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60mm Achromatic Refractor Telescopes

The 60mm (2.4") and smaller altazimuth refractors are the most marketed telescope sizes for the beginning astronomy enthusiast or for casual gift-giving. Unfortunately, more likely than not the telescope will end up in the closet or the garage after the novelty wears off.

For astronomical observing, a 60mm allows you to see lunar details but the moon can be easily seen naked eye, or with binoculars, or any telescope; the better the optical system is, the more one will see. Yes, the major planets can be identified; Saturn is revealed as a BB within a washer, Jupiter is a clear orb with one tropical band showing, and four of its brightest moons may be seen orbiting the gas giant, the phases of Venus, an the red color of Mars are obvious. With a solar filter (optional) you can observe some activity on the Sun such as sunspots, or an eclipse.

These views will be enough to fascinate, but only for so long. Unless one can actually see changes happening on the planets, or more of the deep sky wonders, that person is not likely to stay in the hobby.

The 60mm refractors of modest to good quality are so limited that we at Company Seven do not generally reccommend them for sale to anyone much above the age of 8 or 10 (depending of course on the childs intelligence and degree of interest).

You see, the troubles generally pertain to:

  1. the light gathering and resolving power of such a small aperture; the lens simply does not gather enough light to reveal the faint, deep sky objects (galaxies, nebulae, star and globular clusters, etc.) any better (if as good) as a descent pair of binoculars.

  2. furthermore, the telescopes in this class typically have such a relatively narrow field of view (in part due to the ultra mediocre, narrow field of view oculars commonly furnished) that one is condemned to search the skies as if looking through a straw!

  3. With such small aperture, as one increases the magnification to the threshold of serious planetary observing the image appears very dim, and clouded by false violet colors typical of achromatic lenses operating beyond their practical limit. So in effect, just when you do get to a useful magnification, the telesope has petered out. These optical factors are before one considers the mounts!

  4. A telescope mount should be very steady, and have at least slow motion controls (as on the Premium 80 telescope) tracking motions that are very smooth - not jerky. Here again, most common 60mm telescope makers are so concerned about price, that the mounts are next to useless for high magnification observing which is the only practical theoretical use of such a small achromatic refractor. Imagine trying to find, and center a small dim object in a shaky telescope, especially one where the finest touch by your hand or a slight breeze results in the object dancing out of the field of view. And as the Earth rotates about its axis these objects move across the sky; as viewed at higher and higher magnification the movement across a stationary eyepiece is even faster. So now try to share a shaky (especially non tracking) telescope with a friend or a small child.

So, Company Seven offers no 60mm achromatic refractors by any manufacturer because while they may meet the needs of an impulsive buyer, they are not likely to bring about long term success of the buyer.

And while Celestron is making strides to develop a practical, modestly priced telescope series, in our view life with their better telescopes is so much more pleasant that we can not endorse any 60mm model at this time.

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