The Optical Tube & Capabilities Of Astro Fi 130
The Astro-Fi 130’s optical tube is identical to most 130mm f/5 Newtonians on the market. These all tend to have good optics, and the 5.1” of aperture is enough to begin delving into serious deep-sky observation as well as lunar and planetary viewing. The f/5 focal ratio also enables a relatively wide field of view: 2.1 degrees (over 4 full Moons across) with the included 25mm Kellner eyepiece, over 2.5 degrees with a widest-field 1.25” eyepiece, and up to about 3.5 degrees if you can adapt a 2” eyepiece to it.
With good collimation and air seeing conditions, the Celestron Astro Fi 130 can handle magnifications up to 260x, though you’ll probably want to use less than that on everything except perhaps the tightest double stars on the best of nights.
The most noticeable difference of the Astro-Fi 130 compared to many other 130mm Newtonians is its 2.5” rack-and-pinion focuser, which it only shares with Celestron’s other 130mm computerized telescopes, Celestron’s NexStar 130SLT and SkyProdigy 130. This focuser is a little confusing; it is technically capable of fitting a 2” eyepiece, but Celestron doesn’t seem to always supply an adapter to make this possible – one 130 I received had one while the other did not. When I called Celestron customer support about the lack of the 2” adapter on the latter, they told me they knew of no such part in existence. Thus, if your scope doesn’t come with the aforementioned adapter and you wish to use 2” eyepieces with it, you may need to 3D-print or otherwise manufacture your own adapter to make this possible.
Collimating the Astro-Fi 130 might be a little difficult for a first-time user, especially since the telescope doesn’t include a collimation tool out of the box. We recommend checking out our collimation guide to learn more about this process.
Reviewing the Accessories
The Astro-Fi 130 comes with 25mm (26x) and 10mm (65x) Kellner eyepieces. While they do lack eyeguards and don’t work the best at f/5, they’re all-metal in construction and are decent for a telescope in its price range. I’d much rather have them than cheap, plastic Plossls.
Additionally, the Astro-Fi 130 includes a StarPointer red dot finder for aligning the scope, and newer models include a smartphone adapter built into the lens cap. This adapter is rather crude, but it does function better than merely holding your phone to the eyepiece.
About the Astro-Fi Mount
At first glance, the Celestron Astro-Fi mount outwardly resembles Celestron’s NexStar SLT and GT mounts. However, it is a completely different beast.
For one, the gears in the mount head seem to have been improved compared to the NexStar SLT. There is far less backlash compared to most Celestron mounts. Slewing it is dead simple. The only complaint I have is that it takes a bit to move all the way around the sky, even at maximum slewing speed.
RECOMMENDED BUY FOR THE SUPERIOR MOUNT
The Celestron Astro Fi 130 uses a tripod made of black extruded aluminum, unlike the thin tubular steel tripod used with the NexStar SLT scopes. You’d think it’d be inferior, but surprisingly, the Astro-Fi mount seems more stable than the NexStar SLT mount to me overall, probably because it is less prone to bending than the very thin steel used on the SLTs.
Lastly, the design of the spreader has changed a lot. It now has a shelf for your phone and a rubbery gripping substance on it. I find this to be an improvement over the usually useless metal or plastic spreaders provided with many scopes, which do nothing besides serve as a slight structural support.
Like many Celestron GoTo telescopes, the Astro-Fi 130 is powered by 8 AA batteries in a small pack attached to the side of the tripod. Powering the Wi-Fi network will drain these faster compared to a regular, controller-operated telescope, so I would definitely recommend using AC power or a rechargeable 12-volt DC power supply.
Using Celestron’s Skyportal App
Connecting to the Astro-Fi with your phone or tablet is relatively simple. First, download the Celestron SkyPortal app or SkySafari, then turn the scope on. Connect your phone or tablet to the telescope’s Wi-Fi network, then open SkyPortal and hit “Connect & Align”. You should be prompted with alignment instructions.
