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When All You Have Is Up (Video 3.8MB)
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Nice Moon Phase Calendar!
Fort Wayne Astronomical Society (Indiana)
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All the Astrophotography on this site was taken with a Canon SD1100IS! (EOS Section coming soon!)
Recommendation One : If you just HAVE to have hardware NOW and have not been studying the subject, or regularly hanging out with people who have telescopes, buy a binocular and/or a camera.  You'll be out a smaller sum of money, and it will have been spent on stuff you can use for other purposes, including daytime use.
Then, get books and or software, study as you learn to use these first tools, and when you DO buy your first telescope, your odds of getting something you REALLY like go WAY up!  If learning about the stars is of no interest at all, any investment in astronomy is likely to end up as a former passing fancy in a closet somewhere.  I find the science aspect to be truly fascinating, and always have, and even I was overwhelmed by how much I didn't know.  You don't have to talk to many astronomers to get first telescope horror stories, all wishing they had waited until they knew more before they bought.  And most ex-astronomers either bought such junk that they gave up, never knowing what they were missing, or completely misunderstood how complex astronomy has to be to stay interesting for long.  Gooogle up the nearest astronomy society, most of which have public viewing nights on a regular schedule or by appointment.  See some of what is up there and get an idea as to just what it will take to get you the kind of views you want in your own telescope. 

If you're not an impulse buyer, read books before buying ANY hardware*!  I have recommendations for binoculars and telescopes, but the books I will suggest go into a lot more detail about making a selection than I will (And, they, too, recommend books before hardware!).  A binocular, for instance, should probably be shopped for in person, and the binocular book I list goes into detail on how to test and evaluate a binocular.

(*...ANY hardware EXCEPT for the Canon SD1100 IS I have links to, which you can safely buy without any other reading, and use it for astrophotography with only a tripod, and still have an excellent, full featured point and click for any other pictures you may want.)
Recommended Books 

When you end up convinced that it's time to buy astronomy equipment, please come back and buy through my affiliate link to help support this site.
Recommended Equipment <$100
Recommended Equipment for $350-$1500
Recommended Equipment for $1500-$3000
Recommended Books  (I have affilliate links for these in the menu at left.)

Binocular Highlights by Gary Seronik from New Track Media LLC is a must read before buying a binocular.  It will also show you many deep space objects which can be seen through a binocular.  $16.47 from Amazon

NightWatch by Terrance Dickinson from Firefly Books is, I'm told, a classic.  The chapter on stargazing equipment is excellent.  $23.10 from Amazon

Skywatching (Revised and Updated) by David Levy (yes, that's the Levy of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet which splashed into Jupiter in 1994) from Fog city press has a lot of nice pictures and a very large section of star charts.  Amazon does not sell this directly.  I got mine for under $15 from a sellers link on Amazon.  It should be on this list at Amazon
Recommended Equipment for Under $100

A good binocular for $50 to $100 and the Binocular Highlights book (above) is enough to get started in astronomy.  You should be able to see the moons of Jupiter, notice the redness of Mars, and be amazed by the Milky Way.  I found out the other night that a setting crescent moon is amazing to behold through a binocular.  Be warned, however, the view of a dark sky through a 10x50 binocular may leave you with an overwhelming urge to see through a telescope.  (You could always visit your local astronomical society.)

