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Go-To or not to Go-To

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#1 -Starfighter-

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Posted 14 August 2014 - 04:28 PM

So I know there is a lot of old discussion about Go-To vs Non Go-To scopes, however I am finding that I am slowly becoming an advocate for non go-to scopes. I never thought it would happen! I use sky safari and find I can find object pretty fast with it by just using a reference star.  I purchased a XT10i a while back and I have only plugged in the controller once, only to be left to feeling like I was wasting my time going through all the set up. In addition if the set up doesn't work the first time I am wasting even more time! Occasionally I take out my C6 and spend the time aligning, however I end up looking through sky safari to see whats up in the sky. By the time I go through "tonight's best" then search for the object n the hand controller, pick it, then wait for it to slew to the object, I could have found it manually faster! Sooo... most of the time I am out with the C6 I just quick align, locate things manually and take advantage of the tracking. IMO the main advantage of go-to is the tracking. 

 

I do however disagree that it's cheating or any less effective in teaching you the night sky. In fact I found the go-to feature very effective in teaching me the sky. Once it has found the object I inevitably learn the orientation of the objects and start making connections to find them or know their general location. 

 

At first I was a go-to advocate,.. now with mobile apps such as sky safari?...I am not so sure....

 

Thoughts?



#2 MikeBOKC

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Posted 14 August 2014 - 04:39 PM

It's an age-old debate. My take?

 

-- Go to is of course essential for ease of tracking, which makes it especially useful at outreach or group observing events.

 

-- It is excellent for beginners to, as you note, help them learn the sky, and also to negate the "I give up" frustration many newbies have when futilely trying to find things.

 

-- It has real benefit in urban light polluted skies where landmark stars may be few and far between, making star hopping at best a challenge.

 

-- It is a time saver. My CPC will locate a fairly dim object much faster than all but the most expert and experienced star hopper.

 

That all being said, this is a personal choice and it is silly to second guess or look down on (or up to) anyone who chooses either option, or an in-between option like setting circles.


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#3 cbwerner

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Posted 14 August 2014 - 05:07 PM

-- Go to is of course essential for ease of tracking, which makes it especially useful at outreach or group observing events.

 

Mike - Do you mean finding objects or tracking? The latter only needs an motorized EQ, though now that I say that "out loud", I guess that's pretty rare these days without go-to included.

 

But to answer the question, I just look at them as different experiences. I personally think non go-to is a better teacher because it forces you to pay attention more, but then nothing can kill learning faster than outright frustration - so once again, different strokes for different folks.

 

I use both, choosing depending on my mood or objective. Non go-to for me is a more relaxed, just hanging out and looking experience - lower pressure. Maybe that's a mood thing (get me away from a computer - I have one in front of me all day long.) I also grew up in a time where go-to was nothing but fantasy - star hopping, setting circles, or nothing.

 

What's really great is that both are available today and at fairly low cost. :)



#4 junomike

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Posted 14 August 2014 - 05:57 PM

For me It's a matter of objective.  If I'm going to be hunting DSO's all night, It's GOTO for me (as I can only find about 5 - 10 objects by myself).

But If I'm only going to be viewing the Moon and a Planet or two then I find I prefer a non-tracking Alt/Az.

 

Mike



#5 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 14 August 2014 - 06:17 PM

 

Thoughts?

 

It really a personal thing..  Some people enjoy starhopping and some don't.  Some enjoy GOTO and some don't.  I am definitely a starhopper type, I like it clean and simple.  If I feel the need for tracking, a GEM or an Equatorial platform do the job but generally I prefer manually tracking. I am move involved, I am doing the stuff I can do, the scope does the stuff I can't do. 

 

Jon



#6 -Starfighter-

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Posted 14 August 2014 - 06:22 PM

 

-- Go to is of course essential for ease of tracking, which makes it especially useful at outreach or group observing events.

 

Mike - Do you mean finding objects or tracking? The latter only needs an motorized EQ, though now that I say that "out loud", I guess that's pretty rare these days without go-to included.

 

But to answer the question, I just look at them as different experiences. I personally think non go-to is a better teacher because it forces you to pay attention more, but then nothing can kill learning faster than outright frustration - so once again, different strokes for different folks.

 

I use both, choosing depending on my mood or objective. Non go-to for me is a more relaxed, just hanging out and looking experience - lower pressure. Maybe that's a mood thing (get me away from a computer - I have one in front of me all day long.) I also grew up in a time where go-to was nothing but fantasy - star hopping, setting circles, or nothing.

 

What's really great is that both are available today and at fairly low cost. :)

 

Good point about mood! I never thought of that. I completely agree. For me, relaxing is a big part of observing, I find using the go-to function to be less relaxing. I like to sit down in front of the dob and start looking for objects. When I am at a dark site my sessions have me looking though tonight's best and trying to make it through the list. I like things to "just work" when  I go out. I don't want to fuss with anything...



