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Beginner mistakes to avoid with your new Celestron Nexstar 6/8SE


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Hi, everyone!

The amateur astronomy community's been so welcoming to me, a newbie to astronomy after a +30 yr. hiatus, that I thought I'd share (expose?) all the embarrassing, beginner missteps that slowed down my initial enjoyment of my new Celestron Nexstar 8SE telescope. Hopefully, my personal expose will help someone else come up to speed faster, as we all know how precious clear skies are!

That said, a few things to avoid once that big Celestron box arrives on your doorstep...

  • RTM! I'd watched multiple Celestron setup videos on-line, prior to purchasing/receiving my scope, which I thought adequately prepared me to set it up. NOT! Read the checklist and, ideally, the manual as well... Especially if it's a cloudy night (see "cloudy night").
  • Cloudy night: This might be THE hardest piece of advice to take but, if it's a cloudy night, wait for clear skies! Trust me, your initial SkyAlign experience will likely be less painful under clear skies.
  • Orientation: All the videos show inserting the OTA (optical tube assembly) into the fork arm/mount with the Celestron logo upright. What the videos don't emphasize (at least overtly) is that the part of the fork arm the OTA slides into needs to be turned upright (i.e. with the two arrows aligned) before OTA attachment.
  • Laser finder: Make sure you align it! The simple method I used was simply to place the scope in the shade during the day, focus it on a terrestrial object (I used the distant tip of a tree branch) so that said object is in the center of your field of view, then align the finder on that same point. This is VERY IMPORTANT, as SkyAlign won't work with a misaligned finder!
  • Latitude & Longitude: I used Google Earth to find my exact location, but said location was in decimal versus degree format. I used the FCC's converter (Convert Latitude / Longitude in Degrees/Minutes/Seconds to/from Decimal (FCC) USA) to get the appropriate numbers to enter into my scope (NOTE: Negative latitude=South, Negative longitude=West, etc).
  • SkyAlign: Aside from making sure your tripod is level and entering in your exact longitude, latitude, time, and day, I've had better luck with the default Three Star SkyAlign procedure using stars instead of planets or the moon, and using three stars that are not only as far apart as possible but that are also not in a strait line.
  • AC adapter: If you've read anything about the Nexstar series, you know either an AC adapter or 'power tank' is pretty much a prerequisite. Regarding keeping the AC adapter plugged in, I simply attached the module to one of the tripod's legs (Velcro straps would probably work great, though my wife simply attached it using two hair 'scrunchies' (grin)) and added an extension cord, which seems to be working well.
  • Other cool accessories to start off with: A flexible dew shield (I bought the Celestron shield) and the vibration suppression pads. I won't touch on the topic of EPs (eyepieces, not lenses! (smile)), being a newbie myself and appreciating the complexity/controversy surrounding the topic, other than to suggest you spend some time researching how best to start out, what you want to view, etc. (NOTE: I chose to get the Celestron 1.25" kit to learn with, but that was simply my personal choice, which might not be right for you or your situation/initial goals).
Anyway, I hope someone's able to learn from my mistakes!

~ Tim

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Hi, everyone! The amateur astronomy community's been so welcoming to me, a newbie to astronomy after a +30 yr. hiatus, that I thought I'd share (expose?) all the embarrassing, beginner missteps that s

As an owner of a Celestron Nexstar 6Se i have some items i'd like added to your list for other newbies!! -The Auto Two star works so much better than the other methods i don't even bother with the res

Hi, I have the SLT102 and get good alignment using Sky Align. I try to pick three stars that are a good distance apart horizontally and one higher in the sky. A good tip I was given is to approach t

Interesting post.

I have a Celestron scope also and have never been able to do a 3 star alignment. Done all the usual things, but for whatever reason it always comes back alignment failed. Obviously there is something wrong, but if I kept on trying to get a 3 star alignment then I wouldn't get any observing done. I therefore use the 2 star method and it accepts it every time. I guess that it probably wont be as accurate as the 3 star method, but at least I can use the thing.

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Hi Tim,

Great thread, I guess we have all gone through that angst. When I tried (note tried!) to mount my 10" lx on the tripod for the first time it nearly ended up on the deck!. The best ten quid I spent was the locator plate from bc&f to mount the 70lb lump!.

Oh and the size of the box took the whole boot of a Passat Estate and that did not include the bloomin tripod :-) (the dogs sat on that on the back seat!).

Cheers

Edited by damnut
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Screws - if you mount a piggyback system or other elements to the OTA be sure to look inside from the front of the OTA - check if the screw isn't going to hit the primary mirror. Long screws used to mount piggybacks or finders if screwed without them will reach the mirror and may destroy it...

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Interesting post.

I have a Celestron scope also and have never been able to do a 3 star alignment. Done all the usual things, but for whatever reason it always comes back alignment failed. Obviously there is something wrong, but if I kept on trying to get a 3 star alignment then I wouldn't get any observing done. I therefore use the 2 star method and it accepts it every time. I guess that it probably wont be as accurate as the 3 star method, but at least I can use the thing.

Malcspring,

I've read that quite a few people prefer to use the two-star method, so you're not alone. It would require that I actually break out a star chart though, so... (grin).

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Damian,

You reminded me of the time a tried bringing home a gas barbecue in the backseat of my Honda Civic. I ended up unboxing the damn thing in the store parking lot, distributing the pieces between the trunk/boot and backseat, and leaving the box in the parking lot! Thankfully, my Celestron was delivered. ;-)

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Screws - if you mount a piggyback system or other elements to the OTA be sure to look inside from the front of the OTA - check if the screw isn't going to hit the primary mirror. Long screws used to mount piggybacks or finders if screwed without them will reach the mirror and may destroy it...

