Astronomy dopers: Is this telescope a good value? A good idea?

Periodically cwPartner makes noises to the effect that it would be really cool to have a small, but decent quality, telescope. Our neighbors aren’t much to look at, so I believe him when he says he wants it for stargazing.

So, he came across this Celestron Nexstar Skyalign 114GT-SA, which is currently on sale for about $300, a price that doesn’t scare him too much. We agreed that he can buy it if - and only if - it’s (1) a good value, in terms of product for the price, and (2) a decent piece of equipment that will provide a satisfactory viewing experience without too much hassle.

I’m throwing myself on your mercy, folks. Has anyone here used this particular telescope? Is the price reasonable? Is it fairly easy for a relatively intelligent adult to use? Would you advise against this item? If so, why, and what would you recommend instead?

I don’t think cwPartner has any particular experience in this area, but he does read instructions and loves to do research once he’s found a hobby he enjoys. I don’t begrudge him a new toy, but I do want to be sure he’s got half a chance of enjoying this one.

Thank in advance for anything you can tell me. Smartass comments are welcome as long as they’re relevant.

Celestron telescopes have a very good reputation and $300 for a “Go-to” computerized scope could be an excellent value.

Also, the 4.5" Newtonian reflector is, in my opinion, a fantastic setup for the beginner.

That being said, I would shop around a bit more because I’m not sure the discount in this case is quite as great as the retailer is making it out to be.

The computerized mount costs money that might otherwise pay for better optics or eyepieces.

Bottom line is : you could very likely get more telescope for less money.

I have a telescope, not that cool. Every time I get it out and go through the process of making sure the viewfinder is aligned with the actual telescope (and get the thing on the stand) I always end up disappointed with how little I can see.

So good luck to all telescope purchasers - its not nearly as cool as it seems like it would be IMHO. (could be cause mine’s too small and cheap, but its always a good piece of advice to keep your expectations low! Mine weren’t low, hence the disappointment!)

My suggestion: see if there’s an astronomy club or similar nearby. Observatories, science museums, planetariums, etc. can often recommend one, or may run telescope nights. These can be a fun way of starting out in the hobby, with the reward of seeing a cool night sky sight without the trouble and expense of setting up. Then, if the bug bites, the people you meet at such events are exactly the ones to advise you on what scope is best for your needs.

Good luck!

You’d probably be better off spending the money on a simpler Dobsonian telescope (like this one offered by Orion Telescope company), a good star atlas, and a Telrad finder or Rigel Quikfinder. A steady, easy-to use mounting is a crucial component of a good telescope, and the mounting on the scope you’ve linked to looks non-too-steady to my eyes - plus, those computerized Go-To systems aren’t always as easy to use as the manuals promise. (And they often can render the whole scope unusable if the battery powering them dies.) Go for the largest scope you can easily handle and easily afford, on a simply-designed, very steady mount, rather than electronic bells and whistles. Save the fancy electronic doodads for after you know what you’re doing, and are willing to spend enough on them to get ones that work well. At your price point, you want as much of the money as possible going into the scope’s optics.

I agree with Davey77; shop around a little. That scope looks like a fairly good one for a beginner but I’d want to physically play with the mount before I bought it. If it’s not pretty stable the computerized motor is going to be next to useless. There is also a learning curve to setting a scope up and aligning it correctly, but it’s not that hard.

I did get a laugh from reading the reviews though. The first guy (who gives it a terrible review) says, “…even with the high-power lens, you’re not going to be “wowed” by even some lunar craters on a full-moon evening.” That sentence tells me all I need to know about his knowledge of astronomy and scopes… he probably had it set up wrong!

Thanks, everyone. I’ll pass these on to cwPartner. I think I’ll push him to try araminty’s suggestion of joining an astronomy club first.

Again, thanks for all of the advice, comments and opinions.

Araminty’s idea is great pre-buy move, and artemis’s idea for a Dob is the best type of starter scope…simple, easy to put together, and best on light-gathering ability that will impress the first-time buyer.

Give your neighbor this link to get an idea on what’s the best starter scope.

Agreed that Dob’s are easy to put together and use, but keep in mind that without equatorial tracking it can be really frustrating for a beginner to keep an object in the field of view(especially at higher magnifications). It’s really easy to move the scope the wrong way and totally lose what you’re looking at… then you have to find it all over again. artemis’s idea is probably best, so that he will have a chance to play with various types of scopes.

Another factor to consider is what he wants to look at; each type of scope has it’s strengths and weaknesses. And keep in mind that a scope that is a PITA to carry around and set up is a scope that sits in the closet instead of being used!