Joy of joys, the darker skies are returning and so astro equipment that has perhaps been in hibernation for a couple of months is brought back into action once again.


In BBC Sky at Night Magazine we often review the main astronomical items such as telescopes, mounts and cameras as they are the primary equipment.

However, it is worth ensuring that your ancillary equipment is also up to the job, which where the Gear section of the magazine comes in handy.

One item that often comes to my attention is the tripod, which is in most cases perfectly suited to the job at hand when supplied with the more serious mounts, but can be a weak link when it comes to entry-level systems and smaller tracking mounts.

The tripod has a very important part to play. Think about it: this one item must carry the weight of everything else!

So, in order to do that it needs to be sturdy yet lightweight, especially if it is going to be portable

Often an entry-level system can be significantly improved by replacing the tripod with a sturdier one.

The last thing you need is a 'wobblyscope' that puts you off using it every time you have the slightest breeze. Even walk nearby and the view wobbles all over the place!

Basic and tracked wide-field astrophotography also benefits from a sturdy tripod as you don't want those precious images spoiled by vibrations.

Binoculars are the other beneficiaries of having a good sturdy tripod, as I'm sure our binocular expert Steve Tonkin will agree.

It is amazing how many more stars you can spot through a pair of binoculars or a spotting scope when mounted on a good tripod.

In my view it is worth looking at investing in the tripod either at the point of purchasing a mount, a complete system or binoculars, and checking out the tripod that comes with it or is recommended.

In some cases it is possible to buy them separately, giving you the option to purchase a tripod of your own choice.

A stable and sturdy tripod will be a friend for life and will make enjoying the night sky more pleasurable, rather than frustrating.

In this month's reviews we look at the Omegon Telescope Pro RC 203/1624, the Bresser Full HD Deep-Sky camera and the Sky-Watcher SolarQuest Solar Go-To tracking mount, the latter of which has a great tripod!


Read our reviews of the latest astronomy equipment in the August issue of BBC Sky at Night Magazine, out 19 July.


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