A new owner of an older 8SE asked me what I thought were the priority accessories to get to go with the stock package (mount, OTA, and 25 mm Plossl). I thought it would be an easy answer, and then realized it is almost as difficult to answer as what scope would be best for someone. But I did respond and thought I could maybe turn it into a post too. Obviously it all depends on what they want to look at the most and from where. Maybe even with whom. Nevertheless, here are my thoughts on some extra considerations.
A. A good power source. I have the Celestron Lithium-Ion tank, which seems to work well for me, but I wouldn’t necessarily want to use it for a 12-hour viewing excursion. I have two old Powertanks and I may try to revive them to just use as a backup.
B. Tools to help with levelling. A simple bubble level, or apps like Cliniometer for an Android phone. I need it to make sure the scope is level before trying to align.
C. A tool to help with GPS. If you know where you are going beforehand, Google Maps will give you the coordinates. Or use an app like GPS COORDINATES for your Android phone.
D. Something to replace the spotter. The 8SE comes with a red-dot finder that just about everyone hates. And a TelRad works awesome. Huge upgrade for me for a low cost. One of the best additions I ever did. But if someone rarely does manual spotting other than at the first couple of alignment stars, the red-dot might be good enough.
E. Something to help with Skymaps. A simple sky map, a book, or an app, all of them will work to give you an idea of what is up there to look at. I like Stellarium and Sky Safari.
F. Dewshield. I don’t know that I use the “dew” part that much. I don’t often observe into the morning hours, I don’t often observe on grass, and I’m not often observing for a long time for it to heat up. However, the added benefit is that it provides a light shield to the front of my scope. Blocking out stray light from the sides. I have had dew problems from time to time, but I wouldn’t say a lot, and I have no idea if my screen would have it without the shield. Perhaps. But again, you could wait and see if you have problems.
G. Vibration suppression pads. Great if you’re using a deck or dock, also good even if you’re in dirt or sand and the legs “sink”.
H. Red light flashlight. They’re available everywhere, often even dollar stores, and thus not super expensive. Great for showing respect for other astronomers (white light is deadly to night vision). I prefer one with an optional white light for the end of the night when I’m packing up.
I. Green laser pointer. This is definitely not a priority, but a great tool to have if you’re explaining stuff to other people and you want to point to various stars.
J. Good chair. I like being able to sit at the telescope and stare at a few things without having to stand for hours bending awkwardly for some objects. I have one with variable height which is great.
K. Stool. If you are viewing with children, a simple step stool of some sort can save a ton of grief trying to adjust to everyone’s height.
L. Storage and transport containers. There are a lot of little parts and they can get lost easily. I use a grocery bin to carry all my accessories, and most of them are kept within plastic kitchenware containers with lockable lids. Nothing is going ANYWHERE I don’t want it to go. I use a large gym/travel bag for my scope. Tables and chairs and mounts, oh my, all travel basically as they are.
M. Photography accessories. You can do impressive but basic AP with an 8SE, it’s not designed for AP, not really. Now, how do you get images?
- Take photos by hand of the night sky. Not great.
- Take photos with a tripod of the night sky. Much better.
- Stand at the eyepiece with your smartphone and try to centre it by hand to take a pic of whatever you’re looking at…not a very effective method most of the time. iPhones with the NightCap app work the best.
- Get a small mounting bracket that attaches to your smartphone (Android or iPhone) and to an eyepiece, and then take photos. Much better result.
- Get a small mounting bracket and attach a compact camera to your telescope. Very frustrating experience.
- Get a webcam of some sort, tied to a laptop, and take stills and video. Good result, but more expansive setup and a huge range in quality and price.
- Get a series of rings and adapters and connect your DSLR camera directly to the telescope, takes a lot of practice and more than the scope is really designed to handle. Doable.
N-Z. Optical accessories
Star diagonals help a lot to protect your neck and back from injuries requiring chiro or massage.
Colour filters can help bring out details in planets.
Oxygen III and ultrablocks can help with things like nebulae.
Tons of options out there, and it all depends on what you want to look at most often, and in how dark of skies.
And I haven’t even talked about eyepieces. I think for my use, I need three lenses approximately, plus a 2X Barlow (it halves the size of your eyepiece, basically).
While the 8SE has a theoretical limit of 4mm to take it to 500x magnification, practical use outside of dry dark skies is likely somewhere between 200x and 300x.
The stock 25mm is great for basic things, even a bit of planetary stuff, and not bad for galaxies, nebulae, etc. with a magnification of 81x. With the Barlow, I also get 12.5mm or 160X-ish.
My favourite lens for more power is a Televue Delos with a great field of view at 17.3 mm. 9mm-ish with the Barlow and that puts me at the usable max most of the time.
I also have a 32mm lens which is pretty great. Good for bright chunks of the sky and making things nice and bright. With the Barlow taking me to 16mm, not much different than my 17.3 so would use that instead.
Finally, while those three EPs are probably my workhorses, I also have a big 42mm 2″ EP. A huge chunk of sky. Great for large regions, like the Veil Nebula.
And I don’t have the technical know-how to go much beyond those size issues to talk about eye relief and field of view very reliably.
I’m sure there are lots of other things to mention, but the optics depend so much on the person and their targets, there’s not much to add other than my own preferences.
Your mileage may vary.