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Celestron NexStar 8SE Telescope Review

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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.

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.

astrobackyard review

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. 

Planet Jupiter

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.

celestron nexstar telescope review

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

Celestron NexStar 8SE Review

Included Items

  • 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

First Impressions

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.

Tripod

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.

Schmidt-Cassegrain 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.

Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope

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.

Portability

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. 

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.

observing through the eyepiece

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.

Recommended Accessories

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 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.

10mm eyepiece

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.

smartphone adapter

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.

astrophotography accessories

Related Post: How to Attach a Camera to Your Telescope

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
  • Saturn
  • Mars
  • Jupiter
  • Venus
  • Ring Nebula
  • Dumbbell Nebula
  • Pleiades
  • Andromeda Galaxy
  • M13 Globular Cluster

Final Thoughts

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. 

backyard telescope

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.

NexStar 4SE

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). 

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Celestron CGX-L Telescope Mount – First Look

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The Celestron CGX-L is a robust, professional-grade computerized equatorial mount with an impressive 75-lb payload capacity. The deep sky astrophotography potential of the Celestron CGX-L is obvious, and I intend to experience this benefit first-hand.

The CGX-L is the largest equatorial telescope mount I have ever used for astrophotography, with payload capacity that surpasses the incredible iOptron CEM60 (by 15 pounds). The added stability will come in handy when using the largest telescopes in my inventory, such as the William Optics FLT 132 refractor.

Later this year, I will run a complete Celestron rig that includes the exciting new Celestron 8” RASA F/2. This incredibly powerful GoTo telescope mount was generously loaned to me from High Point Scientific for review.

Celestron CGX-L telescope mount

The Celestron CGX-L with an 8″ RASA mounted on top.

Introduction

If you are new to astrophotography and computerized telescope mounts, a GoTo equatorial telescope mount like the CGX-L allows you to choose an object from the hand controller database, and the mount will slew to your desired target. This includes Solar system objects such as planets and the moon, named stars, and deep sky objects.

The NexStar hand control screen on this mount will also display useful information about the selected object such as magnitude, constellation and extended information about the most popular objects. Needless to say, whether you’re using a telescope for visual use or for astrophotography, a GoTo telescope mount will spoil you.

In this post, I’ll go over the specifications and features of Celestron’s latest flagship telescope mount. I’ll also take you along for the ride as I prepare this mount for some backyard deep sky astrophotography from the city.


An Overview of the Celestron CGX-L Telescope Mount

The Celestron CGX-L computerized mount is capable of carrying Celestron’s largest optical tubes, and was designed for serious imagers and their backyard observatories. Despite the fact that this is the most massive telescope mount I’ve ever experienced, it actually has an exceptional load capacity to weight ratio.

Celestron designed the CGX-L to be as compact and portable as possible. Coming from someone who doesn’t own a backyard observatory, I can appreciate this feature! I’d love to fasten the CGX-L mount to a fixed concrete pier under a roll-off roof, but for now, I’ll be carrying this mount in and outside of the garage, tripod and all.

In the past, I have enjoyed using equatorial telescope mounts from iOptron, Sky-Watcher, and yes, Celestron. My very first telescope mount for astrophotography was a Celestron Advanced Series CG-5, and it is responsible for many of the images in my photo gallery. The positive experiences I had with this entry-level Celestron telescope mount early on are why I fully expect to fall head over heels for the CGX-L.

EQ mount head

The EQ mount head of the Celestron CGX-L is manageable considering its payload capacity.

I can’t imagine traveling with the Celestron CGX-L mount, but that will depend on how manageable the setup process experience is in my backyard. For now, the idea is to build a semi-permanent deep sky imaging rig that utilizes all of the Celestron CGX-L’s inspired features from my backyard.

Let’s have a look at the key design goals of the Celestron CGX-L.

Celestron CGX-L Design

The Celestron CGX-L hit the market in early 2017, and it brought several new, modern features to the world of observatory-class equatorial mounts. One of Celestron’s key design goals for the CGX-L were to increase the diameter of the worm wheels to 144mm, which provides smoother movement and can drive heavier telescopes more efficiently.

