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Go For The 8-inch

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Posted by Daniel Johnson on November 16, 2003 16:26:24 UTC

Ah, so you're an adult. That makes a difference. For an adolescent who may--or may not--have a long-term interest in astronomy, the 6-inch is a good enough beginner's scope to provide enjoyment and to last a few years, and good enough that the adolescent won't give up[ the hobby because he's discouraged by poor equipment (this often happens!). For an adult, the 4.25-inch would be a waste of time, the 6-inch is OK and much better than most beginners get, but the 8-inch crosses a threshold into being a serious instrument. It will resolve just about all the detail that you can see on Jupiter or Saturn (larger scopes may see more briefly, but the atmosphere limits the quality of the view most nights). If you can get out to dark skies, the extra brightness and resolution from the 8-inch will make a difference in what you can see. If you ever go to a "star party" hosted by a local astronomy club (some of whose members may own $10,000 in equipment), no one will laugh at you for bringing an 8-inch scope. It makes the difference, for example, between seeing globular cluster M13 as just a faint glow (in the 6-inch), or seeing it as uncountably many points of light, as if you were looking at a patch of spilled sugar granules in the sky.
Just be aware in advance that most objects will look nothing like the pictures in books. Galaxies will be a very faint glow in any telescope--those sharp photos of spiral galaxies require very long exposures with mighty expensive equipment (though you can take snapshots of the Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn with your 8-inch scope and digital cameras. For discussions of equipment, visit --they sell equipment to couple digital cameras to your scope).

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