Impulse Buyers:  I did find a couple of pairs by Galileo that I was impressed with (and might even buy online).  The G-525SWA is a wide angle pair.  It won't show you as many extra stars as an instrument with 50mm or bigger objective lenses, but it will show an 11 degree field of view, so it is great for viewing constellations.  The Galileo LE-856 is perfect for those who wear prescription eyeglasses.  The LE is for long eye relief which is how far the eye can be from the eyepiece and still see the whole field of view.  The huge 56mm objective lenses should show you a LOT of stars you would not normally see and the low 8 power is should be easy to hold fairly steady. 
NEW ADDITION :  Astrophotography for $500 - $1100!
A 6" reflector on a robotic mount runs around $800.  I was impressed by the writeup on the Mead LDX75 at that price.  Strap on a 250$ camera with a $35 adapter, and you can do dramatic photos BETTER than anything you see on Zookland, since this is all optimized for size, not quality.  (Way better if you can shoot through the eyepiece, but I have not yet proven that the SD1100 will do that.)  The smaller apeture scope won't show you Pluto, for instance, nor will a series of photos run through free stacking software (unless it's a much pricier camera). But, the camera will image stars as dim as 9th magnitude (almost 4 magnitudes brighter than you can see with the naked eye here in Fort Wayne Indiana), and a 6 inch scope can see even more!  Be warned, however on the Meade LDX75, it is an equatorial mount, and they are very complicated to set up because they align their axis on the North Celestial Pole, by the star Polaris.  If you don't master that setup, shooting through the lens will never work well for you. 

In the $500 range, still get the camera, but skip the robotics.  I am now planning on getting a 4.5 inch Orion f4 reflector on an EQ-1 mount it is an equatorial mount with a clock drive instead of robotics.  I'll still have to align it, but for wide angle shots like I'll be taking, alignment will not have to be very precise.  While this won't be the greatest telescope around, $250 buys a Really nice spotter scope.  I may lose a few more shots to jiggles than with just a tripod, but the shots I get will be much better aligned.

Recommended Equipment for $350-$1500

First, no matter what you buy, get top quality eyepieces.  A wide field of view and high eye relief (how close you have to be to see the whole field of view) will dramatically increase the usability of any instrument.  With a Dobsonian Mount, a wider field of view should ease the difficulty of aiming the instrument.  Also, better eyepieces will deliver better contrast and edge to edge focus.  (The stock eyepieces that came with my telescope are notably blurry around the edges.) 

According to Al Nagler at TeleVue Optics, the importance of quality eyepieces is substantially greater with most Dobsonians, something about them being fast scopes which I barely understood, but... well read the article and you'll see that he knows more about this than the average astronomer.

I strongly suggest buying one, two, or three eyepieces, at most, all in the range of $300+, although there are some very acceptable choices closer to $200.  The scope will come with one or two eyepieces, but they will likely be of the $50 variety.   

A Newtonian Reflector is the logical choice for the telescope body in the $350-$1500 range, and a Dobsonian Mount is the cheapest way to do that.  An 8 inch can be had for around $350, and it will catch enough light to see objects as dim as Pluto.  A 10 or 12 inch scope will get you even dimmer objects, and still keep you under $1000.  The 12 inch, though, is six feet long, so make very sure you can transport something that big before you buy.  The 10 inch, at four feet long should be fairly easy to transport (it fits across the back seat of my Impala with a couple of inches to spare).  In any case, the low end of this range will guarantee that in a year or less you will either be planning future purchases, or be done with the hobby without having spent a ridiculus sum of money.  Better yet, you'll know whether you're just not as interested as you thought, or just not interested until you have a lot more money to spend (In which case you'll certainly have a system all picked out for that big lottery win you have coming!-).

$350--Either an 8 inch Reflector (Plan on upgrading the eyepieces later.  It will be like getting a whole new telescope!), or Orion has a 4.5 inch Dobsonian for $179, and the best eyepiece you can afford, preferably around 15mm or so.  That is almost an ironic choice, because the quality of the view in the small scope with a nice eyepiece will easily rival the extra magnitude of the bigger tube  This is a great place to start, though, because, if you get hooked and find yourself in a year or so ready to spend more money, either of these tubes can be refitted and put on a much nicer mount.  A $500 to $1000 mount and a camera in the same range will turn either tube into an amazing astrophotography tool.

$500 8 inch Reflector and TeleVue 32mm Plossal eyepiece.  This will be far better than the stock eyepiece that comes with the scope, but you would be better off keeping the $118 for the Plossal and start saving up for something better

$750 -- 8inch reflector and a TeleVue 35mm Panoptic eyepiece.  NOW we're starting to see the dramatic views that this 8 inch tube can deliver.  Warning, if you start at this level, you will want a medium power eyepiece and likely a high power one, and you will know that they will have to be in the $300-$650 range to really satisfy, because you will be so spoiled by the Panoptic.

