American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)
Fri, 05/05/2023 - 17:06

Hello everyone,

I have a budget of 10,000$ to purchase a telescope and accessories for training students at my institution (a local community college in Tacoma WA, USA). I've been researching here and there, but would love to hear some recommendations from y'all experienced observers. We have access to a professional observatory ~3 hrs from our location so this equipment would be for training in CCD data collection and processing; we need to be able to easily travel to nearby locations.

So far I've been thinking of getting an 8'' Celestron, and a ~2-3k Atik camera from High Point Scientific plus an Optilong UBVRI filter set (<1k) also from HPS. Happy to hear any suggestions you might have. Thanks in advance!

American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)
Cameras and Filters

Camera:  By coincidence we have also been looking at cameras to use for photometry on a C8 at our local public observatory.  I'd recommend the Atik 16200 mono CCD camera for use with a C8.   These cameras are mostly in  "not in stock", "more on the way", "coming soon" status in the on-line vendors' websites.  This could mean they are no longer available from the manufacturer.  You can contact me privately by email (by clicking on my mug shot at the top of this post) and I'll give you a source that still has a few.   

Telescope:  I think the C8 is a good choice, but I'd recommend the older (pre-Edge) version.  I've heard from some people who have had problems with the limited back focus on the newer C8's when attaching cameras, focal reducers, etc.  Also, older C8 are easily available from Cloudy Nights (~$300-400)   You already may have one of these in a closet at your institution.

Filters:  I think the Optolongs are a good choice.  Before ordering filters look at the filter wheel choices available for the camera you will use.  The Optolong filters are available in a wide range of sizes.  The KAF16200 is a large chip so you'll probably want one of the larger sizes. 

Mounts:  Try to spend most of your money on the mount.  I can't comment on specifics.  I haven't bought a new mount in a long time. 


My $0.02 would be to lose…

My $0.02 would be to lose the U filter, its seems few use it.

For camera, Many seem to use CMOS cameras. ZWO 2600MM  is good sized and has 16bit ADC.

The heftier the mount the better!

C-8 is a good portable size.





American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)
The Optolong are…

The Optolong are considerably less expensive than other brands and quality seems good. Buy the set and sell the U if you want.


American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)

A year or two ago, I would have recommended: "Buy Sloan photometric filters instead" ... but now I'm not so sure anymore. Back then it looked like Johnson filters were a thing of the past and extremely hard to  buy anyway ... now they are back in production. What hasn't changed tho is that a) professional scopes more and more move to Sloan ugriz instead of UVBRI photometric system, and b) AAVSO is working hard to get Sloan reference photometry in the database. With just the g , r and i filters, you cover the range that B,V,R,I does in UBVRI. It's a difficult decision, but something you should consider.