nah, I just book time on the 1 metre up the hill from my office, or the 2.5 metre at LiJiang.
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Old 26th January 2009, 11:45 PM   #17
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Just a measly 4" at our house, but access to up to 16" when necessary. I am hoping to do a Messier marathon up on the summit of Haleakala this March.
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Old 26th January 2009, 11:52 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by wollery View Post
Nah, I just book time on the 1 metre up the hill from my office, or the 2.5 metre at LiJiang.
You realise I hate you, don't you?

Two point five metres? Now that's a telescope.
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Old 27th January 2009, 06:14 AM   #19
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I have a three in. inch reflector I haven't used since the early eighties. Although it did me good service in the seventies.

Now I use binocs 10x50 or the Mark One eyeballs.
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Old 27th January 2009, 08:22 AM   #20
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I own a 12" reflector and an EQ6 Pro equatorial as well as a Maksutov 90mm which I use as a guide scope. I use a Hutech modded Canon40d for astrophotography.
I have not used the equipment for about 8 months due to having built extensions to my home, hence scope location now gone.
I am busy building a permanent observing platform and hope to be "back at school" shortly.
Looking at the cosmos with a good telescope of any aperture, is a truly humbling experience and can only confirm what insignificant creatures we actually are.
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Old 27th January 2009, 10:10 AM   #21
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In London I managed to do some naked-eye star-gazing only once last year. Normally the night sky is either brown (when cloudy) or dark blue (when clear). Very rarely is it black, due to all the light pollution.
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Old 27th January 2009, 10:23 AM   #22
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I have an 80ED (3 inch refractor) With a nice mount, and a couple eyepeices. Beautiful 'scope, and great viewing, but it takes practice as it is a smaller aperture. The best thing though is I can easily haul it around with me. Took it with me to Hawaii for some spectacular viewing at the top of Mt. Haleakela.

Next step is to try some astro photography, Wife has a nice DSLR, and I plan to pick up the accessories to connect it to the telescope.

Viewing here 9Seattle area) has been crappy though. Constant clouds.
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Old 27th January 2009, 10:45 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Dancing David View Post
I have a three in. inch reflector I haven't used since the early eighties. Although it did me good service in the seventies.

Now I use binocs 10x50 or the Mark One eyeballs.
Helps if you're long-sighted, as I am. I can't read a enwspaper until three feet away, but man, can I see stars!

Originally Posted by Skwinty View Post
I own a 12" reflector and an EQ6 Pro equatorial as well as a Maksutov 90mm which I use as a guide scope. I use a Hutech modded Canon40d for astrophotography.
Nice!

A set-up able to take pictures is my goal for 2009.

I'm still gutted at having no pictures of the best astronomical event of the past 100 years - McNaught.

Originally Posted by Skwinty View Post
Looking at the cosmos with a good telescope of any aperture, is a truly humbling experience and can only confirm what insignificant creatures we actually are.
That is 100% correct - I often tell theists to go and look at the night sky for an hour a week until they figure out just how mind-bogglingly huge it all is. I don't know how they can look at a galaxy hundreds of light years away and think some sky-daddy put it there just so some humans can look at it 15 billion years later.
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Old 27th January 2009, 05:56 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Robert Oz View Post
8" reflector on dobsonian mount here. Skywatcher. Never had any problems with it. Perfectly calibrated when delivered.

Oh, I neglected to mention my avatar is a small section of a photo taken with an ordinary digital camera held up to the eye-piece of the above telescope.
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Old 27th January 2009, 06:35 PM   #25
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OLD 13" Coulter Optical light bucket on a Dobsonian mount. 150 lbs total weight, no setting circles. It does rule.
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Old 27th January 2009, 10:10 PM   #26
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I used to be in the astronomy club at Flinders uni which had a 10" Newtonian and 3x 8" Schmidt-Cassegrains, saw plenty of interesting stuff on the roof of the physics building. Unfortunately I heard the club at uni is not active anymore, which is a waste. The most memorable viewing night was going to Stockport and seeing an eclipse on Jupiter through a 20", magnificent.
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Old 28th January 2009, 01:01 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by jasonlpsmith View Post
I used to be in the astronomy club at Flinders uni which had a 10" Newtonian and 3x 8" Schmidt-Cassegrains, saw plenty of interesting stuff on the roof of the physics building.
Moss? Lichen?

