Buying your first telescope is never easy, neither is buying your second, third or even fourth telescope. You have to find the right balance between great optics, pricing and portability, figuring out what exactly you’ll be wanting to see through it.
Celestron is one of the most popular manufacturers of telescopes currently on the market, with hundreds of reviewers lavishing praise on their wide range of products, from compound to Newtonian telescopes, they never let you down.
You can get long focal ranges for precise clear imaging over a smaller field of view or a short focal length that gives you a wider perspective over your favorite constellations and star systems.
The latter is what the Celestron NexStar 4SE Telescope will provide for you. This is the smallest entry in Celestron’s catalog of SE compound scopes, which are the perfect budget option for those star spotters who want to save a few dollars on their first scope. There are also bigger models such as the NexStar 5SE, 6SE and the 8SE.
All these models are called compound scopes, simply because they utilize the mirrors and other reflectors inside a telescope to squeeze a much longer focal length into a much smaller tube. This results in a powerful scope that is much easier to store and transport from one place to another.
For example, the focal length of this telescope alone is 52-inches, which is very impressive considering that it only has a 13.5-inch optical tube. These longer magnifications have greater focal lengths and can achieve higher magnifications, making them better for viewing nearby planets and moons rather than deep-sky objects.
This 4SE model has a Makusutov-Cassegrain design, which is generally cheaper in construction and therefore more affordable for the users. This telescope doesn’t cost a lot and is one of the better performers in the mid-range telescope prices. When it comes to storage and optics, this is one of the best telescopes currently on the market.
But what other features does the Celestron NexStar 4SE Telescope have? Do the materials and the construction stand up against daily use? How much will one of these scopes set you back and will it be worth the money?
Well, whether you’re a professional or a rank amateur star spotter, we have the answers to all these questions and dare we say it a few more, with our in-depth review of one of the Celestron NexStar 4SE Telescope. We’ll cover all of the features of this model, as well as the optics, the construction and the mount, giving you all you need to know before purchase.
Buyer’s Guide - What You Need To Know About The Celestron NexStar 4SE Telescope
When it comes to picking up your telescope, you’ll need to consider the intensity of the stargazing that you’ll be doing, as these factors will determine the types of features that you’ll be wanting.
One of the main selling points for a lot of entry-level telescopers will be the go-to computer, which is a special built-in motor that moves to the coordinates that you can set on an impressive 40,000 object database. This machine will track any object across the night sky with a high level of precision.
With a self-slewing telescope, you can focus on just observing, allowing you to concentrate on getting the correct eyepiece and aligning certain aspects of your inner mechanisms. It will also maintain the position of your target, even if you bump your tube accidentally, as long as you keep the power supply connected.
If you are interested in finding something quicker and prefer the ambiance of outside scoping, then this is the telescope for you. It is also smaller and therefore more lightweight and portable, making it perfect for manual transportation over a few feet.
However, having a 4-inch telescope will such as a vast database is a slight contraction, as the 4-inch aperture of this telescope will struggle to gather enough light to be able to see the dimmer objects from the furthest reaches of the universe, especially if you live in a city where light pollution is high.
In short, this is a telescope for amateur telescope enthusiasts, ones who don’t want to see anything more than the nearby objects such as the moon and some of the brighter planets like Venus and Jupiter. It also does a good job of splitting double stars.
This telescope’s only crime is coupling a low focal range with a huge database, which simply isn’t that adaptable for this range of telescope. If you want to see into the more distant reaches of the universe, then we would recommend that you buy a more expensive scope with a wider aperture.
Risk And Reward
Now we’re going to break down the Celestron NexStar 4SE Telescope to see what its pros and cons are, looking at each of its features in detail to give you a better idea of what you might be buying.
Here are the criteria we’ll be covering:
- Build quality - how well made is the main body of the telescope?
- Optics - how well can you see through the eyepiece of this telescope?
