130SLT Optical Performance Overview
The Celestron NexStar 130SLT computerized telescope is a standard 130mm f/5 Newtonian like the Orion SpaceProbe 130ST, Zhumell Z130, and others. It uses a plastic 2” focuser, which is theoretically capable of handling 2” eyepieces, but it’s questionable how well the focuser can handle a heavy accessory if the secondary mirror is big enough for a wide-angle eyepiece to not vignette, or, of course, if the too-small SLT mount can handle another kilogram of weight being added to it.
At f/5, there is some coma, and many inexpensive eyepieces will gradually lose sharpness towards the edge of the field. Collimation accuracy is also rather important, but it’s not that difficult to get an f/5 Newtonian collimated with even the most basic collimation cap – or a bright star.
Included Eyepieces and Red Dot Finder
The 130SLT includes two 1.25” Kellner eyepieces, a 25mm for 26x magnification and a 10mm for 65x. These are enough to get you started, but you’ll want additional eyepieces for more magnification options, particularly for viewing fine detail on the Moon and planets or splitting double stars.
For aligning the mount to the sky, the 130SLT includes Celestron’s standard StarPointer red dot sight, which is all you really need.
The Celestron NexStar SLT’s Alt-Az Mount
The Celestron NexStar SLT mount is a pretty simple, inexpensive alt-azimuth mount that moves up and down, left-to-right. To use it, you enter the time, date, and your location, then sight the telescope on any two or three bright stars. The mount can then map out the rest of the sky and point the telescope at any object of your choosing. This is pretty standard stuff for most GoTo mounts. The SLT mount uses a Vixen dovetail saddle, so you can easily swap in other telescopes with Vixen dovetail bars if you wish, provided they don’t exceed the SLT mount’s capacity or crash into the base.
The SLT mount looks well-made and performs okay for the most part, but its main flaw is the skinny steel tripod legs supplied with it. They easily twist and buckle when they’re extended to a comfortable height, making the scope’s pointing less-than-accurate. Compensating for this issue is possible with some DIY workarounds, but it’s probably easier to just buy a different telescope with a more solid mounting.
For the same price as the Celestron NexStar 130SLT computerized telescope, there are some other scopes you might want to consider:
- The Celestron Astro-Fi 130 is more or less an upgraded 130SLT with better tripod legs and can be controlled via a phone or tablet instead of a hand controller at a lower price to boot.
- The Apertura AD8/Zhumell Z8/Orion SkyLine 8 offers significantly more aperture than the 130SLT, with better accessories and a more stable, more convenient mount.
- The Orion StarBlast 6i offers more aperture and a better mount than the 130SLT, with a computerized, albeit not motorized, pointing system.
Aftermarket Accessory Recommendations
The Celestron NexStar 130SLT’s greatest weakness, besides its less-than-stable mounting, is arguably its extremely short focal length of just 650mm. For high power, a 6mm “goldline” provides a measly 108x. The best planetary and lunar views with the 130SLT are arguably obtained at magnifications between 140 and 180x when atmospheric conditions permit, and for that we’d recommend something like the Astromania 4mm Planetary, which will give you 163x with the 130SLT.
Another thing we’d recommend is a rechargeable battery/power supply for the SLT mount. If you use the scope frequently, you’ll probably burn through a lot of AA batteries quickly, and if you use it infrequently, there’s the concern of corrosion in the battery compartment to worry about. A rechargeable battery solves both these problems while avoiding the inconvenience of running the scope off your car or a long AC cord.
What can you see with the Celestron NexStar 130SLT?
The Celestron NexStar 130SLT’s wide field of view and ample (although not exactly huge) aperture lend it well to viewing large deep-sky objects, such as open star clusters like M11 and M45. You’ll also have no trouble viewing the Orion Nebula or the Swan, resolving a few stars in bright globular clusters, and spotting a few planetary nebulae like the Ring and Dumbbell. Most galaxies will remain little more than fuzzy blobs, though a few, such as M31 and M82, might show dust lanes. Keep in mind, however, that if maximum image brightness and detail are your goals, dark skies and aperture rule over all else. The 130SLT will struggle to show you much in the way of deep-sky views if you live in a city beyond the brightest star clusters.
The NexStar 130SLT can show a fair amount of detail on the Moon and planets, provided it’s collimated, though the 65x that the stock 10mm eyepiece can provide isn’t exactly going to be jaw-dropping. With a more powerful eyepiece (albeit not too powerful – remember, magnification isn’t everything), you’ll have no trouble spotting the cloud belts on Jupiter, the Cassini division in Saturn’s rings, and albedo features on Mars. Venus and Mercury’s phases, along with the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, can also be seen. And, of course, you’ll love viewing the moon. Uranus and Neptune are easy to locate with the NexStar 130SLT’s GoTo system but will remain bluish-blurry dots at best and starlike points at worst.
Astrophotography with the NexStar 130SLT
The 130SLT’s mount does track, but not accurate enough for serious deep-sky astrophotography – and the short focal length of the scope itself doesn’t lend itself well to planetary imaging. A 5x Barlow and a planetary camera will allow you to shoot Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and the Moon at a good sampling size, but it’s a bit of an unwieldy set up and there are better telescopes for the job if planetary astrophotography is primarily your goal.