Amateur astronomers and astrophotographers have long sought the perfect solution for tracking celestial objects as they move across the sky. The advent of intelligent automatic tracking telescopes has made this more accessible than ever.
- What Is A Telescope With Auto Tracking?
- Auto Tracking Telescope Mounts
- Some Of The Best Auto Tracking Telescope Options
- How Does The Telescope Auto Tracking Software Work?
We will explore the world of auto-tracking telescopes, how they work, and some of the best options available today.
What Is A Telescope With Auto Tracking?
An automatic tracking telescope is a type of telescope that automatically follows the motion of celestial objects in the sky. These telescopes are designed to keep the target object centered in the eyepiece or on the camera sensor throughout the observation or imaging session. Auto-tracking telescopes utilize computerized systems and motorized mounts to move the telescope and maintain precise tracking.
Auto Tracking Telescope Mounts
Auto-tracking telescope mounts are crucial components of an automatic-tracking telescope system. These mounts incorporate motors and precise gears to move the telescope in response to the Earth’s rotation. Equatorial mounts and alt-azimuth mounts are the two main types of telescope mounts, and both can be equipped with auto tracking capabilities.
Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer 2i Pro Pack – Motorized DSLR Night Sky Tracker Equatorial Mount
The Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer 2i Pro Pack (available here) is a popular example of an auto tracking telescope mount. It’s a portable equatorial mount designed for DSLR cameras, small telescopes, and other astronomical imaging equipment. The Star Adventurer 2i Pro Pack offers precise tracking capabilities, making it ideal for astrophotography enthusiasts.
Some Of The Best Auto Tracking Telescope Options
Many auto tracking telescopes are available on the market today, each with unique features and benefits. Here are some of the best options to consider if you’re looking to invest in an auto-tracking telescope.
Celestron NexStar 8SE
The Celestron NexStar 8SE (available here) is a highly-regarded auto tracking telescope with an 8-inch aperture, providing exceptional light-gathering capabilities. It’s equipped with Celestron’s SkyAlign technology, making it easy to align the telescope and find celestial objects. The NexStar 8SE features a computerized alt-azimuth mount with a database of over 40,000 celestial objects. It is a powerful tool for visual observation and astrophotography.
Celestron NexStar 4SE
The Celestron NexStar 4SE (available here) is a smaller and more affordable alternative to the NexStar 8SE. With a 4-inch aperture, it is an excellent option for beginners or those with a limited budget. Like the NexStar 8SE, the 4SE features a computerized alt-azimuth mount and SkyAlign technology. Its database has over 40,000 celestial objects, allowing users to locate and track their desired targets quickly.
Meade Instruments LX90-ACF
The Meade Instruments LX90-ACF is another highly-regarded auto-tracking telescope. It features Advanced Coma-Free (ACF) optics, which provide sharp, clear images with minimal optical aberrations. The LX90-ACF is available in apertures of 8, 10, and 12 inches, catering to various needs and budgets. It’s equipped with Meade’s AudioStar computerized mount, which has a database of over 30,000 celestial objects. This makes it easy for users to locate and track celestial objects in the sky. The LX90-ACF is suitable for both visual observation and astrophotography.
How Does The Telescope Auto Tracking Software Work?
Telescope auto-tracking software plays a critical role in the performance of auto-tracking telescopes. The software controls the telescope’s motors, enabling it to move in sync with the motion of celestial objects. Here’s a brief overview of how the auto-tracking software works:
- Alignment: Before the auto tracking software can accurately track celestial objects, the telescope must be aligned with the sky. Most auto-tracking telescopes feature a built-in alignment procedure, such as Celestron’s SkyAlign technology, which requires users to center three bright stars in the eyepiece or camera view. The software then calculates the telescope’s position relative to the sky.
- Database: Auto-tracking telescope software usually includes a database of celestial objects, such as stars, planets, galaxies, and nebulae. This database is essential for locating and tracking targets in the sky.
- Tracking: Once the telescope is aligned and a target object has been selected, the auto-tracking software calculates the object’s real-time position based on its coordinates and current time. The software then sends commands to the telescope’s motors to move the telescope and maintain the target object centered in the eyepiece or on the camera sensor.
- Periodic Error Correction (PEC): Many auto-tracking telescopes incorporate PEC, which corrects for small errors in the mount’s gears.
This feature helps improve the tracking accuracy, particularly during long exposure astrophotography sessions. Users can typically train their telescope’s PEC by guiding the telescope manually or using an auto guide for a specific period. The software will then record and correct any detected errors in the mount’s movements.
- GoTo Functionality: Auto-tracking telescope software often includes a GoTo functionality, allowing users to locate and observe any celestial object in the database quickly. The software will calculate its position by selecting the desired object and commanding the telescope to move to the target location.
- Updates and Customization: Telescope auto-tracking software is usually updatable, enabling users to download new features, bug fixes, and updated celestial object databases. Some software allows users to add custom objects, such as newly discovered comets or user-defined targets.
Intelligent automatic tracking telescopes have revolutionized how amateur astronomers and astrophotographers observe and capture the night sky. These telescopes offer an unmatched combination of convenience, precision, and ease of use. Whether you’re a beginner looking to explore the cosmos or a seasoned astrophotographer seeking the perfect shot, an auto-tracking telescope can be invaluable.
By understanding how auto tracking telescope mounts and software work, you can make a more informed decision when choosing the right telescope for your needs. The Celestron NexStar 8SE, Celestron NexStar 4SE, and Meade Instruments LX90-ACF are just a few examples of the many excellent auto-tracking telescopes available today. With the right auto-tracking telescope, you’ll be well-equipped to unlock the universe’s wonders.
When not gazing at the stars, Jamie enjoys sharing their knowledge with others by writing informative and engaging articles on both astrology and astronomy. With a mission to inspire curiosity and a sense of wonder in others, Jamie is dedicated to making the mysteries of the universe accessible to all.