Why I Chose My First Telescope, the Sky-Watcher ProED
As an adult, I decided to dive back into my childhood hobby of astronomy. I now live in a place with much darker skies, and I feel the desire to be humbled in my own existence. But, if you’re like me, then the idea of choosing a good beginner telescope for astronomy can be daunting. There are so many types, options, and a wide variance in price.
So, how do you know which one is the best? Well, that really is a personal question I can’t answer for you. I wrote an article on buying your first telescope that I highly recommend you check out. It goes over the different types of telescopes and the pros and cons of them all. You want to make sure you’re getting a telescope capable of meeting your present (and future) goals within the hobby.
The following is a detailed description of the telescope I ended up buying, my reasons for buying it, and what my plans/goals are for the future.
Sky-Watcher ProED Telescope
After much research, I finally settled on the Sky-Watcher ProED 100mm (also called the Evostar) to be my beginning telescope. It is an APO refractor telescope with a 4” aperture. I chose the Sky-Watcher ProED because it had fantastic reviews for both general viewing and astrophotography. As far as APO refractor telescopes go, it is also an amazing value.
APO refractor telescopes can be pretty expensive, with some of the higher-end ones being many thousands of dollars. So at around $700 (at the time I purchased it), the Sky-Watcher was an absolute bargain. The reviews I read said that it gives clear, crisp contrast.
The Sky-Watcher ProED comes in three sizes: 80mm, 100mm, and 120mm. I chose the for its versatility. It will be able to view planetary objects like the Moon and Jupiter easily, and it gives me good definition and light gathering for some deeper space objects like the Orion Nebula. Sky-Walker ProED 100mm
The Sky-Watcher ProED 100mm comes with:
- Sky-Watcher ProED 100mm main scope
- 2 lenses (5mm & 25mm)
- Spotter Scope
- 90-degree lens adapter
- Study hard case for storage and transport
The hard case is really nice, and everything fits snugly within with little movement. This is an important thing to look for because you'll likely be transporting your telescope often. The combined scope and case don't weigh too much, so it's easy to get in and out of the car.
Another feature that feels incredibly solid on the telescope is the focusing mechanism. Most high-end telescopes will come with two knobs—a general focus knob and a fine focus knob. The Sky-Watcher's fine focus is incredibly smooth and rock-solid, and I was impressed with the level of clarity I could obtain as opposed to a single-knob focus.
The finish on the scope is quite eye-catching as well. The dark blue of the tube is lightly speckled, so up close, it looks like a miniature star-scape. The dark blue contrasts beautifully with the white accents for the mounting bands and lens housing. She's just a pretty scope all around.
Cons of the Sky-Watcher ProED
The only issue that I’ve had so far is that I can’t seem to figure out how to properly align the spotter scope. I’ve learned where “center” is in it, so it serves its purpose, but I will be trying to troubleshoot that in the future.
Also, the eyepieces that came with the scope aren't the best. They were the first thing I upgraded after I bought the scope. They’re fine for casual viewing of things like planets and the Moon, but I found they lacked when it came to seeing DSOs (deep space objects), and they also easily fog up on cold nights.
Achromatic Telescopes vs. Apochromatic Telescopes
I opted to buy a refractor-style telescope with the intent of eventually getting into astrophotography (the art of taking long-exposure photos of celestial objects). Because I knew my long-term goal when I started looking at telescopes, I ruled out any of the cheaper, “budget” refractor telescopes.
Most of these are what is called achromatic, which means that their lenses bend the light in a way that leaves a little distortion in the colors of the magnified image. This happens because red and blue lights have different wavelengths. As the light passes through the lens, the light waves bend at slightly different angles.
For general viewing, this isn’t a big issue, and most people learn to ignore the distortion of color around the edges of objects. But because I want to do astrophotography, I decided I wanted a good apochromatic (APO) telescope. These telescopes use a mixture of lens shape, lens number, and coatings to nullify the distortion seen in achromatic scopes. While a reflector telescope is also a decent choice for astrophotography, refractors have a few benefits, such as greater contrast, that I really like when it comes to the photography aspect.
