I used my Skywatcher-127 synch scan telescope for the second time last night – the sky was not as clear as before and the Moon was also a big interference and so I did not stay long at it – though as I was more familiar with how the set-up worked I was up and running much more quickly.
With this scope, which has an alt-az mount, you enter the time and geographic location, centre the scope on two selected bright stars and then the computer does the rest: moving the scope to match the Earth’s rotation, taking you to selected co-ordinates and so on: for someone used to mucking about with equatorial mounts and setting circles it can be a bit strange at first, but the advantages become obvious quickly.
That said the alignment process is not 100% accurate, but objects I was looking for were with one field of view (at x80) so were easy to find once the scope had pointed at where it thought they were.
Living close to the centre of London I am not going to get much use of it in the back garden, though the Moon and the planets may be options, so the fact that it is a Maksutov-Cassegrain and not a Newtonian is pretty important – as it is transportable. The computerised mount also helps in that it means there is no question of readjusting the axis or working out where north is (though if if you cannot find Polaris what do you want a telescope for?).
However, as this Amazon link for telescopes shows, Newtonians are about half the price of the compound optic reflectors, so if you live somewhere dark, bear that in mind.
Ultimately my aim is not to see the sights of the sky – I did a lot of that 25 years ago (though I still dream of seeing the southern skies) – so I need something more and that is likely to be another revived passion of my youth: photography. These days, though, decent cameras for astrophotography cost more than the telescopes, so I will have to see how that develops (no pun intended).
Update: The one thing I should have added was that powering the mount is a bit of a pain. Despite a battery cradle being supplied it is plain that run-of-the-mill batteries will not deliver sufficient power (perhaps more expensive ones might for at least a bit) and so I have been using an old IBM Thinkpad power supply to deliver the necessary 12 VA. That considerably limits flexibility in siting the telescope.
- So, I bought a telescope (cartesianproduct.wordpress.com)
- The Space Bubble That Perplexed Skywatchers: VIDEO (towleroad.com)
- Telescope blues (stephanpot.wordpress.com)
- GPUs to Process Data from Multi Billion-Dollar SKA Telescope (insidehpc.com)
- Skywatching Events for August 2011 (space.com)
- What is Citizen Skywatch? (joystiq.com)
- Perseid meteor shower 2011 dazzles skywatchers with celestial display (news.bioscholar.com)