Hardware

Best Computerized Telescopes for Linux

We are living in exciting times, don’t you think? Interstellar objects are visiting our galaxy. Astronomers are winning Nobel. History is being made in so many fields of Astronomy. Thanks to the advancements in computers and technology, today, anyone can indulge in amateur level astrophotography. You just need the right equipment, a few add-ons, and you are all set.

However, before you set your eyes at the Saturns rings, Martian ice-caps, or Jupiter’s moons, you need to learn the basics of Computerized Telescopes. Worry not, if you don’t know what those are. We will be covering all that in the buyer’s guide section. While the computers in most popular brands support windows, in this article, we will be reviewing the top 5 best computerized telescopes that support Linux too.  So let’s begin!

Meade LX200 ACF

Meade LX200 ACF is the most recent incarnation of the classic Mead LX200. The 8 inches aperture model comes with Advanced Coma-free Optics (ACF), and a GPS assisted setup for ease of use. In terms of design, its telescoping tube is fixed between the two robust and heavy-duty forks that are coupled to the base housing its brain – an Autostar II minicomputer.

The mounts provide alt-az movement by default. But you can also change it to an equatorial (more on alt-az and equatorial will be discussed in the buyer’s guide portion). After a straightforward auto-alignment procedure with the help of a GPS locator, the telescope gets ready to peek into the deep space.

The ACF design of this model uses a hyperbolic secondary mirror to yield a high-performance optical system that showcases pin-sharp stars across the field of view.  As per our experience, the field of view is vibrant and bright. For optics, the ultra-high transmission coatings deliver excellent higher contrast views. What’s more, the computer’s database contains an impressive library of 147,541 heavenly objects for you to have a look at.

Overall, this is a small (weighing 33kg) yet powerful telescope. It is an ideal upgrade for stargazers who are looking to take their astronomy knowledge to the next level.

Pros

  • University grade piece of equipment, used by professionals
  • Has a built-in GPS
  • Has a database of 147,541 objects

Cons

  • Takes two people to mount the telescope on the tripod stand
  • Expensive

Celestron NexStar 8SE

The NextStar telescope series in Celestron’s inventory are catadioptrics that combines lenses and mirrors for a longer focal length in a relatively compact body. This one has an 8 inches aperture and can be considered a daddy of the series.  With this aperture size, you can focus Pluto if you are lucky enough to have a clear atmosphere.

Additionally, the optics are well made and offer fantastic image clarity at the 150x – 200x magnification range. You can push the magnification even further, but we wouldn’t recommend it for less bright objects. The dimmer objects, obviously, can be viewed in greater detail because of its ability to gather more light.

The 8SE comes in robust boxes that aid easy transport. You can conveniently fit it in the back of your car’s trunk. Its setup is straightforward (took us 15 minutes), and the takedown process is equally easy. While the mounts support the alt-az movement, you need to tell Celestron’s goto system SkyAlign needs the exact time and geographical location to start functioning.  Once that is set, you’re ready to witness 40,000 objects stored in the database.

That said, with its next-level tracking and goto motor, fantastic optics, and magnification, the 8SE is a smart piece of programming that will surely satisfy any beginner’s thirst for astrophotography or more!

Pros

  • Larger aperture to peek deeper into space
  • Fantastic image clarity even at 150x – 200x magnification
  • Easy to transport, mount and dismount

Cons

  • Is rather hard for beginners to align properly
  • Customer support isn’t of much help so pray to God your telescope doesn’t get defective

Skywatcher Skymax-127 OTA Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope

The Skymax 127 has a conventional design with cast metal lens rings & backplate and a “black diamond” finish. But make no mistake, there’s nothing flimsy about its construction. Besides, its 5 inches aperture offers a 100 to 150x magnification.

Like the previous model on our list, 127 is also a Catadioptric telescope. It is basically a Cassegrain with a collector plate on the front for better spherical aberration. Moreover, with approximately 33 percent obstruction, the Skymax 127 has the potential to perform exceptionally well on distant planets as long as the optics are well made.

The focuser is smooth and creates very little – if any – image shift. Image details are roughly on par with 100mm APO if you stay within a moderate magnification range. It is compact, easy to mount, and dismount. On the other hand, it takes some time to cool down and is rather heavy for the size. We even noticed a stray light problem when the bright objects are near the field edge.

