Celestron has been a leading manufacturer of professional quality telescopes for well over 50 years. From their high-end CGX series to their entry-level PowerSeeker series, Celestron delivers astronomers of all skill levels the best in the industry.
The AstroMaster line of scopes is among their most popular, and it provides budget-minded astronomers with a crisp view of the night sky. In addition to the 130mm, the AstroMaster EQ series includes two smaller Newtonians, a 76mm model and a 114mm model.
At under $300 (check today’s price – opens a new tab), the AstroMaster 130mm is priced like a scope for novice stargazers, but the optics and component quality of this telescope perform well above their weight class, making this scope a substantial value.
Read on as we cover everything you need to know about this popular scope in our Celestron AstroMaster 130mm review.
Things to Consider Before Buying
The AstroMaster 130mm is a capable scope that delivers high-quality components for a price that’s almost impossible to beat. That doesn’t necessarily mean this telescope is ideal for you; there are a few things to consider before you make a purchase.
This f/4.9 Newtonian offers nearly identical specs to some of the best affordable Newtonians on the market. This focal ratio is considered slightly ‘fast’, meaning it delivers higher magnification and smaller fields of view than slower models. This makes it ideal for lunar and planetary observing, as well as for use on splitting double stars and brighter deep sky objects.
Beginners will be impressed by the sharpness, clarity, and contrast the AstroMaster provides, while more experienced stargazers may notice some slight aberrations when gazing through this scope.
Beyond its application as a telescope, Celestron advertises the AstroMaster 130mm as an optical device for both land and sky. The kit includes a 20mm erect eyepiece that’s included for bird watching and other terrestrial applications. For this review, we’re only concerned with its astronomy performance.
The optical tube assembly (the main telescope body / OTA) is set on an equatorial mount, which is where the ‘EQ’ part of its title comes from. This is perfect for tracking stars as they appear to move across the sky, but you will need to polar align it first. And, because it’s a reflector, the mirror will need collimating from time to time.
Neither job is particularly troublesome, especially as you get used to them, but they can be intimidating for new telescope owners.
Features & Benefits
You could be on your first telescope or your hundredth; the best way to evaluate whether or not a scope is a strong fit for you is to assess the features and benefits that model provides based on the criteria below:
- Optical Quality
- Included Equipment
- Setup & Use
- What You Can See
Depending on how vital each facet is to you and how well the telescope delivers in that particular category, you should have a much clearer picture about which scopes are and aren’t a good fit for your needs.
Standard Magnification Table
The table below shows the magnification levels you’ll achieve with this scope using a 25mm, 18mm, and 10mm eyepiece. The bottom row shows what this would be with a 2x Barlow Lens.
|With 2x Barlow:||52x||72x||130x|
The first thing you’ll need to consider when shopping for a new telescope is the optics’ quality. After all, without quality optics, you won’t be able to see much when you’re observing, even in good seeing conditions.
Some manufacturers, including Celestron, are forced to cut corners in the optics department to keep prices down while still providing a useful instrument. Cheaping out on optics is usually a recipe for disaster. Still, with this scope, Celestron manages to strike a balance between quality and value, and most astronomers will be impressed by this scope’s optical quality.
This model is a Newtonian reflector, which uses a primary and secondary mirror to project the image you’ll see up to the eyepiece. The primary mirror can be parabolic or spherical.
Parabolic mirrors offer an ideal contour for use in Newtonians, and they eliminate image aberrations that are common with cheaper mirrors. Spherical mirrors are more affordable, but they do suffer from chromatic aberration, especially in larger telescopes.
While older AstroMaster scopes employed parabolic mirrors, Celestron has switched to spherical mirrors in these telescopes to help mitigate rising costs. Using spherical mirrors typically spells disaster in a Newtonian, but the 130mm still manages to deliver reliable optical performance despite the spherical mirrors.
The relatively small aperture of this telescope helps mitigate the appearance of chromatic aberration, and Celestron still uses a high-quality mirror to build this scope, so the image quality you’ll see through the eyepiece rivals that of what you’d get with Newtonians with parabolic mirrors.
This scope includes two eyepieces. The first is a 20mm Kellner erecting eyepiece that provides 33x magnification. Celestron advertises these scopes as ideal for terrestrial viewing and birdwatching, which explains the Kellner’s inclusion. However, it offers mediocre build quality, a limited 30-degree apparent FOV, tons of stray light, and it isn’t especially useful for viewing birds, planets, or anything else for that matter.
The 10mm Sirius Plössl eyepiece that’s also provided is a much nicer offering. This eyepiece provides 65x magnification and a field of view around 50-degrees. This eyepiece is well built with quality optical components, and it’s a joy to use.
