Astronomy

Does it make more sense to upgrade our existing telescope or to buy a new one?

Does it make more sense to upgrade our existing telescope or to buy a new one?


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We're at a bit of a crossroads here, since we're faced with what appears to be a tough choice.

We've got a Celestron 11" SCT tube with a Losmandy G11 equatorial mount, all bought in 1996. The mount has motors, but they're only capable of 5 tracking programs (Moon, deep space, etc). The tracking also doesn't appear to work quite well at the moment, but we may be able to fix that on our own.

We may, however, have an opportunity to acquire funding for an upgrade. We could upgrade the mount (or buy a new one), so that it is completely computerised and is capable of finding and tracking objects with ease. For that upgrade we've been given a ballpark of 2000$. I don't know where the number comes from, but let's assume we can have the desired upgrade with that sum.

Now, here's the question - wouldn't that money be better spent on buying another telescope, e.g. a Celestron Evolution 8 (same price range), which is already computerised, and is overall much easier to use? I realise there's a difference between 11" and 8", but I've had the opportunity to compare them in field and for our purposes, I couldn't find it.

We are a small astronomy club. Our activities with the telescope hardly go outside the scope of amateur astronomy - we look at the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, sometimes Mars. We do sometimes look at, e.g. the Orion nebula, but so far that's the extent of our endeavours. We do not expect to transition to astrophotography, beyond what can be achieved with DIY solutions, nor do we use the telescope for research or data acquisition.

All things considered, which option - the upgrade to our existing telescope, or to buy a new one?


Review: Celestron StarSense Explorer Telescope

Few of us can see the Milky Way from our homes any more due to light pollution, and fewer still spend nights around campfires staring up at the sky. That's too bad because there's a brand new comet, Comet Atlas, gracing the heavens right now. My kids and I watched it last night through the lens of a telescope. With a pandemic raging around us, there was something calming about knowing it's out there.

If you've felt an inkling to peer up at the stars, I have good news: It's never been easier, even if, like me, terms like declination, inclination, and azimuth mean next to nothing to you. This is where Celestron's new StarSense Explorer auto-locating telescope and companion app comes in. It eliminates the technical hurdles of using a telescope and lets anyone locate stars and nebulae with just a smartphone.

Software on our phones and desktops has long simplified the night skies by providing guides and mapping out planets, and even giving precise locations of objects. My personal favorite is Stellarium, which can be used to control a telescope on a motorized mount. Unfortunately, motorized tripods are not cheap, and getting it all set up requires a good bit of effort.

Celestron saw an opportunity to simplify things considerably. The company took the power of a star map and combined it with an affordable set of telescopes and mounts. The secret high tech ingredient is, in fact, wonderfully low tech and completely fitting: a mirror. Yes, the magic here is a mount that sticks off the side of Celestron's telescope and holds your phone in place. The app uses your phone's camera, pointed down into a mirror, to figure out where your telescope is pointed, and then directs you which way to move it to find whatever you want to look at.

The model I tested is the Explorer DX 102AZ refractor telescope ($400). There's also the Explorer DX 130AZ ($400), a 130 mm Newtonian reflector telescope the StarSense Explorer LT 114AZ ($180), a 114 mm Newtonian reflector telescope and the StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ ($180), an 80 mm refractor telescope. All of them utilize this smartphone mechanism.

The package arrived in a single large box, and I was a little worried about how hard it would be to set up. But fortunately the directions are simple and I had it up and running in just a few minutes. You need to calibrate it using a fixed object about a quarter-mile out (I used a stop sign). Then you download the app and drop your phone in the holder. Officially, StarSense supports the iPhone 6 and up and "most newer Android phones." I used a Nokia 7.2, which is not officially supported but worked fine.

I was trying to test this in Athens, Georgia, in January and February, which turned out to be some of the rainiest months on record. The first few nights were met with mixed clouds, but there was a full moon, so I started simple: I opened the app and tapped the moon, and the arrows guided me around until I had the moon in my sights.

The process of finding an object with the app is simple you can search or you can pan around the interface and tap something you want to see. Then the app shows arrows directing you in which direction to move the telescope. The fastest thing to do is to move it by hand until you're close, and then use the included slow-motion adjusters until the app says you're in the right place.

