Reaching for the stars

For my 10 year anniversary at work, we were given a catalog of "Crap you wouldn't re-gift to people you hate" and from there, I got a cheap ass Tasco telescope. It's tripod is made of the flimsiest plastic so that the soundwaves from your heartbeat cause it to vibrate and the optics are of the highest quality Saran wrap, ensuring that stars are generally a faint, blurry dot (don't even think about using the Barlow lens unless you like your stars to look like a cheap 3D comic that requires red and blue glasses).

Now, using the lowest magnification, you can at least look at the moon (for a few minutes until it glides out of sight) and like I showed the Mrs. last night, you can even make out a few of Jupiter's moons. However, I want to be able to actually make out the bands in Jupiter's atmosphere, and for that I'm going to need a better telescope.

While I'm not ready for astrophotography, that's definitely something I'm interested in for the future. I live in a light polluted area (my house is directly beneath two street lights), so mobility is required if I really want to see well, but I'd still like to gander at the planets when I can from home. This kind of kills a cheaper Dobsonian type telescope. Automated tracking is a must too as I've spent way too much time trying to find something only to have it slip out of sight in a few minutes (especially with my cheap telescope that requires a few minutes to settle down).

I don't know enough to weigh the merits of Cassegrain vs. Reflector vs. Refractor. All I know is that I want something that can resolve the Great Red Spot, is somewhat transportable, can work through light pollution (even if that means buying filters) and eventually can be fitted to take pretty pictures of the stars, nebulas, and galaxies.

Any tips from stargazers out there?

posted by by Robb Allen @
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