Equipment:

On occasion, people will ask what type of equipment I use, what type is best to start with, and what I would recommend - to which, I always ask three questions:

  1. How much storage space do you have?

  2. How much are you willing to carry?

  3. What are you trying to see?

Budget is yours to decide. However, if you're completely unsure regarding the three above questions, I typically recommend a pair of binoculars to start with. Because the last thing you want is to purchase a huge, expensive telescope that you'll use twice and turn into a huge, expensive coat rack. Before you get into it, feel free to check out this article from Sky & Telescope on How to Choose A Telescope.

DISCLAIMER: the following recommendations are based on my personal experience. I haven't received any compensation to write this. KKA is entirely self-funded.

Night Observing

tascobinos.jpg

I have had these Tasco binoculars for nearly 10 years and they get the job done for looking at the Moon, large bright comets, like NEOWISE, and star clusters like the Pleiades, Hyades, and Beehive (to name a few).

If you have a camera tripod, You'll want to get a binocular adapter to mount the binos to the tripod, otherwise you'll your arms may get tired after 10 minutes or so.

Tasco 12x50 Essentials Porro Binoculars

Celestron Binocular Tripod Adapter

Now, if you don't want binoculars because you'd prefer something with a tripod included, the Celestron 60AZ is a nice manual-use telescope. This refractor weighs next to nothing, comes with two eyepieces, and you can experience the same views of the Moon and large star clusters as you would with the Tasco binoculars.

However! You may be disappointed in the planetary views, as Jupiter and Saturn aren't very impressive with this scope, even using a high powered eyepiece.

Celestron COSMOS 60AZ Telescope

60az.jpg
90slt.jpg

If you're looking to venture into automated territory, the Celestron 90 SLT is a great telescope. I honestly can't stress this enough. It's the Tom Seaver of telescopes. Not only is it easy to transport (mine fits between a standard-sized backpack and baseball bat bag), but you get some pretty darn good lunar and planetary views. Because of this, it touches on all three of my personal requirements: portability, weight, and visibility.

While you'll lose the ability to view open star clusters, this Maksutov-Cassegrain will be able to resolve globular clusters! The giant sparkly ones. And all of this is easy because of the pre-programmed remote it comes with - 36,000 objects worth. Be sure to get the battery pack, or you'll burn through AAs like nobodies business.

Celestron 90SLT Telescope  &  Powertank

Now if you feel like the 90SLT is too small, and you want a scope with more meat, you might be interested in the Celestron 6SE. 

 

There are some stark differences between the 90SLT and 6SE – namely the size. The 6SE has an additional three inches in diameter, which means it gathers more light, and gives you better resolution on just about everything.

Downside: with size comes weight. If you don't have a car, and want to bring it places, it will be a challenge. Also, since this is a Schmidt-Cassegrain type, it requires more collimation, or adjustments, if it is accidentally misaligned. Plus, you'll still need the battery pack, which only adds to the weight.

Celestron 6SE Telescope  &  Powertank

6se.jpg
skywatcher120_edited.jpg

If automation has your head spinning, you can always stick with a manual telescope. But if you want one that is larger than the Celestron 60AZ, you'll enjoy the Sky-Watcher StarTravel 120. 

Since this is manual use, you will not need a battery. But the tripod can be a little cumbersome to carry, and the scope may get a little heavy after carrying it for a distance.

But you are able to resolve planets, our moon and nebulae with it, which is a huge bonus. Also, since it is a refractor, it is more "telescope-shaped", which can be more eye candy.

Sky-Watcher StarTravel 120 Telescope

Solar Observing

Certain telescopes are designed specifically to observe the sun. When observing the sun with one of these telescopes, you must use extreme caution. I cannot stress this enough – never ever look at the sun without the correct and proper eye equipment. This goes for telescopes, binoculars and solar glasses. Incorrect use of a standard telescope or binoculars can result in permanent, irreversible eye damage that will leave you blind.

When looking for solar glasses, make sure that your glasses are ISO 12312-2 certified. Learn more on How to Tell If Your Solar Glasses Are Safe here. 

With that said, you can learn about solar telescopes here.

For sunspot viewing, I have the Sky-Watcher SolarQuest system. This operates with a 70mm white-light refractor that is designed to be used exclusively on the sun, and cannot be used for night observing.

It runs on 8 AA batteries, and can last a long while. But if you want to convert it to a 12-volt battery, you can do that as well. This telescope was generously donated by the Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project.

What's especially awesome about this scope is that it tracks the sun for you once you turn it on. No programming required!

Sky-Watcher SolarQuest System

heliofind.jpg
coronado.jpg

For solar flare viewing, I have the Coronado PST (Personal Solar Telescope). This little bad boy has a 40mm hydrogen alpha filter, that can be used to look at solar flares, filaments, and prominences. It also cannot be used for night observing.

It needs no batteries to operate, but it will require a tripod since it does not come with one. A standard camera tripod will work. Bonus if your camera tripod has a handle that can be used to maneuver the scope around.

Coronado PST 40mm Telescope