Are GoTo Telescopes Worth It? – My Real Experience

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I have owned a few GoTo telescopes over the years, but also some manual ones, so I’m going to share my experience and give you my honest opinion that GoTo telescopes are worth buying.

What is a GoTo telescope?

GoTo telescopes are telescopes on a computerized mount that can find and track objects in the sky for you. It is a completely automatized process of stargazing. 

All you need to do is to set the object you want to see in the telescope handset, and the mount will slew the telescope exactly on the target. It will also track it so it will always be in the field of view. GoTo telescopes are definitely worth it, and they will save you a lot of time during the night.

Without the GoTo mount, you have to learn about the night sky and know how to find the objects manually. GoTo mounts will save you time at night, and you can see more stuff during a short period of time. You will learn about the night sky over time with them as well.

Does a GoTo mount track?

If you have ever looked through the telescope without the computerized mount, you might have noticed that the object, for example, the Moon, will slowly drift out of the field of view.

It is happening because of the Earth’s rotation- the sky rotates above our heads. The GoTo mount will compensate for the Earth’s rotation and track the object for you so it will not disappear from the eyepiece. With the manual mount, you always have to track the object by moving the telescope lightly.

I used to have manual mounts as a beginner a few years ago, but it became annoying to track everything by hand. I can tell you that switching to the GoTo telescope mount will open a new door in astronomy, and you will be able to find objects that are very hard to find with the manual mount.

Can you track the ISS with a GoTo telescope?

Tracking the ISS or a satellite is impossible with a standard GoTo mount. The ISS moves very fast, and the computerized mounts are not quick enough to keep track of the ISS or satellite. Also, the software in the GoTo mount doesn’t have these objects in the database. 

If you have seen a picture of the ISS from an amateur astronomer on the internet, it is usually done with the manual mount. You capture a video and track the ISS manually, looking through the finder scope. By stacking the frames from the video, you can make a picture of the ISS.

However, some special computerized mounts are fast enough to track the ISS. But you also have to write custom software for the mount to be able to track it.

I have this kind of mount, and I’m planning to write custom software and track the ISS. The mount is Explore Scientific EXOS-2 PMC-8 goto mount. It is a telescope mount for advanced users where you can use custom software for the PMC-8 computer that controls the telescope mount. I don’t recommend this mount for a beginner.

Do GoTo telescopes need power?

GoTo computerized telescopes need the power to operate. The lower end of these mounts will come with some kind of battery pack in the box. They use a few AA batteries to power the mount.

It is a good solution, especially outdoors where you don’t have access to the power outlet. 

You can also use them with big external battery packs for camping. Or you can buy the power adapter to plug them into the wall in your backyard if you want. 

Can a GoTo telescope be used manually?

In some cases, you may need to use the GoTo telescope manually. For example, if you run out of power and have no access to the power outlet.

You can do it with some GoTo telescopes where you can move them by hand, but be careful and don’t force it if it goes hard. You can damage your mount. 

Try if you can move it gently when the mount is turned off. You can move some telescopes even if the power is on, but you will lose the alignment. 

More advanced GoTo mounts will remain aligned even if you move them manually. These mounts can keep track of everything and always know where in the sky they are pointing.

How does a GoTo telescope work?

GoTo telescopes have a computer that controls the mount. This computer has a great database of astronomy objects and a map of the night sky.

After you power up the telescope, you need to set a few things so the computer can find the objects in the night sky. You will need local time, location, and elevation, and you have to perform the star alignment.

I’m not going to explain how to do it here, but if you are interested, you can read my article: How To Use AZ GoTo Computerized Telescope.

Can you do astrophotography with a GoTo telescope?

For astrophotography, the GoTo mount is a must. You can’t do it without it, and not only that. You can’t buy any GoTo computerized mount, but it has to be suitable for astrophotography.

There are two primary telescope mount types- Equatorial mount and alt-azimuth mount. You can read about the difference between these two types in my article Alt-Azimuth Mount vs. Equatorial Mount

In the nutshell, if you plan to do basic astrophotography of planets and the Moon, you can go for the alt-azimuth mount.

But if you want to do long exposure astrophotography of galaxies and nebulae, you will need the equatorial mount. 

I did long exposure astrophotography with the alt-azimuth mount before, and it is very tricky. I shared my experience here: Budget Astrophotography

Best GoTo telescope for beginners.

If you plan to do visual astronomy only and maybe take some pictures and videos of the Moon and planets, I recommend Celestron NexStar 130 SLT Computerized Telescope on an alt-azimuth mount. I had the same model from SkyWatcher, and it is an amazing GoTo telescope for beginners.

I wrote a review of both, and you can check it here: 

Celestron NexStar 130 SLT Computerized Telescope Review

SkyWatcher Explorer 130P SynScan AZ GoTo Review

But if you are looking for something to do long exposure astrophotography of nebulae and galaxies, you need to get a GoTo telescope on an equatorial mount. It is more expensive compared to alt-azimuth GoTo.

In this case, I recommend Celestron Advanced VX Computerized Mount + a good telescope for astrophotography.

Conclusion

So there you have it. Are GoTo telescopes worth it? Yes, they definitely are. I know that it requires more initial investment compared to a manual telescope. But the price difference is negligible after accounting for all the benefits of the GoTo computerized telescope.

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