The dovetail saddle on the CGX-L is an impressive 270mm in length, which owners of larger optical tubes will appreciate. It’s reassuring to know that your expensive telescope and astrophotography accessories are safely secured to the mount head and with added security and stability of a larger saddle.

Because this mount is an attractive option for those looking to build a permanent, remote observatory, Celestron has included a number of remote operation-friendly features. This includes everything from built-in home and limit optical sensors to well-thought-out and convenient cable management options.

Attention was given to the ergonomic details of this mount, to make it as compact and manageable as possible for its size. Having moved this telescope mount from one house to another, I can honestly say that it was no more difficult to disassemble and transport than my much smaller Sky-Watcher EQ6-R Pro. The mount feels incredibly sturdy and heavy, and yet takes up a modest footprint despite its massive payload capacity.

The execution of a telescope mount that is both compact and easy to manage yet is observatory-grade is a testament to the evolution of our hobby. Decades of engineering and user-feedback have been applied to the CGX-L, and you can feel it when you use this mount.

Celestron CGX-L telescope mount

The total kit weight including the tripod is 120 lbs (not including the telescope attached).

New Features:

  • Load capacity increased to 75 lbs
  • Additional auxiliary accessory ports
  • Autoguider port on the Dec axis
  • Larger 144 mm diameter worm wheels
  • Longer 270 mm dovetail saddle
  • 70 mm stainless steel tripod legs with wide stance
  • Accessory tray for 1.25″ x 2″ eyepieces, and upright stand for smartphone or tablet
  • Optional add-on polar axis finderscope
  • WiFi support for StarSense AutoAlign and SkyPortal WiFi module

The head on the Celestron CGX-L has a relatively low profile. This makes it feel compact and stable, which you can feel when you place the mount on the tripod base. The mount uses Celestron’s latest motors, that have been described from the manufacturer as having more torque, and improved slewing and tracking accuracy under heavy loads.

The heavy-duty belt-drive system in the CGX-L can be observed and monitored first-hand thanks to the ingenious clear windows covering these parts. This allows you to watch the underlying motor operation of the mount as it operates with your telescope gear on top.

These critical equatorial mount actions are normally hidden underneath a hard cover, and Celestron’s transparency of this operation says a lot about their confidence in the design.

When it comes to the critically smooth operation needed for long-exposure astrophotography, friction must be avoided at all costs. The guts of the CGX-L include a spring-loaded brass worm wheel and a stainless steel worm gear to optimize gear-mesh and deliver reliably smooth movements.

AstroBackyard Review

See the Celestron CGX-L telescope mount being used with the 8″ RASA in this video.

Cable Management and Remote Operation

To me, there is nothing scarier than a cable snag that damages my photography equipment or the mount. I also have a somewhat unjustified fear of my camera or telescope striking a tripod leg during operation. It has never happened to me yet (knock on wood), but I have had a number of close calls over the years.

For this reason, I prefer to stay close by to my equipment when slewing to a new object. I can proactively help move any potentially hazardous cabling out of the way as the telescope changes position. But what about those that are running a telescope remotely, and can’t be there in person to avoid disaster?

Mounts like the Celestron CGX-L are prepared for this scenario thanks to an internal cabling design. Both the power input jack and lower accessory ports remain in a stationary position while the mount slews to a new target. The mount also includes internal hard stops in both axes to prevent cable tension or a costly tripod strike.

This type of worry-free operation is absolutely critical for those that are using this telescope mount in a remote observatory. For non-permanent backyard imagers like myself, I can leverage these features to take my astrophotography imaging automation one step further. That means fewer trips outside to monitor the equipment, as I can comfortably slew to a new object or perform a meridian flip from inside the house.

The Celestron CGX-L includes clever “home sensors” that tell the mount exactly where the primary index position is. This feature allows you to start the mount in the home position even if it was in another orientation before a power reset. This is something I’ve never experienced before on any of my telescope mounts, and I can certainly see the benefits of this attribute when using the CGX-L in an observatory.

