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Dark Matter

GOTO vs Manual mounts: Which do you prefer and why?

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I get many questions relating to Astronomy, telescopes and mounts especially the GOTO's. It's not a poll, just asking for your thoughts and input.

Do you think a GOTO will teach a newbie more or less of the night sky?

What are the pros and cons of a GOTO and or a Manual mount?

Could you manage without a GOTO and if so, in what way?

Do you think a manual mount teaches one more of the basics of field Astronomy, like it was done before the digital and GOTO age began?

If your GOTO broke down, would you still use it as manual, or would you feel like a fish out of water?

Finally, If we rely more on automated mounts and imaging devices, is this a good thing or not?

OK guys, the park is now yours. It will be interesting to see what others have to say.

Thanks and clear skies to all.

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I spent many years with nothing more than a pair of binos, so needed to learn the sky and would be quite able to find my way around if I had to. Having said that, all my telescopes have had goto - I want to spend the time looking AT, not FOR a 13th mag faint blob.

If "Goto=cheating" then maybe having motors to keep an object in the fov is also cheating, or having a decent mount (just hold the scope in your hands) or indeed using any optical aid (binos/telescope)? Goto is just a tool to make life easier.

Edited by Demonperformer
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You don't need a scope to learn the sky, a pair of eyes does it better, you learn the sky to know where to point a scope.

Goto will (should) locate something quickly so you can see more things or spend less time locating them. And we can make mistakes trying to find things. Worst aspect of most goto's is the person operating it, throwing data in is one thing, throwing in the right data is another. Understanding how they operate is another.

Manual mount you have to find things, that is not exactly easy, there are many posts of people giving up. Read the posts on what can I look at, objects do not jump out at you. 3 planets, Orion, Moon, M31. After that they are small, ever tried M1 ?

Have both goto and manual, no problem. Bit like can you drive a manual car and an automatic. In most cases the answer is Yes.

Teaches more before the digital age? No, get off your backside and go look, you are asking this becasuse of the digital age and the scopes, manual or goto, are produced better and cheaper because of it. Take a serious and unbiased look - things were not better before now.

If the goto breaks down then it cannot easily be used, equally if a manual broke it could not either.

Astronomy would not be where it is today if not for automated mounts and imaging devices, people are not aware of the things we do to a great extent, most know what Hubble is. Ask 100 people what Hubble is, ask them waht a 200P is - guess which would come out on top? Then comes Chandra, Spitzer and soon the the Hubble replacement (who's name escapes me - has a J in it somewhere). They are all automated and all image. James Webb - just remembered.

Will say these goto/manual comparison questions get boring. Pick whichever you want/prefer, let others pick theirs, I have both and I will keep both. It is also to an extent irrelevant to many of us, what scope would your children expect and prefer. Many if not most will not understand why it doesn't have a touchscreen interface running from an android/apple software - and perhaps it should even now. Should you not be able to connect you smart phone in and run your goto scope now?

Edited by ronin
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GOTO = cheating

How is it cheating......... I didn't even know it was a test :D

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Personally, I think the push-to mounts, like some of the Orion dobsonians have, or the Televue Sky Tour, are great, as I think they give you the best of both worlds.

I've only ever had one proper "goto" mount (a Nexstar 6SE) and it was good, but I have the most fun with a well-aligned finder and a good map. If I can't find what I'm looking for though, I start to wonder why I don't have a goto though.

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I and many other observers love star hopping, others (and most, if not all imagers) like go-to. The advantage of knowing how to star hop is that if the battery is flat, you are still in business.

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In the month or so when I had a 200P i enjoyed the star hopping aspect. Now I am more interested in imaging I tend to appreciate the speed a GOTO saves me.

I definitely understand the desire to find yourself though.

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I and many other observers love star hopping, others (and most, if not all imagers) like go-to. The advantage of knowing how to star hop is that if the battery is flat, you are still in business.

