View Full Version : OT: Telescope for a 10 y.o. boy

10-12-2012, 12:35 AM
My nephew is turning 10 next week. He is a very bright boy, and I was going to buy him a telescope. He has never dispayed any particular interest in it, so I do it in hopes to make him interested.

What could you recommend (type, brand, source, etc.)? I hope to stay within $200-$300 range, if possible. I'd hate to buy junk that would lead him to lose any interest. I'd prefer something of a decent quality that will keep him interested and provide some opportunity for further growth. A book on the subject suitable for this kid would be a nice addition too.

Thank you.


10-12-2012, 02:04 AM
Google Stargazer Steve. He sells some kits. I built with my kids years ago a 6" reflector. Much better than anything you can get prebuilt for the money. A fairly easy build.

10-12-2012, 02:54 AM

My nephew lives in WA, and I'm in IL, so building anything together is out of question. Besides, I have no knowledge of telescopes or astronomy beyond what I learned in middle and high school many moons ago. :)

Based on my short research, my choice #1 is Orion XT 6" Dobsonian telescope. XT 4.5" is lighter and easier for a kid to handle, but I think those extra 1.5" are well worth some extra weight and price.

As for the book, I was looking at "NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe"

Naturally, I expect his father to get involved in this too, at least, to introduce the boy into all this.

What do you guys think about my choice of scope and book?

10-12-2012, 05:10 AM
I wouldnt get a dob, get something that can find the stars and track. So many people get thrown off from trying to find what they are looking for.

I personally like Meade, next Celestron, Orion somewhere below there.

I have a 10" Meade myself.

For the price range you are looking at you should be able to find a small schmidt cassegrain or a matsukov cassegrain with full auto-tracking used off craigslist.

Something like this would be great, you can pack it up and take it to a dark site with ease:


10-12-2012, 09:48 AM
Do be careful of cheap telescopes as they often have a VERY small field of view at the higher powers,making it very hard to find objects in the night sky.

10-12-2012, 11:21 AM
You might want to consider a good set of binoculars with optics coated for night viewing. Maybe buy a tripod to go with them. They're much better for viewing the night sky at lower power, and like was said, you need to get pretty big and expensive to view at higher powers. You can see a lot of detail on the moon and count the moons of Jupiter. Plus he can use them for terrestrial viewing.

10-12-2012, 11:34 AM
You might want to consider a good set of binoculars with optics coated for night viewing.
Well that's brought up some memories! When I was about 12 I went on an astronomy course and built a Newtonian reflector out of scrap wood. The course was taught by James Muirden who wrote 'Astronomy With Binocculars'. Somewhere I still have a signed and autographed copy I won in the MasterMind quiz held on the last evening.

10-12-2012, 12:27 PM
Sounds like you have the right basic idea on your own. Here are a couple of helpful links.




David Merrill

michigan doug
10-12-2012, 12:48 PM
I built a 10" dobsonian in the early 80's and dragged that thing around for ten moves. Lot of quality hours spent with that thing.

If he's going to get interested, he just about has to learn his basic way around the sky and get some idea of what's up there. Once he grasps the significance of , "Hey, that fuzzy thing is a whole 'nother galaxy." he stands a good chance of enjoying the astronomy hobby. There's a ton on interactive resources on the web these days to make it interesting for kids. Here one of many:


The trick is, kids LOVE recognizing something out in the real world, that they have memorized. So first, he has to do a little home work, and then, the first good dark night with clear skies, he will look up and the sky will come alive for him like he has never experienced it before. If he doesn't do the homework first, he will have no idea what he's looking at and will get bored in about ten minutes.

In a telescope, a star is just another dim/wavery point of light.

Another approach is to concentrate on objects in our solar system first. Learn the top 20 biggest features on the moon and then find them with the telescope. ANY telescope will make the moon look huge and dramatic. nothing compares. Planetary stuff can also be very interesting if he knows what he's looking for. You can play a game of figuring out what time it is (here) by the relative position of jupiter's moons. Here's some other fun tidbits you can observe about jupiter:


Observing the phases of venus is fun and has some "gee-whiz" effect.

The rings of saturn are clearly visible even in smaller instruments.

One problem is that most of the kids have been spoiled with NASA imagery. With the possible exception of the moon, NOTHING he can see in that telescope will look half as good as the last thousand images he saw of stars/galaxies/saturn/jupiter/etc.

I have to say, 10 is a bit young unless he's an exceptional ten year old. 13 maybe better...

Good luck and let us know how it goes.


10-12-2012, 02:49 PM
Excellent posts! Doug, you really understand child psychology, and I agree with you 100%. My nephew is an avid reader, and I, personally, would prefer him to read an appetite-enticing book, first. Any recommendation on what book can get a child interested?


The scope you provided the link to, is it of a decent optical quality? How can it be compared with the Dobsonian one I mentioned in terms of image quality? Also, as far as I understood, this scope is motorized in one direction, but has no automated tracking/positioning system. Am I wrong?

10-12-2012, 02:51 PM
I do public outreach with a 6 inch f/8 dob a couple times a month. Zhumell and Orion are decent. It's about the right size for a 10+ year old, and they can handle the tracking by hand if they are at all interested. I recommend Nightwatch and Turn Left at Orion.


10-12-2012, 08:39 PM
FWIW, in years of trying(and often enough failing) to interest kids in things -- there's a hard-to-predict balance between sharing our own enthusiasms and following theirs.