In general, this is an excellent budget interplanetary scope for people who intend to venture into Planetary and Lunar astronomy. Use it with medium magnifications, and it will never disappoint.

Pros

  • A clear and powerful telescope
  • Offers 100x to 150x magnification
  • An economical and budget-friendly option

Cons

  • Has a very basic design
  • Images start losing their quality on higher magnification

Skywatcher Explorer 130P SynScan AZ GOTO

This telescope has a Newtonian reflector design with black OTA and a sparkling silvery finish. It has a 5.1 inches aperture and 25.5 inches focal length. As it is F/5, the reflected images are very crisp, and even the deep space objects are remarkably bright. It gives you a much larger field of view, which makes this scope ideal for deep space objects.

Furthermore, its focuser is a 2 inches rack & pinion with 1.25 inches adopter. This is the closest you will get to the dual speed focuser in this price range. The bigger wheels on the scope are made of aluminum with rubber covering for grip. In addition, the 6 x30 finderscope is also very useful to track down your required object in the sky.

This telescope comes with AZ Goto mount, sturdy stainless steel legged tripod, and houses 43,000 objects in its database to have a look at. After initial alignment, the telescope’s computer will automatically track the object on the sky while keeping it in the middle of your view.

Suitable for astrophotography, astrology, or even late-night stargazing, this telescope will satisfy both amateurs as well as advanced users because of its ease of use, Synscan Goto mount, and faster operation.

Pros

  • Has a comparatively larger field of view
  • The Auto AZ frame is comfortable
  • Suitable for beginners as well as professionals

Cons

  • Has a complex alignment system
  • The focuser could have been better

Celestron – PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope

The second telescope by Celestron on our top five list is the PowerSeeker 127EQ. It is another trendy model for beginners who want a telescope with a larger aperture on a relatively modest budget.

It has a 5 inches aperture, 39.37 inches focal length. It comes with a 3x Barlow lens, accessory tray, and an aluminum tripod – making it the complete package. Besides, the package includes TheSkyX astronomy software, and its lens comes covered in the hi-transmission coating. Due to a larger eyepiece, the magnification of this little beast can grow up to 150x and even beyond.

Like any other reflecting telescope, the only hassle is with collimation. For best results, you need to regularly adjust the primary and secondary mirrors so that they maintain the focus. To do that, you can read the instruction manual and purchase specific equipment designed to make collimation easy for everyone.

All in all, if you want to introduce your kid to astronomy, this is where you should start. Its potent combination of features, value, and power makes it an ideal choice for aspiring astronomers.

Pros

  • It is a complete package
  • Comes with TheSkyx Astronomy software
  • Affordable telescope

Cons

  • Requires frequent collimation
  • Customer support isn’t very helpful

Buyer’s guide

In the second section of our article, we will take a comprehensive look at the essentials, parts, types, and advantages/disadvantages of computerized telescopes.

The essentials of Telescoping

While looking at appropriate computerized telescopes, it is essential to take certain vital considerations in mind. For instance, the location of your telescope, portability, aperture, mount, magnification, and of course, your budget. Let’s take a look at these individually.

Location

The ideal location for a telescope is the moon because there is practically no atmosphere there at all. However, reaching the moon can be a hassle. Hence, it’s best to select a location for your telescope where there is considerably dark. You won’t be able to observe faraway galaxies through your suburban backyard. Telescopes should be used in a place away from the light-polluted skies of the city.

Portability

As it is evident, larger telescopes are hard to transport. It is too heavy, unwieldy. And require either a permanent observatory, so you don’t have to move and assemble time and again. Clearly, there is a trade-off between performance and convenience. Travel telescopes are portable but may not give you the performance you desire.

Aperture

Perhaps the most essential aspect to consider for a telescope is its aperture. This is because aperture determines how bright and sharp the image will be formed on it. In the case of apertures, size matters. Bigger the aperture, better the image will be. Nevertheless, a bigger aperture opens up portability and size issues. So keep everything in mind before settling on one.

Magnification

All telescopes magnify. The level of magnification depends on the eyepiece and focal length. While some people consider magnification to be everything about Telescopes, it isn’t. Raw magnification alone does no good. It merely turns a dim body dimmer and a brighter one blurry. So a higher magnification isn’t always everything. You should be able to clearly see the magnified image.

