Chiff and Fipple Forums

Flute or telescope...?
Page 1 of 2

Author:  Thalatta [ Fri May 22, 2020 10:05 am ]
Post subject:  Flute or telescope...?

Hi guys, my apologies for asking here, but I'm wondering if anyone can recommend... an excellent, but affordable, beginner's telescope for looking at the Moon, stars, Saturn, aliens, etc. Since we're all into tubes and bores here, I thought it might be the right place to ask! Apologies for using the board for a different subject. I actually looked at the Moon through my H Fentum antique flute (with the head cap taken off) there last night, and it looked great. So, there's a certain connection to this forum. A stretch, I admit.

Author:  plunk111 [ Fri May 22, 2020 11:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute or telescope...?

6” Dobsonian from Orion telescopes is, in my humble amateur astronomer opinion, the best beginner scope out there. You can find it at

Look for the SkyQuest XT-6


Author:  Casey Burns [ Fri May 22, 2020 12:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute or telescope...?

I have been into astronomy all my life and still am, despite living in Astronomy-poor rainy Seattle (for some reason though they frequently hold the American Astronomy Association annual meetings here). The great Baroque flute maker Rod Cameron is also an astronomy buff - and was at one point an Oxford-trained astrophysicist. He has a telescope that will give you telescope envy - a large computerized portable 20" Dobsonian by Obsessions. My telescopes are more modest. I have a 10" rich field telescope that I built myself with purchased optics that needs to be decommissioned (its lived on my back porch for years) and I have a mirror for an 8" hand held (well sling-held) rich field scope that has been on my to-do list for a few decades. Its best to just dive in and get a scope ready to use.

It depends upon what you want to look at, where you want to look, and how. For just appreciating some magnification with plenty of light gathering power the easiest thing is a 10X50 binoculars. in Mendocino is a great place to buy them and Nikon is a great brand.

If you want more magnification to appreciate planets and the moon something with a little more aperture and light gathering power is the way to go. The Zhumell alt-azimuth reflectors can fit on a picnic table and are inexpensive and portable ($99-154). For fainter objects you want a larger aperture: 6", 8", 10" or even $12" depending upon your budget. However, the larger the scope the more awkward. Also, in an urban or suburban setting the aperture is rather pointless due to light pollution, even with filters that filter this out. But then you have to load it in your car and go somewhere out in the country to see anything which means you will do it less unless you become passionate about it. A good way to do that is to join your local astronomy club and go out on some of their summer campouts. If you bring your flute or other musical instruments the attendees usually love this!

The Orion Scopes are good. A really good choice (I might get one of these) is an Intelliscope that locates itself in the universe, and then help you point to any object in the sky above the horizon so that you aren't doing this with star charts and hunt and peck methods. Seeing things like the dense galaxy clusters and various nebulae becomes much easier. Orion's 27191 is a tabletop scope with a fast (short) focal length and 6" aperture fitted with the Intelliscope electronics and costs $471, just $21 over one of my Folk Flutes. In lieu of picnic tables you can use a Black and Decker workmate table or equivalent.

Something like this would be good with a cell phone adapter for capturing images of the International Space Station crossing the face of the moon. There is a site somewhere that tells you when and where in your area, and where to look in the sky. Point your scope to that point in the sky a few minutes before, then start recording a movie, and wait until it has passed. Then look at the movie scrolling frame by frame (Quicktime is good for this on the iMac) until you see it. I've been able to resolve it with a 40X power spotting scope held in my hands. I used this same scope for the Transit of Venus fitted with a solar filter. It was too windy however. One could see the spot of Venus using just eclipse glasses. Its humbling to see that tiny dot, realizing that its the same size as the Earth - and between it and the Sun there is only one much smaller ball of rock. Puts things into perspective! A very few of us will be around for the next Transit of Venus (2117).


Author:  Thalatta [ Sat May 23, 2020 4:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute or telescope...?

