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.
In This Review
Ranked 6th out of 12
*Rankings and ratings are calculated by comparing similar telescopes, in this case, 12 telescopes between $300 and $400.
Optics Performance Of SpaceProbe 130SLT
At f/5, this scope delivers nice wide-field views, albeit with a little coma – nothing to worry about, however.
The primary mirror is made of plate glass, and both the primary and secondary mirrors are of course collimatable.
For whatever reason Orion has covered the back of the primary mirror cell with a useless metal plate obscuring the collimation screws and hindering cooldown – it must be removed with a Phillips head screwdriver.
Are the Accessories of Acceptable Quality?
The SpaceProbe includes 25mm (26x) and 10mm Sirius Plossl (65x) eyepieces – these are much better than the cheap Kellners/Modified Achromats supplied with cheaper telescopes.
The SpaceProbe uses a 6×30 optical finder as opposed to the red-dot finders often found on many beginner scopes. While a 6×30 will show you more stars than you can see with the naked eye through a red dot – making it easier to find targets – it comes at the expense of being uncomfortable to look through and presenting an upside-down image. The latter may not sound like a problem since the view through the telescope itself is already upside down, but it’s rather annoying to have to flip your start charts over.
A collimation cap is also included, though a Cheshire collimator or laser is ideal – read our guide to learn more.
About the Mount Capabilities
The SpaceProbe 130ST comes on a German equatorial mount, this one being an EQ2. The EQ2 is up to the task of holding the 130ST, but not the steadiest mount available for such a scope – particularly if you extend the tripod legs to a comfortable height. Unlike with more expensive scopes/mounts, the 130ST’s tube rings simply bolt to the EQ2 rather than using a Vixen dovetail and saddle.
The primary advantage of an equatorial mount is that tracking the sky is much simpler than with an alt-az mounted scope/Dobsonian. You simply turn the RA slow motion cable occasionally or install a motor drive. 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.
The setting circles on the EQ2 are way too small and inaccurate to be useful for much of anything and are purely decorative, as on most modern equatorial mounts.
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, autoguiders 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 tracking accurate enough 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 planetary astrophotography can be done with the SpaceProbe 130ST, you’ll be spending more than the scope costs to do so, and you’ll be limited severely by its inexpensive mount and 5” aperture.
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All in all the SpaceProbe 130ST is in fact a pretty decent telescope - however, I consider it to be overpriced. For the same amount of money you could get a 6” or maybe even an 8” Dobsonian, and if you want a similar scope to the 130ST the Meade Polaris 130EQ is virtually identical (albeit with slightly inferior accessories) at barely over half the price.
In $300 - $400 category
Best pick in the category - Skywatcher 8" Dob