Monday, 7 January 2013

Jessops TA800-80 Telescope Review

Oh alright, so looking up at the nights sky is not really a outdoors 'adventure', but it certainly is easy to get lost in your own imagination taking on astronomy for the first time. I've been interested in space since I was a kid and always enjoy reading about astronomy on the internet and in books but alas I never took the plunge and actually brought myself a telescope. 

The TA800-80 Reflector
I had been looking at some higher priced telescopes all last year with go-to functions like the cheaper Cassegrain models but I really didn't want to end up spending serious dough on a hobby which might only last me a few weeks at best. Fortunately my significant other was at a loss of what to buy me for Christmas so seeing that Jessops had some simple reflector telescopes on half price I asked for one of these cheaper models to see if its something I might want to spent a small fortune on at a later date.

Before I start I should probably say that I live in the middle of nowhere and except Stansted airport two miles away there are no street lights so I'm not guaranteeing that my experiences will match your own. That been said, it is light enough to pack into the car and travel somewhere out the way.

First impressions out of the box are that it is quite well made and robust. The metal construction on the telescope itself seems solid and the tripod is also well made. Included with the scope are three viewing lenses along with a Barlow which times whatever lens you are using my three. The three lenses are 20mm, 12.5mm and a 6mm. Working out the lenses is easy but essentially all you have to really realise is that the larger the number the wider the picture is going to be, and the brighter the picture (because there is more light being collected.) 

Putting the scope together is very quick and easy, the only thing that may take a little trial and error is setting up the spotting scope but with up/down and left/right adjustment wheels built into the spot-scope itself its pretty self explanatory. Easiest way I found to set up the spotting scope is to simply use the moon as a reference. 

Late on Christmas day I was lucky enough to have a completely clear sky and an almost full moon to gaze at with Jupiter a thumbs width in the sky away from the moon. In fact I found Jupiter completely by accident and was so thrilled when I saw Jupiter's moons sprawled around the distant planet. Finding objects with this telescope is not too difficult but you have to have some patience. Best bet is to use the 20mm lens to find your object and then go down to the 12.5mm. The 6mm doesn't zoom in much farther and is difficult to view through owing to the small viewing hole and subsequently you are forever re-adjusting (in the farthest zoom you are lucky to have maybe fifteen seconds of viewing before the movement of the planet means having to re-adjust.) The Barlow multiplier lens is OK, but remember you are multiplying an image being reflected off of a mirror and therefore it is not going to be any clearer than the smaller image.

Views of Jupiter through the 12.5mm lens multiplied through the Barlow show the planets stripes (just) and the moons appear as tiny stars surrounding the gas giant. Owing to the heaven's current orbits I've only been able to view Jupiter and the moon thus far but I'm looking forward to my future discoveries. 

The moon however looks beautiful especially when some of it is in darkness and you can see the ridges of the craters still bathed in sunlight. I know most people use moon filters and I'm surprised this doesn't come with one. I'm sure you could get one to fit this telescope as the 1.5" fitting seems to be pretty universal but in all honesty just using a pair of sunglasses would probably get around this. 

 As a representation of what you might expect to see through this telescope here are some images (not my own) which tally up pretty well with what I've experienced so far.


What you might expect to see through the 20mm lens.
















What you might expect to see through the 12.5mm. (Just.)



















Taken from my Canon 400D through the viewing lens.

















I now can't wait to find the other planets in the sky with this thing. For fifty quid it really is a great little device for getting to grips with astronomy and making sure it is something which you will enjoy for a longer period of time.

So in conclusion:

Cons: 

  •  Stability can be a bit of a nuisance and a lot of the time by the time you've got it in view, focused and its stopped wobbling its time to re-adjust again. 
  • Its only enough to get you interested! Its brilliant for me as I feel like a kid again using this but once I've exhausted the local planets I do feel that maybe this will have passed its usefulness. I would be tempted to say this would make a good 'toy' but I know as a child I'd have been disappointed with the detail you can pick up on anything other than the moon. As an adult you obviously have more realistic expectations about the devices abilities.
Pros: 

  • Cheap (at least when on offer) introduction to astronomy.
  • Easy to set up, simple point and focus, no hassle.
  • Light and small enough to transport if need be.

As a side note, if you are wondering whether to get one I think you'd be best looking on Ebay for a second hand one as these no doubt will only serve folk for a short time before they progress onto something a little more manly or get bored. 

If you want a program to use on your computer there are a few around but I find that Celestia is a brilliant one as it not only shows the solar system in its current state but also allows you to travel to distant stars and investigate what they are like. 
You can get a free download here:

http://download.cnet.com/Celestia/3000-2054_4-10064567.html

Or for a really helpful program to give you some bearings try Stellarium which you can download here: 

http://sourceforge.net/projects/stellarium/ 

Failing that, if you have a smartphone look up Google Sky. Its a free app which shows you what you are seeing in the night sky. Problem can be that it doesn't really understand exactly where you are pointing it but if you work off of landmarks in the sky that you know you shouldn't have any issue.

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