Telescopes: how big is too big?

BBC Sky at Night Magazine art editor Steve Marsh contemplates the assembly of the massive 20-inch StarGate 500P Dobsonian, during its photoshoot for the April 2018 issue.
Credit: Iain Todd / BBC Sky at Night Magazine
Carousel image: iStock

 

How big is too big?

Seasoned amateur astronomers know it as 'aperture fever', and at the moment I’m suffering from it after reviewing the StarGate 500P Synscan Dobsonian for our April issue.

And I have got it bad, so much so that just like the Remington advert of many years ago, I’ve only gone and bought it; the scope that is.

Now don’t get me wrong, in many cases size really isn’t everything and as they say, it is how you use it. I have a range of telescopes at home already to suit my astro needs.

Indeed, I still have my 14-inch Dobsonian so, you may well ask, what on Earth do I need a 20-inch Dob for? 

Well, the GoTo and tracking functionality were certainly a big draw, but having had the 14-inch next to the 20-inch in a side-by-side comparison, there is no doubt that the extra light grasp really does count.

I was already used to getting out the small step ladder to reach the ‘smaller’ Dob, so the extra height was no trouble.

But any telescope/mount will only see regular action if it is easy to set up and, of course, use!

The general rule is the larger the scope, the more set-up time you need, assuming like me you don’t have room for an observatory.

So, the original 14-inch was actually an equatorial system, which was blooming heavy and gradually got used less and less, whilst a smaller telescope (OK a 10-inch) became the mainstay of my astro arsenal.

A friend kindly converted the 14-inch into the Dobsonian it is today, while another friend bought the heavy duty mount for their observatory.

What added to the refurbished 14-inch’s usefulness was putting it on top of a small trolley, which meant I could wheel it out whenever I wanted.

The key to any large system, if it is not going in an observatory, is to make it as easy to set up as possible. See our How To section for a ‘how to build a wheeled tripod’ project for an EQ based system. We try to think of everything! 

So how am I going to handle a 90Kg, half meter sized GoTo Dobsonian? 

That’s for another blog sometime soon. Sadly for the time being, given that I've just bought a huge 20-inch, the recent bad weather in UK is probably all my fault!

Read my review of the StarGate in the April issue of BBC Sky at Night Magazine, out 22 March.


 

We use cookies to improve your experience of our website. Cookies perform functions like recognising you each time you visit and delivering advertising messages that are relevant to you. Read more here