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Celestron Merges Astronomy and Electronics

Celestron NexStar 6SE

At last year’s CES, I met Celestron’s and Meade’s PR people, and was impressed with how much amateur astronomy has changed in the intervening years. The biggest change now is the use of computers, both those integrated into telescopes and laptops. Most telescope manufacturers sport so-called GoTo technology, where a computer-controlled drive steers the telescope to a celestial object. Laptops are used for analyzing images, querying star catalogs, and controlling telescopes remotely.

Telescope Pricing

The best change, though, is that prices for assembled telescopes really haven’t increased, despite new scopes including the GoTo drives, and in the case of Celestron, their superior XLT coatings. The 6” Schmidt-Cassegrain (SCT, or catadioptric, with lens and mirror) is a good general purpose design and very portable in their basic NexStar SE series. This NexStar 6 SE is available at a street price of $999, a price I find really reasonable, and the 8” is considerably less than $1,400 after rebate at Adorama at this writing. This 8” has 78% more light gathering power than the 6”, and these days, 8” is the new 6”-with telescopes, size does matter. Even the 6” SCT is a useful telescope for the beginning astronomer, as well as experienced observers, because of its portability. I just want to stress what a great price point this is for a serious, practical instrument.

I begin this month’s review of visual gadgets with some astronomy tools from Celestron. I was also fortunate to make a trip to Celestron’s factory. Celestron is generally considered to have high quality amateur scopes, with some of the best mirrors and coatings available commercially.

I will introduce you to some common telescope types, discuss some common mounts, and mention a few useful books. Then I will tell you a little about telescope making, before I begin the review of the Celestron NexStar 6 SE.