Celestron NexStar 8SE Telescope Review
The Celestron NexStar 8SE computerized telescope is one of the best-selling telescope packages of all time. It features a large aperture optical telescope and a computerized GoTo mount.
The NexStar series of SCTs have been around for over a decade, and I was finally able to experience this beginner-friendly telescope for myself.
I was impressed with the completeness of this package, from the 1.25″ 25mm eyepiece and diagonal to the red dot finder mounted to the 8-inch OTA.
Celestron NexStar 8SE Video Review.
This is a primarily visual telescope, meant for enjoying views of the moon, planets, and the brighter nebulae and galaxies through the eyepiece. This would be an excellent choice for witnessing celestial events such as a lunar eclipse.
But what about astrophotography? The design of the tracking telescope mount (fork-mounted Alt-Az) wasn’t designed for it, but is it a complete waste of time?
In this post, I’ll show my results using Celestron’s NexYZ smartphone adapter. If you’re in the market for a grab-and-go telescope (that excels in views of the moon and planets), I think you will enjoy my review of the Celestron NexStar 8SE.
Celestron NexStar 8SE Review
Is this the all-in-one telescope package that does it all? Not quite, but that’s okay. It gets the important parts right. The telescope OTA (optical tube assembly) is top-notch, while the mount is just enough to get you by.
I asked the AstroBackyard community on Facebook how they felt, and almost all of them had amazing things to say about this telescope. From seeing their first-ever view of the planet Saturn to surprisingly impressive astrophotography, the NexStar 8SE is a widely appreciated piece of kit.
Here is a spectacular photo of the planet Jupiter, captured by Christian Ralph using his Celestron NexStar 8SE telescope.
The planet Jupiter captured using the Celestron NexStar 8SE (Christian Ralph).
There are a few quirks of course (the red dot finder scope is rudimentary, and the single-arm fork mount is a little wobbly), but overall everyone seemed to agree that it was a smart purchase and they got a lot of use out of it. Some people even mentioned that had sold the scope, and wished that they had kept it.
As an astrophotographer, the first thing I noticed was the Alt-Az fork mount, and that’s not what you want if your primary interest is long-exposure astrophotography. (An equatorial telescope mount is best).
But, people have taken impressive images with this telescope, it just requires a different approach. If you’re into photographing planets the Celestron NexStar 8SE will work out just fine. This 8″ SCT was meant for crisp views of solar system objects, and that is where it excels.
If you look at the specifications for this telescope, it highlights some pretty impressive potential for a variety of visual observations. I can see why beginners are drawn to this package as their first serious scope.
The NexStar 8SE is great for spur-of-the-moment observing sessions of the moon or planets.
NexStar 8SE Telescope Specifications
- Aperture: 203 mm (8″)
- Telescope Focal Length: 2032 mm
- Focal Ratio: F/10
- Camera/Eyepiece Connection: 1.25″ Nosepiece
- Diagonal Included: Yes
- Tripod Weight: 10 lbs
- Tube Weight: 12.5 lbs
- Computerized: Yes
- Drive Type: DC Servo motors
- Optical Design: Schmidt-Cassegrain
- Secondary Obstruction: 35mm
- Tube Diameter: 226mm
- Tube Length: 432mm
- 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain OTA
- NexStar SE Mount: Motorized Alt-Azimuth/ GoTo
- Tripod with Adjustable Steel Legs
- Red Dot Finderscope
- Accessory Tray
- NexStar+ Hand Controller
- 1.25-inch Star Diagonal
- 1.25-inch, 25 mm Eyepiece
- Mini-USB Port
- Celestron Starry Night Software
- 2 Year Warranty
Setting up the Celestron NexStar 8SE for the first time was a quick and painless experience. Once assembled, the entire kit is light enough to be carried around the yard if necessary.
I used an AC adapter to plug the mount into household power in the backyard, but this mount can also be powered via 8 x AA batteries for complete mobility.
Although the red dot finderscope is simple and inexpensive, it is surprisingly effective at confirming the pointing direction of this high-magnification telescope.
Right out of the gate, I noticed a few things. The tripod I would call “medium-duty”, it’s similar to the one that comes in the newest Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer GTI package. It seems stable enough for a mount and scope of this size, and it keeps weight down for travel.
The trade-off of a heavier more stable tripod probably isn’t worth the extra weight. The mount head connects securely using 3 threaded bolts. It has a nice design and it feels secure.
Single Arm Fork Mount
The mount head unit and fork arm have a plastic outer casing, reminding you that this is a budget-friendly GoTo telescope package. The Celestron NexStar remote seats neatly inside of the arm, which is a clever space-saving design.
