Binoviewers

One of the most wonderful experiences in amateur astronomy does not involve a telescope scanning dark skies with a pair of binoculars. Cruising along the Milky Way with a pair of 7 X 50s or 10 X 50s, going from glittering star cluster to wispy nebula, it is hard not to think this is the way deep sky observing was meant to be. What makes binocular observing so pleasurable One thing is a binocular's wide fields, but there is more to it than that. The main reason binocular observing is so much fun...

INTES Micro M603 6Inch and M809 8Inch and Maksutov Cassegrains

Russian-produced Maksutov Cassegrains enjoyed a great deal of popularity among amateurs during the 1990s. With the coming of the Chinese MCTs, however, much of this interest fell off, and Russian MCT makers Intes and Lomo have now apparently quit the business. There are still some Russian Maks on the telescope market, however, in the form of high-quality instruments produced by Intes Micro of Moscow. Intes Micro produces an extensive line of MCTs, ranging from a compact 5-inch to a gigantic...

Celestron C9 and C11SGT

If an 8-inch Advanced Series SGT is good, the 9 - and 11-inch versions must be better, right Perhaps. Going to the 11, especially, results in a significant performance boost for the visual observer. The trade-offs involved in moving up to the 9 or 11 SGT are a little more problematical than just weight or price. Price is not a huge obstacle as the 9 and 11 are only 485 and 765 more than the C8-SGT, respectively (the C11-SGT is currently 2,400, and the C9 -SGT is 2,000). Setup is not overly...

Entry Level 8Inch SCTs

Traditionally, the entry-level 8-inch SCT was the realm of the manual fork-mount telescope. Turn on a switch, and the telescope tracked the stars. Turn it off, it stopped. High tech was powering the scope drive with an internal battery rather than plugging it into an alternating current outlet. Bargain scopes have changed a lot. The biggest change is that non-go-to SCTs have almost vanished. Meade and Celestron believe CAT buyers want computer drives, and that is almost all they offer at all...

Which Is Better Celestron or Meade

It is a clich , I know, but if I had a dime for every time I've been asked the question which is better, Celestron or Meade by a novice amateur astronomer, I would be rich. It's not that I don't want to answer this question it is just that it is a hard one to answer. There are differences in the Schmidt Cassegrains sold by Meade and Celestron, but they are minor differences. When it comes to the all important optics, it is close to impossible to tell the difference between the two companies'...

Computer Software Hardware for DSLRs and CCDs

A DSLR imager can make do without a computer, relying on the camera's memory card for storage and the viewfinder for focusing. That's a way to get started, but it's not a recipe for getting the best out of a camera. A computer isn't just nice for modified webcams and CCD cameras, it's a necessity. What's required A laptop is the best and safest choice. It need not be the latest laptop, however, since most imaging software, unlike some planetarium software, is not demanding of computer...

GEM Alignment

Plate Polar Alignment

GEMs must be at least casually polar aligned if they are to track the stars and (maybe) go-to accurately. The closer the mount's RA axis points to the true pole, the more precise its tracking (but not necessarily go-to) will be. The major symptom of poor polar alignment is constant object drift in declination (north south) in the eyepiece. There are three basic methods of polar alignment boresight, borescope, and software assisted. The first step for polar alignment for Northern Hemisphere...

Tour of the Rest of the Solar System

The Sun It's true the hazards of Sun observing have probably been overstressed in amateur literature, needlessly scaring people out of viewing the Sun, but the danger is real. A moment's carelessness can result in a lifetime of damaged eyesight. If the Sun is treated with respect, though, it can be a rewarding subject for observation and study. What's visible on the Sun As mentioned in the solar filter discussion, an inexpensive white-light filter will mostly show sunspots and the granular...

Software

Http aberrator.astronomy.net Freeware star test simulator http ascom-standards.org The free telescope driver system Observing planning and logging for both Apple and Windows users Sky Charts, amateur astronomy's favorite freeware planetarium software Deepsky Observing planning and logging also includes extensive charting and image-processing features Earth Centered Universe http www.nova-astro.com Inexpensive planetarium atlas software Freeware telescope control program driver for Synta GEM...

