When it comes to purchasing your first, second or third telescope, you’ll be wanting to have the most durable and reliable model on the market, with enough features that will give you clear views of objects both near and far in the night sky.
As well as the functional aspects, you’ll need a solid mount that can not only support the weight of your telescope but also any accessories that you might want to add to it later.
Many a cheaply constructed mount has led to heavy impacts that fracture not just the outside but the delicate inner mechanisms.
Orion is a very well respected industry-leading telescope manufacturer, with plenty of reviewers giving their products rave reviews and the Orion XT10 Dobsonian Telescope is no different.
This is a quality product that a lot of people choose for their first or second telescope, admiring its long and short-range capabilities.
Looking at pictures of this hefty beast, it comes well packed in separate foam-lined boxes that protect the sizable OTA as well as a Dobsonian base that is made from particleboard and hardware.
This is a great telescope for both indoor and outdoor use, with a lightweight frame that you can use to easily transport from one part of the garden to the other.
The installation and setup are slightly tricky, but once you have established it, you can use it to spy on the furthermost reaches of our galaxy. It has an Intelliscope database that has thousands of stars, constellations, planets and moons in its system to help you locate your favorite night sky objects as they transition from morning to evening.
But what other features does the Orion XT10 Dobsonian Telescope have that makes it such a standout telescope? Is it designed for beginners or more seasoned telescope users? How much will you have to pay for one of these models? What are the drawbacks of the Orion telescope?
Well, whether you are an amateur or an expert with a telescope, we’ll answer all these questions for you as well as a lot more, with our in-depth review of the Orion XT10 Dobsonian Telescope. We’ll cover installation and how to operate the telescope’s motor drive along with the optics and the mount capabilities.
When it comes to purchasing a high-end piece of technology such as this telescope, then reading plenty of customer reviews will be crucial to gauging the reliability and functionality of your product, especially if you’re buying it online and cannot try it beforehand.
The XT Range Of Telescopes
First, it’ll be worth discussing the XT models of telescopes, how they differ from the other products that Orion has to offer and whether it is worth spending any extra money on one of these items.
The XT10 is the most popular of this range, with sizes ranging from the kid-friendly models to ones more suitable for adults.
The largest models of this telescope are actually XX rather than XT, as this typifies the larger range. This is also because they come with open truss frames rather than solid OTAs. You can get the XX and the XT versions in a 12-inch size.
The XT range starts at the shorter length of 4.5-inches, which makes it perfect for children and teenage users, being much easier to handle and not too heavy to transport.
They then graduate from the 4.5-inches through to 6, 8, 10, 12, 14 and 16-inches. This will give you plenty of versatility, depending on whether you prefer deep or shallow sky watching.
Then, to make matters slightly more complicated, each of these sizes comes in a sub-size: Plus, G models and I models. Here’s a brief description of each one and what they do:
- Plus - these telescopes come with a dual-speed Crayford focuser, with an adjustable tension Dob base and a wide array of accessories.
- G models - this stands for ‘go-to’, which is a motorized mechanism with a database that contains over 42,000 objects.
- I models - this stands for ‘Intelliscope’, which is SkyQuest’s push-to database of around 14,000 night sky objects.
If you are thinking of getting the medium-range telescopes such as the 8-inch and 10-inch SkyQuests are available in the classic model as well as all the variants listed above, so if versatility and expensive information about the night sky are of paramount importance to you, especially if you’re a beginner, then we would recommend that you get these sizes.
The smaller scopes only come in the more basic classic or Plus models, with the longer 12-inch or 14-inch scopes being available in only the I or G models, the 16-inch scope solely available in a go-to mode.
The Specs - Everything You Need To Know
No matter what version of the XT10 you decide on for your backyard scope, you can expect to find the same basic functions.
Here is a list of the specifications for the optical tube assembly of the XT10:
- Optical Diameter – 254mm
- Focal Length – 1200mm
- Focal Ratio – f/4.7
- Primary Mirror – Parabolic, with low thermal expansion borosilicate glass
- Focuser – 2-inch dual-speed Crayford, available in both Intelliscope and Goto models
- Eyepieces – 25mm (48x magnification) with an additional 10mm (120x) included with XT10i and 10g models and a 12.5mm illuminated reticle (XT10g only) which gives you a high-end and precise alignment.
