In my last article I looked into the virtues of a permanent observatory setup and covered the pros and cons. Now let’s look at the flip side: a portable astronomy setup.

I do like the idea of a permanent observatory so everything is ready almost at a moment’s notice, but there is also a lot to be said about having a portable setup: indeed perhaps you could opt for both if you have a big enough garden.

With a portable setup you have a lot more flexibility to take advantage of more of the space in your garden.

If you want a setup that is easily repeatable then one way is to have a patio area marked out where the legs of a tripod can be placed so that you know you are pretty close to being polar aligned.

Then it’s just a matter of adding the scope with its accessories either for astro imaging or visual observing and you can be ready to go pretty quickly once you get the hang of it.

You could even put in a permanent pier but you may then find yourself stuck with that one position. In that case just keep hold of the original tripod as a backup.

The other positive aspect of a portable setup is that you are not restricted to your garden but can travel to a dark-sky site for a better experience.

Many of us do just that very successfully and indeed some even take their gear abroad for even darker skies or perhaps to see aspects of the night sky not accessible from our home shores.

Also, with a portable set up you can still see the whole sky whilst with a classical dome-style observatory you are restricted to what you can observe through the opening of the slit.

It is also often pointed out that inside a dome you lose a special connection with the cosmos and could miss out on that spectacular fireball, aurora or noctilucent cloud display, meteor showers or satellite passes such as the ISS and many others.

In the end the choice is yours, whether you want an observatory a portable setup or both.

The only other thing you need is a clear sky and to enjoy the cosmos in whatever way takes your fancy!

Keep an eye on the Reviews section of our website for updated articles examining the latest and best astronomy equipment out there.

Paul Money is BBC Sky at Night Magazine's news editor. Visit his website for more tips on how to make the most out of observing the night sky.


Paul Money is an experienced astronomer, BBC Sky at Night Magazine's Reviews Editor and author of the annual stargazing guide Nightscenes.