#7 dan777

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Posted 14 August 2014 - 07:09 PM

It's relevant to know that there is a statistical trend in the answer to this frequently asked (but good) question.

 

People that don't have go-to:

 Tend to say they don't need or want it

 Tend to have dobs where go-to was not readily available when they purchased their scope

 Tend to say they do not need or want a tracking scope because they can manually track at high powers (300x, 400x and higher).

 

People that have go-to:

 Tend to say they would not be with-out it

 

For me, this was my first go-to scope and I will never again not have a go-to scope as my primary scope (for many reasons).

 

 



#8 havasman

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Posted 14 August 2014 - 07:11 PM

Push-to function enables most of my viewing from home as LP is really awful here. I find star hopping under dark skies to be really enjoyable and, with extensive preparation, use it for obscure targets and with my simpler small scopes. But even under dark skies I use push-to when executing an observation plan.

I doubt that I would have persevered with observing without push-to in the face of these white zone skies as access to darkness was slow coming and the frustration would've been daunting.

Plans for the future include go-to and powered tracking. I can disengage it whenever the star hopping impulse kicks in.



#9 Jeff Morgan

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Posted 14 August 2014 - 07:48 PM

The first "computerized" mount I had was a DM6 which carried a Tak 102. Really, a push-to (PUTO) system. I figured I never needed it, and don't ever recall powering the unit up (although I most likely did once or twice). Since the Tak had a pretty good true field capability and I had to manually track anyway ….

 

Ten years later, I bought a true GOTO system, ServoCAT. Primarily I wanted tracking but secondarily the focal length of the Dob in question was quite large, meaning restricted true field. About 0.8 degrees to be exact. Not a problem for ServoCAT, spot-on in seconds no matter how star-poor the target region is.

 

Now I am totally spoiled. With a Leica ASPH Zoom and ServoCAT, the only remaining bottlenecks in my observing productivity are mirror cool down and taking notes on each object. And with the large numbers of targets you can cover with a GOTO system, you really should take some notes as they will all blend together if you don't.

 

At this point GOTO has spoiled me to the point that even my grab-n-go 80mm APO refractor seems like a chore! I'll probably sell it off.



#10 AhBok

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Posted 14 August 2014 - 11:38 PM

I wonder how many folks  are like me: push to with the dob, goto with the SCT and star hop with the alt/az mounted reflector. I bet a lot of us old timers like driving more than one type of mount/scope depending on conditions and our mood. I don't find nobility in any particular type of mount and my favorite ride is the one I am driving at the time.


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#11 gunfighter48

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Posted 15 August 2014 - 12:57 AM

I live north of Seattle, WA.  If you look at a light pollution map you will see that from Portland, OR to the Washington / Canadian border is one long string of massive light pollution. I have a LS8 and without it's self alignment / goto feature I would do very little observing.  We don't get a lot of clear nights to observe so when we do I want to observe not look for something to observe.  I've starhopped for nearly 30 years but my time is too precious to spend searching for something my goto mount can find it a couple of minutes. If you don't like goto you don't have use it. But I won't have a mount anymore that's not a goto mount.  I just bought a used C9.25 from Astromart and I also bought a Starsense for the scope and my CGEM mount.  It will do the same job as my LS8 and self align and it looks like they have fixed most of the bugs except for ASPA, and they are working on that. For many of us in extremely light polluted area's goto is no longer a nice to have feature but is now a must have feature.  With light pollution growing worse each year it won't be long before many if not all mounts will feature goto. Look how many mounts have goto now as compared to 10 years ago.


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#12 gnowellsct

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Posted 15 August 2014 - 01:31 AM

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.

 

regards 

Greg N

 

 

 

 


Edited by gnowellsct, 15 August 2014 - 01:42 AM.

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#13 PJ Anway

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Posted 15 August 2014 - 06:56 AM

I agree, it's usually a personal ot circumstances choice. I have always been been a starhopper, but I live under dark skies with many "sign posts" to help. If I had to deal with light pollution, I might choose differently. On the other hand, I have always used a motorized Gem. I find it essential for starhopping; after consulting the charts (paper or electronic) I usually take one last look at the previous target before moving on. With a driven mount it's still there.

#14 seasparky89

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Posted 15 August 2014 - 09:08 AM

I have what I consider the best of both.  My two Dobs have digital setting circles and equatorial platforms.  I can star hop or "push to" and can track (or not) as I choose.  The tracking platform really is handy at star parties and when using higher powers, especially on planets, and it can be added at a later time as the budget permits.  

