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A Case for GOTO

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A Case For GoTo
A Case For GoTo

I recently re-entered this wonderful hobby of astronomy after a thirty year hiatus and was and have been absolutely amazed by the myriad of technological advances since the last time I peered through an eyepiece. But the one thing that I found most amazing was the advent of this thing called GoTo. We now have telescopes that possess astronomical data bases that were once reserved to our trusty and dog eared ephemeris and that can now take us on tours that could quite possibly last the rest of our lives. At 40,000 + objects if we were to view 30 objects a night in a normal session and at 365 days a year it would take us nearly four years to complete the list. But for those of us who may only get out one night a week then the whole ball game changes.

GoTo is the equivalent of an astronomical convenience store, in that we can call up at will just about anything that we want to see or that our equipment is capable of showing us. No more are the long hours of searching and in some cases in vain for that one elusive faint fuzzy or celestial gem. We can with the aid of some software programs create a tour that is specific to our location and in two hours time be shown more than in an entire lifetime of viewing, as was the case with me.

Now there are a great number of purists who will knock the benefits of GoTo and to them my hat goes off. I often wish that I had the time and ambition to learn the sky the way that a good astronomer should, but letÕs face it, life gets in the way. I admire and honor those of us who can find an object in the sky faster than any GoTo computer can but the number of those talented people is few. To be able to locate an object using star charts and setting circles is a dream of mine, but I fear it will be one that will not be realized for quite sometime.

We are a society that seeks convenience and instant gratification and what better way to achieve that through the use of a good GoTo computer and tracking system? I recently created a two hundred object tour utilizing a well known software program specifically for my viewing location and telescope and in two hours time I was able to bag thirty five objects that I otherwise probably would not have been able to. Is this a redundant statement? Yes it is, and I did so to drive home the point that GoTo satisfies all of our desires for convenience and instant gratification.

Does GoTo have problems and quirks? Most certainly, as does any form of emerging technology and any time you pair together man and machine, struggles and conflicts will always arise. And as I have been told by many of our illustrious colleagues here at CN, when I have fought with my GoTo systems, operator error is always the first place to look, and they were right. Is GoTo still evolving? Again, a resounding yes! But so is every other emerging technology and that is the beauty of it all. We will always have something better to look forward to. Heck, even Galileo knew that there would be something better on the horizon, otherwise he would never have ventured forth and created what we now all cherish; our telescopes.

As with anything else in our lives, there is always something for everyone and though the dividing line running through GoTo for now is clear, I believe that in the future and as technology advances, that dividing line will become less clear and GoTo will be relied upon by all.


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