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If you are looking for a cheap starter telescope for your kids, then National Geographic Telescope NT114CF is a great choice for the money. You can find this telescope on Amazon at starting prices from $60, so it is very cheap, and you will get a decent telescope compared to some toy telescopes.
National Geographic Telescope NT114CF is a Newtonian reflector telescope that is using mirrors to produce the image instead of lenses(refracting telescope). It has a carbon-fiber body, which is an excellent feature among the telescopes because it is significantly reducing the weight of the instrument. Overall, the perfect choice for kids and beginners.
- Newtonian reflector design
- carbon-fiber tube
- 114mm mirror aperture
- 500mm focal length
- red dot viewfinder
- 26mm and 9.7mm Plossl eyepieces (19x and 51x magnification)
- 2x Barlow lens (doubling the eyepiece magnification)
- fast focal ratio F/5.2
- alt-azimuth mount
- aluminum tripod
Carbon-Fiber Optical Tube Assembly(OTA) Advantage
The main advantage of this telescope is the carbon-fiber tube. So why is this important? The first reason is the weight of the telescope tube. Lighter scopes require fewer sturdy tripods to mount the optical tube, and while looking through the scope, you will encounter vibrations. Lighter scopes tend to have smaller vibrations when touching the telescope, and the vibrations are shorter in length.
The second reason is the thermal property. Before your stargazing session, you have to leave the telescope outside to cool it down to outside temperature. When the temperature is not even, the rising heat from the inside of the tube (even a very small one) will cause image distortion and focusing problems. Most telescopes are made from aluminum, and it takes longer to cool down than the carbon fiber. A carbon fiber tube adapts better to temperature change, which can also cause focusing problems. Overall, having a carbon fiber tube in such a cheap telescope is a nice feature.
Accessories In The Box
You will find additional accessories in the box, like a smartphone adapter and a star map. The smartphone adapter is the basic one with suction cups. You can use it to capture images and videos with your smartphone camera when you attach it to the eyepiece holder. I don’t find this adapter very useful because it is not working well with all smartphones, and it is dangerous because the smartphone can easily fall off if it doesn’t have a smooth surface to hold it with suction cups. I will explain this later in the article, and I will also give you a better solution for this.
Setting Up The Telescope – Instructions
This telescope comes almost completely preassembled, so it’s easy for you to set it up. You want to set up the tripod first. Spread out the legs and push on the spreader bar between the legs. Take the accessory tray and mount it on the spread bar by twisting it into a secure position. You can use this tray to place your eyepieces and Barlow lens during the stargazing session.
Now, you can take the mount head, which has a metal construction. Take out the bolt on the bottom and place the head on the tripod. Then attach the bolt and tighten it up from the bottom. You also need to thread in the handle that controls the movement of the mount, and it is also working as a lock for the altitude swivel. The azimuth lock knob is on the side of the mount head.
When you have everything secured and tighten up, take the actual telescope tube, that already has dovetail mounted on the bottom. Place the tube with the dovetail bar on the mount and secure it with a knob on the side. The last thing is to attach the red dot viewfinder on the top of the telescope.
Collimation Of NT114CF
Collimation is discussed as a disadvantage of the Newtonian reflectors. What it means is that you always have to align the primary mirror and secondary mirror to get the perfect image and experience from the reflecting telescope. But it is an easy process, and with this telescope, it is even easier.
The primary mirror is mounted permanently and comes collimated from the factory, so you don’t have to bother with this procedure. It is now common practice of telescope manufacturers with smaller and cheaper reflecting telescopes. However, you can still adjust the secondary mirror, but it should also come collimated from the factory. If you want to learn more about the collimation of the reflecting telescope, check my article HERE.
Using A Smartphone with NT114CF Telescope
And now, back to the smartphone adapter disaster. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t recommend using the adapter unless you modify it by strapping the smartphone to the adapter with a rubber band or something else. I have to give credit to the manufacturer that they include this accessory, but you will be better with some cheap smartphone adapter from Amazon.
If you want to have better results and step up the game a little, I recommend checking my article on how to connect a webcam to your telescope.
Recommended Accessories Upgrade
Different smartphone adapter is the first upgrade you can make. Secondly, you can think about upgrading the eyepiece collection to squeeze more from this telescope. It is a minimal investment of around $20, and it will give you more magnification options and better image quality. I’m very happy with the eyepiece kit from SVBONY on Amazon.
Magnification With NT114CF
Magnification of the telescope is determined by the focal length of the telescope and the focal length of the eyepiece you are using. This telescope is listing 19x and 51x magnification with two eyepieces in the box. You can calculate the magnification by dividing the focal length of the telescope(500mm) by the focal length of the eyepiece(26mm,9.7mm), which will give you 19x and 51x magnification.
The included Barlow lens can double the eyepiece magnification to 38x and 102x with eyepieces in the box. The Barlow lens is placed before the eyepiece into the eyepiece holder, and you are sliding the eyepiece into the Barlow lens. The magnification is also referred to as the power of the telescope.
High power is good for the Moon and the planets, but for most of the deep-sky objects, it is better to use low power eyepiece to get a larger field of view. Some deep-sky objects are bigger than the Moon in the sky.
How To Use National Geographic Telescope NT114CF
The first rule that applies to all telescopes is to NEVER look into the sun if you don’t have a proper sun filter attached to the front of the telescope. You can permanently damage your eye, so be cautious using the telescope during the day, especially with kids.
But this is an astronomical telescope, not a spotting scope, and the difference is that in the Newtonian astronomical telescope, the image is upside down. This is not an error but a feature. It doesn’t matter when you are stargazing because you won’t even notice that the image is upside down, but for terrestrial use, it is not useful.
You will need to do the red dot finder alignment during the day, so be careful with the sun, as I mentioned earlier. To align it, you have to find an object like a roof or a tree in the distance and point the telescope at it. Center it in the eyepiece and align the red dot in the finder with adjusting knobs, so when you later at night point the red dot to the object on the sky, the object will be centered in the eyepiece.
You will get a star map in the box, but for finding the object, in the beginning, it is a good idea to use a smartphone app like Star Chart or any other that will help you locate deep-sky objects on the sky.
However, it is highly recommended to learn the skies and not use any source of light while stargazing. The image you will see, and the overall experience is also highly impacted by your night vision adaptation, which can take a few minutes in the dark environment. And you want to use the telescope in the dark place away from city light pollution.
Many times I hear from people that they are disappointed by the performance of the telescope, but half of the successful stargazing experience is the dark skies and your night vision adaptation. So try not to use the smartphone to navigate across the night skies and learn it over time.
What Can You Expect To See Through NT114CF
First thing first, please don’t expect to see anything like the pictures of the deep sky objects on the internet. These colorful and high detailed images are made with expensive cameras and very long exposures.
As I said before, the key is the dark skies. You can expect to see some of the brightest Messier objects like Orion nebula, Andromeda galaxy, or the Pleiades.
Regarding the planets, you don’t need a dark sky to see them, and you can observe them even from the city. You will see Jupiter with some moons and Saturn with his rings, but other planets will be only small dots.
And of course, the Moon will be the best experience. It is easy to see craters and terrain details, so this is the best target to observe with the NT114CF telescope.
Is NT114CF Telescope Worth It?
For the price, it’s definitely worth it. But don’t expect miracles. It is a good telescope for kids to introduce them to astronomy or as occasional entertainment on the camping trip and barbecue night in your backyard. If you are serious about astronomy and you are willing to spend more, you can check some of the Dobsonian telescopes like Orion SkyQuest XT8 that I recommend for more enthusiast beginners in astronomy and stargazing.