Review: Celestron SkyScout
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Reviewed by Ryan McLaughlin on 03/20/2007
Editors' rating: 0.0/10
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  • Andrew Senske

    I’ve used this telescope since June 2009. The NexStar 8 SE provides pretty good views, but the computerized mount is literally a piece of junk. I’ll tell you why.

    Problems with the mount:

    1. Battery compartment: Lots of space taken up for batteries, but batteries only work for a few minutes. This thing eats batteries, and doesn’t come with a power cord! Further, the battery compartment design is poor, with two battery holders dangling by their wires. The battery holders must be placed a certain way after batteries are installed into them. There’s only one way to place the battery holders and still be able to close the compartment cover, but there are a few ways to place the battery holders incorrectly. If you want to be able to close the battery compartment, you’ll probably have to look up the instructions on the internet. You’ll need to by the optional AC power cord (which is what I did since I’m always observing within an extension cord’s length of an electrical outlet), or the 12V cord along with a 12V battery in order to use this scope.

    2. Noise: I know everything seems louder at night… in the dark… when you’re supposed to be quiet. But slewing at moderate to fast speed with this thing is like a freight train coming down the tracks. It’s not a problem if you’re not near anyone, but the many times I’ve been in my backyard or up at the lake with this scope, I’ve worried about disturbing neighbors.

    3. No clutch in azimuth: This means you can’t move the mount in a sideways direction without using the power-hungry, fantastically noisy motor. You can move the mount in altitude manually, but not in azimuth. Truly a bummer.

    4. Spur gears: There’s a lot of slop in the gears, so when you begin to slew the scope it often doesn’t actually begin to move for a short period of time. No big deal, but it’s annoying.

    5. Time isn’t saved: As others have mentioned, having to enter the time each time you turn on the mount is just ridiculous.

    6. Cheap hand controller: The screen on my hand controller came loose and tilted within a couple of weeks of use. LCD screen doesn’t work well in cold weather. I know this is a common problem with these types of controllers, but cold weather is a common condition for astronomical observing. Celestron and all other manufacturers really should take this into account and install a heating element in the controller. (I know all the workarounds – use handwarmers, put the controller in your jacket, attach your own heating element, etc. – but they’re just not convenient.) There’s obviously no intention of minimizing power consumption with this mount, so adding a heating element wouldn’t be a big deal.

    7. Built-in bubble level: There isn’t one.

    8. Defective (at least mine is): I’m in the process of sending my mount to Celestron for warranty repairs because it no longer slews properly at slew speeds slower than 8 or 9 during alignment. So, at a slew speed of 5 which is the default for alignment, the mount doesn’t move at all. It’s too bad I have to pay for sending it in, when I’d really rather just get a better mount.

    Problems with the tube:

    1. Focus knob: The focus knob shakes and moves the mirror way too much. If I didn’t know better I’d think it was a defect. But I know better. It’s not considered a defect. It’s just a bad design that amateur astronomers apparently don’t mind too much.

    2. Accessory mounting holes: Ideally, you’d have a red-dot finder and 9×50 finderscope mounted to the top of the tube. You can’t do that with this scope unless you’re willing to get out your drill. There are mounting holes at approximately the 2 o’clock position and 4 o’clock position, so most people will probably use those using the topmost holes for the red-dot finder and the lower ones for the magnified finderscope. There should be another set of holes on the top of the tube somewhere between 10 and 2 for the purpose of mounting accessories.

    There are a few things I like about the scope:

    1. Portable: Compared to my 10″ dob, the 8 SE is quite portable, and this is the primary reason I bought it. I’ve been able to take it to the lake (where the sky is much darker) on many occasions.

    2. Tracking: Once aligned the mount tracks pretty well. I’ve left the scope tracking for over an hour, to find that the object of interest was still in the field of view when I returned.

    For me, the bottom line is that the NexStar 8 SE has too many problems, and shouldn’t be considered by anyone new to astronomy. Considering the design quality, the 8 SE is overpriced. You can get a bigger and better telescope for less than half the price if you’re willing to give up the computerized object locator and the tracking ability that’s inherent in such a mount. Trust me. If you’re a beginner in reasonably dark skies (meaning you can actually see and locate stars with just your eyes) then a computerized mount like this one will frustrate you far more than it will help you.

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  • Marie

    I am in love with the night sky…I want the best telescope I can buy….limit is $500.00…don’t like what I am reading about all these batteries. Detail and color is important and ease of use. I am a novice. Can someone give me like three suggestions? I would appreciate it. Thanks

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