Thank you both for your answers! And Casey, thanks for all those tips - you really know your stuff. I will defintely check out the Orion scopes. Although the intelliscope is alittle out of my range, so i was wondring how much you havé to spend to get something decent?

Author:  plunk111 [ Sun May 24, 2020 4:44 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute or telescope...?

Personally, I shy away from recommending “smart” scopes for beginners. Yeah, you get to see objects you might otherwise have difficulty finding, by you don’t really learn the sky. I’ve been doing this astronomy stuff for over 40 years and only owned one smart scope many years ago (no longer own it). I think half the fun is in the searching! I think the Orion 6” kit is $279 and even if (when, actually!) you buy something bigger, it’s still great for “grab and go”. I’ve owned everything from a 16” equatorial down to a 60mm (my current main scopes are a 102mm/f15 Unitron and a no-name 8” Dob) and I still pull out the good old Orion 6” when I don’t want the hassle of the bigger scopes.


Author:  Thalatta [ Sun May 24, 2020 9:07 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute or telescope...?

What about refractor telescopes, like the Orion 9024 Astroview 90 mm? You both seem to prefer "reflectors". (The Orion 6" looks much bigger and bulkier than the Orion 9024 Astroview 90).

Author:  Casey Burns [ Sun May 24, 2020 9:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute or telescope...?

There are two kind of smart scopes. The cheaper ones require one to skew the scope to zero in on an object, whereas the more expensive Go To kind skew to the objects automatically. Guess which ones are used in modern observatories? Astronomers do not time to hunt and peck to find an object for study. For a beginning amateur, it will allow them to see more objects without spending time searching for something only to be 1/2 a degree off. The Ring Nebula is fairly easy to find but near Seattle its a faint object obscured by glare. One is more likely to find it with some assistance.

There is no need to be so unnecessarily "hard core" about it Pat and otherwise have to apologize for a little bit of computerized assistance. The option is there and one also doesn't have to always use it.

I'm fantasizing about getting one of the Go To scopes but I'll have to sell an instrument or two first to afford it. One thing that you can do with it is astrophotography. Even though the mount isn't equatorial and successive images taken in 1 second intervals will gradually rotate with respect to each other, stacking software will align them and the differences between images will also help reduce noise. What one can achieve with a modest scope these days rivals the larger observatory scopes of the first half of the 20th century.


Author:  Thalatta [ Sun May 24, 2020 9:26 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute or telescope...?

Looks like you both put it very well Casey and Pat: either enjoy the hunt for the stars, or enjoy the tech help and get straight to the object. I imagine, though, that the tech version is more expensive Casey, and I'm on a limited budget :( I did have a look at the Orion 6" suggested above, and the Orion intelliscope. They all look great! But how to choose? Reflector, refractor? That would be my last question, as I'm afraid I may be taking up vaulable flute space here, and... wait for it... I don't want to a bore!

Author:  Conical bore [ Sun May 24, 2020 10:55 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute or telescope...?

Thalatta wrote:
Reflector, refractor? That would be my last question, as I'm afraid I may be taking up vaulable flute space here, and... wait for it... I don't want to a bore!

I believe the conventional wisdom is that refractors are good for observation of planets (up to a point), and Dobsonian-type reflectors are better for deep sky objects -- galaxies, nebulae, star clusters -- due to the sheer light gathering power of the larger mirror. That said, I've seen much more impressive views of say, Jupiter in a large amateur Dob on a tracking mount than I've ever seen in a reflector. You'll get a better bang for the buck with a Dobsonian reflector.

My background: I used to be deep into amateur astronomy when I lived in South Florida, where the observing conditions are fantastic. It was sea level, but the skies are super-steady. My S.O. and I were on the board of the local astronomy club, we did outreach at schools, ran a big winter star party. I had an 18" Dob on an equatorial tracking table, all the cool TeleVue eyepieces. We basically gave it up after moving to the Pacific Northwest because the skies just aren't the same (not so much the clouds but the steadiness, or "seeing"). I still have a pair of apochromatic 4" binoculars with angled eyepieces on a nice alt-az mount. I bring that out on the deck occasionally.