- Resolving Power – 0.46 arcseconds
- Limiting Stellar magnitude – 14.7
As we’ve mentioned above, there are 3 main models of the XT10, coming in classic, ‘Intelliscope’ and ‘Go-To’ models.
These last two might have newbie buyers still feeling slightly bewildered. So let’s have a look in-dept at what the difference is between the go-to and Intelliscope models.
Intelliscope Or Go-To - Which Is The Best?
Quite simply, the difference between push-to and go-to scopes is not the fact that both track, but rather the method of how they track. With a push-to model, the automatic database will encourage you to do just that, push, manually aligning your scope with the area that has been indicated on the scope.
With both types of scope, you’ll have a screen that gives you an easy-to-read database of objects in the sky. You can then select an object in the viewfinder using the interface, which then allows you to input the coordinates into your field of view. With an Intelliscope (otherwise known as a push-to), the motorized mechanism will move your scope for you.
The motorized version might be more appealing to newbie astronomers who might not want to handle their telescope straight away. However, the motorized movement of your scope will be far less accurate than manually moving it. As a result, the manual option of a push-to will give you a higher degree of control over your viewing experience.
The push-to system is also a lot lighter and quieter than go-tos, having no motor, which means that you won’t end up waking the rest of the family from your own personal observatory. It also does not need any external power source.
A lot of seasoned astrology experts will claim that the push-to system is better as it will give you the ability to hone in more accurately on your favorite stars and planets, as well as forcing you to rely more upon your own astronomical knowledge, learning and expanding your own mental database, rather than deferring to a digital one.
One of the biggest USPs of the Intelliscope is that it is much cheaper than the go-to model, as you have to pay for the additional price of the precision-engineered motor. Not having a motor will also make this unit a lot more portable, which is great if you plan on trekking across the country for a picture-perfect view of the night sky, away from night pollution.
For example, by picking up the XT12i, you will get an impressive foot-wide mirror, leaving you enough money to spend on a few spare eyepieces.
Setting Up Your Intelliscope
As mentioned above, the Intelliscope is a ‘push-to’ model, so you won’t have to rely on a controller to get it in alignment with the moon or the nearby planets.
Without a remote control, you’ll find yourself draining a lot less battery, also giving younger astronomers the ability to map out the sky for themselves.
A standard Intelliscope handset is a simple controller that will use an encoder to find the relative positions of the planets. Once you have set up the digital setting circles, then you should be able to manually move your telescope to each axis for vivid detail in your eyepiece.
By following these simple steps, you should be able to set up your Intelliscope quickly and easily:
- Turn on the object locator of your I-scope.
- Aim the tube of your telescope vertically, letting it come to rest on the natural bracket on the base of your mount. You won’t need your telescope to be entirely level to do this.
- The first step to calibrating your Intelliscope is by aligning it to two bright stars in the sky, for example, Vega and Altair. Consult a star map if you need to find them, but once you have, center them in your eyepiece and hit enter on the control.
- Once that is done, the handset should display ‘W=+[number]’. The number that you should see will be somewhere between 1 and 0.5, which will be a measure of how accurate the alignment is. This means you will now be ready to track down all the stars and planets in your database.
- The keypad is very easy to negotiate, the number keys each have a distinctive menu: 1=M, 4=Saturn etc.
- Select the object that you want to observe from the database, firstly by selecting a heading and then entering a number.
- Your go-to guide should then show up the numbers where you need to move your scope. Align your sight using horizontal and vertical coordinates until the object is central, moving it until the arrows on both plains reach 0.
- However, if this method is proving a bit tricky, then locate the ‘tour’ option and pick an item from the catalog there.
- There is also a reverse lookup function, where you can lock a night sky object that looks interesting to you, then press the ID key for the controller to tell you what it is.
The database on your Intelliscope will be very impressive, there won’t be a single blip or blemish in the sky that it does not already have intimate details of. This is ideal for young telescope users who want to learn as they search.
Next we’re going to look at the setup of the go-to device, which is a little more complicated than the Intelliscope model.
Setting Up Your Motor Drive
The go-to drive is very similar to the I-model in terms of setup, although this time you will also have to factor in the motors for the altitude and azimuth mounts. This means that you can choose to align the telescope to match up with any of the 42,000 objects listed in your scope’s database.
This is especially useful for casual stargazers who don’t want the hassle of consulting a planisphere, instead letting the machine do the work for you, allowing you to find the wonders of the galaxy a lot quicker.
