When looking for a best telescope under 200.
It is recommended that you choose a refractor telescope that has an equatorial mount. There are two such telescopes both by Celestron.
The first one is the Powerseeker 80EQ which is a refractor telescope that has a lens at the front of the telescope as the light passes through The other is a reflector telescope which has a mirror at the rear of the telescope that the light bounces off.
The second telescope is the Astromaster 70EQ. The 70 refers to the diameter of the objective lens which is 70 millimeters or two and three-quarter inches.
EQ means equatorial mount
The EQ refers to the equatorial mount which is something that you’re going to want if you’re going to use this for looking at the moon and the planets.
The reason that I recommend a refractor is that most people want their first beginner telescope to give them nice views of Saturn’ rings Jupiter and its moons.
The reflector telescope has less power and is better suited for dimmer objects. Realistically, we need to acknowledge that this telescope is going to be used for looking at Jupiter Saturn and the moon. Occasionally you might look at Venus and Mars when it comes around. I also recommended that you get an equatorial mount, (EQ) You could get the alt azimuth mount that comes with the tripod for your camera but that would be a mistake.
Alt-azimuth telescope mount
The alt-azimuth mount is like a camera tripod which allows you to move in altitude and azimuth. This is great for a camera or a spotting scope but it’s not so good for a telescope to look at planets. The reason is that it takes a long time to get Saturn centered in the eyepiece is because the earth is rotating and Saturn will quickly drift out of the field of view.
You have to constantly be moving the telescope to keep Saturn centered in the eyepiece.
With the alt-azimuth mount you typically have to move in two axes so you unlock the azimuth. You move the azimuth you lock the azimuth, you then unlock the altitude. You then move the altitude and you lock the altitude. Of course anytime you lock an axis it tends to make it move and you have to start over again.
Also to bear in mind is that anytime you’re touching the telescope there will be some vibration. It takes several seconds for the vibration to dampen out. So while you’re waiting for this to happen and now Saturn’s moving across the field of view. What this means is that with the alt-azimuth mount you will literally be spending more time pointing the telescope and very little time enjoying looking at Saturn.
So you might ask why is it that if the alt-azimuth mount is such a horrible thing for telescopes, that the manufacturers keep making them? They make them for the large aperture Dobsonians those which are used typically for low power applications where the Earth’s rotation doesn’t matter. They would rather have the equatorial mount but that would make it cost thousands. There also offered computer go-to telescopes. If you have a computer in a motor moving the telescope then the problem with the alt-azimuth mount is pretty much gone.
And finally, they offer them on the best telescopes for the under 200. Many beginners don’t understand the equatorial mount and maybe a little fearful of it. For this reason, I would spend a little time explaining how nice it is. The equatorial mount has the locking nut for each axis and to move it, all you have to do is turn one of the slow motion knobs and slowly move it in each axis.
Now if the alt-azimuth mount had these slow motion controls where you don’t have to keep locking each axis, most of the problems I talked about would be gone. However, you would still have to move two axis most of the time. With the equatorial mount, your line is such that you only have to move one axis. This means that as Saturn drifts off the field of view you can turn it until it’s on the other side of the field of view. Then you let go and the vibration stops. You can then get to watch Saturn as it drifts across the entire field of view. Then you do it again so you spend most of your time looking at Saturn and very little time pointing the telescope.
From our point of view, all the stars and the planets make concentric circles around the North Star. If you could take your alt-azimuth mount and point it at the North Star then you don’t have to move one axis to take out theorists rotation. That’s essentially what the equatorial mount is. It is tilted so that this access points at the North Star.
It’s really easy to set up the first time. You set this to your latitude, it’s a one-time thing once you do that you lock it down and you never need to do that again. Unless you go hundreds of miles north then the only thing you have to do when you take your telescope out is to set it to North. Just point your telescope towards whatever object you’re looking at. For example, find Jupiter, lock it down and then all you have to do is move the one knob to take out the Earth’s rotation. This is very simple.
