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First Telescope for an 11-Year Old

09/24/2009 9:37 AM

It seems to be my week for asking questions on CR4.

My neice will be 11 next month and has asked my Mum (her Nanna) for a telescope for her birthday. Mum has asked me to find one (I'm the technical one ! ).

It has to be a telescope; she's been offered binoculars, but doesn't want them. I presume it's for night sky watching*, although as she lives in a city in the UK, I think she'll be limited to Moon and large planet watching, at least from home.

Ignoring the issue of light pollution (unless even Moon watching is impossible in these circumstances), as I don't want to discourage her from starting what could be a lifelong hobby (and career ?!), my question is:

Can anyone recommend a reasonably priced starter telescope suitable for an 11 year-old's bedroom ?

I'd like to get her something that does a reasonable job, so that she's enthused, but that doesn't leave me with that feeling if she loses interest within a year. I know nothing about telescopes, so information on features to look for, what's "nice to have" and what's over the top at this level would be most appreciated.

Information on what she can realistically expect to be able to see would be be really helpful as I can try to manage expectations.

Thanks in advance for the help, not just from me

*I'll check this out with her - if she's planning on starting birdwatching, I'll chat to the RSPB !

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#1

Re: First Telescope for an 11 Year Old - HELP !!!

09/24/2009 10:11 AM

I'm across the pond so I have no idea what price you may find this in the UK but this October's Sky and Telescope magazine praises Celestron's appropriately named FirstScope for a beginner's telescope. With a listed sales price of $50 I don't see how you could go wrong with this little reflector.

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#3
In reply to #1

Re: First Telescope for an 11 Year Old - HELP !!!

09/24/2009 10:51 AM

Hunting down a UK supplier.....

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#7
In reply to #3

Re: First Telescope for an 11 Year Old - HELP !!!

09/24/2009 11:46 AM

David Hinds...FirstScope £47.50; Accessories Kits £15.00; buy together for £55.00 and free shipping if ordered online !

Looks like a good deal to me...I might even do the trip down the A1 to collect it and have a day out.

Thanks redfred. I'll have a hunt for refractors too, see what's there as Electroman commented.

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#2

Re: First Telescope for an 11 Year Old - HELP !!!

09/24/2009 10:13 AM

I was that 11 year old!!!!

But I never got a birthday present of a telescope *sniff*, until I grew up and bought myself one

Honestly for a 11 year old a cheap refractor is the best buy - they are easy to set up, especially if you don't use an equatorial mount, just an azimuth one.... Believe me setting up an equatorial mount will soon put him off astronomy!!!

I have a rflector telescope with electric drive equatorial mount and it takes me a good half an hour to set it up....

The is why I went and bought myself a cheap (but good) 50mm refractor telescope with a simple tripod mount..

I find that I use this more than my big reflector, as usually I see something in the sky and say "what's that?" pulling out my refractor is quick and easy and with a few eyepieces its easy to zoom in on the planet or whatever....

With light pollution I wouldn't go for anything more than a 4½" reflector or a 2 - 3" refractor (which is easier to set up quickly)

Just my tuppence worth, but if I was 11 again a refractor would have made my birthday....

John

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#4
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Re: First Telescope for an 11 Year Old - HELP !!!

09/24/2009 10:55 AM

soon put him off

her....HER....my neice

Thanks for the tips (I know how you feel, I did the same over a clarinet...and Meccano).

Should I get extra eye pieces at this stage (or save that for Christmas, if she's still interested ?) ? What do different eye pieces do ?

Results will be posted.

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#8
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Re: First Telescope for an 11 Year Old - HELP !!!

09/24/2009 11:49 AM

Well that reminds me of a Christmas present for me, which is now lying unused in the loft. I suppose that you have a look at eBay.

If your nice is used to tinkering maybe a small construction kit will be a nice addition. There are some very cheap construction kits available (well at least here in Germany) at http://www.astromedia.de/ The optical components are of very good quality (for their price), but the rest of the pieces are of cardboard. I have myself the sextant, and my workmate has many other things – we both work in a company which constructs optical measurement devices.

As for my own starting telescope I was frustrated with the 3-leg azimuth mount which just was not tight enough. The optics where fine – but what use is that if you cannot fix the position of the telescope to have the same view of the moon?

