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Old 05-05-2002, 12:52 AM
Doug Nelson's Avatar
Doug Nelson Doug Nelson is offline
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I've seen more than one member mention they were a home astronomer. I've always wondered how much detail could be seen with a decent home setup? When you talk about seeing a planet, how well can you see it? And other celestial bodies?

What would a good home setup be? Cost?
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Old 05-05-2002, 02:36 AM
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chris h chris h is offline
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Doug, If you live in a heavily populated area you might be struggling with the afterglow generated by streetlamps, signs etc.
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Old 05-05-2002, 02:45 AM
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BigAl BigAl is offline
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Here's the setup of a friend's brother. Computer tracking, high speed digital cameras etc (cost more than $5 ). I wish I could afford something like this <sigh>
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Old 05-05-2002, 10:14 AM
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DJ Dubovsky DJ Dubovsky is offline
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My son had a home telescope that we paid around $150 for. Other than the moon, I would have thought you couldn't see much. One evening a few years back they said on the news that Saturn was close and could be veiwed with a telescope. I figured, ok so it will look like any other star, big deal. I was blown away when I looked through that eye piece and could actually see a small bright spot with a ring around it. That was so unbelievable. I kept looking to see if I was really seeing it and sure enough it was a dot with a clearly visible ring. Probably would be no bigger than the head of a pin but it was there. After that, I was sure we got our money's worth. Unfortunately my son's interests were not directed toward the sky but more toward the microscope. He's big into biology and chemestry.
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Old 05-05-2002, 12:13 PM
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G. Couch G. Couch is offline
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Doug - depends on your definition of "decent" I have a pretty cruddy 4" reflector, but even with that, I can make out some detail on Jupiter. On a clear night I can see the moons of Jupiter and some of the cloud patterns. Like DJ mentioned, Saturn is impressive even when viewed in less than ideal conditions. I can also make out several star clusters, binary systems and galaxies...and I live in a pretty polluted area! The main thing to keep in mind is that it all depends of what you want to see. If you want to hunt for comets and view distant galaxies you are going to need a different kind of telescope and you will need to take trips to areas with less light pollution.

As far as advice on a good home setup...well if you want to do astrophotography I believe Celestron sells an entry-level 8" reflector for about $450. You would also have to get a motor drive...I would guess around $200. Tom can probably answer these questions better than me! If you just want a telescope to look at the sky and not mess with photos, a Dobsonion scope would be a good way to go. You can get a very large aperture size for relatively low cost.

One thing to keep in mind is that you can MAKE a high quality telescope for well under $600. Lots of local Astronomy clubs and museums give mirror-making classes and for relatively low cost you can make a 6 or 8 inch Dobsonion scope. I'm planning on doing this myself, within the next year.

Big Al - Wow! That is some setup he has! When I was in college I took several Astronomy classes and we used 8" Schmidt-Cassegrains...right before I graduated the department acquired a 32" scope!! I got to see it in action...but never had the chance to get any time on it. Here is a link showing the "big scope" Dark Sky Observatory
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Old 05-05-2002, 05:15 PM
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thomasgeorge thomasgeorge is offline
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Wow!! That is like being asked to explain the IRS tax code while standing on one leg...however...It depends on your level of interest. If you simply want to scan the heavens, paying equal attention to deep sky ( nebula, star clusters and such) as well as some planetary observation ( Moon, major planets) a Dobsonian reflector in about 6-8" would fill the bill...usually around $300. to $600. Used scopes can be had cheaper. A refractor with a 4' objective is also a good choice..just set up and start observing...reflectors require occasional collimating to keep them "seeing good". If you are really "into it" there is no top end just keep getting bigger, more refined and sophisticated equipment. For Astrophotography, the minimum investment is around $3000 for good quality equipment. I use a Meade LX200 8" Schmidt/Cass computer controlled scope with a Starlight express MX516 ccd camera and Star 2000 autoguider plus a Meade 416xt ccd camera...both of which require a seperate computer to run. Just to enjoy the stars, however, a good pair of Binoculars will show you a lifetimes worth of wonders, both deep sky and planetary...modern binoculars are way better than the first telescopes.
Detail depends on what you are observing...the higher the power of magnification ( up to a point...usually 200-300x is best.Forget super high wont see a thing!) shows more planet detail. For deep sky, you want a "light bucket"...the larger the mirror or objective lens the better...that being said, with a 6-8 inch reflector or a 4" refractor, you can see dust lanes in galaxies 20 or so million light years away, see individual stars in globular clusters and resolve features on the moon which are around a mile across or so...just realize, that you dont see color..just black and white...color comes out only on photos...and most of the deep sky objects are best described as "faint Fuzzies"..little smears of soft light which are distinct from the bright pinpoint star images. On planets, depending on the scope, you can glimpse Martian polar caps, Jupiters bands and red spot, Saturns rings and their divisions plus various moons etc. Its a fun hobby and, it is possible to photograph the moon thru a scope with a plain old digital camera by just focusing the scope and taking a picture thru the eyepiece... Hope this helps some....Tom
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Old 05-06-2002, 04:59 PM
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This is all very interesting. I dabbled with my sons telescope to look at the moon and we saw jupiter with moons and it was very exciting.