Installing Non Permanent Accessories

Put the rear port cap aside for now (do not lose it) because it is time to install the remainder of the telescope's accessories, just as when preparing for an evening of observing. Go over to the pile of stuff and locate three items the visual back, the star diagonal, and the eyepiece. One end of the visual back is equipped with a rotating threaded ring. Place that up against the lip of the rear port and screw it on. Don't cross-thread and do not force anything. It should go on smoothly. Hand...

Poor Goto Accuracy

The Alignment Successful message appeared on the HC, and the scope slews to where it thinks the object of choice should be. But, there is nothing in the eyepiece. The root of this problem is usually insufficient care taken in alignment star centering. Center the stars in the main scope's eyepiece as accurately as possible, preferably using a medium-power crosshair reticle eyepiece. Another potential cause of poor go-to is backlash. The gears on most telescopes have some slack in them. That can...

Mountings

What good is a telescope without a sturdy mounting Absolutely no good at all. Without an adequate mount, a telescope becomes a source of frustration rather than a pleasure. This is especially true in the case of the Schmidt Cassegrain since its relatively long focal length produces a fairly high magnification with any eyepiece. It is at higher magnifications that the shakes become most obvious and serious. In addition to supporting the scope, an SCT's mount contains the motors and electronics...

Balancing a GEM

If the CAT came with a GEM mount, balance the tube before proceeding further. The manual should have instructions for doing that, but it is pretty simple. To balance in RA, undo the RA lock, holding onto the tube so it does not slam into the tripod if it is way out of balance, and move the scope until the counterweight bar and the scope are horizontal (Plate 35). Note which way the scope tends to sink when it is released, tighten the RA lock again, partially loosen the setscrew on a...

Optical Tube Assembly OTA

Peanut Butter Jar Lid Focusers The problem with sct focus controls is that they are too small in diameter. If they were larger they would deliver finer focusing, which would be handy during imaging or high power planetary observing. Fine focus controls like the Feathertouch focuser that replace the stock SCT knob are readily available and work great. Unfortunately, they cost close to 150. Is there a low-cost solution Actually, the lids from many food jars are just the right size to enlarge the...

Meade SN6AT SN8AT and SN10AT LXD75 Schmidt Newtonians

Since Meade reintroduced the SNT design with the SN-6AT, SN8-AT, and SN-10AT after a long hiatus as the LXD55 series, they have managed to improve the LXD GEM mount so that it is generally reliable electronically and mechanically. That does not mean LXD75 is optimum for a Schmidt Newtonian. The problem is not so much weight, at least not with the 6-inch and 8-inch SNTs, but length. Schmidt Newtonians necessarily have longer tubes than SCTs of the same aperture 27-inches for the 6-inch SNT (13...

Meade ETX90PE and ETX125PE MCTs

I should preface this by saying I downright love the ETX. I own an ETX-125PE, and although I am sometimes accused of being a Celestron man, I bow to no one in my appreciation of Meade's small wonder. Be that as it may, there is no doubt the ETX has weaknesses as well as strengths. What does ETX stand for, anyway When Meade was developing this little Mak (Plate 28), the letters were an abbreviation for the MCT project name, Everybody's Telescope. By the time the wee CAT was released, it was just...

Finder Alignment

A go-to scope will have to be pointed at alignment stars before it will find anything. To do that, the telescope's finder will have to be properly aligned. If the scope is a non-go-to model, accurate finder alignment is even more vital since the finder will be used to locate all objects for viewing. In an aligned finder, what is in the crosshairs of an optical finder or under the red dot of a zero-power sight is also in the center of the main telescope's field. There are two ways to adjust a...

