Celestron NexStar 8SE Review – Planetary Telescope

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Celestron NexStar 8SE SCT is the biggest telescope in the Celestron SE series. And with telescopes, the bigger is better. It was launched more than a decade ago, but it is still an amazing instrument for astronomy beginners.

Celestron NexStar 8SE is a Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope on a computerized alt-azimuth mount. It has high-quality optics with a huge 8-inch primary mirror and focal length of 2032mm(80inch). Despite the long focal length, it has a compact size, and it is only 432mm long because of the Schmidt-Cassegrain optical design(SCT).

Celestron NexStar 8SE SCT Specifications:

OPTICAL DESIGNSchmidt-Cassegrain
APERTURE203.2 mm (8 in)
FOCAL LENGTH2032 mm (80 in)
FOCAL RATIOF10
MOUNTMotorized Single Fork Arm Altazimuth
POWER SUPPLY8-AA batteries (not included)
HIGHEST USEFUL MAGNIFICATION480 x
OPTICAL TUBE LENGTH17 in (431.8 mm)
OTA WEIGHT24 lb (10.89 kg)
TRIPOD AND MOUNT WEIGHT9 lb (4.08 kg)

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Schmidt-Cassegrain Optical Design

The main feature of the Celestron NexStar 8SE is the Schmidt-Cassegrain optical design. What it does is to have a long focal length telescope in the small package. It uses two mirrors like a Newtonian reflector to produce an image in the eyepiece, and the difference here is the position of the eyepiece holder and the tilt of the small secondary mirror.

The secondary mirror is parallel to the primary mirror. The primary mirror has an opening in the center for the light, and the eyepiece holder is behind that. The light bounces from the primary to the secondary mirror. Light is then focused back to the center of the primary mirror into the opening for the eyepiece. 

Light path in a Schmidt–Cassegrain

It may sound complicated, but it is a simple design allowing to squeeze long focal length into the small optical tube. In this case, the final focal length is 2032mm. Imagine having and trying to operate a 2m long telescope in your backyard. It would be crazy, but with the Schmidt-Cassegrain optical design, you can have it in the small optical tube.

I was talking more in-depth about the Schmidt Cassegrain optical design in the article Schmidt-Cassegrain vs. Maksutov-Cassegrain, so if you want to learn more about it, read my article.

The long focal length is important if you need higher magnification. Magnification is calculated by dividing the focal length of the telescope by the focal length of the eyepiece. If the telescope has a short focal length, you have to use very small eyepieces with small exit pupil to achieve a high magnification. It is not an ideal solution. So if you have a long focal length telescope, you can use bigger eyepieces that are more comfortable to look through, and you will get the same high magnification.

Collimating Your Celestron NexStar 8SE SCT

Collimation means proper alignment of the mirrors. If your telescope is out of collimation, you will get a blurry image, and you won’t be able to focus the object in the eyepiece. Collimation is required only for Newtonian reflector using mirrors as the optics. It is not needed for the refractors using lenses. But what about the SCT?

Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope is basically a Newtonian reflector because it is using mirrors and not the lenses. But it is a closed system where you can’t really adjust the primary mirror. The only adjustment you can make is to the secondary mirror, and you don’t even need the collimation tools like Cheshire eyepiece or a laser collimator.

It is an easy process, but it is hard to explain. You will understand it much better from the video below made by Astronomy and Nature TV:

Motorized Alt-Azimuth Mount

Celestron Nexstar 8SE comes with the computerized goto mount with proven NexStar computer technology. The computerized mount is a step up from the manual mount in which you have to navigate across the sky by moving it manually. Moreover, you have to know and find the object in the sky by yourself.

The process with a computerized mount is much easier because it will find the object you want and automatically point the telescope to it for you. To control the mount, you have to use the hand controller, which has a 40 000 objects database. You can search for the object by name or catalog number.

Before every stargazing session, you have to do a star alignment so the computer in the mount can find the objects for you. There are a few methods. Usually, you have to point the telescope to a bright star and then pick the seconds star from the menu. The telescope mount will automatically go to that star, and after you recenter it in the eyepiece, the alignment is successful.

