Reviewing The Optical Tube
At first glance, the 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) an included 2” adapter. Despite being all plastic, the focuser on the SkyProdigy works remarkably well. I found almost no drawtube wobble or collimation shift when testing mine with a laser, though focusing at high power can be a little difficult due to the coarseness of the rack. This being said, we wouldn’t recommend using 2” eyepieces with this telescope, as the focuser’s plastic build lack of adjustable tension means 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). These are actually surprisingly good eyepieces, but a telescope costing over $500 should really be supplied with 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 the 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 a lesser concern compared to the StarSense’s 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 the 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 normal 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 tech as they did 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 worried as much 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.
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. Here are a few diverse instruments that we’ve selected for your consideration.
- Apertura AD10/Zhumell Z10/Orion SkyLine 10 – Double the aperture means 4x the light gathering ability and 2x the resolution, better accessories, no confusing mount to deal with.
- Celestron NexStar 6SE – Larger aperture, superior rock-solid computerized mounting, and a compact design make this telescope one of the best computerized scopes out there.
- Celestron Astro-Fi 130 – A significantly improved sibling to the SkyProdigy 130, with a lower price, more stable mount, and an easier computer control system operated from your smartphone or tablet.
Aftermarket Accessory Recommendations
If you’ve purchased or acquired a 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 setting up the SkyProdigy 130 a little less painful.
What can you see?
Within the Solar System, the 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 SkyProdigy 130 is also a great telescope for low-power deep-sky viewing. Its wide field of view and decent aperture makes 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.
5 inches of aperture is sadly largely 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 neither precise, stable, or useful enough for most astrophotography. You could hypothetically use it for planetary imaging with a good camera and powerful Barlow lens, but there are better options at this price that will deliver better images and fewer compromises.