Get the most out of your GoTo telescope, start controlling it from a computer. What is the big deal? We used to think that finding objects was half the fun. Well, guess what? After we started to use our telescope and computer together, we realized that it is a different experience. If you want to crawl around in the dirt, sighting along the telescope, running back and forth to your paper star charts so you can star hop to the object you are looking for, you can still do it! If you want to wrestle with the inane menu system of your hand controller, or memorize codes to find objects, you can still do it!
Using your computer with a GoTo system does not preclude you from the "fun" of hunting for objects. What you will discover is that the computer really expands what you can find with the telescope. In fact, you will discover objects that you would never have thought to look for with paper star charts or your electronic hand controller. The computer software has a much larger database than paper charts, and the software is much more flexible. For example, you can display just certain types of objects, or objects of some magnitude range. When you are looking at the computer screen, you will see objects that are not shown on the paper charts that are within the light grasp of your telescope.
There is another factor that expains the synergy between the telescope and computer. Each of the GoTo systems has some kind of hand controller that lets you use the telescope. Despite the protestations of each of the manufacturers, ALL of these hand controllers are difficult to learn and difficult for some people to use. The computer software removes much of the difficulty. You do not have to constantly fight with the menu system of the hand controller to get your telescope to find objects. When you want to make the telesope move to an object, just hit the GoTo button in the software, and the telescope moves to it.
Of course, you still have to align the telescope to start with, using the alignment routines provided by the telescope manufacturer. You will have to learn how to do this whether you use a computer with the telescope or not. It is not too difficult for most people, but the techniques are not inate to anyone - nobody is born with this knowledge. So don't be discouraged if it seems awkward at first. Most people struggle a little, at least in the beginning.
In spite of the fact that your computer microprocessor is hundreds, if not thousands, of times more powerful than the puny microprocessor in the telescope, the telescope still does all the work of calculating how much to move and which motors to move and how much. The computer just sits there, communicating via the serial port, asking the telescope, "Where are you? Where are you?" The telescope answers via the serial port, "I'm at these coordinates." The computer software then shows you where the telescope is pointed in the sky, on the computer screen.
Since most laptops no longer have serial ports, only USB ports, some people ask why don't we just make a USB cable to connect the computer and telescope. The first point is that the data moving back and forth is very small, just little text strings of a few bytes, so you don't really need the speed of USB. However the real reason is that USB and RS-232 (serial) are different languages. For example, I could call Japan or France and make a physical connection with a telephone. However, unless I can speak their language or have a translator, I cannot communicate. The telescope speaks serial and the computer speaks USB. The translator is the drivers that come with the USB to serial adapter. We recommend Keyspan adapters because they do the best job of maintaining and updating their drivers.
Until the telescope companies decide to make USB the standard interface, we will still use serial cables. Also, USB has an important limitation; without some kind of repeater or amplifier, a USB cable can only extend a total of about 15 feet. Until that time, we are happy to provide serial cables that will help you get the most out of your GoTo telescope.
About the Cables
These are good quality serial cables that are about 25 feet long. These cables will work with all major software programs that communicate with a telescope. If you have a PC without a serial port, you will need a USB to Serial Adapter. You can also buy a 50 foot cable or 100 foot cable if you'd like something longer.
Note: This cable will not work with the ETX 60AT, ETX 70AT, and the Digital Series Telescopes because they require the Meade #506 Cable Connector. The Meade #506 is a proprietary cable that has a small rectangular box inside the cable that cannot be duplicated.
Image shows a collection of cables for various telescope models. The one sold here looks very similar.