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Orion tabletop telescopes?

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#1 DavidCarmichael

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 05:52 PM

I'm thinking of buying a small telescope that I can bring with me on plane trips as carry-on luggage.
I would be using it for Lunar and planetary observing only.
I'm wondering if the Orion tabletop telescopes might be a good cheap choice?

Out of these 3 which might be the best choice?

Orion StarMax 90mm TableTop Mak-Cass Telescope $199.95 (wonder why this one is twice the cost)
Orion SkyScanner 100mm TableTop Reflector $99.95
Orion GoScope 80mm TableTop Refractor Telescope $99.95

#2 Bob Griffiths

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 06:08 PM

I carry a little Orion SkyScanner 100 mm in the trunk of my car when my wife and I travel (almost every weekend in the summer) it is much better then the little 60 or 70 mm Meade Refractor on a table top alt/azm mount ...for one major reason..
like the scope is 100 times easier to use


Sitting poolside in the evening with a bloody Mary at my side with the refractor I was bent over with my ear on the table to view the moon with the little dob like mount my eye can get to the eyepiece much easier PLUS I do not feel like someone may think I passed out....

It was a major decision between it and the Star Blast 4.5 since it was used primarly for open clusters and the moon size won out...

Bob G

#3 ArieSirius123

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 06:36 PM

the 80mm orion tabletop is actually quite solid.

#4 jgraham

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 09:36 PM

For lunar and planetary the 90mm Mak is a wonderful little scope. It's a lot of scope in a small package. The higher cost is largely due to the meniscus lens. This is also the cutest scope I own.

#5 Tony Flanders

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Posted 15 January 2011 - 06:26 AM

I'm thinking of buying a small telescope that I can bring with me on plane trips as carry-on luggage.
I would be using it for Lunar and planetary observing only.
I'm wondering if the Orion tabletop telescopes might be a good cheap choice?

Out of these 3 which might be the best choice?

Orion StarMax 90mm TableTop Mak-Cass Telescope $199.95 (wonder why this one is twice the cost)
Orion SkyScanner 100mm TableTop Reflector $99.95
Orion GoScope 80mm TableTop Refractor Telescope $99.95


Joshua Roth and I just reviewed the SkyScanner and GoScope in the March 2011 issue of Sky & Telescope, which is now available in digital form. It should be on the newsstands in a couple of weeks.

We would have loved to review the Mak-Cas too, but didn't have space. It costs twice as much because its optical tube (the basic telescope) costs much more to manufacture. Without a doubt, it offers far better high-power performance than the other scopes. The flip side (aside from cost) is that it can't achieve nearly as wide a field of view at low magnification.

#6 pedalmasher

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Posted 15 January 2011 - 07:50 AM

John, that 90mm Orion Mak is one cute little scope - I'm going to consider one as a travel scope.

#7 DavidCarmichael

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Posted 15 January 2011 - 07:52 AM

Hmm, 3 opinions, 1 for each scope. This isn't making my decision any easier. Anybody else want to chime in?

#8 weezy

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Posted 15 January 2011 - 08:29 AM

Some makers have backpack telescopes. Meade had a small one advertised for a while.
I used a 50mm MiniBorg which fit in the hard bags of our bike.That can be used on a photo tripod.
Since we now go by car, the 120ST gets packed.
Weezy

#9 Tony Flanders

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Posted 15 January 2011 - 11:53 AM

Some makers have backpack telescopes ... I used a 50mm MiniBorg which fit in the hard bags of our bike.


The SkyScanner and GoScope are both better than any of the backpack telescopes that I've seen. As for the MiniBorg, it's extremely cute, but 50 mm is way smaller than 80 mm or 100 mm. Plus, the tabletop scopes come complete with an excellent mount -- which, by the way, can thread onto any reasonably robust photo tripod.

#10 caheaton

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Posted 15 January 2011 - 12:08 PM

Celestron also has their line of Travel Scopes, refractors in 50 & 70mm. They come with a pair of Kellner ep, a light weight photo tripod and a back pack. The 70mm can be had for under $60 and is light enough (and small enough) for the whole thing to fit in a carry on bag. Plus, it's cheap enough that if it gets damaged or lost you won't feel quite so bad!

I haven't looked through one yet, but we did buy one for my cousin and her family this past Christmas. Build quality looks good and it received a favorable review here on CN. Just one more entry to confuse you! ;)

#11 pedalmasher

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Posted 15 January 2011 - 01:34 PM

My main concern about getting something like the Mak 90 from Orion is that I wonder how frustrating an experience it will be attempting to track objects with the scope mounted on a photographic tripod?

