One of the hazards of amateur astronomy is the tendency to become a collector of telescopes.
Celestron Starhopper 8-inch Dobsonian (left, pictured with Noah in 1999) and Orion XT10i (with Noah in 2013)
I currently own two Newtonian reflectors (scopes with big mirrors on the bottom) and two refractors (smaller scopes with lenses). The ones I now use frequently are the Orion and the TeleVue.
Refractors: TeleVue 85mm f/7, circa 1970 Sears (Towa) 60mm f/12
In general, the big ones are good for fainter objects and higher magnifications. The small ones are more portable, and they're better for wide-angle starfields, the Sun, and astrophotography.
All four of my scopes are on so-called alt-az mounts, meaning they rotate in simple up-down and left-right directions, as opposed to the more complicated equatorial mount, which is tilted at a funny angle to align it with the Earth's axis. In computer graphics terms, alt-az mounts rotate in local coordinates, while an equatorial mount rotates in world coordinates (right ascension and declination).
None of my mounts are GoTo. They aren't
motorized, they don't automatically follow the rotation of the sky, and they
can't find objects and point at them. But the Orion is
includes a keypad and rotation sensors that allow me to select objects and
manually point the scope toward them. And all of the scopes are easy to set up
and use, removing one of the biggest impediments to actually getting outside
with a telescope.
Before dobs and SCTs, the typical amateur instrument was a small aperture, long focal ratio refractor like my Sears 6331C, which my dad bought in 1970 for around $45. As a kid, I got my first look at Jupiter and Saturn through this decent telescope and its pretty awful Ramsden eyepieces.
I waited a long time before buying my own scope. I got the Starhopper in 1997. I got the TV-85 in 2004, just before the Venus transit. The serial number on mine is in the low 2000s, and the instruction manual is autographed by Al Nagler, TeleVue's founder. The XT10i came in November of 2011. So apparently I suffer from the telescopic version of the seven-year itch.
I also have a bunch of eyepieces, but the three I use most are a 17mm Nagler Type 4, a 5mm TeleVue Radian, and a 32mm TeleVue Plössl.
Here are links to the places where I got most of my stuff.
- Company Seven, an actual telescope store a few miles from my house. Marty will talk your ear off, but he knows what he's talking about. (RIP Bruce, for whom this was equally true.)
- B & H Photo, where I got the T-ring and T-adapter for my camera