The NexStar SLT range includes four telescopes in total. Two of them are Maksutov-Cassegrains, one with a 90mm (3.5″) objective and the other 127mm (5″).
The other two are a 102mm doublet refractor, and the 130mm Newtonian reflector that we’re reviewing in greater detail today. This is a reasonably ‘fast’ telescope with an f/5.0 focal ratio, which lends itself to lower magnifications and wider fields of view – ideal for deep sky work.
All four SLT telescopes feature motorized mounts and GoTo controllers, and they come in at a budget-friendly price that’s aimed squarely at beginner and novice astronomers. All four scopes in the SLT line come in under $600, with the 130 SLT available for around $550 (check today’s price, link opens a new tab).
Things to Consider Before Buying
The Celestron NexStar 130 SLT is an excellent scope for beginner and novice astronomers and it packs in many noteworthy features. But, that doesn’t mean it’s an ideal scope for everybody.
There are several things you’ll want to consider before deciding if this is the best telescope for you, or if there’s something else that may fit your needs a bit better.
Who Is This Model For?
The NexStar 130 SLT is a small but mighty Newtonian reflector that offers a relatively large aperture given its bargain price. With an aperture just over 5” wide, this refractor can pull in plenty of light to show you many deep sky objects (DSOs), such as Andromeda Galaxy, M80 globular cluster, and the Ring Nebula (all links open a new tab).
At f/5.0, this scope is also relatively fast which makes it an ideal companion for viewing distant objects beyond our solar system. You’ll also be able to push the magnification and enjoy some marvelous views of our Moon and planets, as well.
This is a motorized telescope with GoTo functionality. All you’ll need to do is enter a few details into the hand controller, and the telescope will point itself at any one of 40,000 different objects in its memory.
If you’re someone who likes to take your hobby on the road with you, this NexStar is a perfect companion for you. At under twenty pounds (9kg), it’s an incredibly portable scope.
Who Should Not Buy It?
While this NexStar is a fine instrument, some folks will find that it doesn’t fulfill their needs as well as another telescope might.
We mentioned that at f/5.0, this telescope is rather fast. While this is a windfall for astronomers who are most interested in DSOs, astronomers who primarily want to enjoy the Moon and solar system might be a bit disappointed by this telescope’s ability to get up close and personal with surface details. If this sounds like you, you’d be better suited with a slower telescope that provides a narrower field of view.
One thing worth noting is that as a reflector, this telescope must be collimated to align the internal mirrors. Proper collimation ensures you’ll be able to enjoy crisp and clear views of celestial objects. It’s easy to collimate a telescope (see our guide), but many beginner astronomers are wary of doing so themselves.
Astronomers who are looking for a telescope to use as a gateway to astrophotography will also want to steer clear of this model. While the mount is capable enough to handle imaging brighter objects with smaller CCD imagers, it doesn’t have the additional weight capacity that’s necessary when you’re adding heavy accessories like cameras to the mount.
Features & Benefits
Whether you’re shopping for your first telescope or your tenth, you’ll always want to evaluate what you’re looking at according to the features and benefits it provides. Be sure to consider the criteria below as you do your research.
- Optical performance
- Mount performance
- Included Equipment
- Setup & Use
- What You Can See
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|
It’s not easy to find an affordable telescope with a motorized mount and decent optics. Quality motorized mounts aren’t cheap, so manufacturers often then save money on the optical components of the scope to hit a certain price point.
Thankfully, that isn’t the case here.
This NexStar 130 SLT scope delivers a level of crispness and clarity that most budget telescopes are unable to equal. The primary mirror is a parabolic mirror that’s aluminum multi-coated. The coatings enhance light reflection and bump up the contrast, so you’ll be able to enjoy more detail and crispness when viewing objects.
Compared to the other telescopes in the NexStar SLT range, this telescope scores the highest marks in the optics department. While all the scopes feature quality optical components, this model has the largest aperture.
Aperture is the number one attribute in the telescope world, and this model’s larger aperture allows this telescope to suck in more light than its counterparts, which translates to brighter and clearer images of the sky.
Compared to the competition, the optics of the NexStar 130mm are every bit as good as anything you’ll see in this price range. Considering the pricey motorized mount, it’s surprising that Celestron was still able to offer an optical tube that provides this level of quality.
Celestron includes two eyepieces with this outfit, a 9mm and 25mm that provide 72x and 26x magnification. Here, costs have been cut. These are fine eyepieces to begin your astronomy journey, but you’ll quickly benefit from an upgrade in eyepiece quality.
Although the optics are great, something has to give to help this telescope hit a certain price point. In the case of the NexStar 130 SLT, it’s with the mount.
Now, don’t get us wrong, the mount is more than capable of doing its job, it’s well-made and easy to transport. Its legs are 1.25″ stainless steel but this setup is a little lightweight.
