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First Light - Celestron Nexstar 8SE...A beginner's view!


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Having just enjoyed my first night’s observing ever, I thought I would take the time to review the ‘scope that made it possible, from a beginner’s point of view. I have tried to include as much detail as I can so I hope I don’t bore anyone!



I have to admit, once I had decided I was actually going to buy a telescope, I went on a minor spending spree! :lol: As well as the scope itself, I also decided to get:

The 7Ah Power Tank as all of the reviews I had read on the Nexstar suggested that it was a nightmare to try and run on batteries and did not come with its own mains adaptor.

The Celestron Eyopener Accessory Kit as this would give me a very good start in that department (and it looked very professional and shiny :D).

An Astro Engineering digital camera mount. I only have a cheapy “point and shoot” digital camera so this seemed the best option with which to have a go at some photography.

Ordering and Delivery:

I ordered the scope and power tank from FLO and the eyepieces from David Hinds on Thursday morning and at ten past ten on Friday a van arrived with 3 parcels in it…one of which was about 5 feet high! I was starting to get excited. I was also beginning to get an inkling of how big this thing was.

Unpacking and Set up:

All I can say is that the telescope was very well packed for the journey (The words Russian and Doll come to mind!). The equipment itself was contained in two sturdy cardboard boxes, one inside the other with the OTA, Mount and Tripod in their own separate boxes inside these.

All were encased in more foam, plastic wrapping and tissue paper than you could shake a stick at and it had obviously done its job as everything was in pristine condition

The fork arm felt reassuringly heavy and solid when I removed it from the box. The finish on both the arm and the OTA was very good, though there were some dark blemishes on the OTA body (no biggy!)

Attaching the OTA to the fork arm was very easy, simply a case of sliding the dovetail bracket into the arm and tightening the quick release knob.

Now, the first gripe! The accessory tray, which also doubles as a leg brace to keep the tripod legs apart, does not fit as advertised! The long bolt that comes out of the tripod base is not quite long enough so it is impossible to fit the tray and screw it on, there just isn’t enough thread. To fit, I had to invert the tray so that the “framework” (for want of a better word) is facing up instead of down. The only problem with this is that you cannot put eyepieces etc. in the inner holes because of confliction with those parts of the casting.

The whole OTA/Mount set up attaches to the tripod with 3 screws which are permanently attached to it (so no need to worry about losing the things).

Next came the red dot finder. I must admit that I was prepared for this as most of the reviews I had seen had mentioned this as one of the problem areas. I could see why. The moment I looked at the mount for it, I could see that it was not lined at all well with the OTA. It had the feeling of an afterthought rather than the high quality feel that the package had suggested up until then. The finder itself is also a bit temperamental. Sometimes it does not light up when you turn it on and the brightness control is not at all linear. The whole thing feels and looks a bit cheap (more on this later).

Removing the cover however, revealed a flawless lens and mirror. Absolutely nothing on them, not even a speck of dust. I was now starting to realise that this was a “proper” telescope.

Turning it on:

Now that all was complete, I plugged the scope into the freshly charged power tank and turned it on. As it was the middle of the day, there was not much I could really do, but I decided to have a play with the slew controls. The motors are fairly noisy but not what I would call overly so. The first time I tried to move it up though, a louder noise and a distinct lurch developed. Going down did not have this problem. This suggested that the OTA might be in a back-heavy position, so I loosened the attachment and slid it forward slightly…problem solved! This does suggest though, that the motors and gearing system are not the strongest in the world so any mounting of accessories etc. (e.g. cameras) should be done with caution.

Now all I had to do was wait for the sun to go down…

First Light:

That evening my Dad came over so we both set about trying to get the thing to do something useful! Amazingly I had managed to avoid the New Scope Curse :D and the clouds disappeared, leaving a lovely clear sky all evening.

Now, I live right in the middle of Cheltenham, in a town house with a garden the size of a postage stamp and buildings all around. Not the best place for observing but better to stay at home for a first attempt, I thought. We ended up setting the scope up on the first floor balcony at the front of the house. This also restricted the view to the Northern part of the sky with the house behind us.