#12 jgraham

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Posted 15 January 2011 - 02:41 PM

I have both the ETX-60 and ETX-80 versions of Meade's backpack scopes and they're really nice (I even do a lot of imaging with them). The backpacks are well made and they are even very comfortable to wear. However, for sheer simplicity the Orion tabletop scopes are hard to beat. Using them on a wibbly camera tripod could be challenging as would any telescope with moderate magnification. If'n it were me and I really wanted to squeeze a scope into carry-on I'd get the 90mm Mak and make a little Dob mount that would come apart and lay flat in my carry-on case. Hmmmm, sounds like a fun project.

#13 pedalmasher

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Posted 15 January 2011 - 03:11 PM

I was just looking at the SkyQuest XT4.5 which at 17 pounds with a carrying handle is seemingly a very portable possibility with no need for a tripod. Although it's low to the ground, my Starbound chair seems to be reasonably comfortable at the bottom settings. Of course the XT4.5 makes a great grab and go locally used scope, but I'm not sure how convenient it would be to travel with. In the back of my mind, I would love to own a DOB however.

#14 spaceboy62

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Posted 15 January 2011 - 03:49 PM

I'd narrow it down between the Orion SkyScanner 3.9" (6.2 lbs) and the StarBlast 4.5" (13 lbs). Both have parabolic mirrors & both are small sized. Both have great reviews too.

I've never tried the SkyScanner before but I have tried the StarBlast 4.5. It's very simple to use, so I'm sure the SkyScanner is too.

Ultimately, if I had to choose a tabletop 'scope, I'd get the StarBlast 6i since I like the IntelleScope so much. But for portability on an airplane & price, I'd lean toward the SkyScanner. Hard to go wrong at only $99!

Whatever you get, I'd also suggest adding a 6mm Orion Expanse eyepiece (or the Agena 6mm clone) for higher mag & wide-field, and a 2x barlow. That'll give you a great view of Saturn. :D

#15 Joe Lalumia

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Posted 15 January 2011 - 03:54 PM

I REALLY like the Heritage 130p -- here:

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=FEs_MMcJ7JA

#16 DavidCarmichael

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Posted 15 January 2011 - 10:18 PM

Hey Joe, I really like the idea of the Heritage 130P which I guess is now being sold in the US by opticplanets as a Bushnell model but I think I'm leaning towards the Skyscanner.
Spaceboy62, I just got a 6mm Agena EWA eyepiece yesterday. Haven't had chance to try it yet - snowing here.
And for those who suggested 4.5" DOB's, I'd like to try one but I don't think they would be good for plane travel.

#17 Tony Flanders

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 05:48 AM

My main concern about getting something like the Mak 90 from Orion is that I wonder how frustrating an experience it will be attempting to track objects with the scope mounted on a photographic tripod?


Not really a problem. You're unlikely to use more than 120X or so with a 90-mm Mak, and it's pretty easy to hand-track at that power.

For what it's worth, the Orion tabletop mount is much smoother and easier to work than any photo-tripod head in the same price and weight range. That's because it keeps the scope in balance, whereas photo-tripod heads are inherently top-heavy.

#18 Tony Flanders

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 05:56 AM

I'd narrow it down between the Orion SkyScanner 3.9" (6.2 lbs) and the StarBlast 4.5" (13 lbs). Both have parabolic mirrors & both are small sized. Both have great reviews too.


See my blog SkyScanner 100 vs. 4.5-inch StarBlast. One thing I didn't mention but maybe should: the SkyScanner threads onto a standard photo tripod, while the StarBlast doesn't. Even if it had the proper thread, it would be far too heavy and big for a standard tripod.

But for portability on an airplane & price, I'd lean toward the SkyScanner.


For airplane portability, I'd probably prefer the 80-mm GoScope. The SkyScanner's optical tube is small, but the GoScope is tiny!

#19 pedalmasher

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 07:45 AM

Thanks Tony. I certainly would have considered the TT mount, but then one needs a table and I wanted to really be grab and go portable.

#20 pedalmasher

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 07:50 AM

Tony, interesting blog! I guess subscribing to S&T doesn't automatically subscribe one to the digital edition, does it? I didn't seem to have access and I am a subscriber to the print version.

#21 Tony Flanders

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 11:08 AM

Tony, interesting blog! I guess subscribing to S&T doesn't automatically subscribe one to the digital edition, does it?


No, but you can purchase a digital subscription at a big discout off the regular price.

#22 pedalmasher

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 01:07 PM

Thanks Tony.

#23 pogobbler

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 04:48 PM

Out of those three, the 90mm Mak would be the best choice for lunar and planetary and seems as if it should work pretty well. I've got a 90mm ETX Mak and it does really well on planets, for the size, and the little tabletop mount would be easier to use and less bulky than a regular sized mount or a photo tripod and head.