The idea of a decent set of binoculars opens up a lot more chances to "hit" on something of interest from the craters of the moon to aircraft overhead or wildlife on a camping trip? I'll bet that time with you would be the real plus for him.

michigan doug
10-13-2012, 01:59 PM
"Turn Left at Orion"

Let us know how it turns out.


10-13-2012, 05:25 PM
I don't recommend the Orion XT 6". It's too long a focal length and clumsy to transport. Stars are singularly uninteresting and that scope isn't powerful enough to offer good views of planets. The best is something in a 4.5 to 5 max focal length with wide angle views of star fields, clusters and nebula. That will get his attention. A short Newtonian is a good start such as this one: http://www.telescope.com/Telescopes/Reflector-Telescopes/Reflector-Telescopes-with-Altazimuth-Mounts/Orion-StarBlast-6-Astro-Reflector-Telescope/pc/1/c/11/sc/342/p/102011.uts?refineByCategoryId=342

It can be attached to an equatorial mount later for tracking and goto capability. There is available a "push to" object finder system that attaches to the mount and makes it easier to find things. It is F/5 which gives a wide field that also makes finding easier. It also has good reviews and the price is very reasonable. It is also very similar to the scope I bought my daughter years ago. In fact, she just published one of my pictures in her newspaper this week.

Review of the Starblast 6"

The influx of go-to instruments makes products like this seem less exciting, but the StarBlast is a blast. If you prefer to learn the skies yourself, this is a solid option.


10-13-2012, 07:15 PM
OK guys. I'd like to thank all of you for your kind assistance.

I went with the scope suggested by Evan plus a moon filter, and a couple of books: The Stars: A New Way to See Them to heat his appetite and Turn Left at Orion to follow up and prepare him for using the scope.

If he shows any real interest in the subject, I'll send him a 2x Barlow lens and either a Push-To (IntelliScope) or Go-To system later.

Thanks again.

10-13-2012, 08:25 PM
Excellent posts! Doug, you really understand child psychology, and I agree with you 100%. My nephew is an avid reader, and I, personally, would prefer him to read an appetite-enticing book, first. Any recommendation on what book can get a child interested?


The scope you provided the link to, is it of a decent optical quality? How can it be compared with the Dobsonian one I mentioned in terms of image quality? Also, as far as I understood, this scope is motorized in one direction, but has no automated tracking/positioning system. Am I wrong?

They are excellent little scopes. Can even be set up do do basic astrophotography with the optional equatorial wedge. And due to their design there is no collimation needed like with a Schmidt Cassegrain or a Dob. It has a full control with a handpad for controlling it. Enter the NGC number or the code for the planets and it will find them. I think this is/was the same model:


10-14-2012, 12:00 AM
Appropriate to the subject here is an image of The Great Nebula in Orion (M42) taken with my 10".


10-14-2012, 04:47 AM
Thank you Macona.


Gorgeous photo. Did you introduce colors based on grey scale values of the different areas of the photo? Do you happen to have the non-painted original?

10-14-2012, 08:13 PM
Those are original colours. There has been noise reduction applied to remove the grain from the ISO 3200 exposure and that gives it a "painted" look.

When it comes to the colours of astrophotos I stick as close as I can to what the camera picks up. That said, it very much depends on the camera and the internal settings. I don't usually use RAW format because the transfer time over my USB link is too long. The camera only supports USB 2.0 so RAW files take longer than I like. The images are stacked, usually around 5 to 20 of them which increases contrast, resolution and decreases random noise. Resolution is increased by stacking because every image contains slightly different data due to fast changes in atmospheric turbulence. The images are upsampled before stacking and the result is a real increase in resolution as the varying data in each image is mathematically combined with the others.

Because of the internal IR filter there is a heavy bias toward the blue end of the spectrum. The light from nebula is concentrated in specific wavelengths. This is very much unlike normal photography where subjects are illuminated by more or less white light. Only certain wavelengths are present in nebula and that depends on the mix of gases as well as any incident radiation from nearby stars. Canon has just released one of their newer models in an astrophoto model with a special IR cut filter that doesn't cut the hydrogen alpha red part of the spectrum. I wish I could afford one. I don't want to dissect my latest Canon to remove the filter and it is the only one of the three I have that is compatible with Windows 7-64. That really ticks me off as Canon refuses to update the drivers for the older DSLR (300 and 350) models. They don't have mass storage drivers so you must use the supplied drivers for remote access.

10-15-2012, 02:36 AM
Thank you Evan. I didn't expect such beautiful colors to be real.

As you mentioned, you took the shots with a 10" reflector telescope. Is it the one you were making? if not, what model is it, exactly?

Approximately, how much of the visual field does the nebula occupy in your scope? Can you see the colors by eye or the nebula is faint and requires cumulative effect provided by phtoto session?

What was the magnification?

Thank you.


10-15-2012, 06:18 AM
That is the telescope I built last year. By eye you can see faint green colour but not red. I don't do visual observing any more as my eyes aren't good enough. There is a lot of colour in the night sky. Our eyes just aren't sensitive enough to see it. It requires about a 16" or larger scope to really see the colours.

Magnification is a non issue for this sort of work. There is no eyepiece. The image is formed by direct projection on the sensor from the primary mirror. The final magnification then depends on the ratio of the size of the projected image to the size of the displayed final image you see on your screen.

The nebula is several times larger than the visual field of the telescope. It has an actual field of view of about 1 degree. When used with an eyepiece the eyepiece provides a virtual field of view that varies from maybe 20 to 60 degrees depending on the focal length and the optical construction of the eyepiece.

10-15-2012, 11:02 AM
Very interesting. Thank you Evan.