Originally Posted by jasonlpsmith View Post
Unfortunately I heard the club at uni is not active anymore, which is a waste. The most memorable viewing night was going to Stockport and seeing an eclipse on Jupiter through a 20", magnificent.
Yep, beautiful stuff. Jupiter and Saturn are two of the great theist specials - the sky-dady designed them so we could invent telescopes and see them...
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Old 28th January 2009, 01:43 AM   #28
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Now I'm getting inspired. What's the cost of a good, entry level telescope? (if this is not a naive question).
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Old 28th January 2009, 02:01 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
Light pollution sucks.
I was in Death Valley last October. Very dry, very dark. I spent quite some time looking up at night and pointed ou the Milky Way to my girlfriend, which she'd never seen before.
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Old 28th January 2009, 02:29 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by lionking View Post
Now I'm getting inspired. What's the cost of a good, entry level telescope? (if this is not a naive question).
No, it's abloody good question, because the price range is from $200 to $20,000 - or more!

The best entry plan is to get one of Dick Smiths' el cheapo 4 or 5 inch models. Any smaller and you may as well use binocs, but at that size, you will see some genuine astral events - nebulae, galaxies, planets, etc. While the telescopes are crap and only last a year or two, it will give you a good idea of whether you want to get serious.

If you'd rather get a good scope now, a spend of around $600 should get you a nice 5 or 6 inch which will last a few years at least.

Bloody marvellous hobby. The kids get excited as hell when they know it's an astronomy night. That they get to stay up late due to daylight saving has no bearing, I'm sure.



Originally Posted by MetalPig View Post
I was in Death Valley last October. Very dry, very dark. I spent quite some time looking up at night and pointed ou the Milky Way to my girlfriend, which she'd never seen before.
That always amazes me, because it's very easy to get away from light pollution here. Half an hour's drive will get you right out of the city and into the darkness. Good coincidence right now - I see that astronomers are establishing night sky reserves to ensure some areas never get tainted by light pollution and that NZ is about to get the first one.

That observatory is set at high altitude, close to the Southern Alps and the air is pristine. Add complete darkness and you have an amazing show.

If you ever come over this way, make sure Mt St John is on the agenda - great spot.
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Old 28th January 2009, 02:36 AM   #31
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Thanks TA, I will have a look (my job allows me to cash in a week's sick leave per year, so I have some spare cash). One of the advantages of where I live is that we are in a semi-rural area with not a lot of light pollution. The Milky Way is usually very visible.
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Old 28th January 2009, 02:41 AM   #32
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Who needs a fancy telomascope? I took this with my camera phone:



It was a very clear day.

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Old 28th January 2009, 02:53 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
That always amazes me, because it's very easy to get away from light pollution here. Half an hour's drive will get you right out of the city and into the darkness.
I love that about the Sates. I live in Holland, and that's quite full and very well lit, unfortunately.
Also, there's much more moisture in the air here, so stars get all twinkly.
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Old 28th January 2009, 03:40 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by lionking View Post
Now I'm getting inspired. What's the cost of a good, entry level telescope? (if this is not a naive question).
The cheapest way would be to go to an event held by a local astronomy group (ASV) and see if you like it enough to buy one. Plus the people there will know how to find interesting objects easily. I think they run evenings where they invite the public along.
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Old 28th January 2009, 09:08 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by lionking View Post
Now I'm getting inspired. What's the cost of a good, entry level telescope? (if this is not a naive question).
As others have said, telescopes come in a range of sizes, and prices. While aperture IS important, there are other considerations.

What do you want to view?
Do you want to try your hand at Astrophotography?
What is the light pollution like where you live?
Are you going to want to move your telescope around a lot? Do you want to travel with it?
Do you want a 'goto' mount? (Computer Driven, you tell it what you want to look at, and it finds it for you)

Myself, I favor Refractors, but they are more expensive than others. Dobsinians have the best bang for the buck though. Nice big light gathering capacity, but a real bugger to move around. (I have been eyeing one or two, but I have too many obstructions around my house.)