That first night we managed to see the moon, Venus, Rigel, and Betelgeuse before the clouds took over. A couple of weeks later, we brought the telescope down to Edisto Island, where the skies are significantly darker, and it was even more fun. This time I was able to mix naked eye observations and telescope observations in a way that seemed to really help my kids connect the thing in the lens with the thing in the sky.

I also attempted the opposite—setting up the Explorer right in front of some bright street lights with the sun just barely below the horizon—and it had no trouble locating stars I could not see with my naked eye due to light pollution. That said, there are probably light pollution limits worth bearing in mind if you live, for example, in midtown Manhattan.

The app is very well done and offers plenty of objects to keep you busy for months' worth of clear nights. (It doesn't, however, work if you haven't bought the telescope.) The objects recommended in the "Tonight's Best" menu were indeed some of the best things to observe. The trickiest part for me was my kids pointing up at the sky and saying, "Let's find that one," and then trying to find it in the app. I won't lie, I faked it once or twice, pointing the telescope roughly along the line of their fingers and picking a star at random in the app to zero in on.

None of that detracted at all from the sense of wonder you get from this setup. Celestron has done an amazing job of taking something that's very complex and distilling it into an experience that's approachable for anyone. If you've ever wanted to get into amateur astronomy but have been put off by cost or complexity, this is the setup you want. My only caution is that this may well serve as a gateway drug. Lately, I've found myself browsing listings for far larger, more powerful telescopes.


What are the different flavors of 5G?

The sub-6 GHz signals, which use lower frequencies, travel farther and therefore offer a much wider range of coverage, which is critical for more rural parts of the country. The millimeter wave (mmWave) signals, on the other hand, can offer significantly faster performance but offer a significantly smaller range (think Wi-Fi hotspot size per mmWave cell).

Ideally, of course, you would want a service and a phone that would support both types, but, unfortunately, none of those exist yet in the U.S. While most carriers have what are called spectrum in each of those frequency ranges, the earliest 5G phones only support one or the other. This is a big part of the reason that some people are waiting.

Another key question to ask yourself: Are you (or the person who's ultimately getting the phone) in an area that currently has 5G service or is expected to get it soon?

We’re still in the early days of 5G, so coverage is definitely limited. However, carriers have finally started publishing coverage maps that allow us to see where their 5G service offerings are available.

If you are in a coverage area, ready for a phone upgrade, and are considering whether or not to get a 5G-capable device, then the story starts to be more compelling. For one, 5G is going to offer you faster download speeds in a given location than you’ve been able to get with 4G. If you’re the type of person who downloads a lot of Netflix, Disney+ or Amazon Prime videos, you could see nice improvements.

However – and this is important – depending on the type of service available, those speed improvements may not be very impressive, at least for right now.


Selling a House "As Is"

There are some situations when it makes more sense to sell the house as is. Let's say the property in question needs a lot of work. It has holes in the walls all the way to the exterior, and urine-soaked wood floors. Much of the electrical system doesn't work, and the bathroom tub has fallen through the joists. All the faucets leak.

This is not a home that can be easily or economically fixed. A coat of paint won't help. In this case, you might want to just price the house low enough to attract multiple offers. You can probably anticipate that only contractors and flippers will make offers.


Changes to your credit card

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  • Your credit limit and APR will also stay the same.

Keeping the same card number, credit limit and APR make it easy to manage your new card, as the following features will change when you upgrade or downgrade:

  • Your rewards rate will change as reflected in the new card’s terms and conditions. You’ll start earning your updated rate within two to three business days.
  • You won’t receive a new introductory offer or qualify for the new card’s intro APR (if applicable).
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  • You’ll receive a new card with the same card number, but updated card art, security code and expiration date within seven to 10 business days.

Upkeep Costs

Components in a furnace tend to have similar design life. As a furnace approaches the end of its service expectancy, the failure of one component may foreshadow the failure of others in the very near future. A good rule of thumb is that if the parts and service expense of keeping an existing furnace working exceeds 40 percent of the cost of upgrading, you’re better off going for the replacement unit. Some expensive repairs are, by themselves, deal breakers: The cost of replacing a heat exchanger in an aging furnace that’s out of warranty makes the decision a slam dunk: Start shopping for a new furnace.