The built-in limit sensors will automatically stop the mount from slewing or tracking before reaching the hard stop fail-safe. The operational “safety” features of the CGX-L are imperative for observatory installations, yet could be a lifesaver to anyone using the mount in a portable backyard configuration like myself as well.

telescope mount

 

The Celestron CGX-L being used with a William Optics Fluorostar 132 refractor.

An Improved Design

The EQ head position of the CGX-L is adjustable, which may help you optimize the center of gravity over the tripod once your astrophotography gear is mounted. This will also offer more flexibility in terms of latitude adjustments, as this mount is capable of setting latitudes of 3°- 65°.

The dual dovetail saddle provides convenient mounting options for both Vixen and Losmandy dovetail bar configurations. My Sky-Watcher Esprit 100 ED and William Optics Fluorostar 132 telescopes both feature the wider 3-inch “Losmandy” style dovetail for improved stability, and fit securely on the CGX-L.

The tripod itself is exceptionally solid and stable. The 70mm legs are the biggest I have ever seen, yet do not take up an absurd amount of space when collapsed. Celestron has noted that the legs now sit wider than ever before, which adds stability.

When I realized this subtle change, I instantly thought about how JMI will need to produce a new, wider Wheelie bar to accommodate the CGX-L. Speaking of subtle changes, the minimum height of the tripod has been lowered based on user feedback (not from me… I’m 6’3”!).

The integrated handle is very much appreciated when lugging the massive EQ head of the mount around when not attached to the tripod. It is extremely heavy, yes, but surprisingly manageable considering the incredible 75-lb payload capacity it can carry.

Telescope Control Software and Polar Alignment

The Celestron CGX-L includes their new PWI telescope control software that was co-developed by PlaneWave Instruments. Thanks to a feature known as “multi-point mount modeling”, this mount boasts extremely precise pointing accuracy.

This should be interesting to test in the backyard with only an accurate polar alignment procedure beforehand (no plate-solving). I am no stranger to a 3-star alignment routine, and I look forward to seeing just how close the CGX-L comes to hitting that first alignment star.

Speaking of Polar Alignment, the Celestron CGX-L includes the well renowned All-Star Polar Alignment software in the hand controller. I haven’t used this feature since my early days of deep-sky astrophotography with my humble CG-5.

This software-assisted polar alignment routine is an attractive option for those that don’t want to use external tools or resources to align the polar axis of the mount. You can polar align the mount using any bright (named) star in the sky without using additional polar alignment accessories or apps.

NexStar hand controller

The Celestron NexStar Hand Controller.

NexStar Controller and Electronics

Celestron’s famous NexStar hand controller is included with the CGX-L, and includes and a practical USB 2.0 port. This is where I will connect the mount directly to my imaging laptop computer using the PWI software.

There are 2 autoguiding ports for flexible cable management configurations, so I officially have no excuse for a tangled mess of wires with this mount. The 12V DC power input barrel connector is threaded, a feature I am seeing more and more with newer mounts.

If you have ever jostled the power input on your mount and lost connection while imaging (like I have several times), you’ll definitely appreciate this subtle upgrade.

The internal real-time clock saves the time and observation site information you have entered even after the mount has been powered off. 

I look forward to testing the mount control and plate-solving abilities of the ZWO ASIair with the CGX-L. Because this NexStar mount supports the INDI protocol, I can tap into some of the handy functions on the ASIair app from my tablet.

Thor's Helmet Nebula

NGC 2539 (Thor’s Helmet) photographed using the RASA 8 F/2 on the Celestron CGX-L mount.

StarSense AutoAlign

The Celestron StarSense AutoAlign feature is handy for those that are tired of lengthy 3-star alignment routines to train the telescope mount. This is something I have become accustomed to over the years with my previous computerized equatorial mounts. 

This accessory uses self-alignment technology to and a small digital camera to automatically capture a series of images in the night sky and identify them. It matches the images with an internal database to determine exactly where the telescope is pointed. This tool includes advanced mount modeling for better pointing accuracy from horizon to horizon. 

