Which Is Better Celestron or Meade

It is a cliché, 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' scopes. Mechanically, Meade and Celestron SCTs are also very similar.

How to choose, then? It used to be simple: look for the features you want. Want permanent periodic error correction (PPEC)? Buy Meade. Want StarBright optical coatings? Celestron. Truth is, though, that today the feature sets of the two firms' go-to scopes are just about as indistinguishable as their optics. If there is a clear difference in the two SCT brands, it might be in company philosophies. Meade tends to be on the cutting edge of electronics and computers. Celestron tends to focus more on optics and mechanics. That is not as true as it used to be, though. Meade, for example, has recently pulled ahead in the optics race with its "advanced coma free" SCTs. Celestron, meanwhile, has worked to close the electronics technology gap and was the first telescope maker to include onboard global positioning system (GPS) receivers in its Schmidt Cassegrains.

How, then, to decide on "orange" or "blue" (the companies' traditional color schemes)? There are still differences. Meade's telescopes still tend to be possessed of more computer features and frills. Meade CATs are also available in larger sizes than the Celestrons, including 16- and 20-inch models. Scope for scope, Meades are noticeably heavier than the Celestrons. The larger-aperture SCTs—and this includes even the 12-inch models—cry out for permanent mountings. Celestron's CATs tend to be less feature laden and perhaps a tad more user friendly. They are also lighter in weight. The largest -aperture Celestron, the 14-inch C14, is surprisingly easy for one person set up, both because its tube is lighter than the equivalent Meade and because it is furnished on a German equatorial mount rather than a huge fork, like the Meade 14-inch.

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