Should You Upgrade to a Larger Home?

After living in our first home for almost five years, we were ready to upgrade. With a second child on the way (and at least a third in the not too distant future) we needed more space, so we knew it was time for a larger house. We took a bit of a different approach in that instead of buying a bigger home, we opted to build our dream home. Are you considering an upgrade to a bigger home? If so, I&rsquove asked Miranda to offer her take on whether an upgrading to a bigger house makes good financial cents for your situation.

T oday&rsquos low home prices and low interest rates are making home ownership more attractive to many. And, while first time home buyers are getting in on the act, they aren&rsquot the only would-be buyers interested in making a home purchase. Plenty of current home owners are considering upgrading to a larger home.

In many markets, home owners are looking at homes in the next price range up as good buys, since foreclosures and a slow market are resulting in good deals. But, as tempting as it is to upgrade to a larger home, is it really a good idea? Here are some things to consider before upgrading to a larger home:

Why Do You Want to Make the Move to a Larger House?

Consider your situation. Sure, a bigger, nicer house is a plus, but is your decision based on some sort of notion of status? If your main motivation is to impress others with your bigger home, it may not be the best reason. However, if your family is starting to outgrow your current home, or if you believe that you would enjoy a better quality of life in a nicer home, then it might worth considering making the move.

What&rsquos the Situation with Your Current Home?

The biggest issue with upgrading to a larger house is that you still have to sell your current home. Consider the market in your area. How long is the home likely to be on the market? Are you getting a good enough deal on the larger home to make up for any price cuts you will have to make to sell your current home in a timely manner? Another concern is that your current home may not yield enough of a down payment, due to its own home value issues. If your current home is underwater, or if getting approved for the newer home depends on selling your current house, you may not even have the option of upgrading to a larger house.

Are You Prepared for the Costs of Moving Up?

Before you decide to upgrade to a larger home, consider the additional costs. Not only do you have to think about an increased mortgage payment, but your home insurance and property taxes will increase your costs as well. On top of that, there are costs associated with moving, and you may need to buy more furniture, or make changes to the home. Utilities in larger homes are more expensive, as is yard care and home maintenance. If the home has been foreclosed on, there may be some home repairs necessary. You may not be prepared for the additional costs associated with a bigger home.

Can You Handle the Home if it Doesn&rsquot Appreciate?

Taking on extra debt is always something to be approached with caution &mdash especially if you are planning on upgrading to a larger home. Many people feel that a larger home would get more bang for the leveraged buck, since the appreciation would make up for it. But, even if you buy at the bottom of the market, there is no guaranty that your home will appreciate in value at the rate you expect. As we saw not too long ago, the real estate market crashes, just like everything else. If you are banking too much on a larger home as an investment, you might be disappointed. Consider upgrading as a purchase, rather than an investment likely to yield big returns.


Android users, scroll here

Meanwhile, good news Android fans: Samsung wants you to upgrade too with sweet trade-in deals. Granted, the South Korean giant differs from Apple in that it upgrades its phones not once a year, but many times – can you name all the Galaxy S and Note models released in the last few months? But when it comes to improved cameras and refresh rates, it's easy. The new Samsung phones are better than the old ones.

For the new Galaxy S20, which sells for $999, Samsung will give you $450 in credit with a trade-in of last year's S10, $300 for the 2019 S9 or $225 for the S8.

And just to confuse you even further, the carriers have basically turned the corner, and are sort of offering free phones and deals again with new two-year (or slightly longer) contracts.

AT&T, for instance, will give you a free iPhone 12 with a trade-in of an iPhone 11 Pro and a 30 month commitment to paying $68.49 monthly for an "Unlimited" plan. (That's $2,054 total and you're locked into a plan that could charge more than rivals and you'll have to pay a penalty to leave early. And Verizon charges up to $350 if you leave the two-year contract early.) Trading straight to Apple or selling to a used site would make more sense financially.

