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Where to get stargazing equipment and advice in Canberra?

By longshanks 19 June 2012 19

My kids are obsessed with all things astronomical at the moment, and I’d like to look into getting some basic gear to enable them (and me for that matter) to do a bit of stargazing.

Anyone know where I can pick up some basic equipment, and, more to the point, get some advice from someone local who really knows their stuff?

Any thoughts/recommendations would be much appreciated – thanks in advance!

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Where to get stargazing equipment and advice in Canberra?
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Gungahlin Al 1:24 pm 25 Jun 12

Disinformation said :

Just for the hell of it, I braved the cloud cover and went up to Stromlo on Friday night for a peek through the telescopes. It had been previously clear, but clouded over so we were directed inside for a talk about meteorites by a youthful and quite attractive astronomer whose specialty was actually dwarf galaxies.
She gave an interesting talk about them and threw in some things I’d never encountered before, such as Antarctica being the best place to find meteorites as they sit on top of the ice. Meteorites are also best left untouched for a bit when they hit the ground as although they’ve just reached a nice red glow belting through the atmosphere, it’s actually not enough to get them warm being as that they’ve been at damn near absolute zero while cruising around in space.

So if one crashes through the roof, at least stack a few beers around it to celebrate your good fortune.
She also asked what the biggest thing was to hit the Earth. I had my suspicions but managed to suppress calling out “Gina Rinehart”. I’d touched on most of the other things she mentioned but it was good to get a concentrated presentation of the facts as we currently know things. Particularly interesting was the forces and distances required to create planets of galactic bits and pieces.

With that finished, we headed outside again where the brave astronomers in freezer suits were semi comfortably ensconced around maybe five or six various types of dobsonians, refractors and schmitt Cassegrains. After peering at Saturn a couple of times, being able to see the moons and viewing a very bright cloud of expanding gass, I was pretty impressed with what can be viewed. Most appropriate though was one of the brightest and longest lasting meteors I’ve ever seen which neatly underlined our recent lecture.
In all, cold but a very cheap night with knowledgeable people providing great entertainment. Highly recommended with some warm clothing!

That’s a great review Disinformation. Glad you enjoyed it. I bailed as it was 100% cloud at my place at 7pm, although it did clear nicely for an hour or so – always the way.

A few of us from the CAS will be demonstrating for a schools night at the Turner School oval on Wednesday night. So hoping for clearer skies. Saturn guaranteed to be a big hit.

I’ve noticed the last two nights that – even with light pollution – the Milky Way has been visible. The best nights are the cold ones. And anyway – cold is just a state of clothing…

Disinformation 11:27 am 25 Jun 12

Just for the hell of it, I braved the cloud cover and went up to Stromlo on Friday night for a peek through the telescopes. It had been previously clear, but clouded over so we were directed inside for a talk about meteorites by a youthful and quite attractive astronomer whose specialty was actually dwarf galaxies.
She gave an interesting talk about them and threw in some things I’d never encountered before, such as Antarctica being the best place to find meteorites as they sit on top of the ice. Meteorites are also best left untouched for a bit when they hit the ground as although they’ve just reached a nice red glow belting through the atmosphere, it’s actually not enough to get them warm being as that they’ve been at damn near absolute zero while cruising around in space.

So if one crashes through the roof, at least stack a few beers around it to celebrate your good fortune.
She also asked what the biggest thing was to hit the Earth. I had my suspicions but managed to suppress calling out “Gina Rinehart”. I’d touched on most of the other things she mentioned but it was good to get a concentrated presentation of the facts as we currently know things. Particularly interesting was the forces and distances required to create planets of galactic bits and pieces.

With that finished, we headed outside again where the brave astronomers in freezer suits were semi comfortably ensconced around maybe five or six various types of dobsonians, refractors and schmitt Cassegrains. After peering at Saturn a couple of times, being able to see the moons and viewing a very bright cloud of expanding gass, I was pretty impressed with what can be viewed. Most appropriate though was one of the brightest and longest lasting meteors I’ve ever seen which neatly underlined our recent lecture.
In all, cold but a very cheap night with knowledgeable people providing great entertainment. Highly recommended with some warm clothing!

snoopydoc 6:47 pm 22 Jun 12

I second the advice to check out the Canberra Astronomical Society…. they have regular meetings which involve a beginner’s talk/lecture/tutorial on a topic, as well as general chit-chat and some more advanced talks, coupled with regular observing nights (many members bring along and set up their instruments and your kids (and you!) can have a look at and through a wide variety of telescopes and chat with their owners about the relative pros and cons of each for a given purpose).

They also have a little dome on Mt Stromlo with a 14-inch SCT set up which, while a bit beyond a “beginner” level instrument, will show you some amazing things and give you a feel for what you can expect from high-level backyard astronomy.

In passing, I also have a Celestron Astromaster 130-EQ (a 5-inch Newtonian reflector) sitting around gathering dust. Australian Geographic will sell you a new one for $500 (I checked the other day). Mine needs some minor repair work to the tripod, but the OTA (the actual telescope bit with the optics) is in excellent condition and I’d be happy to part with it for quite a bit less than the store price for a new one.

hermanmunster1 11:14 pm 20 Jun 12

I have a telescope that I want to sell.
I’m looking to upgrade to a better model because on a clear Canberra night all I can see through it is Uranus.
Sorry, made me laugh in Yr.2 still gives me a chuckle 38 yrs later. So immature I know.

shirty_bear 8:26 pm 19 Jun 12

Hi John – would have been fine, but OP has claimed it … sorry.

johnmd 4:57 pm 19 Jun 12

Hi Shirty-bear

I’d be happy to take it off your hands if your generous offer still stands?

