Loaner Telescopes and Accessories

Borrow a telescope, astrophotography rig, mount, or accessory kit for up to three months.

A benefit of SDAA Full Contributing Membership is access to SDAA loaner equipment. The SDAA maintains a comprehensive fleet of telescopes, mounts, eyepieces, and other accessories that Full Contributing Members are eligible to borrow in three-month stretches.

If you are interested in borrowing some equipment, you can e-mail the SDAA Loaner Equipment Coordinator. You can also review the table at the bottom of the page showing current availability.

Borrowing equipment requires that members follow these steps (see additional details in the Loaner Scope Procedures).

  1. Contact the SDAA Loaner Equipment Coordinator to verify eligibility and equipment availability. If you are not sure what equipment is right for you, the Coordinator will help you decide.
  2. Plan to meet the Coordinator at Tierra Del Sol around sunset on one of the SDAA Public or Member star party nights.
  3. At TDS, the Coordinator will train you in operation of the loaner equipment.
  4. You may now use the loaner equipment under the dark skies of TDS, and take the equipment home with you. Loans are for three months.
  5. Plan to meet the Coordinator at Tierra Del Sol when your equipment is due to be returned. The Coordinator will inspect the equipment for any damage and check the equipment back into inventory.

Note: All equipment pick-up and drop-off MUST take place at TDS and MUST be accomplished before dusk!

Dobsonian Telescopes
(Visual Only)

The Dobsonian Telescope is a Newtonian reflecting telescope (mirror in the back, eyepiece in the front) mounted on a simple up-down-left-right mount that you move by hand. These telescopes are hugely popular for beginners all the way to advanced amateur astronomers as they prioritize high quality and large aperture optics over complex and fussy electronics and motorized mounts. Dobsonian telescopes are ideal for visual observation, and are not suitable for any kind of astrophotography.

The SDAA has numerous Dobsonian telescopes available, from compact table-top models that can be carried in a backpack, to popular 8 to 10 inch models. Larger telescopes deliver brighter and more magnified images, but can be heavier and bulkier to move around.

SDAA-035 – 16″ manual
Meade Lightbridge 16″ Dobsonian

The largest telescope in the SDAA loaner fleet, this 16″ f/4.5 monster collects over 5x the light of an 8″ scope! Observe faint and obscure NGC and Arp galaxies, and peer deep into tiny planetary nebulae with this scope. Note that this scope is for advanced users who are already experienced assembling and using a truss-tube dobsonian. The telescope must be disassembled for transport, and even when disassembled is too large to fit in a compact car. You will need an SUV or a minivan with the middle seats removed, to be able to take this scope home. Also note that when broken down, the mirror box weighs around 70 pounds, and the ground board weighs about 40 pounds.
SDAA-041 – 12″ GOTO
SkyWatcher FlexTube 300P SynScan GOTO Dobsonian

This 12” telescope optical tube collapses down to just a little over 36”, allowing you to transport the scope in a majority of vehicles. The large 12” f/4.9 mirror collects over twice the amount of light as an 8″ scope and has 50% higher resolution. This is a GOTO Dobosnian with drive motors on both axes. The SynScan AZ hand control allows you to select an object and the telescope will slew to it automatically and track it across the sky. Dual encoders allow the telescope to be moved manually with no need for re-alignment.
SDAA-023, SDAA-033 – 10″ manual
Enjoy one of our big 10 inch “light bucket” dobsonians under the dark skies of TDS. This telescope is a great introduction to “big scopes”, including a 2″ focuser for those big wide-angle eyepieces. 1200mm f/4.7 optics, 2″ focuser, and a Telrad.
SDAA-026, SDAA-031, SDAA-042 – 8″ manual
Zhumell 8″ Dobsonian / Orion SkyQuest XT8
These 8″ telescopes have an 8” parabolic primary mirror with a f/6 focal ratio and 1200mm focal length. Includes a 2″ focuser and a Telrad.  This size Dobsonian scope is small enough to pack in compact vehicles, but large enough to observe the entire Messier and Caldwell catalogs.
SDAA-028 – 8″ manual
Bushnell Voyager 8″ Dobsonian
Easy to set up and easy to transport, the Bushnell Voyager features an 8″ parabolic mirror with a f/6 focal ratio and 1200mm focal length, with a 1.25″ focuser.  This is a great scope to borrow if you have kids who want to learn to use a telescope.  It is rugged and super simple to use.
SDAA-030 – 5″ manual
The OneSky telescope from Astronomers Without Borders features a 130mm paraboloidal f/5 mirror. With a truss tube that collapses to 14.5 inches in seconds and a total weight of just 14 pounds, performance and convenience are combined in one portable package.  This telescope is compact and lightweight so it’s really easy to take out and use any time there is a clear sky.  Take this scope camping!  The 5 inch aperture is big enough to observe hundreds of deep sky objects from dark skies.  Very easy to use: great for getting kids introduced to telescopes. Features a simple helical focuser and red dot finder.

