The Optical Tube of Starblast 4.5 EQ
The StarBlast II EQ uses the same optical tube as Orion’s regular StarBlast but it is supplied on Orion’s EQ-1 equatorial mount instead of a tabletop Dobsonian mount and comes with much better eyepieces.
The StarBlast is a 114mm (4.5”) f/4 Newtonian reflector. At f/4, there is some coma at the edge of the field of view with low-magnification eyepieces like the included 25mm Plossl, but even if you notice it shouldn’t hamper the image quality too much. The scope also requires precise collimation (which it thankfully has easy-to-use, spring-loaded adjustments for, unlike some other 114mm equatorial scopes on the market).
Orion doesn’t provide a collimation tool, but you can buy/make one or simply collimate it on a star – read our guide for more information on collimation.
Orion StarBlast 4.5 EQ
Price – $209.99
The StarBlast scopes have been around for about 20 years now and Orion has managed to nail down the optical quality. Most StarBlasts are pretty good optically and capable of magnifications up to about 200x.
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About the Accessories
The StarBlast II EQ comes with two eyepieces: A 25mm Sirius Plossl (18x) and a 10mm Sirius Plossl (45x). You may want to purchase an additional 6mm “goldline” eyepiece (75x) as well as a 2x Barlow to get the most out of your StarBlast, but the included Sirius Plossls are of very high quality and a cut above the Kellners or cheap plastic Plossls provided with most scopes at this price range – the Sirius Plossls have higher transmission for brighter images, as well as slightly sharper and wider fields of view compared to a lower-cost kit eyepiece.
The StarBlast II is supplied with a red dot sight, which is adequate for this telescope. There’s also a moon map bundled with the scope (Orion’s MoonMap 260) but I find it to be kind of outdated and mildly useful at best.
The Orion EQ-1 Equatorial Mount Quality
The EQ-1 mount is basically the same as the mount supplied with most of the Celestron PowerSeeker telescopes, but the StarBlast is small and light enough to work on it quite well – and also has good enough optics that it’s worth talking about actually using it.
The StarBlast II sits inside two felt-lined tube rings that bolt onto the EQ-1 mount’s top plate – larger/more expensive equatorials use a Vixen dovetail and saddle which is slightly more convenient, but the simple system used with the StarBlast II works just fine.
The EQ-1 is more or less a simplified version of the larger German equatorial mounts used for large telescopes and/or astrophotography. It lacks a polar scope, and the setting circles on it are so small that they’re almost entirely useless, but for visual astronomy it works just fine – don’t expect it to work well for astrophotography, however.
Setting up and using the EQ-1 is pretty easy – just level the tripod, put the mount/scope together, balance the scope on both axes, and roughly line up the mount’s polar axis with Polaris. Coarse motion is achieved by simply pushing/pulling the scope around the sky while fine adjustments are made with the two included flexible slow-motion cables. If you need to rotate the tube to put the finder/eyepiece in a more convenient position, just slightly loosen the tube and rotate it in the tube rings (while being careful not to slide it forward/backward and ruin the balance).
What can you see?
The StarBlast II’s high-quality optics will show you Mercury and Venus’ phases, along with the dark albedo patches and ice caps on Mars. You can also see Jupiter’s cloud belts, the Great Red Spot and its 4 large moons. Saturn’s rings, the Cassini Division, the planet’s cloud belts, and about half a dozen of its moons are visible. Uranus and Neptune can be spotted as small turquoise and azure dots respectively, though locating them can be a bit tricky. Their moons are unfortunately too dim for the StarBlast to reveal.
Outside the solar system, the StarBlast excels at revealing large star clusters and nebulae. The Veil Nebula is easily visible with a good UHC or OIII filter. Orion, the Lagoon, and the Swan look excellent with even mediocre suburban skies. The scope can also pick up some of the brighter/larger galaxies such as M31, M51, the Leo Triplet, M81/82, and perhaps M101 and M33 with dark enough skies. You’ll even be able to spot planetary nebulae such as the Ring – a small donut-shaped fuzz that you might mistake for an out-of-focus star – the Dumbbell, the gorgeous blue NGC 2392, the Cat’s Eye, and the famous Blinking Planetary Nebula.
For similar prices to the Orion StarBlast II 4.5 EQ, there are a number of other scopes you might want to consider, including the following:
- Zhumell Z130 – Slightly larger aperture.
- Explore One Aurora 114 – Same scope but on a simpler alt-azimuth mount.
- Zhumell Z114 – Same scope but on a tabletop mount at a lower price.
Aftermarket Accessory Recommendations
The most useful accessory we’d recommend for the StarBlast II is a 6mm “goldline” eyepiece which will provide 75x with the scope. This is a good magnification for viewing the Moon, planets, and double stars. A quality 2x Barlow will provide 36x and 90x with the stock eyepieces and 150x with the 6mm goldline, providing an even wider and more useful range of magnifications.
Additionally, the EQ-1 is compatible with a motor drive. Celestron’s single-axis motor drive and Meade’s single-axis drive (which are identical) both work for simple single-axis tracking. If you want to get fancy, the Orion EQ-1M unit (which costs a substantial portion as much as the entire telescope) allows you to slew the telescope in right ascension back and forth with the push of a button, and adjust the rate for sidereal or lunar tracking speeds. The drive is battery-powered and will offer at least semi-accurate tracking.