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I'm keen to start participating/observing as a newcomer. I intend to buy a telescope for a maximum of £250 ($320). I realise I may want to upgrade from this eventually.

I'm not keen on binoculars as I hope to get involved in astrophotography and spectrometry and when my knowledge is sufficient.

Could anyone advise me on the best choice of telescope please?......Reflector, refractor, make etc?

Many thanks.....Mike

pox's picture
Hi from another British Mike!

Hi from another British Mike!

I am the Mike that runs the AAVSO's Young Stellar Objects section by the way. As a first step I can heartily recommend Beacon Hill Telescopes. Barry Watts who runs it is an astronomer as well as a first-class instrument maker, with a fully-equipped workshop, so can make parts to order - he made a new cradle for my 14" scope, which he also made. He can advise you on the best scope for your budget - but bear in mind that even £250 is not going to buy you a very large scope these days!

However if you are interested in doing astrophotography you will need at minimum a driven mount. I am a purely visual observer with a non-equatorial mount so wouldn't like to advise you any farther on that front, though Barry Watts certainly can. While he is a virtuouso scope maker he isn't very 'digital' - so appreciates phone calls rather than emails/texts! His number is 01507 363381 (Grimsby area) - and he's lovely to chat to.

If you need any farther assistance keep in touch, no problem. I am near Norwich by the way.

Mike Poxon (

Hi Mike,

Hi Mike,

Many thanks for your reply. I will certaily give Barry a call at Beacon Hill. Thank you for the tip.

Thanks also for the offer of more help. I appreciate it.

I'll get back to you when I get sorted with a scope.

Best wishes.......Mike

How to get reference stars

Hi, I am new to observing variable stars. I live in South Africa and battle to get somebody to help me. I have taken 10 images of the sky using a Celestron 9.25 with focal reducer F6.3. I use a SBIG  8300 STF mono ccd. When I try to do data reduce in Astrometrica I get a message - only one or two reference stars.How do I get more stars and there for more reference stars.I was not once successful with data reduce. Could never match stars with catlog. stars. Is there a setting on the camera that is wrong?Please help me.

Thanks. Louw


nmi's picture
As a member of the AAVSO you

As a member of the AAVSO you can upload your images to the free VPHOT application, .  The application allows you to do photometric analysis and is tied to the AAVSO comparison database. With a few clicks it will submit a report of your measurements to the AAVSO International Database.  If you need to add comparision stars you can go go here:, to request them.  There is even a VPHOT Choice course you can take:

Clear Skies,


reference stars

Hi Mike. Thanks .I cannot believe the quick response of this forum and their members. I will try that out. Is the lack of reference stars because I am in the Southern Hemi or not?


pox's picture
With lots of respect - not

With lots of respect - not sure what this post is doing in 'Visual Observing'!

CTX's picture
Compaison Stars in the SH


In a historical sense there probably has been a larger data base of comparison stars in the NH as opposed to the SH only because there were more observers in the NH.

In recent years there has been quite a growth of observers in the SH which is a most welcome advance; also until recently there was simply a lack of calibrated stars available in either hemisphere with which to create sequences.  Thanks to Arne Henden (and a lot of volunteers and staff) the APASS project has enabled us to have a large catalog of stars from which to create sequences in both hemispheres.

There remain  lots of targets still in both hemispheres that lack sequences simply because no one has shown an interest in observing them.

As Mike pointed out to you it is easy to make a request for a sequence:

I look forward to seeing your request(s) and the team will endeavor to create your requested sequences ASAP.

Tim Crawford, Sequence Team



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