Is it better to save money on a GoTo mount and go for a bigger scope?

Giles Sparrow gives us some astronomy tips.

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Is it better to save money on a GoTo mount and go for a bigger scope?

Asked by A. Fritz

It probably depends on how much experience you’ve already got as an astronomer, and what kind of alternative you’re looking at. GoTo mounts with computer controls offer a much faster way of pointing your telescope towards a particular object, and for beginners may make the difference between finding the target at all and giving up in frustration. They’ll also make it easy to track an object as it moves across the sky in the course of the night.

If you’ve got more experience and understand celestial coordinates (which every budding astronomer should learn), then you’ll probably be able to use a traditional ‘equatorial’ telescope mount to find targets with relative ease, and a clock drive or hand controls to keep pace with their movements – but a GoTo mount will almost certainly still be more efficient and only a little more expensive. Another point to think about is that a fork-shaped GoTo mount is a lot more compact and manageable than the heavy counterbalanced cradle of a traditional equatorial.

So in most circumstances, the convenience of a GoTo will probably outweigh any small saving you might spend on a larger telescope. The exception is if you’re thinking about getting a Dobsonian; these no-frills ‘light buckets’ have very simple ‘alt-azimuth’ swivel mounts and are one way to buy a lot of light-gathering power for the cost of even a small Equatorial or GoTo scope. But be sure to read up in more detail, since they’re limited in their uses and probably more suited to experienced observers.

Answered by astronomy and space author Giles Sparrow

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