So we fired it up and tried a SkyAlign. While we were doing this we tried to calibrate the red dot finder without a huge amount of success (again more on this later!) We lined up on any three stars that we could see and pressed align. … … “Align successful” it said. So we sent it to line up with Polaris as we knew where that was… …and it ended up almost exactly 180 degrees away from it.

We then went down the simple route and chose a single star align, using Polaris again. This time it worked! Slewing to objects was in fact, surprisingly accurate. With the 32mm lens from the eyepiece set, the object you were after was usually in the field of view, just.

Inexplicably though, it would always take the longest route possible i.e. it would slew 270 degrees to an object rather than just 90, but it got there, so I wasn’t too worried about that!

After slewing around the skies for a while, I decided to have a look at Saturn, so selected it on the keypad and away it went. Had a look through the eyepiece and there was a blurry light patch right on the bottom edge. Slewed it into the middle, focussed and there it was. Absolutely amazing. I was gobsmacked and just sat there watching it and playing with different eyepieces and filters for about 45 minutes.

Focussing was a challenge as the mount does vibrate a fair amount when touched. Having said that, I was expecting this and all it takes is a bit of patience and fine control, letting it settle between adjustments.

By now the moon had come out so I decided to have a look. I was not disappointed. The detail I could see was amazing. Using the 6mm lens I could look at individual craters! Later on I even managed to take a photo before my camera batteries gave up.


(click to enlarge)

After the moon disappeared behind the house, I had a look for some DSOs to see what I could see. I wasn’t expecting much, especially being in the middle of town but I had a go anyway. M31 resolved as a light smudge but I could see it. The nicest view was the Pleiades which looked very good through the 25mm eyepiece.

By this time it was past midnight and I was feeling tired, so I packed everything up and went to bed, amazed at what I had seen that evening.


Now, I don’t know a huge amount about this, so I took the decision to leave it for the first night if it was OK. I didn’t see any problems with the image at all so I decided to stick to “if it aint broke, don’t fix it” for the time being.

The Red Dot Finder:

As I have mentioned earlier, not the best part of the scope. I’m sure that part of the problem we had was not knowing which star we were aiming at with the telescope as it can see much more than the naked eye. And if the finder’s out, the bright star you see through the eyepiece is not necessarily the one that the finder is pointed at! We did eventually line it up using the bottom of the moon, but I won’t know if it’s any good until next time I go out. With that said, when it is lined up properly I’m sure it will get you in the right piece of sky with a wide angle eyepiece which is, of course what it is designed for.


As this is my first telescope, I didn’t have any expectations. I also didn’t have any idea of what I should be able to see with it so I have merely outlined what I DID see so that those of you who know more than I do (probably most!) can make your own conclusions. What I will say is that I was very impressed with the images of the moon that it produced and Saturn just blew me away.

All in all, I am amazed with this bit of kit and I am sure that with a competent driver it could produce some amazing results. I know it will keep this incompetent one busy for a long time to come!

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Thanks Guys. I managed to do a bit of observing over the weekend and got some pictures of saturn as well.

I also got the red dot finder aligned properly with a bit of perseverance and it now puts objects somewhere in the field of view with the 32mm eyepiece I have. All in all it's really great. Just a shame I'm stuck in the middle of town at the moment!

Fortunately, the other half currently lives in the middle of nowhere so I shall have to take advantage of her dark skies at some point :D


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Now, the first gripe! The accessory tray, which also doubles as a leg brace to keep the tripod legs apart, does not fit as advertised! The long bolt that comes out of the tripod base is not quite long enough so it is impossible to fit the tray and screw it on, there just isn’t enough thread. To fit, I had to invert the tray so that the “framework” (for want of a better word) is facing up instead of down. The only problem with this is that you cannot put eyepieces etc. in the inner holes because of confliction with those parts of the casting.

Great review Rick!

I purchased an 8SE in December from FLO and am very pleased with the performance so far. Like you, I also had difficulty fitting the accessory tray and initially could only fit the tray upside down :? However, it's easily fixed by pulling the tripod legs out as far as they will go. Mine were pretty stiff, but once loosened up the accessory tray fitted easily.

When I first started using the scope with the supplied 1.25" diagonal, 25mm Celestron EP and no dewshield the GOTOs very accurate. However, I now have a WO 2" diagonal, BH 8-24mm zoom and Astrozap dewshield which seems to have unbalanced the scope somewhat and the GOTOs are not as accurate. I'm experimenting with the GOTO Approach and anti-backlash settings to see if I can improve this.