However, one major failing of the go-to model is that the power source that is required to drive the motors is generally not included with the telescope itself. This means you might have to earmark around $200 for an additional powerpoint.
This style of tracking device usually has two different modes: auto-tracking and fully go-to. The auto-tracking mode means that you can find your target for yourself and the scope will automatically keep it in the center of your sight. All you have to do is point your scope at the North Star, pressing the button to align and leave the computer to do the rest!
To align this telescope properly, you just need to follow the same steps as the I-model that we’ve listed above, following the first four steps. The telescope will keep your position as long as it is hooked up to the power source, even if you accidentally knock it out of alignment.
However, the other method of toggling your telescope is by installing an app on your phone and doing it from there. Thankfully, the XT10 is fully wifi capable and you can control it from the comfort of your sofa.
Now we move on to probably the most important feature of a telescope, that is the optical capabilities. The optics is quite simply your telescopes’ abilities to magnify and present crystal clear images to you through your eyepiece. Luckily, this Orion model has superior optics with plenty of protective features.
The XT10 has a parabolic primary mirror, which is made from low thermal expansion borosilicate glass, which is also known as BK7, which has great thermal characteristics, enabling it to retain and quickly disperse the heat from your telescope’s motor. Reaching a quicker temperature equilibrium, you’ll be able to capture images that won’t be warped over time.
Being a reflector telescope, you will still have to collimate this model. Collimation is when you have to align the inner components, such as mirrors, to guarantee yourself a clear picture in your sight. Luckily, this is a pretty straightforward job, although you might want to purchase an additional laser collimator tool to make the job easier.
Orion ship this telescope pre-collimated, so unless it has received some pretty drastic impacts during transit, then you can be sure that it is perfectly aligned to give you that true color representation of the night skies. However, we would recommend that you make sure the collimation is correct before you use it.
If you opt for the classic model, you can see that it will come with a single-speed 2-inch focuser, although if you want a keener, more precise focus through your lens we would recommend that you buy it with a dual-speed Crayford focus. If you have an I or a G model scope, then it will certainly come with a dual fitting.
The classic model also comes with a finderscope with a simple red dot function, which is less than ideal for a premium scope like this one, as it will have trouble focusing and might even obscure the target through your telescope. If you decided to go with the I or G models, then you can expect to be supplied with the correct 9x50 finderscope, which is more suitable.
Despite the cheaper price tag, your weaker finderscope will severely impact the functionality of your whole scope, as it won’t be able to clearly show you the objects. But what if you decide to buy a more expensive 10-inch scope with a focal length of f/4.7? Well, we’ll cover that in the next section of the article.
The Things You Can See With The Orion XT1 Dobsonian
With a facial ration of around f/4.7, your focusing will be slightly ‘faster’ than the average telescope, making it more suitable for larger fields of view and lower magnification. Using 10-inches of mirror is great for viewing more distant objects such as galaxies and nebulae.
However, if you want to see the visible planets - Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn - then this telescope is more than capable of giving an exceptionally clear view of these nearby bodies. It has plenty of power, enough to give you hours of gazing at Jupiter’s gaseous bands or picking out the rings of Saturn.
One of the most popular attractions for first-time astronomers is to see the unique red surface of Mars, and you’ll be able to chart everything from the darker craters as well as lighter peaks - if you’re lucky, on a clear day you might see the polar caps.
Deep Space Skywatching
For constellations and galaxies, you’ll probably need a wider field of view to capture the larger spread of them, rather than having something with strong magnification that hones in on one small zone.
The field of view for a telescope is determined by two of its components - the eyepiece you choose and the magnification that you achieve. Finding a focal length of around 1200mm generally strikes that balance between having a more comprehensive view of your night sky at a slightly reduced magnification.
For example, if you purchase a lens that has a field of view of 52-degrees, and use that with a 19mm lens, then you can achieve an overall magnification of 63x. To accurately calculate the field of view, you simply have to divide the magnification by the view of the eyepiece.
Therefore, by combining these different components, we can get a larger 1.3-degree field of view, which is more than capable of delivering fantastic vistas of Proxima Centauri and other dimmer distant objects. If you add a 2x Barlow lens to this setup, you can expect to see further into deep space.
