One of the most frustrating things about buying a cheap telescope either for yourself or for a child is finding out it can’t see anything except the moon – after you’ve bought it.
While beginners often start with moon observations, they will eventually want to venture out to planets and deeper into space.
You’ll need a bigger aperture, high-grade, shaped mirrors, and a reliable mount.
But, what if you don’t have the budget to afford said telescope?
You don’t have to compromise.
The Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro telescope is just what you need.
Here’s how the StarBlast delivers what is needed at a budget price.
✔️ Best Feature: Good OTA
❌ Worst Feature: Accessory lacking
👌 Ideal For: Celestial Viewing, Terrestrial Viewing, Stargazing, Lunar & Planetary Observation, Bright DSO Viewing, Kids, Beginners, Intermediates, Experts
- Optical Design: Reflector
- Aperture: 114 mm (4.5”)
- Focal Length: 450 mm
- Focal Ratio: f/4
- Eyepieces Included: 17 mm, 6 mm
Our Verdict: The StarBlast 4.5 Astro is a good buy for the money with its quality-built OTA on a simple Dobsonian-style tabletop mount. It has good seeing ability that could be improved with replacement of the supplied eyepieces. If you want to get observing with simplicity and the convenience of portability, the StarBlast 4.5 should be at the top of your wish list.
Who is the Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro Best Suited to?
The Orion StarBlast tabletop Dobsonian is a great beginner telescope for amateurs young and old. It’s priced just right seeing as you’re putting more investment into the larger aperture versus into an alt-azimuth or equatorial mount on a tripod. Besides, the Dobsonian-style base is easier to use and much simpler for a beginner to get the hang of things.
The StarBlast may also be an attractive setup to an intermediate and expert observer for its lightweight and portable specs. It’s incredibly easy to throw into the car and make for a drive out to the boonies to see what you can spot on any given night.
How Does the Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro Perform?
The StarBlast 4.5 Astro is an underdog of a telescope. It may be small, but it provides an ideal balance between portability, all-round performance, and cost. Unfortunately, the included eyepieces are not a good match for the setup, so there must be additional investment to acquire quality eyepieces to make the most of the StarBlast.
With the upgrades, it can actually provide very good seeing quality for the moon and planets. Since it’s a Newtonian with a 4.5” primary mirror, it is more than capable of reaching out to DSOs. The dark and faint nebulae will be challenging to see, and what you can see may appear as grey smudges, but bright DSOs will be fun to explore.
The mount is sturdy and simple to use. As a tabletop mount, there’s nothing to it. Simply pull it out of the box, mount the viewfinder and an eyepiece, and get seeing.
Features & Benefits
The StarBlast, for as cheap as it is, is a well-built telescope. As a Newtonian, it has mirrors that uses light reflection to reach the eyepiece. Using mirrors also help with color fidelity as wavelengths do not split, so they tend to have better correction for chromatic aberration versus a refracting telescope.
What’s important about a Newtonian is if the mirrors are collimatable, and fortunately, both the primary and secondary mirrors in the StarBlast 4.5 are. It holds collimation well largely since it’s a smaller and lighter mirror, so it’s unlikely to get knocked out of alignment often.
The primary mirror has a parabolic shape. To see a parabolic mirror in an affordable telescope of this size should be a very appreciated feature as it helps to correct for spherical aberration. It’s an aberration that produces blurriness and the inability to focus an image that is often a shortcoming of budget, short-tube Newtonians.
There is some coma present around the edges of the field of view that can be distracting, but it’s not excessive to the point that it would affect your viewing experience.
The StarBlast 4.5 Astro is a deep-sky performer even though it is on the baby side of the aperture scale for the Dobsonian family. Even so, it will allow beginners and kids to reach out and capture some of the most popular DSOs such as Andromeda, Orion Nebula, and Pleaides.
Open star clusters are wonderful to see through the StarBlast and moving to a dark location may help with spotting some of the darker nebule visible throughout the Summer months.
The tabletop telescope also does great on the moon and planets. While it may be too fast for seeing planetary detail with high contrast, you can see some planetary features such as the Cassini Division on Saturn and some its brightest moons.
You may also be able to spot Jupiter’s Spot, and of course, some cloud bands and possibly the shadows of its moons crossing over the giant planet. Venus’ phases and an ice cap on Mars may also be within the StarBlast’s reach.
