Stargazing Bargain

Ok, yes I’m a bit of a geek and as such, have a few hobbies that fit the stereotype. One of them is amateur astronomy (and I do mean amateur!) I’ve owned a great Celestron Super C8 telescope for a number of years and have greatly enjoyed using it to observe everything from solar and lunar eclipses to comets and galaxies. It’s only downfall is the 100 pounds of scope and accessories that have to be hauled and set up at an observing site – so it doesn’t get used as often as it should.

Madge to the rescue! I’ve been looking for a smaller, lighter, computer controlled alternative for a while, but just had not stumbled on the right ‘scope. Call it a late birthday present or an early Christmas present, Madge found an incredible deal on a Celestron Nexstar 102GT at Costco. It’s street price has been around $400 – but I guess Costco picked up all the inventory and has been selling them at $159! Unbelievable! This is not a toy, but a reasonably serious telescope good enough for a serious amateur. It’s a computer controlled 4″ refractor with a nice, stable tripod and all the important accessories. With its handheld controller you simply select the object of interest and the scope quickly slews to it.

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(That’s the 102GT in the foreground and the much heavier and larger Super C8 behind it.)

I’ve done a good bit of side-by-side observing with the two telescopes and find the image quality of the 102GT nearly as good as the Super C8 (which has a reputation for high quality astronomical images). Viewing the moon, Jupiter and it’s moons, star-clusters and more, I found the 102GT images to be very sharp and of high contrast, even in my light-polluted home location. Plus the 102GT folds to put in a car, weighs about 20 pounds, and takes all of 10 minutes to set up and align. It comes with 5 oculars and all the other accessories needed to jump right in to a quality observing experience. I find it a pleasure to use – it’s nice being able to focus on the astronomy – and not all the hardware.

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If you know a budding astronomer, you can hardly go wrong with this scope – particularly at it’s very low price.

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