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When You're Ready For Your Next Scope

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Posted by Daniel Johnson on November 22, 2002 01:27:59 UTC

When you are ready for your next scope, buy one that has 1.25-inch eyepieces, or that has a focuser accepting both 1.25 and 2-inch eyepieces. Those two sizes are used on "serious" scopes. The .965-inch eyepieces are usually a mark of scopes that advertise too much power and give too little quality. The shame is that for about $200, you can get a good quality beginner's scope, and for $500 you can get a scope that even totally obsessed astronomy freaks will acknowledge as a good instrument (though many of us spend thousands, not hundreds).
Orion Telescopes sells a tiny Dobsonian scope with two good eyepieces for $200 plus shipping--it's good for the sky, but gives upside-down views and so is no good for birding or other daytime images. Meade and Orion sell bare-bones "Maksutov-Cassegrain" scopes in that same price range, and these double as good birding scopes. (See for the Meade version.)
If your budget won't allow for a new scope, a better eyepiece can make a lot of difference. Yours are probably of a design invented in the 1600s--the initial H usually means "Huygens," after Chriatian Huygens, who died in 1695! It's hard to find better eyepieces for the .965 scope. Orion used to sell (and may still sell) the far superior Plossl design in that size. In the long run, you'd do best to save your money for a better scope instead of buying a .965 Plossl eyepiece, but if you know you can't realistically buy a better scope and you want to squeeze the best views of Jupiter you can from your existing scope, get a Plossl that gives about 25 to 30 power per inch of aperture, or a little over 1 power per mm of aperture. For a 60 mm scope, consider getting an eyepiece giving 60 to 70 power or so. Divide your scope's focal length by the desired power to get the desired eyepiece focal length. For example, 800mm/66 = 12 mm roughly. For dim objects such as the Orion nebula, you actually want much LOWER power, so your 20 mm eyepiece is reasonable. And eyepieces giving more magnification than about 100 power will just give you a magnified blur.

--Dan Johnson

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