Hi everyone. Long time lurker, first time poster. I need some help. I have been researching options for my first telescope and agonizing about the decision for weeks. I have spent an obscene amount of time reading articles, threads on CN and other forums, and talking to retailers. I am hoping you can collectively provide a sanity check to help me overcome analysis paralysis. Unfortunately, the pandemic has prevented me from getting outside with my local astronomy club to actually try things.
Here is what a “win” would look like for me:
- Quality. A good quality OTA and mount that will provide jaw-dropping views (sharp, bright, close-up) of the moon, the planets, some Messier objects, ISS flybys, and the occasional celestial event: comets, meteor showers, moon landing (?), etc., to impress my 5-year-old. Where conditions allow, of course - I live on the rainy west coast. Cost is not a major factor - I am willing to spend for quality.
- Portability. I live in an apartment building and will be viewing primarily from (a) the window of my living room; (b) local parks; and © infrequently, farther afoot at dark(ish) sky locations. Carrying a bit of weight is not an issue for me, but fumbling with a bunch of gear would frustrate. I mentioned the 5-year-old.
- Simplicity. I would like something relatively simple to set up, operate, and maintain. I am not averse to an EQ mount and like the concept of how it works, though AZ seems simpler. A motorized or GoTo mount that requires batteries/power tank to operate seems like more of a hassle than one that can be manually operated (i.e., handles / knobs / slow motion controls), but will I regret not having that capability? Is there a mount that allows for both?
- Visual, no AP. I have no desire to get into astrophotography in any serious way at this time. I may snap a pic of the moon or Saturn through the eyepiece with my phone, but that’s about it. I can accept that whatever I buy may or may not be suitable for AP and may require further purchases down the road. That's OK.
Here are a few options I found:
- Sky-Watcher EvoStar 120ED: I have read nothing but good things about refractors, particularly APOs and this model. Seems like a can’t miss for quality views, portability (13.9lbs accessorized), and simplicity (minimal set up, no collimation, quick cool down). My challenge here is the mount. It seems I need something like an EQM-35, HEQ5, AZ-EQ5, or CG-4. I am concerned these mounts may hinder portability and add complexity to set up and operate. They also all seem computerized / motorized (other than CG-4) - does that mean I cannot just point and shoot/sweep across the sky manually to look around?
- Sky-Watcher EvoStar 100ED: All the benefits of the 120ED, but in a smaller package (8.4lbs accessorized). Would fit on a simpler and lighter AZ5 mount. My concern is: will I regret not going for the larger aperture? Would that significantly limit views?
- SkyMax 127: This one was suggested to me by a retailer. Similar aperture as the 120ED, but lighter (9.7lbs accessorized). Am told it would work on a simple AZ4 or AZ5 mount. My concern is the views may not be as crisp and sharp as the refractor, long cool down periods, the possibility of having to collimate periodically, and narrower fields of views that may hinder or limit what I can see.
Thanks for reading. I appreciate any insight you can provide.