My son enjoys looking through my telescope and has been wanting his own scope for awhile. So we went through a number of designs to see what he would like, with me trying VERY hard not to lead him to any specific conclusions about his own preferences in design. He has a few extra mobility challenges over me, and he ended up going for the smaller version of my Celestron NexStar 8SE — he chose the 4SE.
It comes with a couple of advantages and one disadvantage over mine. For the disadvantage first, it’s simply smaller. A smaller light bucket gathers less light, so things won’t be as bright for distant objects. On the advantage side, the 4SE is a slightly different design (Maksutov-Cassegrain design) which will make for crisper images; it comes with a built-in wedge (if he wants to try equatorial tracking for astrophotography); it is smaller and much more portable; it has a sturdier tripod vis-a-vis the overall weight (his scope is light for his tripod, as it is also designed to hold the 5SE model which is heavier whereas my 8SE is on the high-end of the load options for the tripod it comes with); and his alignment worked perfectly right out of the box. No slippage at all.
The unit comes with a 25mm Plossl, as most of them do, and a red-dot finder. I supplemented it with a Rigel Finder as the TelRad was a tad too long to fit (very disappointing).
We picked the scope up on June 15th during the annual Celestron sale, and I swear it was just coincidence that it was the day my wife left for Italy for a week. And we stayed up late on the 16th, a Sunday night, so we could try it out. Jacob was so tired the next day, but it was worth it.
It didn’t seem like it at first. Jacob wanted to focus just on his scope, not a comparison, so we ONLY set up his scope. And I showed him how to get the Rigel finder to set, not as easy as a TelRad (actually, I am quite disappointed with that, but whatever, it works). For a later outing, I installed the red-dot finder too, and between them, it makes for a compelling initial alignment and tracking. But seeing was terrible, and it’s June. So it doesn’t get dark in my suburban sky until closer to 10:00. And finding three stars to do a good alignment was way harder than it should have been. It said it aligned, but later when I went to do a view of Antares, it was way off. We saw some stuff for about 30 minutes and we were about to pack it in, a bit disappointing overall.
Then Jacob wandered over to the side of the deck where I said you might be able to see Jupiter coming up over the nearby houses and he said, “Umm, Dad? Is that Jupiter up there that’s so bright?”. Absolutely. So of COURSE we had to wait until it was visible. Then we played with some eye-pieces, bumped up the power a bit, and just tracked Jupiter manually.
Jacob could easily see the bands. You could hear the excitement and awe in his voice as he declared, perhaps somewhat biased, that it was “Best view he’s ever had of Jupiter”, and definitely stretching a bit, he thought he might have seen a bit of the Great Red Spot. I didn’t challenge that, although it was doubtful at the angle and power we were using. But regardless, he ended on a WOW note. Nicely done.
Then I put him to bed, and left the clean-up to myself. I was tempted to wait for Saturn or play with alignment a bit more, but it was a bit late, and I still had lunches to make, etc.
But my son found Jupiter in the sky himself, resolved the bands, and stayed up later than he should to see an astro target. I think he’s inducted into the cult that is astronomy.