The Dobsonian is a simple, low-cost telescope design made popular in the 1970s by amateur astronomer John Dobson of San Francisco. A Dobsonian telescope is a Newtonian style reflector telescope that uses the traditional optical system of a Newtonian but varies radically in its approach to the mount on which the telescope tube is placed. A more conventional type of Newtonian telescope is mounted on an equatorial mount like the one in the picture here:
Newtonian telescope on an equatorial mount
The Tube assembly is a typical newtonian reflector. And the mount that it is on is an equatorial on a pedestal mount. This type of mount is well suited for astronomy in that it aligns up with the earths rotation and it only takes a single motion to follow objects across the sky. It is also well suited for a motor that will automatically move the scope and follow objects in the sky which is great for astrophotography.
A Dobsonian Telescope
This shows a typical dobsonian. Notice how the tube assembly is pretty much the same as the newtonian shown above. The change is in the mount of the scope at the bottom. This simplified mount makes it very easy to set it up and to use it. You simply move the scope gently around to point at objects.
That change in the mount is what makes a dobsonian different and what makes it easy to use and much more affordable. When you use a system like this you are able to get a much larger mirror on the scope for a much lower cost. It is much more user friendly and beginner astronomers take to it very quickly. John Dobson is the creator of the Dobsonian telescope. He is a champion of amateur astronomy and has had many achievements in astronomy over many decades. He is also the co-founder of the San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers Club.
Looking to Buy a Dobsonian?
If you are considering the purchase of a Dobsonian telescope you are making a great decision. This type of telescope offers you remarkable light gathering power at a very reasonable cost. Astronomers know that the most important aspect of any telescope is the size of the primary lens or mirror – the bigger it is the more light you will gather and the more things you will be able to see. Dobsonians are perfect for this because you get maximum lens or mirror size at bargain prices.
Quick Price Guidelines:
- 3″ Less than $75
- 6″ Telescope around $300
- 8″ Telescope $325-$400
- 10″ Telescope $600
- 12″ Telescope $900-$1000
Some of the benefits of a Dobsonian Telescope
- Light gathering power vs. cost – First off, as I mentioned you get stunning light gathering ability at a very reasonable cost. A typical equatorial mount telescope of the same size would cost twice as much and if you were to buy a Schmidt-Cassegrain folded optics telescope of the same aperture you would easily pay four times the cost of a Dobsonian. And if you were to get a refractor of the same aperture the cost goes up to around ten times.
- Ease of setup – This type of telescope is extemely easy to setup and for most models you simply place the tube on the mount and you are done. So if you are unfamiliar with equatorial mounts or are not mechanically inclined a dob is a good choice for you.
- Simplicity of use – Pretty much a point and look kind of telescope. It easily rotates and turns to any location you want with no fuss.
- Avid Amateur Astronomers love them – Because for the cost you can get enormous light gathering power (big mirrors) which means you can really get some fantastic viewing.
Trade-offs when buying a Dobsonian
- I probably don’t have to tell you that there are trade offs but there always are when you purchase anything. There are some deficiencies with Dobsonians that you will want to consider before you buy.
- Not suited for astrophotography – Most dobsonians don’t track objects across the sky which means you can’t get long exposures and deep space photos. There are exceptions to this rule and Orion does make a dobsonion with computerized tracking control but this will cost you around an extra two hundred and fifty dollars. If you really think you want to put the time and effort into astrophotography you might want to overlook the dobsonian and get another type of scope.
- They tend to be a bit heavy – The weight of them is similiar to traditional newtonian telescopes but significantly more than the folded optic type scopes that can be placed in a suitcase and carried around. Of course the folded optic types are much more expensive. Once initial assembly is done they come in two halves – the tube and the mount. And each half typically has a handle for carrying.
Different sizes of Dobsonians
Amazon.com has Dobsonians from Orion and Meade with mirrors that range from 3 inches in width to 12 inches in width. The cost (generally and subject to change) goes from a under a hundred dollars to about a thousand dollars. So let’s take a look at them. I will point out the pros and cons of each so you can make the decision that is right for you.
A great place to start if you want to invest almost nothing before deciding if you want a bigger telescope.
Celestron 21024 FirstScope Telescope
If you are new to telescopes and are looking for something at an extremely reasonable price yet want something that works pretty well then this might be the perfect choice for you. First off, it is made by Celestron, which is a premiere telescope making company. This also comes with two eyepieces which is a valuable addition. It is very portable and I can’t say enough about this scope being a great way to dip your toe in the night sky. They call this a firstscope and they have got it exactly right.
What they have to say about it: ( I agree 100% with all of this) and you really can’t go wrong with this telescope. It is an extremely good value.
FirstScope Telescope Official Product of the 2009 International Year of Astronomy. Ideal astronomical entry level telescope. The FirstScope Telescope pays tribute to Galileo Galilei and may of history’s most notable astronomers and scientists. We honor these men and women for their contributions bringing us one step closer to understanding the universe around us. The compact design makes it easy to take with you on your next outdoor adventure. The FirstScope is also stylish enough to be used as a decorative fixture on your bookshelves or desk.
6 inch mirror telescopes
Now with the increase in mirror size we are starting to get more light gathering power out of the scope. This is more in the realm of achieving what you can get out of a dobsonian telescope yet it is still small enough and light enough to be comfortable to handle and move.