Meade LX400ACF 10Inch

The LX400 (Plate 20) does not come in an 8-inch version, so I have chosen to place the smallest model, the 10-inch, with the 8-inch SCTs rather than with the big CATs. That is because this is a remarkable scope in many ways, one that is worthy of consideration by anyone in the market for an SCT of any size, not just something for folks suffering from the dreaded aperture fever. What makes the LX400-ACF remarkable There are a number of things, but basically this was the first new idea in SCTs to...

The Cassegrain Telescope

A Frenchman named Cassegrain came up with a clever design for a reflecting telescope in 1672, only a few months after Sir Isaac wowed the members of London's Royal Society with his Newtonian. What is surprising about Cassegrain is that, considering the impact his idea has had on astronomy over the last four centuries, we know so little about him. Historians are not even sure of the man's first name. Maybe it was Jacques, or, perhaps, Guillaume or Giovanni. Some historians think his first name...

Celestron C8 Orange Club

Changes in ownership were not the only challenges Celestron had to face as the years rolled on. For the first decade after the introduction of the Orange Tube C8, it had no competition when it came to SCTs. One company, Criterion, formerly known for producing cheap but good Newtonians, had introduced a Schmidt Cas-segrain of their own, the Dynamax. However, this telescope was never a serious contender for a number of reasons. What mostly kept Criterion down was poor optics. Some of their SCTs...

Starry Night Pro Plus

TheSky6 Professional's virtual sky looks realistic. Starry Night Pro Plus's sky (Plate 65), on the other hand, is real. It's not a computer graphics representation of the heavens but an actual image of the entire night sky comprised of 20,000 Plate 65. (Starry Night) Unarguably the most beautiful of the 'pretty planetarium' genre of astronomy software, Starry Night Pro Plus doesn't skimp on useful features. Credit Author. Plate 65. (Starry Night) Unarguably the most beautiful of the 'pretty...

Schmidt Newtonian and Maksutov Newtonian Collimation

Screws Maksutov

Amateur astronomers who have collimated a straight Newtonian already know now to collimate SNTs and MNTs. You haven't Don't worry it's harder than adjusting an SCT, but is easy enough to accomplish once the process is understood. A lot has been written about Newtonian collimation, but it's really a simple procedure that can be broken into three steps center the reflection of the primary mirror in the secondary mirror, center the reflection of the secondary in the primary, and do final tweaking...

Rough Collimation

Set up the SCT as usual, insert an eyepiece that yields a magnification of 100 to 150x, and aim it at Polaris or an artificial star. When the star is in the center of the eyepiece field, defocus (either way) until it becomes a donut that covers about 1 4 to 1 2 of the field, and recenter if necessary. Is this donut's hole, the shadow of the secondary mirror , more or less centered If so, move on to fine collimation. If not, secondary adjustment is required. Older Celestrons have an orange...

Midlevel 8Inch SCTs

Celestron's and Meade's midgrade SCTs, the LX90 and the C8 CPC, are a definite step up from the basic telescopes. They are not much better accessorized than the low-cost models (Why is it that an imported Dobsonian is often equipped with two or three eyepieces, while much more expensive SCTs come with only one ), but the ills that plague the price-buster scopes have been at least partially cured. Most notably, the gear systems on these SCTs are much better they exhibit far less annoying...

Celestron Nex Star 5 SE Omni XLT 127 and Nex Star 6 SE

The Celestron C5 Schmidt Cassegrain has had a checkered career ever since it was introduced way back in the early 1970s. Celestron has discontinued the C5 three times over the last 30 years. The 5-inch scope's problems have had nothing to do with its f 10 optics, however they are almost always outstanding. The problem for the C5 has been that it is nearly as expensive to produce as the C8, and that many people considering the C5 eventually turn to an 8-incher since it is only a little more. At...

Cleaning Procedure

Before breaking out the lens cleaner and tissues, let's review how to minimize the need for cleaning. Always keep the corrector cover in place when the scope is not being used. It's also a good idea to leave the cap on when the scope is outside cooling down prior to use. Storing the telescope in a case also tends to minimize contamination. Keep the rear port capped at all times. Dust, bugs, and other contaminants can enter the OTA via that route, and removing them is a huge hassle. A major...