Riklaunim,

That is an excellent tip! Hopefully I'll remember it if/when I ever need to piggyback something! Thanks!

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Nice write up!

I've only tried sky align on my SLT and had it fail once so far (out of a dozen or so sessions).

Regarding the star selection... I try to look for 3 in a triangle, more or less. With a couple of sessions, I've noticed a little drift after a while, but I think that was because I'd been out hunting for a dark site and my lat/long was set for home (far from dark!). Once when I was away for the weekend in the countryside, there were so many stars I didn't know which to choose :)

Another point I've seen about the alignment is to approach the star from the directions as the scope would slew itself there to minimise inaccuracies from play in the motor cogs. I understand it in principle, but haven't managed to figure it out when it counts :) anyone with one of these that can enlighten us/me (:))

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Nice write up!

I've only tried sky align on my SLT and had it fail once so far (out of a dozen or so sessions).

Regarding the star selection... I try to look for 3 in a triangle, more or less. With a couple of sessions, I've noticed a little drift after a while, but I think that was because I'd been out hunting for a dark site and my lat/long was set for home (far from dark!). Once when I was away for the weekend in the countryside, there were so many stars I didn't know which to choose :)

Another point I've seen about the alignment is to approach the star from the directions as the scope would slew itself there to minimise inaccuracies from play in the motor cogs. I understand it in principle, but haven't managed to figure it out when it counts :) anyone with one of these that can enlighten us/me (:))

I think (and please bear in mind that I'm a newbie, so I'm using "think" somewhat loosely (grin)) you're supposed to observe the operation of your scope over time. For example, if your scope tends to approach Polaris from the North in a clockwise direction, then you should try to do the same(?). Just guessing though because, like you, I've yet to apply the concept. ;-)

Good luck and clear skies!

~ Tim

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  • 2 weeks later...
you're supposed to observe the operation of your scope over time. For example, if your scope tends to approach Polaris from the North in a clockwise direction, then you should try to do the same

OK you've got me there :)

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Nice write up!

I've only tried sky align on my SLT and had it fail once so far (out of a dozen or so sessions).

Regarding the star selection... I try to look for 3 in a triangle, more or less. With a couple of sessions, I've noticed a little drift after a while, but I think that was because I'd been out hunting for a dark site and my lat/long was set for home (far from dark!). Once when I was away for the weekend in the countryside, there were so many stars I didn't know which to choose :)

Another point I've seen about the alignment is to approach the star from the directions as the scope would slew itself there to minimise inaccuracies from play in the motor cogs. I understand it in principle, but haven't managed to figure it out when it counts :) anyone with one of these that can enlighten us/me (:()

Hi, I have the SLT102 and get good alignment using Sky Align. I try to pick three stars that are a good distance apart horizontally and one higher in the sky. A good tip I was given is to approach the alignment of each star from the same direction for the final adjustment (I always use right and down). This eliminates backlash in the gears. As long as all three stars fine tuning are done in the same direction I don't think it matters which way you choose. I also defocus the eyepiece to get a large blurred disc - this is easier to get central than a sharply focused star. Although I have the cord wrap function turned on my mount seems to have a mind of it's own when choosing which way it's going to approach my next target!

Hope that helps :)

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I have a Celestron scope also and have never been able to do a 3 star alignment. Done all the usual things, but for whatever reason it always comes back alignment failed.

The first time I tried setting up my Celestron, I had exactly the same problem. After much deliberation, I realised that the date input is done American style i.e 5th December is 12/05/11, whereas to me in the UK it is 05/12/11, so my scope thought it was 12th May!

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Thanks for the advise, Tim.

I've just unboxed my brand new 6SE, leveled the mount, aligned the red dot (eventually) and saw my first bright full frame image of the moon through the 25mm EP, thought "Wow!, that's better then my old Astromaster 114", then I felt the pitter-patter of rain on my head, so quickly dragged the whole shooting match inside.

Oh well, maybe tomorrow night will be better. I guess living in the North of Engalnd, I'll be saying that a lot!

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I can vouch for getting the "goto" approach correct.

Accuracy has improved from getting the target object just in the FOV of a 32mm Plossl to reasonbably close to the middle with a 15mm.

Getting the mount level does not appear to make much difference.

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I can vouch for getting the "goto" approach correct.

Accuracy has improved from getting the target object just in the FOV of a 32mm Plossl to reasonbably close to the middle with a 15mm.

Getting the mount level does not appear to make much difference.

Getting the mount level does not make any difference (reference: aforementioned Nexstar Users Guide - page 84 - Alignment Myth 4).

I can confirm this via 3 odd years with my 6SE.

Slap the instrument down, do the 2 star (or less) alignment -"Et voilà" :(

Edited by Grunthos
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Hi Ya Guys, Yeah I've found that the tripod doesn't need to be leveled. I have the Mak 127, spent a while leveling the tripod up and found the mount was out a little. Set up the scope on the next occasion, didn't bother to level the mount, the bubble was well south of the circle!!!! and the mount was fine, more accurate than when I leveled the tripod before - Take Care Guys and Clear Skies Paul.

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  • 7 months later...

One thing which had me stumped for 3 hours was the American date format. I was entering 12th August 2012 as 12/08/12 which of course was December 8th. Align failed all night long because of it.

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Hi, I've just joined the forum and wanted to say thanks for the great tip in the post. I've been looking at purchasing a 2nd hand Celestron Nexstar scope 5 or 6 SE to get me started.

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