Reviewing The Optical Tube
At first glance, the Celestron SkyProdigy 130 OTA seems like a rebadged NexStar 130SLT tube, and optically, it is still a 130mm f/5 Newtonian using more or less the same components.
The SkyProdigy 130 uses a plastic 2.5” rack-and-pinion focuser with an included 1.25” adapter and (at least sometimes) a 2” adapter. Despite being all plastic, the focuser on the SkyProdigy works remarkably well. When testing mine with a laser, I found almost no drawtube wobble or collimation shift, though focusing at high power can be a little difficult due to the coarseness of the rack. This being said, I wouldn’t recommend using 2” eyepieces with this telescope, as the focuser’s plastic build and lack of adjustable tension mean it will struggle under the weight of a large eyepiece, and the mount will be more prone to vibrations with an increasingly heavy payload placed on it.
How Good Are the Accessories?
The SkyProdigy 130 comes with two metal-housed, 1.25” Kellner eyepieces: a 25mm (26x) and a 9mm (72x). I find these eyepieces surprisingly good, but I believe a telescope that costs more than $500 should really have Plossls. The included Kellners don’t even have rubber eyecups.
Despite the StarSense autoalign arguably eliminating the need for a finder, Celestron still supplies their StarPointer red dot sight. This is in case StarSense fails, which, as we’ll explain later, happens frequently; if it does fail, a manual alignment can be done on bright stars using the same two-star or three-star alignment method as most GoTo telescopes.
Reviewing the SkyProdigy Mount
The SkyProdigy mount is very obviously heavily based on NexStar SLT components. In fact, it is more or less a NexStar SLT mount with red instead of orange trim and a StarSense hand controller and camera installed.
The tripod is still inadequate, especially with the legs extended to any length—the scope flexes and wobbles. However, this is less of a concern compared to the StarSense issues.
The StarSense hand controller comes with a 10,000 object database, so for once, a lack of objects isn’t a concern here. But StarSense itself has a whole host of problems.
For one, there’s the simple concern of power consumption. The SkyProdigy 130 comes with a battery pack that takes eight AA batteries. A good computerized scope will run these down in a night or two, but the SkyProdigy has to slew itself around the entire sky multiple times every time it’s set up in order to figure out where it’s pointing and (hopefully) align itself. This means you will burn through batteries quickly. Even if you purchase an aftermarket power supply, I suspect the SkyProdigy will run it down fast.
More importantly, however, the SkyProdigy mount is unreliable. Unlike the StarSense addon, which has been improved over the years, the SkyProdigy mounts still run on the same technology as when they came out over five years ago. The mount will frequently fail to align itself entirely, and sometimes it won’t let you do a manual alignment instead. Furthermore, the mount’s camera is frequently misaligned with the telescope itself, causing inaccurate slewing even if alignment is “successful”. This is because, rather than attaching to the scope’s optical tube the way the StarSense addon does, the SkyProdigy’s StarSense camera is built into the mount. And since you can’t actually tell what the camera is seeing since the system is entirely self-contained, you have no way of knowing whether the whole system is properly lined up or not. Users have reported 10, 15, or even 20-degree errors, and I have seen similar errors when using these scopes myself. I don’t get why Celestron didn’t opt to attach the camera to the tube or add a port to connect the camera to a display and check alignment, but the decision to do neither was a poor one.
If there was a large user base for the SkyProdigy scopes, I would not be as worried about the software and hardware issues, as there would probably be some official and third-party fixes out there for both. However, this is not the case, as next to no one owns the SkyProdigy telescopes compared to Celestron’s other products like the NexStars.
The SkyProdigy 130 is far from our first choice. At the same price as the SkyProdigy 130, and even well below it, there are a lot of good alternatives that we’d recommend giving serious thought to. Celestron itself has two 130mm computerized reflectors that are better than the SkyProdigy 130 in every way, and even those aren’t as good as some of the other options we’ve chosen for you here. Here are a few diverse instruments that we’ve selected for your consideration.
- The Apertura AD10/Zhumell Z10/Orion SkyLine 10 features double the aperture – and thus double the resolution and 4x the light gathering power – of the SkyProdigy 130. It’s aimed manually, so you don’t need to worry about motors, power, or software problems. The AD10/Z10’s easy-to-use Dobsonian mount takes seconds to set up and aim at a target of your choosing, and the scope includes a variety of high-quality features and accessories such as a 2” dual-speed Crayford focuser, 9×50 finder, and built-in cooling fan.
- The Apertura AD8/Zhumell Z8/Orion SkyLine 8 offers the same great features as the AD10/Z10 but with slightly less aperture and at a lower price. You get the same great dual-speed focuser, accessories like a 9×50 finder and 2” wide-angle eyepiece, and the 8” mirror provides 2.5x the light gathering ability of the SkyProdigy 130 along with 60% more resolving power.
- The Explore Scientific 10” Hybrid Dobsonian provides the same great performance of the AD10/Z10 but in a more compact package – albeit stripped of many features and accessories. If you’re looking for a budget portable scope that will blow away the competition like the SkyProdigy 130, however, this is just the ticket.
- The Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 150P offers larger aperture than the SkyProdigy 130, a steady tabletop Dobsonian mount, easy alignment and control via your smartphone, and the ability to be aimed manually – all in a low priced, GoTo package that collapses to fit even in luggage. The 150P is also available in a manual format, the Sky-Watcher Heritage 150P, at a fraction of the price of the SkyProdigy 130.
