The Orion XT8 dobsonian is a mid-range reflector telescope. There are a few smaller and less expensive models available in Orion’s classic dobsonian series, and there are a few larger, more expensive models as well. The XT8 offers a good balance between portability, price and performance. In this review we’ll look at the build quality of the XT8, along with how it performs at planetary and “dark sky” objects.
For starters, let’s look at the raw specifications for the XT8. The XT8 features an 8” (203mm) primary mirror. With a focal length of 1200mm, this gives a focal ratio of f/5.9. Advanced observers will enjoy the XT8′s 2” focuser, which allows for larger eyepieces, or even a “T” adapter for short-exposure astrophotography. New observers (or those on a budget) will find the included 2” to 1.25” eyepiece adapter allows the use of 1.25” eyepieces with no noticeable wiggle/slop.
The XT8 does come with a 25mm 1.25” Plossl eyepiece which performs well as a medium-power eyepiece in the XT8. The XT8 features Orion’s EZ Finder II sight. While the EZ Finder II isn’t a terribly bad “red-dot” finder, some observers may see fit to replace the stock finder with something like a “correct image” finder scope, a laser pointer, or even a Telrad non-magnified finder.
Orion ships the XT8 in two boxes. One for the optical tube, and a second for the dobsonian mount base. The shipping box for the mount base was well thought out, minimizing potential damage to the base components. The shipping box for the optical tube was adequate, but as with any piece of delicate equipment – there can never be enough padding.
Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope, (MSRP $349.99)
For many astronomers who are just getting started, dobsonian reflector telescopes are a popular choice. While many newcomers to Astronomy seek out computerized “go-to” telescopes, some prefer the “no-frills” setup a dobsonian telescope offers.
The Orion XT8 dobsonian is a mid-range reflector telescope. There are a few smaller and less expensive models available in Orion’s classic dobsonian series, and there are a few larger, more expensive models as well.
The XT8 offers a good balance between portability, price and performance. In this review we’ll look at the build quality of the XT8, along with how it performs at planetary and “dark sky” objects.
For starters, let’s look at the raw specifications for the XT8:
The XT8 features an 8″ (203mm) primary mirror. With a focal length of 1200mm, this gives a focal ratio of f/5.9. Advanced observers will enjoy the XT8′s 2″ focuser, which allows for larger eyepieces, or even a “T” adapter for short-exposure astrophotography. New observers (or those on a budget) will find the included 2″ to 1.25″ eyepiece adapter allows the use of 1.25″ eyepieces with no noticeable wiggle/slop.
Read the full product review over at Universe Today:
Recently there’s been quite the buzz regarding the plethora of “mobile” astronomy apps available for smartphone and tablet users.
Looking over the published lists, some of the applications are barely usable and some nothing short of amazing. I’ve distilled all the lists down to three essential apps for both the Android and Apple mobile/tablet platforms.
“The app uses Android-powered devices’ built-in compass, GPS, and clock to display an annotated Sky Map of the area it is facing. The map will adjust as the user moves the device. Sky Map enables users to identify stars and planets by pointing their devices towards these objects in the sky. Users can also determine the locations of planets and stars relative to their own current locations with the search function. Inputting the name of a planet or star will direct users towards this object. Over one thousand stars and all of the planets in our solar system are searchable and visible in the app. Users can also view and search for constellations and individual stars“.
NASA recently announced the android version of their popular “NASA App”.
From the app description, the app offers images, videos, mission information, news, NASA TV and featured content.
Some feature highlights include: Thousands of images from NASA IOTD, APOD and NASAImages.org, on demand NASA Videos from around the agency, Launch Information & Countdown clocks, Current Visible Passes for the International Space Station along with Facebook® Connect and Integrated Twitter™ client for easy sharing.
One of my favorite Android apps, aside from Google Sky Map is “Astronomy Picture of the Day”, which allows users of the app to set APOD images as their homescreen wallpaper and download the latest pictures from NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day website. Users can also read interesting facts about the images. The latest version of the app allows users to browse previous APODs, read their descriptions and set them as wallpaper!
If you are of the iPhone or iPad persuasion, you can check out Star Walk 5. At only $2.99 from the Apple app store, the software allows you to track planets, satellites, constellations in real-time, or you can enter a date and time to see what will be visible.
NASA also makes the “NASA App” mentioned above available for the iPhone/iPad platform. According to NASA’s description on the Apple app store, this app is identical to the Android version:
“The NASA App collects, customizes and delivers an extensive selection of dynamically updated information, images and videos from various online NASA sources in a convenient mobile package.“. Best of all, the NASA App is Free!
Rounding out my “short list” for the iPhone/iPad platform is the “Astronomy Picture of the Day” app. The app, developed in partnership with NASA, offers the same features as the Android version. “Astronomy Picture of the Day” allows you to browse through decades of high resolution NASA space photos hand selected by NASA astronomers. You can search through the APOD archives by date and save them to your photo roll or share with friends. You can also save APOD images as your iPhone/iPad background image.
