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Celestron AS-GT (CG-5 GT) GOTO EQ Mount
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One of the pleasures of amateur astronomy for me is sharing my views of the night sky with friends. I live several miles outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico and am fortunate to have reasonably dark and clear skies. I can haul my gear 50 feet from my front door and have a clear view of much of the night sky. My “star gatherings” were enhanced a couple of years ago by the purchase of my first GOTO system, a Meade LX90. I quickly became a fan of GOTO, and admittedly, have become somewhat spoiled by it. Like many amateurs, I’m always experimenting (to the degree the budget allows) with different types of telescopes and gear. I’ve had 10 different scopes and several different mounts over the past several years. I currently own two 6” Russian maks, a 10” Schmidt-Newtonian, and the LX90. My other scopes ride on a Losmandy GM-8 equatorial mount. I’m very pleased with the GM-8 mount, except for one thing. It doesn’t have GOTO. When I checked out the Gemini GOTO system from Losmandy, I found that the GOTO add-on by itself was as much as the GM-8 mount. This was more than I wanted to spend. I kept thinking of all the reasons it would be nice to have a reasonably portable GOTO equatorial mount; the ability to have GOTO for all my OTA’s, the ease of use for star parties, the amount of time I could spend observing rather than searching; etc. There was just one problem – finding such a mount at a price that wouldn’t break the bank.
I thought my quest was over when Meade announced their new LXD55 series with an equatorial GOTO mount and the same AutoStar controller as on my LX90. The price seemed too good to be true. WOW. I placed my order right away. Seven months later my LXD55 arrived. The Schmidt-Newtonian OTA that came with my package proved to be a fine performer. The LXD55 mount was a different story. I won’t go into all the details except to say that I have never been so frustrated with a mount in my entire life. I got rid of the mount and found myself right back where I had started. I still didn’t have a GOTO equatorial mount.
During the summer of 2003, I noticed advertisements for Celestron’s new AS-GT series telescopes with an equatorial GOTO mount. I began to wonder if this new mount might be the answer. I was a little gun-shy at this point. Perhaps, there was no suitable answer except saving my money for the Gemini system or perhaps a much larger mount like the Celestron CGE (doesn’t meet my criteria for portability). I cautiously began to research the new AS-GT mount and talked with several dealers. I was pleasantly surprised to hear encouraging remarks about the mount. I ordered one. Price including shipping was $724.00.
First let me qualify my comments by pointing out that I’ve not owned this mount very long at the time of this writing. The mount is a brand new model and I think I’m one of the first customers to take delivery of the “mount only” where no OTA was included (first week of November 2003). Also, I’m not going to attempt to review all the features of Celestron’s GOTO system. That information is readily available on many internet sites and I’m still in the learning mode myself. The following information is provided in the hope that it will be helpful in evaluating the basic suitability of the mount.