Optical Performance Of Starblast 4.5
The Orion StarBlast is a 4.5ʺ f/4 Newtonian with a focal length of 450mm. Originally designed to compete with the sadly-discontinued Edmund Astroscan, the StarBlast 4.5 excels as a wide-field telescope, offering a nearly 4° field of view (that’s eight full moons across!), along with a 32 mm Plossl or 24 mm wide-field eyepiece (not included). Meade’s Lightbridge Mini 114 and Zhumell’s Z114, along with the Scientifics Direct Astroscan Millenium, are more or less copycats of the StarBlast, and use the same 114 mm f/4 OTA.
While primarily a wide-field instrument, the StarBlast performs pretty well on the Moon and planets, much better than the 60-90mm refractors often cited as good beginner scopes. And of course, it’s no contest when it comes to deep-sky objects. It does need collimating, but that’s an easy task. The focuser is a standard 1.25” rack-and-pinion unit.
The StarBlast attaches to its mount with a simple clamping tube ring, allowing you to slide the tube back and forth and rotate it. For mounting it on a full-sized equatorial or alt-azimuth mount, you’ll need a pair of tube rings and a dovetail plate.
The StarBlast 4.5 Astro includes two eyepieces: 17mm and 6mm Kellners providing 26x and 75x respectively. The 17 mm doesn’t go to low enough power to get the most out of the wide field that the StarBlast can offer, and the 6 mm has a tiny eye lens that makes it basically unusable. Neither eyepiece is particularly sharp, the field of view is narrow, and they don’t include eye guards. Getting the most out of your StarBlast will necessitate buying at least two if not three additional eyepieces.
The scope comes with a standard red-dot finder as well, which is more than adequate for aiming the StarBlast given its ultra-wide field of view.
Reviewing Mount Features
The StarBlast 4.5 Astro was a pioneering scope for introducing the tabletop Dobsonian mount to the world. While not a true “Dobsonian” due to the single side bearing which doesn’t use any Teflon pads, the tabletop mount of the StarBlast is lightweight, compact, easy to aim, and extremely cheap to construct.
Orion 10015 StarBlast 4.5 Astro Reflector Telescope
Price – $229.99
Orion Starblast 4.5 Astro’s mount has a wider footprint than some competing models, which makes it more steady and less prone to being knocked over.
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However, you’ll need a milk crate and a chair to comfortably use it. A Rubbermaid bin or similar will also work as a stand, but hamper the scope’s portability. Sticking the scope on top of a bar stool or car hood also works in a pinch, or you could make a custom stand/tripod for it pretty cheaply.
The StarBlast isn’t a bad telescope, but there are other options at the same price that provide better value.
- The Zhumell Z114 is literally the same telescope as the StarBlast but with a 10mm Kellner that’s actually usable instead of a 6mm, and at a lower price.
- The Zhumell Z130 is bigger than the StarBlast and comes with better accessories.
- The Sky-Watcher Heritage 130P has the same optics as the Zhumell Z130, but its tube collapses for transport.
- The Orion StarBlast II 4.5EQ has the same optical tube as the regular StarBlast, but perched atop a more versatile, if less sturdy EQ1 mount and with vastly superior Plossl eyepieces included.
Aftermarket Accessory Recommendations
A 6mm “gold-line” eyepiece (75x) would be a good replacement for the StarBlast’s abysmal stock 6mm Kellner, and a 2x Barlow lens will allow you to double the power to 150x, which is about the limit of what the StarBlast can handle.
For low power, a 25mm Plossl provides 18x and a 3-degree field of view. A 25mm Agena Starguider, while expensive, will deliver sharper stars at the edges and extend the field out to about 3.3 degrees.
You could add in additional eyepieces in the 9-15mm range to further extend your magnification options, but a good high-power eyepiece and good 24-26mm eyepiece for the maximum possible field of view is all you probably need with the StarBlast.
Lastly, one other accessory you might want to pick up is Orion’s UltraBlock UHC filter. It doesn’t “filter out” light pollution but rather increases contrast on nebulae making them appear brighter against the background and bringing out subtle detail. This filter works great with the StarBlast, which will show you huge swaths of sky containing regions like the North America, Veil, Lagoon, Trifid, Swan, and Eagle Nebula. Even under a dark sky, the UHC brings out more contrast by darkening the sky background.
What can you see?
The StarBlast is optimized for wide fields. It’s primarily made for low-power viewing of nebulae and star clusters. That being said, it’s a pretty good lunar and planetary instrument too.
Even from the suburbs, the Veil Nebula is fantastic with an oxygen-III or UHC filter. The Milky Way is very fun to explore, in both summer and winter. Open clusters are a joy with this telescope. Under dark skies, the many dark nebulae that cross the summer Milky Way are great, challenging objects to hunt for with the StarBlast. The Andromeda Galaxy’s dust lane is an easy catch with a wide-field scope like the StarBlast, though few other galaxies will present any meaningful detail due to the StarBlast’s small aperture. Bright emission nebulae like Orion, the Lagoon, and the Swan look magnificent, especially from dark skies or with a UHC filter.
At high magnification, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and cloud belts are no problem. You may just be able to spot Jupiter’s moons and their shadows crossing the planet.
Saturn’s Cassini Division is easy to spot on a night of good seeing, as are a few of its brightest moons. Venus’ phases are easy, and Mars will show a few dark regions and the ice cap when it’s at or near opposition. Uranus and Neptune, if you can find them, are little more than star-like bluish dots with the StarBlast.