Celestron StarSense 10″ Dobsonian Review by Zane Landers
Celestron’s StarSense Explorer 10” Dobsonian is the larger of the two StarSense Explorer Dobs, and the better deal of the two.
Celestron’s StarSense Explorer 10” Dobsonian is the larger of the two StarSense Explorer 10” Dobs, and the better deal of the two – the technology and ergonomics pay off more at this aperture, the portability and weight are very similar to an 8”, and stepping up to a 12” is a bit more intimidating anyway. The StarSense Explorer telescopes all use Celestron’s StarSense Explorer tech to help aim your telescope with the aid of your smartphone, though little else is included.
250mm (10″) Aperture
1200mm Focal Length
The StarSense Explorer 10” Dobsonian is a 10” (250mm) f/4.7 Newtonian reflector with a focal length of 1200mm, designed to be used on a Dobsonian mount. The included focuser is 2” diameter, single-speed Crayford design. A dual-speed focuser is usually offered with 10” scopes at this price range to provide additional aid in fine focusing, but it’ll do.
The StarSense Explorer 10” has great optics, but at f/4.7 you need nice eyepieces with well-corrected fields of view, and a coma corrector might be something to consider as a later investment. Collimation is also a little more tricky than with a slower scope. Thankfully, the StarSense Explorer 10” doesn’t require tools to adjust the primary mirror cell, and the secondary mirror seldom if ever needs to be moved around.
The tube of this scope has a convenient carry handle placed near the center of gravity, and a pivot handle to grab as you move the scope (or as an additional grip for carrying it). A smaller scope is easy to carry without these by just bear-hugging the tube, but with a 10” Dob a handle like what Celestron has installed is really helpful.
Adjustable bearing friction for altitude axis
The StarSense Explorer 10” has a Dobsonian mount which pivots up and down and side-to-side using plastic on Teflon bearings to achieve smooth motions without any gears, lubricants, ball bearings, clutches or motors. You simply push the scope around the sky and lightly nudge it to track. Setup just requires putting the scope on the base and collimating it if need be before you move on to the StarSense Explorer app. After a very easy alignment procedure, the app will help you center targets to an accuracy of around half a degree or less – not perfect but more than enough for finding thousands of galaxies, nebulae, star clusters, and Solar System objects all listed in the app’s database. It definitely saves you time compared to the traditional route of star-hopping and is actually faster than GoTo due to the fact that you are driving the scope instead of a set of slow-moving motors and gearboxes.
The particle board construction of the scope’s mount is quite heavy; fortunately Celestron has added cutouts to reduce weight and act as handles.
The StarSense Explorer 10” Dob comes with the following accessories:
One 1.25” Plossl eyepiece – a 25mm providing 48x
A red dot finder for aiming the telescope yourself
Celestron’s StarSense Explorer phone dock
While the included 25mm Plossl is sufficient for low-power viewing, a variety of low- and high-magnification eyepieces of varying focal lengths (including, almost certainly, a big 2” low-power eyepiece) are pretty much mandatory for viewing the Moon and planets and varying your magnification for different types of deep-sky objects and different conditions – along with perhaps a nebula filter and coma corrector. Plan on spending at least a couple hundred dollars extra to equip the StarSense Explorer 10” adequately.
What Can You See?
The StarSense Explorer 10” has quite a bit of aperture, perfect for deep-sky objects (which contrary to popular belief are not all “faint fuzzies”!) – even under suburban skies there’s a lot to see, and the scope is portable enough that bringing it to dark skies with less light pollution isn’t too difficult or time-consuming. You’ll be able to resolve the brighter globular clusters like those from the Messier catalog easily, and see dust lanes in galaxies like M31, M64, and M82. Under dark skies, M51 and M101 show their spiral arms and hundreds of galaxies in the Virgo Cluster and Coma Cluster can be seen – along with hundreds of groups of spiral and elliptical galaxies which often have some sort of detail. The StarSense Explorer tech makes finding these targets a breeze, and identifying galaxies in groups is a little easier to do.
Nebulae like Orion (M42), the Swan (M17), and the Lagoon (M8) look magnificent with a 10” Dob even from the suburbs; under dark skies you can begin to see greenish color in M42. Pop in a UHC nebula filter and the contrast improves greatly under light-polluted skies, and the UHC helps to reveal the wispy outer regions of these nebulae even under pristine conditions – it’ll also show you nebulae like the Veil and Horsehead which are invisible without it. A 10” Dob can also show you dozens of colorful, tiny planetary nebulae – though good seeing and high magnification, along with a patient eye, are required to tease out the tiny details in these blue and green jewels during moments of utterly still air.
