The Optical Tube
The Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 130P is a 5.1” (130mm) f/5 Newtonian reflector with a focal length of 650mm. An f/5 Newtonian has minor coma at low magnification at the edges of the field of view with a wide-angle 2” ocular (or if you look really hard at the edge of the field with a 1.25” eyepiece). But given the 130P’s 1.25”-only focuser, you’re probably never going to notice anyway. However, many cheap wide-angle eyepieces will show similar-looking aberrations at the edge of the field in an f/5 Newtonian, so keep this in mind when shopping for extra eyepieces.
The Virtuoso GTi 130P shares its optical configuration with many other 130mm f/5s, including the Heritage 130P and 130PDS astrograph from Sky-Watcher, the 130mm f/5 computerized Newtonians sold by Celestron, and others. The Heritage and Virtuoso are different from the other 130mm f/5 scopes because they have collapsible strut tubes. The tube of the Virtuoso GTi 130P can be collapsed in half to make it easier to store and move. This allows it to fit in a large backpack, padded case, or suitcase for the purpose of traveling with the telescope and also makes it small enough to fit inside a cabinet or under a bed if need be for storage. As with any Newtonian reflector, regular collimation of the 130P is required to achieve sharp images, though it’s nothing to be scared of—see our collimation guide for more info.
The open tube of the Virtuoso GTi 130P necessitates some kind of shroud to keep light, dew, dust, and insects out of the tube. Without one, if you have any kind of light pollution (let alone local direct light shining into the tube), the view will be washed out in brown. Sky-Watcher doesn’t sell a shroud, but making one out of foam takes just a few minutes. The plastic baffle across from the 130P’s focuser is enough to prevent the worst contrast loss under moderately dark skies, provided you’re far away from direct light sources, but making a shroud is just a good idea anyway and will keep your optics better protected during use.
The 1.25” helical focuser on the GTi 130P is plastic, but it works fine as long as you don’t overload it with super heavy eyepieces. You can’t install a rack-and-pinion or Crayford focuser on the 130P optical tube as it would be too heavy for the struts to handle and would tip the telescope over with its mass. However, any sort of upgrades or heavyweight eyepieces are probably going to cost as much as the Virtuoso GTi 130P itself, so we don’t see the lightweight helical focuser as a problem.
As with many telescopes, the Virtuoso GTi 130P attaches the tube and mount together with a Vixen-style dovetail rail and clamp. Technically, this means you could put the 130P on another mount, but this would probably result in the eyepiece being in an uncomfortable position, and astrophotography with a DSLR or similar would put too much strain on the 130P’s helical focuser and strut tube.
The Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 130P comes with Sky-Watcher’s standard 25mm and 10mm 1.25″ “Super” eyepieces. The 25mm eyepiece has a magnification of 26x, and the 10mm eyepiece has a magnification of 65x. These are both nice eyepieces, based on the Konig design, with glass optics, though the exterior of each is all plastic. The Super eyepieces are wide-angle, long eye relief designs based on the Konig type, providing a 55-degree apparent field of view with decent sharpness out to the edge. Unlike a Plossl or Kellner, the 10mm Super is quite comfortable to look through without jamming your eye into it, as the Super Konig design has longer eye relief than a Kellner, Plossl, or Orthoscopic eyepiece would at this focal length. You’ll almost certainly want additional eyepieces for higher magnifications; good planetary views are usually found at 100x magnification or above, and the 130P can handle up to around 200x before you hit the limits of its resolving power.
As with many other beginner telescopes, the finder attached to the Virtuoso GTi 130P is a standard red dot finder, powered by a CR2032 battery and projecting a small “dot” in the sky onto a plastic window that you look through. It’s more than enough for aiming the GTi 130P around the sky, either for a star alignment for GoTo or purely manually.
The Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 130P’s tabletop mount is based on the Heritage 130P mount, with the addition of motor drives and clutches to both axes. The clutches can be unlocked to allow you to aim the GTi 130P just like a regular tabletop Dobsonian, or you can tighten them and power on the mount. The mount runs on a small pack of batteries, or you can get a rechargeable power supply and plug it in. You control it via your smartphone or tablet over the mount’s built-in WiFi network with either the free SynScan app or another astronomy app like SkySafari Pro or Stellarium. The GTi 130P will then slew around the sky to tens of thousands of possible targets at the push of a button and automatically track the sky no matter what you are aiming at.
You can also unlock the GTi 130P’s clutches, aim the scope manually and just use the tracking, or switch back to using the GoTo system at any time without affecting the alignment by moving the scope by hand. This dual encoder technology is branded by Sky-Watcher as their “FreedomFind” technology and is now on most of their products.
