With excellent help and advice from members here, I purchased an Orion XT8 several years ago and enjoyed it quite a bit. Unfortunately, a back injury has made it virtually impossible for me to use the XT8 any more since I simply can't bend over to pick it up and move it without a lot of pain.
So, I'm in the market for a smaller, lighter telescope that I can move around without hurting myself, but that will still allow for pretty good views of the skies. I know that I'll be sacrificing a significant amount of light gathering potential by going smaller, but a smaller telescope that I can use is a LOT better than a bigger one that I can't use.
I'm also very interested in getting a telescope with a motorized GOTO mount, in part for the times when I'm feeling lazy and just want to see something without hunting around in the stars, and to make it easier for the younger viewers (I have a 6-year-old nephew who recently discovered those sparkly things in the sky) to find interesting objects.
Primary needs are:
* Low weight so I can move it around and still be able to actually use it after I do (under 20 pounds total if possible, or easy separation of parts if total weight is higher)
* Goto mount (this takes budget away from potential quality of the scope itself, but it's something I really want)
* Primarily used for viewing the Moon and DSOs like star clusters and nebulae (planets are interesting, but not for very long, and there are only a few of them)
* Ability to use my 1.25" Zhumell 9mm eyepiece, particularly since it seems that scopes in my budget range frequently come with low quality eyepieces. Not a requirement, but would be nice since I already have the Zhumell.
* Potential for basic astrophotography. This is not a high priority, but could be a fun bonus.
My preferred budget is around $500 or less. This does limit things, but I'd really like to stay below that if possible.
As examples of what I am looking for, and at the same time hoping for advice to narrow down the choices (or add better ones), Amazon.com currently has three different Celestron NexStar telescopes on sale between $399 and $429. https://www.amazon.c...=8-1-spons&th=1
All three look like they have potential benefits and downsides and I simply don't know which style would best fit my needs. I'm going to list what I see as the important factors so you can let me know how they relate to the different options and if any of them actually matter or not.
The 130 SLT Newtonian - I'm already familiar with this format from using the XT8. Collimating the mirrors is relatively simple for me now, but might be a hassle if the cheaper, smaller scope doesn't hold the collimation as well as the XT8 does. It also seems like the eyepiece location is going to be at a more comfortable height for relaxed standing viewing than the other two, particularly when looking at objects that are high in the sky. Focal length is a LOT shorter than the XT8, but there are times when that is a good thing, such as looking at the whole moon or at big objects like the Andromeda Galaxy, and smaller eyepieces are always an option for higher magnification, with a 4mm eyepiece (or the 9mm Zhumell and a 2x Barlow) getting to almost the same magnification as the 127 Mak with its included 9mm eyepiece.
The 127 SLT Maksutov-Cassegrain - The apparent primary feature of this one is the long focal length in a very small package. This is great for looking at planets, for close up views of the moon, and for bringing smaller DSOs in closer. But I've read that they don't do as well for normal DSOs because that higher focal length/magnification makes it harder to get everything into the viewing area at the same time. If I'm doing the math right, this scope would need close to a 60mm eyepiece to "zoom out" to the equivalent of the other two using their included 25mm eyepieces.
The 102 SLT Refractor - This one is a full inch smaller than the other two, but it seems like that might not be a big issue since it also doesn't have the obstruction from the secondary mirrors in the other two. Since it is a straight refractor, I believe this would be the best option for astrophotography in the future, and it would also serve a nice secondary job as a terrestrial telescope for looking at wild animals during the day at the primary viewing site (cabin in the mountains). I've seen some reports of this telescope having issues with chroma, but I don't know if it's enough to really matter.
The main downside I've seen to all three of these is also their main positive feature. From what I can tell, the Celestron computerized mount that these telescopes use doesn't have the ability to be disconnected to just use the telescope as a normal alt-azimuth mount for free roaming of the sky. If that's true, it could be a little annoying, but isn't a deal breaker as long as the motorized controller has the ability to make the telescope manually "roam" in addition to going directly to the pre-programmed objects.
I appreciate any suggestions you can give me to help narrow this down and get me outside again.