$900-1200--Now we have some choices.  We could move up to the 10 inch reflector for $500.  we could start with the TeleVue 35mm Panoptic for $380, or really spoil ourselves with a 31mm TeleVue Nagler 5 at $640.  If we took the "cheap" options in this range, we still have enough left to get a medium power TeleVue 12mm Nagler 4.  Or, the Televue Ethos 13mm eyepiece on an 8 or 10 inch Dob. may well be better than any of that. 

$1500--Get what I got, but don't go through 3 weeks of agony and return 2 sets of eyepieces to get there, like I did.  Buy a 10 inch Dobsonian for $500 (save the cheap stock eyepieces for when you are entertaining 6 year olds!), then get the TeleVue 35mm Panoptic and a TeleVue 13mm Ethos eyepiece.

$1800--Get what I got, except replace the 35mm Panoptic with the 31mm Nagler.

You can get into the computer controlled go to scopes starting around $1500, but you will give up on several magnitudes of light collection, and not necessarily get the best go-to electronics either.  To match the raw optical power in my last two price ranges above, and get reliable, quality GoTo technology you can expect to spend several thousand dollars.  On the other hand, if you are sure you want to eventually get into astrophotography, or want to be sure to leave yourself the option, you could go with a Vixen GP2 Equatorial mount for $650 (upgradeable to a GoTo model), a fast reflector (the tubes are a bit cheaper than they are with the Dobsonian mount.included), and a nice eyepiece or two.

There is a great deal of frustration involved in learning to aim a dobsonian mount when you start looking for specific objects, but there should be countless hours of fun just hunting at random and figuring out what you've found after you find it.  They tell me it takes a LONG time before a glance at the milky way stops making you go "Wow!"  (Update after some experience...They're not kidding!  I can spend all night not finding any deep space objects and have a blast.)

Finally, I am told that once you've learned to locate things with a dobsonian you will get a lot more enjoyment out of a computerized scope, and a small computerized scope with a wide angle lens can help a lot with finding things with your dobsonian, as well as enhancing your astrophotography possibilities.  (So I guess a $1000 dob and a $2000 go-to also fits in the $3000 range below.)
Recommended Equipment for $2000-$3000

UPDATE: Astrophotography in this price range.  A Vixen GP2 with GoTo for $1300, a fast reflector between a 4.5 inch for $130 and an 8 inch for $300, a Canon D40 DSLR for around $1100 (or a StellaCam or Malincam, in the same price range, but with stacked video output).  If you master this outstanding setup you will never run out of new things to photograph.  There is just that much stuff out there.

At the bottom of this range you will sacrifice some of the optical power of the big reflectors.   (Note: Astrophotography dramatically increases the magnitude you can reach...a 4 inch scope on the system above will Easily capture Pluto!)  A 6 inch Celestron NexStar would be a good choice, or possibly a Meade ETX 125 (almost 5 inches).  These will not see Pluto, but come very close to it. 
An 8 inch will get to Pluto's magnitude, but it is not only more expensive, but the price of the carrying case jumps a couple hundred bucks as well.  To get to 10 inch size in the go-to scopes will run you to the top of this price range (or beyond...the 10 inch Meade LX200 runs about $3700) for just the scope and go-to mount.
If you price out the suggestions above, you will see that you can get then for well under the $2000 bottom of this range, but whichever size you choose, you would do well to also add several things if not included in your package.  A case is a good idea for such sophisticated equipment, a motorized focus is a HUGE help (the focusers on most of these units will not be like the big 2 inch deals on the Newtonians), an external power source (these babies eat the 8 AA bateries quickly...I was impressed by Celestron's Power Tank accessory), and of course eyepieces (see section above).
If you have a laptop computer, you can get started in astrophotography for as little as $100 extra.  Vibration suppression pads could be quite helpful, and a GPS will make setting the scope up a lot easier.

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