All very valid points Michael. which brings me to my only gripe with my NEQ6..... no slow motion knobs.
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I've never used GOTO although I've been tempted to get one over the years but I think more out of curiosity than anything else.

My tendency is to find things myself and I have realised that a large part of the enjoyment for me comes from finding objects using star atlas and my brain.

I think a GOTO could potentially show me things that I wouldn't look for given the vast database on them and also I think a tour function for days I can't be bothered to come up with a strategy for hunting myself would be good. So grab and go basically. the problem is the alignment and power requirements of GOTO is enough of a faff that I might as well get a main scope out and do my normal observing.

I think for beginners it depends on the person. I think people who struggle to read a road map and use Sat Nav to find things would tend to buy GOTO and those who can read maps and dont use Sat Nav would probably tend for manual bases.

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I think id depends entirely on the person and what drives them in astronomy. I'm a manual man myself, but a huge part of the enjoyment is hunting out the object in the first place. However, if pure observation is your goal, I can appreciate that this method could quickly end up in pure frustration (it can sometimes take a whole session just to find one particularly difficult object !). It's worth remembering that all us manual guys and gals still rely on star maps, virtual planetariums etc. in order to find our quarry... the only difference is we push the telescope in to direction as opposed to motors taking it there.

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All very valid points Michael. which brings me to my only gripe with my NEQ6..... no slow motion knobs.

It does have slow motion buttons on the hand set, the option for knobs would just make it dearer to produce for next to no advantage.......

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I've never used GOTO although I've been tempted to get one over the years but I think more out of curiosity than anything else.

My tendency is to find things myself and I have realised that a large part of the enjoyment for me comes from finding objects using star atlas and my brain.

I think a GOTO could potentially show me things that I wouldn't look for given the vast database on them and also I think a tour function for days I can't be bothered to come up with a strategy for hunting myself would be good. So grab and go basically. the problem is the alignment and power requirements of GOTO is enough of a faff that I might as well get a main scope out and do my normal observing.

I think for beginners it depends on the person. I think people who struggle to read a road map and use Sat Nav to find things would tend to buy GOTO and those who can read maps and dont use Sat Nav would probably tend for manual bases.

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It does have slow motion buttons on the hand set, the option for knobs would just make it dearer to produce for next to no advantage.......

As mentioned in Michaels post, I also was talking about a flat battery or other synscan failures. handset won't help me then

Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy with it. It just seems to me that if ever anything happens and the electronics get fried I'm left with a very expensive paperweight.

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I am lucky to have both manual and goto, and until this year had been a strict manual chap with not even a motor. However as time seems in such short supply these days, I love the amount I can see in a short time with goto .Setup is an issue but really only takes 20 minutes. I'm quite quick at finding objects manually, (I have experienced finding most myself) and the thrill of doing that is great. but for seeking out some of the real faints in a polluted sky the goto is the tool of choice. If I have 30mins its the dob, If I have a couple of hours its the goto, if I have all night its the lot, dob,newts,frac and beer. Its not cheating its just another way of looking at the sky, and we all enjoy that.

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I've just recently upgraded my EQ5 to goto. I love it. I don't really get away with not knowing the sky as I have to plan my alignment stars. I also have to plan what objects I'd like to look at.

What I've lost in spontaneity, I've gained in ease of finding objects in light-polluted skies. I also find the whole set up procedure quite relaxing as levelling, polar aligning, star aligning etc is a commitment to the next few hours of "me time".

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As someone who uses GoTo and manually star hops, I can see the benefits of both methods.