We recommend purchasing a quality low-power eyepiece around 18-20mm and a 2x Barlow for higher magnification viewing. Alternatively, invest in a zoom eyepiece like this one to complete your collection in one go.
This package includes a solid German equatorial mount that’s well built and provides simple controls that even a complete beginner will be able to pick up quickly. This mount is an upgraded version of Celestron’s entry-level EQ2 mount, and it features some performance and cosmetic upgrades.
This mount is made of solid steel, so it’s built to stand up to years of regular use. Many manufacturers opt for lightweight aluminum frames, which aren’t as durable or rugged.
All of the mount’s adjustable components are well finished and fit nicely in your hand when you make adjustments.
Despite the heavy steel construction, this mount is subject to some vibration, which is frustrating for experienced astronomers. The vibration isn’t severe, and there are several ways to mitigate the issue.
Keeping the mount fairly low to the ground will help mitigate vibration. You can nearly eliminate it by adding additional weight to the base of the mount. The steel frame will have no issue supporting some extra weight, and doing so dramatically elevates this mount’s performance.
Some users have complained that it’s difficult to polar align this mount, but we didn’t find that to be the case when evaluating the mount. Our scope was easy to set up and polar align, and the slow-motion controls allow for accurate tracking through the sky. Although they’re prone to the occasional jerky motion if it misses a gear, the controls are relatively smooth.
In this price range, most mounts are an afterthought, which can hamstring the performance of any optical tube, no matter how good it is. With this Celestron EQ mount, the components are high quality, and it’s built to last.
There are a few tiny caveats with the mount, but overall it’s a better mount than you’ll find with virtually any kit in this price range. Plus, it can easily be upgraded with a motor drive kit (link opens a new tab). However, see the owner reviews at the bottom of the page for a perspective on adding motorization.
Celestron manages to include a few valuable extras in addition to the OTA and mount. There’s an attached red dot finderscope, an accessory tray, two counterweights, and a copy of the Starry Night Basic Edition software.
The finderscope is a standard red dot scope. It would be nice to be able to choose where you place it, but it’s built into the frame of the optical assembly. That said, it’s still in a comfortable and easy-to-use location.
The focuser is a 1.25” Crayford style, and while it’s almost entirely made of plastic, it provides smooth and easy operation.
Rounding out what’s in the package is a copy of the Starry Night Level One software, which offers an impressive database of over 10,000 objects. This software is a useful supplement for learning more about the objects in the sky, and it’s perfect for when you’d love to take your telescope out but can’t because the conditions aren’t cooperating.
Setup & Use
Getting started with the AstroMaster 130mm couldn’t be easier. Setting up the telescope is a breeze, and you’ll be ready to observe in just a few minutes once everything is out of the box.
The scope is relatively lightweight, especially when the OTA is separate from the mount. Newtonians are easy to transport in general, and that’s true of this scope, too. Whether you’re transporting it on foot or in your vehicle, this AstroMaster is up for the task.
As a reflector, the internal mirrors need to be adjusted on occasion to ensure the mirrors are aligned for optimal viewing. This process is called collimation, and it’s easy to do on your own. Check out our helpful collimation guide, and you’ll be ready to make any necessary adjustments in just a few minutes.
Since this scope comes with a manual mount with no hand controller, there’s no additional software you’ll need to learn to use this scope. Find an object in the finderscope, center it in the eyepiece, and enjoy!
What You Can See
Perhaps the most critical aspect to evaluate is what you’ll be able to see with your telescope. In this regard, the AstroMaster 130mm doesn’t disappoint.
This short focal length telescope performs at its best when it comes to planetary viewing. From the moon’s features to the rings of Saturn and Jupiter’s bands, you’ll enjoy impressive planetary views when using the Plössl eyepiece.
Don’t for one moment think that this can’t cope with galaxies and nebulae though. Five inches of aperture is a great beginner scope, letting in plenty of light to reveal the night sky’s brightest deep sky objects (DSOs) such as Andromeda Galaxy, the Pleiades, the Orion Nebula, and the Great Hercules Cluster.
We mentioned it earlier and we’ll say it again here: the supplied 20mm eyepiece is so poor that you might as well throw it out. Make sure to invest in a couple of decent Plössls for higher and lower magnification to really open up the capabilities of this model.
This AstroMaster is not a telescope for astrophotography!
Generally, refractors (telescopes that use lenses instead of mirrors) are preferred to reflectors for photography.
You also need some form of tracking for taking images of anything except the Moon and bright planets, and this scope also has no motorized tracking. Even though the mount can be upgraded, there are many preferable telescopes if astrophotography is your goal.
As a rule, it’s hard to find a useful astrophotography scope in this price range.