Other Optical Accessories

Barlow Lenses No matter how many eyepieces a CAT user accumulates, a Barlow lens will increase the number. What is a Barlow In its simplest form, it is a singleelement negative lens mounted at one end of a barrel. An eyepiece is inserted into the other end, and the whole thing is placed in the CAT's star diagonal. What good is that When an eyepiece is combined with the Barlow's negative lens, its magnification is doubled (usually). A Barlow is an eyepiece multiplier. For example, adding a...

Point and Shoot Cameras

Plenty of experienced astrophotographers have gotten their start in imaging using the ubiquitous digital point and shoot camera (Plate 68). If one's available, give it a try at the telescope the results may be surprisingly good. Plate 69, a recent partial lunar eclipse, was taken with a four-year-old Canon A70 3.2 megapixel camera. How does it attach to the telescope It doesn't. All you need to do is hold the Canon up to the eyepiece of an ETX125 and focus the scope until the image on the...

Solar Filters

If done safely, solar observing can be a joy. Old Sol, especially at the height of the 11-year sunspot cycle, is endlessly fascinating. How does the CAT owner observe the Sun safely, so that neither eye nor telescope is harmed This is possible using a full-aperture solar filter from a reputable manufacturer. A full-aperture filter fits securely over the corrector assembly and reduces the intensity of the Sun to a level that is safe for visual observing. The finder scope on the CAT should be...

Cleaning Mct Mnt and SNT Correctors

Clean the exteriors of Mak and Schmidt Newtonians using the same method used for SCTs. Interior surfaces SNTs are done the same way as SCTs when it comes to corrector cleaning. As for Maks, well, that depends. You should probably not attempt to pull the corrector of a big and fancy MCT or MNT without guidance from the manufacturer. On the other hand, the correctors of small MCTs screw on, and don't seem to be harmed in any way by being unscrewed and removed. You might even accidentally remove...

DSLR Software

A current favorite in this category is an inexpensive but very capable program, Nebulosity( 45). Not only does Nebulosity display the DSLR's images on the PC screen, making for easy focusing, it does many of the things any CCD software does control camera settings, take single exposures or a series of exposures, take and subtract dark frames, and even do some fairly sophisticated image processing. Nebulosity doesn't stop with DSLRs, either. It can be used to operate the Meade DSI, the Starlight...

Cartes du Ciel

For new astro-ware users, this is the place to start. Switzerland's Patrick Chevalley has been working steadily for over a decade to improve and enhance his freeware program, Cartes du Ciel, CdC (Plate 62). Today, there's very little CdC can't do and do well. Many of its users wonder why anyone would pay money for a planetarium program when they can download the Sky Charts section for free (Appendix 2). What exactly can CdC do All the things any good planetarium can show the skies for any date,...

Cases

The good old days of amateur astronomy weren't always so good. They were good for SCT buyers in one way, however. Both Meade and Celestron shipped new telescopes with sturdy cases. These cases might be simple wooden footlockers or they might be custom-made plastic cases with die-cut foam, but there was something to keep the CAT organized and safe. By the mid-1990s, the dollar had shrunk so much that the companies began to discontinue cases for all but their most expensive models, and soon those...

Celestron Nex Star 4 SE

Post-1960s, the only Maksutov Cassegrain Celestron marketed for many years was the little C90. This often-maligned but actually rather nice telescope was phased out in the late 1990s in favor of a succession of imported MCTs. Some of these have been okay, some of them have been marginal, and none of them in my opinion display the mechanical or optical quality of the C90. Until recently, Celestron offered two Maks, the C130 and the NS4 SE. The recent elimination of the 130 has left the company...

Collimation Tips

Should you collimate an SCT with a star diagonal installed or in a straight-through configuration with an eyepiece inserted directly into the visual back There is no doubt a diagonal can affect collimation if its mirror or prism is misaligned. If the diagonal is rotated to a viewing position different from the one it was in when col-limation was done, any alignment error may make cause collimation to be off at the new position. Worse, if the diagonal is removed to take pictures through the...

