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Will telescope technology advance that much ?


Catanonia
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Let me explain my thoughts.

Currently I have a Skywatcher ED120 Diamond refractor at 900mm 120mm and F7.5

Now do you think that within the next 10 - 15 years the quality of the optics will change that much to allow this level of scope to increase in Focal length and reduce in fstop and keep the same apeture ?

Ie in 10 years time will 900mm F7.5 @ 120mm still be the norm unless you spend mega bucks on a scope ?

Put another way do you see the affordable scopes increasing in optical power considerably over the next 10 - 15 years.

The reason for asking, is lets say I was to take a break from astronomy for 10 years, is it worth selling and buying new kit at the time or is it pointless and keep the old stuff in storage because it will be comparable to any new advances.

ps : I am not taking a break, just short imageless nights got me thinking.

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ps : I am not taking a break, just short imageless nights got me thinking.

I'm Just getting used to writing off the summer from a DSO perspective and doing other things instead - although with your narrowband setup you better off an can still get useful data...

Is there going to be a huge jump in performance .. I dont know ... I would hope the costs of some of thee more interesting designs will drop if the market for them grows and soemone like skywatcher can produce a VFM version... The fact that the costs of imaging kit at least at the bottom end are dropping might "stimulate" the market...

Peter...

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Is there going to be a huge jump in performance .. I dont know ...

Definitely not. There may be a further improvement in price/performance ratio but the better scopes are so good optically that there simply isn't room for a "huge jump". The only way you get a "huge jump" is by adding significant amounts of aperture ...

Your scope is not going to age in storage, provided it's kept dry.

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Now do you think that within the next 10 - 15 years the quality of the optics will change that much to allow this level of scope to increase in Focal length and reduce in fstop and keep the same apeture ?

You can't increase focal length, reduce fstop and keep same aperture -- they are all interlinked. fstop = focal length / aperture.

Telescopes are pretty much 100% efficient and have been for the last 100 years (last major improvement was moving from metal mirrors to silver/aluminium coated glass). The eye is fixed, can't do much there. CCDs are now also ~100% efficient, so there isn't going to be much gain there either. The way to get more light is to get more aperture :rolleyes:

For visual observing, I don't think there will be much change. Certainly not at the entry end of the market -- telescopes do a pretty good job there as is (maybe one could see newer filter technologies to block out light pollution lines more efficently?). For more advanced instruments, maybe you could see some flow-down of technology from advanced amateur/professional telescopes; e.g. active/adaptive optics, infra-red cameras, carbon fibre mirrors/construction, complex aspheric mirrors, etc...

The latter would be nice as it would open up more telescope designs and get away from the infernal Newtonian (which is not a good design if you want large fast reflectors, due to the coma).

You can get free-form polishing machines now, which will make pretty much any surface you want; if they were cheap enough to allow a mass manufacturer to churn out hundreds of mirrors each month, maybe we'd see a better reflector on the commercial market (probably with a Nasmyth focus, which would make it much easier to have a big telescope). Still, you'd still need to go to a decent site to get the benefits. Twin that with carbon fibre mirror/OTA, and a you might come up with a practical 1m transportable telescope. That would be pretty nice, and something I think we might see within 10 years (at least one-off prototypes) :)

In summary though -- no, I wouldn't sell my gear now and buy again in 10 years -- I don't think it will be significantly different for most telescopes.

Edited by FraserClarke
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I cannot imagine there would be a huge optical preformance increase over the next few years. Slight improvements and the falling of prices probably.

However on the electronic side of things (cameras, mounts, software) I imagine a large improvement (not that what we have now is not already pretty powerful) on things as is always the case with electronics.

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I don't think the optical quality will improve much, if at all. Scopes from 30 years ago give modern scopes a good run for their money. The 120ED is a great scope, and will still be a great scope in 10 years.

Gadgets seem to become more common, but good old solid mechanics become less common. Also, fittings change. So if you want a new focuser in 10 years, for example, there might not be anything to fit the "old Synta tubes". Probably not, but just an example. Right now there are accessories for any scope currently sold, but bring along a discontinued scope and the story could well be different. So there's incentive to sell on the scope and take what's on the market in 10 years. Also, I can see value for money continuing to increase, so to re-buy in 10 years could be even cheaper than now.

Interesting question!

Andrew

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The laws of physics come into play and we are close to what is possible. What can and, I think, will change is the cost of making very fast optical systems. At the moment if you want a very fast (around f4) refractor you have to buy a Tak FSQ with reducer or Borg astrograph. Both are very expensive, the Tak more than just 'very.'

But if the story of widefield EPs is anything to go by then there will be truly astrographic fast, flatfield refractors coming out at far less than current prices. In this area the laws of physics still apply, of course, but there is room for manoeuvre in terms of production effiency.