@jeffersongraham please fact-check your information. Your piece “Sorry, but you need to upgrade your phone every year” is completely biased and wrong. Example: all major mobile carriers offer 24 month 0% financing, not just Apple. @USATODAY

— Nick Villalba (@Mobile4BizNick) October 24, 2020

T-Mobile throws a $150 gift card on top of your trade-in, once you sign up for service, while Verizon sells you the phone over time, for $14.95 monthly for existing customers or $10.37 monthly for new customers, with a 2 year term, on top of the trade-in. Again, you'll pay more for the phone this way.

A way better deal: Sign up for Apple's credit card, which offers no-interest, monthly installments for the new phone, over a 2 year period. With a $400 trade-in on the iPhone 11 Pro, you're looking at $20.79 monthly. But that's a two-year contract that you'll have to weasel out of in 12 months. (The carriers also offer 0% interest, but check the fine print.)

Meanwhile, the Apple's deal, it ends up clocking in at 69 cents a day.

And you want to hold onto your old phone? Please.

Despite it being more difficult to find, iPhone 12 Pro includes a LiDAR Scanner (Light Detection And Ranging), which measures how long it takes light to reflect back from objects. It helps with augmented reality (AR) experiences and photos, too. (Photo: Apple Inc.)


Disadvantages of Using Home Equity to Buy a Home

Despite the advantages, leveraging your home's equity to purchase another property ties up funds in an asset that is difficult, time-consuming and costly to liquidate quickly in an emergency.

Once the equity is used to buy another home, it can be rebuilt slowly by repaying the loan. However, the only ways to recover it quickly are by refinancing or selling the new property, which may or may not be profitable at the time.

Before 2018, the interest paid on home equity loans was deductible from your income tax returns. Going forward, home equity loan interest can only be deducted when you use the loan to buy or improve the property you put up as collateral.

This means that interest you pay on funds used to purchase investment properties will no longer be deductible unless you get a cash-out refinance.

Taking out home equity to buy a second home also increases your exposure to the real estate market, particularly if your investment property is in the same market as your primary home.

It’s important to consider the risks of investing in real estate:

  • Recognize that property values aren’t guaranteed to increase over time.
  • When markets decline, over-leveraged homeowners face a higher risk of being underwater on multiple properties.
  • One can quickly fall into a cycle of seemingly inescapable debt.

EQ Mount Performance Charts

If you want to know how good our mounts are compared to everybody else's you've come to the right place. I try to update at least once or twice a month, to refine the data and add to it. This is independent data unless specified. You can do your own research, but none of this is skewed. We also have our own in-house custom Test Rigs that can very accurately measure the unguided tracking rate of any mount to 0.001 ArcSecond, which means we can also record the micro acceleration/decelleration of lubricants, stiction, motor tracking and encoder performance over time, compared to 100% of Sidereal Rate. That's why we know what works.

Not just hypertuned mounts (as no other tuner seems to publish any data for comparison to stock mount on this scale. ), but ALL equatorial mounts and compare them online. It makes it easier when making decisions about which one to buy, or whether to tune your mount. Is it that easy? Of course not, this is Astronomy! I have included the native periodic error too, as this is causing the most consternation amongst some owners. The claim is that this figure is the true mark of the potential of a mount from a quality perspective in terms of build and assembly, and that less mounts don't make the grade. Most people guide though with these mounts though. Top of the tree are the Paramounts with 7 arc-seconds RMS (±3.8 arcsec) across their range.

Now let us manage a little expectation here and a disclaimer. Pretty much any well set up EQ mount that can guide via an ST4 port 'should' guide when properly set up down to circa 2-3 arcseconds, which discussed elsewhere is enough for longer exposures under UK skies. Well, under any skies actually. Oh, it needs to do it with your telescope of choice, DLSR or CCD, guidescope and guide camera. This is where it gets a bit fuzzy but I'll simplify where I can. Primarily, it's all about how it's assembled and designed. With guiding, some mounts are more equal than others. Yes, you should also get what you pay for.

All the information supplied is independent, real-world data unless stated. Your mileage will vary. But before you beat up on your dealer/manufacturer for supplying a lemon of a mount, and it is statistically likely it won't be, it's down to you to demonstrate it as fact. So, if your mount doesn't do as stated, check your set up first. On a good night, it should be in the realm of what you see in the tables. If it's 0.3 of an arc-second or so off, that isn't the time to launch off with a flurry of forum posts or lawyers letters to fix it. If you're guiding or just tracking within or under your limits of seeing, then you are doing really good. Everything comes into play, for long exposure - Polar Alignment, Balance, Guide setup, backlash even voltage! That's a dedicated 13.8v/3 Amp supply for you EQ6'ers by the way, not a laptop adapter.