Meade LX200ACF 10 12 and 14Inch

Could a CAT user be happy with a 10-inch LX200 It is very likely. Everything that is good about the 8-inch is also good about the 10, and the larger-aperture tube, while increasing the scope's visual reach substantially (about 50 more light-gathering power), does not stress the hefty LX200 fork much. Yes, the longer focal lengths mean narrower fields of view than what is possible with the 8-inch, focal reducers or not, but the loss is not huge. The optics, like those on the 8-inch, are very...

Advanced Piggybacking

The next step up from piggybacking is shooting through either a long focal length camera lens or a small refractor, something with a focal length in the range of 400 to 500mm, perhaps. This extra focal length will deliver finer details in larger deep sky objects and permit the capture of some medium-sized DSOs. Galaxies M81 and M82, for example, are minute smudges at 50mm, but begin to come alive with detail at 500mm. Small refractors are attractive to piggybackers, since they are more...

Optical Tube Assembly

Hase Periskop Elektro Motor

As mentioned in Chapter 1, a new user's first impression of a Schmidt Cassegrain tube is that it is short and fat, like a little beer keg. The SCT is very compact due to its folded optical system. Seen in Figure 1, light enters the corrector end of the tube, passes through the all-important corrector lens, strikes the primary mirror, and is reflected back up the tube to the secondary mirror. The secondary sends this light down the tube again and out through a 1.5-inch diameter hole for viewing....

Ascom

When is an astronomy program not an astronomy program When it's ASCOM. ASCOM, an acronym for Astronomy Common Object Model, is more a collection of drivers designed to allow client programs to interface with go-to telescopes and other equipment (observatory domes and motorized focusers, for example) than it is an astronomy program in its own right. The beauty of ASCOM is that it allows astro-ware to communicate with go-to scopes without their developers having to write drivers for each...

Schmidt Newtonians

The Schmidt Newtonian telescope (SNT) has always been an also-ran in the CAT popularity contest. Although the design has some real strengths, only Meade has offered serious SNTs to the amateur. Even there, the telescope's popularity has waxed and waned, with Meade discontinuing SNT production in the late 1980s. With the advent of the LXD55 and the follow-on LXD75, the SNT is back. That is not a bad thing, either. This somewhat un-CAT-like CAT does have some pluses. At this time, Meade is still...

Celestron CPC 925 and 1100

Celestron has long since discontinued its huge C14 fork-mounted SCT, but that does not mean the fork fan has to be satisfied with 5, 6, or 8-inches. Like its forerunner, the NexStar GPS, the CPC comes in 9 - and 11-inch flavors. These telescopes are identical to the CPC 800 as far as accessories and fittings same HC, same DC power cord, same decent 50-mm finder, same cheap 1.25-inch diagonal, same inferior 40-mm Plossl eyepiece. Why Celestron insists on including a 40-mm Plossl is a mystery. A...

Computer Hardware and Software for Planetary Imagers

Since a cheap webcam doesn't have a tape or disk recording system, a PC or Macintosh is required to save the data captured by the camera. The processing power of the computer is not overly important, as webcam image capture software is pretty simple and undemanding. What is needed is plenty of hard drive space. Webcams don't produce single frames they produce streams of video, usually in .avi fomat. A 90-second image sequence will require around 100 to 200 megabytes of storage. Thankfully, hard...

CCD Software

CCD camera makers include a camera control program in the boxes with the cameras. These programs are sufficient for operating the camera on a basic level and doing minor image processing, but most CCDers soon want something that makes image acquisition quicker and easier and which includes a more full-featured suite of image processing tools. Software Bisque's CCDSoft is probably the step up program used by more imagers than any other. There are a couple of reasons for that. First, it was...