I purchased my first telescope age 13 (over 20 years ago) and back then GoTo would have been something I doubt I would have even dreamed of. And before that I had already learned all the constellations and key star markers using my father’s binoculars since a very young age. From age 13 to 23, I only used manual mounts in my amateur life, progressing from an equatorially mounted 4.5” Newtonian, to an 8” Alt Az mounted Newtonian. While I will be first to admit that occasional frustration crept in when hunting down a faint fuzzy, there was always an enormous sense of satisfaction when the object in question was finally located, and that education has proved to be incredibly useful today as I am able to use the most basic of equipment when travelling (keeping weight to a minimum) and not being limited by the ability of computer to source power, and tell me what to look at. I think anyone starting out in this hobby should take the time to at least obtain a basic understanding of the night sky and learn the skill of star hopping. Only the other day, I came across a thread on SGL where the OP was complaining they could not align their GoTo as they did not even know the very brightest stars. Everyone always mentions Stellarium, and while it is a great resource, a cheap planisphere and small pocket sky atlas and just your eyes should be where everyone starts. If you are out in the field, your power fails, and you have none of these skills and knowledge, what do you do? Quit for the night it would seem...

Now I will get off my soap box. :grin:

My first experience of GoTo was during my Masters year of my physics and astrophysics study. My project was long term photometry of T-Tauri stars (perhaps for another thread some time) and we were using the 10” LX 200 telescopes of the physics department. While we ended up focussing on just a handful of stars, we initially had a target list of close to 30 candidates, and the ability to quickly, and reliably, slew from one target to another was priceless. It was during this time I came to see the great benefit of GoTo and that saw my next telescope purchase (once I sold out from Physics and went to work in finance) of a GoTo scope.

Less than a year into my first job post studying, I purchased a Nexstar 11 GPS, which is fully computerised with a very reliable GoTo system. I thoroughly enjoyed using (and still do) the scope, and found a great enjoyment of spending more time observing the objects I wanted to view, rather than hunting them down. With the changeable weather we have in the UK, every minute spent observing is precious. The other great benefit was the confidence in the pointing accuracy and knowing that if the object was not visible in the EP, it was because the object was beyond the sky conditions and your scope, not that you might not quite be pointing in the right place. Now I find myself observing most from central London, the light pollution can make even star hoping a challenge when some of the guide stars are hard to spot, and being able to quickly determine whether an object is cutting through that LP, is really very useful.

But that benefit of original training still comes in useful. On one occasion, when the scope still lived in Hampshire, there was power cut while I was observing. I was running from the mains (my powerpack having recently failed and not yet been replaced), and while manually moving a fork mounted scope without slow motion controls is tough, it did not end my observing session, and I was able to benefit from a reduction in the local light pollution.

My next scope purchase was a TMB 115 triplet Apo in late 2004 which was mounted on a Tele Optic Giro DX2 Alt Az mount. I bought this as the 11” was just a bit too large for me to comfortably transport in the small car I owned at the time to dark sites. The 4.5” scope was giving me views that were not far from the 11” in light polluted Hampshire but all I needed was the OTA, a couple of EPs, the mount and tripod and pocket sky atlas.

Quite a ramble, but my conclusion that GoTo is a very nice extra to have, but straight reliance on it, with no manual skills to back it up may leave you ruing that decision at some point in the future.

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Without GOTO:

one learns star-hopping and use of Telrad (or similar) circles to navigate, you get a general picture of the sky and I find that I just like looking at "things" whilst trying to find a specific target - like sightseeing en route to the destination, it's part of the journey. Sometimes it's frustrating to not be able to locate a target - because it's faint, the light pollution is too much etc. Light pollution creates quite large areas of sky with few or no stars to navigate by, thus star-hopping etc. is just not possible. Quite a lot of time can be lost struggling to find barely visible targets and given the few clear nights available in N. Europe, this is a shame.

With GOTO:

(when it works ...) locating some of the fainter, harder targets is eased - the target is probably close to where the scope stops. I don't actually think that one fails to gain a general map of the sky - you need some location skills to do alignment and to know what is visible and what is not. What you do lose is the sightseeing on the way. The number of targets seen in an evening is probably higher - maybe the best use of the available limited observing time.

In general, like car navigators, very useful - especially close to target, but keep half an eye on a (manual paper) map and the direction signs to understand the route instructions.

