Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Choosing A Telescope Isn't Easy

I've been hunting for a telescope. Price is certainly a consideration, but I don't want to be cheap either. I don't want to spend bad money on a trashy scope.

So the good folks at CloudyNights forum have been helping me by answering my questions.

I started out thinking I wanted a large SCT. That's a Schmidt Cassegrain design for the uninitiated. This is what one looks like:

Then there were refractors. These are the kind that we normally think of as a telescope -- that long tapered tube.

Lastly, are Dobsonians, which are basically Newtonians on a mount made popular by John Dobson. This one is from Orion:

Now there are lots of other variations, based on the same basic Newtonian or short-tube SCT design, but I'm primarily looking at these, and I think the SkyWatcher Dob may be my first scope, even though I really wanted a nice large Refractor.

The problem is that for astrophotography, a refractor -- or any scope -- must be mounted on an equatorial mount, like the one in the first picture. The mount, the tripod, and the scope are all different pieces, which can be mixed and matched, but many companies sell kits all together. Then there's the other accessories like the eyepieces, which can run anywhere from $60 to hundreds of dollars depending on quality and brand.

This is not a cheap hobby. But I'm quickly tiring of my binoculars, even though they work so well. The stars are dim where I live. And I'd like to see more than I'm seeing now.

Next, I'm such a tinkering designer, that I'm thinking of building a small geodesic dome on my flat-roof garage so I can have a nice observatory. More to come on that later.

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