- Kids Buying Guide
- Telescopes For Adults
- Automatic Go-To Telescopes
- GPS Telescopes
- Telescope 101
- Reflectors vs. Refractors
- Mounts & Tripods
- Eyepieces & Accessories
- Books, Star Maps & Software
Not a comlex subject. Tripods have 3 legs and make your telescope super stable. If you think you can hold a telescope steady without one . . . well, good luck with that because it's pretty much impossible. Most telescopes come with either a full size tripod or a mini-tripod.
Full Size Tripods: Most telescopes come with a standard, full-size, adjustable tripod. That means you can adjust the viewing height of the telescope so that even taller adults can stargaze without having to bend over. Most of our manually operated telescopes come with an aluminum tripod -- they're reasonably strong and lightweight. Many have an accessory tray that attaches in the center that is great for keeping track of extra eyepieces and other add-ons. Some of the larger manual telescopes, as well as the computer-controlled and GPS scopes, come with a stainless steel tripod. Steel tripods are more expensive and heavier than aluminum tripods, but they are rock solid and critical for larger scopes.
Mini Tripods: You may come across telescopes that come standard with a portable, mini-tripod, like our 80mm Refractor. This small tripod is perfect for using on a backyard picnic table, on the hood of your car, or even on a rock ledge while you're out camping. These little tripods tend to be "instant-open" tripods, meaning, no assembly is required, just pop it out of the bag and you're good to go. Most telescopes that come with a mini-tripod offer you the option to upgrade to a full-sized tripod.
Pro's Picks for Tripods
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Although the name is kind of hard to pronounce, these are actually the simplest telescope mounts. Ever use a camera on a tripod? Great! Then you already know how to use an altazimuth mount, or “alt-az” for short. You simply point and “shoot.” Move the telescope up, down, left, or right, and then tighten the mount so it stays nice and stable. Sounds simple? It is! These mounts require no special instructions or learning and are ready to go in a few seconds. They’re great for beginners who want a basic manual mount. You don’t even need a special tripod for an altazimuth mount--you can use it with any regular camera tripod. Take a look below at some of the telescopes we sell with this simple, easy-to-use telescope mount.
Telescopes with Alt-Azimuth Mounts
Equatorial (EQ) Mounts
Problem: The Stars Move. As you know, the Earth is constantly spinning and orbiting the sun. This means that all stars in the sky, like the sun, rise and set every night. So, if you are looking at space objects through a telescope, they will move across and out of your view farily quickly if you don’t move the telescope with them.
This is where Equatorial Mounts come in. More advanced than Altazimuths, equatorial (or EQ) mount helps you track the movements of the stars and other celestial objects. Basically, you set up the mount so and align it with the North Star and adjust the mount to match your latitude (how far north you are from the Equator). Once you do that the telescope will be able to move on the same axis as the objects in the sky. Now you can follow a star’s movement through the night sky with the simple twist of the "RA" knob on your EQ Mount.
Ok, it is tricky at first. There's no doubt that an EQ mount is for advanced users. But don't fret because you can can always use your equatorial mount in point-and-shoot mode until you get the hang of it. But with practice it gets much easier. Look nobody said science was all easy all the time. But equatorial tracking is really very helpful if you want to observe an object over a long period of time. It's also critically important if you want to use your telescope to take photos. Many EQ mounts can be improved by adding a right-ascension motor drive. You use an "RA" drive to automatically turn your telescope once it is lined up -- it can then follow the stars through the night-sky automatically.
Dobsonian Mounts are used for the largest reflector telescopes that have huge mirrors and need a stronger and more stable mount system. They’re really easy to spot because they sit on the ground and are usually supporting a gigantic reflector telescope. They’re pretty hard to miss! You may be surprised, though, to find out that they are actually quite portable and setting up these large telescopes and Dobsonian mounts really isn’t the daunting task that it seems to be. In fact, they really work best when taken to a rural or remote location that doesn’t have a bunch of city-generated light pollution.
Dobsonian mounts work much like an Altazimuth mount, in that you simply move them left, right, up, or down to look at objects. They also have tension adjustment and brake systems so that finding and tracking objects is smoother.
Pro's Picks for Equatorial & Dobsonian Mounted Telescopes
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GPS & Automatic
GPS and automatic go-to telescope mounts are mount systems with built-in computers that quickly find and navigate to objects in the night sky for you. This means you won’t have to spend countless hours pouring over star maps or figuring out how to use a complex mount system. These automatic mounts are extremely popular with beginner astronomers because they take all the guesswork and hassle out of finding amazing things to look at in the night sky.
Automatic, or go-to mounts, consist of a motorized mount and a computer control system with a database of celestial objects.With most models of automatic mounts you are required to do some basic alignment before getting started. It's as simply as pointing the telescope at the North Star or another bright object in the sky. Once you’ve done that, the computer-controlled mount will take you on a tour of the night sky with each push of a button. This is an affordable option for new astronomers who want an automatic mount, but don’t want to break the bank. There are also advanced go-to mounts that require even less effort and can auto-align themselves.
GPS Mounts are the most advanced mount systems. They consist of a motorized mount, a computer controlled system with a database of objects, and a GPS module for easier setup. The basic GPS mounts are the easiest way to automatically finding thousands of nighttime objects. You don’t even have to align them with anything because they automatically know their location and the current time. Incredible!
The more advanced GPS mount systems allow you to set the mount in Equatorial mode. Add a telescope camera to the mix and you have the best system for astrophotography. That's because you can set up the equatorial controls in a way that allows the telescope to have the smoothest possible tracking when following the movements of stars across the sky during a long-exposure shot. These types of mount systems are a little more complex and require a more effort, but if you are interested in long-exposure astrophotography, they are well worth it.
Pro's Picks for GPS & Automatic
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