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  • Telescopy

    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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  • #2
    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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    • #3
      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>
      Attached Files

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      • #4
        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.
        DJ

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        • #5
          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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          • #6
            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 price...you 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 powers...you 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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            • #7
              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.

              Thanks
              Jerry

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              • #8
                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.
                Attached Files

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                • #9
                  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

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

                  (sung)
                  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.

                  (waltz)

                  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!
                  Attached Files
                  Last edited by Jakaleena; 05-24-2002, 09:52 PM.

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                  • #10
                    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
                    Attached Files

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                    • #11
                      another photo
                      Attached Files

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                      • #12
                        oohhh astrology cool

                        For Doug, the Dobsonion, although cool for seeing and buying is no good for photography. Now meade, a company that makes scopes just like Celestrons but cheaper is the way most serious folks go now a days. A number of yrs ago I used to go on star parties with a friend, and one nite up on Mt. Palomar this guy had a suburban behind which he towed a mini dome with an 8". In the back of the suburban was a giant shelf thing that pulled out and had a computer and mono monitor, he would hook up to the scope. Now to me these nights were devine with all the little red lites and darkness and you could walk around and steal a peak in peoples scopes. In fact, my friend and I didn't even bring one, we were the only ones without a scope but it wasen't held against us. Anyway this was in '90 and although I don't know how long ccds have been in amateur scopes, I have to think this was pretty early in the game. So this guy with the setup, we go up, and there is a small crowd standing around. I look at the monitor and there before out eyes is the Sombrero Galaxy getting brighter as he pushed some buttons every few minutes. The CCD and computer together can gather and store the image in a way the eye can't. The Hubble works the same way. All the images from Hubble are digital, and if you go to one of many sites, you'll see the best astro photos in the world, right there on your little puter, any time you want. What a wonderful Country.

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                        • #13
                          That cone nebula is awesome Ron. Looks like a person.

                          My boss has just come back from a conference in the States, and one of the freebies he picked up was a CD from nasa showing a whole bunch of these things taken from Hubble.

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                          • #14
                            Well shoot. Somebody told me the Universe Song wasn't there when they opened it and asked me to try again. Unfortunately, the actual file is too big to load up. If you want it, just PM me with your email addy and I'll send it to you.

                            Or you can get it here if you want

                            Universe Song

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                            • #15
                              Hi BigAl and Rondon

                              Cool pictures. It amazes me that these things are out there and you just don't realize it. I really enjoy pics. like these.

                              Jerry

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