One lesson I've learned from other hobbies is it's a bad idea to spend
too little when entering a new hobby. The very low end of any hobby
tends to be something I outgrow very quickly. At that point I buy
something "mid-level' and regret spending the money on the entry level
I've also learned that the low end products of any hobby do not give a
very good representation of the hobby itself. The low end is usually
flooded with poor quality products. Such poor quality products lead to
frustration as the newcomer struggles to get it to work right.
Given these two lessons, I'd appreciate a fair estimate of how much a
newcomer in this hobby should set aside to get their first telescope
rig. What is the ballpark cost to buy a telescope setup that will give
a fair representation of the hobby of astronomy?
It really depends on your preferences.
I suggest attending a star party or an observing event for a nearby
astronomical society and checking out what folks there are using.
Over the years I've owned SCT's, a Dobsonian, and a couple of refractors.
I'm not fond of dobs. To keep an object in view, you need to manually
move the scope in two directions at once. Put the same tube on an
equatorial mount and you have a newtonian.
A little work to polar align an equatorial mounted scope at the start of
the night makes things easier. You can track an object by just moving
the scope in one direction. Many include clock drives to do this for
you. You can use setting circles to find things.
SCTs are light and compact - but they have a larger central obstruction
than a newtonian, and the images just don't seem as crisp. The also
tend to have a higher F ratio. This is good for small objects like
planets - it's easier to get higher power. But they also give a smaller
field of view - and this hurts when you're searching for something. It
also seems to take them longer to cool down at the start of the night.
I prefer triplet apochromatic refractors. They have no central
obstruction, they tend to come in F ratios that make them reasonably
compact, and the image quality is stunning.
Unfortunately, on sale, an 80mm f6 apo tube will run about $1400. Then
you'll need to allow money for the mount, a good diagonal, and
eyepieces. This could easily put you in the $5000 range.
An apo refractor in the 4.5" range will probably run about $10,000 by
the time you're done with accessories if you do everything first class.