Okay, you want a telescope; one that can give you excellent views without the frills.
Now take this – an excellent telescope for kids and “lazy” novices. The Orion StarBlast is a favorite among beginner astronomers due to its low price, having been on the scene for around fifteen years. However, has it really stood the test of time compared to similar, lower-cost entries?
Without much further ado, here is my Orion Starblast 4.5 Astro Reflector Telescope review to find it out.
When I said it’s for lazy people, it is really for lazy people. Why do I say so? You get it out of the box and use it right away as it is pre-assembled.
It is a pretty simple design that is intended as a table top so it can serve as a display décor when not in use.
The flip side – it can only be used using a table or any piece of furniture that is sturdy enough to hold its ground against the telescope’s weight.
The Orion StarBlast is a 4.5” f/4 Newtonian.
Originally designed to compete with the sadly-discontinued Edmund Astroscan, the StarBlast 4.5 excels as a wide-field telescope, offering a nearly 4-degree (8 full moons across!) field of view with a 32mm Plossl or 24mm wide-field eyepiece (not included).
The Meade Lightbridge Mini 114 and Zhumell Z114 are more or less copycats of the StarBlast, and use the same 114mm f/4 OTA.
Despite being billed for wide fields, the StarBlast 4.5 does provide pretty good views at high magnification if you can collimate it well – not an easy task for a beginner with an f/4 telescope but certainly achievable. I watched the transit of Mercury in 2016 with a StarBlast and an approved solar filter and it was quite up to the task.
The included eyepieces are cheap 17mm and 6mm Kellners. The 17mm doesn’t go to quite a low enough power to get the most out of the wide field the StarBlast can offer, and the 6mm has such a tiny eye lens that it’s basically unusable. Neither eyepiece is particularly sharp, the field of view is narrow, they don’t include eyeguards, and I’m not even sure if they come with caps.
The scope’s focuser is also plastic, which while annoying is to be expected at this price range.
In order to get the most out of your StarBlast you’ll need to purchase several eyepieces (32mm Plossl, 15mm gold-line, 6mm gold-line) and a Barlow since even a 6mm eyepiece only provides 76x, less than half of what this scope is capable of achieving if properly collimated and cooled down.
However, by the time you’ve bought these accessories you’ll have spent enough money to buy a better scope like a 6” Dobsonian. That being said, a 6” Dob can’t offer the wide fields of the StarBlast.
The StarBlast’s included red-dot finder is more than adequate thanks to its extremely wide field of view.
The simplicity of this design has its setback. You simply cannot attach DSLR’s and shoot photos. So astrophotography can be challenging if you want this characteristic available on your telescope as this scope‘s hardware are not designed for that.
Reviewing Mount Features
The Orion StarBlast 4.5 comes on a tabletop Dobsonian mount similar to the similar scopes in its price range.
It has a wider footprint than some competing models, which makes it more steady and less prone to being knocked over. 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 this hampers the scope’s portability.
It just can never be mounted on a standard photo tripod because it was not designed that way unless I guess you are “ultra” creative.
Although it’s a small touch, I like the positioning, size, and shape of the altitude tensioning knob. It makes the scope a little more friendly ergonomically.
The rotating tube ring isn’t of huge importance with a tabletop scope, but it’s also a welcome addition, as is the carry handle.
What All Can Be Viewed?
The StarBlast is really optimized for wide fields. Since it is a reflector type, it is suitable for deep sky viewing. With a focal length of 450mm, you can be sure of optical power better than most of the telescopes within the price range.
Even from the suburbs, the Veil Nebula is fantastic with an oxygen-III or UHC filter. The Milky Way in both summer in winter is very fun to explore. Open clusters are a joy with this telescope. Under dark skies, the many dark nebulae that cross the summer Milky Way are good, 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.
With a good high-power eyepiece, 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 no problem, as are a few of its brightest moons. Venus’ phases are easy, and Mars will show a few dark regions and the ice cap at opposition.
Although you can use it for terrestrial viewing, the view would be inverted which could take away some of the fun.
Don’t ever think you are too old to study astronomy viewing as this model comes with the Starry Night Astronomy software which is perfect for kids and beginners alike. Yes, even Luddites will find this appealing.
The downside of a reflector is that you need to collimate it. Although it is fairly easy to do, some people just don’t have the patience.
What's The Bottom Line?
While my review of Orion Starblast 4.5 seems to be inclined to positive points, I really believe this has its own intended users. Flaws can easily be spotted but I will be realistic and rate it based on its price and purported functionality.
All in all, while I do like the StarBlast, there are some better options a little below it in price, some even boasting larger aperture, and by the time you take the spending for additional accessories into account, you’ve spent enough to get a 6” Dobsonian.
That being said, the StarBlast isn’t a bad scope by any means. Its wide footprint and handle make it great for a kid, and it still excels at both high-power and wide-field viewing. So if you’re buying it for a kid or simply are a little nostalgic, by all means get the StarBlast.