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Explore Scientific Twilight I Alt-Azimuth Review: Recommended Mount

The Explore Scientific Twilight I mount is an excellent manual mount for smaller telescopes and is a huge improvement over a photo tripod head or the partly-plastic alt-azimuth mounts supplied with many cheaper scopes.
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The Explore Scientific Twilight I telescope mount, engineered for light-to-medium-duty usage, elegantly blends functionality with ease-of-use. It comprises both a tripod and an alt-azimuth mount head. This mount is ideal for small to medium-sized refractors, Newtonians, and catadioptrics, as long as their apertures do not exceed 6 inches and their weight is under ~15 lbs. The Twilight I is a notable improvement over the cheaper alt-azimuth mounts in its price range, such as the Vixen Porta II and Orion VersaGo, which feature inadequate clearance for larger scopes and are heavily dependent on flimsy plastic castings that are easily damaged and not all that sturdy.

How It Stacks Up

Ranks #2 of 11 under $500 AltAz Mounts





Explore Scientific Twilight I Adjustable Angle Alt-Azimuth Mount


What We Like

  • Extremely simple setup and use
  • All-metal parts
  • Slow-motion controls on both altitude and azimuth axis
  • Adjustable mount head angle

What We Don't Like

  • A little bit heavy
  • Some mechanical slop
Recommended Product Badge

The Twilight I is easily one of the best manual alt-azimuth mounts on the market, or at least offered at a sane price. For small refractors, fast Newtonians, and smaller catadioptrics, there really isn’t a better all-manual option available.

Buy from Recommended Retailer

We recommend purchasing this telescope directly from Explore Scientific’s Arkansas-based online store in order to get the best possible price, shipping, and warranty.

The Explore Scientific Twilight I mount is an alt-azimuth mount that pivots left to right and up/down on ball bearings. Unlike cheap alt-azimuth mounts based on the design of a fluid head tripod, where the telescope is suspended above the axis of rotation, the Twilight I puts your telescope’s optical tube sideways of the altitude axis. This avoids the common problem of the telescope tipping when aimed high in the sky, which happens with photo tripods and mounts like them due to their inherently unbalanced nature. The Twilight I does not have this problem. When you balance your telescope properly on the Twilight I, it remains so regardless of where it is aimed in the sky. There are clutch levers on both the altitude and azimuth axis just in case, however.

While it has a stated weight capacity of 18 lbs, the Twilight I works best with telescopes under 15 lbs including all accessories – so a 6” SCT or Maksutov, a 6” reflector, or a 4-5” refractor is probably the upper limit. The arm holding the altitude axis for the Twilight I can be adjusted in angle to ensure the back end of your telescope adequately clears the mount’s base; a hex key to adjust the mount is provided and fits neatly in a cover on the azimuth axis.

The Twilight I features standard slow-motion cables to make fine tracking and pointing adjustments on either axis, which is particularly useful at high magnifications. Due to manufacturing tolerances, there can be some backlash/slop in the gears that these cables connect to for adjustment, however, in most cases, this is not a huge concern. To attach to your telescope, the Twilight I has a standard Vixen-style dovetail saddle that will clamp to any scope with a dovetail bar. The saddle uses a set screw with an additional safety screw to firmly grasp your scope’s dovetail plate.

The key to the Twilight I’s stability is its 1.75” steel tripod. This tripod is heavy, but it’s rock solid, and the bottleneck limiting this mount’s weight capacity is solely the mount head. A near identical tripod is provided with the Sky-Watcher HEQ5, which holds more than twice as much weight as the Twilight I is meant for. An accessory tray/spreader bar inserts to provide additional bracing for the legs, and has slots for three 1.25” eyepieces – though in most cases you’ll probably not find yourself using it for this purpose.

Should I buy a Used Explore Scientific Twilight I?

A used Twilight I has relatively little that can actually go wrong with it, being a manual mount. However, you should, of course, inspect the mount for any obvious corrosion or damage.

Alternative Recommendations

The Twilight I doesn’t have a whole lot of competitors in the manual mount department, so most of our alternative recommendations are GoTo mounts, which also allow manual adjustment, though without mechanical fine adjustment controls they aren’t exactly ideal for a purely-manual configuration.

Under $500

  • The Sky-Watcher AZ-GTi has a lower weight capacity than the Twilight I, but not by much – it’s still more than capable of holding smaller scopes up to ~10 lbs. The AZ-GTi features motorized tracking and GoTo – operated by your smartphone/tablet at that – and can easily be set up in just a few minutes to automatically point at and track objects, or you can loosen the mount’s clutches and aim it manually thanks to its FreedomFind encoder system with no compromise to its automatic pointing and tracking accuracy.
  • The Sky-Watcher AZ5 has basically the same features and design as the Twilight I with the bonus of a provided pier extension, but it does not permit as much clearance with longer/wider telescope tubes as the Twilight I, nor is it quite as easy to pick up and carry around.


  • The Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ6i is a marvel of modern telescope mount technology, deftly combining functionality with ease of use. It possesses the capacity to transform from an equatorial mount, which is an optimal setup for astrophotography, to an alt-azimuth design that’s well-suited for visual observing. In addition, the Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ6i incorporates FreedomFind technology. This innovative technology allows you to manually aim the telescope, independent of the computer control, without losing alignment or positional information. It combines the benefits of GoTo pointing and tracking with the immediacy and convenience of manual telescope movement, a feature that many observers find invaluable.
  • The Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ5i features the same design features as the larger AZ-EQ6i but in a more compact package with a ~30lb weight capacity, again on either side of the mount. Like the AZ-EQ6i, it’s a great mount for both heavy visual use and imaging with lighter payloads.
  • The Losmandy AZ8, a manual mount based on the distinguished equatorial GM8 design, provides a combination of simplicity and elegance that is often sought but seldom found in the world of telescope mounts. Like the Twilight I, the Losmandy AZ8 shines in its capacity to offer the observer an immersive hands-on experience, entirely devoid of the complexities often associated with computerized controls.
Zane Landers

An amateur astronomer and telescope maker from Connecticut who has been featured on TIME magazineNational GeographicLa Vanguardia, and Clarin, The Guardian, The Arizona Daily Star, and Astronomy Technology Today and had won the Stellafane 1st and 3rd place Junior Awards in the 2018 Convention. Zane has owned over 425 telescopes, of which around 400 he has actually gotten to take out under the stars. These range from the stuff we review on TelescopicWatch to homemade or antique telescopes; the oldest he has owned or worked on so far was an Emil Busch refractor made shortly before the outbreak of World War I. Many of these are telescopes that he repaired or built.

1 thought on “Explore Scientific Twilight I Alt-Azimuth Review: Recommended Mount”

  1. I purchased this mount as an upgrade for my Williams optics 80 f/6.9 refractor. I like this mount, much better motions than my Versago2 Alt-az.
    I had a couple problems though, the AZ slow motion cable is directly under the scope, so you can’t look high up, with out removing that slow motion cable.
    A simple knobs there would still be usable and out of the way.

    The other problems are age related, and are my problems, the leg locking bolts. At my age ( 67 ) and with problems with hand strength, larger ,round bolt heads knobs would have been so much easier for me.


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