Celestron NexStar 6SE reaches for the stars but starts falling when it reaches the atmosphere.
Let me start by saying that NexStar 6SE is an impressive achievement by the telescope industry. Building an affordable, powerful, automized telescope is not easy, and Celestron achieved that. NexStar 6SE is rightfully one of the most widely preferred GoTo telescopes and is legendary among experienced astronomers.
But, NexStar 6SE has issues. This something to be expected if you are getting a “budget” automized telescope.
Is NexStar 6SE worth it? This is one of the rare cases that I can confidently say, yes. The optical tube is near perfectly built, and the mount works well %99.9 of the time. When everything works perfectly, the experience is so pleasing; it makes you overlook the issues.
NexStar 6SE is a Schmidt-Cassegrain, which means the light travels the optical tube two times instead of one. This makes the telescope more comfortable to focus at high powers and gather more detail from Solar System objects.
There are no major optical defects. The images are near perfect.
Celestron used high-quality, StarBright XLT coatings. Combined with the lack of diffraction spikes and chromatic aberration, the images are near perfect.
NexStar 6SE is a planetary performer at its core.
If you don’t know these terms, in short, these mean that the optics don’t suffer from any imperfection at all. The only limiting factor is the 6″ aperture, which is the size of the optical tube.
I have to mention that a dew shield would improve image quality a lot. It is not a cheap improvement but a worthy one.
Jupiter is the easiest planet to observe in the Solar System and the one that is the most interesting. It’s 4 Galilean Moons, The Great Red Spot, and cloud bendings are all observable with NexStar 6SE optics. The unique beige-brown-red colors of the clouds are clear.
Saturn shows its unique yellow-green color, and its rings are clear with The Cassini Division in the middle. Its moons are visible, but Titan, the largest one, is the one you will most likely be able to observe.
Mars and Venus are harder to gather detail from. They are rocky planets and not gas giants. The surface details on Mars is visible as black-red-white stains, and Venus looks like a yellow disk. Phases of Venus are observable.
Uranus, Neptune, Mercury, and Pluto are challenging to observe with any telescope. Although you can obtain Neptune and Uranus’s blueish colors, Mercury and Pluto look like dots most of the time.
The Lunar Surface – NexStar 6SE
Observing the Moon with NexStar 6SE is simply a phenomenal experience. Countless craters and mountain ranges reveal themselves, and with Auto-Tracking, there is no need to adjust the optical tube all the time. The color accuracy is on point, and the Moon’s unusually high brightness levels don’t lower the image quality due to the narrow design of the optical light path.
Lunar observations are near perfect and mind-blowingly accurate.
Deep Space Performance
There are two ways to review the deep space performance of NexStar 6SE. With a focal reducer and without a focal reducer.
With a focal reducer, the views are great. The field-view is wide; the image is without defects, sharpness, and detail levels are pleasing. Popular targets such as The Andromeda Galaxy, Orion Nebula, and Hercules Star Cluster are delightful to observe.
Without a focal reducer, the performance is dramatically worse. The field view is narrow, and there are elongations at the edge of the view.
Deep space performance can be dramatically improved with a focal reducer.
Celestron NexStar 6SE desperately needs a focal reducer for improving deep space performance. The focal ratio is simply too high.
Is Astrophotography possible with Celestron NexStar 6SE?
For serious astrophotography, you need long exposure times, such as 30-40 minutes. This is only possible with an automized equatorial mount.
Celestron 6SE’s NexStar Mount is not an equatorial; it is an altazimuth. Although it can keep the object in view for long periods of time, it moves in an up-down motion. It won’t take long before the image gets blurry.
With perfect alignment, you can get 1-2 minutes of exposure, which is quite enough for Jupiter, Saturn, The Moon, Venus, and Mars. But deep space objects are not photographable with 1-2 minute exposure times.
Andromeda Galaxy – HyperStar 6 – Celestron NexStar 6SE
Solutions for Deep Space Photography With Nexstar 6SE
There two possible ways of taking deep space images with NexStar 6SE; you can get a motorized EQ mount, or you can get Starizona HyperStar 6.
The HyperStar 6 will reduce the focal length to f/2 and widen the field view dramatically. It will take phenomenal deep space images in 1-2min exposure times. It is one of the most revolutionary equipments in astronomy, and hard to find in stock.
The motorized EQ mount will follow Earth rotation and keep the object in focus.
These are both smart solutions, and which one you choose is a matter of preference. I personally would go for a HyperStar 6 since it is easier to use and lowers the imaging time.
But both solutions aren’t cheap. They may cost as much as the telescope itself.
The NexStar Mount has its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s start with the bad.
The Battery Problem
Celestron doesn’t send a battery. Although there are built-in batteries in their NexStar Evolution line, they don’t send anything with the SE line. Instead, there is a slot for 8 AA batteries.
This would be OK if the batteries didn’t run out in 2-3 hours. Changing the batteries become expensive and annoying after a short amount of time.
In the end, you will have to use and an external power source. This damages the whole “Grab-and-Go” aspect of NexStar telescopes.
There is no built-in battery.
This part would be included in the “Good”. The motorized nature of the mount provides strong connections all over the telescope. There is no problem in terms of stability with the altazimuth mount.
The base is delightfully strong.
The tripod is sturdy as well. It is a 2″-steel model, more than enough for a 6″ Schmidt with a motorized mount.
Is NexStar Mount Reliable?
If looked after carefully, the motors inside will work perfectly for 6-7 years, maybe longer. This is not an easy thing to achieve.
But, it is a budget-motorized mount after all. It is more prone to breaking down that manual mounts. That is why I always recommend checking out if there is a Celestron Customer Service near where you live. You never know.
The hand controller is antique technology but works properly.
Using the Hand Controller feels like time travelling to 90s. There are multiple choices for the alignment procedure, and after that, you just enter the object, and the optical tube will follow it.
There is nothing fancy about the Hand Controller, but it works well.
You can also get the Celestron WiFi Adapter and use the SkyPortal App. But, the adapter is not perfectly reliable and loses connection occasionally. I wouldn’t recommend getting it if you are temperamental when it comes to errors and failing connections.
Celestron has recently added a camera to their equipment line up, called StarSense. The camera auto aligns the telescope and works surprisingly well. But, it costs 400$, as much as a professional DSLR Camera. It is a great buy if your finances are suitable, but if not, I wouldn’t recommend getting it.
Celestron kept it simple with the accessories.
Celestron sends an average eyepiece and a cheap finder.
There is a 25mm Plössl eyepiece included. It is fine for general viewing for the beginning, but I would highly recommend a Goldline and a 2″, wide-field eyepiece.
You also need a 2″ star-diagonal for the 2″ eyepiece, the one that comes with the telescope is only 1.25″.
The red dot finder that comes with the telescope is plastic and barely usable. An 8×50 scope finder would make life much more comfortable.
Focuser Knob Under the Diagonal
The focuser is slightly disappointing. It is not a complete failure; building focusers inside the optical tube for Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes is insanely difficult, so I didn’t expect it to be as precise as Crayford focusers. But the precision of the knob could have been better.
The lack of a built-in battery is the most significant problem you will have to solve if you get the NexStar 6SE.
The focuser is imprecise and the mount wobbles when focusing.
There is an extra 150-200$ to be spent on accessories to take full advantage of NexStar 6SE.
NexStar 6SE has problems. But, it is an admirable attempt to create and affordable, powerful, automized telescope. Perhaps the attempt is more than admirable; it is successful. With a few upgrades(that won’t be cheap), NexStar 6SE will become a gateway to the Universe that will stand years of use.