The Optical Tube
The Orion StarBlast 6 is a 6” (150mm) f/5 Newtonian reflector with a 750mm focal length. It is similar optically to the 150mm f/5 tabletop scopes from Sky-Watcher, Bresser, and a variety of other 150mm f/5 Newtonians.
Unlike regular 6” Dobsonians which have a focal ratio of f/8 and a focal length of around 1200mm, the StarBlast 6 is a stubby f/5 with a focal length of 750mm. Consequently, the StarBlast 6 produces about a 60% lower magnification and a wider field of view with a given eyepiece vs. the XT6, and the tube is much shorter. However, at f/5, you’re beginning to run into coma, and cheap eyepieces will struggle to produce sharp images across the entire field of view. Collimation is also a bit more of a pain.
The focuser on the StarBlast 6 was finally upgraded to a 2” rack-and-pinion unit in 2023. This focuser is not as smooth as a Crayford design but works well enough, and the removable extension tube allows for enough focus travel that a coma corrector will work in this telescope if you wish. The use of 2” wide-angle eyepieces with the StarBlast 6 enables an absolutely huge field of view, though said eyepieces can add up to a significant proportion of the cost of the StarBlast 6 itself as well as looking a little silly on such a small scope.
The StarBlast 6 attaches to its mount with a pair of tube rings, which could also be bolted to a Vixen-style dovetail plate to use the scope on another mount if you wish. You assemble the telescope by bolting the rings to the mount, and then you slide the optical tube into the tube rings and snug down the knurled ring clamps. They don’t have to be super tight, as you want to be able to rotate that tube or slide it forward or back to gain the best balance and eyepiece position.
The StarBlast 6 includes two Plossl eyepieces, each with a 52-degree apparent field of view: a 25mm for 30x and a 10mm for 75x. These eyepieces are a little lower in quality than the old Sirius Plossls Orion used to sell, and while they are functional, they have some glare/internal reflections and certainly aren’t the sharpest. However, they will suffice. The 10mm is very short on eye relief – typical of the Plossl design – and requires you to jam your eye into the lens to take in the full field, which is rather uncomfortable, and as such you will likely want to replace it with a sharper and more easily used ocular with a wider field and more eye relief.
You also get a red dot finder to aim the StarBlast 6, which works but has a rather small window and difficult-to-use adjustments; replacing it may significantly improve your viewing experience. Lastly, a basic smartphone adapter to take photos of the Moon through the eyepiece is supplied with the StarBlast 6 along with a basic Moon map and a star chart showing the locations of 600 deep-sky objects which can be seen with the telescope.
The StarBlast 6 uses the same tabletop “Dobsonian” mount design as its smaller cousins. Sticklers will note that it’s technically a single-arm fork design, with the scope pivoting up and down on a single bolt and Nylon/felt bushing while it moves in azimuth (left-right) on Teflon pads as in the Dobsonian. It also includes a tension adjustment knob, which allows you to set the right friction so that the optical tube does not move on its own. If you purchase additional eyepieces, a Barlow lens, or other accessories that go in the focuser, you will likely make adjustments to this knob during the night to compensate for the changing weight and balance. You can also just slide the tube in the pair of tube rings to adjust for balance and rotate the eyepiece to a more comfortable position.
The large footprint of the mount and the weight of the whole package may lead to some difficulty in finding a suitable surface to set the scope on, arguably its biggest drawback. Some people love the tabletop design and some do not. This is purely a matter of personal preference.
The new 2023 version of the StarBlast 6 lacks the ability to be upgraded to an Intelliscope like its predecessors and is a manual-only instrument.
Should I buy a Used Orion StarBlast 6?
A used StarBlast 6 is likely to be an older, pre-2023 unit with an all-plastic 1.25” focuser. These scopes are good but do not permit as wide a field of view since they cannot use 2” oculars without substantial DIY modifications. However, they can be upgraded to use the Orion IntelliScope digital setting circles or may already come supplied with one as the “StarBlast 6i.” None of these products are available new or as upgrades to the current version of the StarBlast 6. As usual, when buying a used Dobsonian, make sure that the telescope’s optics are free of corrosion, as recoating the primary or secondary mirror is likely to impinge upon any cost savings at this size. Likewise, the tabletop base should be in good shape and free of apparent damage that may compromise its motions.
It should be noted that the new Orion StarBlast 6 is also identical to the Bresser Messier 6” f/5 tabletop Dobsonian which is a perfectly good substitute. We also have a few other alternatives that you may wish to consider:
- The Sky-Watcher Heritage 150P shares the optics and basic design of the StarBlast 6, but features a collapsible tube for increased portability and a 1.25”-only helical focuser. It’s also significantly cheaper and includes better accessories.
- The Sky-Watcher Heritage 130P offers the same features and accessories as the larger 150P model but with slightly less aperture and a lower price, delivering slightly dimmer views but still offering plenty of capability.