The StarSense Explorer 10” is great for Solar System objects too. Mercury and Venus show their phases, the Moon looks amazing, and Mars’ various features such as dust storms, ice caps, and some dark marking can be seen; when Mars is around opposition spotting actual geological features like Valles Marineris and Olympus Mons is even possible. Jupiter looks brilliant, covered in vivid cloud bands with the Great Red Spot showing itself prominently, and its moons are obvious disks during transits in front of the planet, with shadows following close behind. Ganymede even shows a color differentiation, corresponding to the feature known as Galileo Regio, while the tiny volcanoes and craters Io and Callisto appear as a speckled texture on the two moons.
Any scope will show you Saturn’s various moons and ring system, and with a 10” Dob Saturn’s rings show the Cassini division within them easily too, with the Encke gap visible on a perfect night. Saturn’s various striped cloud bands can be seen as well. In 2025 Saturn’s rings will be essentially invisible as the planet reaches equinox, but this also means its moons cast shadows like Jupiter’s – albeit much smaller. Titan’s tiny gold disk and shadow should be fairly easy to see, and with luck Rhea, Tethys, and Dione’s transits might be visible with a 10” scope under perfect conditions. Uranus and Neptune appear as bluish dots; Uranus is quite bright with a 10” and even produces some glare – which can hide its 4 large moons that the StarSense Explorer 10” is capable of revealing. Dimmer and smaller Neptune is almost a star-like point, but its moon Triton is fairly easy to spot next to it, both brighter and in less competition than those of Uranus. You might be able to see faint Pluto too, as a star-like point that any telescope on Earth will produce.
Celestron Ultima Edge 30mm
Explore Scientific 14mm 82-Degree
Astromania 7mm UWA
Astromania 4mm Planetary
The StarSense Explorer 10” only comes with a single 25mm Plossl eyepiece, and as such really needs additional equipment to even start to provide good views. A well-corrected low-power 2” eyepiece is needed due to its fast f/4.7 focal ratio, and the Celestron Ultima Edge 30mm is just that, providing 40x and a wide apparent field of view of 70 degrees, translating to 1.75 degrees of true field in the StarSense Explorer 10”. For medium power, the 14mm Explore Scientific 82-degree provides 86x and the Astromania 7mm UWA provides 171x. On a clear and steady night, the Astromania 4mm planetary eyepiece provides 300x – perfect for viewing the planets, globular clusters, and splitting double stars.
Single-Speed Focuser Instead of Double Speed
As with the 8” model and all of the Dobsonians sold by Sky-Watcher (a sister company to Celestron; both brands have their scopes made in the same plant), the StarSense Explorer 10” relies on a pair of too-small altitude bearings which can have issues if the scope is paired with a heavy eyepiece/coma corrector – the center of gravity will shift outside the bearings and the scope droops! Celestron has added a pair of clutches/brake pads to simply lock the scope in place or make it harder to move in altitude to compensate for the drooping, but then you’re left with stiff and jerky motions. Adding a counterweight is a better solution, but then you have to deal with a heavy piece of metal all the time. The only complete fix is to build a new base with bigger bearings or order one from AstroGoods – it won’t affect the StarSense Explorer tech.
The only other complaint we have about the StarSense Explorer 10” is that you aren’t getting a lot for your money. The scope costs more than $100 more than the Apertura and Zhumell Dobsonians which feature dual-speed focusers, cooling fans, and multiple well-made accessories; a basic 10” without the StarSense Explorer tech or the AD/Z series scopes’ features is $250 less! For the same price as the StarSense Explorer 10” you could get a truss tube 10” with a dual-speed focuser, buy an AD10 and equip it with a UHC filter or additional wide-angle eyepiece, or even get a basic 12” Dobsonian and still have some money left over.
When you account for the fact that equipping the StarSense Explorer 10” with at least two good eyepieces is at least another $100-$200, the value equation is even worse. And good luck upgrading to a dual-speed focuser without spending several hundred dollars too. You’re essentially buying a basic 10” Dob and paying $300 for a smartphone app and bracket. It’s certainly not a terrible scope, and the StarSense Explorer tech is genuinely useful, but $300 is a lot to pay for some software and a piece of plastic. If your budget is only just enough to afford the StarSense Explorer 10” we’d recommend getting one of the cheaper 10” Dobs instead, and if you have plenty of extra money to spare there’s a lot to be said for either buying a monster 12” scope for the best views or getting a truss tube 10” for more portability.
The StarSense Explorer 10” is a great scope, despite being overpriced by quite a large margin and more expensive than almost all other 10” and even some 12” telescopes. It’s still a screaming deal compared to the 6-8” computerized scopes sold at the same MSRP, and will do everything a regular 10” Dob does – just be prepared to shell out a lot on accessories.