- Mount capabilities - How sturdy is this telescope’s base? Will it be able to withstand different types of weather conditions?
- Accessories - what other eyepieces and gadgets come with this device?
- Set up and operation - how can you get this telescope up and running and how does it work?
- How to track - Does it have the ability to trace the stars across the night sky?
- What You Can see - What planets, moons and stars will be most visible with this model?
- Astrophotography - is this model suitable for taking clear images of planets and moons?
This is one of the most sturdy models in the NexStar range, made from a plastic and metal construction, with rubber grips of the focuser for that extra grip and precision. It also has a flip mirror control that will offer you either a true or easy representation of the night sky.
Behind the eyepiece is the built-in prism that turns your light 90-degrees through the viewfinder, making it much easier to see your night sky. However, you can remove the prism with the mirror flip control, so you can have the light travel straight and unabridged into your eyepiece.
This is one of the most well-built telescopes in this range, with a fully sealed tube that has plenty of weatherproof components for long-term outside sky spotting.
It is also very compact and portable, making it a great unit for camping trips. You can simply up sticks and drive across the country to get great views of planets at different times of the year.
The primary mirror of this model is a circle design, with a corrector lens that comes with an aluminum patch near its rear that serves as a secondary mirror, which is pretty standard for a Maksutov telescope.
This telescope also arrives pre-collimated. Collimation is basically when the internal reflectors and mirrors of a telescope have to be perfectly aligned to give you the best view of the planets. If you keep this telescope in a fixed spot, then it should stay aligned in the same position.
With a tightly sealed inner tube, you should have no dust issues on the inside of the lens, removing the pesky job of having to clean your internal mirrors every 6 months.
Sometimes cleaning your mirrors can deter a lot of beginner telescope enthusiasts, as they are concerned with damaging or misaligning their perfectly coordinated mirrors.
This telescope has a long focal length with a slow focal ratio, which means that you’ll have much higher magnifications and narrower fields of view. This is often preferred by the more seasoned star spotters who know exactly what region they’re looking at and want a closer view of a particular planet or moon.
This makes it a great telescope for viewing planets in the near vicinity which have a brighter luminosity such as Venus and Jupiter (even Mars will be tricky to view this telescope, especially in 2021, where it remains invisible behind the sun for large portions of the year).
However, it will be much harder to witness objects in the distance such as star clusters, the Outer Planets such as Uranus and Neptune, and nebulae that will appear dimmer than most astral objects.
You will need a larger eyepiece to get better wide views of more distant objects like these, and we would recommend you invest in a wide-angle 32mm or even a 40mm eyepiece to get the most out of your viewing experience.
We would recommend the Celestron Luminos range of telescope which has an 82-degree field of view and includes a 31mm eyepiece.
This scope has one of the sturdiest mounts of all the telescopes on the NexStar range, coming in a design that has a single fork arm fixed on a steel tripod with legs that are around 2-inches in diameter.
The thickness of these legs is what accounts for its durability, making it much more shock absorbant.
For those who want to practice astrophotography with this mount, there is also good news: it comes with a wedge built in the top, so you can attach a camera to take crystal clear snaps of your favorite planets, although you won’t be able to mount it for long, unfortunately.
The amount of accessories that comes with this camera are fairly decent, giving you plenty of options for a wide variety of night spotting situations.
The Celestron 4SE includes a red dot finderscope along with its OTA, motor drive and mount. Red dots are notoriously unreliable and will have trouble picking up dimmer objects.
However, also included in this kit is an impressive 25mm ExCel Plossl eyepiece, along with software and a power supply that will enable you to hook up your PC with your telescope to track and snap your favorite constellations. You can use your PC to operate your go-to motor, giving you a computerized level of precision for your observations.
You might find that you prefer using your go-to motor over your finderscope, as it will give you far more accurate results. However, with it’s simple setup and ease of use, some beginners might prefer to use the finderscope, although if you are going to do this, we’d recommend that you make sure the inside is properly aligned first.