The common rule of thumb is to take off 1/2 to a 1/3 of the stated maximum payload of the mount, if you're astro-imaging. S'not fair you cry! But it makes sense. Sort of. This applies to any worm-driven EQ mount, and should typically be set up slightly east-heavy to provide the mount with an attitude of a controlled fall, so that the RA motor is dictating that precise movement. Your guider by looking at a star dictates sidereal movement, that your motor corrects to. Our tuned mounts can run at full payload and still be sub-arcsecond. It really is down to the build in all cases.

This list which has been around for awhile lists over 120 mounts stated and independently quoted via owners and forums. It's not quite up to date but illustrates cost in Euros, Payload (max), Period Error (PE) and after PEC training or other control. There's no quoted guide performance here as it doesn't account for that, but useful none the less. If you mount isn't in the tables below then try here.

So why is guiding such a mixed bag? Guiding is needed for exposures longer than 60 sec and EQ mount with a lens or telescope over 400mm focal length. The best I got unguided was 8 mins unguided at 320mm fl lens and Canon EOS450D on a Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer, and also using an AstroTrac TT320X-AG. However, that's because it's light and my Polar Alignment was god-like (it normally is, but I also have to work on my modesty), after 15 minutes of tweaking. Start using a small 70mm refractor even at f4.8, or a 150mm f5 Newtonian and it will start to fall apart quite quickly. Auto-guide and your exposures are transformed from 1 minute to 5, 10 or even 20 minute exposures. As you do this your signal to noise ratio drops, and you are rewarded with more detail and resolution as you gather more of those much travelled photons. However, weather dictates all. Seeing is the speed limiter on this visual highway.

But your mount is now having to work harder when guiding. Remember all mounts should be able to guide down to 2 arcsecs? Heck, even a well sorted EQ5 will guide down to 1.4 arcsec RMS with a lot of practice and fettling, https://stargazerslounge.com/topic/243782-expectations-with-guiding/ ) so what's the deal with these more expensive mounts?

Short answer: Payload and Focal Length vs Exposure.

If you read the above thread then 10 minutes means that you can guide forever? Well, your skies will ultimately dictate that, but your mount has to track the sky, not for 10 minutes but for a few hours if you want to gather enough meaningful image data to create those amazing images. 4 Hours is usually what most pro-imagers say is the minimum. That's where reliability comes in and the closer you get to the limit, then the less more critical your balancing will need to be as your telescope changes orientation. We load test our tuned mounts to ensure that the mount is operating to how you use it. It means the performance will be consistent as you will be guiding for longer. Every time you use it.

The venerable HEQ5 and NEQ6 are seen as the benchmark EQ mounts upon which all others are judged. As well as our reference mounts our customers send us regular data, so not is this only independent, they paid to find out how good their mounts are improved, and they usually had data before and after so here it is as an average in a table.

The PE Factory/guided values are out-of-the-box as independently published on the Internet ans customer supplied. The first figure is the peak-to-peak unguided figures for the respective mounts, the second under PHD2, then the third is the overall RMS. Home Modded, is usually owner modified mounts, run via PHD2. DarkFrame tuned data are either our own or customer Reference mounts. We have verifying RA values further, as we have acquired a Telescope Drive Master system and a range of adapter to test and tune various mounts, using PecPrep, to see what's going on under the hood. This system can reduce the PE (in RA only) down to just 1.4 RMS arcseconds on an EQ6. Mounts like Avalon, Paramount and 10Micron (Table 3) are by their nature a better engineered platform with unguided periodic error figures typically into single figures that may match a TDM, for the ultimate unguided performance.?

How do I makes sense of all this data?