The Virtuoso GTi 130P needs a very sturdy tabletop surface, both for viewing comfort and to keep the GoTo system aligned. Trying to manually aim the scope on a shaky table is already frustrating, but it will also mess up the accuracy of the motors and make for a very frustrating experience. A bar stool or milk crate works well for standing or seated use respectively, or you can build a stand yourself for the 130P or any other tabletop telescope with some basic carpentry tools and materials for relatively little money.
Should I buy a Used Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 130P?
A used SkyWatcher Virtuoso GTi 130P would be an unusual find, as would one in bad condition, as these telescopes only started being available for purchase in mid-2022. The main things to watch out for are any issues with the electronics or mirror coatings, which would probably make purchasing a used unit a no-go. Small dents in the tube that don’t get in the way of the light aren’t a problem, and it’s usually not too hard to get rid of big ones with an automotive dent puller.
The Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 130P isn’t our top pick in its price range, mainly because the Virtuoso GTi 150P costs just a bit more and has significantly more aperture with otherwise the same features. However, there are some non-GoTo manual telescopes as alternatives:
- The manual Heritage 150P and Heritage 130P, are obviously our first picks as alternatives; they are identical to the Virtuoso GTi 150P and 130P respectively apart from lacking all the electronics (the GoTo system).
- Other tabletop Dobsonians like Zhumell Z130, Z114, and Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro will work well – the Z130 features the same optics as the GTi 130P but is a lot less portable, while the 114mm scopes have slightly inferior performance than the 130P but a significantly wider field of view.
- A free-standing 6” f/8 Dobsonian like Orion SkyQuest XT6, Orion SkyLine 6, and Sky-Watcher 6” Classic Dobsonians is easier to collimate than a fast tabletop scope like the Virtuoso GTi 130P and you of course don’t need to worry about a table or stand anymore, but a 6” f/8 will have a significantly narrower field of view than a 4-6” f/4 to f/5 telescope.
Aftermarket Accessory Recommendations
The Virtuoso GTi 130P can handle up to 200-250x magnification or so with its 5.1” of aperture and sharp optics, but 150-200x is all you’re actually going to benefit much from. There are diminishing returns with going higher. The oft-cited 6mm “redline” or “goldline” eyepiece provides 108x with the 130P, and a 4mm planetary eyepiece will provide 163x magnification. Higher power is best for seeing planets, globular star clusters or planetary nebulae, and splitting close double or triple stars.
A narrowband, ultra-high-contrast (UHC) nebula filter is a bit pricey, but it will make it much easier to see nebulae through the Virtuoso GTi 130P or any other telescope, whether the sky is filled with light or not. We recommend the Orion Ultrablock 1.25” UHC filter; it’ll improve the views of emission nebulae like Orion (M42) and the Swan (M17), as well as bring out planetary nebulae and even previously-invisible targets like the Veil Nebula or North America Nebula under dark skies. A UHC filter doesn’t make light pollution go away, nor can any other filter or device, but it will mitigate the effects of light pollution on most nebulae and enhance contrast under any conditions.
What can you see with Virtuoso GTi 130P?
The 130mm (5.1”) aperture of the Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 130P does a pretty good job on the Moon and planets. You’ll be able to resolve thousands of craters, mountains, and ridges on the lunar surface mere miles in size; the phases of Mercury and Venus; and the polar ice caps on Mars. When Mars is closer to Earth, you might also be able to make out a few dark markings and any ongoing dust storms. The 130P will, of course, show you the moons of Jupiter, but it’s also big enough to resolve them as tiny disks, along with their shadows, when they transit in front of it. Jupiter itself shows colorful, constantly-changing cloud belts, festoons, and storms of a variety of hues, from white to pink, blue, and brown. On a good night, you can also resolve the Great Red Spot with the GTi 130P. Saturn’s rings and the Cassini division within the rings can be seen,
How good deep-sky objects look with the Virtuoso GTi 130P, or indeed any telescope, is largely going to be dictated by how light-polluted the skies are where you observe. Under city skies, you’re limited to open star clusters, like M11 or M45, and the brightest nebulae, such as Orion (M42), which will appear washed out compared to their splendor under better conditions. Darker skies will allow you to resolve globular star clusters like M3 and M13 into individual stars with the 130P at high magnification, and you can also see dust lanes in the brightest galaxies like M31 or M82. The 130P also excels at large nebulae, especially with a UHC nebula filter, such as M8 (the Lagoon) or the huge Veil Nebula complex in Cygnus.
Astrophotography with GTi 130P
Since the Virtuoso GTi mount has built-in motorized tracking, you can do astrophotography with the GTi 130P a little more easily than with a non-tracking telescope. However, you’re limited to the Moon and planets due to the mechanical nature and physical limitations of the telescope, focuser, and mount design. Your smartphone and an adapter can easily capture the Moon through an eyepiece, and inserting a 3x or 5x amplifying Barlow lens combined with the proper high-speed CMOS video camera like the ZWO ASI224MC will allow you to take photos of the planets – though only Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are likely to be of much interest.