Computerized GoTo Schmidt Cassegrain Telescopes
(Visual + Planetary/Lunar Photography)

These telescopes are Schmidt Cassegrain optical tubes riding on motorized and computerized “GoTo” mounts. Power up the mount, perform a straightforward alignment routine, and then all you need to do is punch in the catalog ID of the object you want to observe. The mount will automatically slew to the object and once located, track it across the sky.

These telescope systems are primarily intended for visual use, but some limited astrophotography using video captures of planets, is possible with these telescopes.

SDAA-004, SDAA-038
8″ Meade LX-90 SCT

A full computerized GOTO telescope, with Meade Autostar. This telescope, once properly aligned, will slew to virtually any object, then track it across the sky. 2000mm focal length f/10 optics with oversized primary mirror. Note that the tracking functionality is best for visual use; this scope is challenging to use for planetary astrophotography and does not include a camera.
8″ Meade SCT on iOptron MiniTower Pro mount

This is a fantastic platform for learning planetary photography, or for a great night of visual observing. The iOptron MiniTower Pro mount is rock solid, all metal construction, and has absolute encoders on both axes to improve pointing accuracy. Built in GPS ensures high precision GoTo every time.

Includes everything you need: tripod, mount, 8″ f/10 OTA, 2″ visual back and diagonal, an AstroZap dew shield, and even includes a Celestron NexImage 10 solar system imaging camera. Also includes a cell phone camera holder and a second scope saddle, so you can mount your own telescope for dual-scope observing.

Astrophotography Equipment
(Deep Sky Photography)

Astrophotography is more accessible than ever, with the cost of telescopes, mounts, cameras, and accessories constantly dropping. Capturing images, stacking, and processing them is also getting much easier as software continues to improve. But make no mistake — getting amazing images like this still requires a huge amount of knowledge, patience, and the right equipment.

The SDAA can help you get started by getting you access to otherwise pricy equipment such as sturdy motorized german equatorial mounts, fast optical tubes, and guiding equipment. You can use this equipment to determine whether astrophotography is for you. If so, you will have real-world experience to inform your purchase decisions. If not, you won’t be stuck with equipment that you now have to sell.

There is also the SDAA Astro Imagers Special Interest Group (AISIG) that meets regularly to discuss all things astrophotography. After picking up your loaner astrophotography rig, it is recommended that you engage with AISIG to help you get your bearings and make the most of your loaned equipment.

SDAA-029: Beginner
iOptron Skyguider Pro with Accessories
Easy to use sky tracker that can accept your DSLR, mirrorless, point-and-shoot camera, or a small telescope.  Includes everything you need (except the camera and lens) to start shooting deep sky exposures up to 10 minutes in length.  Includes heavy duty 2″ steel tripod, upgraded William Optics alt-az base with polar scope, dual counterweights, heavy duty ball head mount for your camera, and a William Optics Vixen dovetail saddle for small telescopes.  Also includes a Bahtinov mask to assist with focusing.  The whole set packs up in two small boxes, plus the tripod: super easy to transport to dark skies.

This kit will introduce new astrophotographers to the concepts of polar alignment, tracking, and how to stack and process multiple exposures to create finished images.
SDAA-027: Intermediate
6″ f/5 Newtonian telescope mounted on a Celestron CG-5 AS-GT.  The OTA has a 2″ focuser with a 1.25″ T-thread nosepiece. T-adapters for common DSLRs are included, as well as a Celestron NexYZ cell phone holder.  With a good polar alignment, exposures of 2-3 minutes should be possible. 