Some mounts are more equal than others. So think of it like a racing car, where 1/100th of a second determine Pole Position and second place. The simplest example is how we evolved our EQ6 mounts. They've gone down from tracking 0.42 Arcseconds to just 0.16 Arcseconds RMS in our latest build. Doesn't sound much but it equates to 72% more accurate guided tracking. Remember, you're tracking a star light years away so the movement is so tiny you can barely see it, less than the twinkling of a star in fact. That's more than double the performance of our previous EQ6. So at this level, reliable consistent and accurate tracking is all both guided and unguided. It's how easy you can access that performance consistently which is just as important.

0

Image: Cropped Single Frame 72mm WO Megrez 72+0.8xFRIII (537mm focal length) modded EOS450D ISO100 3600secs on DarkFrame Hypertuned HEQ5 guided with QHY5L-II mono with 50mm WO Guide scope. On Dual bar with WO ZS71/EOS40D Guided Payload 9KG ©2016 David Woods/DarkFrame Ltd td

Table 1 (06/03/20) EQ Sky-watcher - Arc-second Unguided/Guided Performance over 300 second exposures

Sky-watcher Mount Payload Kg ±PE Factory ±PE Home Modded ±PE DarkFrame Tuned** Tested Payload Kg @Focal length
Star Adventurer 5+3 25-50/5** 23/3.2** 18/3/<1.6** 4.5 537mm
EQ5 9/6* 30-45/8** 25/1.8** 18/3/0.6** 6 400mm
HEQ5 18/12* 20-30/3** 20/1.6** 12/3.5/>0.4^^ 11 537mm
(n)EQ6 20/18* 20-30/2** 18/1.5** 7.5/2.0/0.3** 18 1422mm
EQ6-R 20/20* 8/1** n/a 5/2.0/0.25^^
18 750mm
AZ EQ6 GT 20/18* 20-30/2** 28/0.8** 7/2.0/0.3^^ 18 2000mm
EQ8 50/35* 12-25/0.5** n/a 6/2/0.3^^ 9 715mm

Key: *Recommended Imaging Payload **Avg Guided RMS (Customer supplied) @Focal length (tested OTA's on reference mounts/customer data) *** Build Type: 6.5.5 (Flat Earth) ^^ Build Type: 6.3.x (Bonneville)

Table 1.1 (12/04/17) Maximum guided exposure time vs dropped frames (4 hour session @900sec)

Sky-watcher Mount Payload Kg Dropped Frames** Max Exp** DarkFrame Dropped Frames** Max Exp** @Focal length
Star Adventurer 5+3 25-70%* (@4kg) 120 sec Unguided<10% <5% (guided only)*** 900 sec*** 537mm
EQ5 9/6* 30-60%** 600 sec Unguided<10% <5% (guided only)** 900 sec 500mm
HEQ5 18/12* 10-40%** 900 sec 5-10% (Gen1) 0% (Gen2) 3600 sec*** 537mm
(n)EQ6 25/18* 10-20%** 1200 sec <5% (Gen0) 0% (Gen2) 3600 sec*** 2000mm
AZ EQ6 GT 25/18* 10-20%** 1200 sec <5% (Gen0) 0% (Gen2) 2700 sec*** 3200mm
EQ8 25/18* 5-10%** 1800 sec >1% 1800 sec 1600mm

Key: *Recommended Imaging Payload **Avg Customer Data ***tested OTA's on Reference Mounts to BT v6.3.x

Table 2: (06/03/2020) EQ iOptron - Arc-second Unguided/Guided Performance over 300 second exposures

iOptron EQ Mounts Payload Kg Factory ±PE Owner/Tested** DarkFrame Tuned Test Payload @Focal Length Max Exp
SmartEQ PRO 5 40-60/>2 35/4 Testing
3.5** 400mm 300 sec
ZEQ25 14.3 6-10/>2 8/0.9 7/0.5** 9** 500mm 900 sec
CEM25/EC 14.3 4-6/>2/0.3 tba 7/0.5** 9** 1000mm 1200 sec
CEM25P 14.3 10 (mfrs) 10/0.6 7/0.4** 10** 1000mm 1200 sec
iEQ30/PRO 15 10-15/>2 20/0.9 5/0.5** 11** 1000mm 1200 sec
iEQ45/PRO 22 4-8/>1 20/1.2 4/0.6** 15** 2000mm 1800 sec
CEM60 30 4-6/>1 6/0.8 4/0.4** 18** 2000mm 1800 sec
CEM120 55 4-6/>1 tba in testing 25** 1200mm 1800 sec

