Travel Scopes for Astronomy

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70mm Travel Scope on Alt-Az Tripod.
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70mm Travel Scope on Alt-Az Tripod.

Travel Scopes:

It could be that you think a travel scope is the way to get into observational astronomy.  Or, you may find that your main telescope is a bit big for just grabbing quickly to have a look at something, or it won't fit in your car with all the family when you're off to the seaside but you'd like a telescope in case you need to observe something.
You could do worse than get yourself a 'Travel Scope'. This is an easily portable telescope designed for use on the go.  Usually quite light and typically 350mm to 500mm in focal length.  They are very nice instruments that have excellent wide angle views with magnifications similar to large binoculars (Say 10x to 30x magnification) and can, with short focal length eyepieces or the use of a Barlow lens, reach high enough magnifications to see detail on the planets too (Say 100x - 120x).

A travel scope is a good starting out point which can be built upon as you get experience, but always keep it handy as your travel scope will always complement your Main telescope as you progress in this fascinating hobby.
There are plenty of short focus refractors in decent sizes that will still show you plenty when you're out an about.   For astronomical viewing you should avoid 'Spotting Scopes', however, a travel scope can be used as a spotting scope!  Nature and scenery is another use for these versatile instruments. 

You can get a very good 70mm Travel Scope for around £50.
The 70mm objective lens gives enough detail for casual observing and an f5 to f6 ratio gives a wide field and bright deep sky images too.  A good all rounder of a decent size. (Please resist buying anything smaller than this even as a second telescope!)

You may have to buy a short focal length eyepiece (4mm) or 2x Barlow or even a 3x Barlow to get decent planetary image size (100x Magnification and above) as some come only with 20x and 40x magnifications which, while refreshingly conservative, are nowhere near enough to show detail on the planets.

Handy: a 70mm Celestron Travel Scope on extending tripod with carry-bag. Ideal for 'Astronomy On-The-Go' but should not be your main instrument, unless as a 'stepping stone'. These can be had for around £50 new! 

The travel scope should not be considered as a starter scope if you are interested only in the planets as the image is too small. These scopes are excellent for having a good look round the wonders of the universe and getting a feel for what can be seen with a 'proper' instrument (But will let you down on planetary views).

Resist buying the reflecting types of travel scope at all costs! They are far too delicate for true travel scoping! Refractors are much sturdier.

If you have limited funds and want to get into astronomy with a useful instrument, this is a great way. By getting started with a 70mm Travel Scope you are able to spend very little and have a scope that will be of use, even if you do 'take the plunge' and buy a larger telescope in the future - It's always a good idea to have a small, easily used telescope handy!

This telescope is great for most aspects of astronomy 'on the go' and having a quick look around the night sky, but, once again, I wouldn't recommend it for your main telescope, although I must admit that it would have been much better than my first 60mm instrument! (You know why... Think about it... That's right, it's a bigger diameter lens! - More light and more detail.)

These are wholly unsuitable for even basic astronomy due to their very short focal length and spherical mirror.  The image in all but the lowest magnification is blurry at best.  The mirror must be parabolic to bring all the light to a focus at one point.  These telescopes have typical appertures of 76mm and focal lengths of 300mm - Not good enough for us astronomers - Steer clear!


This is not a travel scope.  It is little more than a curiosity.

SkyWatcher StarTravel 102 ST a superb 4" 500mm f4.9.
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SkyWatcher StarTravel 102 ST a superb 4" 500mm f4.9.

Travel Scopes aren't all small:

Recently I was privilaged to own a SkyWatcher StarTravel 102.  This was an equatorially mounted 500mm focal length achromatic refractor of f4.9

When i got it I was expecting large amounts of 'false colour' on the bright images but it was superb.  The stars were pinpoints and there was plenty of detail on the planets too.  The image was crisp and flat right across the field.  I was amazed at how good this telescope was, given that it was of 'travel Scope' size.  Easily portable and very useable I was silly enough to sell it!  I am now wondering why I did!


I will answer as soon as I can and it's no bother – Honestly!
I have nothing to do with SkyWatcher telescopes, neither do I sell telescopes professionally (I have sold them on eBay from time to time to upgrade). 
The information in this guide is my own opinion and can be taken as my best honest advice. I have over forty years experience in astronomical observation.

Clear skies and good seeing... I hope this guide has been useful. :o)

More information? Google "supercooper telescope help".

All text and images © Barry Cooper 2008-16 unless otherwise credited.
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