Quality telescope for kids?

Discussion in 'Shiny Things' started by Ursa Major, Dec 4, 2013.

  1. Ursa Major

    Ursa Major Bemused

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    I know there are some star-gazers here from previous threads. I'd like to get a telescope for Christmas for two brothers, one is about to turn 11 and the other is 7. A quick look on Amazon shows quite a few in the $60-120 range, or even below. Celestron, in particular, has a lot of models; some are long and thin, others are shorter and wider - I really have no idea what the differences are. I'm happy with that price point, but I'd be ok with spending a bit more if it gets a significant upgrade in capability and/or durability. Chances are they'll stick it in the garage, but on the off-chance that one or both becomes interested in astronomy, I'd like it to be good enough that they don't have to upgrade for a while. Any suggestions?
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  2. Mr Bags

    Mr Bags Been here awhile

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    120 bucks wont buy anything worthwhile. There are plenty of websites that have live astronomy feeds buy them a tablet and they can explore the universe on the cheep.
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  3. Ursa Major

    Ursa Major Bemused

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    One point of doing this is to get them to pull their heads up from various screens, go outside, and check out the physical world. They're 7 and 10, it doesn't have to be something a hobbyist with a job would be thrilled with, just something to get little kids started looking at the night sky and wanting to know more. If they do, they've got a tablet I got them last year and a laptop to look things up.
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  4. groop

    groop So much to ponder

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    The problem with cheap scopes and kids that I discovered is that kids expect to see images with their own eyes the way they are pictured in books. A $100 scope might get the kids to distinuish Jupiter as a planet from the nearby stars.....and just maybe see something that looks like rings, but it's not going to pop in Technicolor the way they would expect. Same goes for the moon. The craters will look bigger, but kids usually expect to see more.

    I love astronomy and would take my scope (and it's not a cheap one) to Boy Scout outings at every opportunity, but the expectations of the kids usually was far more than I could deliver with a 125mm scope
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  5. Davi5678

    Davi5678 Been here awhile

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  6. TheNorthernMonkey

    TheNorthernMonkey Clueless n00b

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    Buy a GOOD pair of binoculars (Nikon 40x8 or 50x10) with a tripod mount and a cheap tripod.

    You'll see a lot more that with an cheap telescope
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  7. NikonsAndVStroms

    NikonsAndVStroms Beastly Photographer

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    I like this move, not only will you be able to take those first steps into astronomy, if your kids do get really into it then the binoculars will be more useful once you upgrade. Also they're not up to the top of the line binoculars but IIRC Celestron's are the best bang for your buck and fit your price range perfectly http://www.amazon.com/Celestron-SkyMaster-Binoculars-Tripod-Adapter/dp/B00008Y0VN.

    Just a warning though, astronomy is up there with motorcycle and photography as a money sucking hobby.
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  8. mac62

    mac62 One more thin gypsy thief

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    This is a great idea for kids and even grownups new to astronomy. Using them with a tripod really helps a lot.

    The Edmund Scientific Astroscan telescopes are really excellent and kids dig them.
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  9. Josephvman

    Josephvman I'm the Decider

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    Timely thread. I went looking at telescopes yesterday here in Houston, where we've got a really great store that specializes in that kind of stuff, called Land, Sea, Sky (good website). I was thinking about one as a gift, and had a budget of less than $500, and some specific requirements with regard to compact size. As previously noted, until you get to $300-400 they're basically toys, but fine for a kid. For what I needed (compact scope, compact mount, powerful enough to overcome city light pollution) it was going to run around $800. This also gets you programmable and motorized tracking, which I really didn't need. If they had the same scope without the computer stuff for $500 I would have bought one, but for a handful of weekend beach house parties a year, where it would mainly be used, $800 was more than I wanted to spend.

    Do a google search for Land, Sea, Sky in Houston. Their website is a good place to start.
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  10. ysr612

    ysr612 Long timer

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    when I was a kid my 10 year old brother bought a kit from them. It was a 3" reflector and did show the red spot on Jupiter, rings of Saturn and so forth. The cost of that kit was $29. I wish they still made kits like that.

