James Paulson's roll off roof observatory at the Sunridge Observatory site, taken in the summer of 1986, housing a 10 inch f/5 Cave Astrola Newtonian reflector telescope

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Choosing a First Telescope – Part 3

I’ve been showing you all some of my favorite instruments that I think would make fine scopes for a first time purchase and provide some longevity of use. All of the scopes I’ve shown are complete, meaning that they include the mount as well, and fall in the under $1000 price range. There are several optical tube assemblies (OTA’s) that one can purchase in this range, but a telescope without a mount is not really a telescope that can be used as is. I consider the mount to be equally important if not more important than the scope itself. Because of this limitation on selection, some very fine refractors will not make the price point, but are still very nice instruments. With that in mind here are a couple of more contenders.

4. Orion XT8i
An 8 inch telescope is a very nice sized instrument and is surprisingly affordable in the right configuration and mount design. This Newtonian reflector comes on a Dobsonian base and includes the Orion intelliscope computerized object locator system allowing you to quickly pinpoint objects from its database. It is fairly easy to setup and use. As an f/6 configuration it is a bit more tricky to collimate than its baby brother XT6, but is still capable of delivering good pinpoint star images. It is a very affordable $529 and can carry you forward in the hobby for many years.

5. Celestron C6-NGT
When you want a telescope that gives you some aperture, and an equatorial style mount with GoTo capability, the Celestron C6-NGT is worthy of a close examination. I really like this little f/5 Newtonian reflector because it gives one the ability to move into the area of beginner astrophotography on down the road. The Celestron handset and stepper motors guide you around the sky with ease, and because the OTA is small and lightweight it’s not really a burden on the mount. A GoTo equatorial mount always performs better when it is underweight, and this fits that bill nicely. And because it is a Celestron there are always upgrade options open to grow with this scope. You may experience a bit of coma with this scope, but there are ways to counter this if it’s really important to you. A bit pricey but well worth the $799 price tag in my opinion.

6. Meade ETX-125 AT
This selection wouldn’t be complete without including at least one Maksutov telescope configuration to choose from. This 5 inch f/15 GoTo telescope is capable of delivering incredible views of the planets in a good portable scope. Because it is a Cassegrain design, eyepiece location is good on it allowing one to view reasonably comfortably. At f/15 it is a bit slow for DSO viewing but will work. It is priced right in line at $699

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