Celestron Merges Astronomy and Electronics


Generally, if you want to use GoTo functions, obviously the scope must be calibrated or aligned for your location. This can be done manually: input the GPS coordinates, use an integrated optional GPS, or point the telescope to two known objects. With GPS, you also have to tell the telescope controller what the orientation is, so you still have to pick out two stars.

Celestron has a unique alignment method dubbed SkyAlign:. simply pick out three bright objects, slew the scope to them, and you are done. No need to identify those objects, and you can even use the Moon and planets!

How does this work? Other manufacturers require that you identify the objects selected, but SkyAlign measures the axis distance between each of the objects you chose, and compares it against its internal database for the date and time you selected. In a way, it’s like a pattern match. Limited to only bright objects, this is unique for each location, time and set of objects. It’s like old fashioned sextant celestial navigation and fix reduction, but with a sophisticated look-up function.

It is important to accurately enter the date, time (to within two minutes or so) and location (within 50 miles). The tripod must be absolutely level, because the algorithm makes assumptions about where objects are in relation to other objects. The three objects selected should be as far apart as possible; actually, only two objects are used, those two with the widest separation! The third object is used to confirm the identity of the selected two objects. Once entered and confirmed, the handset indicates “Match Confirmed” and asks if you’d like to see the matches you selected.

Other methods of aligning the telescope include selecting the two star alignment program from the hand controller. In this case, you have to know the names of the objects in question. Or you could try a single star alignment, which isn’t nearly as accurate. Another method, auto two star align, requires that you only know one star; the NexStar will slew to a second star. You can modify this selection via Undo, and the next most suitable star will be selected. There is even a Solar System Align, based on using the sun, moon or planets.

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  • GoTo mounts are for lazy people who don't really understand the essence of observing the sky. It's certainly a fun thing to create if you are an engineer, but if you're considering using one, take my advice and buy a book with pictures of the Messier catalog, it's a lot cheaper. A true amateur astronomer never uses those revolting, despicable, hideous GoTo mounts. Get a real standard equatorial mount. Get a good sky atlas. Get a pair of quality binoculars. Know your sky! That's astronomy...
  • originalgadgetguy
    A sensitive topic to be sure. But the point of the article was to encourage those who have an interest in astronomy but never bit the bullet. That is, they don't own a scope because they aren't willing to learn all that needs to be done to find stuff. OK, even lazy. And our readers totally grok computers.

    Many amateurs started by using a GoTo. IMHO, the more astronomers the better. Talking to denizens of LAAS and reading cloudyskies.com, there is little sense of elitism. All amateurs are welcome, even and esp. those with GoTos.

    I didn't have room to talk about the wedges that covert yoke mounts to equatorial mounts, but they exist for many yoke types. That way you can have the best of both worlds.

    Finally, one of the books I recommended does just what you suggest: tries to teach the night sky so you can find stuff without using (or even using) a GoTo. Hope this addresses your comments.

  • I think the guys who say to get a star chart and spend 6 months learning how to find and track things are missing the point and living in the 19th century.

    The fact is that these new generations of scopes make astronomy so much more accessible to people who find astronomy interesting but don't have the time or ability to invest. They also make it simple to introduce new people to astronomy by quickly showing them lots of interesting things.

    Plus, as a computer geek, there is nothing more fun than plugging your telescope into your laptop, hooking up a camera and driving it around from your computer. Do an easy DIY project like adapting a webcam to use with the scope and you have yourself tons of fun *and* you learn the night sky, you just don't waste months of time trying to figure out how to see anything.
  • I totally agree with smurfdog - you spend more time observing and imaging objects than trying to find them - and most of them are very dim anyways. THe manual method of finding objects is definitely 19th century stuff.
  • coreym72
    Science is ever changing and self-correcting. To memorize the sky from Earth is one thing and to explore the universe is another. Technology makes Astronomy possible for all who are willing to learn and grow. Why not use both to your advantage.
  • Doug,

    I really praise the point of your article. I also love to teach everything I know about the topic to anyone who's interested in the subject, like most amateurs.
    Like you said, there's no to little sense of elitism in those groups. But I also know this: Like all the really rewarding things in life, Astronomy requires persistence and solid interest.
    I decided to comment your article since I disagree on some things you wrote and that contrast may help people who read it, look at the picture from another angle.

    Trying to find Deep Sky Objects or the planets (very easy with little experience and knowledge) in the sky, is where most of the fun is! Having a computer doing it for you is like you own a Porsche and let a chauffeur drive you. The only difference here is that, unlike the chauffeur, the computer has no fun at all!

    I didn't find anything interesting on cloudyskies.com, apparently is just a domain for sale. Did you mean www.cloudynights.com?

    If your interest is solid, you've got nothing to fear, understanding the sky is a lot easier than most people think.

  • originalgadgetguy
    Diogo et al,
    My bad! Yes of course I meant www.cloudynights.com. It's a great site for advice, and mostly cogent tips on purchasing and use.

    I think we can agree that for some, starting with GoTos is a great way of getting into astronomy. Then you can progress to star charts and maps, relying less on the GoTo. I want to encourage people to begin this exciting hobby.

    Amateur astronomers are one of the few science disciplines where amatuers can and do make professional level contributions!

    And even though I understand how the SkyScout works, it is unbelievable to actually use it and watch it ID an object, or have it guide you to some random star in its database...Awesome product. For me, this really helped me better learn the night sky. It's like using a crutch (or a chaffeur) then weaning yourself away from it and driving yourself. Much less pain, and kick butt fun.

    Hope this answers your concerns.
    Clear skies!

  • Doug,

    I am a beginner in the field of astronomy and astrophotography and I would like to purchase some equiptment. Im not exactly sure what types of telescopes and astrophotography equiptment would be best for a beginner and it would be great if you could offer me some advice. I have done a lot of research on telescopes preferably under $500 and CCD cameras along with laptops. If you have any advice that would be great! Thanks.
  • enewmen
    It's about 2 years later and I'm really getting into this now.
    To bad I didn't notice article earlier.