The capabilities of the SCT do not stop with visual observing or astroimaging. The Schmidt Cassegrain's versatility means it is a telescope that can handle "advanced" pursuits as well as simple ones. There is nothing wrong with "just" having fun looking at the Moon or showing off the wonders of the deep sky to friends and family. The new SCT owner does not have to take even one picture to be a real amateur astronomer, and nothing says any amateur has to contribute to science. One of the great things about amateur astronomy is that there are no rules to dictate how someone should view the night sky or use a telescope. Some amateur astronomers do eventually find they are interested in contributing to our store of astronomical knowledge, however, and undertake some pretty serious research and discovery programs. Many—if not most—of these amateurs are using SCTs for their endeavors.
What can the average CAT user contribute science-wise? How would you like to discover a new world? Amateurs are using SCTs and sensitive CCD cameras to find new asteroids almost every clear night. What else is there? Double-star measurement is a time-honored way for amateurs to contribute to astronomy, and the combination of the SCT with its long focal length and inexpensive high-resolution digital camera is stimulating a rebirth of amateur interest in this important pursuit.
Amateurs have long been engaged in the esoteric but scientifically important task of measuring the changing light output of variable stars. In the past, this had to be done by estimating brightness by eye or, if the amateur had the financial resources, measuring it with an expensive "photometer," a special light meter. That has all changed. The exact brightness of these fascinating stars is now easy to pin down with a CAT and an inexpensive CCD camera. The SCT's reliable and accurate go-to is proving to be a real plus for variable-star observers. In the bad old days, considerable time had to be spent just locating stars of interest.
Do these scientific pursuits sound interesting except for the fact that they require spending hour after hour in a dark, cold backyard? Then, you will be pleased to learn that most current go-to SCTs are easy to control remotely from the warmth and comfort of your house.
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