The computerized mount will also track the desired object to stay in the field of view in the eyepiece all the time. It is also a good advantage over the manual mount, where you always have to make a small adjustment to keep the object in the view.

Powering Your Celestron NexStar 8SE SCT

Computerized mounts need power, and they usually have a battery compartment somewhere to put the AA batteries in. These batteries will power your telescope, and you don’t have to run any external cables. But they don’t last long, so if you are planing longer stargazing sessions under the stars, you should consider an external power source.

If you are in your backyard, you can buy a power adapter and run your telescope from the outlet nearby. But if you are out in the wild, it is a good idea to bring some type of external battery.

There are many options to choose from, but I like the Celestron PowerTank. It is something like your car battery, but you can plug the telescope or other devices in. This PowerTank will definitely last you the whole night and more. Check the Power Tank’s current price; it is not an expensive upgrade, and it will serve many other purposes for you not only to power the telescope.

Astrophotography With Celestron NexStar 8SE SCT

Astrophotography with the Celestron NexStar 8SE is not impossible. You may hear that you need a german equatorial mount for astrophotography. Well, that’s true, but I have done astrophotography and DSLR on the AZ mount, and I was happy with that. Yes, it is not easy, and it is limited, but it can be done.

Planetary and moon astrophotography is not a problem with this telescope, even on the AZ mount. It is actually a perfect planetary telescope because it has a long focal length that provides high magnification. It is essential for planetary observing and astrophotography.

But if you are thinking about trying deep-sky astrophotography later, and you are considering buying another scope, let me stop you there. If you decided to try astrophotography, you don’t have to sell this telescope and buy a new one with EQ mount for astrophotography.

Another hidden advantage of the Celestron NexStar 8SE is that you can just upgrade it to an equatorial mount with a simple accessory from Celestron. It is called Celestron EQ Wedge for NexStar Evolution/SE. 

Celestron EQ Wedge For Astrophotography

This accessory will transform your AZ mount to an EQ mount. Now you can use your Celestron NexStar 8SE or another telescope from SE or Evolution series for astrophotography.

However, it is not an ideal solution and replacement for an actual EQ mount because it has no polar scope to accurately polar align the mount. But is good enough to take longer exposures without the field rotation that is present on an AZ mount.

The telescope also has an autoguider port, so you can use a guiding scope to improve the tracking of the mount. If you saw my pictures taken with an AZ mount, this setup with the EQ Wedge and guiding scope will get you much better results.

To sum it up, if you decide to do astrophotography with this telescope, I highly recommend reading my article about the best astrophotography camera to match your telescope.

Accessories To Upgrade the Celestron NexStar 8SE

Let me say first that you don’t need to upgrade the telescope right away. But you will do it later for sure like with every telescope, so here are my recommendations.

Finder Scope or Telrad

The first recommendation is to upgrade the red dot finder that comes with a telescope. It is complete garbage, and for a little money, you can have a massive upgrade. You can go for a real finderscope or telrad finderscope. It is up to you.

2″ Diagonal Kit

The next one might be a 2-inch eyepiece upgrade. The telescope is equipped with 1.25 inch diagonal, and going for 2-inch diagonal and eyepieces will vastly increase the stargazing experience with this scope. Maybe something like Astronomia 2 inch eyepiece, diagonal, and filter kit.

Focal Reducer

Another one is also related to astrophotography. Because of the long focal length of the telescope, the field of view is small. To widen the field of view, you need to shorten the focal length by the focal reducer. Most deep-sky objects are huge, and they won’t fit. After reducing the focal length of the telescope with the focal reducer, you will get a better view of the large deep-sky object, which is also necessary for astrophotography with this telescope.

Celestron SkyPortal WIFI Module

The last one is more of a luxury upgrade. Celestron SkyPortal WIFI module will allow you to control your telescope remotely via a smartphone app or your computer. I was writing more about this wifi module in this article.

Is The Celestron NexStar 8SE SCT Worth To Buy?

It definitely is! It is also a perfect telescope for beginner because of the excellent optics, ease of use, motorized mount, and you can do astrophotography with it later after upgrading with an EQ Wedge. It is a great all-rounder to start in astronomy. I always recommend the Dobsonian telescope first, but if you want portability and motorized mount, the Celestron NexStar 8SE is the way to go. 

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