The first thing you might notice about the Celestron NexStar 8SE Telescope is the price. It is one of the more expensive telescopes on the market that is geared towards average consumers and users. If you let the price hold you back from exploring this amazing telescope you are doing yourself a disservice.
The saying “you get what you pay for” comes up a lot in consumer discussions and in this case it is true. If you decide to dive in at this high price point for the Celestron NexStar 8SE Telescope you are going to be getting exactly what you paid for. You are going to get a high end, high quality, high performance, and highly innovative telescope that is capable of teaching, entertaining, and delighting prospective users for years to come.
- Schmidt-Cassegrain design
- 8” primary aperture
- F/10 focal ratio
- 480x highest theoretical magnification
- 33lbs assembled weight
It feels like everything that the NexStar line has offered and been working towards cumulates in the NexStar 8SE. All of the innovations, technology, and image quality reach their pinnacle in this model. It’s not perfect but it is a damn good telescope and one that is worth the money if you are so inclined.Check Latest Price
End of the NexStar Line
This is the largest and most advanced model in the NexStar line of telescopes by Celestron. Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, I just want to present some of the bonuses that this model has over the smaller versions of the NexStar SE telescopes.
The Celestron NexStar 8SE Telescope has the greatest potential for light intake out of any of the other telescopes in this family. It has a 78% increase in potential light over the 6SE, the next smallest size.
In terms of weight, it is only 3lbs heavier than the 6SE coming in at an extremely reasonable 33lbs. You get almost double the light intake over the 6SE for only three extra pounds. An easy trade-off.
It shares the same focal ratio as the rest of the line, save for the 4SE, meaning it adds magnification without losing its balanced focal ratio. While the 6SE gets less light, less power it still has the same focal ratio as the 8SE.
Lastly, in terms of price, the 8SE is not much more money than the 6SE. Considering you are adding nearly double the light potential, a whole ton of power, without adding much in the way of size or weight this seems like a fair increase in the price.
Now let’s get into the pros and cons of this unit.
Bigger is Better
The most notable mechanical feature of this telescope is the 8” primary aperture. This is the kind of size you normally only see on a large Dobsonian telescope. However, the Celestron NexStar 8SE Telescope is a Schmidt-Cassegrain model. This means that it is able to obtain the jaw-dropping power of a bulky Dobsonian telescope without sacrificing the focal ratio.
Most telescopes of this size are reflectors. Refractors of this size are too cost prohibitive to make it to a mass market for the average consumer. Large reflectors are defined by very low focal ratios that really take the detail out of certain views of the night sky. Being a Schmidt-Cassegrain means you get the light gathering power of a classic reflector and a focal ratio more in line with that of refractors.
The result is a telescope that can truly do everything. It can peer deep, deep into space to dig up those hard to see sights that average astronomers just can’t see or it can give you picture perfect views of Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, and Neptune. The Schmidt-Cassegrain design really brings out the best of both worlds in this telescope and the extra large aperture just enhances it.
The image quality of this telescope is really defined by the ability to collect light. Not only does this enhance nearby objects it also opens the night sky up so that the farthest reaches of the universe are within your grasp. Especially when you pair this telescope up with the mind boggling database that it ships with.
Largest Database + Largest Aperture = Perfection
In addition to having the largest aperture size of any of the NexStar telescopes, the NexStar 8SE also includes Celestron’s largest database. This database contains over 40,000 celestial objects preprogrammed in an easy to use handheld device. You can sort by type of object and find the perfect new or classic sight for the telescope to find for you.
This is the basis of one of the greatest computerized telescope systems on the market today. The database fuels the entire thing with its massive amount of information.
This is combined with SkyAlign technology and the beefy motorized goto mount to create the perfect computerized telescope system.
The way it works is as follows. Simply set up the telescope where you are going to be using it for the night. Turn on SkyAlign and register three bright sky objects that are currently visible above. Let the telescope digest this information. If done properly the telescope will locate itself in the world, the same way that ancient sailors used to.
Once the telescope knows where it is, now it knows what it can see in the database. You can select from any of the visible objects in the database for the telescope to find for you. Once selected, the NexStar 8SE will use the motorized goto mount to find the object in the sky. It will even track it for you over the course of an entire evening.
How to setup Sky Align
At this point, all you have to do is do some focusing and get comfortable.
If you have done research on NexStar telescopes before, you might be rolling your eyes. So what? All of the NexStar telescopes have this technology package in some capacity. You are right, but there’s a difference.
