The purpose of this thread is to give a formatted summary of the telescopes we’ve bought and sold and why, with a particular emphasis on our thought process at the time and the lessons we learned.
If we do this right, we may be able to help each other avoid some financial regrets and missed opportunities. I’m particularly interested in why we chose each scope and why we moved on to something different.
I’ll set the format as a bullet list section for “Lessons Learned” and a “Buy/Problems/Buy” format for “Money Burned.” This will make it easier for people who just want to scan the lessons learned.
1. The number one mistake I’ve made, repeatedly, is underestimating how important to the observing experience the quality of the mount is. Never have I thought, “This mount is too steady. I should have saved money on a more portable, lighter mount.”
2. I’ve never regretted buying a top tier piece of equipment. I miss every single piece of TeleVue gear I’ve sold and I regret buying almost every non-premium item. My most common regret is selling smaller aperture top tier equipment to finance the purchase of larger aperture 2nd or 3rd tier equipment.
3. Most astronomers say “aperture wins,” but for me, contrast, sharpness and a rock solid mount wins. I’ll cover this when I discuss the time I used my TeleVue Pronto 70mm and Celestron Nextar 8 side by side.
4. When you go to a star party, ask people what their most interesting observing experiences were. I never fail to get a list of new observing targets, such as observing the lunar X, seeing the extension of dawn around the entire disc of a crescent Venus, seeing each of the Galilean moons transit Jupiter’s disc, including shadow transits, seeing Albireo and other color contrasting binaries, etc.
5. There is no single telescope that will be perfect for every situation. However, in my case, the closest I think I will get to it is a top tier 5 or 6 inch apochromatic refractor on an absolutely rock solid mount. I’d still want a top tier 80mm apo on a top tier heavy duty carbon fiber fluid head camera tripod for grab and go.
Buy: I bought a 60mm refractor with .965 eyepieces for $20 from a 6th grade classmate. Seeing the Moon and a rather blurry Saturn was enough to inspire me to save up for a 114mm Newtonian.
Problems: The 60mm’s optics and alt-az mount were horrendous. I thought the equatorially-mounted Newtonian was the most aperture for the money I could afford and it would allow me to use the slow motion controls for planetary observing. I also thought it would be large enough to at least give me a shot at resolving globular clusters and some of the brighter galaxies from my back yard. The Newt was so shaky, it was like observing while using an electric toothbrush. But, I saw enough to inspire me to save up (years later, when I had a real job) for a TeleVue Pronto on a TelePod mount.
Buy: I bought the TeleVue Pronto and I could walk out of my house in the middle of winter, grab the whole setup in one hand and the scope was settled in minutes with an ink black sky and blazing pinpoint stars. That scope was awesome. Too awesome. I immediately yearned to keep adding magnification on the Moon and planets. It took the magnification and it snarled like David Bowie and yelled: GIVE ME MORE, MORE, MORE.
Now I had a problem. With the alt-az mount at high mag, planets were drifting out of the field of view too quickly. I couldn’t justify giving up the grab and go and it felt silly to mount the tiny 70mm on a motor driven equatorial and have to drag counterweights and a battery pack out every time. With the Pronto, I could spontaneously decide to observe for 30 minutes when it was 20F in the middle of winter. I had an idea. Keep the Pronto for grab and go and get the Celestron NexStar 8. It’s also kind of grab and go. 70mm versus 200mm. My mind is racing. Aperture Fever, here I come!
Problems: Now I’ll have to carry around a much larger telescope, a dew shield, and a battery pack.I’ll also have to wait a long time for cool down, especially on nights of rapidly falling temperatures, which is just about every night that mosquitos aren’t planning a Bela Lugosi. The mantra ran through my aperture-addled mind…200mm, goto and tracking…200mm, goto and tracking.
I bought the NexStar 8. After a mercifully brief new scope curse, I got a perfect October night. It’s just past first quarter moon. I give the SCT half an hour to cool down and take a fateful look at Luna. I can see more mountains and craters than I can with the Pronto, but everything is light grey against darker grey. The edges are soft. It’s sooo bright. My night vision is toast. I have camera flash vision.
I switch eyes and look through the Pronto. The mountains are razor sharp, the shadows are absolute voids. I can’t see as many tiny craterlets with the Pronto, but what I can see looks so much better. I think: You’ve got to be kidding me! A 70mm semi-apo and I enjoy the view more than a 200mm SCT. I’ve just taken the first steps on the road to becoming Refractor Paul.
Buy: Sell it all. Save up for a TeleVue 102 on a Gibraltar mount. Did you spot my mistake? My expensive mistake? Now, I’m in a situation where I don’t really have grab and go. Almost, but not quite. However, the more significant mistake was paying all that money for the Gibraltar with digital setting circles.
You can probably guess where this is going. The TV102 didn’t smugly say “Please proceed with the Naglers and Radians, fine sir. I can certainly handle a bit more magnification.”
It leered at me, petting its cat, and in a predatory rasp, it said, “I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse. 400x on the Moon.” It was at that moment I realized I didn’t have aperture fever, I had magnification fever. I couldn’t come anywhere near the optical limits of the TV102 with the manual alt-az mount.
Problems: I begin a dialog with myself, Archer style, Paul versus Other Paul:
P: Let’s finally be honest with ourselves. We need a $2500 mount, minimum.
OP: If I’m going to get a big, heavy, expensive mount, I want a 150mm top tier apo and be done with it.
P: Wait, what?! You’re talking about 12k to 15k all in…You know…those Chinese apos are tempting. They probably have 90% of the performance for less than half the cost.
OP: No. We need to hold out for a top tier 150mm. We will regret anything less.
P: That’s a mistake, Other Paul. We should get a top tier 5. We will regret the 6.
OP: But a 6 is just inside the range of a reasonable lifetime dream scope.
P: Get a 5. How many nights of the year will the 6 be worth it? You can easily transport the 5. The 6 is going to be a burden. Get a top tier 5 and mount it like you are a professional astrophotographer.
I look forward to reading your lessons.
Edited by Refractor Paul, 08 August 2019 - 07:39 PM.