- The Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro is essentially a shrunken StarBlast 6, with a significantly smaller 114mm primary mirror and a 1.25”-only focuser but a huge field of view nonetheless thanks to its short 450mm focal length.
- The Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 150P offers fully motorized tracking and GoTo, with identical views to the StarBlast 6 and a collapsible tube shared with the Heritage 150P. It also comes with a pair of decent eyepieces to get you started and can be aimed manually, with the GoTo system being operated by your smartphone/tablet. A 130mm version based on the Heritage 130P is also available.
- The Orion SkyQuest XT6 has the same focuser and will provide similar brightness and resolving power to the StarBlast 6, but its longer f/ratio of f/8 means easier collimation and no coma – at the expense of a much narrower maximum field of view and a much bulkier tube assembly. This scope stands on the ground without any need for a table or tripod.
- The Celestron Astro Fi 130 is a fully computerized GoTo 130mm f/5 reflector, with a 2” focuser equipped to allow for a huge field of view and only slightly less capability than the StarBlast 6. It cannot be aimed manually at all but is easily operated wirelessly via your smartphone/tablet, and comes equipped with a fairly sturdy tripod.
- The Apertura AD8/Zhumell Z8/Orion SkyLine 8 offers nearly twice as much light gathering area and significantly more resolving power than the StarBlast 6 along with numerous features and accessories such a high-quality dual-speed Crayford focuser, a built-in fan, a right-angle finder scope, and two decent included eyepieces. It stands on the ground and is easy to aim thanks to its smooth Dobsonian base. The AD10/Z10 is also an excellent pick if you can afford it.
- The Celestron StarSense Explorer 8” Dobsonian features excellent performance as is to be expected for any 8” Dobsonian, with a weight-optimized base and the Celestron StarSense Explorer technology allowing for easy navigation of the night sky with your smartphone. However, it lacks much in the way of other provided features and accessories. A 10” model is also available and proves to be an equally good choice.
- The Explore Scientific 10” Hybrid Dobsonian’s huge 10” aperture provides stunning views at a bargain price point, while its truss tube allows it to collapse into a relatively small form factor and its Dobsonian mount is buttery-smooth to aim and adjust. However, you’ll need to pony up plenty of extra cash to get usable accessories and perform a few DIY modifications to make this scope work well.
Aftermarket Accessory Recommendations
The StarBlast 6 would greatly benefit from additional eyepieces. A 2” wide-angle ocular like the Apertura 32mm SWA (23x) allows you to achieve nearly the maximum field of view the StarBlast 6 can offer – 3 degrees, or 6 times the angular diameter of the Moon (wider-field oculars are limited by exit pupil size and coma without significant expense). A 15mm redline eyepiece (50x) is ideal for medium power, while a 6mm “goldline” or “redline” provides 125x which is ideal for lunar and planetary viewing on most nights. On a night of good seeing a 3.2mm Agena Starguider (234x) is ideal for planetary observing or splitting double stars with the StarBlast 6, reaching nearly the maximum the telescope can handle (about 300x). You may also enjoy a 9mm redline (83x) to replace the stock 10mm Plossl eyepiece.
A better red dot finder will significantly improve your experience using the StarBlast 6 and we would highly recommend purchasing one to replace the stock unit. And of course, a good UHC nebula filter like the Orion UltraBlock 2” (able to work with 1.25” eyepieces by threading onto the StarBlast’s provided adapter) will significantly improve the contrast of nebulae against the background sky at the eyepiece, as well as bring out previously-unseen objects under dark skies.
What can you see?
The StarBlast 6 offers impressive views of open star clusters such as the Double Cluster, M11, M35, and the Pleiades (M45). Even under light-polluted skies, these stunning clusters are still visible due to the scopes ample aperture. Globular clusters such as M3, M13, M15, and M22 are also easily resolved at high power with the StarBlast 6, though a better eyepiece than the 10mm Plossl with slightly shorter focal length for 100x or more is optimal to resolve individual stars in these clusters. The bright emission nebulae like Orion (M42) and the Lagoon (M8) look superb even under light-polluted skies, though dark skies and/or a UHC nebula filter provide the best views. With a 2” wide-angle eyepiece and UHC filter under decent conditions, the StarBlast 6 provides fantastic views of the Veil Nebula supernova remnant and the huge North America Nebula in Cygnus. Galaxies require dark skies to appear as anything more than dim fuzzy smudges in the eyepiece, but under good conditions, the StarBlast 6 can reveal hundreds of galaxies, including the Virgo Cluster, and many of the brighter galaxies such as M31, M82, and M64 show details such as dust lanes to the discerning observer. Planetary nebulae like the Blue Snowball also begin to show fine detail and a wide array of colorful tones, and there are countless double stars that you can split under good conditions with the StarBlast 6.