Cheers, John

longshanks 2:57 pm 19 Jun 12

Thanks all for the advice – we live in Weston Creek, so might pop over to Stromlo this Friday evening.

SigmaOctantis 2:54 pm 19 Jun 12

Hi,
I’ve bought a lot of gear from the guys at Bintel in Sydney (http://www.bintel.com.au/).
They sell telescopes for all levels of enthusiasm, and offer advice on what’s best to buy, I can recommend giving them a call to talk to someone in the know.

In my opinion you should consider either a 100mm refractor or a 150mm reflector to get some great views and for relatively little money. The telescopes you see in National Geographic would be OK for kids who might lose interest after the first look, but you really shouldn’t get a telescope with an aperture (width of lens or mirror) less than that mentioned above. Plus you don’t need all the bells and whistles (drives etc) for the mount, a simple ‘altazimuth’ mount would be perfectly fine. The mass produced scopes tend to focus (no pun intended) on fancy bells and whistles and it’s really quality of optics you should be going for.

I think giving bintel a call and seeing what they have in that aperture range and the price would be a great start, you can also get a feel from their website.

Cheers.

Gungahlin Al 2:48 pm 19 Jun 12

CrocodileGandhi said :

Don’t know about price, but National Geographic usually has a couple of scopes sitting in their window. As far as adivce goes, RiotACT’s own Gungahlin Al seems to be quite the stargazing buff. I’d suggest getting in contact with him.

Cheers. Happy to help. And let me start by saying do not go to Australian Geographic shops, or other such stores. You can get much better service and prices from places like http://www.ozscopes.com.au/ and http://www.bintel.com.au/
E.g. ordered scope from Ozscope 4pm one day, delivered one huge box 9am next day.

Madam Cholet is right – Star Walk and some binoculars can get you a long way.

To go further, come along to the public viewing night at Mt Stromlo this Friday from 7pm, dependent on weather of course. I’ll be there. Or you could call me on 0408 771633 outside work hours.

We have one of these: http://www.ozscopes.com.au/dobsonian-telescope-saxon-8inch.html
But time over I’d get this: http://www.ozscopes.com.au/dobsonian-telescope-saxon-collapsible-8-inch.html just because for $50 more the more compact packing would help with transport a lot. A 6″ will also get you a lot of decent viewing: http://www.ozscopes.com.au/dobsonian-telescope-saxon-6inch.html Key thing is, you don’t buy something so small you can’t see anything much other than the moon.

Just starting with the photography, but some early examples:
http://alankerlin.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/its-transit-of-venus-day-we-have-clear.html
http://alankerlin.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/my-transit-of-venus-ingress-photos.html

VYBerlinaV8_is_back 2:42 pm 19 Jun 12

johnboy said :

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

johnboy said :

I am told it is very, very important to never buy a telescope from a store which isn’t a dedicated astronomy store.

Why?

My reading online suggested that you can get much better telescopes online and that every telescope in a general store is awful.

At least that’s the opinion of online telescope nerds.

I suspect it’s one of those hobbies where a rank amateur (e.g. me) could have a ‘normal’ telescope and be quite happy with it, but once you get into it a bit you realise that the basic kit is crap and you need something better.

Kinda like any serious hobby, I guess.

    johnboy 2:44 pm 19 Jun 12

    The point is that their is good quality gear available for less than the stores are charging

johnboy 2:29 pm 19 Jun 12

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

johnboy said :

I am told it is very, very important to never buy a telescope from a store which isn’t a dedicated astronomy store.

Why?

My reading online suggested that you can get much better telescopes online and that every telescope in a general store is awful.

At least that’s the opinion of online telescope nerds.

shirty_bear 2:19 pm 19 Jun 12

Pretty sure there’s an old-ish fully manual telescope (that’s as accurately as I can describe it) somewhere at the back of the bear cave. Yours gratis if you want to come to Scullin to collect it.
If so, drop me a line at biddle at rabbitohs.zzn.com.

VYBerlinaV8_is_back 2:15 pm 19 Jun 12

johnboy said :

I am told it is very, very important to never buy a telescope from a store which isn’t a dedicated astronomy store.

Why?

Disinformation 2:05 pm 19 Jun 12

If you’re an android phone user, Google Sky is the equivalent. I used to use Home Planet by John Walker which is also free. It includes a sky map and telescope steering interface, but is XP vintage.

Canberra Astronomical Society would be the single best possible starting point anyway. I’m sure someone there will give you a squizz through one (or several) of their toys if you have an interest.

http://www.mso.anu.edu.au/cas/

    johnboy 2:08 pm 19 Jun 12

    I am told it is very, very important to never buy a telescope from a store which isn’t a dedicated astronomy store.

Deref 2:04 pm 19 Jun 12

I’ve got a 4.5″ Newtonian reflector that I don’t use any more. Let me know if you’re interested in making an offer.

CrocodileGandhi 1:49 pm 19 Jun 12

Don’t know about price, but National Geographic usually has a couple of scopes sitting in their window. As far as adivce goes, RiotACT’s own Gungahlin Al seems to be quite the stargazing buff. I’d suggest getting in contact with him.

Madam Cholet 1:46 pm 19 Jun 12

Got an iphone? If so, download an app called Star Walk – 5 Stars Astronomy Guide. Point it at the night sky and it will tell you what you are looking at.

The wait until your mother in law bizarrely buys you a telescope – that’s what happened in our house. Seriously though – it’s a great hobby for the kids – if not a bit chilly at the moment! Good luck.

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