Telescope Recommendations for Stargazing in Our Climate?
Hello Fellow Caribbean Stargazers!
Was hoping to get some recommendations on finding a telescope that will be able to withstand our humid, salty air down here on the islands. I don't mind ordering one and am not really trying to find the cheapest thing out there. I want something good that won't just rust itself into uselessness within a month.
Any tips for care?
Are there certain brands to look for... or watch out for?
Specific attributes to look for while hunting for one?
Any input would be greatly appreciated.
Do you want ease of use (IE: tell the computer where to go) or can you find objects manually. IMO I saw objects in a 10” reflector and then in 8” Cats. The 10” image was great, the others not so! I think Mead or Celestron sell this for around $1000 (eyepieces extra). I believe it’s a Dobsonian mount. Simple and cheap (less to break or corrode). Maybe there are options for computer control? It’s bigger than the other kinds. It’s size may preclude casual use? Here in PR there is a club that meets monthly.
The best answer for you depends on many factors which you don't specify.
The only universally disappointing selection is the crappy and ubiquitous department store telescope with its wobbly base or tripod, its insanely high advertised magnification, its microscopic eyepieces, and so on.
For beginning stargazers I always recommend starting with a good pair of astro binoculars, which can be found inexpensively and which will serve double duty for birdwatching and horizon watching during the day. You'll get the most bang for your buck by far with them. If you have a steady hand you can hold 11x70 or even 15x70 binos for a while without a tripod or monopod. Evenings on a lawn chair with binos can provide you with some of the most delightful stargazing you'll find. Bigbonoculars.com offers a wide range, with the two sizes I mentioned priced below $150 and even their new 20x80's at under $200. Their optics are decent and they will last several years before the interior chamber and surfaces get hazy from humidity/dust/mold.
Here I'll mention that stargazing, contrary to what many people believe, is less about magnification (ie making far objects appear near) than it is about making dim things appear bright. The cross-sectional area where the telescope gathers its light is called its aperture, and the more light any scope collects to focus into the eyepiece(ie the larger the aperture), the richer the observing experience will be. For example, our nearest galactic neighbor, the Andromeda galaxy, takes up way more sky, by several times, than the full moon, but we cannot see it well because it is so faint. Many amateur astronomers believe that aperture is everything. Unless you want to get into astrophotography, I agree.
There are two general types of telescopes: refractors (long tubes with lenses in them) and reflectors (fat tubes with mirrors in them). From this you can guess that reflectors offer the larger apertures. At the low end of the market, for the novice, I suggest getting a reflector. There are all sorts of configurations of reflectors, from the dead-simple newtonian to the common commercial schmidt-cassegrains you find in Meades or Celestrons. You can make a Newtonian yourself and have a better scope than you can buy for the same money, if you're careful. If you go that route, have your optics overcoated, so they can be easily cleaned without worry. Store-bought Newtonians have the disadvantage of being hard to take apart and clean, while being exposed to the elements. But they're cheap.
Moving up from there are a number of schmidt-cassegrain telescopes (again mainly by Meade and Celestron) which have the advantage of being enclosed, if not sealed, and being very compact for their aperture. Further, most of these telescopes come with sturdy bases or tripods and a computer controlled drive which will not only keep up with the Earth's rotation, but will point you all the sights the sky has to offer with the push of a button. This feature adds cost, but many feel it is well worth it. Schmidt-Cassegrains are serviceable (with difficulty) and so should last long enough to justify the investment. Meade has a line of small table-top computer scopes called the ETX, but frankly I would invest in something with a minimum 6" aperture to be worth the trouble. Eight inches seems to be the ideal compromise between viewing quality and convenient portability. You have to be able to pack the thing up easily, after all. Nothing you can buy will last a month left on the porch in the elements.
I know of several of these on StX and none has failed due to rust. One particularly ancient one has lost its computer but the clock drive (which keeps up with the earth's rotation) still clicks on.
Good luck. Hope this helps. Feel free to ask me further q's on- or off-line.
Although this link speaks to the Meade LX200, the information contained within the manual applies to issues (such as dust and moisture) regarding all telescopes in general.
When choosing a telescope, speak with a representative of a company - eg. Meade - and discuss with them what model will best meet your needs. I hope this helps..
Enjoy your stargazing!
This is all wonderful information!
I sort of like the route of maybe getting some stargazing binoculars. I had thought of getting some binos as I had some nice ones for hunting back in the states. We used to use 'em pretty often. I didn't realize there was a whole line of them specifically for gazing at stars.
The portability of them and the ability to pack 'em up and keep them dry sounds very appealing.
Thanks so much everyone!