Key: ** Avg Guided RMS (Customer supplied) @Focal length (tested OTA's on reference mounts/customer data)

Table 2.1 (06/03/2020 EQ Celestron Arc-second - Unguided/Guided Performance over 300 second exposures

Celestron EQ Mounts Payload Kg Factory ±PE Owner/Tested** DarkFrame Tuned Test Payload @Focal Length Max Exp
CG5-GT 9 30/>2 tba ±14/0.9** 7** 400mm 480 sec
AVX 15 15/>2 tba ±10/0.5** 11** 500mm 600 sec
CGem 22 15/>2 tba ± 12/0.6** 14** 1000mm 600 sec
CGem DX 22 15/>2 tba ±12/0.6** 16** 1000mm 900 sec
CGE Pro 25 30/>2 no data 22/0.6** 15** 1000mm 600 sec
CG-X 25 5/>2 5/0.6** ±8/0.3** 22** 2000mm 900 sec

Key: **Avg Guided RMS (Customer supplied) @Focal length (tested OTA's on reference mounts/customer data)

Table 2.2 (06/03/2020) EQ Capable Meade mounts - Arc-second Unguided/Guided Performance over 300 second exposures
0

Meade EQ Mounts Payload Kg Factory ±PE Owner/Tested** Test Payload @Focal Length Max Exp
LXD55/75 15 -- 30-40/12-4 5 500mm 300 secs
LX70 15 -- 15-25/2 9 1000mm 300 secs
LX90* 20* -- 30-40/>4 -- 2000mm 300 secs
LX200* 22* -- 20-30/2-3 -- 2000mm 600 secs
LX600* 40* -- -- -- 2032mm 600 secs
LX850 40 -- awaiting data -- 2845mm (14") 900 secs

Key: *With EQ Wedge ** Avg Guided RMS (Customer supplied) @Focal length (tested OTA's on customer data) More data please.

0
Table 3 (06/03/2020) Higher end EQ mounts Arc-second Unguided/Guided PE Performance

Manufacturer ±Native PE (peak2peak)* PEC^ Guide PE Peak* Guided RMS** Max Payload Cost
Paramount ME+ 3.8 0.8 2.0* 0.2* 109kg £11400
Paramount MyT 6.7 1.2 3.5* 0.2* 23kg £5900
Mesu 200 3.8 0.8 3.2* 0.25* 90kg £5700
Avalon M-Uno 5.6 1.5 2.5* 0.41* 20kg £4900
Pierro Astro EVO6 8 1.6 2.2* 0.6* 20kg £2250
Sky-Watcher EQ8-Pro 10-12 1.4 2.5* 0.3* 50Kgs £2999
Celestron CGX-L 5-10 (mfrs*) tba 2.0* 0.5* 34kg £3400
Celestron CGX 5-10 (mfrs*) tba 1.5* 0.5* 25kg £2350
iOptron CEM60 4-6* (mfrs*) tba 2.0* 0.4* 30kg £1699
10Micron GMS1000 8 1.5 2.0* 0.39* 25kg £6400
Takahashi EM200 Tekka II 7 1.4 3.2* 0.25* 18kg £5300
DarkFrame NEQ6 (6.3.x) 7.5 (±28 ∆) 1.4 2.0 (5.9)∆ 0.25 (1.5)∆ 20Kg* £499
DarkFrame EQ6-R 7 tba 2.0* 0.25 20kg* £499
DarkFrame AZEQ6GT (6.3.x) 7.5 (±25 ∆) 1.4 2.0*(6.5)∆ 0.25 (0.8)∆ 20.3Kg* £499
StellarDrive 6 Series (All) 5 (mfrs*) 1.4 0.5* 0.18* 25kg* £699

Key: *Customer/Test data ^PemPro/PPEC/TDM **PHD Data ∆ (stock)

Have a read of this data table for other brands and models: http://lambermont.dyndns.org/astro/pe.html