So I think SW will be offering your scope in a faster, flatter field version at the equivalent of today's prices.

However, if a scope is good today it will be good tomorrow.

Olly

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When you've got top end scopes with 99 Strehl ratings readily available (if not cheap!!!) there's not much to improve optically. However scopes with machine made optics of that quality will make them much more affordable so the "average" scope will get better.

The biggest improvements will be in mounts, and I imagine the direct drive self aligning mount will be pretty much standard in 10 years time, except for the low end stuff.

John

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And dont forget the scope might acquire classic status. Its always hard to know in advance which products will become the classic 'must haves' of 10 years or more time.

I have a Unitron sat on my study - if I had bought it when it was a current scope I would have paid a bomb - probably the cost of a good 2nd hand car in 1970. 40 years later its still worth £300 - ok not as much as it cost back then but you could have had 40 years use from it. It can be upgraded to use 1.25" EPs if needed and its still a thing of beauty and worth.

On the downside if it had no use then in 40 years its been totally outgunned - I doubt anyone would fork over the equiavalent in todays cash of what the Unitron cost back then for a 60mm long focus achromat. For the same money now you could probably have a scope of twice the aperture and on a computersied mount and still have some change left over.

The Unitron still has outstanding optics - so I guess the answer is no there wont be a huge jump in optical technology but the price performance could be radically different.

Who knows - in a culture of austerity post financial collapse maybe the price/performance wont be changed much either.

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The improvements surely can only be by using them in the space environment, where the playing field will be a level one, and the perfectly fashioned optical elements can deliver without hinderence. Maybe a rent a space telescope company will be the future.:rolleyes:.

Ron.

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The improvements surely can only be by using them in the space environment, where the playing field will be a level one, and the perfectly fashioned optical elements can deliver without hinderence. Maybe a rent a space telescope company will be the future.:rolleyes:.

Ron.

I think the HST very nearly amounts to that already.. and it wouldn't be quite the same for me, I like the "do it yourself" backyarder aspect of it... it's already amazing what's available to us, for the price, right across the range of astro-equipment.. it's a question of expectations leading the market.. costs of manufacture receding thru technological innovation, and the mass manufacturing might of cheap Chinese labour stimulates consumer interest in astro-goodies by 'flooding the market' and 'Brands' need to 'differentiate their products from competitors to win 'market share' so, 'new features' will be the dominant directive unless some digital alternative to optical technology emerges.. something like an iPad you hold up to the sky and touchscreen scroll your way around.. it might even have cloud-penetrating functionality :)

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The improvements surely can only be by using them in the space environment, where the playing field will be a level one, and the perfectly fashioned optical elements can deliver without hindrance. Maybe a rent a space telescope company will be the future.:rolleyes:.

Ron.

Maybe not so much, adaptive optics are already so good as to render the visual space telescope virtually obsolete, telescopes on the ground can now give images as clear as hubble, but with far more aperture.

Imagine when adaptive optics eventually filter into the commercial market - perfect seeing, every night! push for the diffraction limit! :)

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As someone returning after 15 years in the wilderness I wish i had sold my scope back then. I paid £399 for a 114mm Celestron First scope, I kept it is I thought the design has been around for ages it can't go out of date. Well it hasn't really but the quality is much better today and prices are through the floor, as well as mounts being far better. A 150 same model was 599 quid in 1995, no motors or goto then either unless you paid a wedge more.

I can get a better scope now for 130 ish brand new, in fact an ST80 is on a par if not better as its a sharper view. The internet has driven prices down and made things far more available which increases purchasing and driven manufacturers to compete with value for money and better quality for mass produced equipment.

Whether that will hold true for the future who knows, if you have decent kit now it will be worth keeping, look at older Japan made eye pieces compared to same model but mass produced elsewhere.

Also factor in, could you use the money now? Later on you may well have more disposable income and afford better too maybe the resale on a 10-15 year old scope wouldn't be as much then as now.

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The rise in good Chinese scopes (williams optics and Synta etc) over the past 5yrs or so has revolutionised things. Reasonable quality for really low prices!

Maybe we will see shorter focal lengths (see Mike Lockwood making <f3 monster dobsonians), but they aren't exactly mass market. We'll have to see what the Chinese reckon they could sell lots of as to what they'll revolutionise next. Shorter focal length apochromatic refractors are possible, but cost more as their design is harder and require more costly glasses. As mentioned I can see a market for catadioptric f3 astrographs like the Hyperstar for imagers wanting to widefield AND deep, for which the ever larger commercial CCD's will be ideally suited.

CCD can't improve much more as they are already pretty much at the limit (apart from back thinning, which is £££) for quantum efficiency. They could work on reducing the noise, upping the pixel count etc, but pretty soon physics stops you making the next big leap. Eye->film->CCD->nowhere!