#24 spaceboy62

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 07:20 PM

Great review Tony! Based on that, I'd say decide between the 4.5 StarBlast or the Orion GoScope 80mm. That would be an interesting review to read.

David, that's neat you got the eyepiece I was thinking of. I have the 9mm and it's great!

#25 tnakazon

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Posted 22 January 2011 - 05:06 PM

Hi Tony,

As an owner of the 100mm Orion Skyscanner, I was excited (and relieved) that someone finally gave it a proper review – testing and comparing it with other telescopes of approximately similar aperture and size. The article comparing the three Orion $100 scopes was wonderful - I can say that everything you and Joshua wrote about the Skyscanner was exactly spot on! As added bonuses, the blog comparing this scope with the Orion Starblast 4.5 and the audio interview on the appeal of small scopes to experienced users were a treat. I’ve been reading blogs and comments inquiring on the merits of the Skyscanner since I first purchased this scope last year, but nothing really substantial until now. So I felt compelled to write about what I’ve been able to see with this scope.

My main interest is in deep sky objects (DSO’s) - in fact, I wrote an email to you last year detailing what DSO’s I was able to detect with the 76 mm Orion Funscope. After a few months of using this small scope, I moved on to the Skyscanner. An additional 24 mm. of aperture for only $50 more seemed too good to pass up – plus it was still small and light (only 6.2 lbs). I live in urban Los Angeles and don’t own a car, so portability is of paramount importance in seeking out darker sites away from home (using public transport).

For accessories to go with this scope, I bought an Adidas Schmidt Pack XXL size (dimensions 19.75" x 13" x 11") for $55 and just recently, a sturdy Manfrotto 055XDB tripod (weight 4.63 lbs.) for $115 (retail price is $150). The Skyscanner fits snugly into the backpack and there is plenty of space left over for star atlases and eyepieces/filters. For the tripod, the Manfrotto 055XDB provides a strong, stable support. The Skyscanner fits securely on the top plate using the 3/8’’ thread; a maximum weight load of 15.4 lbs. (vs. 6.2 lbs. for the scope) means that high magnification images won’t dance at the slightest breeze, which happens with cheaper tripods using the less substantial 1/4-20’’ thread. There is also a hanging ring to hook on a counterweight for additional support. The tripod is somewhat heavy compared to my previous cheaper models, but the additional weight is worth it.

Given the additional expenditures for the backpack and tripod ($170), it’s true that I could have gotten a Starblast 4.5 instead. But for the sake of portability and convenience in being able to set up the telescope anywhere, as well as the Skyscanner’s 100 mm of aperture for $100, I think it’s a fair trade-off (especially for DSO viewing). I’ve also bought 3 additional eyepieces, a collimation (Cheshire) eyepiece and a filter, but I can use these for my other scopes as well (Funscope and Starblast 6), so I don’t count them as Skyscanner-specific purchases.

Here are some DSO’s I was able to observe with my Skyscanner at an “all-night session” on December 12th last year from a park in Malibu (just a few miles north of metropolitan L.A. along the coast) on a clear night. This is a suburban sky site, where I can see a washed out Milky Way overhead (“5” or “6” on the Bortle scale). Along with the two supplied eyepieces (20mm and 10mm), I used a 6.3 mm Orion Sirius Plossl and a 2x Shorty Barlow (both of which I bought originally for my Funscope), as well as a UHC narrowband filter. I took notes and made sketches of all the deep-sky objects observed. No tripod was used (my Manfrotto is a recent purchase).

I began my evening by scanning the southern skies; from my Malibu site (34 N), these constellations rise just above the Pacific Ocean in winter. I set up my Skyscanner on a waist-high stone wall at the entrance to the park, which allowed me to view the following objects comfortably near the horizon:

o) Sculptor:

NGC 55 - Southern Cigar galaxy; huge; best view at 40X using direct vision.
NGC 300 – Southern Pinwheel galaxy; also huge; best at 20X using averted vision

o) Eridanus:

NGC 1291 – small but bright galaxy, responds well to higher power (80X was best)
NGC 1535 – very small planetary; can see the disk at 120X
NGC 1360 – large planetary with central star visible (40X & 80X); nebulosity really stands out with narrowband filter.

o) Fornax:

NGC 1316 - bright, responds well to higher power (120X)
NGC 1365 - using averted vision at 40X and 80X


Except for NGC 1360 (which I glimpsed briefly on a previous night), I had never sought out these galaxies/planetary nebulae before, so being able to “nail” them on my first try was sweet. Other objects I’ve observed previously in the vicinity include NGC 253 (‘The Silver Coin’) in Sculptor, globular cluster NGC 288 (also in Sculptor) and galaxy NGC 247 in Cetus (more difficult, but just detectable by slow panning). There are a few other DSO’s in this area which I think are well within the reach of the Skyscanner and worth seeking out.


