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We were the lucky recipients this week of the NASA backpack experience from our local library. We put a hold on it back sometime in June and just got our number called this week.

https://www.kdlt.com/2019/07/16/a-ne...and-libraries/

(that's a local story written on the backpacks)

I thought they were a great idea, and for once I was right. My son and I have been outside every night with the telescope looking at the moon and whatever else he can find. He's been counting down the seconds until it's dark enough to go look again. I'll admit, I find it somewhat relaxing also. He's been reading all about stars and the moon this week (he's 6)

The telescope in the kit is an Orion FunScope 76mm. Reviews state it is a great beginner telescope for kids. I like the portability of it.

The backpack needs to go back at the end of the week, however I may have found another outdoor hobby for my son and I to enjoy.

Here's the question, if I were to look to purchase a "first scope" for him (and dad also), anyone have a recommendation on either brand or model? I'd think maybe we'd want to look at something a little bit stronger since you can only look at the moon detail so many nights. Portability is also key as we'll need to get away from the city and the ambiant light.

Thanks,

Steve
 

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That looks like a very neat program to help show kids astronomy.
Although I do not have a scope recommendation for you, we were just at the Lunar Planetary Institute near Johnson Space Center the other night. They were having an 'open house' of sorts and had an inflatable planetarium set up in the main lobby along with 4-5 telescopes set up on the lawn. The skies were clear to view the crescent moon (in great detail) but Saturn and Jupiter were in the night sky too that evening. Great fun and encouraging to see all the families out there taking an interest.
 

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+1 for the above, find a local astronomy club or "star party" to get a feel for the variety of scopes folks use. This hobby ranges from simple to extremely complicated, so you'll get all sorts of opinions on beginner scopes. Here's a recent thread on the topic from a great forum you might consider joining or at least searching (no doubt they have 100s of such threads):


I'm far from an expert on the topic, but in addition to portability, you might also want to consider versatility as well as durability and maintenance requirements. Refractors are more durable and generally require much less maintenance, but if you want to see a variety of DSOs (like nebulae), and don't want to break the bank, you'll want a bigger reflector or catadioptric scope (sort of a more portable reflector). I often see 8" dobsonians recommended for beginners, partly because there are great deals to be had on the used market, but most folks would not consider them very portable. To my point on versatility, do you have any interest in viewing distant objects during the day, such as birds or other wildlife? In that case, if your budget allows, I'd highly recommend considering spotting scopes as well, particularly if the moon and planets are mostly what you intend to observe. They can also do well with easy DSOs like Orion's nebula or the pleiades. Upsides: they provide a fully corrected image (nothing reversed - telescopes require special erecting prisms for this), compact, virtually maintenance-free, durable, and usually very well sealed (commonly waterproof, fogproof and dustproof). Downsides are that they're often pretty limited in maximum magnification (unless you can afford something like a Kowa 883), so you might be hard pressed to do much better than the FunScope on a budget (I'd have to do some more research on that). They're also typically supplied with 45 degree eyepieces, which can be annoying when looking at objects directly above you, but are well suited to observing things anywhere from the ground to an elevation of maybe 60-70 degrees.

I've found the website in-the-sky.org to be pretty good for keeping up with things to look for throughout the year. Also, these free apps are handy:
Heavens-Above
SkEye (SkySafari is considered much better, if you don't mind paying)
 

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2019 Outback 3.6R Touring Wilderness Green Metallic
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for a PC or other platform, I like to play around with stellarium and celstia. Celestia on windows you just extract and run.... stellarium does an install, but there are portable versions out there. Also there are versions that run on other operating systems. It's like your own planetarium.


web version of stellarium


 

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A couple of thoughts:

That scope will probably be fun to use, but it's small. It will have be be set up on a table or a tree stump or some other sort of stand otherwise you'll find yourself down on all fours. And if you do put it on a table, it will have to be sturdy and not that shaky camp table they show in the video. Your son is 6 so he'll be pushing and bumping on it when he looks into it. Here's how it will go - you'll aim it at something to show him, he'll bump it when he looks into it and won't see anything. If you can figure out a way to work that out, I think it will be OK. There will be 2 eyepieces - one low mag and one high(er) magnification. You'll find that you will use the low mag most often. It will brighten up whatever you look at, and you won't have to chase things quite so often. A high magnification will display a very tiny slice of sky and since the Earth keeps moving you will have to keep moving the scope.

I'd suggest binoculars and putting then on a tripod, but he's probably still to young for that. A good pair of binoculars will show a good view of a lot of things. Jupiter's Galilean moons will be easy to see even with a low end pair.

At his age, possibly the best thing to do would be to get a simple star chart and learn how to use it.

I have one of these:


You'll need to get the one that matches closest to your latitude.

With this, you can point out constellations for any time of the night and season.

Also, find an online resource for sky maps. I like this:

You can print a chart of the sky for each month. It will have information on what planets will be visible, where, and when. It will also have a list of naked eye objects as well as binocular and telescope objects. There's a lot you can see with the Mk 1 Eyeball.

Have fun!
 
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