Looking for a telescope with a big aperture, plenty of optical prowess, and is compact and lightweight?
Sounds like a tall order to fill, and yet it has been done.
I believe the Orion StarBlast 6 Astro fits the bill in both aforementioned requirements and price.
With a Newtonian reflector and alt-azimuth mount, is it a Dobsonian?
Sure sounds like one on paper.
So, let’s find out what it’s all about or if I think a traditional Dobsonian would be a better buy!
Orion StarBlast 6 Astro Reflector Telescope Review
✔️ Best Feature: Tabletop design
❌ Worst Feature: Could buy a full-size Dobsonian
👌 Ideal For: Celestial Viewing, Stargazing, DSO Viewing, Beginners, Limited Astrophotography
- Optical Design: Reflector
- Aperture: 150 mm
- Focal Length: 750 mm
- Focal Ratio: f/5
- Eyepieces Included: 25 mm, 10 mm
My Verdict: Used as intended, I believe the StarBlast 6 Astro is a worthy buy. I like that it can be taken to different locations rather easily and its optical prowess extends beyond lunar and planetary observation to DSOs (Deep Sky Objects). As a first-time buy or an upgrade from a budget telescope, in my opinion this Orion is a winner.
Who is the Orion StarBlast 6 Astro Best Suited to?
I think the StarBlast 6 Astro telescope would make a fine first-time buy for any beginner. It’s simple, easy to set up, and is ready for use immediately. The base even comes pre-assembled, so there’s even less to put together. However, beginners may have a hard time collimating for the first time and no collimation tools are included. I would recommend watching some online tutorials and buy a laser or collimation cap to get it done.
Beyond that, it’s certainly larger in aperture than most other beginner telescopes. This means you’ll see more and see dimmer objects brightly than what smaller telescopes can resolve. As a beginner, you’ll learn to grow with the StarBlast and appreciate its grab-and-go design.
How Does the Orion StarBlast 6 Astro Perform?
Optically and mechanically, I think it performs well. Its specs are well-suited to its grab-and-go design as anything heavier and longer would be difficult to transport. Being placed on table allows you to pull up a small chair and sit comfortably especially for long observations or it may just bring it right to your eye for standing height.
The tube slides and rotates with good friction and ease thanks to the quality mechanics in the mount. Lunar and planetary images are excellent, and to view galaxies and nebulae as more than smudges, some extra eyepieces may be needed as the telescope can optically handle high magnification.
Features & Benefits
I believe its primary advantage is as a tabletop telescope. Some may not be too excited about this feature, but there’s wisdom in it and you may find it suits you comfortably. A disadvantage can be the fact that you need a solid, sturdy surface to place it on. You can place it directly on the ground, but depending on pre-existing conditions, you may throw your back out getting up and down – just saying.
Some don’t put any stock optically in tabletop telescopes, but to be fair, not all tabletop telescopes are equal now, are they? The fact that the StarBlast is ready to go, much easier and faster to get set up, and is compact is what makes it a winner for me for immediate or grab-and-go observation, and the optics and mechanics hold up well.
You can have a great tube on a crappy mount and all possible advantages are quickly outweighed by the negatives and consequences of a bad setup. To have a good telescope also means having a good mount. Fortunately, the StarBlast 6 has a simple and trusty alt-azimuth mount with a single-arm fork design. Since it’s a tabletop, there is little to no vibration and shaking.
The mount is also outfitted with a navigation knob to smoothly slew to the direction of the desired object in the sky. Tube rings must be attached to the custom bracket as they allow you to rotate the tube to get the eyepiece into the most comfortable position.
Don’t worry about it slipping and sliding as ring clamps will hold the tube securely in place but not too tightly so that you can’t slide or rotate the tube. Good balance, secure base, and sturdy mount – what more can you ask for?
