There’s a reason the distinctively orange Celestron NexStar 8SE is the largest of the best-selling NexStar telescopes and is hailed by Celestron as the “World’s Most Popular Telescope”. The high quality Schmidt-Cassegrain NexStar 8SE can absorb a phenomenal amount of light and allows the user to see deep sky objects far into the universe. Smaller aperture versions are available under 4 (opens in new tab)5 (opens in new tab) and 6 inches (opens in new tab) with closing costs. Naturally, the smaller you go, the less light is captured, making your views less impressive with every drop in aperture.
Optical design: Schmidt-Cassegrain
Opening: 8 inches (203.2mm)
focal length: 80 inches (2032mm)
aperture ratio: aperture 10
Highest usable magnification: 180x
Total kit weight: 14.48 kg (32 pounds)
Bracket type: Computer controlled Altitude Azimuth single fork arm
A motorized single fork arm mount powers the scope, which slews to your desired celestial object at the push of a button on the handheld remote. You need to align it first, but Celestron’s SkyAlign technology simplifies this three-star alignment process, and users simply need to use the finderscope with no prior knowledge of the sky required.
There are plenty of accessories that can be added to the NexStar 8SE. The possibilities for intermediate and advanced astronomers are endless, and deep sky astrophotographers will love the motorized mount’s smooth tracking for their long exposures.
Celestron NexStar 8SE: Design
- Signature orange tube
- Hand control that fits into the arm of the fork mount
- Can be transported as a fully assembled body
Aside from the obvious and instantly recognizable orange tube (a color Celestron has been using since the 1970s), one of the most striking things about the NexStar 8SE is its compact and convenient size. The catadioptric construction (where refraction and reflection are combined) means that the physical tube can be kept short despite the long focal length. You can lift the entire assembled unit under your arm and carry it to where you need it, and thanks to the uncluttered, tidy body you don’t have to worry about knocking accessories off the telescope.
The NexStar+ hand control fits snugly and securely onto the fork mount arm when not in use. We like the hands-on feel of using the rugged handheld controller rather than using an app. The buttons, as is standard on this type of hand control, are large and easy to use on cold nights, and can even be programmed with gloves on. Simply enter the number of the relevant night sky object and the 8SE will smoothly and quietly slew there across the sky – no hassle.
As you would expect, the steel tripod feels strong and stiff, which it needs to be to support the fairly heavy mount. Everything feels secure, which is a relief given this is expensive kit. The tripod can be disassembled into individual components to facilitate transport.
Celestron NexStar 8SE: performance
- Outstanding optics
- Good quality hand controller
- A little tricky to align if you’re not used to it
The first task in checking this telescope was to align it. Plug in the telescope and turn it on. The hand control will prompt you to select your desired language. After that, use the up and down arrows to select the alignment method. Select your city and country, enter your time (in 24 hour format) and select whether your locale has daylight saving time or not, and finally enter the date.
Here the hand control will prompt you to select a star. This is where some knowledge of the night sky comes in handy, but not essential as you can use a planetarium app like Celestron’s SkyPortal app to tell which bright star you’re looking at and which one you’ll need to select on the hand controller and which one with your Align the red dot finder. You then repeat this for your second star.
Once aligned, you can use the hand control to select any celestial object in the sky (categorized as Solar System, Stars, or Deep Sky) and your telescope will automatically slew to it. You can also take a “sky tour” which selects which objects of interest are shown to you.
This process might seem daunting for a beginner, but if you follow the included instructions through to the T, you shouldn’t encounter any problems.
Additional kit that comes with the telescope
1.25″ (25 mm) Plossl eyepiece
90 degree star diagonal
Steel tripod with accessory tray
2 year guarantee
During our review, our northern hemisphere sky was not getting dark enough for space objects. Instead, we focused our attention on the easily identifiable moon so we could get a real feel for the view despite the less-than-ideal sky-gazing conditions. With the included eyepiece, we were able to get brilliantly sharp and bright views of the lunar surface.
We tested the slew rate and accuracy. Although there was a slight delay between pressing the desired subject on the controller and the start of the motor’s rotation, we were impressed by the smoothness of the motor both when panning and when tracking objects. This is ideal for astrophotographers who use long exposures to stack them to create stunning deep sky photos.
Celestron NexStar 8SE: Functionality
- 8 x AA batteries required
- Easy to assemble and disassemble
- A useful red dot finder is included
As previously mentioned, after initial alignment, one of the most desirable features of this telescope is the quick setup process. It packs away and doesn’t feel like a chore to set up again when you want another night of skygazing. The included red dot finderscope is very easy to use, with a clear red dot and a simple assembly to the back of the tube. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s surprisingly effective. The focus knob on the scope is large and tactile, and its knurled rubberized texture makes it easy to adjust even with thick gloves.
The telescope requires a whopping 8 x AA batteries. You should probably invest in rechargeable batteries and a battery charger if you watch the sky regularly, as the cost of replacing regular batteries would quickly add up. It would be nice to see Celestron offering a lithium-ion battery here, but realize that could push the price up significantly, which is probably why it relies on AAs.
Should you buy the Celestron NexStar 8SE?
The Celestron NexStar 8SE is a fantastic scope and one that suits the beginner, intermediate or advanced sky gazer. Something that’s easy enough for a beginner to get used to, but even an advanced skygazer is pretty hard to come by.
It’s also a fantastic option for astrophotographers thanks to its smooth and accurate tracking. Although it carries quite a bit of weight, the scope packs away and sets up in a snap, so you don’t have to leave it outside as it takes up valuable space in your home.
If the Celestron NexStar 8SE isn’t for you
The NexStar 8SE is not a budget kit. It’s a significant investment. If you don’t know you’ll be sticking with skywatching or astrophotography for the long haul, cheaper alternatives are available and may be more suitable.
Check out the Celestron Astro Fi 102 that we recently reviewed as it’s a lot cheaper but still uses a motor to show you celestial objects in more detail. This model uses a smartphone app (with built-in Wi-Fi) instead of an integrated hand control right out of the box, but you can connect it to a hand control instead if you prefer something more tactile than a glossy rectangle.
For those looking to expand their astronomy experience, a variety of eyepieces, mounts and tripods can be used to expand the capabilities of the NexStar 8SE so it should serve your needs for a lifetime.
In summary, it’s probably one of the best scopes available if you can afford it. If you don’t get any long-term benefit from it, go for a simpler, cheaper model. For more inspiration, check out our guide to the best telescopes.