It’s no wonder customers heap 5-star ratings on this “gentle giant.” For not only does its jumbo-sized optics and uncomplicated design bring a “new level of joy to simple observing,” raved Astronomy magazine, but it’s also one of the most affordable quality Dobs on the market.
The SkyQuest XT6 Classic isn’t just good bang for the buck, it’s a supernova of telescope value! The XT6 Classic gives you the deep-space thrills without the deep-pocket frills. We’ve kept it lean and mean to keep its price low for tight budgets. But rest assured, it comes fully equipped for adventure, whether you’re a beginning stargazer or are graduating to a more capable instrument. It features an expertly figured parabolic mirror housed in an enameled steel optical tube. The tube rides on a stable Dobsonian base that allows easy point-and-view navigation and has a convenient carrying handle. A 2″ Crayford focuser, EZ Finder II aiming device, 25mm Sirius Plossl eyepiece (1.25″), and quick-collimation cap are all standard equipment. Setup takes only a minute, leaving the rest of the evening to marvel at the planets, the Moon, and a myriad of deep-sky treasures. Enjoy the fantastic views – and savings! One-year limited warranty.
8 Inch Mirror Telescopes
I consider this size telescope to be the absolute best value in the range of Dobsonians – particularly if you are only an enthusiast of astronomy or a beginner. The mirror size is substantial and it will give you an enormous difference in viewing over the 6 inch. This is the type and size scope that could give you a lifetime of enjoyment. If you can afford it I recommend it.
It’s no wonder customers heap 5-star ratings on this “gentle giant.” For not only does its jumbo-sized optics and uncomplicated design bring a “new level of joy to simple observing,” raved Astronomy magazine, but it’s also one of the most affordable quality Dobs on the market. The SkyQuest XT8 Classic isn’t just good bang for the buck, it’s a supernova of telescope value! The XT8 Classic gives you the deep-space thrills without the deep-pocket frills.
We’ve kept it lean and mean to keep its price low for tight budgets. But rest assured, it comes fully equipped for adventure, whether you’re a beginning stargazer or are graduating to a more capable instrument. It features an expertly figured parabolic mirror housed in an enameled steel optical tube. The tube rides on a stable Dobsonian base that allows easy point-and-view navigation and has a convenient carrying handle. A 2″ Crayford focuser, EZ Finder II aiming device, 25mm Sirius Plossl eyepiece (1.25″), and quick-collimation cap are all standard equipment. Setup takes only a minute, leaving the rest of the evening to marvel at the planets, the Moon, and a myriad of deep-sky treasures. Enjoy the fantastic views – and savings! One-year limited warranty.
This telescope is very easy to set up and take down. It has an open truss tube desing that allows for easy portability. It has a diffraction limited 8″ Primary mirror with a focal length of 1219 mm (F6). It has a 2″ Crayford style machined focuser and comes with a 1.25″ adapter. It comes with a 2″ 26mm wide angle eyepiece.
10 Inch Mirror Dobsonians
Now we are starting to talk telescopes. This size scope is for the serious beginner or the amateur who is familiar with the night sky. Normally this size scope is not what you get as a first scope. But with Dobsonians you can stretch this one into that category if you are an ambitious beginner.
This thing is going to bring the night sky alive for you with breathtaking views of thousands of objects. The first scope I show here is the Meade and it is without the Intelliscope option but I recommend if you are going to get this size telescope you get it with the Intelliscope so you can get the maximum potential out of it.
If you are concerned about the weight and handling of the telescope. Which can be a concern when moving it, getting it out of the house and into the car etc. you might want to consider one of Meades Truss-tube telescopes. They are of the same quality but designed to be lighter and easier to handle.
These unique lightweight large-aperture telescopes break down and set up in minutes.
If you want the absolute biggest telescope aperture you can get for the absolute lowest price no frills yet high quality optics you should take a look at the Celestron line of dobsonians. This ten inch is a marvel and an incredible bargain. Celestron is every bit as good as Meade. Nice way to get absolute enormous light gathering out of a small price.
12 Inch Mirror Dobsonians
Well, this is it. If you are an amateur astronomer you are no doubt going to drool over this one. It’s a monster and it is a marvel of the world we live in. What would Galileo have said after looking through this scope? You are going to spend a lifetime of amazement with something like this.
Celestron is proud to introduce our StarHopper series of Dobsonian telescopes. Dobsonian telescopes are recognized within the astronomy hobby as an excellent value for the aperture size, and the Celestron StarHopper line is as rich in features as it is in value. The Dobsonian configuration is a Newtonian optical tube mounted on an altazimuth mount.
The optical system features a large primary mirror at the bottom of the tube which collects light and concentrates it onto a small secondary mirror, which reflects the light out the side of the tube and into the eyepiece. Best of all, StarHopper Dobsonians are easy to observe with — the user navigates through the night sky by simply moving the tube up or down, and left or right, by hand. All StarHoppers use optical quality BK-7 glass, this is the same high-quality glass used in most binocular prisms and refractor telescope lenses. All StarHoppers use a roller track bearing on the azimuth surface providing dozens of support points for smooth swivel motion. They also use a variable tension clutch system for proper balance and control in both altitude and azimuth