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for me it's not about whether one is better than the other as they both serve their purpose. on another thread I talked about connection with the sky. for me at least I observe for enjoyment only and when I observe I use this as an opportunity to remove myself from everything going on around me (most of it not bad I should stress but 'getting away from it all' is the best way I can think to put it). one aspect of this is the feeling of connection with the sky I get when finding things myself. I say finding things but really, I am just following the work of others who have already found almost all the things I will ever find - you never know, I may find a SN one day or even a comet......

I have never used GOTO but on another thread I compared how I imagined GOTO/manual to be, with birdwatching. I would see manual observing as being like birding on your own patch and finding things for yourself and all the satisfaction that gives - you never feel bored, sometimes challenged, sometimes it's easy etc but you always learn and improve. I see GOTO in contrast as like turning up on your birding day and then being told by someone that there's a bird X on your patch and then showing it to you.

Whilst this is the same thing in essence, I'd feel more rewarded by the first scenario.

I am sure many people have GOTO and love it but I have never felt the need for it myself - I always prefer to spend more money on aperture. I am not sure you learn the sky any better with manual as you do so I'm sure with GOTO - you need to do various alignments etc and I'm sure it's not always spot on.

whichever route you take, it's about enjoying it. some people want to 'tick' off a long list of objects each night. sometimes I do this but not always. do what you like but enjoy the time you get.

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I have owned a couple of GOTO mounted scopes in the past which did their job well enough but I'm now firmly in the manual camp. I was going to try and summarise why but Shane has said it very eloquently so I'll be lazy and say "ditto" :smiley:

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I think using a manual mount helps to teach you more of the night sky, such as helping you to learn constellations.

For me, the main pro of a GOTO is that I can view more objects and relax a bit more rather than worry about trying to find the objects. I love using a goto at a star party. I can get so much viewing done under the dark skies. I don't want to spend 10 minutes trying to find a particular DSO (sadly, I am no human goto yet!). For me, the main con of a goto is that it requires electronics and a slightly more complicated setup than my manual dob.

The main pros of manual for me are that it's fun sometimes trying to find a DSO and learning the night sky a bit, and that my manual solid tube dob requires virtually no effort to set up. No electronics to connect, nothing to align to, almost nothing to go wrong. Apart from cool down time, it's ready to use in seconds. The main downside to manual is that it takes me too long to find some objects, perhaps ten minutes. Also, with some objects like loose open clusters, I am not actually sure if I have found the object or not. Is that a cluster? With accurate goto, I know that this is indeed the object.

If my goto broke down, I would be okay with manual, and I would hopefully get better at finding objects. I would use a combination of a red dot finder and a finder scope to help me locate objects.

If goto broke down on my dob, I would not like to use it manually because I've found that the dedicated manual dobs work better than the goto versions used manually. So I'd replace it with a manual if I wanted to carry on with manual. If you are torn between manual and goto and like the idea of getting a goto with a view to sometimes using it manually, I would check out how well it works in manual mode before going ahead, or if you are not sure, just go for manual.

I welcome goto and automation. It's there if you want it, and in my case there is no doubt that goto has helped me see more objects under the dark skies at star parties, and it's also great at home when we've had clouds for weeks and I want to get plenty of objects in.

Also, life sometimes gets busy, and if new technology can help you get out there and enjoy the night sky, I think it's great. It's a hobby to be enjoyed, and enjoy it whatever way works best for you.

Edited by Luke

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How about locking this one as it is a duplicate of the same title entered by the same person that is in Mounts.

That one has 17 replies at present so is the one getting most response.

Anyone new I suggest wandering over there and putting in your response.

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From a beginners situation I think the main caveats are, most driven goto's do not have a manual facility so if the power fails so do you, they require basic knowledge to set up which many beginners do not yet have, they tend to be small apertures so show only a small portion of the objects in the database and finally, they absorb a lot of the initial purchase price, For more advanced use a goto can certainly be useful for tracking down the more obscure objects. :smiley:

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