Power

The power of a telescope is determined by the magnification it can provide. As a rule of thumb, go for a magnification twice its aperture size in millimeters. Generally, observers use low magnification for faint objects like galaxies, and medium-high for brighter objects like planets and moon.

Budget

Computer-controlled telescopes don’t come cheap. They’re expensive than ordinary telescopes. You can still get some good deals if you do proper research about the purpose you are buying it for. A budget computer telescope will always make a compromise on power since more power means you have to shell out extra dollars. So you have to strike a balance between the two.

Parts of a Telescope

Following are central parts of the telescope

Mirror/Lens

Consumer telescopes can be either refracting or reflecting. Accordingly, the primary light-gathering part is its mirror or lens. The bigger the mirror/lens, the better it is. On the contrary, a scientific telescope is always reflecting telescopes because mirrors have a much smoother surface than the lens.

Focuser and eyepiece holder

The eyepiece holders are available in three different sizes. These are 2.45cm, 3.18cm, and 5.08cm. Focuser – as the name suggests – is used to adjust the focus of the piece.

Mount

You will need an excellent telescope mount if you are looking for the best computerized telescope. This is because it carries the weight of the telescope and keeps it focused in a particular direction. And if you are doing astrophotography, you will need to keep the telescope mounted in a particular direction for hours. Now, there are two types of mounts, equatorial and altitude-azimuth. Both of them can move the telescope across the two axes. The only difference is that one of the axes in equatorial is across the rotational axis of the earth. Equatorial telescopes are used by scientists and professionals.

Finder

A finder – as the name suggests – helps you find objects. Professionals may not need a finder, but it is a must-have accessory for people who are just starting out. It comes with crosshair and helps you focus on smaller targets. Once you have aligned a finder with a telescope, you can get the view of spatial bodies through the crosshairs. Finders are available in three primary styles. Peep sight is very basic and suitable for beginners, reflect sight projects a laser towards the sky, and the third type is like a mini telescope. It’s more complicated (in operation) than the two but can help you find even the faintest objects.

Types

There are two major types of computerized telescopes. These are:

GOTO or Motorizes telescopes

The GOTO telescopes are the most popular of the two. These have motors and computers built into the mount of the telescope. You simply have to select the object using the computer’s control panel. The computer then automatically moves the telescope into a particular position with the help of motors in the mount. These motors then coordinate with a computer to keep the object within the eyepiece for as long as one requires

Non-motorized telescopes

Non-motorized telescopes, on the other hand, lack motors. They do have a computer built into the mount, though. You have to manually move the telescope towards the object you wish to view. The computer merely acts as a guide for the whole process. They are comparatively cheaper than GOTO motors.

The advantages and disadvantages of computerized telescopes

For beginners, computerized telescopes are particularly advantageous. They help you locate many more objects and in a relatively much shorter time span than manual telescopes. Besides, they are straightforward to operate and maintain as they do not need extensive knowledge of the operation. Moreover, computerized telescopes can also be a great asset for people living in the cities under semi polluted or polluted skies. This is because pollution blocks the view. Manual focusing requires taking stars as reference points, which becomes very difficult in urban settings. A computerized telescope can do the job for you without much hassle.

As we discussed in the budget portion, computerized telescopes are expensive, and this is their main disadvantage. Another disadvantage is that too much reliance on computers can hinder your understanding of astronomy. Since operating a manual telescope is an experience unlike anything in terms of learning and knowledge, you miss it in the computerized telescope. This is perhaps one of the reasons why professional astronomers prefer to work with manual telescopes.

Final Thoughts

Stargazing starts as a hobby and turns into a passion because once you start observing the universe through a telescope, you never stop. This buyer’s guide is by no means exhaustive. There is so much you can talk about in a limited article. We hope you enjoyed this write-up and got to learn a thing or two about computerized telescopes. All the products mentioned in our top five list are considered a market standard because of their top-quality and popularity. They support Linux and are intended for beginners as well as those who want to up their game.  You can choose any of them and will never feel disappointed in the selection. So are you ready to peek into space?

About the author

Syed Asad

Syed Asad

Asad is passionate about all things tech. He brings you reviews of the latest gadgets, devices, and computers