…continuedChoosing Your First Telescope
A Telescope's Other Half
Just as a car's engine is useless without a chassis and wheels, the optical tube assembly is only half a telescope. The other half is the mount. It is just as important as the optics if not more so. It has to be steady, sturdy, and smoothly working.
An altazimuth (altitude-azimuth) mount, by contrast, moves up-down (in altitude) and right-left (azimuth). A photo tripod is an example of an altazimuth mount. Another is the popular Dobsonian mount, shown below.
But altazimuths do not readily lend themselves to motorized operation, and you have to move the telescope in two directions simultaneously to track celestial objects as the Earth turns. While this becomes second nature to many observers, others find it maddening. (See the section below on "smart" telescopesfor a high-tech way around this problem.)
Your own personality should play a part in choosing a mount. Are you comfortable with instruments that require tools and a head for numbers to set up and use? Or are you looking for the astronomical equivalent of a point-and-shoot camera? A Dobsonian can be set up in the time it took to read this paragraph. An equatorial mount can take a bit longer if you want to get the most out of its features. Computerized "smart scopes," which promise easy object-finding, are actually the most complicated to deploy.