Best Telescope for seeing Galaxies/Nebula/Deep Space…

(and also amazing on the Planets)

Choosing this the value best scope for visual is pretty straightforward because a big aperture is key. To put it simply you want a fat scope, the fattest you can move around without inducing a hernia. A fat scope will catch lots of photons and therefore brighten the very dim deep space objects. Also a fat aperture will reduce the telescope’s diffraction rings allowing you to see more detail and tighter stars.  Ironically fatter scopes shows smaller tighter stars.  Optically speaking the best telescopes are fancy exotic glass refractors but these scopes so expensive no mortal can afford one wider than the width of your hand. From a purely optical perspective the next best telescope design is the Newtonian. These simple reflectors make use of a relatively inexpensive curved mirror. As a result Newtonians can have a huge aperture without breaking the bank. And that makes a big Newtonian the best telescope for visual astronomy. Californian monk John Dobson spent his life designing and perfecting an inexpensive mount for his big Newtonian telescopes.  He allowed any manufacturer to use his cheap and brilliant “Dobsonian” design for free. After leaving the monastery devoted his life to showing the public the wonders of the universe through his big dobs.

Please note that the sharpest Newtonians for visual astronomy have a focal ratio of around f6 or more. These are the ones that are particularly good at high magnification targets like the planets (see amazon link).  Unfortunately the higher the focal ratio the longer the scope. So to avoid growing unmanageably long the fattest scopes which are best suited to seeing galaxies ( BTW they are also really good at the planets)  tend to have a focal ratio of F5 or less. These dobs with lower focal ratio’s will benefit from a coma corrector. The best coma corrector on the market is the televue paracorr.

Sky-Watcher 16” GOTO Dobsonian: the BIG one!

As far as Dobs are concerned the bigger the better. This 16incher is one of the biggest commercial dobs you can get. Although you can get it in a car and take it somewhere, really this size of dob is best suited to someone living in a dark site. Ideally you’d roll it out of your garage and get to play with it in a few minutes. I’m recommending this model because it tracks and it has a goto function. When you get this big its really nice not to have to worry about moving the scope to keep the target in your field of view. Also Sky-Watcher’s goto function is pretty good and as long as you have set the scope up nice and horizontal, once aligned the mount will automatically find targets you plug into the hand controller. If you want to go old school and star hop your way around the universe then I like the look of this relatively portable 16” Explore Scientific truss design. I’ve not actually used it but judging from the fact that most of it looks like it fits into a box and the fact that they’ve managed to get the weight down to about 40kg I’m guessing its designed to be able to take it somewhere truly dark which is really what you need to do. Don’t get me wrong moving a thing like this is around is a real arse but if you want the full experience…

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12inch GSO mirror based Dobsonian,

A 12 inch dob is much more transportable than a 16incher because its possible to pick it up without straining too much and although it ain’t small that makes it much more transportable. Also it is one of the biggest scopes to have an enclosed tube which is good for preventing stray light from messing up your view and its also the biggest scope that will fit across the back seat of your car – just. Its about 25% heavier than the equivalent 10 inch but gathers about 40% more light.  Heads up though even with a 12inch scope you won’t see galaxies like you do in the photos. You will see faint whisps. Exactly what you see will depend on how good your eyes are, how dark your location is and the quality of the seeing. Of course for brighter things like the planets and star clusters its fantastic. I have chosen links to very good value scopes that make use of the excellent GSO mirrors. Also see the amazon link for the ultra light and portable explore scientific version:

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10 inch Celestron DOB with StarSense app to help navigate the Universe!

One problem with most dobs is that you need to know your way around the heavens in order to find anything worth looking at… but not with this mount. A complete noob (like me when it comes to visual!) can locate the hardest to find galaxies with this dob thanks to Celestron’s StarSense app. You basically download the app to your phone. Fix your phone onto the special dock on the telescope. Turn on the app and then tell it what galaxy/nebula/planet you want to look at. The app uses your phone’s camera to take a picture of the sky and work out where the scope is pointing, then it tells you which direction to move the scope to get it pointing at your chosen galaxy/nebula/planet. I tested out this app in London and even under the terrible light pollution it worked really well.   Highly recommended.

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