The StarBlast 6 does just as well as a “slower” f/ratio scope on the Moon and planets, though a very short focal length eyepiece or Barlow lens is necessary for high magnifications. You can see the phases of Mercury and Venus, polar ice caps and dark markings on Mars when the planet’s proximity and our own planet’s atmospheric conditions permit, and the moons of Jupiter. At high magnifications, Jupiter’s moons appear as tiny disks instead of points, which is particularly obvious when they transit in front of the planet and cast shadows. Jupiter itself displays a wide variety of shades and hues in its atmospheric cloud bands, with the prominent equatorial cloud belts and Great Red Spot usually appearing fairly obvious against the cream-colored equatorial regions. Saturn’s rings look splendid, with the Cassini Division visible as a razor-thin gap and the planet showing a number of dull cloud bands, alongside a handful of moons. Uranus is a teal disk, with moons too faint to see in a 6” telescope, while Neptune is a fuzzy blue dot and its moon Triton is fairly apparent under good conditions beside it. Pluto will require a larger telescope than the StarBlast 6, preferably with 10” or greater aperture, to see.
11 thoughts on “Orion StarBlast 6 Tabletop Telescope Reviewed – Recommended Scope”
Thanks for your detailed review. For a total newbie in search of his first telescope will you suggest this one over a Celestron XLT Omni 6 ? What I’m not sure about the Starblast is its mount, since you need a table.
Thank you, ciao!
First, I don’t see that Celestron makes an XLT Omni 6. They do make an XLT Omni 150, at least that is how it is named in the USA.
Which would be better for you is a matter of personal preference. The XLTs are on equatorial mounts and I don’t generally recommend an equatorial mount for a beginner. From that point alone, I would not recommend it.
You will need a table/crate/something to put this on to get the StarBlast 6 to a comfortable height. If THAT concerns you then get the Orion XT6, which is a standard manual Dob, or the XT8 Intelliscope (XT8i) which has the same Intelliscope system as the StarBlast 6i. No table required.
Orion SkyQuest XT8 Intelliscope Review
Thanks for your reply. Indeed I meant the Celestron Omni XLT 150.
Pretty clear answer, just one more question please: why you don’t recommend an equatorial mount for a beginner?
Beginners are not familiar with the operation of equatorial mounts. These are specifically made for astronomy and do not work like regular tripod/camera style mounts which are Alt/Az mounts. Unless you understand their operation you are likely be frustrated by the mount.
The second issue is that the equatorial mounts provided in low-cost packages are of very poor quality. So, again, the mount frustrates the user.
I have worked with many beginners who have equatorial mounts and not a single one of them has been successful in using it properly. With proper guidance or careful study, a beginner can master the EQ mount, but there is still the poor quality to overcome.
Others may disagree, but this has been my experience.
I am looking into the Orion StarBlast 6 for my 14 year old son. What additional eyepieces would you recommend for viewing the moon and planets? Also, can you recommend an aftermarket finder scope, perhaps a 90 degree version? Thanks.
Eyepieces is a HUGE area of discussion. I would suggest you read the article I did on eyepieces.
The scope comes with two eyepieces and a Barlow lens giving you 4 magnifications which is enough to get started. Read the article and make your decisions then. However, I usually recommend an eyepiece that will max out the FOV. For that scope, that would be a 32 mm Plossl. With that, you will have 6 magnifications.
Next you want something that matches the focal ratio for a 1 mm exit pupil. That would be a 5 mm. The 10 mm in the 2X barlow gives you that. As discussed in the article, I don’t recommend Plossls shorter than 10 mm.
Understanding and using a Barlow Lens
Run with that and decide what you want to add later. I will say that I am a big fan of zoom eyepieces.
Likewise on finders. Use the red dot when you get it. Decide on any added finders later. However, the Orion 9X50 RACI finder is very good. I had one on my Orion XT8i and liked it very much.
Accessories to add to your Telescope
Great column. I decided to go with your recommendation here and couldn’t be happier, thank you!
One questions; “Removing the rings and attaching a Vixen-style dovetail plate will let the StarBlast 6 be mounted on virtually any equatorial or altazimuth mount and tripod”
Can you expound on this please? I am wondering if this will be a better way to use it in the field.
The optical tube is held by rings that are attached to the telescope mounting bracket, as shown on page 4 of the manual. That bracket is unique to this mount. However, you can remove that bracket from the rings and replace it with an industry-standard vixen style dovetail bar. A vixen-style dovetail bar can be used to mount your optical tube on a wide variety of telescope mounts. Here is an example of one that I use.
I hope that was helpful.
Thank you! Being a complete n00b and clearly clueless, I was picturing mounting the entire scope including the table top portion to the tripod. SMH.
Now then, I understand completely the task at hand. Would either the Orion Starblast autotracker Altazimuth mount tripod or the Celestron heavy duty Altazimuth tripod work, or is there another that you recommend?
Thank you again!
I paired the VersaGo II altazimuth mount tripod with an 8 inch dovetail mounting plate and it worked perfectly.
Thanks for sharing the combination you tested. I am sure that information will be helpful to others.