Later in the evening (around 9:30 PM), I hiked deeper into the park, where there was a drinking fountain I could set my Skyscanner on to obtain views higher in the sky:

o) Andromeda:

NGC 891 – edge on galaxy; able to see a thin sliver at 40X with no difficulty; thrilled to have finally “bagged” this object after previous attempts with the Funscope/Skyscanner at an urban site.

o) Cassiopeia:

NGC 281 - able to make out the nebulosity at 20x; the narrowband filter makes it stand out even more.

o) Perseus:

NGC 1491 – small diffuse nebula with central star visible (best at 80X); filter improves nebulosity but makes star go away

o) Auriga:

M37 – at 20X, bright ball of light with individual stars just perceptible; explodes with stars at 40X.
NGC 1931 – small diffuse nebula, best at 120X
NGC 1907 – very small open cluster near M38; can see some stars glistening within the oval fuzz with averted vision at 80X and 120X


Early morning (after 2:00 AM):

o) Camelopardalis:

NGC 2403 – large galaxy; does not seem to take higher powers well, best at 40X.

o) Ursa Major:

NGC 2841 – galaxy takes high power well at 120X
NGC 3184 – using averted vision, able to see it at 40X & 80X; searched for this object many times previously with no success at an urban site
M108 – edge-on galaxy stood out at 40X; eluded me in previous attempts at an urban site.
M109 – able to see with averted vision (80X was best); a great relief after wasting so many hours in the past trying to detect this object at an urban site

o) Leo:

NGC 3628 – was able to see this thin sliver of light along with M65 and M66 in the same field of view at 40X.
NGC 3521 – bright NGC galaxy in Leo that doesn’t get as much publicity as NGC 2903; takes higher powers well.


Except for NGC 1360 and M37, I was seeing all of these objects for the first time. As for the other objects I observed that night (seen previously either here or at a different urban site), M110 was very clear using direct vision, NGC 604 (the HII region in M33) was evident at 80X & 120X using averted vision, M101 showed its full extent for the first time (only saw the core previously), and the round glow of M97 was clearly visible with direct vision.

My only problem was getting access to the skies at or near the zenith, since neither the water fountain nor the stone wall would allow me to target the scope at a near-vertical position using the red dot finder!

As mentioned in your article, the Skyscanner won’t provide the sharpest views of these DSO’s. At the suburban site for example, the central hole of M57 is evident only with averted vision at high power (80X or 120X) and is undetectable at an urban site. Close double stars are not well resolved either (e.g., Zeta Aquarius with a separation of 2.2” shows a slightly elongated shape, with no split between the two components). However, it does reasonably well on globular clusters (e.g., individual stars in M71 were obvious at 80X and higher in the suburbs), and I’ve been able to make out individual stars on some of the brighter globulars (e.g., M13, M92, M4, M3, M10, M22) from an urban site using direct or averted vision. Haven’t had a chance to reexamine these globulars (except for M71) at the slightly darker Malibu site, but will do so soon.

I’m looking forward to seeking out the Virgo cluster of galaxies, which I haven’t attempted in my ten months of sky gazing (after 25 years of inactivity). Having previously detected M74 (“The Phantom”) and NGC 7293 (“The Helix Nebula”) with little difficulty by panning the scope at the same suburban site – two of my most proudest accomplishments with the Skyscanner – I’m sure that all the Messier Virgo galaxies will be visible through my eyepiece(s) in a single night’s worth of observing. With the narrowband nebula filter, the Helix really jumps out at you (but at the expense of the background stars).

I can’t wait to resume my stargazing sessions again, but this time with the scope securely threaded onto my rock-solid Manfrotto tripod. Again, thanks to you and Joshua for getting the word out on the Skyscanner and these other wonderful small scopes!


Terry Nakazono


BTW, I mentioned owning the Starblast 6. Although weighing in at 23 lbs, with the customized Orion soft case I can comfortably sling it over my shoulder and lug it around easily without strain. It’s large enough so I can set it on the ground and observe with it sitting down cross-legged (without having to find an elevated support). At this position, I can comfortably observe the sky at all angles thanks to its ability to rotate the tube. So this still qualifies as a portable scope for me, but at the extreme end. Plus, I got it on sale for $249 – an additional 36 mm. of aperture compared to the Starblast 4.5 for only $50 more. Haven’t done any serious observing with it yet though – I still have so much more work to do with the Skyscanner!






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