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Review: Celestron Nextstar 8SE

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As an amateur astronomer, I really enjoy any of the technology innovations that telescope manufacturers accomplish in making the hobby convenient, portable and easy to use. The Celestron Nextstar 8SE accomplishes that goal for me.

The optical tube for the Maksutov-Cassegrain 8-inch aperture delivers celestial eye candy with each push of the handset control button. Viewing the heavens from my favorite Blair Valley desert site in San Diego County and my own front porch in the city of San Diego is convenient with this automated, portable telescope.

The Celestron Nextstar 8 SE review unit that I received had easy-to-follow setup instructions. I found ample YouTube instructional videos, both on the Celestron website and sites for the Nextstar 8 SE.

There are three important steps aligning the telescope accurately. First, the tripod stand that the optical tube rests must be balanced. The stand is pretty sturdy and kept any vibration at a virtual standstill from the windy desert environment during the evening I was observing. Celestron provides a very small leveling bubble. I recommend getting a larger one to make it easier to see for setup and from losing it. I bought a 2-inch leveling bubble, for $3 on Amazon.

Second, the handset must have the correct date and time and location programmed. That can be a challenge unless consulting my cellphone.

Third, the Celestron instructions state that three separate bright objects must be found and centered first in the finder scope and then in the 25mm eyepiece. Using this method does not require one to know the names of those bright objects. I do not recommend the moon as a celestial object for this process. The centering of any celestial object in the finder scope and the eyepiece is subjective at the most. I would have preferred a cross-wire line of sight than the red dot laser finder scope provided. I wear glasses and without them the red laser dot is blurry and my aligning inaccurate. With glasses, the finder scope was a bit cumbersome for me. When the sky align three-star program was accomplished, the scope would fairly center objects but not with pinpoint accuracy. For my particular night viewing, Jupiter was about 4 o'clock from the center of the eyepiece and of course every other object I viewed -- like Albeireo and Andromeda Galaxy -- was also automatically slewed to a 4 o'clock position from the eyepiece center.

I was a little spoiled with Celestron SkyProdigy 6 and its star sense technology that I reviewed several months earlier. That automatic telescope needs no GPS, nor time and date input for the hand control. It is as simple as balancing the tripod and pointing the optical tube with sky sensing camera up and turning on the switch. The SkyProdigy does the rest of the work. However it too was not dead-on-center of my viewing eyepiece. Nevertheless, the centering in the NextStar 8SE and SkyProdigy 6 was close enough for me. Neither scope would be good for long periods of astrophotography. Perhaps planetary photography and the concept of stacking photos on top of each other can be worked out. These two automatic telescopes are quick point-and-view devices for the casual frequent user that I am.

Convenience, affordability and the "oohing and ahhing" from fellow campsite visitors and my own neighbors at home makes these Celestron scopes fulfill the mission of company CEO, Dave Anderson, who said in the 2013 December issue of Astronomy magazine, "Getting high-quality products into the hand of today's youth is a constant topic at Celestron."

Anderson and his team believe that telescopes are "the tools that can ignite the passion for space and transport inspired minds" (p.55). I am a 62-year-old youth and I am glad that Celestron is making the hobby inspiring and fun for us kids too, who graduated from the eighth grade a long time ago.

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