The CGX-L is one of many compatible Celestron mounts that can utilize the StarSense AutoAlign telescope accessory.

StarSense AutoAlign mount compatibility list:

  • Advanced VX
  • Astro Fi
  • CG-5
  • CGE
  • CGE Pro
  • CGEM II
  • CGEM, CGEM DX
  • CGX 
  • CGX-L
  • CPC, CPC DX
  • NexStar Evolution
  • NexStar GT  (2015 and newer)
  • NexStar SE Series
  • NexStar SLT
  • SkyProdigy

What I Really Like So Far

The instruction manual is very helpful with detailed information, photos, and diagrams. One such nugget of valuable information is Celestron’s advice about orienting the mount so that the counterweight shaft is directly over a tripod leg. Naturally, this orientation provides better stability, but also creates more room directly behind the telescope.

The CGX-L contains a not-so-secret 8mm Allen wrench underneath the bottom carry handle. It’s little touches like this that let you know that the team at Celestron spent a lot of time thinking  about the overall user experience.

The counterweight bar has a high-end brushed-nickle looking finish. It is also very long and heavy, with serious looking threaded stop nut at the end (toe-saver).

The DEC and RA clutch levers are extremely solid and secure. They are finished in Celestron orange, contain the iconic “C”, and even reveal a subtle sparkle sheen when viewed under the right lighting. They are substantial in your hand and feel secure when you lock them into place. There is no questioning whether the clutch has engaged or not.

counterweight

Attaching the 22-lb counter weight to the mount.

Specifications

  • Mount Type: Computerized Equatorial
  • Load capacity: 75 lbs 
  • Height adjustment range: 35.75″ – 52.75″
  • Tripod Leg Diameter: 2.75″)
  • Latitude adjustment range: 3° – 65°
  • Mount Head Weight: 52.6 lbs
  • Accessory Tray: Yes
  • Tripod Weight: 46.2 lbs
  • Counterweight: 1 x 22 lbs
  • Slew Speeds: 9 slew speeds
  • Tracking Rates: Sidereal, Solar and Lunar
  • Tracking Modes: EQ North & EQ South
  • Dovetail Compatibility: Dual saddle plates
  • Number of Auxiliary ports: 4
  • Autoguide port: Yes, 2 ports
  • USB Port: Yes, input for Mount and Hand Control
  • Power Requirements: 12V DC, 3 amps
  • Motor Drive: DC servo motors
  • Alignment Procedures: 2-Star Align, 1-Star Align, Solar System Align, Last Alignment, Quick Align
  • Periodic Error Correction (PEC): Yes
  • Computerized Hand Control: 2 line x 18 character backlit LCD, USB 2.0 port for PC connection
  • NexStar+ Database: 40,000+ objects
  • Software: PWI Telescope Control Software, Celestron’s Starry Night Special Edition Software, SkyPortal App
  • Total Kit Weight: 120.8 lbs

Starry Night Celestron SE 7 Software

When you purchase the Celestron CGX-L telescope mount, you receive a free copy of Starry Night Celestron Special Edition 7. Inside the protective sleeve that includes the manual, you’ll find a promotional card that displays your unique download code.

Starry Night Software

All you need to do is visit the Celestron website and register the product to gain access to the download. The software is available for both Windows and Mac operating systems. I downloaded the Starry Night Celestron SE 7 software for my imaging laptop running Windows 10.

This edition of Starry Night can be used to run realistic night sky simulations, and more importantly, control computerized telescope mounts such as the CGX-L when connected to the Aux. port.

Included Items

  1. CGX-L Equatorial Head
  2. CGX-L Tripod
  3. Accessory Tray
  4. 1 x 22 lbs counterweight
  5. NexStar+ Hand Control
  6. DC Power Cable
  7. 8mm Allen wrench

Celestron CGX-L

Final Thoughts

I hope you have enjoyed this overview and first look at the Celestron CGX-L computerized GoTo mount. I’ve had this amazing piece of equipment in storage for two months now, and anxiously await an opportunity to put it to work under clear skies this month.

