My first post. Quick intro - I was super keen on astronomy as a teenager (even ground my own 4" mirror @ age 13), but life/career choices put the hobby on hold for the next 25+ years. My interest was recently rekindled after travel to a couple of high-altitude Bortle 1 sites and Neowise. Purchased an Evolution 8 GoTo SCT a few months ago and have been enjoying views of Jupiter's GRS, Saturn (Cassini's division still eludes me!), Mars' dark regions and polar caps, as well as the brighter Messier objects. My backyard is Bortle 8 but I have made one trip to a Bortle 4 site and enjoyed dark sky views of M27, M31, and M13. In terms of accessories, so far I've invested in the Baader 8-24 Zoom EP, 0.63X focal reducer, and a few cheap color/UHC filters.
While the Evolution 8 is a nice scope, its limitations are becoming clearer to me now. Wide-field is one of them - the Pleiades are rising and I get barely half of the cluster in my FOV. The Double Cluster is another difficult target. So I put in an order for the AT102ED last month (Astronomics supplied an ETA of December). In the meantime, I came across some fast higher-aperture Newtonians (e.g. Apertura/GSO 6" f/5) which are wide-field capable at significantly lower cost ($199 vs. $599). In fact, I could get both the Newtonian and the AT80ED ($399) for the same price as the AT102ED. So, my questions for the wise folks on this board:
1. What are the performance tradeoffs between AT102ED and the 6" f/5 Newtonian? I understand the latter may need a coma corrector for wide-field 2" EPs. Will this be a problem if I use a 40mm 1.25" Plossl or the 56mm 2" Plossl?
2. Is there a significant portability difference between AT102ED and the Newtonian for grab-n-go? Spec-wise their weight seems similar (9 lbs vs. 10 lbs).
3. If I choose the Newtonian route, is it worth getting the AT80ED as an additional option for larger FOV/portability?
4. Is it possible to use the Evolution 8 GoTo mount with any of these scopes? How does their clearance/moment arm compare with the C8 OTA? Eventually I plan to get a manual AltAz mount (Versago II, Voyager 2, etc.) for the wide-field scopes.
If it helps, I am value conscious but not necessarily budget-constrained. And I do plan to "get a Dob" (12-14") within the next couple of years to complete my stable