Why choose a Cassegrain telescope?
Off the bat, the SCT (Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope) is lightweight, portable, and extremely easy to setup.
The convenience of having such a setup makes for an enjoyable evening of sky searching whether it’s in your backyard or on a dark, lonely hilltop.
The Celestron NexStar 6SE is one such telescope. It’s part of the NexStar SE series that offers great bang for the buck.
Think GoTo, portability, and of course, good optics.
So, what makes the 6SE the most popular model in the series?
✔️ Best Feature: SCT optical design
❌ Worst Feature: Quality control issues
👌 Ideal For: Celestial Observation, Lunar & Planetary Observation, DSO Viewing, Limited Astrophotography, Beginners, Intermediates
- Optical Design: Schmidt-Cassegrain
- Aperture: 150 mm (6”)
- Focal Length: 1500 mm (59”)
- Focal Ratio: f/10
- Eyepieces Included: 25 mm
Our Verdict: With a good 6” aperture and high power benefits, the NexStar 6SE is a sky-searching pro. Lunar and planetary observation is a breeze, and DSO viewing is well within your grasp. Locating an object is easier than ever with the NexStar hand control and motorized tracking, and getting to a location couldn’t be any more convenient with its total light weight of 30 lbs. It’s a go-to telescope for any amateur looking for a taste of GoTo capability.
Who is the Celestron NexStar 6SE Best Suited to?
You either like ‘em or you don’t. SCTs are not everybody’s favorite, but this optical design in a telescope has been around for about half a century, so it serves its purpose. For amateurs looking for a long focal length in a short tube, the NexStar SE series of scopes can offer just that.
The 6SE is built and priced around the entry-level range for a beginner to moderately experienced observer. Due to its optical and mount system, it’s very practical to handle. It’s also noticeably light in terms of its aperture to weight ratio, so it’s naturally portable and easier to transport.
Those who are looking for a portable, compact, GoTo telescope for under $1000 need look no further.
How Does the Celestron NexStar 6SE Perform?
The NexStar is a high-power lunar and planetary champion. It might not boast the widest FOV (Field of View) or the largest aperture for seeing the faintest DSOs, but it can do its fair share that may be more than you would expect. The 1500 mm focal length and slow f/10 specs of the 6” SCT is great for seeing details of local bodies – even under light polluted conditions.
The telescope system breaks down into convenient-to-carry pieces with no one piece weighing over 15 lbs. Obviously, this provides a very easy-to-transport system that would make for a quick setup and pack-up for observing on the go.
With computerized technology, the telescope is compatible with Celestron’s high-tech accessories to auto-align, track objects, and try your hand at astro imaging.
Features & Benefits
SCT Optical Design
The long focal length with the short tube is its primary benefit. The general rule is, the longer the focal length, the heavier the OTA. With an SCT, this isn’t necessarily true. Due to its folded light path, the focal length can be much longer than its actual tube length would suggest. This allows for a shorter and more compact OTA that doesn’t require a large and expensive mount and it eliminates balancing issues.
Visibility is excellent. As a high-power champ, you can tack on the shortest focal length eyepieces and Barlow lenses to get better views of planetary and lunar surfaces. You may want to come down a tad in power to get a better view of DSOs (Deep Sky Object) that includes the entire Messier catalog and a good portion of the NGC catalog.
The NexStar 6SE OTA weighs only 8 lbs. The tripod weighs 9 lbs, and the mount head weighs 11 lbs. With a few extras mounted on top like the eyepiece, finder scope, and star diagonal, the total weight comes to approximately 30 lbs. That is pretty impressive for a complete system that is ready and roaring to be setup anywhere, anytime.
The OTA also attaches to the mount with a dovetailed quick release bracket. Of course, you can use this system to balance the OTA during use, but it allows for quick removal and safe storage. The hand control can also be used while attached to the fork arm or removed to use remotely. Each accessory comes with their own boxes that should be kept to safely store them for transport. But, you may want to consider purchasing a case that will fit your OTA and accessories for secure and safe transportation.
The neat thing about the NexStar SE series is that they all come with computerized mounts. You don’t have to buy a separate OTA and GoTo mount, you have the entire package for one, flat price. They come with a Celestron patented Alt-azimuth single fork arm mount head. The design is a good one, but it does come with limitations.
