I'm excited; I'm going to California next week on astronomy business. My main job is giving a talk at the Riverside Telescope Makers Conference, but while in Southern CA, I'll also visit the three major observatories: Griffith, Mount Wilson, and Mount Palomar. I'm particularly thrilled by the last; to anyone of my generation, Palomar was THE telescope. For most of my formative years, it was by far the biggest telescope in the world.
And while I'm in California, of course I'll try to take advantage of the southerly latitude and the famously clear skies to look at a bunch of celestial objects from Centaurus through Lupus and Scorpius that aren't really visible here in Massachusetts. Which, as usual, raises the question of what telescope to bring. Taking full camping gear and full astronomy gear on an airplane isn't easy!
As long as I'm carrying a photo tripod anyway — which I am on my California trip — there's little extra burden to carrying my lightest telescope, which is shown at right. It's a refractor from Borg — roughly a 65-mm f/6.5 — that I bought secondhand quite a while ago. Borg specializes in portable equipment, but they've backed off from building telescopes entirely out of plastic, like this one. Mind you, I'm no anti-plastic snob, like some telescope users. On the contrary, plastic is a wonderful material with unrivaled strength-to-weight ratio for certain purposes. However, building a telescope entirely out of plastic was, in retrospect, not an altogether successful plan. The problem is the focuser. Yes, it works, and it even accepts 2-inch eyepieces. But a good focuser is rigid yet smooth, and this is neither. I strongly suspect that this scope has excellent optics, but I've never been able to focus it accurately enough to tell for sure.
Still, considering that it weighs less than two pounds, including a built-in diagonal, it's a pretty attractive travel scope. It works just fine for deep-sky observing at 60×, and it's so light that it works well on any photo tripod.
As it happens, I've arranged a far better alternative in this case — I'll be borrowing a scope in California from one of my internet friends. But not everyone has friends with spare telescopes at every port of call. Too bad you can't just rent a telescope at the airport, the way you can rent a car. Wouldn't it be cool to fly with only carry-on luggage, and then drive away from the airport with your telescope of choice in your trunk?
I suppose the problem — aside from the market being far too small — is that telescope users' needs or desires are too different. Basically, all cars are identical, with minor variations. Some are 25% smaller, some 25% bigger, some a little faster, and so on. But those are trivial compared to the differences between (say) a 66-mm APO, a 16-inch Dob, and an 8-inch photo-capable SCT with Go To. If you reserve a compact car and get a standard, it's no big deal. But if you reserved an APO on a high-quality equatorial mount to do astrophotography, and ended up with a Dob instead, it would blow the whole purpose of your astro-vacation.