The mount has a limited payload, and it’s near its max when the telescope is attached. Since this mount is intended for a lighter optical tube, it suffers from noticeable vibration issues when locating objects, which is most obvious at higher magnifications.
You can mitigate the vibration issue with some simple anti-vibration pads, some small weights on the accessory tray, or even a piece of old carpet placed underneath the mount. You could also consider a motorized focuser to reduce the amount of time you need to spend physically touching the scope.
The reality is that vibrating mounts are a common issue for many lower-priced telescope packages. It is no worse on this model than dozens of others and is straightforward to deal with.
One of the primary reasons for choosing this telescope is motorized tracking. It takes away all the hassle of learning your way around the sky and star-hopping to distant, invisible (to the naked eye) galaxies and instead makes it easy for you to spend nights enjoying objects in the eyepiece.
The NexStar 130 SLT comes with Celestron’s NexStar+ hand controller, which is equipped with their SkyAlign technology.
Inside the controller is a database of 40,000 astronomical objects. In reality, many of these are too faint for the 5″ telescope to reveal, but there are many dozens, if not hundreds, which it will reveal to you.
SkyAlign is the process the tracking computer uses to work out where it is. You point the telescope at three bright stars, tell it where you are and what the time is and it can take over from there.
Just select the galaxy, nebula, or star cluster you’d like to observe, and the motorized mount takes its instructions from the database and points the telescope in exactly the right place!
SkyAlign can take a little getting used to but, once you have it dialed in, you won’t need to spend time hunting fruitlessly for objects ever again.
The big watch out is power!
You can technically run it on 8xAA batteries but, in reality, you’ll need a separately sold power tank or 12V AC adaptor.
Beyond the telescope, mount, motor, and eyepieces, there aren’t many extras to speak of. The finderscope is a simple red dot affair. Again, this is fine, to begin with, but we strongly advocate upgrading to a magnifying finderscope to make your life easier when searching without the computer.
Celestron also includes The Sky and First Light software, which is an excellent way to supplement your knowledge of the sky. Even if the sky is cloudy, you’ll be able to enjoy an immersive trip through our solar system on your computer with the help of this software.
The final piece of kit in the box is NSOL telescope control software that allows you to connect your laptop to bypass the hand controller and use your computer as the telescope’s controller.
Setup & Use
Getting started with this telescope is simple and straightforward. The business of assembling the telescope takes only a minute or two. This outfit is also exceptionally light, so it’s the perfect telescope to bring on a camping trip (although this travel scope might be more convenient).
Controlling the scope is handled by the included GoTo controller, and it’s the only aspect of this telescope that isn’t especially user-friendly. There isn’t an internal clock for the controller, so every time you go out for an observation session, you’ll need to input the time and date into the controller. The buttons are also a bit undersized, so it can be harder than necessary to manipulate the controls.
Once you’re ready to begin observing, you can choose from several different alignment procedures, and you’ll have no trouble finding one that works well for you.
You’ll also want to be extra careful once you align the scope. It’s easy to slew the telescope on accident, and if you make an altitude adjustment or bump into the scope, you’ll need to reboot the entire system and realign the telescope, as it lacks the technology to pick up where it left off.
Watch the video below to see how simple it is to go from box to usable telescope.
What You Can See
Once you’re ready to enjoy the night sky, the NexStar 130 SLT performs admirably. This mid-sized telescope will allow many of the most wondrous objects in the sky to reveal themselves to you, from distant deep-sky objects to our Moon and planets.
With its relatively wide field of view, this telescope is best suited to bright DSOs, such as the best Messier objects. It doesn’t have a large enough aperture for the darker DSOs, but for the objects it’s well suited for, it provides an incredible view that’s crisp and clear.
For lunar and planetary observation, this scope also performs really well, its only limitation is the amount of magnification you’ll be able to squeeze out of it for details like Jupiter’s bands and the surface features of Mars. To get anything beyond 150x magnification requires a Barlow lens or a very short focal length eyepiece, either of which has limits to the quality of your view.
For that reason, investing in a 2x Barlow lens is also an excellent idea to improve the performance of this telescope for planetary viewing.
If you’re looking to get into the astrophotography hobby, the NexStar 130 SLT is a serviceable instrument to get your start with. Unfortunately, some major pitfalls hamstring its usefulness for photography.
While the optics are more than up to the task, the mount is simply too light and shaky for serious astrophotography. But, if you’re looking to get your feet wet, you’ll be able to snap some beautiful photos of the brighter objects in the sky with this setup.
However, if you’re planning to develop your astroimaging skills and spend more time with a camera at the eyepiece than your eye, you should be looking elsewhere. These are our favorite astrophotography telescopes.