Tripods and Mounts

A Wedge and Pier of ood The first obstacle facing a beginning astro-photographer equipped with a forkmount CAT is the need to buy more stuff. In addition to cameras and computers and software, the tyro imager must also obtain a wedge in order to set the telescope up in equatorial mode for serious long-exposure photography. Even basic wedges sold by Meade and Celestron cost a pretty penny. My friend Pat Rochford, was in this position some years ago as he embarked upon CCDing with his new 8-inch...

Celestron Nex Star 8 SE

When the forerunner of the Celestron NexStar SE, the NexStar 8, appeared in 1998, it was not just a striking-looking new telescope it was the telescope CAT fans thought might be the savior of Celestron. The company had spent much of the previous decade in the doldrums. It had offered a few interesting products, but mostly it seemed to be playing catchup with Meade. To add insult to injury, the venerable Torrance, California, company had just been bought out. The new owner, Tasco, despite what...

Questar

In 1956, the Questar Corporation of New Hope, Pennsylvania, begat a tiny telescope that has inspired 50 years of lustful amateur astronomer dreams, the Questar 3.5 MCT. The Questar 3.5 (inch) can best be described as jewel-like. It is an incredibly attractive little instrument that is executed in gleaming stainless steel and beautiful anodizing. The most discriminating telescope connoisseur will search in vain for plastic here. You cannot judge a book by its cover, of course, and the Questar...

Observing Chairs

It has been mentioned several times how nice it is to be able to sit and observe, which is one of the things that makes a CAT a great choice for an amateur astronomer. Okay, what are you going to sit on The prime requirement for an observing stool is that it be light and adjustable. The eyepiece height of a CAT does not change much as the scope moves across the sky, but it does change. The time-honored solution has been a drummer's throne, one of the adjustable stools used by musicians. These...

Astroart

Users of Starlight Xpress' CCD cams are not left out in the cold by CCDSoft's lack of drivers for their cameras. There's no need to stick with the simple (and simplistic) software that ships with the Starlight cameras. Astroart is very reasonably priced ( 185) and full-featured. Like CCDSoft, there's little the dedicated imager can't do with Astroart, from taking pretty pictures to conducting serious scientific pursuits such as astrometry and photometry. The biggest plus for this camera control...

Orion Optics Uk Omc 140 200 250 300 and 350 Maksutov Cassegrains

Orion optics in the United Kingdom (no relation to the U.S. company) has been turning out excellent Maksutov Cassegrains for quite a while. The company tested the waters 10 years ago with a 5 -inch model, the OMC140 (Plate 32) and then expanded MCT production to offer a whole line of Maks in apertures of 8-, 10-, 12-, Plate 32. (Orion UK OMC140 MCT) Orion Optics UK's upscale but reasonably priced MCT, the 140mm OMC 140. Credit Image courtesy of Orion Optics U.K. and 14-inches the OMC 200, 250,...

Dew and Cool Down

Homemade Dew Shields The first line of defense against dew for SCT or MCT users is a dew shield. A metal or plastic extension for the end of the tube provides some protection for the dew-attracting corrector plate. The only problem with dew shields is their cost. A dew shield is such an easy thing to make, though, that there's really no excuse for buying one instead of rolling your own. The most convenient style of dew shield is of the flexible variety, a flat piece of heavy-duty plastic that...

Astro Physics

Astro-Physics (A-P) is almost legendary in the amateur astronomy community, mainly because of the outstanding apochromatic refractors this Illinois company produces. Surprisingly, A-P is also revered by CAT users due to its line of heavy-duty go-to GEMs, mounts with sterling reputations for quality and capability. A-P produces a full line of mounts, led by the newly introduced 3600GTO, the El Capitan, a monster of a GEM that is able to support scopes weighing up to 250 pounds. Not many SCT...

Visiting the Deep Sky Menagerie

Today, object finding usually consists of nothing more than pushing a couple of buttons. But what is there to find Which objects are worthy of attention The sky is filled with beautiful deep sky wonders, but the Messier list is the time-honored place for deep sky explorers to start. These 110 objects, discovered by Charles Messier and others in the eighteenth century, are a sampling of the best and the brightest. Once the Messier list has been conquered, most observers move on to the 8,000...

