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Did you ever have a T-shirt that you really enjoyed and wore until you wore it out? How about a favorite pair of slippers? You know, the ones with the duct tape soles? Then I think you’re going to feel the same way about this telescope. It’s darn near the perfect combination of power, portability and price. Just right for casual observing… Be it on a rooftop or from your suburban yard. What makes it even more attractive is its ability to track its subject matter!
What’s new on the Tammy-testing homefront? This time it’s an Optics Planet Celestron PowerSeeker 80EQ refractor telescope. With 80mm of aperture and a 900mm focal length, it is not a small tube. It is elegant in both lines and size and does not appear “spindly”. Unlike most small aperture refractors which favor the alt/az, it comes with a light weight equatorial mount with a delightful addition – a drive unit. This means this special edition PowerSeeker 80EQ is going to make your time with lunar and planetary studies much more pleasant, and make higher magnification much more user-friendly.
Assembly is quite easy and fairly intuitive if you are familiar with telescopes and equatorial mounts. One thing you will very much enjoy is how easy it is to handle – a manageable 19 lbs. (8.62 kg) total weight. This means it is light enough to be set up complete and ready to be set outside the door at a moment’s notice. (This is something that I very much enjoy and approve of in a telescope. While I find large aperture to be breathtaking and I demand it for serious study, I also want a telescope that’s on hand for a quick look at the Moon or a joyous half hour with a planet.) While a light weight mount is super, don’t forget you’re making a trade-off. It’s not going to support heavy camera equipment and it’s not going to take a lot of abuse, such as overtightening or stressing gears through imbalance. However, it is quite capable of adding on certain types of imaging equipment, such as a webcam or eyepiece camera, or piggybacking a smaller camera on the mounting rings.
Next up? The view. As always, Celestron comes through with quality optics. At 80mm you’re not going to be getting Hubble images, but bright objects are crisp and clean. The views of Saturn and Mars were quite satisfactory and thanks to the included drive unit, the Celestron Powerseeker 80EQ delivered a whisper of the Cassini division and the neat little apparition of Titan swinging around the outside. Even Mars was capable of showing some dark patches when the atmosphere held still! Unfortunately, there wasn’t any Moon at the time, but I was very pleased with the color correction on beautiful double stars such as Cor Caroli and Albireo. Even Collinder 399 – the “Coat Hanger” showed pleasing red hints! Again, I was very appreciative of the drive unit when trying to split Epsilon Lyrae. With smaller aperture, the f/11 focal ratio could handle it – but again, needed the moment of perfect steadiness to say it was a clean split. No offense, but both the included 3X barlow and 4mm eyepiece are simply too much magnification for this scope to handle. (But a nice 10mm Plossl sure fills the bill!)
As for the scope itself, you’ll find it feels very “healthy”. The focuser isn’t a Feathertouch, but it has a nice feel to it… positive and it doesn’t slop around with a heavier eyepiece in it. The included 5×24 finderscope might seem a little small to most observers, but I liked it for two reasons – it’s an optical finderscope (not one of them (&^^#%! red dots) and it’s appropriately sized to what the scope can achieve. It’s just enough to pick off fainter “star hop” marker stars and give a hint of brighter objects. The included 1.25″ diagonal is also quite satisfactory and the 20mm eyepiece is the perfect workhorse for the majority of observations. You would be impressed with the crisp quality of the views of the Double Cluster, the ethereal Wild Ducks and the slightly pincushion look of M2.
Next up? Try kicking in better eyepieces and you’ll surprise yourself. Without getting brand specific, a higher dollar Plossl and a high magnification ED. Surprise, surprise! Here again, Celestron telescopes show their optical quality as the view did improve. After having become so accustomed to fast telescopes, it was a real pleasure to work with a longer focal ratio and see just how far I could push it. The Celestron Powerseeker 80 is definately deserving of higher quality eyepieces and a diagonal. All in all, this is an inexpensive telescope that is well made and, with care, should last through years of observing. You some day may end up with a little duct tape here and there…
But it’s got soul.
My thanks go to Optics Planet for their generous donation of the Celestron Powerseeker 80EQ to our annual star party / fundraiser at Warren Rupp Observatory.