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I am looking for a beginner scope for myself and my 7-yr old. She has been asking for a telescope for some time but I don't know how immersed she would be, once bought. So, I want something which can build her interest right from the beginning and she does not lose it. I am looking for something that can be used to view the planets, some galaxies, and nebulae.

I have surfed through multiple questions on this topic and through the answers I looked at, I zeroed in on Sky-Watcher Heritage 130.

I also came across Celestron Starsense 114AZ Explorer. This seems to be an easy-to-use option but I don't know how is the quality or how good is it for long-term use. Or if it can be used as a manual if the smartphone dock stuff fails in the future.

I know this is a very commonly asked question and I am sorry for kind of repeating it but being a beginner I don't really know the difference between the two. Also, there are no astronomy clubs or societies in my vicinity where I can take my kid so that we get to dip our feet before proceeding with a purchase.

Please share if you have any other suggestions.

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  • $\begingroup$ May or may not be closed as opinion-based. Related: I'm considering buying a telescope, which type should I choose? $\endgroup$
    – WarpPrime
    Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 12:37
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    $\begingroup$ Size matters, but so does the stabilty of the base. Generally you are limited by your budget. On any telescope (beyond toys that are being sold on the basis of "magnification") you get what you pay for. But do look for ones with a very stable base. Wobbles of the base make any kind of observation hard. On the other hand simple binoculars/monoculars can be great for wide views of star fields. More fun than a telescope, becuase they don't require setting up. and more useful because you can use them during the day too. (of course, they wobble a lot!) $\endgroup$
    – James K
    Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 14:21
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    $\begingroup$ For the type of objects you’d like to see, it’s crucial to consider where you live and where you’re willing to go for viewing. In a suburban neighborhood or, heaven forbid, near a city, nebulae and galaxies can be hidden by light pollution, while somewhere else they could be totally visible with the same telescope. Consider looking at dark sky ratings for where you live, surrounding areas, and consider how likely you are to make a trip, if necessary. $\endgroup$
    – Justin T
    Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 23:53
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    $\begingroup$ @AaronF I have opted to go for Sky-Watcher 130P. Even though I would love to get the 8" one, at this point, I think 130P would be good enough to get started. $\endgroup$
    – ravsun
    Commented Oct 26, 2021 at 17:47
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    $\begingroup$ @AaronF, Thanks a lot for the link! It's a goldmine! $\endgroup$
    – ravsun
    Commented Oct 27, 2021 at 12:05

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The crucial difference between these two telescopes is their optical design, and it impacts how clearly they will show different targets.

The Sky-Watcher Heritage 130p is a normal F/5 parabolic Newtonian reflector with reasonably good optics.

In contrast, the StarSense 114AZ Explorer is what is known as a Bird-Jones reflector. It uses a very short focal ratio spherical mirror rather than a parabolic mirror, and it compensates for this by using a corrector lens in the focuser.

These cheap entry-level Bird-Jones reflectors are not built to sufficiently accurate tolerances to give good views. Collimation is also much harder because you have to remove the corrector assembly in the focuser to collimate them properly.

A proper parabolic Newtonian like the Heritage 130p will always give sharper, clearer views than the commercially available Bird-Jones reflectors on the market.

The Heritage 130p also has a shorter focal length, which allows for brighter, wider field views. The longer focal length of the StarSense Explorer 114 will limit maximum useful brightness of extended objects using typical commercially available eyepieces. Meanwhile, higher magnification can easily be achieved in the Heritage 130p via short focal length eyepieces, or a barlow if necessary.

The extra aperture of the Heritage 130p will also give you more detailed views of the Moon and planets, and show deep sky objects more easily.

For all of these reasons, the Heritage 130p is a much better instrument than the StarSense Explorer 114. Granted, you do have to find objects manually and you do need to place the telescope on a sturdy surface to bring it to viewing height, but optically it will handily surpass the StarSense Explorer 114.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Astronomy SE, AgmLauncher. This is a nice answer to the question, and it would be even better if you added some more specs for each telescope! $\endgroup$
    – WarpPrime
    Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 14:51

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