Hi David and Graham,
I have to say that I think that GOTO telescope systems are great to use and do allow you to find plenty of objects that many would struggle to find especially with our urban skies. I always say that finding a nebula or galaxy is akin to looking for a grey smudge on a grey backround. Much easier under darkier skies where the sky backround is not lit with a light polluted orangery glow form the street lights. Better contrast allows these faint objects to stand much better.
These set ups do work well but need to have the date, time, latitude and logitude set correctly or the ‘scope will head off to the wrong part of the sky.
The usual error is setting the date in the wrong format. Here in the U.K we generally use Day:Month:Year and, of course, in the USA the format is Month:Day:Year. This is enough to make the ‘scope computer point in the wrong part of the sky and cause the user to blame the telescope and easily loose interest in astronomy.
Another problem is knowing correctly the geographical position of your set up and then typing it in the correct format. Some software use Degrees: Minutes:Seconds (53 deg 24 mins 0 sec) and others prefer decimal Degree (53.4 degs). Which ever way it has to be correct or the scope computer will ‘think’ that you are somwhere else and calculate accordingly.
The scope that Dave has mentioned is ‘intelligent’ in that it has a built-in system (GPS) that allows it to level itself, find North and calculate its position on the Earth. This save tthe user having to do this in the set up and should be accurate each time. The price tag on the 8 inch scope appears to be around the Â£1800 mark. That is alot of money for an 8 inch mirror in my opinion but again it would give good views of the Moon, planets, nebule, clusters and galaxies.
I have to be honest and say that I have only seen this particular ‘scope on one occasion (Fred) at the observatory and was surpprised to learn that the built in video camera (it rides underneath the telescope tube) was used for the star allignment
and, although it could be used for general wide field shots of the stars and constelltions, it did not image through the actual main telescope as I first thought. A seperate camera would still be needed to image what you see through the scope.
These are just a couple of thoughts Dave and certainly not an advert for any particular scope but I would have to think carefully what I wanted out of the hobby before I parted with nearly Â£2000. For less spends you could have a good telescope that you push up to an object but you would have to learn where the objects are. GoTos can make you lazy and never learn your way around the sky.
I would strongly suggest coming to a Wednesday meeting and chatting over a cuppa and find out what else may be suitable.
We are holding our Star Party ‘over the water’ at Thurstaton, Wirral on the 20th October.
Rgards from Dave Galvin