Nex Remote

I've seen it all when it comes to astro-ware. That's what I thought, anyway, until the evening I was introduced to a program that changed my entire observing lifestyle. If you're a Celestron go-to user, NexRemote may do the same for you. One cloudy night a few years back I was browsing through my copious email. Buried among the Yahoo group traffic was a personal missive from one Ray St. Denis. Denis asked if I'd be interested in helping beta test a new software package for Celestron's NexStar...

What to Do If Everything Is Not the Way it Ought To Be

If a star test or planetary image seems to reveal subpar optics, what should you do If you are a beginner, get a second opinion from an experienced SCT-using a fellow amateur from the astronomy club or an Internet group. Couple factors such as col-limation, cooldown, and seeing with the anxious feelings that come when testing a new and expensive telescope, and it is all too likely you will condemn an excellent SCT. As a novice, you really do not have a good idea what star test or planetary...

Electronics Power and Cables

Autostar Patches Meade is very conscientious about releasing software updates for the Autostar II and Autostar 497 hand controllers. Most of the new software releases, however, are minor updates designed to extinguish bugs, not add new features. Meade isn't the only game in town for Autostar users, however ETX guru Dick Seymour regularly releases patches for the Autostar that add new capabilities and go beyond Meade in squashing minor bugs. Dick's patch kits are easy to install and modify the...

Meade LXD75 Schmidt Cassegrain

Meade's LXD75 (Plate 13) is a standard 8-inch aperture SCT optical tube mounted on an imported (Chinese) GEM. Although this model is hardly in the high-priced league, it is an attractive and fairly reliable scope whose mounting offers a surprising number of high-tech features thanks to its Autostar computer hand control. Plate 13. (LXD 75 SCT) Meade LXD75 8-inch Schmidt Cassegrain. Credit Image courtesy of Meade Instruments Corporation. This mount is very similar to Japanese scope maker Vixen's...

Celestron Advanced Series C8SGT

At first blush, the Celestron C8-SGT Plate 14 does not appear much if any different from the LXD75. Ah, but appearances can be deceiving. At nearly the same price, 1,515, the Celestron is arguably a more capable telescope. It does not look that way at first glance, certainly, with its subdued gray tube and black GEM, but some of its characteristics make it more suited for advanced pursuits, such as imaging, than the Meade. My C8-SGT story starts with a lingering backache. The SGT's CG5 GEM did...

Synta Orion Maksutovs 90 102 127 150 and 180 mm

The label on the tube says Orion StarMax, but these Maksutov Cassegrains are Synta through and through. That is, they are made in the Far East by Taiwanese optical giant Synta, Celestron's owner. That is not a bad thing. Unlike some imported MCTs, the telescopes offered by Orion strike a good balance between modest prices and quality. No, they are not Questars, but they are similar in optical quality to them and to the ETXs. In fact, some amateurs like these telescopes better than the ETX or...

Celestron CGE 800

Celestron's premier 8-inch SCT, the CGE 800 Plate 18 , uses the same optical tube as the C8-SGT, a standard f 10 Schmidt Cassegrain OTA equipped with enhanced XLT coatings. The 800's CGE GEM is the product of an evolutionary process that started over 10 years ago. Initially, Celestron did not make heavy-duty GEMs, but instead sold scopes on mounts obtained from Losmandy, famous for their G11 German mount. Unfortunately, Losmandy could not produce GEMs in the numbers Celestron required, and that...

Meade LX200ACF 8Inch

By the middle of the first decade of the twenty-first century SCT-using amateurs were getting a mite antsy. What would Meade do next Celestron was playing things fairly safe with the CPC. Would Meade up the ante as far as technical innovation, something they have been known to do frequently Indeed, they did, with the LX400-ACF initially called the RCX400 . This innovative CAT, unfortunately, was a little too much for most amateurs too much money and too many radically new features. Meade did...