I had the 8SE, sent it back because it was so shaky. Every time I bumped it or touched the focuser, let out a sigh and wait for the image to stop shaking. Good optics, but as others have said, the 8 inch really taxes that mount. If you're like me, you probably want to mix it up. Not get something close to what you already have, but something of a different flavor, with a totally different experience. SCT's also may have more zoom than you are expecting. This means the zoom comes at the expense of brightness, and the field of view is much narrower. You can offset that somewhat with a $100 focal reducer (6.3) to widen the field of view and brighten things up a bit though.
Where do you live? Is there much light pollution? Do you primarily just want something to use at your house? If you don't care about hauling it to different locations often, I would also recommend an 8 or 10 inch dob, preferably a 10. SCT's are gee-whiz gadgets the way the fold the light and fit into a housing the size of a bucket, but they are also more demanding. If your in a humid area, the front lens fogs up at the drop of a hat, requiring a dew shield, and either a heated collar with adjustable thermostat, (read wires, money, and hassle), or in my case I just use a hair dryer...... My car inverter can run it too.
Then you have the cool down factor. The 8SE cools pretty well, but still not nearly as well as a Dob. The lens end radiates heat into space, while the big heavy mirror in the back end causes a temp differential. This makes the images shaky, like looking at a mirage down a long hot highway.
I think simple tech can lead to less hassle, and more enjoyment. Kids don't like watching dad fiddle with this and that till he's satisfied, saying "one more minute....."
Refractors are as simple and reliable as a rock. The problem is, to get a big one of decent quality will quickly squander your budget, and may not brighten things up more than what you already have. Quality will be higher, but when you and your daughter are just trying to have fun and see cool new things, I think a large aperture scope like a dob will really make things pop. What looked like a fuzzy smudge on you eyepiece before will be a much brighter more defined object. Hey, that's not a fingerprint, thats a galaxy!
I admire your purist attitude, regarding finding things manually, (thats the way I used to be), but here in Ohio (The Cloud Factory) I have so little time to observe, I love my goto scope. I spend a lot more time seeing interesting things than futzing around the sky trying to find them. My long focal length SCT would make that even more difficult. I sometimes just wish I had a simple, user friendly 10" dob or Newtonian (I just had to double check and make sure I wasn't posting in the SCT forum before I said that) I'm not trying to talk you out of one at all, I love mine, but it would be good if you could try one before you plunk your dunkets.
If you want to see nebula's from light polluted skies, a big dob with narrow band filters is the way to go IMO. Good filters are expensive, but it's a nice change from just looking at stars and star clusters. Not to blaspheme, but I never really found stars and double stars that interesting. I want to see the Las Vegas of objects (relatively speaking when doing visual). Bright, colorful and gaudy. A nice wide field eyepiece can make you feel like your swimming among the stars. If you get something with tracking, you can use a good cell phone or your digital camera with adapter to take short exposures (less than 15 seconds) to then see even more detail and color. Your daughter might enjoy playing with digital images, enhancing color and contrast. If you decide to go that route, GIMP is a powerful and free photo editor. I like it because I can still do astronomy stuff, while it's cloudy, which around here is 99% of the time.
If you get a scope that eats up most of your budget, but you really LOVE it, you may find the motivation to eek out a little more cash for accessories. Feeding your kids store brand food can help offset that ;-)
Anyway, that's my advice from relative newb to relative newb. I gaze with my daughter, and have had a lot of the same thoughts as you. If you can give more details about you location and light situation, the pro's will refine their advice.
Sergeant at arms- Cincinnati Cloud Brigade
Edited by hherbson, 19 June 2019 - 09:59 PM.