Users of this Celestron NexStar 8SE mentioned that a dual-arm fork design (like the one on the CPC series telescopes) would help the OTA feel a lot more secure. The motorized mount head is where the cost savings come into play. It feels a little “toy-ish”, but the 8″ NexStar OTA reminds us that this is a serious telescope.
It’s an 8-inch Schmidt Cassegrain telescope with a focal length of 2032mm at F/10. The orange tube Celestron SCT has been in production since 1970, and for good reason. It packs plenty of light-gathering power into a compact, practical size.
The optics on this telescope deliver crisp, high-contrast views, thanks in part to Celestron’s Starbright XLT optical coatings.
This telescope collects light at an f-ratio of F10, which is much “slower” than a typical reflector or refractor telescope. This means that the fainter nebulae and galaxies will be tough to observe, especially if you’re observing the night sky from a light-polluted city.
The 8″ SCT optical tube assembly mounted to the single-arm fork mount.
NexStar Hand Controller
The Celestron NexStar 8SE includes a NexStar hand controller, with over 40,000 objects in its database. The hand controller fits neatly inside the arm of the fork mount, and can also be extended for use while at the eyepiece. This is a clever design and works well in the field.
25mm Plossl Eyepiece
A 1.25″ 25mm Plossl eyepiece was included with the telescope. This is a useful magnification for a variety of objects in the night sky from planets, to bright galaxies.
It is important to use an eyepiece that does not have a high magnification when aligning the telescope. You may want to purchase an even wider eyepiece (such as a 32mm Plossl) for this purpose.
The higher the magnification of the eyepiece, the more “searching” you will have to do to align the telescope mount to a bright star.
Even with the large aperture SCT telescope, the entire kit weighs just 24 lbs in total. The mount, telescope, and tripod can break down into individual parts for easier transport.
This telescope is much easier to bring with you to a dark sky site than an equivalent aperture Dobsonian telescope.
The fully-assembled setup can easily be lifted up and moved across the yard, or brought back into your house or garage.
For example, the Celestron StarSense Explorer Dob delivers a brighter view at F/5.9, at the cost of a heavier kit to transport (about 42 pounds).
GoTo Computerized Mount
One of the biggest draws to this telescope, aside from the compact, travel-friendly design, is its computerized GoTo functionality. You can choose an object you would like to view on the hand controller, and the telescope will point right to it.
Of course, to do this, the telescope needs to be where it is on earth for accurate pointing. Luckily, this is a dead-simple process called “SkyAlign“.
The SkyAlign feature is used on several Celestron mounts including the NexStar GT, NexStar SLT, NexStar SE, NexStar Evolution, SkyProdigy, Astro Fi WiFi, and CPC telescopes.
To align the mount you need to point to (and center) three bright stars in the night sky.
You don’t have to know the location or name of a single star in the sky for it to work. You simply choose your location from the database, I chose Toronto (close enough), and point the scope at three bright stars. Any 3 bright stars.
To help you point directly at them, you can use the included red dot finder. Keep both eyes open, and move the scope until the red dot is directly on the star. When you look in the eyepiece, it should be right there, or very close.
Then center the star, and confirm these 3 positions. Once that is done, your telescope knows exactly where to point.
On my first night out with the Celestron NexStar 8SE, I chose to observe the Ring Nebula in the cancellation Lyra. Sure enough, with the simple SkyAlign routine performed beforehand, the telescope slowed right to it, first try.
Now that is a positive first experience. Bravo Celestron.
To really enjoy using this high-magnification telescope, do yourself a favor and pick up a nice wide-field eyepiece. As I mentioned. the NexStar 8SE package includes a 1.25″ 25mm Plossl, which is a decent start.
A wider eyepiece will make the star alignment process a little easier and makes for a brighter view. I tested an old Celestron 32mm Plossl eyepiece on the 8SE, and it provided a slightly wider, brighter view through the telescope.
A wider (lower magnification) eyepiece will make the SkyAlgin process easier because the alignment star will be easier to locate in a larger area of the sky. If you are looking for a suggestion, I recommend the Tele Vue 32mm Plossl Eyepiece.
If it’s planets you’re after, get a decent high-magnification eyepiece too, something in the 10mm or lower range. Keep in mind that the view through a high magnification eyepiece under 10mm will be much dimmer.
The Celestron Luminos 10mm eyepiece is great for viewing planets up-close.
Celestron NexYZ Smartphone Adapter
Yes, you can do astrophotography with the Celestron NexStar 8SE! The simplest way to get started is to use your existing smartphone, and hold it up to the eyepiece of the telescope.
Using this method (eyepiece projection astrophotography), you can capture impressive images of the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, and even Mars. Keeping the phone still enough for a photo, and lining the camera lens up with the center of the eyepiece is the tricky part.
Thankfully, the Celestron NexYZ smartphone adapter can help with these tasks, thanks to a clever 3-axis design. The adapter clamps on to the objective of the eyepiece (both 1.25″ and 2″ eyepieces), and securely holds your phone in place.