- The Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 130P has the same optics and performance of the SkyProdigy 130, but features the same Virtuoso GTi mount and features – along with the collapsible tube – of the Virtuoso GTi 150P, and can be aimed manually as well as controlled autonomously via your smartphone or tablet. The 130P is also available in a manual edition as the Heritage 130P. However, given the minimal difference in price or bulk between the 130P and 150P, we’d recommend the larger model of the two.
- The Celestron Astro Fi 130 features the same basic form factor, optics, and mechanics as the SkyProdigy 130 but replaces the auto-alignment upgrade with the ability to control and align the telescope on the sky using your smartphone or tablet and ditching the outdated, old-fashioned hand controller.
- The Apertura AD12/Zhumell Z12/Orion SkyLine 12 blows away the SkyProdigy 130 – or really any smaller scopes – in performance, and features the same great add-ons and accessories as the other Apertura/Zhumell deluxe Dobsonians. However, you should be sure that you can accommodate this massive instrument in your home/vehicle before committing – the best telescope is the one you actually get to use frequently, not a hangar queen.
- The Celestron StarSense Explorer 10” Dobsonian features quadruple the light collecting area and double the resolution of the SkyProdigy 130, as with any 10” Dobsonian. You also get the improved Dobsonian base of the StarSense Explorer scopes which features cutouts for less weight and more spots to grab, as well as handles on the optical tube and of course Celestron’s award-winning StarSense Explorer technology for ease in navigating the sky. The included accessories are a bit sparse compared to other offerings, however, and the price is high considering the only unique included feature is the StarSense Explorer bracket/app code. The 8” StarSense Explorer is also a pretty good option, though the 10” is just as portable and both are of course poorly accessorized.
- The Explore Scientific 10” Truss Tube Dobsonian features the same performance as any good 10” with the added bonuses of a high-quality dual-speed 2” Crayford focuser and Explore Scientific’s ultra-compact truss tube Dobsonian design. However, apart from the focuser it isn’t too different from the cheaper 10” Hybrid Dobsonian Explore Scientific also offers, and the included starter accessories with both models are pretty much worthless junk.
- The Celestron NexStar 6SE features a bit more light gathering power and resolution than the SkyProdigy 130, as well as a sturdier mount and compact Schmidt-Cassegrain optical tube. Lots of accessory upgrades are available for astrophotography, too, such as the Starizona HyperStar f/2 conversion.
We’re recommend you check out of Telescope Ranking page to choose a better scope.
Aftermarket Accessory Recommendations
If you’ve purchased or acquired a Celestron SkyProdigy 130 for whatever reason, there are some additional accessories we’d recommend to get the most out of your experience with it. Namely, an extra eyepiece: a 6mm Goldline eyepiece such as the one sold by SVBONY. This will provide 108x, a more suitable magnification for the Moon and planets than the mere 65x with the included 10mm.
Another useful item might be a power supply. There are a lot of options out there, but something like the TalentCell 600Mah battery and a male-to-male power adapter to connect it is a good solution. You can attach it to the tripod legs with the fastener of your choice or let it rest on the tripod spreader.
Lastly, an inexpensive collimation tool such as the Astromania Cheshire might be a good idea and will make at least one part of the setup of the SkyProdigy 130 a little less painful.
What can you see with the Celestron SkyProdigy 130?
Within the solar system, the Celestron SkyProdigy 130 is capable of a lot, particularly if you add one or two extra high-magnification eyepieces.
- Mercury and Venus will show their phases.
- The Moon looks great (except of course when it’s near full and shows hardly any shadows or relief), and you can see details on it as small as a few miles across.
- Mars’ polar ice cap is easily visible, and when it’s close to Earth you can just make out a few dark albedo features on its surface – along with, of course, any dust storms that encircle the planet.
- Jupiter’s cloud belts and Great Red Spot are easy – and its 4 largest moons (Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto) are visible as tiny dots and silhouettes when they transit/eclipse the planet.
- Saturn’s rings and the gap within them known as the Cassini Division look fantastic. With some effort, you can also see Saturn’s cloud band structure and a few of its moons.
- Uranus and Neptune are nearly stellar dots and their moons are too faint for the 130 to pick up.
The Celestron SkyProdigy 130 is also a great telescope for low-power deep-sky viewing. Its wide field of view and decent aperture make it great for viewing open clusters such as M35, M11, and the Pleiades, or perhaps the Sagittarius Star Cloud. The brighter nebulae, such as Orion, the Swan, and the Lagoon, similarly look excellent. With a good UHC or oxygen-III filter, you can spot the Veil Nebula. The Dumbbell Nebula looks great with or without a filter, while the Ring and a few other planetary nebulae are visible – albeit pretty small – with the SkyProdigy 130. And of course, the Blinking Planetary will do its trick for you.
Unfortunately, 5 inches of aperture is insufficient to reveal individual stars in globular clusters or detail in most galaxies. With some luck, you might be able to pick out the dust lanes in Andromeda and M82, and perhaps just barely see the brightest globulars such as M13 and M3 as grainy smudges.
The SkyProdigy 130’s mount is an alt-azimuth design, adequate for visual astronomy, but not precise, stable, or useful enough for most astrophotography. You could hypothetically use it for planetary imaging with a good camera and a powerful Barlow lens, but there are better options at this price that will deliver better images with fewer compromises.