Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Celestron Nexstar 8SE Computerised Telescope in Singapore

Mr. Spock's recommendation. Source

My grandfather bought me a telescope many years ago. I think it was a 2 or 3-inch (diameter) refractor telescope. It was not a big scope, had a tripod stand and you swing the scope manually around and point to anything: trees, living rooms, rear windows, distant lampposts, etc.

The most fascinating things can be seen at night when the sun sets and the sky reverts to its natural darkness. People often ask me what we can see in Singapore; a common misunderstanding is that urban places like Singapore are not suitable for any sort of star-gazing. That turns out to be quite untrue. Even in light-polluted Singapore, I could point the small scope to the moon and see its craters, to Jupiter to see its large moons and stripped gaseous body, and to Saturn to see its magnificent rings. Every time I observed Saturn, even with a humble and 'cheap' small telescope, I would audibly gasp. It's unlike anything I'd seen before, even after looking at it numerous times.

So last year I thought I should rekindle the hobby, and decided to buy a new telescope. The current state of amateur telescopes is this: computerised telescopes with databases of tens of thousands of objects that they can be instantly pointed to. A popular choice is the Schmidt Cassegrain telescope that Celestron pioneered which allows it to have a quite a large aperture without it being physically too long. The price is quite reasonable too.

After researching for quite a while, I bought a Celestron Nexstar 8SE 8" telescope from Amazon. Mr. Spock would have done the same as the optical tube is quite similar to the C8. It cost US$1200, and Borderlinx/DHL shipping was S$499. The same scope can be bought at the Science Centre for a thousand dollars more. (Astro Scientific Centre is the local authorised Celestron dealer.) I decided to take the risk and save some money and go with Amazon.


So what's so wonderful about this telescope? The most powerful feature is the way technology allows the observer to be able to see objects very quickly. Just make sure the telescope is level on the floor, punch in your coordinates (bring your GPS along), and point the scope to ANY THREE bright objects. Seconds later, bingo! The scope will know what the heavens look like at your location and you can choose any object in the database, and the scope will just go there. The thing is so accurate every time, it's truly mind blowing.
At the open field near MGS
The moon is setting...

An accessory I bought was the NexImage Solar System Imager, a fancy name for a small webcam that's tweaked to shoot videos of planets and the moon.

So far, I've managed to see quite a few amazing objects such as the Mars, Venus, Orion Nebula, Ring Nebula, Alberio, Pleiades and other less bright objects. Yes, they won't look like the very nice pictures taken by very large telescopes, but it doesn't really matter. They can still be seen quite well. It's going to take awhile to go through the list of gorgeous space objects, but it's definitely fun! To think that these bright sparks in the sky are millions of kilometres away and yet modern equipment allows us to see them is just mind boggling. Clear skies!