For astrophotographers who are comfortable with polar alignment and the basics of taking multiple exposures. This kit will introduce you to motorized robotic German Equatorial Mounts. Learning how to polar align, balance, and configure a GEM is a crucial step in learning to take deep sky astrophotos.

Note that this kit does NOT include a guide scope, which limits length of exposures.
SDAA-032: Advanced
A complete deep sky astrophotography kit including the following:
– Meade LX85 German Equatorial Mount with polar scope and Audiostar GOTO
– Orion 8″ f/4 astrograph with 2″ focuser with 10:1 fine focus. Also includes a Bahtinov mask.
– 50mm guide scope with helical focuser, and a Lodestar X2 guide camera
– Canon EOS Rebel T3i DSLR with USB cable and digital intervalometer
This kit is for SDAA members who are already familiar with deep sky astrophotography technique, and how to properly use a German Equatorial Mount. You will advance your skills by learning to utilize a polar scope for polar alignment, and a guide scope for autoguiding your long exposures. The included DSLR will introduce you to prime focus astrophotography, if you have been using a cell phone camera or point-and-shoot up to this point.

Specialized Equipment

Some unusual or specialized equipment is also available to loan. For example, solar telescopes that are used during the day!

SDAA-034, SDAA-037
Coronado Personal Solar Telescope (PST)

Coronado’s iconic Personal Solar Telescope (or PST for short) is an incredibly portable way to view the sun in hydrogen-alpha light, capable of sitting on top of even modest photo tripods. The Sun’s got a lot going on, and the PST will show it to you. By zeroing in on the far end of the Sun’s visible light spectrum — the hydrogen-alpha line — the PST reveals our closest star rolling with violent, ever-changing activity.  40mm f/10 optics with a <1.0 Å bandpass etalon.  Observe solar prominences and surface granulation impossible to see with a simple white-light solar filter.  Mount on your own photo tripod, or pair with SDAA-029 for a sturdier base with tracking.  Includes everything you need to observe the sun in H-alpha.

We have two of these telescopes available to loan. One comes with a clever alt-az fine pointing adjustment. The other comes with the original Coronado case but no other accessories. Both are meant to mount on a standard photo tripod (not included).
GoalZero Yeti 500x Power Station

Portable power station with 12V, 60W USB-PD, and 300W 110V AC inverter. 500Wh Lithium battery. Includes soft carrying case.
Santa Barbara Imaging Group (SBIG) STF-8300C cooled one-shot-color CCD camera

The STF-8300C (color) camera is based on Kodak’s KAF-8300, 8.3 megapixel (3326×2504), full frame CCD. The KAF-8300 CCD is approximately 18 x 14mm (1.5″, smaller than APS-C but bigger than micro 4/3) and has a diagonal measurement of about 22 millimeters. With its relatively small pixels (5.4µm x 5.4µm) and large image area it is ideal for wide field imaging with short fast telescopes and camera lenses and at the same time is flexible enough to be used on long focal length Schmidt-Cassegrains.

Comes with a 2″ nosepiece, 2.5x 2″ barlow, 12v power supply, USB cable, and a hard-shell carrying case.
Baader Solar Filter for 8″ Dobsonian Telescopes

This solar filter accessory clips onto the front of solid-tube 8″ Dobsonians like SDAA-026, SDAA-031 and SDAA-042. When in place, it allows you to observe the sun in full spectrum white light. Excellent for observing sunspots. If you want to see prominences and surface granulation, you need a Hydrogen Alpha telescope, such as SDAA-034 or SDAA-037.

Current Inventory Status

The table below shows the current status of the SDAA loaner inventory. The due date is not a gurantee that the equipment will be returned by that date: scheduling conflicts and inclement weather can often push return dates out, so do not count on equipment being returned by the due date. It is always best to contact the SDAA Loaner Equipment Coordinator to express your interest in an item, and to get on the waitlist if it is already checked out.

If viewing this page on mobile, note that you may need to scroll the table to the right to see the inventory status.

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