Alignment is a relatively simple 3-star process based on Celestron’s SkyAlign technology. The entire process, from start to finish, takes about 4 minutes. You can easily set the scope up and be observing within maybe ten minutes, as assembly is tool-free and only requires putting a couple of things together.
However, unlike the unusable, bug-ridden SkyAlign, the Astro-Fi obtains data from your phone/tablet rather than you entering it in for pinpoint accuracy. I have not had any alignment failures with this system and find it very reliable, with very precise GoTos. To test the tracking accuracy, I slewed to M13 at 72x. It was perfectly centered by the scope, and then I left for an hour. When I came back, M13 had moved maybe an arc-minute or two at most. That’s a couple times the apparent diameter of Jupiter, no problem for visual use or planetary astrophotography (which is all this scope is capable of anyway).
If you walk out of range of the Astro-Fi’s WiFi network or power off your device, the scope won’t stop tracking or lose alignment. So if your device dies or you need a cup of coffee, it’s no problem.
What can you see with Celestron Astro Fi 130?
The Celestron Astro-Fi 130 is a great deep-sky telescope. Its wide field of view and decent aperture make it great for viewing open clusters such as M11 and the Pleiades, as well as nebulae such as the Veil, Swan, and Orion Nebula, though the former will require a good UHC or Oxygen-III filter to see. 5 inches of aperture is not, unfortunately, quite enough to fully resolve globular clusters or show you a ton of galaxies, but you still may be surprised by what the scope can do, particularly on the brighter globular clusters such as M13 and M15 and the springtime galaxies such as the Leo Triplet and Virgo Cluster galaxies, and especially, of course, under dark skies.
The 130 is also a solid instrument for viewing the Moon and planets. You’ll be able to see craters just a couple of miles across on the Moon, as well as the phases of Venus and Mercury, the cloud belts and Great Red Spot of Jupiter, and of course its four largest moons. Saturn’s rings, the Cassini Division within them, some faint cloud banding, and a few of its moons are also easy targets for the Astro-Fi 130. Unfortunately, Uranus and Neptune’s moons are too faint for the 130 to pick up, and the planets themselves will look like nearly stellar dots.
Can you do astrophotography with Astro Fi 130?
The mount on the Astro-Fi 130 is an alt-azimuth design. It is accurate and stable enough for visual astronomy, but it can’t really hold a heavy camera for astrophotography or track in an equatorial configuration to let you take long exposures. You could do planetary imaging with the Astro-Fi 130, but to achieve the optimal focal length and image scale, you’ll need either a 5x Barlow or to stack multiple 3x/2x barlows.
Alternatives and Competition
The Astro-Fi 130 is our favorite of the Celestron Astro-Fi line. The Astro-Fi 102mm Maksutov lacks enough aperture or field of view to make it worthwhile, while the Astro-Fi 90mm refractor is a bit much for its mount to handle and also lacks a decent amount of aperture. Celestron also sells 5” Maksutov- and Schmidt-Cassegrains and a 6” Schmidt-Cassegrain atop the Astro-Fi mount, but these are not available in the US at the time of writing. The Astro-Fi 127 and Astro-Fi 5 have no real advantages over the 130, while the Astro-Fi 6 is simply unsteady due to the higher weight of the 6” Schmidt-Cassegrain optical tube.
The Celestron Astro Fi 130 is a decent enough telescope, but for the price you aren’t getting a lot of aperture. It’s one of the better deals on a computerized telescope out there, but an 8” or larger Dobsonian is simply no match for the little 130mm f/5 optical tube, offering significantly brighter and sharper views than the Astro Fi 130 can possibly hope to.
- The Apertura AD8/Zhumell Z8/Orion SkyLine 8 offers 2.5 times the light gathering ability of the Astro Fi 130 and 60% more resolving power, transforming “faint fuzzy” deep-sky objects into recognized and detailed wonders, revealing the disks of the faint ice giant planets, and showing details on Mars and Jupiter that a mere 5.1” of aperture just can’t. The dual-speed focuser, included eyepieces, and features like the built-in cooling fan and adjustable bearings for balance are also excellent value for the price.
