We are all curious about what’s in the sky above. But for a clear picture of planets and close-ups of the moon, constellations and galaxies, you’ll need a telescope. Matthew Herbst seeks out the best for novices and expert stargazers
The Meade MAX2-ACF 20 has a hefty price tag, but it’s the mother of all telescopes and just what you want to invest in if you’re a keen astrophotographer – it’s perfect for both CCD stills and CCD video. This piece of kit marks a huge step forward in astronomical development thanks to Meade using StarLock – revolutionary new technology that makes target acquisition on your imaging sensor accurate and automatic. Additionally, the MAX2 Mount features the 20-inch advanced coma-free optical tube, offering features and value not found with any other telescope. Meade really splashes out with its ultra-high transmission coatings, electronic front-focusing system and laser-aligned, fixed oversized low-expansion primary mirror. A few other features include a Schott Borofloat glass-corrector plate – a versatile, borosilicate glass with excellent light transmission, thermal properties and chemical resistance – and diffraction limited optics. There’s also an Autostar II handbox in the smart drive with a 144,000 object library, local network control and remote web control. It truly is a beast. Check out www.meade.com and get yourself closer to the moon for RO13,859.61.
The crisp images you get from the Celestron NexStar 130SLT will make you want to see more and more. Impressive views are guaranteed from this lightweight package that is easy to assemble. A telescope is only as good as the amount of light it gathers – and that ability is probably the most important to be able to understand the universe. Aperture is the next important part and the NexStar offers a 130-millimetre aperture that provides impressive details of both the moon’s surface and a number of Messier objects – these resemble comets but aren’t, as listed by French astronomer Charles Messier in 1771. Despite the magnificence of this telescope, astrophotography would be a challenge even though it has the capability. It’s just not as accurate as other telescopes designed especially for astrophotography. This is ideal for a beginner, though. www.celestron.com, RO186.72.
The Orion 27191 StarBlast 6i IntelliScope Reflector Telescope has a tabletop reflector and can be used by anyone interested in learning more about the galaxy. Ideal for both beginners and experienced astronomers, you can find more than 14,000 celestial objects. There’s an IntelliScope computerised object locator with 25mm and 10mm Sirius Plossl (telescope eyepiece). The EZ Finder II aiming device has Starry Night software, an eyepiece rack and many other features. The six-inch aperture optics display crisp, clear images of bright planets and with 750mm focal length, the optics display strong, contrasted images of objects that are deep in space, including nebulas and galaxies.
The telescope has a compact design, allowing you to transport it easily, while it weighs just 10.7 kilograms. Reach for the stars and head to www.amazon.com, from RO176.71.
CCD imaging is a rapidly growing hobby among amateur astronomers. Spending hours observing the skies has largely been replaced by still and video imagery. Thanks to technology, it has become easy to explore the universe with a camera. You can buy a simple one-shot colour imager that costs no more than an eyepiece. Of course, those willing to spend more will be able to delve deeper and enjoy higher resolution. Prices for the very best reach up to RO19,250. The Orion StarShoot Solar System Colour Imaging Camera IV is a fourth-generation planetary imaging camera that offers an affordable way to get stunning astrophotos of our solar system. From www.amazon.com, RO38.11.
The Skywatcher Equinox 120 is the star of the Equinox range. It boasts a generous aperture, making it the ideal instrument for long-term stargazers who want a bigger picture of our solar system and to go deeper into space. For those keen on astrophotography, the Equinox features a brilliant f/7.5 focal ration, which is sufficient for sensitive CCDs and digital SLR cameras. This may be the only telescope you will ever need in your life thanks to its perfect configuration of aperture, focal length and focal ratio. The air-to-glass lens boasts an exotic anti-reflection metallic coating, which is applied to ensure optimum light through. A worthwhile investment for a long-term hobby. From www.skywatcher.com, RO868.78.
Starwave Telescopes is a new brand, created by a manufacturer that already produces a wide range of high-performance ED refractor telescopes. Each Starwave telescope has a unique serial number on the lens cell, which is a guarantee of quality worksmanship. The Starwave 110 ED delivers a high-resolution look at deep skies and planetary images that show increased brightness and image scale. The focuser features a robust design and an optional dedicated 0.8x reducer/flattener, as well as the slightly larger aperture, giving this telescope improved field performance over larger areas. The Starwave 110ED is also portable for field use. From RO386.93 at www.green-witch.com
Stellarium is the latest popular astronomy application that enables you to gaze at the stars from the comfort of your sofa, putting the whole universe in your pocket. Stellarium renders 3D photo-realistic skies in real-time, showing you details you would not normally be able to see with your eyes, binoculars or even a small telescope. Learning about the skies starts here. Available free on iTunes for iOS or Google Play for Android.