You can expect a full review of this observatory grade telescope mount in the coming months. I will discuss the astrophotography performance of the mount from a practical point of view. This includes autoguiding performance, tracking accuracy, the NexStar control system and general use in the field.

The Celestron CGX-L Telescope Mount is available at High Point Scientific

Helpful Resources:

Celestron CGX-L video

In March 2019, I took the Celestron CGX-L for a test drive on the Leo Triplet (Click for video).

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Astrophotography Telescope Buying Guide – Under $2000

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Astrophotography Telescope Buying Guide

Note: This post was created back in July 2015, I have since purchased a new astrophotography telescope, the Explore Scientific ED102 (The number 1 telescope on this list)!

So you’re in the market for an astrophotography telescope, are you? There have never been so many affordable options for the amateur astrophotographer on a tight budget. I am often asked which telescope I use, and which one I would recommend for beginners. The quick answer is a high-quality, doublet or triplet refractor.  

Larger models can be very expensive (and heavy!) due to the high-quality ED glass used. I think you will be quite surprised at the performance of a small 65-80mm refractor such as the Explore Scientific ED80 I currently use for astrophotography. To view the types of wide-field images I have taken using this small telescope, please visit my photo gallery.

An astrophotography telescope buying guide? I thought you were an amateur? Yes, it’s true, but I decided that since I was doing all this intense research into which telescope I will be buying next, I would share it for others in my position to help streamline your search.

I have researched refractors made by Orion, Meade, Sky-Watcher, Tele Vue, Takahashi, Vixen, Astro-Tech, Explore Scientific, Stellarvue and William Optics. Please remember that this is my personal list, and I am by no means an expert! I tried to keep a high standard when browsing for telescopes.

All of the telescopes on this list are apochromatic refractors. I hope this top 10 list is useful for anyone looking to buy a refractor telescope for imaging under $2000 US. 

Keep in mind that with my limited budget, I am interested in getting the best balance of aperture, performance, and quality I can afford. A high-end instrument like the 76mm Takahashi might be the number one choice on your list, but it doesn’t make sense for my situation. So without further adieu, here is MY top 10 list of refractors for astrophotography:

10. Tele Vue TV76

Astrophotography Telescope - Tele Vue TV76 Doublet Refractor

Thanks to Marc Fitkin, there is an extremely useful and insightful review of this telescope on his blog. He notes the ability to use this scope as a prime lens for daytime photography as well as astrophotography. Tele Vue telescopes have a reputation for being top-quality instruments that will last a lifetime.

Because I will be using this scope for astrophotography exclusively, a model that excels in visual use has less of an impact on me. The reason this high-quality scope lands at 10 on my list is because it is at the extreme end of my budget, yet has an objective of only 76mm. Maybe one day I will be in a position to purchase premium-priced optics, but not yet.

Price: $2,000 US (OPT Telescopes)
Accessories Included: Ring Mount, 20mm Eyepiece, 2″ Diagonal, 1.25″ Adapter, Custom Soft Case

 

9. Sky-Watcher 80mm Esprit ED

Sky-Watcher 80mm Espirit

This is another model that comes with an aluminum case, diagonal, and a finder scope – a huge bonus for me. The heavy-duty Sky-Watcher exclusive “Helinear Track” focuser is a nice touch. This scope actually includes a thread-on field flattener and adaptor for Canon cameras! A major selling point for someone like me. 

I do, however, wonder how much of an upgrade this would be to my current ES ED80. The built-in dovetail is a turn-off for some, but I think it is a great feature. It is nice to see companies like Sky-Watcher catering to astrophotographers, a trend I am sure that will continue.

Update: I had the amazing opportunity to try out the Sky-Watcher Esprit 100 ED APO in 2018

Price: $1,649 US (OPT Telescopes)
Accessories Included: Thread-on Field Flattener, 2.7″ to 2″ Adapter, 2″ to 1.25″ adapter, 2″ Diagonal, Canon Camera Adapter, Tube Rings with “V” Dovetail, Carry Case

8. Takahashi FC-76DC

Takahashi FC-76DC fluorite doublet

I can’t believe there is actually a Takahashi under $2000! Takahashi has a reputation for building a superior quality astrophotography telescope. This fluorite doublet is tied with the Tele Vue for smallest objective on this list. This instrument has the highest quality glass of all the telescopes on this list, and is very lightweight (4 lbs).