“If you buy cheap, you buy twice.“ was a response I had received when asking otherÂ amateurÂ astronomers about Orion’s new entry-level imager.
Considering the Celestron Neximage is twice the price, it’s no surprise that many in the community were initially skeptical of the unit. Â What bothered me about the skepticism was that no one had actually used one of these units to see what they were or weren’t capable of.
Deciding to put this product to the test, I ordered one from Orion and within a few days it was on my doorstep.Â Of course, like with any other new astro-gear purchase, the USB eyepiece arrived just in time for some of the worst winter weather Arizona had seen in over a decade. Â After the weather cleared out, I was able to test the USBÂ eyepieceÂ on Jupiter, Saturn, The Moon and a quick peek at Venus.
I also aimed my telescope at the Pleiades (M45) and the Orion Nebula (M42), to see if the image chip could pick up some of the “brighter” objects outside our solar system.
If you aren’t familiar with Firefly, the show was created by Joss Whedon (Buffy, Angel, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog) and features the crew of “Serenity” in a “Space/Western” setting. While the show only lasted fourteen episodes (Fox canceled the show after only eleven aired) The show remains a consistent top-seller on DVD and will be a cult classic for years to come.
Firefly also resides in the International Space Station as part of their permanent “entertainment” library.
If you are even remotely interested in sci-fi shows, you won’t be disappointed by Firefly, or the follow-up film made possible by a grass-roots campaign to save the show after cancellation, Serenity.
The cast included: Nathan Fillion (Castle, Dr. Horrible, Buffy), Alan Tudyk (Dodgeball, 3:10 to Yuma, I, Robot, a Knight’s Tale), Adam Baldwin ( Independence Day, Full Metal Jacket, Chuck) Summer Glau (Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles), Jewel Staite (Stargate Atlantis), and Christina Hendricks ( ER, Angel, Mad Men) – several of whom have gone on to shows which, still, eight years after Firefly aired, reference Firefly on occasion (One notable example is Castle)
With the holiday season in full swing, and many people looking for gift ideas, a telescope is a great choice for anyone interested in Astronomy. For many beginning Astronomers, the hardest part is picking a piece of equipment. The best advice I can give is the “best” telescope is the one you use often.
Too often people end up spending thousands of dollars on overly complicated equipment which is used once or twice, then banished to the closet, never to be used again. Other times, people get cheap, inferior products that provide disappointing views and again, are banished to the closet.
Important considerations regarding telescope are aperture, cost and quality.
Many people will tell you “bigger is better” with regards to aperture, and this is true, to a certain degree.
While it is true that a 12″ telescope will have far more light gathering than say, a 3″ telescope – such a large telescope may be unwieldy and difficult to transport. Consequently, a small 3″ telescope may not bring in enough detail on objects.
In this economy, cost is definitely a factor. Buyers want the best value for their money and want to make sure they are receiving a quality product. It is inevitable that lower cost telescopes will have fewer features or less robust construction than a higher cost unit, but there’s a HUGE difference between “inexpensive” and “cheap. The previous distinction is what I believe to be the most important factor in quality.
There are many different technologies that have been used on telescopes since the 1600′s. Today many manufacturers can use plastic lenses instead of glass, fiberboard tubes instead of metal, black paint instead of flocking, etc. Construction is important in a telescope, and generally speaking, the more expensive, higher end telescopes are built to last for years, due to better materials and better mirror/lens coatings.
The Galileoscope was created as an International Year of Astronomy 2009 project and is a great tool to use for outreach events. This telescope mimics one of Galileo’s original refractor (lens based) telescopes. At a cost of about $50 this telescope is priced well for what you receive.
The telescope is of inexpensive design, and is sold in “kit” form, which I feel makes this telescope an excellent teaching tool.Â One other feature is the 1/4-20 mounting nut on the bottom of the telescope that allows the Galileoscope to be used with virtually any tripod.
The other inexpensive telescope I use regularly is the Celestron FirstScope 76mm Dobsonian Reflector.Â This telescope, while being small brings out quite impressive views of Solar System objects and some nebula like M42 (Orion Nebula).Â The “table-top” design makes this a nice “grab and go” telescope to take when camping.Â (I’ve since mounted mine to a tripod)
I suggest purchasing the Celestron Firstscope with the optional accessory kit, which includes a moon filter and two additional eyepieces.Â While the included eyepieces are inexpensive, the moon filter will be invaluable since that is one object the Celestron Firstscope excels at viewing.
You can find the Celestron Firstscope model in stores or online from around $30, to the $50 range for a “bundle” with the acessory kit.
Both of the above telescopes are inexpensive “starter” telescopes that will easily last long enough to keep a new Astronomer interested until they can “graduate” to a more robust telescope.