The NexStar Series of Telescopes from Celestron is a very well-established line that has been around for years. In fact, in homage to its roots, the bright orange color of the NexStar SE line resembles the original C8 tube telescope that helped Celestron establish its place in the world of astronomy. Today the brand is often the first to come to mind when one considers purchasing a telescope, and the same quality and usability that has come to be expected from Celestron can certainly be found in NexStar scopes.
Even under the moniker of NexStar, there are a few “sub-lines” of products that are currently available. The names of these lines have varied a bit in the past, but currently available lines includes the SLT, SE, and Evolution models. Each of these lines have a few different model options to ensure a customized option that’s right for you.
|StarBright XLT Coating|
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Computerized GoTo Mount
Celestron, like all other telescope manufacturers, has a number of different series of telescopes to choose from. The big allure of the NexStar line is that these scopes are computerized and use GOTO technology. You see, one of the biggest “barriers to entry” for becoming an amateur astronomer is the difficulty in locating celestial objects in the night sky. Staring at the moon and closest planets can only keep on entertained for a few nights at most. Pretty soon, viewing objects outside of our solar system becomes a necessity.
While star maps are available to help astronomers navigate the night sky, there can be a steep learning curve. Many a beginner have prematurely called in quits on stargazing due to frustration from being unable to locate anything other than simple objects. This is what makes computerized telescopes so appealing, and this is why many beginners consider buying a NexStar.
Using a Celestron NexStar scope, viewing thousands of objects becomes feasible for even the most novice of telescope owners. NexStar scopes use Celestron’s SkyAlign technology to automatically synchronize with your view of the night sky. All you have to do is simply point the telescope at three bright stars (The brighter the better), and your NexStar will synchorize itself with your view of the night sky regardless of location or season. Once aligned, your NexStar will be ready to help you find any celestial object in the scope’s database.
SkyBright XLT (Not included on SLT Models)
Celestron’s patented optical coating technology helps to deliver high visual performance. One of the basic rules with telescopes is that the more light the scope collects, the better the view to be seen. A certain amount of light loss occurs at every point where optical input is collected and reflected. As light loss is an obvious enemy to scope performance, the more light that can be retained, the better. With most Nextar models, SkyBright XLT coating has been applied to the internal components where light loss occurs. The coating works to maximize light retention at each of these points, therefore helping to preserve the best optical performance possible.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MODELS
NexStar SLT vs NexStar SE Differences
The NexStar SLT is Celestron’s base model in the NexStar Series. This telescope is catered more to buyers who have a tighter budget, but are still wanting to purchase a computerized GoTo telescope. Keep in mind that the SLT is still a quality scope and much better than many knockoffs or no-names on the market. While we will compare the features of both the SLT and SE models, it should be understood that the SE is the next tier up from the SLT, so all features of the NexStar SE will be superior to those of the SLT. The one and only case for purchasing an SLT instead of an SE will be the price point. Potential buyers should carefully research the specs of the telescopes they are considering, as well as their own needs, and then decide whether the added value justifies the added cost.
The strongest argument for purchasing a higher tier SE vs a SLT is in the mount. The mount for the SE is much more sturdy meaning less visual interference if you accidentally bump or wiggle the telescope. There have been a few complaints that after bumping an SLT, it takes a few seconds for the internal components of the telescope to stop vibrating and therefor for the view of the object to come back into focus. This is not something commonly experience with SEs. While this may not be an issue for everyone, it is one of the most oft given reason by NexStar SLT & SE users as to why an SE might be a better fit.
It should also be pointed out that while the SE mount is generally considered to be significantly sturdier than that of the SLT line, there is also one significant difference to be found even between mounts within the SE line. This difference isn’t so much one of “sturdiness” as it is of functionality. The mounts that come with the NexStar 4SE and 5SE models have a built in equatorial wedge that allows the mounted telescope to tilt upward at an angle. This allows for polar alignment which is essential for serious astrophotographers and those wanting to take quality time lapsed movies as well as longer exposure pictures. A wedged mount can be purchased for all other NexStar models, however they can run about $200, so if this is a necessary feature for you, you can save that amount of money by purchasing the 4SE or 5SE model.
Another strong case for the SE series is that fact that while the SLT boasts a database of 4,000 viewable Celestial objects, the NexStar SE database include more than 10 times the amount of available objects (40,000+). As far as telescopes go, you could easily do a lot worse than a NexStar SLT (and many people often do). However It’s clear that SLT models are designed with beginners in mind, while the SE series is catered to a more intermediate crowd. Not that it’s basic use is any more complicated than that of an SLT, but it’s higher features are obviously meant for those who would otherwise be bored with an SLT. This makes the NexStar SE ideal for either experienced users, or beginners who are determined enough to learn the ins and outs of using a telescope and don’t want to find themselves unsatisfied with the basic features of a typical beginner scope after a year or so of learning.
NexStar SE vs NexStar Evolution (Evo)
The NexStar Evolution series takes the NexStar name to the next level. A few minutes of playing around with an Evo or performing some basic research will make it apparent that this is a premium telescope. The attached price helps to make that point as well. Celestron didn’t really hold back when designing this scope, and as you can expect it comes with all of the shiny bells and whistles. We’ll leave it up to you to decide if these added features are worth the cost.
First let’s point out that unlike the SLT and SE lines whose “counterpart” models have fairly similar aperture sizes and pricing (sometimes differing by less than $100), the Evolution series of telescope starts out much larger, with the smallest available model having a 6” aperture and costing $500 more than the SE model of the same size. These telescopes are clearly manufactured and marketed towards those users who when given the choice of “Go Big” or “Go Home,” without question want to “Go Big.”
The feature that most consumers love the most about NexStar Evolution telescopes, is also their strongest selling point over the lower tier models. This is the fact that it comes with an internal battery supply. If you purchase an SE or SLT instead, you will definitely need to purchase a Celestron PowerTank or similar battery pack to power your scope out in the field. The Evolution’s internal battery holds a charge that lasts for about 10 hours, which is more than enough for all night viewing. There have been a few reports that the telescope tracking may become slightly less accurate within the last 2 hours of the batter nearing the end of its charge. Regardless, even those that have reported this issue still highly recommend the Evolution and say that this “quirk” is more than worth having the sheer convenience of not having to charge and remember to bring along an external battery source. Be warned, like most computerized telescopes, all NexStar models can be power hogs.