This telescope operates at a f/7.5 focal ratio, and includes a fixed dew shield. The downsides for someone in this budget are the small objective and 1.25″ focuser (though it can be adapted to 2″ with an additional accessory). The views through this “Tak” have been described as absolutely stunning.

Price: $1,949 US (OPT Telescopes)
Accessories Included: None

7. Vixen ED103S Refractor

Vixen ED103S Apo Telescope

The official product description from Vixen states “ED103S lenses are almost free of chromatic aberration in all colors and are critically sharp edge to edge. The astro-photographer will be especially pleased with the high contrast images through this telescope.” 

The dual speed focuser, 4.1″ objective, and overall weight of just 8 lbs is what has me interested in this white beauty. Not to mention that it’s short tube length of 31.5″ makes it extra portable. A handy in-depth look at this instrument written by Pernel Johnson can be found here.

Price: $1,799 US (OPT Telescopes)
Accessories Included: Tube Rings, Carry Handle

6. Meade 115mm ED APO

Meade 115ED Apo Triplet

Meade has catered to the next generation of imagers with this astrophotography telescope. The older version of this scope was almost identical to the Orion EON 115mm. The newer Series 6000 model uses an upgraded FK61 extra-low dispersion glass. Some notable features are the 3″ Crayford focuser, sliding dew shield, and overall build quality.

Update: In 2017, I had the opportunity to test the Meade 70mm Quadruplet APO

Price: $1,999 US (Ontario Telescope and Accessories)
Accessories Included: 3″ Diagonal, Cradle Rings, Mounting Dovetail, 8 x 50 Viewfinder, Hard Case

 

5. Stellarvue SV80ST

Stellarvue SV80ST-25FT

Forum users on astronomyforum.net reported that this Stellarvue Apo has an easy-to-use, well-built focuser. It allows the entire imaging train to screw together, giving you accuracy and stability when imaging. A flattener is a must-have to accompany this scope to eliminate coma, a trait many of these refractors have indeed. User reviews are very high for this precision instrument with the focuser being the biggest draw.

Price: $1,295 USD (OPT Telescopes)
Accessories Included: Tube Rings, Hard Case

4. Astro-Tech AT106

Astro Tech AT106 Telescope

Sky and Telescope reviewed this scope back in 2009, saying: “the Astro-Tech AT106 provides all the benefits of a first-class 4-inch apo but without the premium price. I highly recommend it.” I have found a number of positive reviews about this modestly sized refractor. 

There is a great in-depth look including sample astrophotos at the scope on Stargazerslounge.com. This astrophotography telescope uses high-quality Ohara glass, and comes with a dual speed 2.7″ Crayford focuser. At just under the $2000 range, (including an aluminum case) This telescope is definitely a top contender for my hard-earned cash.

Update: It appears as though this telescope is no longer available.

Price: ?
Accessories Included: Hard Case

3. Orion EON 115mm ED

Orion EON ED Triplet Apo

An astrophotography telescope from one of the oldest most trusted brands in the hobby. Time after time, Orion products deliver and continue to impress their reviewers. My first telescope was an Orion, so this brand holds a special place in my heart. This APO has been around for a LONG time. (I found a review from 2006!)

This quality instrument offers excellent color correction by way of the FK-61 extra-low dispersion (“ED”) optical glass in its air-spaced triplet objective lens. With a focal length of 805mm at F/7, this is a fast, medium wide-field scope. The extendable dew-shield and multiple knife-edge baffles protect your eyes from off-axis reflections and glare to ensure a view with excellent contrast. 

The extra aperture for the price is what puts this scope near the top of my list. The massive 3″, rotatable , dual-speed focuser is an attractive feature for astrophotographers.