 

 



#15 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 15 August 2014 - 09:54 AM

It's relevant to know that there is a statistical trend in the answer to this frequently asked (but good) question.

 

People that don't have go-to:

 Tend to say they don't need or want it

 Tend to have dobs where go-to was not readily available when they purchased their scope

 Tend to say they do not need or want a tracking scope because they can manually track at high powers (300x, 400x and higher).

 

People that have go-to:

 Tend to say they would not be with-out it

 

For me, this was my first go-to scope and I will never again not have a go-to scope as my primary scope (for many reasons).

 

 

Well.. 

 

 I can tell you that I have GOTO mounts, I have an equatorial platform that provides tracking for all but my 25 inch scope.I use the Equatorial platform occasionally, it's been a couple of years since I used my CG-5 ASGT and then I only used it as a tracking mount.  I can appreciate that others like GOTO, DSCs, motorized tracking but for me, I just like the simplicity and close relationship with the telescope that manual tracking provides. It's like the difference between riding a bicycle and riding a motorcycle. The motorcycle gets you there more quickly but the bicycle provides quite a different experience, the pace is slower but for me, I am more connected with the world around me and more connected with myself..

 

I think Greg makes some good points.. I do live in southern California, I am now retired and own a second home out where the skies are quite dark and most often clear.  I count the nights I spend observing in the hundreds per year..  I take my time, I am not in a rush.  I have nothing against computers, I have been using them for years rather than star charts. But I truly love Starhopping, it's not a means to an end, it's a most enjoyable part of the experience, something not to be missed.  I will not comment on learning the sky but it's reasonably clear to me that practice makes perfect and certainly starhopping provides the practice that makes locating individual objects easier.

 

As far as the diffraction limited field of view of a fast Newtonian.. for a 12.5 inch F/5, it's about 0.1 degrees, at 200x, it's about 20 degrees AFoV. Add a Paracorr type 1 and that diffraction limited AFoV is now over a 100 degrees.. This greatly reduces the need to continually nudge the scope, there is still a sweet spot but it is much larger and double stars and the planets can be allowed to drift across most of the field of view.. 

 

Equipment preferences and choices go much deeper than whether one is easier to use or whether one allows pointing the telescope more quickly.. they get to the heart of why we, as individuals observe, why we are willing to spend the time and effort and money to enjoy an evening out under the stars..  My goal is not to go through a list of objects.. I want to commune with the universe and satisfy my curiosity in a patient, calm manner, a bicycle ride through the forrest and out across the desert.

 

"You can observe a lot just by watching.."   - Yogi Berra

 

Jon Isaacs


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#16 Doug Culbertson

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Posted 15 August 2014 - 10:01 AM

I wonder how many folks  are like me: push to with the dob, goto with the SCT and star hop with the alt/az mounted reflector. I bet a lot of us old timers like driving more than one type of mount/scope depending on conditions and our mood. I don't find nobility in any particular type of mount and my favorite ride is the one I am driving at the time.

 

That pretty much describes me, though I do tend to use the ASGT mount with the refractor more than I do an alt/az.



#17 Jeff Morgan

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Posted 15 August 2014 - 10:15 AM

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 other issue with star hopping: At the beginning of the evening, I was very nearly as fast (over small jumps) as my friend who had ServoCAT. This was primarily due to the user interface of the Argo (an issue which SkySafari eliminates btw).

 

But as the evening wore on and fatigue set in, mentally converting the cardinal directions from Uranometria into Dobsonian alt-az directions becomes slower and more error prone. I suspect the extra mental effort adds to fatigue.

 

 

Star hopping efficiency only goes down and becomes more time-consuming over the course of a session. 



#18 dotnet

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Posted 15 August 2014 - 10:43 AM

My observing time and the number of good nights I have available are very limited, so I use a GOTO mount most of the time. Setting up and polar alignment also gives me something to do while the Mak cools down ;) 

 

That said, after a long successful night (or astrocamp) full of observing everything I had planned to observe, I do relax and enjoy a bit of star hopping. I throw open the clutches or roll out the Dob and remind myself of all the little tell-tale asterisms I used to know from when all I had was a point-and-look scope. This is usually very rewarding, and I get to search for things that are listed in no GOTO database, things like the Dark Doodad in Musca.

 

I'm currently using an HEQ5 Pro mount with my 6" Mak as my workhorse, I'm looking forward to replacing the mount with an AZ-EQ6, simply for the ability to seamlessly switch back and forth between GOTO and free style star hopping.

 

Cheers

Steffen.



#19 esd726

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Posted 15 August 2014 - 11:00 AM

  I've had a couple in my lifetime but I didn't like them very much.  I really like the relaxation of "star-hopping" (I know some don't find it relaxing) and it brings ME more enjoyment moving the scope and finding things on my own.  

