Observing from a wheelchair
I have an arthritic condition affecting my spine and neck. Looking upwards with bins or looking through an eyepiece in the dark gives me real problems. My balance is poor even in daylight so night time things become hazardous!
I wonder if anyone else has a similar problem and, if so, would love to hear from you with your ways of coping with viewing the heavens.

At the moment, I use my birdwatching bins (8 x 40) and sit on my even patio with streetlights all around me. This is hopeless for all except the moon.

I want to get a telescope but have no idea where to start. I have a wheelchair and was wondering if there are any devices that aid my viewing sitting in the chair?


Many telescopes can be used without having to look upwards, because they have star diagonals or, in the case of reflectors, eyepieces at right angles to the tube. Even from your patio with streetlights you could view the major planets and the brighter star clusters, and maybe the odd bright galaxy or two. You would need to move around the telescope as the eyepiece will always be in a slightly different position for each object, and if you are wheechair-bound this could be a bit awkward because of tripod legs getting in the way. However, the problem is finding the objects in the first place.

Go To telescopes generally require you to locate two or three bright stars during the alignment process. You'd need to look along the barrel of the scope to get it roughly in line with the star in each case. However, the Celestron Skyalign scopes such as the 130 SLT allow you to choose any three bright stars, so you could probably choose stars which are accessible, rather than have the scope choose its own stars which is usually the case.

Meade do have a new scope, the ETX LS, which is claimed to align itself fully and automatically, but these are rather costly and I can't guarantee that it would suit you. They ae not yet available in the UK anyway (May 2009).

For binocular observing, you can get mirror systems which allow you to observe looking down onto the mirror rather than upwards. These both support the binoculars and give a comfortable observing position. Such a device would work if you could rest the apparatus on the wheelchair. As with all mounted instruments, you have to move round the apparatus rather than the apparatus moving wih your eyes (which is where hand-held binoculars score).  But again there is the problem of finding objects, made worse because everything is reversed. Dewing up of the mirror is an issue.

You might find that powerful image-stabilised binoculars would suit you. Trouble is, the ones with x 15 magnification are pretty costly -- much more than a 130 SLT!

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