Since this is a very visual web site, would any of you semi pro astronimers care to share any photo's of the stars and planets that you took with your home equipment. I'm sure many folks here at Retouchpro would be interested in seeing them.

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Old 05-24-2002, 11:10 AM
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BigAl BigAl is offline
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Here's an image from the telescope in my earlier email. TG is probably the only one who'd understand the numbers

If you want to contact my friend's brother, pm or email me and I'll send you his email address.
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Old 05-24-2002, 09:45 PM
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Jakaleena Jakaleena is offline
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I love looking "out there". My mom said that as a little girl of about one year old, I discovered the stars and was completely captivated. She had trouble getting me to look anywhere else but at the sky after that.

I used to have a telescope, and I miss it. Astronomy was one of my favorite classes in college. The college had a wonderful planetarium, and the professor started each new semester with an amazing star show set to Monty Python's Universe Song.

Through my own telescope I could see the rings of Saturn and some detail on Jupiter, so it made me happy. Comet Hale-Bopp was spectacular! But the most amazing, way cool thing (to me anyway) was to just sit and look at our own moon. It was so close I felt like I was actually there. And it was nothing like looking at a picture of it. The detail was incredible. I often sat for hours, looking at her, awestruck that someone had actually walked there.

I have always been drawn to space movies and T.V. shows. I used to feel deprived that I hadn't been born in the future when space travel might be possible for the general population.

If you're looking for a new toy, I really recommend a telescope. I hope to have another one someday.

The Universe Song
(there's a zipped MP3 of the song attached below)

"The Universe Song" from _The Meaning of Life_ by Monty Python

Whenever life gets you down, Mrs. Brown,
And things seem hard or tough,
And people are stupid, obnoxious or daft,

And you feel that you've had quite eno-o-o-o-o-ough,

Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's evolving
And revolving at 900 miles an hour.
It's orbiting at 19 miles a second, so it's reckoned,
The sun that is the source of all our power.
Now the sun, and you and me, and all the stars that we can see,
Are moving at a million miles a day,
In the outer spiral arm, at 40,000 miles an hour,
Of the galaxy we call the Milky Way.

Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars;
It's a hundred thousand light-years side to side;
It bulges in the middle sixteen thousand light-years thick,
But out by us it's just three thousand light-years wide.
We're thirty thousand light-years from Galactic Central Point,
We go 'round every two hundred million years;
And our galaxy itself is only one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe.


Our universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding,
In all of the directions it can whiz;
As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know,
Twelve million miles a minute and that's the fastest speed there is.
So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure,
How amazingly unlikely is your birth;
And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere out in space,
'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth!
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Last edited by Jakaleena; 05-24-2002 at 09:52 PM.
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Old 05-24-2002, 10:01 PM
rondon rondon is offline
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hey big al... you reminded me... when they first refitted the hubble I went to some nasa site and downloaded the neb... amazingly they hadn't seemed to have tuned it up.... I did... but it's about 40mb. worth trying for whoever likes it... as you can really zoom right into the heart of it..... in any event.. here is as large as I can post it here.... I agree awesome
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