The Orion IntelliScope is a computerized object locator unit designed to compliment the Orion SkyQuest XT IntelliScope series of Dobsonian telescopes. It is essentially a handheld data base unit that plugs into a set of encoders mounted in the telescope base and axis – keeping track of the telescope’s position much like cursor and mouse work together on a computer screen. It consists of a two-line backlit LCD screen and illuminated keypad. The Intelliscope unit has an information base of 14,000 objects which include nebulae, galaxies, star clusters, double stars, planets and more.

It is the “more” that makes the Orion Intelliscope considerably different than a “GoTo”…

All computerized telescopes work on the same basic principle. They employ a set of positioning sensors located on the telescope’s ascension and declination axis – its up and down and right to left movement points. On a equatorial mount, these positions can be driven by a small set of servo motors which allows the telescope to automatically move itself to a selected position. These “GoTo” telescopes are a marvel of engineering, but with large aperture comes even a larger price. Traditionally, dobsonian style telescopes are favored by those who desire as much light gathering power as possible – made affordable by simplifying the telescope mount. As with all things, there is a trade-off. With affordable aperture, you lose the ability to “drive”.

The Orion Intelliscope solves the location equation by performing as digital setting circles. The specialized line of Orion SkyQuest XT IntelliScope Dobsonian Telescopes already have a set of high-resolution, 9,216-step digital encoders built into both axis. Simply plug the Computerized Object Locator into the base and you’re equipped to locate and view any of 14,000 celestial objects contained in its data base: : 837 stars (including double and variable stars), 7,840 NGC objects, 5,386 IC objects, 101 Messier objects, 8 major planets, and 99 user-entered objects. The Intelliscope unit features illuminated buttons and a backlit, two-line liquid crystal display (LCD). The intuitive menu buttons allow selection of objects by type (e.g., Planet, Nebula, Cluster, Galaxy) or catalog number (e.g., M57, NGC 253). Press the Tour button to select one of 12 tours of the best objects visible in any given month. Find something that you don’t know what it is? Then use the Intelliscope’s ID button to find out what object you’re viewing, if you’re not sure. The LCD screen provides information about the objects you see, including object type, common name (if any), magnitude, constellation, and a brief visual description.

How is this accomplished? Because the Orion IntelliScope Dobsonian telescope doesn’t employ drive motors, the user must manually move the telescope while watching the Intelliscope controller. A series of celestial coordinates will be displayed, prompting you to move the telescope in the desired direction – then simply watch the “countdown” until the telescope is in the proper position. While this seems easy, it does require some accurate user input to make it work correctly. Because the sky changes nightly, you must enter in the correct time and date. Our position on Earth also affects celestial positioning, so proper terrestrial coordinates must be selected from the database. Once this is entered in, the telescope tube must be leveled to make the “brain” understand the position – then at least two celestial points must be manually located, centered in the eyepiece and entered. This allows the Intelliscope unit to refine the telescope’s position – making its calculations more accurate. Haphazard entries will give you haphazard results!

The Orion Intelliscope Object Locator is a wonderful tool for both beginning and seasoned amateur astronomers. It will enable you to view many more celestial curiosities in an evening – and in a lifetime – than you ever dreamed possible. These telescope pointing systems are actually quite fun! Simply choose the aperture which suits your individual needs best, plug it in and away you go. But note… the IntelliScope Computerized Object Locator is not compatible with other encoder systems or other telescopes. Previous SkyQuest versions and SkyQuest XT Classic Dobsonian telescopes cannot be retrofitted for IntelliScope compatibility.