The StarBlast comes with a tabletop mount that is exactly like a typical Dobsonian tabletop mount. The tube is held within a clamp that has a knob and allows the tube to rotate to find a comfortable position for your eye to reach the eyepiece. The tube clamp connects to the base and tension between the tube and the base is adjusted via the altitude tension knob that allows up/down movement.
To move the telescope for side-to-side movement, the base swivels in place. This type of movement is typical of a Dobsonian-style mount, whether it’s a tabletop or full-size, and is called alt-azimuth motion.
While this is a simple, portable, and incredibly easy to use setup, it does lack a feature that may be missed. There is no threading underneath the base that allows for mounting to a tripod if you wanted that extra height. You may have to rig this yourself if it’s a feature you want.
As a tabletop, it’s designed to be placed on the ground while sitting and looking through the scope or for placing atop a solid surface. Orion recommends a milk crate or table. If you wanted standing height, you’ll need to bring along a platform that provides it. Just remember that seeing quality is greatly affected by its mounting surface. As rock solid as a surface you can provide, the more stable your seeing quality can be.
You may come across the 4.5 Astro and find that you can spend a little more and pull the trigger on a 6” or even 8” Dobsonian. It’s a very common move and a worthwhile one if you want the larger aperture and deep-sky seeing benefits. However, you will be compromising on field of view, weight, and portability.
Typically, the larger the mirror and longer the focal length, the longer the tube, the bigger the base, and the heavier the setup is with a narrower field of view. The 4.5 is not only a good starting aperture for a beginner, it’s also a great setup for portable use for grab-and-go and instant viewing. It’s even a good alternative for larger, mounted models that require more work to hit the road with.
Unfortunately, some buyers remain unimpressed with the StarBlast 4.5 Astro. One valid reason could be the poor accessories that are included with the telescope. There is a 17 mm and a 6 mm eyepiece included in the buy and unfortunately, the 6 mm has such a narrow field of view and unforgiving eye relief that it’s practically useless. The 17 mm eyepiece isn’t low power enough to make the most of the wide fields of view the StarBlast is capable of providing.
To help with better contrast and resolution, upgrading the eyepieces and adding in a Barlow lens will help you make the most of the telescope’s potential. You may want to consider Plossl eyepieces for their superior glass quality and perhaps a König derivative that has a marketed 60+ degree field of view. Some of these eyepieces have built-in Barlows and have very forgiving eye relief.
Can you Take Photos with the StarBlast 4.5 Telescope?
You can take amateur photos with a smartphone and adapter, but that will be the extent of your astrophotography endeavors. The Orion telescope lacks several features that would make it suitable for astrophotography.
Can the StarBlast Telescope be Mounted to a Tripod or Motorized Mount?
No, the StarBlast does not have any threading to be mounted to a tripod, and it is not compatible for upgrading to a motorized mount. The tabletop mount it comes with is what you will be using for it. If you would prefer a different type of mount, it would be best to look for a different telescope altogether.
As such, the telescope can be placed on any flat surface, but your choice of platform will also affect the portability factor of this setup. While the ground is a reliable and ready platform, you may be more comfortable sitting or standing. Ensure you provide a solid surface to cater to your needs and preferences.
Can the Orion Tabletop Telescope be used for Terrestrial Viewing?
No. The StarBlast is a Newtonian reflector that is best suited for celestial viewing. It presents an image that is upside down and backwards. A diagonal or prism will not provide a correct orientated image as it will still appear to be a mirror image. A refractor with a diagonal will be the better option for dual-use for land-based viewing.
Is this a Good Kid’s Telescope?
The StarBlast would make a great telescope for a kid with some supervision and guidance on how to use it. It’s lightweight and compact and can be used immediately for instant observation. With no computerized controls, software to deal with, or any additional accessories required that would inhibit the learning curve, the StarBlast 4.5 would be a great starter telescope for a kid that’s interested in astronomy.
The StarBlast 4.5 Astro Reflector telescope is an entry-level scope with good value.
You will need to buy several eyepieces which decreases its value, but with its wide and rich field of views, larger aperture for a beginner telescope, and a very easy to use and reliable mount, it quickly makes up for it.
As an all-round, compact, and high-performing champ, the StarBlast is an affordable and worthy buy.