Table 3 is a new table This answers the question concerning real Periodic Error (PE) performance. This data will make you think: Why bother buying a more expensive mount? Well, as you can see they do offer serious performance. For a serious price. The limiting factor is our wonderful UK Skies. If you are thinking your needs are more than your EQ6 can handle, start saving. Payload is the biggest advantage these more expensive models offer as well as amazing design and build quality. What is interesting is that our mount Bonneville EQ6 rebuilds meet the Pierro Astro EVO6 head-on with similar PE of circa ±8 arcsecs. The EVO6 has impressive performance from a geared platform, and with a precision RA worm gear. Ours though is with the stock worm gear. StellarDrive's have precision worm-gears in both axis that take the periodic error circa ±5 arc-sec and matches the Takahashi EM200 of which it is an almost copy of.

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Interestingly, the Sky-Watcher EQ6-R has shaped up to be a great mount. Heavier than the other 2 sixes, (that'll explain the handle then), it's higher build quality and architecture moves the game on. Like the others, I'm sure it will have quirks of its own, but we've too noticed a re-calibration of the payloads to make the EQ6-R look better. It does perform better than stock, matching a tuned EQ6, but we have also improved the performance of the StellarDrive 6R, nearly doubling its performance, perhaps making it the ultimate 20kg class imaging mount. It is worth upgrading from your EQ6? Not really if you look at the sums. A tuned EQ6 will match it though and is few hundred cheaper. Is it worth it over the AZEQ6GT? If you don't need the AZ feature then yes, and in the UK market it is a lower price than the AZEQ6GT. I'm certain they wanted to pitch the EQ6-R at a higher price, but again a tuned EQ6 mount is a great leveller. In the UK and Northern Europe at least, the skies are the speed limit.

What is proven beyond any doubt is that we have defined that tuning your mount works! The data proves the fact, with data to back it up. Now, the skeptics among you may still doubt this, but this is fact over opinion. Mount tuning was always seen as a slightly dubious affair, but these results prove there is now a genuine alternative, that allows you to access more of the Deep Sky.

The previous upgrade path of jumping from an EQ6 straight to an Avalon/Mesu 200 solution is now thrown sharply into focus. There's more choice in the middle now. I've added the new Celestron CGX, CGX-L, Skywatcher EQ8-Pro, and the iOptron CEM60, as they are newer intermediate class of mount, and all over £1700. Our StellarDrive 6 is a new Sky-watcher based platform that meets that higher end mount performance envelope at a ground breaking price below all of these, with aerospace grade components such as our SPX Worm-gears in both axis. Just as accurate and cheaper.

If you search the web, you'll find similar data on the mounts listed in any of the tables. These tables are not skewed to make any mount look more favourable than another, even mine! No point boosting/trimming the figures, anyone can with a guide camera can test their own mount for themselves. However, your mileage will vary, as how you set up your mount is more important than your seeing conditions.

We have had to to recall and validate customer mounts with 60 minute single images, because they doubted the capability of our mounts. We did this under warranty, which means our mounts have proven to be very reliable tracking platforms. In fact, latest data illustrates this with 0.66 arcsec per minute drift, at 5000mm (5 meters) focal length. Unguided. We took several customer mounts with similar 4000-5000mm focal lengths and ran the same tests on Jupiter and Sidereal, and came back with equally similar results. We're still testing, as the less than 2 pixel per minute drift on sidereal means we can calculate an unguided exposure vs focal length.

However, as illustrated in these tables it proves that your existing Sky-watcher can be brought up to date and refreshed very cost effectively, to match other EQ mounts costing at least £1200-£4000 more from new. Importantly, our mounts are much more reliable (and quieter) over longer exposures than a factory mount, because they have been setup and optimised individually. Data on our latest Build Type v6.3.x with its enhanced build package improve guided performance by up to 0.3 of an arc-second over the previous build type, and at least twice as good as any Rowan Belt Kit install you'd attempt yourself. All of this contributes to more reliable imaging, even in poorer seeing conditions. It's not just all down to the figures though. Like any mount, it's how well they are made. That is what you are paying for, and the high end mounts are worthy of such distinction.

Please send any guide data you have on your mount especially Meade/Celestron/Vixen and Meade, and I'd be happy to add it to the tables so that others can make more informed buying decisions.