The entire assembly has an approximate weight of 25 lbs. The tube weighs 9 lbs and the mount and base weighs 16 lbs. I think this is a very attractive feature that provides obvious portability benefits. The base already comes pre-assembled and it shouldn’t take longer than 20 minutes to get everything else set up. The only other considerations you’ll have to think about is taking along your table for the ride.
Will it fit in your car? Will you need to take a chair as well? If you get a fold up table and fold up camping chair – done and done.
The StarBlast 6 telescope has a parabolic primary mirror. I think this is an excellent feature due to its large 150 mm size that allows even faint objects to become visible. Seeing those DSOs clearly and without aberration becomes even more important, and thanks to a parabolic mirror, you won’t have to worry about aberrations as much as you would with a spherical mirror with a fast focal ratio and short focal length.
Fortunately, you’re not getting any modified Kellner eyepieces in this set. You will get Sirius Plossl 25 mm and 10 mm eyepieces that in my opinion are at least a step up and provide better than average viewing. With these eyepieces, you will have 30x and 75x magnification.
To take advantage of high magnification, set your sights on some mid-range Plossls, perhaps 4 mm and 3 mm eyepieces. You may also want to consider a Barlow lens to double or triple magnification. Since the rack and pinion focuser is 1.25”, make sure additional accessories are also 1.25”.
Could Buy a Full-Size Dobsonian
For the price, the StarBlast 6 is pretty competitive with a full-size 6” Dobsonian. So, what’s the difference? First off, the StarBlast is designed as a compact, lightweight tabletop telescope. Therefore, it stands shorter in height, is lighter in weight, and it has a shorter focal length.
Full-size Dobsonian telescopes with a 6” aperture tend to be heavier by about 10 lbs, stand tall at around 4-5 feet, and they likely have longer 1200 mm focal lengths. The question for you to answer is whether you want a portable tabletop design over a floor design and the noticeable optical benefits a longer focal length provides.
Other Telescopes to Consider
There are a couple of other telescopes that fall into the beginner category that I recommend investigating further. They are the SkyWatcher Traditional 8″ Dobsonian and the Сеlеѕtrоn NехЅtаr 4ЅЕ and they have different features so may be more suitable for your needs.
The StarBlast 6 is excellent for lunar and planetary observation. You can see craterlets and mountain ranges on the moon, perhaps an icecap on Mars, Jupiter’s Red Spot, cloud bands, and moons, and even Saturn’s rings and cloudbands. To see galaxies, nebulae, and meteors, you’ll need to increase magnification. Due to the wide field focal ratio, you’ll have excellent views for stargazing.
You can certainly take lunar and planetary photographs with your camera. It’s recommended that you use a point and aim device like a smartphone or webcam-style CCD camera as DSLR cameras will not be able to achieve focus. This is due to the short focal length in which DSLR cameras need a longer focal length to focus.
Some users modify their setup and purchase additional attachments to use a DSLR camera for photography, however, this is not a telescope for long exposure astrophotography.
You can purchase the Intelliscope Upgrade Kit if you want that feature in the future. However, it’s best to check on current prices before you buy to ensure that buying the kit and the telescope doesn’t become more expensive than buying the StarBlast 6i Intelliscope.
There is no available tracking motor system for this telescope. To equip with automatic tracking, you will need to swap out the mount with a GoTo mount and maybe a motorized focuser. The 6i Intelliscope has a PushTo system that has a computerized object location system, but you manually slew the tube according to the directions on the Intelliscope screen.
The base is 17” in diameter, so a table surface must be able to adequately fit the size for best stability. Remember, if the table and base move, so does the mount and then so does the image. Ensure the table surface is well secured or stable in place to the ground.
The StarBlast 6 Astro telescope has not been classed as a Dobsonian by Orion who does specialize in Dobsonian telescopes. While it does have some similar specs, obviously the Newtonian optics and an alt-az mount, it may lack other Dob features that would classify it as a Dob.
Whatever you want to call it, in my opinion the StarBlast 6 offers decent value for the price. If you value compactness and portability, it’s clearly the type of telescope for you!