Anyway, I wanted to comment on the "smart scope" vs. learning the sky issue. Smart scopes are cool, but I think it's a great thing to learn the constellations and know how to manually point a scope at the more interesting deep sky objects. It impresses the heck out of civilians when you can do that, and I think it helps form a connection to the universe that you just don't get by dialing in an object and having the scope move to it.

I do think a tracking mount for a telescope (motorized table or alt-az drive for Dobs) is incredibly useful, but the OP's budget won't stretch that far. A 6" manual Dob is a good way to start.

To help learn the night sky at a basic level, you can get a smartphone app that will use the phone's GPS and motion sensor to show you what you're aiming the phone at. I use Stellarium on my Android phone. Good luck and have fun!

Author:  Casey Burns [ Sun May 24, 2020 9:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute or telescope...?

Again my point is owning a smart scope doesn't preclude learning the stars the old analog way. Its best to have the capability to do both. One of the best books for that is The Stars by H.E. Rey (Same author as Curious George). The Peterson Guide to the Stars and Planets is another staple. Nothing beats a simple star chart as well. There are also apps for the iPhone for identifying what one is looking at. The main thing is to get out there and observe.

I have never been impressed with Refractors due to their usual limitations of aperture, and the fact that they require a higher tripod for viewing. I have had more luck with a reflector since the eyepiece is at a normal height and usually can be arranged so one is looking at it ergonomically. All the larger observatories tend to be reflectors, including the Hubble. You can get more aperture per dollar and in this business or hobby, the larger the aperture the more objects you can see period. For the planets it means that you will see more of Jupiter and Saturn's moons. You can also resolve faint comets and asteroids, and some of the outer planets like Uranus, Neptune and Pluto (the Intelliscopes are useful for these). I spent many an evening studying the moon in high detail with a 4.5" reflector during the Apollo years.

The Orion Nebula is bright and amazing through my 10". I never built a mount for it and sometimes simply take it out and stare at the zenith. Its amazing how many stars in an image it can resolve. I'll observe, tehn look up that area in the sky to see what it was that I was looking at. There are some interesting binary systems, nebulae etc. Sometimes just seeing that many stars in a 1 degree circle of the sky is enough.


Author:  Thalatta [ Mon May 25, 2020 12:41 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute or telescope...?

Alright, that's it, I'm hooked, and running out to the sky right now! Thank you all for your info, it's really helpful. I think a Dobson 6 inch is in my budget and you all have me convinced of its qualities. Now, how to make the telescope chiff or fipple? By seeking out of the music of the spheres... And with that, back to flutes! Thanks again.

Author:  Thalatta [ Tue Jun 16, 2020 2:11 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute or telescope...?

Just a thought: I've recently become interested in telescopes for astronomy, and I came across the eyepiece zooms (like the Hyperion Baader, which allows you to adjust the focus length by simply turning it - an ingenious device - and inside there are lots of lenses and parts), and these zooms remind me of... the Rudall and Rose patent head. Telescopes and flutes! Just a thought! :)

P.S. Thanks to you guys above for the advice: I ended up getting a XT6 and 10x50 binoculars.

Author:  Kirk B [ Sun Jun 21, 2020 9:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute or telescope...?

Here is a really good resource. He gets very technical in a lot of his youtube videos so you have to search for his beginner vids and specify Dobsonian scope. He specifically concentrates on astrophotography but you will still learn a lot about different types of scopes. He is one of the best amateur astrophotographers I've ever run across and his videos are very entertaining.


Author:  Thalatta [ Wed Jun 24, 2020 2:15 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute or telescope...?

I love those videos, indeed a great resource. Wow he's got some serious material there. 280mm/2800mm! Really interesting site too. Thanks! Shane

Author:  Katharine [ Wed Jun 24, 2020 8:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute or telescope...?

Cloudy Nights ( is a great forum.

You might also look into whether you have a local astronomy club.

Page 1 of 2 All times are UTC - 6 hours
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group