80mm telescope lens
I have two different Celestron telescopes. Let’s look at the differences. One has an 80mm objective lens which is a little over three inches in diameter. Whereas the other has a 70mm objective lens or 2.75 inches in diameter. One advantage of having a larger lens is that it makes things look brighter. Remember though that we will be looking at the moon Jupiter and Saturn and these things are already bright enough.
70mm telescope lens
If you drive 50 miles away from the city then you might notice that you can see them things a little easier with the bigger lens. Another advantage of the bigger lens is that you can get more power before things get fuzzy. The difference between 70mm and 80mm is small though. The tripod on the 70mm telescope looks a little sturdier. The 70mm is lighter than the 80mm tube so I would think that this telescope would have less of a problem with vibration. The big difference between these two telescopes is the eyepieces that you get with them. A really nice eyepiece can cost anywhere from 50 to 500.
What this means is that for telescopes in the under 200 price range you don’t get really nice eyepieces. These telescopes come with fairly good quality eyepieces.
The power of a telescope is found to be the focal length of the primary lens divided by the focal length of the eyepiece. Both of these telescopes have a 900mm focal length for their primary lens.
Both of these telescopes come with a 20mm eyepiece which results in 45 power. The eyepiece that comes with the Astromaster appears to be somewhat better than the one that comes with the Powerseeker. It weighs a little more and the hole where the light comes out is larger. There’s a bigger difference when comparing the second eyepiece that you get with the Astromaster. It comes with a 10mm eyepiece giving 90 power and the power comes with a 4mm eyepiece giving 225 power.
Telescopes that you can buy in a department store often advertise 600 power. What this means is that they wasted money on some junk lenses that you will never use. If you go to the Celestron website you will see that they give the highest useful magnification for most of their telescopes. This number is 60 times the diameter of the primary lens or mirror in inches. So for an 80mm lens, which is 3.15 inches, you would get 190 for the highest useful power. Mysteriously the highest useful magnification is missing on the ads for their Powerseeker telescopes. This is because they all come with lenses that give you too much power.
With too much power, jet object is distorted and you often choose not to use them. In addition, the Powerseeker comes with three power Barlow lens. When you use this along with your eyepiece you triple the power you would otherwise get. The bottle lens that you get is extremely cheap. It probably cost around fifty cents.
After all the bad things I have said about the Powerseeker, I have to admit, I was surprised. When I looked at Saturn and the moon using the 4mm eyepiece. This is 225 power for the recommended highest magnification and is 190 power and yet it wasn’t that bad.
The Powerseeker would be a much better scope if you also bought a nice eyepiece with the focal length of 6 to 10 millimeters. One of these will cost you about 30 dollars.
Both of these telescopes come with astronomy software that’s pretty cool. It shows you what the sky looks like for any given date time and location. You can pan around and zoom in and out you and you always know where to find the planets.
So in summary if you’re looking for a beginner telescope for under two hundred dollars my personal recommendation is that you get a refractor with an equatorial mount. Look for one that comes with eyepieces that give you 50 to 100 power.
Celestron has the Powerseeker telescopes that tend to come with eyepieces pieces which give you too much power, but not totally worthless power like you might get in a department store. Celestron also has the more sensible Astromaster telescope. Comparing the Powerseeker 80EQ with the Astromaster 70EQ we find that the astrometric cost a little more, comes with a slightly smaller objective lens and this sturdier tripod and comes with nicer eyepieces.
I didn’t mention it before but the Powerseeker comes with a finderscope with crosshairs. The Astromaster does not instead it comes with a piece of plastic that has an illuminated red-dot in the middle. You put the red-dot on Saturn. You can move your head around and get wildly wrong results. I think this was a marketing decision to trick people into thinking that they’re getting something high-tech. You’ll have to find Saturn with the low power eyepiece and then switch to a high power eyepiece.