Celestron StarSense Explorer DX telescope – technology enhanced first telescope. You can see product info and specs at this supplier website:
Note: I have not been paid or compensated by Celestron to write this review.
I often get asked what telescope a person should buy for their first one. My recommendations are a 6” Dobson telescope, a manual 4” refractor, or a manual 5” reflector. I got asked two weeks ago by a follower on my Psalm 19 Astronomy Society Facebook page that question. I came across the Celestron StarSense Explorer DX130 AZ telescope while looking at different manual scopes. This is a 5” Newtonian reflector telescope (it has mirrors instead of glass lenses to magnify objects). Celestron came out with the StarSense Explorer line of entry-level scopes about 2 years ago. I decided to order one because I have never owned one of these scopes. The scope was on sale on Amazon, and I bought it for $389 including taxes.
The Celestron Explorer DX series of scopes uses your cell phone and plate-solving technology to do a very quick alignment. You do not even need to know the names of any stars. You place your phone on the holder and then point to an open area of the sky and center a star or planet in the center of the eyepiece. Then you move the red cross on your phone over the object on your screen. And presto – you are aligned! You don’t have to level the scope. You can even move the tripod around and it still knows where the celestial objects are. This is truly impressive technology!
December 14, 2022, 8:30 PM. I downloaded the Celestron StarSense app onto my phone. I placed the phone in the phone cradle attached to the mount. I set the tripod up in my driveway with the 25mm eyepiece (26x magnification). I pointed the scope to a distant STOP sign and centered the 25mm eyepiece on the ‘O’ in STOP. Then I aligned the red dot finder scope onto the same ‘O.’
StarSense app home screen. Swipe Crosshairs to center object.
Next I opened the StarSense app and it asked me if I wanted to align the scope. I tapped Align. It then instructed me to center an object in the eyepiece which I did using the red dot finder. I centered Betelgeuse in the eyepiece and hit Next. The app instructed me to move the star to the center of red crosshair on the screen which I did using my finger to swipe Betelgeuse under the crosshair and hit Next. The app then did a quick plate-solving and then posted a message at the top of the screen that the alignment was complete.
From this point, you can use the Search icon at the lower right of the screen and it takes you to a menu with a selection of 8 families of celestial objects to choose from starting with Moon & Planets, Brightest Stars, etc. I tapped on Brightest Stars and then selected Rigel because it was near Betelgeuse.
Chevron arrows pointing to object. Red bullseye when you near object. Bullseye changes to green and object should be visible in the eyepiece.
The screen displayed orange chevron arrows pointing in the direction of Rigel. I manually moved the scope in the direction indicated. Now this is cool: the app automatically zoomed in the screen the closer I got to Rigel! When I was about 10 degrees from the star a large yellow bullseye appeared on the screen. I kept using the manual controls to move the bullseye near the star on the screen. The bullseye changed to red when I was about 5 degrees from Rigel. As I tweaked the manual control the bullseye turned green. I looked in the eyepiece and, voila! there was Rigel.
Next, I clicked the Search icon in the lower right and selected Moon & Planets. I clicked on Mars because it was to the NE of Orion and the orange chevrons appeared. I repeated the task of moving the scope in the direction of the chevrons until the bullseye was green. Mars was near the center of the eyepiece! I repeated this for Jupiter and Saturn and the planets were near the center of the eyepiece each time. Lastly, I went back to the Brightest Stars and selected Altair and the chevrons took me right to the star.
- Very lightweight telescope coming in at about 18 pounds. You can easily pick the scope up and move it. This will not affect alignment.
- The StarSense software is easy to use. You can get celestial information about each object you select such as distance from the Sun, age, brightness, etc.
- The Menu is simple and splits up the celestial objects into 8 categories
- You can pick up the scope once you have it aligned and move it to another location and the app will still accurately point you to your next object. You don’t have to worry about someone bumping the scope because that will not require a realignment.
- You can swipe around the night sky image on the app and touch any object and the chevron arrows will pop up to guide you to the object.
- Very lightweight telescope so wind will cause image to wobble. Strong winds will make observing difficult (but that would affect most scopes).
- Your phone is held captive to the phone cradle so you can’t use it to take pictures in the eyepiece if you remove it from the cradle.
- The 25mm and 10mm eyepieces are of typical entry-level scope quality. They are okay to start out but at some point, you may want to buy better quality eyepieces or an 8×24 zoom eyepiece.
- There did seem to be a prolonged vibration looking into the eyepiece whenever the tracking knobs were adjusted to keep the object in the center of the eyepiece.
- StarSense app requires the user to be comfortable with phone apps. So, individuals who are intimidated by phone apps should probably start with a less expensive manual telescope.
- The price for this technology is about $150 more than the average manual reflector scope.
I am very impressed with the ease and reliability of the Celestron StarSense technology! This will make astronomy fun and less frustrating for novices. The price point on this scope is in the $350 – $550 range for this scope.
Here’s a link to a YouTube video explaining the setup, alignment, and use of the StarSense Explorer DX130 AZ.