Telescope Reviews

Page 3 By Ed Ting Updated 9/28/17

"How many telescopes do you need?" We were sitting around on a rainy day mulling over important issues like these. It's a question that's discussed many times, from many different perspectives. High-performance cars, hunting rifles, motorcycles, cameras, model trains, audio systems. How many do you need? The operant word here is "need." Non-enthusiasts scoff at the idea of owning, say, three Italian motorcycles. But to the dedicated motorcycle fanatic, each one serves its purpose, one that cannot be filled by any of the others. The Italophile would no sooner bring a Ducati 916 on a cross-country road trip than you would bring a 60 mm refractor to hunt down the Virgo Cluster. And so it is with telescopes. How many, indeed? Four, we more or less agreed. 1) Your default telescope. This is the one you take with you unless circumstances dictate otherwise. It's the one you reach for, without thinking about it. My default scope is the Takahashi FS102. 8" Schmidt-Cassegrains are popular default scopes. 2) Your quick look scope. Every bit as important as your default scope, and perhaps even more so since it gets you out observing on those marginal nights. Small is the key concept here. If you can move it outdoors with one hand, all the better. My current quick look scope is the Ranger, which sometimes doubles as the default scope. The Orion Short Tube/ Celestron FS80WA also make great quick look scopes. 3) A light bucket. For those nights where you want to stop goofing off and get serious. I'm a small-aperture sort of guy; my "light bucket" is the 20 year old 6" f/8 reflector. You Luggability Tolerance may be higher than mine, however, in which case you may want to spring for one of the big Dobsonians. 4) A star party/school scope. With 300 kids running around, do you really want to bring your fluorite refractor or your 98% hand-figured mirror? You'll need a scope with OK optics that won't have you seeing red if someone dumps it into the mud. I use an equatorially-monuted 60 mm Vixen refractor, or I bring the reflector. To all of this, I would add a pair of binoculars (again, being a small-aperture kind of guy, I usually bring my Ultima 8X32's.) Some of the serious photographers in our group would add a dedicated astrophotography/CCD scope to the list. And to which I would add, your "heirloom scope". The one you know you would never part with, even if you got out of astronomy. Your heirloom scope gives you a sense of continuity, through all of your upgrades and trades. The obvious choice for me would be the Takahashi, but lately I've had the urge to get on the waiting list for an Astro-Physics refractor. After all, we all need six telescopes, don't we?
Update, 11/4/98: Yes, Virginia, things have changed since I worte this page back in April of 1998. The 60 mm Vixen is gone, as are the Ultima 8X32s. And I have broken by self-imposed aperture limit by buying the 10" Meade Starfinder Dob, which has surprisingly turned into my most-used telescope. Finally, an FS80WA has come and gone since this page was first written. I am trying to cut back and live with the scopes I already have. I'm sure this situation will last...
Click on an option below: