GOTO Telescope Buying Guide: Picking the Right Stargazing Buddy for Everyone!

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Are you looking to explore the night sky with a telescope, but not sure where to start? Look no further! In this article, we’ll dive into the world of the GOTO telescope, an innovative and user-friendly option that’s perfect for beginners and experienced astronomers alike.

Table of contents

What is a GOTO Telescope?

A GOTO telescope, short for “go-to” telescope, is a motorized, computerized telescope designed to automatically locate and track stars, planets and comets. These modern telescopes come equipped with an electronic database of thousands of stars, planets, galaxies, and other stellar wonders, making it easy for you to find and observe your favorite targets in the sky.

Orion Nebula | Credits: NASA
The Orion Nebula | Credits: NASA

GOTO Telescope Types

There are three main types of GOTO telescopes, each with its own unique features and benefits.

Refractor GOTO Telescopes

These telescopes use lenses to gather and focus light. They’re known for their sharp, high-contrast images and are ideal for gazing at the moon, planets, and double stars.

Reflector GOTO Telescopes

Reflectors use mirrors instead of lenses to collect light, making them ideal for deep-sky observing. They’re perfect for viewing galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters.

Catadioptric GOTO Telescopes

These telescopes combine the best of both worlds, using a combination of lenses and mirrors for optimal performance. They’re versatile and compact, making them a popular choice for all types of viewing.

The Crab Nebula | Credits: NASA
The Crab Nebula | Credits: NASA

Mount

The mount is the mechanical part of the telescope that holds the optical tube and allows it to move. There are two types of mounts commonly used in GOTO telescopes: altazimuth and equatorial.

Controller

The controller is the electronic part that helps you navigate the night sky. It includes a hand-held device with buttons and a screen, which connects to the mount and allows you to input the object you want to observe.

How to Choose the Best GOTO Telescope for Your Needs

When shopping for a GOTO telescope, consider the following factors to find the perfect fit for your needs.

Budget

GOTO telescopes can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Determine your budget and stick to it when exploring your options.

Aperture

Aperture is the diameter of the telescope’s light-collecting lens or mirror. Larger ap erture means more light-gathering power and better image quality. Determine the aperture size that best suits your needs and budget.

Portability

Consider how portable you need your telescope to be. If you plan on taking it to remote locations, a compact, lightweight model might be ideal.

Mount Type

As mentioned earlier, there are two types of mounts: altazimuth and equatorial. Altazimuth mounts are easier to set up and use, while equatorial mounts provide more precise tracking for astrophotography.

Our GOTO Telescope Recommendations

Celestron NexStar 8SE (high-budget)

The Celestron NexStar 8SE is a versatile Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope featuring an 8-inch aperture and a computerized go-to mount. It’s perfect for stargazers of all levels, providing awesome views of the moon, planets, and deep-sky objects like galaxies and nebulae. With a database of 40,000 objects, you’ll never run out of sights to explore!

Celestron Nexstar 8SE GOTO Telescope
Celestron NexStar 8SE GOTO Telescope

Pros:

  • Impressive aperture: The 8-inch aperture delivers bright and detailed views, allowing you to observe even faint deep-sky objects.
  • Computerized go-to mount: The NexStar 8SE practically does the work for you, aligning itself and finding objects with ease.
  • Portable design: Despite its large aperture, the telescope is surprisingly portable, making it easy to transport to your favorite stargazing spot.
  • Astrophotography-friendly: The NexStar 8SE is compatible with various accessories for astrophotography, letting you capture awesome images of the cosmos.
  • Durable and upgradeable: The high-quality construction ensures a long-lasting telescope, and its modular design allows for future upgrades as your stargazing skills evolve.

Cons:

  • Price: The NexStar 8SE’s advanced features come at a higher price point, which might not suit every budget.
  • Power supply: The telescope requires a power source, such as a portable battery pack, for extended use in the field.
  • Learning curve: While user-friendly, mastering the computerized go-to mount and alignment process might take some time for complete beginners.
  • Stability concerns: Some users have reported that the tripod could be more stable to support the telescope’s weight and prevent vibrations.

The Celestron NexStar 8SE is an incredible telescope for those looking to explore the cosmos with ease and precision. While it comes with a higher price tag and requires some practice, the awesome views and advanced features make it an excellent choice for passionate stargazers.

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StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ (low-budget)

The StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ is a fantastic telescope for beginners and busy stargazers alike. With an 80mm aperture, you’ll enjoy clear views of the moon, planets, and some deep-sky objects like star clusters and brighter nebulae. The true magic lies in its innovative StarSense technology, which connects your phone to the telescope and guides you to the sights you crave, hassle-free!

Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ
Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ

Pros:

  • User-friendly: The StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ is designed for easy setup and use, making it perfect for budding astronomers and casual observers.
  • StarSense technology: This game-changing feature connects your phone to the telescope, guiding you with minimal effort—no more fumbling with star charts!
  • Portability: Weighing just 11 pounds, this telescope is a breeze to transport and set up wherever your stargazing adventures take you.
  • Versatile viewing: With an 80mm aperture and two included eyepieces (25mm and 10mm), you’ll enjoy clear views of the moon, planets, and some deep-sky objects.
  • Budget-friendly: The StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ offers great value for its features, making it an excellent entry-level option for those on a budget.

