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Thread: Binocular or Telescope?

  1. #1 Binocular or Telescope? 
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    I am very fond of astronomy and want to start star gazing. For an amateur level, should i buy a binocular or a telescope? Pls advice


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    Stars are so far away that for the average amateur, no amount of magnification is going to make any difference to their size, only making the field of view smaller. They will always be pinpoints of light.

    However, the Moon, planets, clusters, galaxies, etc respond well to magnification (though since they move, you will quickly lose the image without using a manual or electric drive.)

    Refracting telescopes (lens only) are nice but expensive. A reflector (mirror telescope) is a lot cheaper. The image is upside down but that does not matter for astronomy. It is best to buy a good second hand one rather than pay extra for a new one. Ask the seller to demonstrate it for you.

    Ideally you should have good eyepieces (the bit you look through should be fairly large. For a 25mm eyepiece, I have seen them an inch across and about .25 inch across. The latter produces a poor image and will give you eye strain after a while, but the former costs a lot more. Cheaper eye pieces (some Russian stuff) can look good in the centre but blurred at the edges of the field of view. If the focal length of the telescope is 450mm and the eye piece 25mm, then magnification is 450 divided by 25 so 18x. A 2x barlow lens will make that 36x. A 4mm eyepiece will give you 180x. Too much magnification on a telescope and the image suffers.

    A cheap pair of binoculars is handy to help find your way around. 7x50 is OK. Whereas with your eye you see not many stars, even with a small telescope you see hundreds in the same area and can lose your way. There is astronomy software like Google Sky which will help you find your way around the sky. Don't expect to see anything like professional photos. These are taken with huge telescopes, long time exposure, CCD devices, etc. Check out the Messier objects, etc and planets when on view. Never look at the sun at any time. Even a full Moon can hurt your eyes (it is 9x brighter than a half Moon). A part moon is better as you have contrast then so get the details.

    Take the telescope out maybe 20 minutes before you plan to use it to allow it to reach the same temperature as outside so you don't get distortions due to temperature, or misting up.


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  4. #3 Re: Binocular or Telescope? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by poonam.jain
    I am very fond of astronomy and want to start star gazing. For an amateur level, should i buy a binocular or a telescope? Pls advice
    That may depend on how much money you want to invest. It's usually a good idea to start with some binoculars and learn the sky, that way you'll begin to understand what type of viewing you prefer, which would then lead you to what kind of telescope you'll invest.

    Telescopes require a fair amount of accessories, such that you can spend almost as much, if not more, on the accessories than the scope itself.

    Check out Astromart for used goods:

    http://www.astromart.com/classifieds/
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    Telescopes are very expensive. for an amateur it'll be a baseless investment since you'll have no idea of which lens to buy and what kind of telescopes you should look for. Rather try reading up more about telescopes and star gazing. join astronomy clubs and use the equipments there. Go for a space camp where you can use very powerful telescopes and learn about them. Also, at a space camp you will get a practical exposure to astronaut training activities, thereby you will widen your knowledge base. If it helps check out this link http://spacecampindia.com/
    Once you have understood the various facets of astronomy and are a pro at telescopes, you'll yourself know which telescope will suit your requirement.
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    I suggest you start with a good binocular. Most of the objects in the sky lose their their brilliance the more you magnify them. This can only be compensated by long exposures with cameras attached to the telescope. So, if you want to explore the sky, use binoculars first. Maybe, you also want a tripod to which you can attach it. There are adaptors for that. This helps to keep a stable image.

    The next step might be a Dobson telescope. They are comparably cheap and easy to handle. They have their strength in light efficiency.
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    Thanks for all the suggestions. I think I will start off with a binocular. Meanwhile I am also reading about telescopes.
    By the way, Anand mentioned about a space camp. I did check out the website and was very impressed by their offerings. However, I was just wondering if the camp would be beneficial for me. I do harbour a dream of becoming a space scientist in future. Will this hands-on training program help me judge my aptitude for the astronomy?
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by poonam.jain
    Thanks for all the suggestions. I think I will start off with a binocular. Meanwhile I am also reading about telescopes.
    By the way, Anand mentioned about a space camp. I did check out the website and was very impressed by their offerings. However, I was just wondering if the camp would be beneficial for me. I do harbour a dream of becoming a space scientist in future. Will this hands-on training program help me judge my aptitude for the astronomy?
    Not necessarily. I know quite a few professional astrophysicists that have no idea about the night sky (sadly). Astronomical observing skills are not needed for a professional career anymore, because these observations are mostly carried out by the telescope staff. Nevertheless, personally I find it desirable to keep up the interest in astronomical topics, and it definitely cannot harm to participate in such a camp. In particular, if you want to observe yourself, it can help you get practice.

    From my perspective, it is very important to be very interested in astronomy, in order to become a professional scientist. You should also have interest in physics and math. Most of the work is carried out with computers, not by observing. This is more important than being able to operate a telescope.
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    Buying a pair of binoculars is a good idea, Iím now exploring some marine binoculars hoping to offer and share also some precious tips with you guys.
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    Just an aside. I went up the Tokyo tower many years ago and they had binoculars with which to look out over the city. 20x120 binoculars! Fantastic for astronomy, and they cost a fortune. What a waste for city in the daytime use.
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