The mount of your new telescope can be one of a few options that are available for lenses viewing the night sky. They’re not all tripods with adjustable legs. The telescope’s mount has a specific purpose aside from holding the telescope off the ground for viewing.
The telescope mount supports the lens that is used to view the sky, but it also aids movement when you’re trying to find an accurate point. It provides a stable point that will keep the telescope from transmitting vibrations from anything around it. We’re going to talk about the telescope mounts available to you as a beginner astronomer…and beyond!
Fixed Mounts and Fixed Altitude Mounts
There are telescope mounts that are constantly in one fixed position. Those are usually in observatories and huge facilities that can view a huge chunk of the night sky without moving around.
A fixed altitude mount will hold the telescope in one position, at one altitude, to see objects rotating as the Earth moves. These mounts are usually on telescopes that are performing a specific purpose and not used by backyard astronomers.
These kind of mounts are also not for amateur astronomers. They are fixed on a single axis in azimuth that will rotate based on altitude. It’s used in transit scopes and designed for astronomers that need precision in their work.
These mounts are sometimes called alt-az mounts, too. They’re pretty simple once they’re explained. They have two motions, which are vertical (altitude) and horizontal (azimuth). Instead of a range of motion that will bring the telescope into a circle, rotating motion, these ones are more accurate because they will not swing wildly.
These mounts are perfect for scanning the sky at a lower power and viewing a wide angle of big objects. They’re not usually used for deep sky viewing or photography, but they can be incredibly accurate when you’re searching for a particular celestial body.
This mount is a similar design compared to the altazimuth mount. It has some advantages and disadvantages over the alt-az. There is no blind spot in the alt-alt like there is in the alt-az near the zenith. There’s a serious problem with the complexity of the mount, and it’s often used for tracking satellites instead of tracking celestial bodies.
The equatorial mount is often used by photographers who want to take pictures of the night sky. The stationary stars will appear to move across the sky when using an equatorial mount pointed at a certain location along the equator. This gives the illusion of movement when things are completely stationary.
It’s easy to align the mount properly with celestial south. An electric motor can be used to shift the telescope along to allow the stars to float out of view. It creates a stunning photograph that makes astronomers want to take up photography.
These are one type of equatorial mount that are used for Refractor and Newtonian Reflector telescopes. The bit that sets this type of mount apart from the regular equatorial mount is the counterweight that is used on the telescope. It gives balance to the entire piece.
A fork equatorial is used for shorter tubes, and that makes it more convenient and easier to use for photography. There’s normally a computer that controls the drive and calculate distances and movement. It’s used in many research scopes used by professional astronomers.
An upgraded, newer model of the altazimuth is what you get in the Dobsonian. The mount was added to Newtonian reflectors because of the size and weight of the telescope. It needed to be a heavy platform designed to keep the telescope from toppling. This mount can hold very large apertures.
This is an addition to many mounts that makes finding stars and celestial bodies in the night sky much easier. While it’s not a mount on its own, it’s added to many mounts like the equatorial and alt-az mounts. It’s basically a computer that will move the telescope to a location based on the axis of the body you want to see. There are normally hand controls that will move the mount smoothly and easily without much effort on the part of the user.
These are all great mounts, and the one you choose will be based on the type of telescope you want. Some types of telescopes like the Newtonian will be mounted on a Dobsonian mount. Consider what you’d like to do with your telescope – whether it’s watching the night sky with your eye or using a camera to take photographs. It’ll influence the mount that you choose as well as its ability to be attached to a computer for a motorized telescope.