I had to collimate my scope soon after getting it but it was worth it - the views I'm getting of Mars and Saturn are much improved. I now have Bob's Knob's fitted to make collimation easier. Follow the procedure in the manual to see if your scope needs collimating. It *does* make a difference if it's out.

I also purchased the Celestron Powertank, but I think mine has just developed a fault. When I charge it up the green LED to indicate that it's fully charged never comes on. The nice man at FLO has agreed to replace it though!

Anyway, glad you're enjoying the scope!



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Great first light, and helpful, as I am considering this scope as my retirement scope.

I use the standard, cheap RDF on both my scopes. It is dead-on when looking for a bright object, and on the Moon I can choose what part of the Moon I am going to be looking at.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The thing I like most about the 8SE is how light it all is - I can carry it in one piece which makes grabbing a break in the clouds more tempting than the prospect of dragging out separate heavy bits of kit.

I've found that Bob's Knob's make collimating it very easy.

I'm sure you'll enjoy your purchase!



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I have had a 8iSD for two years now & love it. The best addition I bought for it was an angle 50mm Finder. Orion model fits. (FLO or Bern, Modern Astronomy) It is so easy to find objects and is a small scope in its own right and no more neck breaking.. My Red dot lies on a shelf gathering dust. The next was 2" EPs. I have had many extras over the two years but these two were essential IMO


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Excellent review. I purchased the Celestron 9.25 OTA last month on the heavy Skywatcher EQ6 Pro mount. A little disappointed to find the dovetail mounting bar had obviously already been used prior to delivery and found two specs of dust on the inside of the corrector plate - Celestron quality control clearly isn't as good as it should be. Having said that it has given me some stunning views of both Mars and Saturn through the eyepiece but I have still to crack the imaging thing. So far my results have been no better than with my old TAL 150P, but I guess that's down to lack of experience. Enjoy your scope, I sometimes think it is the one I should have gone for.

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  • 2 years later...

Always nice to read a good review that mirrors one's own experience. I have to admit that I purchased mine 2nd hand ,in mint condition, as I wanted an alt-az mount with GOTO. However, the optics were so good it's a keeper. I had no issues with the tray but found the RDF a PITA and replaced it with a Right Angled Correct Image (RACI) finder. The initial frustration was that the mount didn't do much untill you went through the alignment procedure although, as usual, with patience and practice it becomes second nature. The lunar and planetary views have been outstanding but the fact that it looks out to sea from a balcony in Tenerife does help.

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Thanks for the insight. I'm looking to get an upgrade myself. I currently have a Dobsonian XT8, never thought I'd be spending more than a grand on a telescope, but the time has come for me to step it up.

The Nextstar 8se seems a good option.

I've owned both a C8 and an 8" F/6 dobsonian (a couple of those in fact). While the Nexstar has the GOTO facility and is a nice compact scope the 8" dobsonians certainly showed as good views and slightly better contrast because of their smaller central obstruction.

I liked the C8 a lot and it showed me some lovely sights but a decent 8" dob is also a great performer.

PS: Sorry, should have added: Nice review Rick, sounds like a sucessful first light. My suggestion is not to fiddle with the collimation until you have star tested the scope - it may well not need adjustment just yet.

Edited by John
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  • 2 weeks later...

Interesting review, particularly as i'm currently pondering a purchase of this scope. It'll similarly be my first forray into astronomy, so reassuring to hear that your expereience was relatively problem-free. Does anyone have any good planetary shots to share with this scope? I'm interested as to what sort of results to expect viewing Jupiter, Saturn etc..

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Good report. You can't beat your first views of Saturn and the Moon. I also observe from a balcony (with a balcony overhead) surrounded by buildings with terrible light pollution. I've still managed to see more than I ever thought I would. The Universe is your oyster now!

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  • 1 month later...

What did you make of the Celestron Eyeopener kit (I assume it was the eyepiece and filter set)? I am thinking of buying one at the same time as I buy an 8SE. Worth the money? How often do these eyepieces and filters get used compared to the standard 25mm one that comes with the telescope, and would you bother buying any others instead? Thanks!

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