In perfect conditions with this scope you can see magnitudes of upwards of 14.7, meaning that you can even see Pluto at such an exaggerated range. However, you will need to use a trajectory calculator in order to get accurate views of this outer dwarf.
Watching The Solar System
Having 10-inches of light gathering power is massive, the spacious mirror will gather upwards of 56% more light than an 8-inch scope. This means that you can increase the magnification and get wonderfully detailed images of the planets that a lot of cheaper models simply won’t be able to do.
On a night of the most perfect conditions, you can see through the Earth’s thick atmosphere, pushing the scope up to an impressive 300x magnification with a 4mm or 8mm eyepiece. This is where the universe will really open up to you in all its true colored glory.
However, operating at such an extreme magnification will necessitate the need for an extremely sturdy base, one that will not succumb to even the slightest breeze or vibration from a wooden floor. Luckily the mount with this model comes in an extremely durable construction, with a Dob base that is definitely up to the task of keeping your massive scope grounded.
Only the brightest night sky objects will be able to handle this intense level of magnification, mainly the moon, as well as Jupiter and Venus with Saturn, Mars and Mercury following close behind.
Setting Up Your Scope
Getting this scope up and running is very easy, with a rapid setup that shouldn’t take you more than an hour to complete. Inevitably with these massive telescopes, it won’t be as simple as flicking open the legs like a parasol on the beach. Telescopes have a lot of delicate inner parts that need to be precision engineered for the best results.
The XT10 is supplied in two separate parts: the optical tube assembly and the Dobsonian base. The OTA should come in one complete piece, although you might want to check to see if the collimation hasn’t come out of alignment during the transit to your home. Check through the eyepiece to see if the finderscope is properly aligned.
The base will need some assembly, as it is flat packed to avoid disturbance. However, it comes with all the hardware that you need for assembly, with a detailed walkthrough video that you can find on Orion’s website.
Now that we’ve unpacked our mount, let us look at it’s capabilities to see whether it is up to the task of supporting your heavy duty OTA.
One of the main failings of a lot of cheaper scopes is the mount, often constructed from inadequate plastics as a result of the manufacturer trying to lower the overall price of the unit by compromising on the quality of the support.
A weaker mount will result in vibrations in the eyepiece that will basically make any clear view of your planets or constellations almost impossible. If you so much as touch a poorly made mount, then you can expect your image to blur severely, and as for stargazing in a light breeze, then you can forget it!
Luckily, with the Orion XT range, you won’t have any of those issues, with a base that is completely solid once assembled, with a forgiving platform that will absorb most of the shocks that can occur in the legs. This will give you a very reliable and resilient viewing experience.
The classic model of the XT has tension springs that keep the tube perfectly balanced in the cradle. You also have non-stick PTFE/UHMW bearings in the head of the mount to offer you a very fluid motion in both axes.
The I-model of the XT comes with a disc brake tension system and setting circles that you can use for tracking, both of these things combining to give you an ultra firm foundation for spying on your distant sky objects.
The disc brake tension system is also highly adjustable, allowing you to set it to accommodate heavier eyepieces that will ultimately boost the performance of an already impressive scope.
However, if you are on a tight budget and don’t want to fork out the extra cash for additional state-of-the-art shock absorption and adjustment capabilities, you can just buy the classic model and still not be short changed when it comes to stability.
Extras And Accessories
Don’t worry, this telescope comes with plenty of extras to get your teeth into, nicely bridging the gap between the beginner telescope enthusiasts and the intermediate star spotters who want that extra power and magnification.
Below is a list of the accessories that comes with the classic model, with the various EXTRA extras that come with the I or G models (indicated in brackets):
- 25mm Orion Sirius Plossl eyepiece with a 1.25-inch fitting, which provides a 48x magnification (An additional 10mm Orion Sirius Plossl eyepiece is included with the 10i and 10g models. This eyepiece provides 120x magnification)
- An eyepiece rack mounted on the base.
- Red dot finder (A 9×50 finderscope, right angle, correct image on 10i and 10g models)
- A 2-inch and 1.25-inch eyepiece adaptor.
- Collimation cap – this is ideal for a cheap and simple collimation.
- Starry Night software - this is an extensive database of stars, moons and planets.
We won’t steer you in one particular direction when it comes to accessories, although we would suggest that if you do opt for the classic model that you upgrade the finderscope as soon as possible, as the red dot system won’t be up to the task of focusing on distant objects.