The NexStar 8SE is the only telescopes with the chops to fully utilize the database to its fullest extent.
Other smaller NexStar telescopes advertise a 40,000 object database which is accurate. The database has 40,000 objects in it but how many can the telescope actually see properly? It depends on the telescope but every telescope is going to have some kind of limitation. The 8SE is in the best position to utilize the database fully.
What’s the point of having an extremely distant galaxy in your list of objects if you can’t actually see it? All that is is clutter. But the 8SE gives you the best shot to use the entire list.
If the database is a big draw for you and you are an astronomer who likes to look at many different objects over the course of a night, a week, a year or a decade then this is the telescope for you.
With a huge aperture, unrivaled light intake and a host of modern technological features this telescope has what it takes to truly give you the best all around viewing experience you could possibly want.
How big is too big? Some of the few complaints this telescope gets are in relation to its size and balance.
The Celestron NexStar 8SE Telescope has the same one armed design as the rest of the SE crowd. It is a unique tabletop base with a single arm that the Schmidt-Cassegrain optical tube sits on. In the rest of the models this makes them easy to handle, travel with and set up but on the 8SE some people have complained the optical tube outgrew the design.
This version is a little finicky in terms of balance and stability. It moves easily if bumped or if there is a breeze. It is not unstable enough to cause concern about falling or becoming damaged but it is enough to disrupt the image quality. Especially, if you are zoomed in on a particularly far off item then the slightest movement is going to cause a big disruption to the image.
This could possibly be mitigated by getting a beefier tripod unit but the crux of the issue seems to be from the one armed design where the tube is attached to the base and mount. Other telescopes in this size are either Dobsonian or have a dual armed fork design to keep the bulky optical tube steady during viewing.
This issue is not a deal breaker or one that is particularly nasty but it is annoying enough that it might show up on a given night depending on the conditions and how steady of a viewer you are.
But Wait There’s More
No telescope kit is complete without a breakdown of everyone’s favorite part: accessories. Celestron has added what they feel is adequate to get this telescope running on night one but that is about it. It has a handful of accessories but nothing great and nothing game changing.
This telescope comes with a red dot finderscope, a single 25mm eyepiece and a star diagonal. This is really the bare minimum that is acceptable for a complete telescope kit to include.
The eyepiece is standard and gives good views. The finderscope is great if you are going to be doing any manual locating outside of the computerized features. The diagonal makes it so all of the images appear right side up, which is nice. That is in addition to all of the computerized features that also come included.
The biggest upgrade I think Celestron should add, free of charge, at this price point is a power upgrade. Right now the standard version that ships only comes with the battery-powered option. It runs on 8 AA batteries which immediately requires an upgrade if you are serious about using this telescope regularly.
This telescope will eat AA batteries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner leaving you holding the bag if you let it. It needs a dedicated power source or rechargeable power pack to really function properly. Luckily, Celestron makes both of those upgrades. You can get a better rechargeable pack or a power source you can plug into a car or outlet but neither come included.
This would have been a nice thing to add to their high end package considering the price and considering that an upgrade to the power is necessary but alas, they did not.
Everything else like extra eyepieces or a new tripod is optional and situational as to whether you need to splurge on more accessories out of pocket but the power source is definitely needed, no question about that.
Does Anything Compare?
The only thing that is going to compare to the 8SE in terms of features and image quality is going to be the 6SE. If you do not want to go all out in terms of size and price then you could get by with the 6SE. It can still see a lot, has the same tech included but at a smaller size with less power.
If you don’t want the biggest or can’t stomach the price, you could step down to the 6SE and get a similar experience but you won’t get the full effect that the 8SE can offer.
The biggest and most advanced NexStar telescope does not disappoint. It is large, with an impressive visual range and scope. It can see things you did not even know existed and it can do it all with a few clicks of a button on a handheld device. Also, it combines the best in terms of visual power and image quality into one unbeatable package. If you want a telescope that you can get lost in for years then this is the scope for you. There is nothing else like it on the market. When you tell it to find you a distant spiral galaxy and all you have to do is wait a moment and take a look it is a magical moment that makes you feel as though the universe is truly in the palm of your hands.
This is a brilliant telescope and one that makes it into many of or best-of lists including Best Telescopes For Viewing Planets, Best Deep Space Telescope, Best Computerized Telescopes, and Best Telescopes Under $1000.