The mount has 2” stainless steel tripod legs, 9 slew speeds, and a payload capacity of 12 lbs. The payload capacity is of concern to those who want to experiment beyond the amateur level for astrophotography. It will not hold the weight for heavy loads and track accurately under the strain.
NexStar Hand Control
The NexStar 6SE comes with the NexStar hand control. The hand control is what provides computerized technology that provides access to locate over 40,000 objects, tour the sky, and be alerted to what objects are visible at that moment in time.
The hand control provides up to five alignment options: SkyAlign, Auto Two Star, Two Star, One-Star, and Solar System alignments points.
It also has multiple features that includes anti-backslash, GPS on/off (if using a compatible GPS system), GoTo Approach, Autoguide Rates, Wedge Align, and more. Some of these features can compensate for using heavy loads for astrophotography and other applicable equipment, but you must consider the tracking accuracy of the mount under the weight conditions.
As mentioned, the first disadvantage for serious astrophotography is the mount. Even though it has GoTo capability, the payload capacity is lightweight – a mere 12 lbs. It’s good for transportation and portability, but it’s a no-go for heavy loads and serious astrophotography. You may also have to consider a focal reducer, a wedge, and other equipment that can get expensive very quickly. So, what can you do as is?
Any lightweight camera device like a smartphone or CCD webcam style camera should be able to do the trick without adding excessive strain to the mounting system. Short exposures under 10 seconds can be achieved.
Quality Control Issues
There is nothing to be overly concerned about when it comes to quality control. Most of the time, everything is just as expected, and you can get observing right away. However, if there is an issue, it seems to be with the mount. The fact is, entry-level to mid-range mounts just don’t have the same type of quality as higher-end mounts, and unfortunately, it can be prone to breaking down.
What do I mean by that? The build quality is just “okay,” but it may mean a replacement in the future. The power jack is prone to coming loose. To avoid an unintentional shutdown and having to realign the scope all over again, install batteries as a backup method to prevent this issue.
Is the Celestron NexStar Motorized?
The NexStar 6SE comes with a dual axis motor drive to provide motorized tracking of celestial objects. With the NexStar hand control, you can select specific objects to slew to and it will track them. The tracking accuracy is good, and it will put the object within your field of view. Whether you can see them remains unknown depending on location and atmospheric conditions and the like.
The hand control allows for two tracking modes: Alt-az and EQ North & EQ South.
Can you See Planets with the NexStar 6SE Telescope?
Yes! With the SCT OTA, you can view with high magnification to see planets and their faint features. For example, Jupiter is a bright planet, but its features are very faint and difficult to see with decent resolution. Since the scope only comes with one 25 mm eyepiece, you may want to seriously consider buying additional eyepieces and perhaps a Barlow lens to see surface details on the planets or its rings and satellites.
Can the Celestron Single Arm Fork be Used Manually?
The Nexstar telescope is computerized and while the NexStar hand control can be used “manually” to slew to specific objects that you set the coordinates for, it cannot be used manually by hand to slew the scope in place.
What is the Power Supply for the Celestron NexStar SE Series?
You have quite a few options here. You can power your telescope with 8x AA batteries, a car battery adapter, or a 12V AC adapter. Unfortunately, no power source is included as an accessory with the NexStar SE telescope. You must purchase your own power supply.
What Accessories are Included with the NexStar 6SE?
The OTA, mount head, NexStar hand control, and tripod are included in the reusable shipping box. Additionally, a 1.25” star diagonal, 1.25” 25 mm eyepiece, Star Pointer finder scope, and an RS232 cable come standard. You will also receive Sky Level 1 Astronomy Software and NexRemote telescope control software.
The NexStar 6SE provides a great balance between light-grasp, magnification, weight, and cost. The entire setup is exactly what an amateur and growing observer needs to develop some skills while enjoying the compact and portable setup for on-the-go observations.
However, if you want to get into serious long-exposure astrophotography one day, you’ll need to upgrade in the future. For now, the NexStar will at least get you started and will likely be a go-to telescope for all future road trips and remote location observations.