Hundreds of years ago, the first telescopes allowed mankind to survey and map the stars. Early telescopes were crude contraptions, made with the most basic materials, and not providing a very clear view. Today, technology has enabled us to enjoy amateur astronomy in many new ways.
Computer-controlled telescopes bring a whole new meaning to astronomy as a hobby. These so-called ‘smart telescopes’ no longer need a human operator to scan the skies. Some can be set up in a secure position and then remotely controlled into any desired position using a laptop, tablet, or phone.
The view of the telescope can also be seen on the chosen output device. Others still require human proximity but do not require manual adjustment of the scope.
Before you can pack up your gear and begin exploring space using this technology, however, you’ll need to find the top automatic scope to use.
5. Celestron Nexstar 8 SE Telescope
If computerized telescopes are you’re all about, then, look no further with the Celestron Nexstar 8 SE telescope. Dubbed as the ultimate computerized telescope, the Celestron Nexstar 8 SE comes with an 8-inch aperture that provides sharp clear images of any visible celestial bodies it can find.
Because of the size of the aperture, it allows enough light to be captured which would enhance the clarity and accuracy of the viewing experience. This is also the reason why a lot of people praise the Celestron Nexstar 8 SE for the exceptional detail it provides while stargazing; able to provide a clear picture of the dust storm in Mars and even Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.
This is further enhanced by the telescope’s Schmidt-Cassegrain design which combines both refraction and reflection into a single unit and using the best of both worlds to achieve optimal clarity when peering into the nighttime sky. Because this telescope features only one 25 mm eyepiece, you may want to purchase extra eyepieces; both higher and lower power, to enjoy the full capacity of the Nexstar 8 SE.
But what truly makes the Nexstar 8 SE as the best automatic telescope in this list is because it comes with more than 40,000 celestial bodies in its database which add to the ease of finding and locating a wide array of stars in the sky.
Furthermore, it comes with an LCD screen where you can view details about the celestial objects in the telescope’s database as well as for other stargazing activities. Its SkyAlign technology also enables the telescope to get aligned and ready for use easily even when you’re not familiar with the night sky.
Alignment could be done just by typing in the time and date as well as locating three bright objects in the sky.
The downside of using this telescope, however, is that it consumes tremendous amounts of energy which means that you would always need a source of power to use it. Not only that, but it also comes with a hefty price which could discourage some potential buyers from purchasing the item.
Thankfully, this comes with a 2-year warranty for damages and part replacements supported by none other than Celestron itself.
Verdict: Despite its shortcomings, mostly with its price and energy upkeep, the Celestron Nexstar 8 SE is definitely the best computerized telescope out there when it comes to clarity, accuracy, detail, and ease-of-use.
4. Celestron Nexstar 130 SLT Computerized Telescope
If you’ve just gotten into the world of astronomy and stargazing, then this telescope is the one for you. The Celestron Nexstar 130 SLT is definitely the best out there for amateurs and beginners.
With its Altazimuth type of mount along with the StarPointer finderscope allows for navigation and alignment made easy. All you have to do is to introduce the date, time, and location and the scope will automatically point to the brightest star it could find.
Unlike the Nexstar 8 SE, however, the Nexstar 130 SLT comes with only 4,000 identifiable celestial objects in its database but it’s surely enough for beginners and amateurs to start enjoying the views of the sky. What’s more is that it could track as much as 600 galaxies.
This computerized telescope makes use of reflector methods made possible by mirrors that help collect and distribute light effectively to paint a detailed picture of far-away objects. With a 130 mm aperture and 650 mm focal length, you can only expect top-quality images and coupled with its eyepieces’ magnification (26x and 72x), you’ll be able to receive sharp and clear views of even the farthest objects in the solar system.
The setting up is where things could get complicated. Because the Nexstar 130 SLT has a Newtonian design, you may need to properly align the finderscope and check with your hand controls first before you can really enjoy viewing the cosmos.
The telescope can also be quite sensitive to vibration and you may need to type in the time and date every time you use it because the Nexstar 130 SLT was not designed to record this information.
Complications aside, the Nexstar 130 SLT is a low-cost computerized telescope able to provide great quality viewing experience for beginners and amateurs alike. Furthermore, its parts are easily upgradable which means that you could add in more accessories to enhance the magnitude and clarity of your viewing.
Verdict: Affordability and efficiency-wise, the Nexstar 130 SLT definitely provides a worthwhile experience for both beginners and long-time enthusiasts. Its upgradable options also make this telescope a suitable find.
3. Celestron CPC 925 GPS (XLT) Computerized Telescope
The Celestron CPC 925 is easily the most expensive telescope on this list. This device uses Celestron’s new SkyAlign alignment technology to make all elements of amateur astronomy easy, efficient, and affordable. If you can wrap your head around the large price that this telescope commands, it’s guaranteed to give you a totally new experience.
This telescope model uses an internal GPS receiver to download the date and time from satellites in the Earth’s orbit and pinpoint its exact location on the planet. This means that you will no longer need to manually enter the date, time, latitude, and longitude as is the case with other smart telescopes.
Once you’ve set up the CPC 925 on its tripod and point it into the sky and the GPS has established your position, SkyAlign technology works to map out the stars. Use the hand control to manually slew the scope to any three bright celestial objects. Just pick any random three stars and the computer system will create a model of every celestial object above the horizon.
The celestial database on the CPC 925 is nothing short of amazing. It has over 40,000 objects including such astronomer favorites as the Caldwell Catalog, NGC Galaxies, and Messier objects.