The movement of the moon (and stars & Planets) is slow enough, but a movement of the telescope is unacceptable.

Hope my english is not that bad - Greetings from Germany.

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#10
In reply to #8

Re: First Telescope for an 11 Year Old - HELP !!!

09/24/2009 12:06 PM

Thank you for those comments - there are some really good ideas there - I hadn't thought of eBay ! Duh !

I don't think she does much tinkering ... yet, so I'll bear in mind the idea for any later telescopes. I'll be sure to look carefully at the mount.

Your English is fine - far better than my German ! Tschuss und danke!

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#14
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Re: First Telescope for an 11 Year Old - HELP !!!

09/24/2009 1:18 PM

Different eyepieces change the amount of magnification and similarly the field of view. I believe that FirstScope comes with three eyepieces. I'd hold off getting any accessories until enthusiasm develops though.

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#5

Re: First Telescope for an 11 Year Old - HELP !!!

09/24/2009 11:32 AM

Do not know how much time you have, but would your consider building one from a kit.

I had did that with my nephew, it was good time spent togather.

p911

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: First Telescope for an 11 Year Old - HELP !!!

09/24/2009 11:41 AM

A nice idea, but not practical with my family. Partly it's because I live 200 miles away and partly the intra-family dynamics...maybe when she moves on to a bigger one and wants to set it up where there's less light pollution (somewhere like my house!).

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#9
In reply to #6

Re: First Telescope for an 11 Year Old - HELP !!!

09/24/2009 11:58 AM

(somewhere like my house!).

ha, that where I would want it.

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#11

Re: First Telescope for an 11 Year Old - HELP !!!

09/24/2009 12:36 PM

Sounds like you have got some good leads. But if my aging memory isn't totally shot, I seem to remember that masu did a blog on "what to look for" about telescopes a couple years back. Might be worth a PM to him.

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#12

Re: First Telescope for an 11 Year Old - HELP !!!

09/24/2009 12:56 PM

I onetime heard that more telescopes were sold in NYC, than anywhere else.

People are interesting.

Redfred's suggestion is good.

Often it really is as much about the mount for whatever scope, as it is about the scope itself. Youngsters see the word power, and want that, same as many of us.

My suggestion though would be that whatever you do get your neice, has as wide an angle of coverage as possible, so as to make finding and holding in view planets as easy as possible.

I myself did get a Telescope one Christmas, but the reality was I didn't much know how to get much enjoyment out of it.

I myself would not assume the child actually wants the scope to look at the Moon with. They may actually want to watch people in the city from afar, in which case they may well be frustrated if everybody is upside down.

These sorts of presents can be life changing events, and the thing, if it is to be in that order, calls for more than meets the eye.

Possibly there is an astronomy club the child can be joined up with?

Whatever mentoring and teaching that can be arranged along with the present, will likely turn out to be more important than the present itself.

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#22
In reply to #12

Re: First Telescope for an 11 Year Old - HELP !!!

10/09/2009 8:05 AM

Thanks for the comments. We've checked and it's Moon and star gazing that she wants to do.

I've decided to go with the Celestron FirstScope, partly down to the price and ease of use, but also because it comes logo-ed with the International Year of Astronomy decals* and with vouchers for magazine subs and club membership !

I live too far away to volunteer to take her to club meetings...her Mum won't do it and I don't think my Dad's sufficiently interested to do it.

I may have to start learning more about star gazing to keep her interest up...lots of PMs to masu I think!

*Did you know that 2009 was the International Year of Astronomy ? First I heard of it was in the Autumn edition of the National Trust magazine, which arrived a week after I started this thread and in the Focus magazine recommended by Kev Brown.

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#13

Re: First Telescope for an 11 Year Old - HELP !!!

09/24/2009 1:03 PM

Sorry I don't have any good answers for this question.
But I thought I'd pop in to say hi anyway, maybe have a cup of tea and a chat...
Del

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#15

Re: First Telescope for an 11-Year Old

09/25/2009 12:44 AM

Astronomy pictures are great (but they cheat to get all the pretty colors), the underlying physics is interesting and identifying constellations is fun (but kind of pointless), however looking through telescopes is dull after the first few times.

Half the CR4 members will have telescopes sitting unused in the garage, alongside their exercise bikes, fondue sets and record collection.