  I didn't like how slow they seemed.  Not patient enough for that.  If I want to go from here to there, I want to go now.  I've always liked the search in a lot I do.  Maybe that is why I have the collectors bug in a lot of things....the search .


Edited by esd726, 15 August 2014 - 11:00 AM.


#20 Eddgie

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Posted 15 August 2014 - 12:06 PM

At first I was a go-to advocate,.. now with mobile apps such as sky safari?...I am not so sure....

 

Thoughts?

 

We are all evolving.  What you like one day you may not like another day.

 

There is no best, there is no worst.  There is what there is and both have their   place.

 

Not sure what this kind of post expects to accomplish, because as I said, it is what it is.

 

You say potato, I say binoviewer.    If I were hungry though, a potato might look better...


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#21 gnowellsct

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Posted 15 August 2014 - 12:40 PM

I have what I consider the best of both.  My two Dobs have digital setting circles and equatorial platforms.  I can star hop or "push to" and can track (or not) as I choose.  The tracking platform really is handy at star parties and when using higher powers, especially on planets, and it can be added at a later time as the budget permits.  

 

Never used one myself but a friend of mine had one for a couple of years before selling it and getting servoCAT.  He thought there were stability issues (the scope is now resting on the platform) and also he didn't like the added height.  The platform had to be reset every hour or so.   Equatorial platforms definitely get you tracking but I think they are mainly an option for smaller dobs, such as ten maybe twelve inches.   I could be wrong.  I've been wrong before.  GN



#22 gnowellsct

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Posted 15 August 2014 - 12:47 PM

 

At first I was a go-to advocate,.. now with mobile apps such as sky safari?...I am not so sure....

 

Thoughts?

 

We are all evolving.  What you like one day you may not like another day.

 

There is no best, there is no worst.  There is what there is and both have their   place.

 

Not sure what this kind of post expects to accomplish, because as I said, it is what it is.

 

You say potato, I say binoviewer.    If I were hungry though, a potato might look better...

 

 

 

The question is more typical of ten years ago. In the market place go-to has won a decisive victory on upper end systems (you can't *not* have it on AP, Paramount, etc., but hooray for Losmandy for maintaining the choice).  It is *typical* on SCT complete systems.  I would say about half of the upper end dobs--the quality name brands like Obsession or Starmaster--are go-to, and many of the lower end ones are either go-to or have dscs.   ServoCAT blurs the distinction between dscs and go-to because once you have your Argo Navis and dscs in, you're just one step away from putting in ServoCAT.  The gear you buy for your dscs gets used in the next configuration.  When you convert a Losmandy G11 the dsc hardware and computer becomes essentially surplus.

 

Imaging has further pushed the adoption of go-to because people like to control their equipment from their laptop, not be up and down, or running outside, to move the scope.  It's here to stay.

 

I will note that I have used several different dobs with servoCAT go to and they do point precisely.  And you can control them with the controller for fine tuning.  But they are *nothing* like a good GEM in terms of the precision of control.   On the other hand, just try to put an 18" on a portable GEM....

 

Greg N


Edited by gnowellsct, 15 August 2014 - 12:50 PM.


#23 gnowellsct

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Posted 15 August 2014 - 01:00 PM

A sad consequence of go-to is the progressive disappearance of analog setting circles from GEMs....


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#24 Charles Copeland

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Posted 16 August 2014 - 08:13 PM

When you are old and twisting your back like a pretzel hurts, then goto is a God send. These days I'm strickly goto.  You can still have tracking with non-goto.  Get an old CAT on a wedge and do polar alignment.  Any where you point it and it will track. You can star hop or go old school and use the setting circles. 

 

I think very soon the majority of telescopes being sold will not only be goto, but won't have any eye pieces.  Video Astronomy is going to change things fast.


Edited by Charles Copeland, 16 August 2014 - 08:20 PM.


#25 WebFoot

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 12:10 AM

Ignoring the "purists" insistence that one must suffer to enjoy the privilege of actually seeing a deep-sky object in your eyepiece, I kind of think this is entirely a matter of freedom of choice.

 

If you like spending your time looking FOR things, more power to you; enjoy the process.

 

If you like spending your time looking AT things, this is a great time to be interested in doing so.

 

There's no right answer; only personal preferences, none of which is binding on anyone else.

 

For me, I got tired of losing sleep (literally) looking FOR things in light-polluted skies, and traded in my Newt on an LX200, back in 1998.  And never, ever regretted that choice.  Well, except for the fact that I became hopelessly enamored of this hobby after that decision, and have since spent tens of thousands of dollars pursuing it, when I certainly would have stopped bothering had it not been for GOTO.

 

JMO

 

Mark








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