With Argo Navis I have push-to accurate pointing all-sky. I use it on the G11 and the AP900QMD - both stepper mounts without go-to. I like push-to because it eliminates a whole host of issues associated wtih go-to paddles: sudden slewing, backlash and slippage, finagling worm gear adjustments to compensate for large temperature changes, servo motor burn out, paddle failure, and so on. I mean, go-to systems work, but nonetheless but they fail more frequently than simple stepper driven push-to systems.
I use Argo Navis with my Newt, I use it with my refractors, and I use it with my SCT, because they all go on one or the other equatorial mount.
Tracking is totally awesome. With the very small diffraction limited area of a fast Newt you have two choices: at medium power you can keep the planet in the eyepiece without a lot of nudges, if it is wide field. But you can watch the planet visibly improve then deteriorate as it crosses the diffraction limited area.
At high power the diffraction limited area fills the eyepiece but it's nudge nudge nudge. And it's silly to think nudging doesn't have an effect. The whole point of image stabilized binoculars, or putting binoculars on a tripod, is that you see more when the optic isn't moving and the target is steady. This principle also applies to telescopes. Your guests get to see more with tracking too because, if they are unfamiliar with scopes, you don't have to move them out of the seat to bring the planet back in. And then they can sit and deal with the unfamiliarity of focus and looking in an eyepiece without fretting about the disappearing object.
There is of course the very interesting case of the equatorial mount without a computer. Even if you star hop you have the huge advantage of a scope whose motions are limited to either RA or DEC. It means you can swing due north or south in any part of the sky (not always easy to do) and due east or west, along the lines exactly as they are displayed in the star charts. I think this is a big advantage. Moreover your finder is also pointed at the target, so you can see the immediate star pattern around the target and compare that to your map, getting a better feel for the relationship between the map's stars and what the finder actually shows. Setting circles are to go-to what an abacus is to a calculator. They provide a variety of techniques for finding the object: the coordinate system as such, or various improvisations such as getting to the right part of the sky, putting the scope in the correct RA position, and then sweeping in Dec till you find the target. As you sweep you can watch your progress on a star chart if you like.
The issue of learning the sky is somewhat over blown as an advantage of Dobs. First, many computerized systems require alignment stars, so you're going to need to learn two dozen stars to cover all the hours of all the seasons. That's a good start. Second, when the system is working, the telescope is actually pointing at the constellation. Let's say you're using Sky Atlas 2000. You have your scope pointed at Cygnus and you see Cygnus in your sky chart and with the two you can match up the Sky Atlas 2000 with what you see in the sky and learn the pattern. Worked for me. If you *only* have Sky Atlas 2000 and are new to it all you're going to have an issue matching the correct page to what's up in the particular part of the sky you want to see.
The answer to that is a planisphere, of course, but a planisphere becomes less necessary if you are following patterns with the help of a scope that is pointing to the right area of the sky. It's actually rather chauvinistic of star hoppers to think that they are the only ones who learn the sky, frankly.
Finally, it is important to understand that *everyone* is using computerized databases. The person who is using a resource like SA 2000 or Uranometria is using a computerized database whose output has been printed on paper. The person using a computer is using the computerized database directly.
Over the years I've seen a number of people say they've had it with bad backs and crimped necks and want to move to dscs or go-to.
In some areas, including my own, we have very little observing time. If you live in Southern California or New Mexico your summer nights are longer and your winter nights are *much* milder than they are in the NE. Both conditions promote a leisurely attitude towards the sky because it is a resource you have in *abundance*. You actually hear people on a Sunday discussing going out for observing on a Thursday or Friday with high confidence that the sky will be there for them. In the NE an astro-date means: I will call you at 4 p.m. Friday and we'll consult the weather oracles and decide if we have an observing window that night. Otherwise see ya at the movies. In some parts of the country, you can agree to watch a show with the missus *tonight* with high confidence that you won't have to wait three weeks for another sky. In other parts of the country, sometimes you go out and set up knowing you will have only three hours out of a possible seven of darkness. When you do have a *good* summer night it is significantly shorter than in more southerly latitudes. When you have a *good* winter night you are going to be making some hard comfort choices about how long to stay out at sub freezing temperatures. Frankly, at zero degrees, go with whatever works. Ironically, go-to systems are extremely finicky at frigid temperatures, so when you most need 'em they are least reliable. (One of the reasons I prefer push-to)
It also works the other way. There is a certain physical strain in looking through finders and looking at charts and back and forth. After four or five hours it can get tiring. If you live in an "abundant sky zone" you can call it quits knowing you'll have another good night, maybe tomorrow or the next night. If the forecast is three good nights in a row you take the middle night off. Under conditions of sky starvation if you have a really good night you try to go the distance till dawn, and if the *next* night is also good you might try for that one too, to fill up the astro tank as it were. After a day at work that starts at 6 a.m. and setting up, you can be pretty fatigued as Friday night stretches into Saturday morning, and you'll be trying to conserve energy for the next day if it is forecast to be good. Computerized systems can help keep you going when fatigue is an issue.
So, in many parts of the country, observing time is much more limited than in others, and people adapt accordingly. If you are operating under conditions of limited sky availability there is a tendency to want to do more with less time.
Nonetheless I'd say that at least 50% of my club's regular observers are *not* using computers though the case gets murky. If you have an angle meter on your dob OTA and can do the equivalent of a dec sweep in azimuth. You just need to get to the right altitude. To do that you consult a phone app and converting RA/Dec to alt az coordinates. Are you star hopping or not?
Anyhow there are many ways to find objects, but I would never ever want to do without tracking.
Edited by gnowellsct, 15 August 2014 - 01:42 AM.