- The Explore Scientific 10” Hybrid Dobsonian provides 4x the light gathering ability and double the resolving power of the Astro Fi 130 and collapses into a compact cubic package that is actually almost as easy to store and transport as the Astro Fi telescope package. The included accessories aren’t very good, however, and assembly takes more steps than a solid-tubed scope (though it’s still less complicated than setting up the Astro Fi 130 for a night of observing).
- The Orion SkyQuest XT8 is a bit more of a budget pick, but provides similarly bright and sharp views to the AD8 and its siblings, albeit stripped of almost all features and accessories and only slightly less expensive.
- The Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 150P has more aperture than the Astro Fi 130 and a fully motorized mount with GoTo, controlled via your smartphone or tablet just like the Astro Fi. However, the extra inch of aperture provides significantly brighter views with more sharpness/resolving power, and the scope can be pushed around the sky manually withotut affecting its alignment on the stars, something the Astro Fi mount cannot do. The collapsible tube and tabletop Dobsonian mount make it quick to set up and easy to transport almost anywhere. The manual Heritage 150P is identical to the GTi 150P in features, performance, and accessories apart from having the electronics stripped away, leaving you with an all-manual tabletop Dobsonian telescope.
- The Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 130P features the same optics as the Astro Fi 130 but in the same collapsible tube as the 150P, mounted atop a GoTo tabletop Dobsonian mount. The cheaper Heritage 130P is the same minus the GoTo and motorized tracking abilities.
- The Apertura AD10/Zhumell Z10/Orion SkyLine 10 features 4x the light gathering power and double the sharpness and resolution of the Astro Fi 130 on account of having about twice as much aperture, and the Dobsonian mount is incredibly easy to set up and use. A solid-tube 10” Dobsonian is hardly any heavier or bigger in volume than an 8” and is thus equally easy to set up and transport, but the views are significantly better. As with the AD8 and its siblings, this telescope package includes a plethora of high-quality features and accessories including a dual-speed 2” Crayford focuser, a 2” wide-angle 30mm SuperView eyepiece, a 9×50 right-angle, correct image finder scope, a laser collimator, and even a built-in cooling fan.
- The Celestron StarSense Explorer 8” Dobsonian is incredibly basic with its features and accessories, including just a single eyepiece, a single-speed 2” Crayford focuser, and a red dot finder. However, it features some computerized capability in the form of Celestron’s StarSense Explorer technology, which doesn’t move the telescope automatically for you nor track sky objects with motors, but does use your smartphone as a pointing aid for locating objects in the night sky. The compact and lightweight Dobsonian base along with carry handles on the tube make transport a breeze, too.
- The Sky-Watcher 8” FlexTube Dobsonian features a collapsible tube to increase portability (though it hardly cuts down on weight) and pereforms similarly to many of the other 8” Dobsonians in our rankings, though there are no deluxe features – the eyepieces included are both 1.25”, the focuser is a single-speed, and the finder is a straight-through rather than a right-angle unit. As with any other scope of this size, it easily outperforms the little Astro Fi 130 thanks to its much larger aperture, yet arguably remains easier and quicker to set up and use thanks to the simplicity of the manual Dobsonian mount.
Aftermarket Accessory Recommendations
One of the most useful accessories for the Astro-Fi 130 is a good high-magnification/short focal length eyepiece for close-up lunar and planetary viewing. The 6mm “Goldline” we often recommend with beginner telescopes is certainly a suitable choice, but the f/5 focal ratio of the Astro-Fi 130 means it might be worthwhile to get an even shorter focal length eyepiece, such as the Astromania 4mm Planetary, which will provide 163x with the Astro-Fi 130.
Another useful item is a proper power supply for the mount. You will quickly run through disposable batteries if you use the Astro-Fi frequently, so a rechargeable supply might pay for itself after just a few months of serious use. We recommend the TalentCell 600Mah battery and a male-to-male power adapter. You can use Velcro, zip ties, or duct tape to secure the battery to a tripod leg or let it rest on the scope’s accessory tray.