Celestron Day w/ CPC800

By James Chen

On June 9, Hands-On-Optics was honored to have two representatives of the Celestron Company bring the CPC 800 down for a test drive. Lance Lucero and Ed McDonough arrived at 3:00pm. After brief discussions, Lance and Ed set up the CPC 800 inside the showroom for a demonstration to the staff of Hands-On-Optics, and the gathered customers.

Celestron is betting their future on their new Sky Align software. It calculates the angles between objects in the sky, day or night. When you choose three objects in the sky, It's a 2 star + 1 system. Sky Align calculates the angle between two objects and then takes those angles of separation and searches its database

The third object is used to confirm the two objects. It works. It the time it took to type this paragraph, you can set up the scope.

The GPS downloads the date, time and scopes location as in previous models.
The user chooses from Sky Align, Auto Two-Star Align, One-Star Align, EQ Align or Solar System Align. Sky Align works. The accuracy of the new system using Sky Align appeared to be more accurate then the NexStar system. It is amazingly simple and incredibly accurate. Celestron's research and development has come up with a winner here.

The internal 16-channel GPS unit automatically captured the date, time and observing location. The alignment options include Sky Align, Auto Two-Star Align, One-Star Align, EQ Align or Solar System Align. The Sky Align method asks the user to point the telescope to a bright object. The telescope is moved manually to the first object. Once centered, the user locks the clutches and pushes the "align" button on the controller. The user then slews to the next object using the hand controller, centers it and presses "align". This procedure is repeated for the third object. Alignment success! The set up time is reduced significantly compared with the Nexstar GPS models.

The CPC 800 uses the classic f/10 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain optical system that the amateur astronomy community has come to know and love over the years. The most significant improvement on the optical tube is the re-design of the finderscope bracket, which allows for removal and packing and re-installation without affecting alignment!

The CPC 800 is equipped with a new improved tripod. There is a center pin on the tripod and a center hole on the bottom of the telescope that allows you to get the telescope positioned properly over the tripod. Additionally, the base of the telescope and the tripod are designed to detent at the three points where the telescope bolts onto the tripod. The telescope is set down on the center pin and then rotated on the base until it clicks into place. Three captive, spring loaded thumb screws are used to attach the telescope to the tripod, thus eliminating any chance of losing hardware out in the field. The new tripod is equipped with a built-in bubble level, allowing the user to level out the tripod before mounting the telescope. Another improvement incorporated in the new tripod is a new spreader bar that is significantly thicker and more substantial than the previous. The spreader bar is dual-purpose, also serving as an accessory tray with three 1.25" slots for eyepieces, barlows or other accessories. It not only has the standard indentations for use as a spreader bar, it also has indentations for when you are transporting the tripod. The new tripod accepts the current heavy-duty wedge.

Base and Fork Arms
The base and fork arms have the familiar look akin to the previous generation NexStar telescopes, but with notable differences. The metallic silver base CPC series hides some significant changes in fork mount design. This base has a very wide diameter, housing a large azimuth bearing measuring a full 9.8 inches. Inside the base you will find over 100 roller-ball bearings along the rotational axis that allows the telescope to rotate in a very smooth motion. The azimuth gear housed within the base is a 5.625" hard anodized, 180-tooth gear coupled to a brass worm gear that provides smooth slewing and accurate tracking for both visual and photographic applications. The CPC 800 sports some new hand clutch locks in altitude and azimuth that allow you to get a solid grip, even in the cold with thick gloves on! The azimuth lock is now located on the top center of the base for easy access and the altitude lock is located on the right fork arm.

The demonstration was very successful, and we would like to thank our friends at Celestron for this unique event.

Oh, by the way, as a result of the Celestron demo, Hands-On-Optics sold out of its first shipment of CPC 800 that evening!

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