One of Katie’s very first words was “Moon.”  She’s been fascinated with the moon, and now Jupiter, Saturn, Venus and Mars, since she could point up at the sky and point out that there were holes up there through which light passes.  We figured she was old enough to understand basic instructions, so we were bad and bought her a present.

We bought Katie her very first piece of serious scientific equipment, the Orion SkyQuest XT4.5 Dobsonian telescope. It’s an interesting scope because Orion advertises it as their starter/kids pack to get kids started.  It costs just as much as a crappy refractor from the Mall but it’s a real scope that can do real scope-like things. And sure, she’s only 4, but one cannot be too little to have a telescope!

Here’s what we have learned in the whole 6 hours from owning this scope:

– It is an awesome scope for the price.  The scope is only $200.  Because a Dob is just a light bucket, Dobs are cheap.  They have high mirrors – cost ratios.  The one doesn’t have any electronics, but it is exceptionally well built, sturdy, and all the gears work like they have been greased with butter.

– It was easy to lift, easy to set up, and took about 5 minutes to get going and shooting things.

– Even without the mirrors properly aligned, I took it out, put it on the driveway, got it pointed at the Moon (in daylight!) and let Katie see the Moon through the eyepiece.  This was a moment of extreme excitement.  It wasn’t even a full Moon, or in the dark, or with one of our high-quality eyepieces.

– If I had this Dob, even without electronics, when I was a kid I would still be in the backyard.

– This is seriously making me consider one of the big Dobs with all the electronics and gears. We have a Mak-Cass and it is awesome but it is mostly for planetary viewing.  The big Dobs will get you the best Hercules Globular Cluster you’ve ever seen where you can make out about 10,000 stars.

If you have a little kid and you want to get out and look at the planets and the Moon and some real easy to find deep field objects, this is a hell of a piece of starter equipment.  It’s a ton of telescope for the price, and it’s good for Mom and Dad, too.

  •  Donald Adamek at 7:13pm March 4
    Very cool. I was just reading about Dobsonians – the Ann Arbor reads book this year is on amateur astronomy. I'm betting that you don't need to add anything more to your reading list, but Seeing in the Dark by Timothy Ferris is pretty good.

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