However, there is a significant price gap between achromatic and APO telescopes. I spent many hours researching, reading reviews, and looking at astrophotography websites. I concluded that, if I am going to do astrophotography eventually, then it's worth paying the extra money now to get a telescope that can do it well in the future. In the long run, the decision will save money as I won’t have to buy a new telescope down the road to get the results I want.
Celestron CG-4 Tripod Mount
The Sky-Watcher ProED does NOT come with a tripod mount, which is a pretty essential piece of equipment for viewing the night sky. The mount is arguably just as important as the scope itself. You need a sturdy, steady, and capable platform to attach your beautiful scope to, and, like a good telescope, a good mount will last years.
Even though I plan on getting into astrophotography, I didn’t want to buy a motorized mount right at the start. Part of the joy of astronomy is actually knowing the night sky. I wanted to learn how to star-hop to find my targets, identify constellations, and master the manual control of my scope.
Motorized Mounts vs. Non-Motorized Mounts
From reading what other more knowledgeable astronomers were saying, people who start with motorized mounts never develop these essential skills. It's just too tempting to plug in the coordinates on the keypad of the motorized mount, and then let it do all the hard work for you. I wanted to make sure that I absolutely had to learn on a non-motorized mount. It's kind of like how my dad made me learn how to drive on a stick shift (just in case).
Knowing that I did want to do some astrophotography with my beginner telescope eventually, I researched what manual mounts had the ability to become motorized.
The Celestron CG-4 gets rave reviews as being a sturdy, easy-to-use, and upgrade-able mount that is of high quality and will last decades when taken care of. It has an aftermarket motorization kit for basic automated tracking, which will allow me to do basic astrophotography in the future.
Planets and Celestial Bodies to View With Your Telescope
I’ve had the Sky-Watcher ProED for almost a year now, and I am thrilled with my purchase. It’s everything I could have hoped for. I’m very glad that I decided to go with a slightly-higher-than-entry refractor telescope. The views are crisp and clear, it’s easy to set up, and the quality of build is tremendous.
Some of my favorite things I’ve viewed so far:
- The Orion Nebula
- The Pleiades Star Cluster
- Jupiter and Saturn
- The Moon (lunar eclipse was amazing)
- Andromeda Galaxy
The first time I got the Orion Nebula in my scope was by far one of the most magical experiences I’ve had in my life. While it doesn’t look like the pictures you’ll find online (those are made from hundreds of composite images stacked together), the thrill of actually looking at it is incredible.
With the Sky-Watcher ProED and the provided eyepieces, you can easily make out the cluster of stars at its core and a bit of color in the nebula itself. The Pleiades is another favorite of mine in the winter months. The star cluster really shows off the high contrast that refractor telescopes are known for. They look like little diamonds sitting on the blackest of velvet. It's truly remarkable.
Becoming an Amateur Astronomer
I first got interested in astronomy when I was very young. My parents got a little telescope for my siblings and myself when I was in grade school. I seemed to be the only one who was interested in astronomy, so it soon became “mine.” I spent hours during my summer break staring at the endless sky from our back porch. Granted, I couldn’t really see much, seeing as we lived in the light-polluted city.
I still remember the first time I found Jupiter in my telescope and the overwhelming awe I felt with my eye glued to the eyepiece. Even as a child, looking at those distant celestial bodies was a humbling experience. We are but insignificant creatures in this vast cosmos we call home.
Years passed, and my little telescope started to collect dust as more “important” things entered my life, like prom and college applications. For years, I pushed that little piece of wonderment to the back of my mind—hidden, but not gone. However, if you’re reading this, that means you, too, have heard that little nagging voice beckoning you to look up and explore.
Should You Get the Sky-Watcher ProED?
While the Sky-Watcher ProED 100mm isn’t the cheapest beginner telescope on the market, in my opinion, it is by far the best value out there. You get an APO quality refractor that can view just about any celestial object you want with fantastic clarity and contrast for just a few hundred dollars more than an entry-level telescope that you’ll be looking to upgrade in a year or two. And it costs thousands less than some of the other astrophotography refractor telescopes on the market. It’s true that in the future I may end up buying another scope (you can never own just one), but I have no doubt I’ll be using this one for decades to come!