The Celestron NeXYZ Smartphone Adapter.
You can use the 3-axis adjustment knobs to center your smartphone’s camera lens in the eyepiece. Using the “pro” or “manual” mode of your camera, you can fine-tune the camera settings to take an amazing photo of the Moon’s surface or Saturn’s rings.
Smartphone astrophotography with the Celestron NexYZ adapter is best for pictures of the moon and bright planets. Deep-sky astrophotography (of galaxies and nebulae) will require additional hardware such as the Celestron NexStar SE & Evolution Wedge and the proper adapter and t-ring for your DSLR.
Related Post: How to Attach a Camera to Your Telescope
I included the Celestron NexStar 8SE on my list of best astrophotography telescopes because it is a great way to get started in moon photography, with an OTA worthy of being re-mounted to an EQ mount in the future.
Best Objects to See in the NexStar 8SE
The Celestron NexStar 8SE is best used for high-magnification views of the Moon and planets. Using the included 25mm Plossl eyepiece, the views of Saturn and Jupiter are incredible.
The SkyAlign feature allows you to get up and running quickly, so you can start observing sooner. Here are some examples of objects you can enjoy seeing through the Celestron NexStar 8SE, even from your backyard:
- The Moon
- Ring Nebula
- Dumbbell Nebula
- Andromeda Galaxy
- M13 Globular Cluster
I have a soft spot for equipment that makes the astronomy experience welcoming and approachable. Too many beginners have had a frustrating experience on their first night under the stars, and many of them do not return to the hobby.
The NexStar 8SE can deliver you your first view of the planet Jupiter, or the Andromeda Galaxy. Getting to this point is straightforward and rewarding, and does not require existing comprehension of the night sky.
The single-arm fork-mount design isn’t perfect, and it sacrifices stability for a compact, portable design. In a nutshell, the telescope and optics are fantastic, the mount is not.
When slewing the telescope at slower speeds (4 or below), I noticed that the response is “laggy”, meaning that the telescope does not move for a second or two after pressing the arrow button.
Be advised that touching the telescope or eyepiece while viewing an object will result in a shaky image, so keep those hands off while observing. This is something you will need to get used to.
The NeXYZ smartphone adapter is a great little design, probably the best one on the market. But capturing anything other than the moon or planets will be challenging.
Others have done it, but unless you’re willing to put the time in using a phone for deep-sky, stick to solar system objects.
You can fasten a DSLR camera or planetary camera to the telescope for much better images, but to accurately track objects you will need to invest in a wedge to orient the telescope towards the celestial pole.
The NexStar SkyAlign system is dead simple to perform, and you can skip over the polar alignment process and get straight to observing. The telescope can find and follow an object in the night sky for you.
Saturn stayed in the center of the eyepiece for almost 20 minutes at over 2000mm focal length – try to do that with a manual dob.
The 8″ telescope has enough aperture to deliver amazing views of the moon, planets, and brighter nebulae and galaxies. If the price of the 8SE is too steep for you, you have options. This telescope comes in 4, 5, and 6-inch versions.
The NexStar series of computerized Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescopes.
Overall the Celestron NexStar 8SE is a remarkable product, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a practical, travel-friendly, visual scope that allows you to get your feet wet in astrophotography.
Until next time, clear skies!
I was loaned this telescope from OPT for testing purposes, and was under no obligation to provide a positive review, nor was I compensated in any way for this article (or video).
Hello You manage to get big images from small refractors, how is that possible? Thank you Frank
Frank, we are getting started, but I would like to be able to view more objects well than just a few planets, Andromeda, etc. Can you recommend a telescope with good apertrure, optics, nad mount that has computerized tracking, please. We will be looking for a second-hand one. Thanks!
I have viewed tons of objects with this scope in Bortle 7 skies. In darker skies, views are even more impressive. Don’t get rid of this scope. You’ll have plenty of things you can view with it. I promise. I have viewed galaxies, planetary nebula, other bright nebulae, open clusters, globular clusters, and galaxies. It’s a very capable scope for visual astronomy.
Can the Celestron 8SE be accurately aligned (3 star alignment) with the focal reducer attached?
Yes! In fact, the process will be a little easier due to brighter stars and a wider field 🙂
I think it is very disappointing that a “astrophotographer” reviews a visual astronomy telescope! The fact that its a Az/alt mount is an advantage because it makes for much more comfortable viewing, your eyepiece only moves up and down between objects, so if you have a height adjustable chair you can view the whole night long! This type op scope is the ultimate visual package: easy and fast to align, no polar alignment, light weight for a 8″ so easy to transport.
That is a great point. It’s hard for me to look at telescopes from a strictly visual perspective these days. You are spot on with this one.