Why invest in a computerized telescope? Pros and cons
The obvious reason why greenhorn and professional astronomers and stargazers invest in a computerized telescope is that it is super easy to use. With a computerized telescope, you will be able to find some 40,000 plus heavenly bodies at the touch of a button. Below are some advantages of a computerized telescope.
- They can be used in the under light polluted skies.
- They are usually fitted with a lot of impressive features
- They are very powerful and can see objects millions of miles ways.
- They are automatic
No doubt, computerized telescopes makes star gazing easier, but it has a few downsides. Here are a few of them.
- They are very expensive, especially when compared to a manual telescope. But there are some budget-friendly models like the Celestron NexStar 130SLT.
- It kills the excitement of learning to locate an object manually, as it is automatic.
- You need to be comfortable with computers and electronics to get value out of it.
- Software issues might develop after some time
- Some models are fragile.
Types of computerized telescopes
The two main types of a computerized telescope are non-motorized and motorized.
Motorized telescopes are telescopes that use a special mounting system known as GoTo mount. These mounts can be equatorial, a single fork drive or a double fork drive. The Goto mounts are fitted with an electronic motor connected to a high powered GPS and computer system. This is what allows the user to automatically track down different objects in the sky at the touch of a button.
Non-motorized telescope takes a little bit of work to operate. They come with a computer with all the data needed to track celestial bodies, but you have to manually track and point the optics
Whether you are new to astronomy and want to buy your first telescope or you have been a stargazer for years and you are looking to replace your current telescope, it is important that you set a budget before you start shopping for it.
Expect to pay a small fortune for computerized models because they are often very expensive. The power, alignment system, accessories and a handful of features is what often determines the cost of a telescope.
Don’t forget to set a spending limit before heading out to a local store to purchase it.
Another thing you should give thoughts to before making a purchase is what you are going to be using it for. If you are going to be using it for basic astronomy, then you should opt for an inexpensive model. On the other hand, if you are an avid stargazer or a student, then you should invest in a top-notch model like the SkyWatcher S11820 or the Celestron NexStar 8 SE.
You are in luck if you are on a tight budget, as we have reviewed a computerized telescope under $500 (Celestron NexStar 130SLT).
Consider following features to purchase the perfect computerized telescope
As you know, there are different models of a computerized telescope on the market. Choosing between them is likely going to be a challenge as they aren’t made the same. To help you make an informed decision, we considered some important features like aperture, focal length, mount, magnification, warranty, and accessories in our buying guide.
One of the most important things you should look out for when buying a computerized telescope is its aperture. But what exactly is the aperture of a telescope? An aperture is simply the diameter of the mirror or the light gathering lens of a telescope. To know the aperture of a telescope, take a look at its focuser. The diameter of the aperture in most telescopes is usually expressed in millimetres.
Buying a telescope with a large aperture will make it easier for you to see the fine details of small objects millions of miles away. Using a telescope with an aperture of 80mm, you be able to see beyond our Milky Way galaxy. Now imagine what you will see with a telescope with an aperture diameter of 250 to 300 mm.
The SkyWatcher S11820 has an aperture diameter of 305mm while the Orion 10135 SkyQuest XT10g has an aperture diameter of 254mm.
Most computerized telescopes of the market are fitted with either an equatorial and altazimuth mount. While both of them are great and can move horizontally and vertically, most people go for telescopes with an altazimuth mount. The obvious reason for this is that they are very easy to set up. Also, they are lightweight and easy to move around. That said, it should be noted that altazimuth mounts are difficult to motorize. Even more, it is a bit of a challenge to track down moving object with it. A good example of a computerized telescope with an altazimuth mount is the SkyWatcher S11820, the Celestron NexStar 8 SE, and the Celestron NexStar 130SLT.
Equatorial mounts, on the other hand, are difficult to set up. In fact, if you aren’t familiar with how to set it up, you are likely going to spend hours figuring out how to put it together. While this mount is a pain to set up, it has a couple of advantages. First, it is easy to track moving objects in the sky with it. Second, the mount can be motorized and is therefore easy to use.
Newer model telescopes are now fitted with Dobsonia mounts that are budget-friendly, durable, and sturdy. The Orion 10135 SkyQuest XT10g comes with this type of mount.
Focal length and ratio
Since the focal length is an indicator of power and performance of a telescope, it is important that you check it before making a purchase. Focal length refers to the distance between the primary mirror to the area or point where the telescope is focused on.
Computer telescope with long focal length are usually very powerful and can produce a large and clear image of the object in view. Thankfully, the focal lengths of the telescopes reviewed in this guide are long. The Celestron NexStar 8 SE and the Meade Instruments ETX125 have a focal length and ratio of 2032mm and 1900mm respectively.
Portability: size and weight
The size and weight of a computerized telescope are going to determine to a large extent how easy it will be before you can move them around. With a lightweight telescope like the Celestron NexStar 130SLT and the Celestron NexStar 8 SE, you will be able to explore the planets and stars, without stressing yourself out.
Carrying a telescope that weighs more than 60 Ibs like the Orion 10135 SkyQuest XT10g is surely going to be a challenge especially when climbing stairs or walking for long distance.
The performance and efficiency of a computerized telescope are determined by its magnification. The magnification capabilities of a telescope are intertwined with the size of its aperture. So, a telescope with a large aperture like the SkyWatcher S11820 or the Celestron NexStar 8 SE allows for higher magnification. Using a telescope with a higher magnification, you will be able to see distant objects clearly.
Keep in mind that the diameter of the eyepiece of a telescope can also affect magnification.
The lenses of computerized telescopes are made of glass. Keep in mind that all glasses aren’t made the same. The lenses of lowest priced models are made of conventional glasses. On the other hand, the lenses of high-end models, like the SkyWatcher S11820 is made of high-grade optical glass that helps to reduce chromatic and spherical aberration and produce crisp and clear images. Newer models of computerized telescopes are now fitted with fluoride and ED (extra low-depression) glasses.
Whether you are looking to purchasing a top-notch computerized telescope like the SkyWatcher S11820 or a budget-friendly model like the Celestron NexStar 130SLT it is important that you check if it comes with all the accessories it needs to function. Keep in mind that most models don’t come with important accessories like the mount and remote controller.
Don’t allow the excitement of a purchase make you forget to check the accessories that come with the telescope you want to buy, as you will have to splash extra cash to get them after making a purchase.
Another thing you must check before buying a computerized telescope is its warranty. Computerized machines are unpredictable. One minute, they are working perfectly well and the other they faulty or start to malfunction, which is why we suggest that you go for a model with a warranty. Thankfully, all the telescopes reviewed in this guide are warranty protected. So you can buy them with confidence, knowing that if they were to develop a fault within their warranty period, you will be covered.