Friday, May 28, 2010

Angst Over Which Scope to Buy?

This is a re-post from a thread on the Cloudy Nights site. Someone had asked about what kind of scope was good for astrophotography. Lots of answers there, and you should read that whole thread, but I gave some advice that I think is really good and wanted to post it here for the general astro-community that might not have seen it on CN. Here you go:

I am a photographer. My main interest in getting into Astronomy was to take pictures of the stars, nebulae, and galaxies. I went through the same hand-wringing you did about 8 months ago. I ended up with a Meade 8in SCT with Coma free optics, and LXD75 mount.

To this day, I have not taken one real picture.

This is for two reasons. 1) I found that the learning process is quite slow. Both in terms of theory, and reading, and also because you have to get to know your equipment. Astronomy is the perfect "lab-oriented" hobby. You read about something, you go and do. and 2) I became really enamoured with just trying to learn the night sky. You have to know what to image. There are quite a few objects you could find right away and try shooting, but the more I learned, the more I just wanted to look through the scope to get better at knowing the sky and its contents.

So with the SCT I'm learning. But then I got the itch to try a refractor. And with the Northeast Astronomy Forum just a month or so ago (NEAF), I ended up buying 2 refractors.

This is an expensive hobby. Go slow, and don't worry about "getting the wrong thing."

All that said, if you want to have the best luck at imaging, and you want to also do some visual study, get a small Apochromatic ("APO") 80-mm refractor scope, with as good a mount as you can afford (I myself want to upgrade to the Atlas -- BTW, these mounts are larger than you think from the pictures on the websites). Small scope, hefty mount, and a few nice accessories like a 2-inch diagonal, 2 or 3 eyepieces from wide-angle to high-magnification. You're already talking about $1500 easily.

But if you start with a small scope, you can use it anywhere, you'll like the hobby better, and you won't feel like you got the wrong stuff.