While Dobsonians tend to be recommended to beginners, Orion’s SpaceProbe 130ST promises to deliver decent views with the promise of astrophotography down the road. But does it really have any advantages over a 6” Dob? Let’s find out.
The Orion SpaceProbe 130ST is a 130mm f/5 Newtonian, identical to the Meade Lightbridge Mini 130, Zhumell Z130, Astronomers Without Borders OneSky, and Celestron 130SLT. At f/5, this scope delivers nice wide-field views and offers short photographic exposure times compared to a longer scope.
The SpaceProbe includes 25mm (26x) and 10mm Plossl (65x) eyepieces of decent quality. However, one really needs a very short focal length eyepiece to get the most out of the scope’s optics, as the SpaceProbe is capable of up to around 250x.
The included 6×30 finderscope works well and is of more use than a standard red-dot, but it is often uncomfortable to use.
The SpaceProbe’s main flaw, apart from the mount, is its focuser. Being all plastic and with no tension adjustments, it simply cannot hold a DSLR camera. This makes it useless for long-exposure astrophotography even if the mount weren’t a problem.
The SpaceProbe comes on a German equatorial mount, this one being an EQ2.
The EQ2 is up to the task for visual use, but it will struggle to hold a camera well. In addition to being lightweight, the EQ2 has numerous plastic parts which are easily broken, but irreplaceable. The tripod’s aluminum legs are more prone to vibration than steel or wooden ones, further hampering the EQ2’s steadiness.
In addition to being rather unsteady, an equatorially-mounted Newtonian tends to have the eyepiece in inaccessible positions. This can be solved by rotating the telescope in its tube rings, but this can affect balance, which makes things even more complicated.
One can purchase a motor drive for hands-free tracking from Celestron or Orion which will work fairly well for visual use, but simply isn’t up to par accuracy-wise for astrophotography. The drive makes high-power viewing nice, but hand-tracking at even 250x really isn’t a problem with the mount’s slow-motion cables, or even with a regular Dobsonian mount.
With an assembled weight of 27 pounds and compact tube at 24” as compared to the typical 33” of other beginner’s, SpaceProbe 130ST is fairly portable, and thus can be picked up and carried in one piece, but keep in mind that you’ll have to level the tripod and polar align it to track accurately.
The mount lacks a polar scope or sighting hole, so precise polar alignment is difficult, but for visual use this isn’t a huge concern. For photography, however, it’s a problem.
Is It Good For Astrophotography?
So, what can you really do astrophotography-wise with the SpaceProbe 130ST?
A DSLR camera is too much for the focuser and mount to handle, so deep-sky astrophotography is basically out of the question – in any case, autoguiding and the like would be needed for good pictures and the SpaceProbe cannot accommodate these things. You’re limited to the Moon and planets, using a webcam-style CCD like a Celestron NexImage or ZWO ASI camera.
In addition to the power and laptop requirements, you’ll need a 3x or 5x Barlow lens to get the SpaceProbe to an optimal focal length – Barlows this strong are too much for visual use but the optimal focal ratio for planetary imaging is f/15 to f/25.
In addition, the mount needs to be aligned accurately to keep whatever you’re imaging in the tiny field of view of the camera, which is hard when there’s no polar scope or sighting hole as I mentioned previously.
All in all, while solar system astrophotography can be done with the SpaceProbe, you’ll be spending more than the SpaceProbe costs to do it, and you’ll be limited severely by its inexpensive mount and 5” aperture.
What's The Bottom Line?
While the Orion 09007 SpaceProbe 130st is a decent visual telescope, an equatorial mount is fussy and seldom needed for visual use and the scope isn’t capable of much in the way of photography. You’d be better off with a 6” Dob.