Personally I'd buy a good set of binoculars, you can still see the Moon, Saturn's rings and lots of little white dots (stars), but you can also take them out to look at birds, sports or other people.

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#16

Re: First Telescope for an 11-Year Old

09/25/2009 3:46 AM

http://www.uk-telescopes.co.uk/?gclid=CM2Fg-6hjJ0CFdYB4wodo3p_3g

Starter kits available from this website look goos at about 50 quid.

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#17

Re: First Telescope for an 11-Year Old

09/25/2009 5:31 AM

English Rose,

I am in a similar boat myself. My 5 year old daughter has asked for a telescope too believe it or not. She's into the planets etc in a big way and was really excited a month or so ago when there was that meteor shower for a couple of nights. I let her stay up later so we could see them.

Anyway, the new edition of Focus magazine landed on my doormat yesterday and there is a section in there about starter telescopes ranging from under £100 to about £350.

I would give it a few days befroe going to the shop to get the magazine though as it tends to get delivered before it comes out in the shops. I shall check tonight when I get home and post up here if I remember.

Kind Regards

Kev

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#23
In reply to #17

Re: First Telescope for an 11-Year Old

10/09/2009 8:10 AM

I spotted the magazine in the supermarket, so bought it. Thanks for the tip-off.

Hope you have lots of fun teaching your daughter.

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#18

Re: First Telescope for an 11-Year Old

09/25/2009 6:56 AM

Hi,

first allocate how much money you like to spend.

Then divide into three nearly equal parts:

first part mounting including stand,

second part the scope without eyepieces

third part eyepieces.

I would suggest one of the Russian or Chinese (of course your Orion company is much better) Maksutovs: very rugged and nothing to adjust and easy to clean. 100mm is a very good start. (around 200€)

Mounting and stand: look first at ebay, Zeiss Jena had very good manual mountings that are now sold typically at 100€, the tripod extra 100€.

Eyepieces: discard what you get with the scope and get some used Zeiss, Leitz, Nikon from old military surplus and adopt. Or go to the distributors according to your budget.

Really good eyepieces (upper end of amateur telescope use) will cost between 200 and 500€ each - and these are worth this money.

I got some really good eyepieces from the Zeiss rangefinder of Leo I tank as these were scrapped at the introduction of the laser rangefinder. Very good microscope eyepieces are sold at ebay for near 70€ . Leitz Periplan for instance is one of the best.

Very important: forget about typical aiming scopes, get one of the modern "red-dots".

Next step would be a drive for the RA.

If no longer in use: this will have the same value as you paid.

I bought one of the typical offers for 340€ in total 10 years ago, scrapped after first trials the stand and the eyepiece, after half a year the mounting and later the aiming scope - according to above recommendations.

Now its a beautiful (ugly say others as not from the most modern production) Maksutov and in clear nights I can see the small craters on moon passing the limits of the field of view in one second, so 1 arcsec and 340 thousand kilometers distance so these are craters 1700 m (or 1 mile) diameter.

RHABE

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#24
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Re: First Telescope for an 11-Year Old

10/09/2009 8:13 AM

Thanks RHABE, lots of tips for the next stage.

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#19

Re: First Telescope for an 11-Year Old

09/25/2009 3:51 PM

If you look up ' one minute astronomer ' they have a dailyish newsletter and are a gateway to a lot of pertinent answers to your questions, as well as carrying advice on buying and setting up and looking or not at the hot objects.

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#20

Re: First Telescope for an 11-Year Old

09/27/2009 11:53 AM

English Rose,

I can't help with telescope suggestions, but maybe your niece would find this video of interest.

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#21

Re: First Telescope for an 11-Year Old

10/02/2009 5:30 PM

One word: Astroscan! OK, three words: Edmund Scientific Astroscan!

Way easy to set up & use - way durable - and way cute.

I let kids use mine all the time. The find objects on the first try! I bought it second-hand for $100. It's had a rough life, survived many camping trips, delighted many kids, even bounced off the pavement once, still works great.

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#25

Re: First Telescope for an 11-Year Old

10/19/2009 4:34 AM

Hi Everyone,

Update time:

I bought the Celestron FirstScope, with the accessories kit. I'm going to print out some sky plots from the CD so that we know what we're looking for next week.

Thanks for all the advice - I'll be back to consult it for the Christmas present !!!!

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