    Here is where he now works.

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  11. Kamala

    Kamala Long timer

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    I bet I supplied that Observatory its Data Acquisition Terminals and Data Recorders.

    Getting kids a Telescope is a great idea but keep in mind back yard Astronomy is a bit unexciting and unless they have the calling they can lose interest quickly, especially if they have a hard time finding the good stuff to look at. I'd say the guys recommending the Binoculars (with a tripod) are spot on. There are many things of interest that Astronomy Binoculars (Large aperture, reasonable magnification) are perfect for. Plus they have other uses and won't end up gathering dust in a closet.
    Great deal here-> http://www.binoculars.com/binocular...rce=channel_intelligence_shopzilla_binoculars

    Another option is spending a little more $$ and get an instrument that uses a laptop to point it in the right direction and eliminates the usual beginner curse of not being able to find the more interesting deep space objects. Meade used to have one for a little over $200.

    No matter what you get make sure you start them off with an easy to find awe inspiring object to look at. I always show people the Nebular in Orion first. Super easy to find and right in the middle of the winters skies. Perfect for binoculars.

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  12. janeuner

    janeuner Get Some

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    Binocs are good for adults to start. But kids want to see the planets, not a monochrome blob (sometimes called a Messier object). Are you paying for their interest or your own entertainment?

    I have lots of other (expensive) equipment around, but I also have one of these 70mm telescopes. The eyepiece of a refractor is close to the ground, so the kids can easily see what you point it at. The laser star pointer is easy to use. And it provides good, color views of the planets at around 90 power magnification. Most importantly, it is light, simple, and cheap, but still effective.

    Viewing today, at 6pm, the bright "star" to the west is Venus. This scope will show you the current phase of Venus.

    Later around midnight, Jupiter will be high in the sky. This scope will resolve a couple cloud bands on that planet, and at least the 4 galilean moons.

    Saturn will not appear in the evening sky until next summer. This scope is large enough to see the gap between Saturn and its rings, but not powerful enough to clearly view the Cassini Division.

    The best telescope is the one you use.
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  13. Ursa Major

    Ursa Major Bemused

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    I appreciate all the good advice here, but I couldn't end up justifying the cost of a hobbyist level telescope for kids their age (I got them a dog last Christmas and I still pay for its food, vet, etc. - I like these kids but there are limits). I ended up getting them a Celestron refractor telescope that got good ratings on Amazon along with an accessory kit with extra filters and eyepieces, a number of reviewers there said they could see the rings of Saturn, red spot on Jupiter, etc. and said it was a great beginner telescope. We'll see. Last year I got them a DVD course on "Our Night Sky", maybe with the telescope waiting in the back yard they'll watch the DVD's and take enough interest to take a look upward. If they really get into it I'll get them something better. :dunno
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  14. TheMuffinMan

    TheMuffinMan Forest Ranger Magnet

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    Which scope did you get?
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  15. TheMuffinMan

    TheMuffinMan Forest Ranger Magnet

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    Check out this: http://www.telescopes.com/telescopes/reflecting-telescopes/celestronastromaster114eqreflector.cfm

    [​IMG]
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  16. Mr Vimes

    Mr Vimes Been here awhile

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    Have a look at a book called 'Turn Left at Orion'.

    This is a great book, designed for beginners (like me). It shows you what to look for, what it'll look like in binoculars, telescope and even to the naked eye. Not cheap but worth every penny as it is realistic about what you'll see. Most importantly it helps you to navigate the night sky.
    If you've got an iPhone/Pad, the Starmap app is superb. It doesn't beat an actual book for me but it has interactive maps, including showing Santa's route through the night sky, it can also show maps in red light or just act as a red torch.
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  17. BerndM

    BerndM Shiftless One

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    I have this 8 " available, cheap :evil

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