I need a portable telescope for my holidays

Would you please inform me as to where I might purchase a telescope to view the moon and planets. I  just  need  something  I can take to Gran Canaria with me on a yearly basis obviously something portable  to  a  max  of  £1000  I donít mind buying second hand  with all the  literature around and all  the tech jargon I am  afraid I am at a loss as to what to go for.
Regards  Anthony B

You have to decide what is the main compromise you want to make. You can have a really worthwhile telescope for £1000, but it wonít be portable. You can have a portable telescope for £1000, but it wonít show as much as a large telescope.

People do travel with the standard 20 cm Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes, such as the Meade LX-90, but they really are a major undertaking to travel with. I took such a telescope out to Kenya once, but as I was travelling in a party I was able to add its weight in with the allowance for the others, so it didnít cost me any extra. There was one big trunk for the telescope and another for the tripod. If you are going just for the astronomy, this is OK, but if you are simply hoping to see some pretty views when you are there it isnít.

The obvious answer to your requirement is to get one of the range of portables, such as either the Meade ETX or the Celestron NexStar. These have their own drives, and you get ĎGO TOí facilities which give computer control Ė that is, once you have set it up on a couple of easily found stars, it will then supposedly find other objects in the sky automatically.

The ETX-90 (a 90 mm Maksutov) now costs around £550 with Autostar. Alternatively, you can get the larger ETX-125 for £950. But the 125 (a five-inch compared with a 3.5 inch telescope) weighs around 25 lb, so it makes a big hole in your weight allowance. At about £300 you can get the much smaller ETX-70, a short-focus refractor. See the next question for comments on ETX telescopes.

There is also the Celestron NexStar 4, for £499 [now £399 in 2005], which is a larger telescope than the ETX-90.

As an alternative, you could buy a telescope without a mounting and use it on a photographic tripod. The Sky-Watcher Skymax 127 is a Maksutov (like the ETX 125) and you can get it either as telescope only (known in the trade as OTA Ė Optical Tube Assembly) for under £350 or with a fairly substantial equatorial mounting for under £450.

Bear in mind that the smaller the telescope, the more you are compromising on the amount you can see. If you want a telescope that will give you good views of the sky wherever you are, donít expect to be able to carry it around in your pocket.

I canít advise whether to go for Meade, Celestron or Sky-Watcher Ė they all offer similar packages. Iíd say for reasonable observing you should go for at least 100 mm aperture, and preferably 125 mm (5-inch). The only problem then is how much weight you want to carry around. Thereís no easy answer to this!

Try the websites of the main suppliers Ė www.telescopehouse.co.uk for the Meade telescopes, and www.dhinds.co.uk for the Celestrons. Sky-Watcher are available from various suppliers such as the Widescreen Centre and Warehouse Express. There is also Orion Optics at www.orionoptics.co.uk.

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