Price: $1,499 USD (Orion Telescopes)
Accessories Included: Tube Rings, Dovetail Bar, Foam-lined Carry Case, Starry Night Software

2. William Optics GT102

William Optics GT102

There are many fans of William Optics, and for good reason, they make quality instruments for a fair price. The focal ratio, 102mm diameter objective, and reputation of this scope make this one of my top choices for “next scope”. The optional DDG digital readout on the focuser is a neat feature, and would help me achieve accurate focus with my camera.

 I own the WO 72mm Megrez Doublet, and have had many great experiences with it for both astrophotography, and daytime nature photography.

Update: It appears as though the older version of this telescope is no longer available, and only the 20th anniversary edition is now for sale. Unfortunately, it now has a price tag that exceeds $2,000 USD! However, if you are looking for a more affordable option, have a look at the William Optics Z61

Price: $2, US (High Point Scientific)
Accessories Included: 2″ to 1.25″ Adapter, Mounting Rings, Dovetail

1. Explore Scientific CF 102mm

Astrophotography Telescope - Explore Scientific Carbon Fibre 102mm Apo Refractor

With over 4″ of aperture, and weighing just 7 lbs – Explore Scientific calls this the “perfect balance between portability and light gathering power”.

The HOYA ED glass is virtually free of chromatic aberration, and produces bright high-contrast images. The carbon fiber tube is highly temperature stable, eliminating the need for focus changes with temperature fluctuations. I am not going to lie, I am a little biased towards this telescope because of my unbelievably positive experience with the ED80.

Update: June 2016 – I bought this telescope!

I was contacted by Explore Scientific to upgrade my ED80 to the 102mm CF! Since then I have photographed many deep-sky objects including this version of the Lagoon Nebula:

M8 - The Lagoon Nebula

The Lagoon Nebula

Price: $1,099 USD (High Point Scientific)
Accessories Included: 2″ Diagonal, Deluxe Case, Finder Scope Base, Vixen Dovetail

Well, there you have it, my top 10 list for anyone in the market for an astrophotography telescope. As you can see, I plan on sticking with Explore Scientific. At the end of the day, it comes down to value for me. If you have any hands-on experience with any of these telescopes and would like to comment, please do so below – I would love to hear them!

Astronomy Photo Gallery

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Problems with my Celestron CG-5 Mount Power Port

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Problems with Celestron CG-5 Mount

Up until this point, my Celestron CG-5 mount has been very good to me. Despite what I have heard, it has been a quality mount, capable of 5+ minute exposures, no problem (with autoguiding).  Recently though, the power has been cutting in and out.  Last Friday night, under clear, dark, moonless skies at the CCCA, I was forced to head home. Devastating! 

The frustrating part, is not knowing whether the issue is the power switch, the jack, or the entire power board itself.  The only thing I know for sure is that it is not the ac adapter, as I have tested it to work fine.

I have read many stories of similar issues online, and even got some great advice from some of the telescope retailers here in Ontario. Luckily, I was able to leave the mount with The Scope Store at Camtech Photo in Hamilton to repair the mount today.  I will keep you posted with the diagnosed issue and solution to help fellow CG-5 owners who may experience the same issue.

On a more positive note, I have recently ordered a Hutech IDAS lps clip-in filter for EOS Camera bodies.  The “lps” stands for “light pollution suppression”.  I have been wanting to get one of these for a long time, and finally coughed up the $250 and ordered one. My fellow astrophotography buddy has one and he swears by it.  I think it will make a huge difference in my photos, especially when imaging from the backyard.

Another handy addition to my astrophotography rig is a battery grip for my Canon Xsi. This will hopefully allow me to run the camera all night without switching batteries!

I hope to be completely back up and running by the end of the month, ready for all of the cool Spring/Summer DSO’s!

*UPDATE* – April 15th, 2013

My mount has been taken apart and fixed by Camtech Photo. I am very pleased with the service I have been given there.  I tested everything out on Sunday night by imaging M51 in my backyard.  SUCCESS! 

It appears to have been a loose connection to the the power input, and Camtech was able to fix the issue.

Everything is working great and even PHD has started working again.  I updated to the latest version, which seems to have corrected my problem.

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