Try to avoid 'department store' telescopes. Do some research. There are some excellent places for information, as well as stores that cater to the astronomy buffs.

And whatever you do, do NOT go cheap on the telescope mount. A good solid stable mount will do wonders for your viewing.

I suggest you check out Cloudy Nights. Its an excellent discussion board, with a lot of info for beginners interested in the hobby.
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Old 28th January 2009, 10:19 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by BenBurch View Post
So, other than me, who here has ground and figured their own mirrors?
That's something that never appealed to me. I remember when I was considering buying my first real telescope, I thought, "Someone ought do mass-produced "home-made telescopes", and sell them as cheap as a DIY would cost." Then I found exactly that. I bought the 10.1" Coulter Dobsonian for under $300 (in 1985).

Sure wish I still had it!
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Old 28th January 2009, 11:14 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by lionking View Post
Thanks TA, I will have a look (my job allows me to cash in a week's sick leave per year, so I have some spare cash). One of the advantages of where I live is that we are in a semi-rural area with not a lot of light pollution. The Milky Way is usually very visible.
Wow, that's a nice bonus to have!

Keep us posted.

Originally Posted by MetalPig View Post
I love that about the Sates. I live in Holland, and that's quite full and very well lit, unfortunately.
Also, there's much more moisture in the air here, so stars get all twinkly.
States? What flaming states?

I'm in New Zealand!
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Old 28th January 2009, 12:26 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by lionking View Post
Now I'm getting inspired. What's the cost of a good, entry level telescope? (if this is not a naive question).
Check litescope.eu. They sell a 12" Dobsonian called the Litescope Mountain.
Weighs around 6 kg and fits in a suitcase or a back pack. Price $4,200 US. You can take it anywhere very easily.
The mirrors have a fast focal ratios which is ideal for astrophotography.

You would have to buy an equatorial platform if you wished to attach a camera and undergo a steep learning curve.
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Old 28th January 2009, 04:39 PM   #39
Robert Oz
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Originally Posted by lionking View Post
Now I'm getting inspired. What's the cost of a good, entry level telescope? (if this is not a naive question).

Living in a semi-rural area (hopefully meaning not much need to move the telescope around too much or travel with it), I would highly recommend a good 8" on a dobsonian mount. You can get a decent one nowadays for between $500 and $600.

This is definitely a great "entry-level" telescope. You move the thing around by hand, you have to manually find the things you want to look at and it's a great way to learn your way around the skies (using a Go-To scope will find things for you quickly, but it is much more satisfying finding things yourself using only the stars and a star-map for guidance).

My Skywatcher 8" Dobsonian now sells for under $600 and it gives a good view of the moon (obviously), planets, nebulae, galaxies and star clusters (globular star clusters are breath-taking) - also from a semi-rural area.

Best views for a beginner to get hooked:

1. Saturn.
2. Jupiter and its moons.
3. Moon (many amateur astronomers find the moon boring, but I disagree).
4. Omega Centauri (largest globular star cluster in the sky).
5. Orion Nebula.
6. Tarantula Nebula.
7. Lagoon Nebula.
8. Pleides Star Cluster (although, much more impressive through binoculars, because of its size).
9. Jewel Box Star Cluster (near the Southern Cross).
10. Milky Way (through binoculars - mind blowing).

If you do get a chance to test a telescope, look at as many of these ten as you can. If you don't want a telescope after that, there's nothing in the night sky that will change your mind.
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Old 28th January 2009, 05:02 PM   #40
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By the way, when I say "entry-level" telescope, it doesn't mean it's only useful as a starter scope. Many amateur astronomers buy just the one scope and enjoy it for the rest of their lives.

I've had mine for about three and a half years now and have no desire to upgrade. Although it would be nice to have a higher aperture (12" would be great), I am not willing to spend the money for a more mobile catadioptric or Schmidt Cassegrain and a 12" dobsonian would be too much of a hassle to even move a few metres (from inside the house to outside the house, and I know it would just collect dust in the spare room).

Some people get aperture fever and just keep going bigger and bigger, but an 8" can keep you happy for a very long time and is large enough to see the really cool stuff and not quite too heavy to move around.
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