You might want to add a wider eyepiece to this telescope after the first few months of use, as it will help you to better see close-up objects, although the ExCel Plossl is a great eyepiece to use for your first telescope.
Setting Up And Operation
One of the reasons that the NexStar Telescope will be appealing to new users is that it is very compact and only comes in 3 pieces before setup.
The head of the mount weighs only 7-pounds, the tripod weighing 10-pounds and the OTA itself weighing around 6-pounds. With the whole setup weighing just about 23-pounds, you’ll have no problem handling parts or even picking up and adjusting the position of your telescope during use when you need to.
But don’t be concerned that this telescope might be too lightweight and prone to shocks, because the design of the mount will be wide enough to distribute the weight of the OTA very easily.
The size of the entire unit also makes it easy to store, you can easily keep it in your garage or loft during the winter months and not have to worry about it taking up too much space.
We would recommend that you keep the original box that your telescope was packaged in, as it is the ideal shape to keep it protected while in storage.
This telescope, like a lot of telescopes made by Celestron, comes pre-collimated, so the chances are that you won’t need to adjust it after you take it out of the box. However, you’ll need to make sure that you take care of your tube, otherwise you’ll find that you might be having to send your telescope back to the manufacturer for realignment.
If you are telescoping in the pitch darkness, attaching the main tube of your telescope to the go-to head will be a little tricky, although with a flashlight and some practice, you’ll quickly get the hang of it.
Some users have reported that the 4SE is prone to collecting dew, so we would recommend that you pick up a dew shield to place over your viewing window.
How To Track
The motor in the 4SE is very silent-running, which might be crucial to you if you are using it in a domestic setting or you live with others and don’t want to disturb them during your observations. The motor moves smoothly and quickly, keeping hold of the object in your sights as long as the power is on.
This motor comes with 9 different tracking speeds, so you’ll be able to keep up with some of the fast-moving objects in the sky, such as Mercury that stays close to the horizon and is only visible for a maximum of an hour.
The built-in software SkyAlign will help you to calibrate your position on the world and give you a better indication of where to place and point your camera to better view the object of your desire.
We would recommend that, when programming your alignment system, that you use your longitude and latitude rather than your postcode, as this will increase the chances of a more accurate reading.
All you have to do to get your scope aligned is to point it at 3 of the brightest stars in the sky, allowing the machine to calibrate them as well as the planets, moons and constellations in the vicinity.
What You Can See
Another appealing feature for beginners will be the fact that the scope is not an inverted eyepiece, so you’ll be able to see all the planets and constellations from the right way up. This is the opposite to the inverted view of compound scopes.
This is one of the best telescopes to see the brighter objects in the sky, so if you’re looking to get a detailed glimpse of planets like Venus and Jupiter, then you can’t go far wrong with this scope.
You would recommend that you get some smaller eyepieces to achieve moderate and high magnifications of the moon, Jupiter and Saturn.
You’ll also be able to see the Outer Planets Uranus and Neptune with this scope, which will be a big boon for those seasoned astronomers who have surveyed the nearby planets and want that challenge of witnessing something rare and further away.
In this telescope you’ll be able to see something as far away as the andromeda galaxy, which will show up as a faint and fuzzy object, although this is still very impressive for a home scope.
You’ll also be able to split double stars very well, using shorter focal lengths and high magnifications to tease out the specific details.
A lot of users will be wanting a telescope that they can use specifically for taking shots of the night, but despite the fact that it comes with a built-in wedge on the mount, you’ll still have difficulty in keeping it steady for a long period.
Sadly, it will not make up for the fact that it does not periodically correct any errors in the drive motor.
Also, the motor arm is largely designed for a smaller scope, so adding the weight of a camera will only result in your tracking being thrown more off balance.
If you aim to get exposure of bright objects for short bursts, then this telescope might be ideal for your uses, although having your lens open for a long period will result in blurry shots.
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