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, 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 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 greatest at f/5, they’re all-metal in construction and are decent for a sub-$350 telescope. 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 spreader has completely changed in design, having a shelf (presumably for your phone) and some 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 had no 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 of course by the scope – and 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 makes 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 Astro-Fi 130’s mount is an alt-azimuth design, and while it is plenty accurate and stable for visual astronomy, it is not really capable of supporting a heavy camera for astrophotography, nor tracking in an equatorial configuration to enable 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 ones.
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.
For the same price as the Astro-Fi 130, there are a number of other scopes (non-GoTo) you might want to consider, including the following:
- The Apertura DT6 offers a significant boost in aperture, a higher build quality, and the simplicity of a Dobsonian mount.
- The Sky-Watcher 6” Traditional provides similar capabilities to the Apertura DT6 but with a controversial 2” eyepiece focuser.
- The Orion StarBlast 6 provides similar wide fields to the Astro-Fi 130, but with more aperture and in a tabletop Dobsonian design with the option to upgrade to Orion’s IntelliScope PushTo system later on.
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.
Pricing and Availability
When this review was first published, which was before COVID struck, the selling price was just $350. That price has since risen, and it has never fallen below $450 since April 2020 until the time of this writing (early 2022). If it’s being sold by random third-party sellers on Amazon for $750 to $1,200, it’s something we’d warn against. For the current retail price and to purchase the Astro Fi 130, we recommend visiting High Point Scientific, our favorite US store. We won’t recommend buying this scope anywhere else; read why. We recommend placing a backorder and waiting because the telescope is in high demand and there is no guarantee that it will be back in stock if you wait.