AS mentioned, computers will get better. If we could have more sensitive astrovideo cameras we can reduce the exposures (less blurring) and can acquire more frames per second (USB2 places limits on the bit depth and frame rate, especielly for larger sensors). Then the bigger PCs could burn through Gb video files to autostack etc!

So in conclusion if you have 'good optics', I would hold on to them as they'll not be easily beaten. If your optics are a bit rubbish then better and cheaper might come along soon (depends on how the world economy fares).

Thinking about it, you could imagine full-on laser guide star adaptive optics, laser technology is powering ahead at a stupid rate and as mentioned computers are getting faster, so apart from the laser safety issue it ought to be possible to give your large scope very good resolution.

Cheers

PEterW

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CCD can't improve much more as they are already pretty much at the limit (apart from back thinning, which is £££) for quantum efficiency. They could work on reducing the noise, upping the pixel count etc, but pretty soon physics stops you making the next big leap. Eye->film->CCD->nowhere!

Cheers

PEterW

One news item of interest I came across a little while ago was a new imaging chip being developed at Cambridge that they claim has 100 times the low light sensitivety of even the best currently in use at any of the top observatories. Wonder what might come of that in a few years time?

John

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One news item of interest I came across a little while ago was a new imaging chip being developed at Cambridge that they claim has 100 times the low light sensitivety of even the best currently in use at any of the top observatories.

Physical impossibility ... the better CCDs already have quantum detection efficiencies exceeding 80%.

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Physical impossibility ... the better CCDs already have quantum detection efficiencies exceeding 80%.

The gain with these CCDs (often known as L3CCDs) doesn't come from QE, but from very low (zero) readnoise. They are effectively capable of detecting single photons, and therefore able to work on extremely faint sources, or run at very high frame rates. With a conventional CCD, the 5-10e- of noise you get every time you read it puts a minimum limit on how faint the object can be to detect it.

They are commercially available by the way -- you can buy one today (with integrated readout electronics, just plug it into your USB2.0 port) for about 20k£ (Andor is one UK vendor). Not cheap, but certainly not expensive when one compares it to other professional CCDs.

However, they're likely to be of little benefit to amateur astronomers aiming for fainter objects. Already most systems are dominated by sky noise, not detector noise. Reducing detector noise from 10e- to 0e- would have no gain when you already have 50e- noise from the sky background. They also have some more subtle restraints on *maximum* brightness when you run them in the zero-noise mode.

There may be a market for using them to do lucky imaging (currently the main professional use of them) and trying to get the best resolution possible.

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Thinking about it, you could imagine full-on laser guide star adaptive optics, laser technology is powering ahead at a stupid rate and as mentioned computers are getting faster, so apart from the laser safety issue it ought to be possible to give your large scope very good resolution.

Unfortunately I really think the laser safety issues are insurmountable for amateur use. You need very powerful (>10W) lasers to do this -- not the sort of thing you muck around with if you want to keep your vision. And you certainly don't want powerful lasers being fired up into the sky at random!

The field of view you correct is also very small; 10's of arcseconds in size -- at least until you put in 4--5 lasers...

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Short image-less nights? Get yourself a 7nm Ha filter Steve :rolleyes: I have had five or so hours per night for the last week, and still time to get some decent shut eye in.

Although the summer nights are short, I personally find them very relaxing as regards setup and session wise.

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Short image-less nights? Get yourself a 7nm Ha filter Steve :rolleyes: I have had five or so hours per night for the last week, and still time to get some decent shut eye in.

Although the summer nights are short, I personally find them very relaxing as regards setup and session wise.

LOL :) going to give my wo66 and Ha 7nm 1st light tonight hopefully on NGC7000 region :)

Interesting thoughts everyone :)

Edited by Catanonia
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personally i think for the amateur stargazers obviosly the electronic side of things is going to rapidly improve and become cheaper... id imagine goto or certainly auto tracking will be seen on "most" scopes or atleast the option... im sure you will be able to disengage and run manually which sadly at the moment doesnt seem to be an option for most of the bottom end goto.

The digital age is upon us so look out for great home photography and live viewing. Software apps are also going to grow to immense monsters... look at CS5 and Registax...

I think you will see great improvements on coatings... from mirrors to lens. Filters will also become more direct and less intrussive.

"Hopefully" the biggest change will be in light pollution and fingers X'd general viewing as the world jumps on the green earth band wagon... Less pollutents in the air (maybe) and atleast in the UK the awareness of light pollution. I see many councils now taking this up already and changing light buld types... hell some even realise that street lights are no longer required to be on ALL night... back to the good old days when the birds didnt tweet all night and we had morning Chorus... I bet most people under say 35 dont know what the morning chorus is lol.... i know the birds round here certainly dont sleep.

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