The thought of getting up close and personal with some of the wonders of the universe is, shall we say… pretty exciting.
As such, when investing in a telescope, it can be pretty easy to forget about the boring stuff, like learning how to align the scope or even how you’re going to power it.
Yep, that’s right, most telescopes on the market require a power source, for you are not Blackbeard peering through a common spyglass on the hunt for plunder and booty; you are a cosmic voyager seeking a grander treasure.
The astronomical riches you seek can only be found through powerful and modern optical technology, technology that requires a bit of extra juice in the energy department.
Confused about how you’re going to supply this juice?
Well, not to worry, as you’re in the right place! In this article, I’m going to be breaking down your telescope power options, so you can cut to the quick and check out some shiny things in the sky already. Let’s get to it!
Do All Telescopes Need Power?
While it’s certainly worth your while to invest in a powerful telescope, the option is always open to buy a more relaxed design for basic stargazing. Some of these models won’t require a power source.
If the prospective telescope is for a child who’s just started showing a glimmer of interest in life beyond Earth, a powerless design is perfect.
But just so you know how to differentiate between telescopes that do and don’t need batteries, here are the features that will require a power source:
Any form of computerization requires an integrated CPU, and CPUs need lots of energy to operate.
Some telescopes, especially larger ones, arrive with a motorized base. This is usually paired with a computerized finder system. As you’d guess, they need plenty of power to do their job.
Certain telescopes will have built-in fans to cool the optics to increase acuity before use.
Okay, so these perhaps won’t arrive with your telescope, but if you plan on buying a few aftermarket accessories to improve your stargazing experience, some may require batteries.
How Do I Power My Telescope
Most telescopes will come with some sort of onboard battery bay or connected battery pack, so if you like, you can just keep replacing the batteries as and when it’s needed.
Sadly, though, standard rechargeable batteries rarely put out a voltage strong enough to run a powerful telescope with any consistency, so you will be buying a LOT of batteries.
This isn’t your only option though!
Are AC Wall Outlets An Option?
With an adapter, you can absolutely plug your telescope directly into a standard AC wall outlet, saving you the time and hassle involved with perpetually replenishing batteries.
However, this isn’t much of an elegant solution either, as you’re bound to be using your telescope in remote, outdoor locations with no AC supply available.
An AC adapter is fine as long as you only need to observe from your yard. A reliable and lengthy extension cord will allow you to do so, but beyond that, an AC outlet is out of the question.
What should you do?
The Magic Of Dedicated Astronomy Power Supplies
If you really want to combine power with convenience, then there’s only one route to take, and it’s the one that leads to a dedicated astronomy power supply.
Your best bet is to find a discrete power pack produced by the manufacturer of your telescope, as this ensures the cells are optimized for use with your model, but as long as the power requirements are suitable, you can venture outside the branded ecosystem.
If this seems like the best way to power your telescope, before you purchase one, you need to consider battery technology. You have two main options:
SLA (Sealed Lead Acid
Sealed lead acid batteries are seen as something of a relic these days, but they’re actually still exceedingly popular in astronomy circles, and as long as you know how to treat them, they can be very effective.
Unlike modern batteries, SLA batteries like to be fully discharged and fully charged regularly. Ensuring they go through a full charge cycle at least once a month is essential to their longevity.
There are a few other problems to speak of though, namely, SLAs are big, heavy, and they underperform in the cold, which you may well find yourself in while observing the night sky.
They’re not great for the environment either, but they are usually cheaper.
On an output graph, an SLA battery will show a long performance, albeit with a steady decline almost from the get-go, meaning your telescope won’t be at its best for most of your observation session.
Generally speaking, lithium batteries pip SLA every day of the week, but they aren’t just a single technology. When it comes to lithium, you have a few different chemistries to choose from.
LOC (Lithium-Cobalt Oxide)
Surprisingly, LOC batteries are very common in society. You’ll find them in slightly outdated smartphones and laptops. They’re high-performance bits of gear but are highly unstable.
They often overheat, which is why they’re almost always paired with some sort of thermal regulation system.
LOC cells also aren’t too keen on charge extremes, by which I mean they don’t like reaching 0% and they don’t particularly enjoy being at 100% either, which can make optimizing their service life quite tricky.
On an output graph, you’d say they run for almost as long as SLA, but start at a lower voltage and show an even steeper decline.
NMC (Lithium-Nickel Manganese Cobalt Dioxide)
Here we have the first truly reliable option for your astronomy pursuits. NMC lithium batteries are used in much more demanding devices such as power tools.
They’re far more stable in terms of thermals, they have beefy cycle lives, and they’re very consistent.
Their charge doesn’t last quite as long as other battery types, but that’s because their output doesn’t ramp down; it remains peaked throughout the discharge cycle, meaning you’ll enjoy your telescope to its fullest potential.
The best NMC on the market for astronomy is the Celestron PowerTank LT
LFP (Lithium-Ion Phosphate)
If you want the best of the best, then it’s LFP for you, no questions asked!
They have a stacked native voltage, last for years, are highly stable (even at the extremities of their charge cycle), they’re lightweight, and they charge fast.
These batteries are so reliable, they’re often used in medical devices whose functionality could mean the difference between life or death in an emergency.
The only drawback of this battery technology is the price, but you really do get what you pay for.
On an output graph, LFP batteries do show a slight decline over time, but as their voltage is so on point to begin with, their output remains stronger than all other battery types throughout its discharge.
The best dedicated astronomy LFP battery pack for telescopes is the Celestron PowerTank Lithium Pro
That just about covers all bases, folks. I hope this info helps you take care of all the mundane aspects of running a telescope, so you can fast track your first look into the depths of our solar system and beyond!
My advice is to shoot for either the NMC or LFP battery blueprint right from the get-go, as, although they’re expensive compared to the others, they offer much better value for money, and more importantly, will optimize your stargazing experience.
- I Can’t See Anything Clearly Through My Telescope – Help! - April 26, 2022
- Astronomy For Beginners – Getting Started Stargazing! - April 26, 2022
- Are Telescopes Easy To Use? - April 26, 2022