Cons:

  • Limited deep-sky observation: While perfect for viewing the moon and planets, the 80mm aperture might not be enough for observing fainter deep-sky objects.
  • Manual tracking: The altazimuth mount requires manual tracking of stars, planets and comets as they move across the sky, which could be challenging for beginners or during extended observing sessions.
  • Smartphone dependency: The StarSense technology relies on your phone, meaning you’ll need a compatible device and a charged battery to make the most of this feature.
  • Potential stability issues: The lightweight tripod might not provide optimal stability in windy conditions or on uneven surfaces, which could affect the quality of your viewing experience.

In summary, the StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ is an excellent choice for beginners or casual stargazers seeking an easy-to-use, budget-friendly telescope with innovative features. If you’re looking to explore fainter deep-sky objects or prioritize stability, you might want to consider other options.

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Celestron NexStar 130SLT (medium-budget)

The Celestron NexStar 130SLT is a super cool telescope that helps you see far into space. It has a big opening to let in lots of light and a computer that helps you find things in the sky. It’s perfect for anyone, even if you’re just starting to learn about stars or you’re already a pro. You’ll be able to see the moon, planets, and far-off things like galaxies and colorful clouds in space. Plus, it’s really easy to use and has a list of over 4,000 things to look for in the sky. With this telescope, you can explore the whole universe right from your backyard!

Celestron NexStar 130SLT GOTO Telescope
Celestron NexStar 130SLT GOTO Telescope

Pros:

  • Powerful aperture: The 130mm aperture provides bright and detailed views, allowing you to delve deeper into the universe and observe fainter objects.
  • User-friendly go-to mount: The NexStar 130SLT’s computerized go-to mount makes it easy to align and locate objects, maximizing your stargazing time.
  • Quick setup: This telescope is designed for a fast and hassle-free setup, so you can start exploring the night sky in no time.
  • Astrophotography potential: The NexStar 130SLT can be paired with various accessories for astrophotography, letting you capture awesome images of the cosmos.
  • Expandable database: The telescope’s database can be expanded with the addition of the Celestron Starry Night software, providing even more objects to explore.

Cons:

  • Slightly higher price point: The NexStar 130SLT’s advanced features come at a higher cost, which may not be suitable for every budget.
  • Power supply: The telescope requires a power source, such as a portable battery pack, for extended use in the field.
  • Some stability concerns: Users have reported that the tripod could be more stable to support the telescope’s weight and prevent vibrations during observation.
  • Learning curve: While the telescope is user-friendly, mastering the computerized go-to mount and alignment process might take some time for complete beginners.

The Celestron NexStar 130SLT is a really great telescope for anyone who wants to discover the wonders of space easily. It has super clear views and amazing power. Even though it might cost a little more and take some time to learn, the incredible things you’ll see and the cool features make it a fantastic choice for those who love looking at the stars.

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Setting up Your GOTO Telescope

Once you’ve chosen your GOTO telescope, it’s time to set it up and start exploring the night sky! Here’s a basic outline of the setup process:

  1. Assemble your telescope according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Set up the mount and make sure it’s level.
  3. Attach the optical tube to the mount.
  4. Connect the controller to the mount.
  5. Perform an alignment procedure, as outlined in your telescope’s manual.

Tips for Using a GOTO Telescope

To get the most out of your GOTO telescope, follow these helpful tips:

  • Familiarize yourself with the night sky using a star chart or astronomy app.
  • Start with brighter objects like the moon and planets before moving on to fainter deep-sky objects.
  • Observe from a dark location, away from city lights, for the best viewing experience.
  • Be patient and give your eyes time to adjust to the darkness.
The Hercules Cluster (M13) | Credits: NASA
The Hercules Cluster (M13) | Credits: NASA

Advantages and Disadvantages of GOTO Telescopes

GOTO telescopes have their pros and cons, so consider the following before making a decision:

Advantages:

  • Easy to use, even for beginners.
  • Automatic tracking keeps objects in view.
  • Extensive database of objects.

Disadvantages:

  • Can be more expensive than manual telescopes.
  • Requires power source for motor and controller.
  • Some argue that using a GOTO telescope takes away from the learning experience of navigating the night sky manually.

Conclusion

A GOTO telescope is an excellent investment for anyone looking to explore the night sky with ease. With various types, brands, and features to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect fit. Remember to consider factors like aperture, portability, and mount type when making your decision. And don’t forget to enjoy the awesome wonders that await you!

FAQ

Q: How precise are GOTO telescopes?

A: GOTO telescopes are generally very precise when properly aligned. However, the accuracy can vary depending on factors like the quality of the mount and the alignment procedure.

Q: Can I use a GOTO telescope for astrophotography?

A: Yes! GOTO telescopes, especially those with equatorial mounts, are great for astrophotography due to their precise tracking capabilities.

Q: Does a GOTO telescope require a lot of maintenance?

A: GOTO telescopes require minimal maintenance, mainly focused on keeping the optical parts clean and the mechanical parts well-lubricated.

Q: Are GOTO telescopes any good for beginners?

A: Absolutely! GOTO telescopes are beginner-friendly and make it easy to locate and observe all kinds of objects.

Q: Can I upgrade my existing telescope to a GOTO system?

A: Sometimes, you can make your telescope even better by getting a special GOTO mount and controller to add to it. But, this can only work if your telescope is the right kind and brand. So, always make sure they match before trying to add the new parts. It’s a fun way to make your stargazing even more exciting!