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Celestron Firstscope 60mm

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Date: 2-4-2002
Price: $60.00 @ Eagle Optics
Design: 60mm refractors at 700mm f/l
Description: Small refractor that comes with a 5x24mm finder scope, 20mm and 8mm Huygen EPs, .965 adapter, 90 degree diagonal, and an Alt-Az tripod and mount.

Why I Bought This


Following my adventures with the Bushnell Voyager, I eventually came to the realization that astronomy didnít have to be this complicated. The Voyager had everything needed of a portable Ďscope except ease of use; the ball and socket (and lack of finderscope) made it impossibly hard to find anything. And considering that portability wasnít really needed (itís ported about ten feet from my bedroom to my front yard), I wanted something cheap and with a standard tripod for those nights when I didnít feel like messing with the Bushnell.
Those nights are getting more and more frequent.

The Telescope


This is really nothing more than a glorified department store telescope. Itís the standard 60mm aperture, low-quality Huygens eyepieces, and mainly plastic save the telescope tube and tripod legs. It even comes at an attractive department-store price. it does have a focuser which works much smoother than the previous 60mm telescope I used; and unlike the Bushnell, the focusing knobs are not prone to falling off.
The Alt-az tripod at first looks flimsy, and thatís partially true; if youíre real clumsy youíll probably have this falling over a lot. The legs are aluminum and are adjustable to different heights, allowing them to be compacted for storage or a nice car ride to a dark spot you might know of. An accessories tray is also provided, although it only has spaces for two 1 1/4Ē eyepieces, and FOUR spots for the smaller .965Ē, which only further reminds you that this was designed for unwary parents looking for a educational Christmas present on December 24th. No slow-motion controls, either. 

The Performance


What I like about the telescope is that itís surprisingly light; it feels lighter on the tripod than the 11 lbs. Bushnell, although thatís probably not true. I can carry it outside with only one hand, leaving room for skycharts and a red flashlight in the other. It takes about a minute to set up, and your ready to get started. 
Seeing as how itís cheap, I didnít expect much in terms of optical quality. Thankfully, I was a bit surprised with what this Ďscope can deliver. I can actually see quite a few more things with this one than the larger Bushnell (go figure!). Iíve managed to capture several of the Messier objects (mainly star clusters and brighter nebulas), although the field-of-view is a bit narrow to totally take in open clusters such as the Pleiades, which ruins the viewing experience a bit. The Moon is great, and I can get up much closer than the Bushnell because of the larger focal length. 
Planets are a bit of a disappointment. Jupiter and the Galilean moons are there, but the big planet is pale white, and forget about seeing any cloud bands or the Red Spot. Saturn has a bit more color-- itís a beautiful butterscotch-- and the rings ( and Cassini division, on a good night) are perceivable, as is Titan (with averted vision), but no cloud bands. Other planets are, as expected, nothing more than little colored dots. 
Double stars look impressive. Albireo is a breathtaking sight, especially with the smaller eyepiece, and easily split. Most doubles which have a moderate seperation can be split. And in Mizar and Alcor I managed to find Sidus Ludovicianum, which was invisible in the Bushnell.

The Negative


I suppose I canít rant much here, considering I knew what I was getting into with this telescope. It performs as was to be expected, although my expectations were well below the abilities of a well-designed Orion or Televue refractor, to say the least. 
The tripod is annoying, though. Instead of slow-motion controls there are two locking nuts that you can loosen to move the thing by hand. Unfortunately, both donít lock very well, making positioning an object in the center of the telescope a tricky proposition at best. Either it is too hard to move the telescope or too loose, and either way you canít really win. Itís especially bad on colder nights.
The finderscope is all plastic. The lenses leave you with a blurred, astigmatized picture, and it is pretty difficult to use. Iíve learned how point the telescope in approximately correct position and slowly maneuver it until what I want to see is in view.

The Conclusion


The people whom I would recommend this to are few and far between. If your looking for a starter scope, I suggest looking at something costing five times the amount I paid for the Celestron Firstscope. If youíre looking for a second scope, then youíll probably want to spend even more than that. Unless youíre really dying for a telescope right now, canít afford a more expensive one, and for some reason canít afford a decent pair of binoculars (many of which can be found in the $60 range), then maybe this scope is for you. 
As for me, Iím looking to upgrade to an Orion refractor in the near future, and hopefully this will be the last telescope-change in a long while.

Submitted by Tristan Kloss

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