Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ Smart Refractor Telescope Review

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We are in the “smart” age. There are smart versions of everything. Starting with the smartphone all those years ago, now we have smart TVs, smart refrigerators, smart thermostats, and even smart toilets. Isn’t it time we got a proper smart telescope as well?

Thanks to the continuing innovations from Celestron, we now have the start of a line of smart telescopes. The StarSense telescopes hope to combine the realtime information provided by your smartphone with the solid telescope design that Celestron is known for.

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  • Refractor design
  • 102mm objective lens
  • f/6.5 focal ratio
  • 240x highest useful magnification
  • 14lbs assembled weight

The Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ Smart Refractor Telescope is a 102mm refractor telescope with a classic altazimuth mount that is equipped with their newest StarSense technology package.

  • New StarSense package improves upon existing tech
  • Powerful refractor telescope
  • Versatile and durable design
  • New technology could have some bugs
  • App functionality hit or miss

Optics First

Sweet technology is only as useful as the tool it is being applied to. The joke about the smart toilet is, why does your toilet need to be smart? The same could be said of your telescope. If the optical quality is not there, there is no point in having a smart telescope.

Luckily, Celestron chose a good telescope to attach their new technology to. The Explorer DX 102AZ is first and foremost a decent sized refractor telescope on an altazimuth mount.

The 240x highest useful magnification and the f/6.5 focal ratio make this a very respectable telescope in terms of power. This scope is going to be able to do everything you want it to.

While the focal ratio is a little low for a refractor, the visual range should be wide and varied. That means great images of deep space, middle space, and near space. That will come in handy when we talk about the new StarSense package.

Whether you’re looking to spot a nebula that is in the perfect position tonight or some crowd favorites, the Explorer DX 102AZ has the chops to see it all. It is not the most powerful telescope on the market but what it lacks in raw power it makes up for in versatility of design.

Versatile and Powerful

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One of the best parts about owning a refractor telescope is the inherent versatility that comes with it. In addition to being a powerful tool for searching the sky, it can also be used on land. It can host a number of different eyepieces, sights, filters, and pointers.

The visual range of this telescope is very high. Combine that with the natural versatility that refractor design offers and you have yourself a very unique tool in which to pursue your stargazing hobby.

You will be able to upgrade and tweak different setups for different kinds of viewing. Is it a solar system kind of night? Perfect, equip the low powered eyepiece and your favorite filter. Are the skies dark enough to pursue deep space? Excellent, throw on your high powered eyepiece, and get ready to be amazed.

This is all possible due to the fluid altazimuth mount with slow-motion controls. Just attach the refractor optical tube and get ready to search the night sky for your favorite sights. The freedom you get with the altazimuth mount is complimented by the included slow-motion controls. Once you are done seeking out a great object to view, you can easily keep it in sight with these sensitive controls.

All of this versatility really plays into the hands of what this telescope can do with the new technology.

Introducing StarSense

StarSense is the newest batch of modern technological upgrades from Celestron. This new technology now works off your smartphone rather than an internal database. The upgrade here is that your smartphone takes data in real time rather than working off of a static database.

Once you hook your phone up to the StarSense dock, you launch the app and sync your phone up to the telescope. Now your phone can see what your telescope sees which means you get the full benefit of an upgradable and realtime system.

Once everything is synced up, the app will automatically queue up a list of readily visible objects based on a bunch of information. That includes your location, the season, and the current position of all celestial objects.

After you pick an object, on your phone, from the list of best visible objects, the app will guide you to the object using a system of arrows. Once the telescope is manually aligned, your screen will let you know and you can begin viewing.

It is a neat system that allows you manual control of your telescope with help from an app.

I think there is a lot of potential here. There are already solid stargazing apps that tell you what is happening in the night sky above. Now with Celestron’s telescope compatibility you can take all of that readily available information and plug it straight into your telescope.

Introducing StarSense Explorer DX Video

As this is the first iteration of the new StarSense technology, it is still a little rough around the edges and might not have reached its full potential yet.

I can see a lot of potentials here for a solid app that transforms the telescope market. Imagine being able to have live weather and sky conditions being fed through the app so that your phone could tell you the optimal night for viewing certain things based on live atmospheric conditions.

The truth is, like with any new software, there are some bugs and some glitches. Celestron’s official website says that setup linking your phone to the telescope should only take two minutes but it took quite a bit longer than that for me. The app was slow to boot and had a few hiccups connecting to the telescope itself.

Once the app was connected, it took a bit of tweaking to get it aligned properly. All in all, it only took about fifteen minutes but the process was not as smooth as advertised. Some people reported similar or worse issues with their setups but it is clear that this is the first iteration of this new technology.

The main upgrade from the old NexStar database is that this has the ability to process information in real time. Your phone will be able to keep track of new updates, track the sky with up to the minute information, and sift through this information more effectively. Once you use your cellphone to control the telescope, the old handheld computer device that was so cool just last year, now feels woefully out of date.


The Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ Smart Refractor Telescope includes a cursory but useful group of accessories that come included along with the StarSense tech package and cellphone dock.

The accessories included here are two eyepieces, a red dot finderscope, a tripod, and a 90-degree erect image diagonal. While not the most robust set of accessories, they are still enough to get you started with your new smart telescope.

The erect image diagonal allows you to use this telescope as a terrestrial viewer in addition to being an excellent celestial viewer which only adds to the versatility that comes included with this model.

Then you have two eyepieces, not a huge number but standard for any telescope. It will give you a low power and high power option to give you that good visual range. You can always buy more eyepieces and Celestron has plenty of eyepiece kits available that you can purchase right from their website alongside this telescope.

Then you have the standard foldable tripod and finderscope that flesh out the kit. There is nothing super special here but it covers all the bases. Luckily, as a Celestron refractor the potential for upgrading your accessories is cheap and easy so this should not be an issue.


I am excited about the Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ Smart Refractor Telescope and the future of StarSense. I think it is a new and modern platform that has tons of potential built right in. Celestron is excellent at innovating the market and creating high quality products and interesting combinations. They don’t always hit the mark but they have built up enough goodwill that I am hopeful for the future of the smart telescope.

If you want to dive in and give StarSense a try, there is no better time. You could get your hands on the next iteration of Celestron technology. On the other hand, if you want to avoid the first iteration and the bugs and glitches that are sure to crop up you could wait for some upgrades to the system. I am sure those are coming.

Overall, this is a fresh and exciting upgrade to the aging computerized telescope formula. It is a solid platform and I can’t wait to see where they take this technology in the future.