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Due to the nature of my job, I have to spend log periods of time (4 - 6 months each), at different countries across Europe, Middle East and Far East. I have a 12 Inch Dobsonian at home, but I rarely spend 1 month a year, at home. Travelling with the Dob is out of question due to its weight and I don't always have access to low lying windows or a rooftop when abroad, making a dob pretty useless. I really want to have at one, at least 8", portable option while I'm travelling. Celestron NexStar 8 SE is looking good to me at the moment. It seems to have half the weight of an 8" scope with equatorial mount and from what I've heard, it can be used table-top, without tripod. I can also carry the OTA in hand luggage, to avoid damage to optical components. Can someone confirm if

  • (i) Does 8SE work on tabletop without tripod?
  • (ii) How durable is the mount? Can it survive transportation in checked baggage, if placed in its original packaging?
  • (iii) Any other suggestions for a scope that is at or above 8" and can be carried around easily when travelling internationally?
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  • $\begingroup$ Another option would be a collapsible, portable dob. Even a 16" becomes pretty darn small once it's packed. $\endgroup$ – Florin Andrei Nov 9 '17 at 1:42
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    $\begingroup$ @FlorinAndrei That could be expanded to an answer. $\endgroup$ – James K Nov 9 '17 at 14:16
  • $\begingroup$ Tables are remarkably unsteady platforms for a telescope; with that Celestron, you're going to be 50x at minimum, making the shakiness of the table pretty bad. $\endgroup$ – antlersoft Nov 9 '17 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ @antlersoft - it's true. But if you do find a very stable surface, like the broad edge of a concrete balcony, it could work. $\endgroup$ – Florin Andrei Nov 9 '17 at 18:39
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I was reluctant to do an answer because I do not own a NexStar 8 SE, so I can't speak from direct experience. But this information may prove valuable, so here it is.

The smaller NexStar scopes (like the 4) can be used tabletop-style. The scope is small enough so that the base is sitting just fine on a flat surface.

The 8 might be a little too big for that - I'm not 100% sure. However, if that's the case, there's a simple remedy. Take a piece of plywood or plastic, bigger than the base, thick enough to be rigid, and improvise a way to attach it to the scope base (use bolts / nuts with the same thread as the ones on the tripod). The wider area should stabilize it, and the extra piece of material is flat and easy to carry.

At your local home improvement store they surely carry plywood conveniently cut into round pieces of various diameters. Just get one of those, get the appropriate size bolts and washers, and that should be it. Maybe put 3 pads on the bottom of the plywood so it doesn't sit on the bolt heads. Get a spray can of shellac or urethane and give it a nice protective coating when you're done.

The NexStar mount should withstand the challenges of travel pretty well. It's the optics I'm more worried about.

As others have said, most tables are too wobbly for astronomy. Use a sturdy table, or some surface that doesn't move around, like the wide edge of a concrete balcony or something.


Another option is a collapsible dobsonian. Not the pseudo-collapsible ones like the big SkyQuest series, but a true collapsible scope like the Sumerian dobs. A 16" dob built this way folds down into the volume of a regular travel suitcase. A 10" collapsible dob is like a small suitcase. These are built for the specific purpose of being taken on long trips away from home.

http://www.sumerianoptics.com/

The 8" Alkaid Sumerian scope, at 800 mm focal length, is a pretty small dob already. The poles are probably pretty short. Should be easy to transport, and doesn't require much space when fully unfolded; you may actually have to place it on a stool or something.

Obsession Telescopes also makes dobsonians of all kinds. Their Classic series are bulky when packed, but the Ultra Compact series is basically a true collapsible dob which might be worth considering:

http://www.obsessiontelescopes.com/

You don't need a table for these scopes, since they are sitting on the floor. Table wobbliness issues are eliminated. :)

There are equatorial platforms made for all these scopes, so you could even use them for photography.

I do not own Sumerian or Obsession telescopes, but the feedback I hear through the grapevine is good. These are quality instruments that could be used as a general-purpose telescope even at home.


You could also take the DIY route and build a collapsible dob yourself, if you're so inclined. Many have done this, with great results.

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