If you are looking for your first telescope and your budget is $200 or less, then the Skywatcher Heritage 130P is the best choice for you. It cost only under $200 on Amazon, and it is not a toy telescope. However, it is a great telescope for kids or young amateur astronomer just starting with stargazing. So let me tell you something about this fantastic telescope from SkyWatcher. I will explain the features of the telescope, and I will also give you some advice on how to use it and improve it.
Skywatcher Heritage 130P is the smallest flex tube Dobsonian telescope with a decent sized parabolic primary mirror of 130mm. It is small, portable, and the aperture is collecting enough light to show you a lot of things on the night sky.
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- Newtonian reflector
- Dobsonian mount
- collapsible flex tube
- 46cm (collapsed), 69.5cm (extended)
- focal length 650mm
- 130mm parabolic primary mirror (30 % more light gathering than 114 mm)
- red dot finder
- focal ratio F5
- magnifications (with eyepieces supplied): 26x and 65x
- highest useful magnification 260x
- built-in carrying handle
- weight 6.2kg/13.6lbs
What is Flex tube?
Flex tube is an excellent design, and SkyWatcher is also using it on the bigger Dobsonian scopes. It allows you to collapse the tube to make the telescope smaller for more convenient storage and transport. When the telescope is collapsed, you can’t use it because it is designed to work only in a fully extended position. The secondary mirror and the focuser are mounted on the extended part.
The flex tube design has few disadvantages, but they are not significant. One is that when the telescope is extended, the open space can introduce stray light into the telescope tube from the surroundings (if you are not on the dark observation site). It can be in your backyard, the neighbor security light or just a street lamp can produce stray light. However, this can be easily fixed, and I will explain later how.
John Dobson invented the Dobsonian mount. This mount is perfect for beginners and to carry heavy scopes as well. Another advantage is that it is the cheapest mount for telescopes. Dobsonian mount is basically an alt-azimuth mount, so it moves in altitude (up and down) and azimuth (left and right). It is very easy to use “point and shoot” design. It’s usually made from wood and has a round base that telescope rotates on.
You can place this mount on the floor or the table, and you can move it quickly during the stargazing session. German equatorial mounts are more complicated and advanced. They are mostly used with computerized mount for astrophotography. But when you are just starting with astronomy, you don’t need that, and the Dobsonian mount is entirely sufficient for visual observing.
Accessories And Recommended Upgrades
The telescope comes with two eyepieces; one has a focal length of 25mm, and the second one is 10mm. So what does that mean and which eyepiece is better to use? The focal length of the eyepiece is determining the magnification you will get from the telescope. The magnification is calculated by dividing the focal length of the telescope by the focal length of the eyepiece. So in our case, with 650mm focal length of the telescope, you get two magnifications. 26x magnification with the 25mm eyepiece and 65x magnification with the 10mm eyepiece.
As you can see, you are stuck with only two magnifications. The highest useful magnification for the Skywatcher Heritage 130p is 260x. You can find out that number for any telescope by doubling the aperture diameter number. In this case, it’s 130mm, so we know that the highest magnification we can use with this telescope is 260x. If you go beyond that, you will get a blurry image.
To get more magnification, you have two options. The first is to expand the collection of the eyepieces with different focal lengths. The smaller the focal length of the eyepiece is the higher magnification you will get. But I wouldn’t go under 4mm for the eyepiece. You can buy a very cheap and good quality eyepiece kit around $40 on Amazon. But if you want to know more about eyepiece options, I recommend reading my article called Telescope Eyepiece Guide.
The second option is to buy a Barlow lens. Barlow lens is a simple lens element that you put in the eyepiece holder before the eyepiece, and depending on the Barlow specifications, you can double or triple the magnification with a given eyepiece. So with 10mm eyepiece and 3x Barlow lens, you get 195x magnification with this telescope. However, this solution has some downsides. The image quality will always be better without the Barlow lens because more lens elements in the light path will always decrease the image quality. It is always better to use only the eyepiece like 4mm for higher magnification.
Flex Tube Cover
I was writing earlier about the issue with stray light in the telescope tube. The open flex tube design is amazing, but to minimize the stray light effect, we need to cover the empty part of the tube. You can buy or make a simple black cloth cover, or you can make a hardcover from the piece of black foam to reduce the stray light in your telescope. Jenham’s Astro youtube channel has a fantastic guide on how to do it:
SkyWatcher Heritage 130p Review
Now, what is my opinion on this telescope as an amateur astronomer? I love this telescope. I remember my first telescopes when I was in primary school, starting with astronomy. They were smaller than SkyWatcher Heritage 130p, and I was amazed by them, so I can imagine if this were my first scope, I would have been blown away.
This telescope is a Newtonian reflector. It means that it is using mirrors to produce the image. This design was first introduced by English scientist Isac Newton in 1668. Before this, there was only a refracting design that uses lenses. The advantage of the Newtonian reflector is that it is cheaper to make a bigger aperture, which results in more light-gathering and better views of the faint objects on the sky. The reflectors also don’t suffer from chromatic aberration as refracting telescopes do. Chromatic aberration is the color fringing around the object caused by the light refraction properties of the optical lens when wavelengths of color are focused at different positions in the focal plane. Mirrors don’t have that problem.
The 130mm mirror is pretty big for a starter telescope in this price range. My computerized telescope from SkyWatcher also has 130mm aperture, and I’m still using it very often. This aperture will give you nice views of the moon and planets. You can also see some of the brightest deep-sky objects like galaxies and nebulas. But remember that even with a $3000 telescope, you will not be able to enjoy the night sky view if you are in the heavy light-polluted area. So always try to use it under the dark skies away from the city if you want to observe galaxies and nebulas. For the moon and planets, it is not essential, and you can enjoy it even from light-polluted city.
The thing I like the most about this telescope is the portability. The option to move and set up the telescope anywhere is a big advantage. Many amateur astronomers will end up using telescope like this more often because setting up and moving big expensive telescope is tricky. And sometimes, even I won’t use a computerized telescope because it takes time to set up, and when it is freezing outside under the amazing winter night sky, you just want to grab a small portable telescope and enjoy the view.
Fun fact: the tube is covered by names of people associated with the telescope inventions and performance in the last 400 years.
Is It Worth The Money?
It is an obvious answer. For under $200, you won’t find a better telescope on the market nowadays. Yes, you can find better- used ones, but for the new telescope, it is an excellent price. And as I said, this is not a toy category instrument. It may look like that, but it is definitely not. SkyWatcher Heritage 130p is a proper starting telescope for everyone. It makes a perfect gift, and you won’t go wrong purchasing this telescope.