This makes it easy to quickly locate your favorite celestial bodies and have the telescope hone in on them in an instant. Features such as Identify, GoTo, and Solar Sys Align make using this telescope a lot of fun.
Careful thought has been put into every part of the telescope to ensure that it can withstand the elements and last as long as possible. The included tripod that comes with it is very rigid and heavy; crafted with maximum durability in mind and sustainability against high wind speeds.
The tripod is manufactured from stainless steel and die-cast aluminum. Once you purchase this telescope, you’ll have to install it before you can start on a galactic exploration.
Verdict: The Celestron CPC 925 is a fantastic device that’s easy to set up and begin tracking in minutes. The star alignment system is simple to use and the included instructions will help you if you get stuck. Good for solar and planetary photography.
2. Orion 27191 StarBlast 6i IntelliScope Reflector Telescope
The StarBlast 6i IntelliScope is a tabletop reflector telescope with a 6” f/5 focal ratio and a 750mm focal length. The IntelliScope series is known for providing novice astronomers with quality, value, and performance.
Every new model that’s released in the series usually brings new enhancements and improvements. Its 6” lens is enough to get great close-up views of both land and celestial objects any time. The entire scope only weighs about 23.5 lbs. and is quite compact.
This telescope has a dual-purpose design which is great for observation during day or night and has many great features including an IntelliScope Computerized Object Locator, EZ Finder II aiming device, and a large 14,000 object database. Magnification is carried out by two 1.25” Sirius Plossl eyepieces sized at 25mm and 10mm. These two eyepieces give 15x magnification and 41x magnification, respectively.
The StarBlast 6i IntelliScope does not include a tripod. It has a tabletop design which is strong and sturdy and meant to be placed down upon flat surfaces. A heavy-duty tripod will need to be purchased separately if you plan on extensive outdoor excursions.
An internal flip function Barlow lens is used to increase the magnification of whatever eyepiece you’ve inserted into the scope. The telescope uses a digital display and a handset to control the functions.
Verdict: The bottom line is that the Orion 27191 StarBlast 6i IntelliScope Reflector isn’t that great for traveling if you plan to use it out of the box as you’ll need to buy a tripod in order to have a secure view. This is a good choice, however, if you live in a dormitory or a similar environment. Tabletop telescopes excel at indoor stationary positions that are safe from the elements.
1. Celestron 11076 SkyProdigy 6 SCT Telescope
Last on the list is another one from Celestron. The SkyProdigy 6 SCT is an amazing product by which uses revolutionary technology to provide an unprecedented viewing experience. It’s a fully computerized telescope which uses electronic motors and a built-in digital camera to make your space-faring adventures no further than just a few button pushes away.
StarSense is the technology that makes this telescope unique. Once you set up the telescope pointing upwards, the tech will scan the night sky and determine your current location and the position of the telescope by positively identifying the stars.
The process repeats twice more to ensure accurate coordinates. Once the SkyProdigy has this information, an accurate model of the sky is created and you can select any celestial object in the database to have the telescope instantly align itself to that object.
The Sky Tour option allows you to view a list of the best objects in the sky nearest to your location. The database includes details about celestial events and will notify you on their date and time. The database has thousands of objects which will ensure that you always have something new to look out for when scanning the stars.
A 9mm and 25mm eyepiece are used in the scope to give you the perfect levels of magnification for the clearest possible view. A battery pack is included which will give you more than 10 hours of additional power in case you’re out in the wild and the digital display’s battery runs low.
The Celestron 11076 SkyProdigy 6 SCT is fairly pricey, but not extraordinarily so given the technology that it uses and the extra components that come with it.
You’ll get a mount and full-sized tripod right out of the box along with a hand control and star pointer to work with the onboard electronics. A manual and a SkyX CD-ROM are included to show you how to get the most out of the device.
All in all, this telescope is a must-have for veteran astronomers.
Verdict: The Celestron 11076 SkyProdigy 6 SCT is a top-of-the-line computer guided telescope for professionals that will thrill you with its amazing technology and allow you to spend less time on positioning the scope and more time on viewing different heavenly bodies.
Telescope Buyer’s Guide
There’s no such thing as a “perfect” telescope. A good telescope will always vary in definition depending on the interests, lifestyle, and budget of the user. In order to help you make more sense out of the wonderful “universe” of telescope models, we’ve created a short guide that you may refer to when out shopping.
Remember: get the one that’s right for YOU and not anyone else! Ultimately, it all comes down to your needs. Here’s some useful information to keep in mind when choosing a telescope:
- Aperture – arguably the most important characteristic of a telescope, the aperture is simply the diameter on the light-gathering source (lens or mirror). The aperture’s diameter is usually measured in millimeters and every telescope’s aperture will be printed on its focuser near the front of the tube or on the box. The larger the aperture, the easier you will be able to see fainter objects and finer detail.
- Telescope Types – there are three types for you to be aware of. Refractors have a lens at the front of the tube and are good for viewing nearby celestial objects. Reflectors have a mirror at the rear end of a tube which works to gather light and are generally better for viewing more distant objects. Compound telescopes use a combination of both lenses and mirrors and are the best option of the three, but the most expensive.
- Telescope Mounts – the mount that comes with the telescope is an often-ignored part of the package. A mount or tripod is used to support the telescope while it’s propped into position and ready to survey the skies. There are a few prominent types of mounts including altazimuth mounts, Dobsonian mounts, and equatorial mounts.