Celestron NexStar 6se Review
- in depth Review of Features
Telescope Reviewed: Celestron NexStar 6se
- Plenty of power and ultra-clear images in a compact size
- Easily finds and tracks objects across the sky
- Easy to connect cameras for astrophotography with a photo adapter.
- Rock solid mount and tripod
- Exposed corrector plate could need a lens shade
Bottom Line: The Celestron NexStar 6se is Schmidt-Cassegrain compound telescope that offers great stargazing for beginners and experienced observers. Celestron's StarBright XLT optical coatings provide crisp images in this descendant of one of the most popular consumer telescopes of all time. It makes finding and tracking objects across the sky easy, and can be done with very little setup. It's a good grab and go scope, and is easy to transport because of its easy setup and reasonably light weight.
The Celestron NexStar 6se is a spiritual descendant of one of the most popular consumer telescopes of the last century, the Celestron 8 SCT (affectionately known as the C8). The C8's orange tube is still a beloved and iconic feature for many amateur astronomers, recalling its portability and performance.
The NexStar 6se's orange tube pays homage to the C8, and its performance and updated features make it a formidable successor.
The NexStar 6se is a Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope (sometimes referred to as an "SCT") with a 1500 mm focal length and 150mm aperture. It provides crisp, bright images because of its large aperture and StarBright XLT optical coatings that allow for high-fidelity light transmission, resulting in sharp, high-contrast images.
Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes are a type of catadioptric telescope with modifications developed over time by a number of astronomers. As we've talked about before, a catadioptric telescope uses a combination of lenses and mirrors to gather and focus light before it is transmitted to the eye of the viewer. In this case of the SCT, one of the main attributes was added by Bernhard Schmidt in 1930, who created a spherical primary mirror to gather and focus light, along with a glass corrector plate on the front of the telescope.
One of the primary benefits of this configuration is that the light's bouncing around inside the tube of the telescope allows for a much shorter and more compact telescope, thus significantly increasing portability. You get much more telescope in a shorter, more manageable package.
The Schmidt-Cassegrain configuration is an extremely popular design today. In the SCT, light enters the tube through the corrector plate at the front of the telescope. It then strikes the spherical mirror at the base of the telescope tube, and is reflected onto a secondary mirror on the back of the corrector. That secondary mirror then reflects the light through a hole in the primary mirror to the eyepiece, which sits at the back end of the telescope behind where the primary mirror is located.
In the NexStar 6se, the portability of the SCT configuration is paired with a nice big aperture, which has 44% more light-gathering capacity than that of the 5" model (Celestron NexStar 5se). As a result, you can see brighter deep-sky objects even in the midst of heavy light pollution. We recommend adding an extension to the end of the tube to avoid condensation on the corrector plate.
The optics on the NexStar 6se are fantastic and a lot of fun to use, but the real star of the show here is the computerized mount.
The Celestron's NexStar line of telescopes all come on a computerized alt-azimuth mount with the telescope attached to a single fork arm design. The mount is controlled by a computerized hand controller with over 40,000 objects programmed into it. Once the user has calibrated the telescope by locating reference points and programming in the time and date, the scope is able to locate other objects in reference to these date using the SkyAlign system.
If everything goes according to plan, it only takes about five minutes to do a full sky alignment. Some users report having trouble with the alignment, but a firmware update seems to have solved the problem.If you're intimidated by the prospect of identifying specific objects to use as reference points, Celestron also offers its CN-16 GPS accessory, which allows the downloading of GPS satellite information for even easier alignment.
An alt-azimuth mount is a simple one that operates in two planes of motion to redirect the telescope in pointing at objects along two perpendicular axes, the vertical and the horizontal. The alt-azimuth mount has the benefit of being very simple to build and maintain.
Usually, the disadvantage of the alt-azimuth mount is that it is not as effective at following objects across the sky, as most celestial objects trace arcs across the sky.
However, the usual disadvantage of the alt-azimuth mount is much less problematic here, though, because of the GOTO mount. The computer-controlled motion of the mount allows for much greater precision than is normally possible with a manual alt-azimuth mount.[diagram of alt-azimuth mount]The particular combination of alt-azimuth mount and single arm attachment point is sturdy, with some users going so far as to describe it as "rock solid".
The fork arm also has a quick release, which contributes to the easy, no-tool setup of the Nexstar 6se.
The NexStar's tripod is a sturdy steel one that can easily and quickly be set up. This continues the theme of portability and easy set up that can be preserved throughout the device. This is a telescope that you can set up and take down in very little time, which makes it a favorite grab and go scope for a lot of amateur astronomers.
While it won't convince anybody to buy this particular telescope over another, the tripod offers a tray for holding your eyepieces and accessories, a convenient and thoughtful touch that gives even more evidence of how well thought out the entire apparatus is.
The NexStar 6se comes with Celestron's The Sky software Level 1 Planetarium software for exploring the cosmos on your PC. Even on a cloudy night when you can't use the telescope itself, you are free to explore all the heavens have to offer and to plan your next viewing session. Once you've done that, the software allows you to print out custom star charts to make your next session even more effective and enjoyable.
The NexStar 6se comes with Celestron's StarPointer finder scope, a red-dot finder that projects a red light in line of sight and, if properly calibrated, allows for more effective locating of celestial phenomena.
How Does It Compare?
Of course, the NexStar 6se has an extra 1.5 inches of aperture, but that extra inch makes a huge difference in aperture size, and thus means that it has a significantly larger field of view. The computerized tracking on the 6se puts it in a different class than the StarBlast. Still, if you're looking for a beginner scope with a nice-sized aperture and don't have as much money to spend, the StarBlast 4.5 offers nice, smooth tracking and impressive optics at a much more budget-friendly price.
The StarMax 90mm offers great stability because of its tabletop mount. The trade-off is that it doesn't offer some of the flexibility of the 6se. Because of its Mak-Cass design, which "folds" light within the tube, the StarMax also offers a smaller package, which is a boon for those looking for a grab-and-go scope, or for one that they can travel with. But the StarMax can't match the sheer aperture size and computerized tracking offered by the NexStar 6se. It is, however, much more of a budget scope than the 6se, so it's much more likely to be your first telescope.
The 114eq has a smaller aperture, which results in a smaller field of view and brighter images. The NexStar telescopes also offer more stability, which means they're a much better option for those looking for a scope they can use for astrophotography.
One of our favorites. Check out our full review of the GoScope here.
The GoScope, just like other the other tabletop scope on this list, offers good stability and supremely easy setup. The trade-off is the flexibility it lacks because it doesn't have a full mount and tripod. The NexStar 6se might appeal more to you if you're looking for that flexibility, or if you're looking to do some astrophotography. In the final analysis, it's hard for the beginner astronomer to beat the GoScope's optics at such a good price, although the GoScope can't match the sheer magnitude of the NexStar's aperture, nor does it offer the game-changing computerized tracking.