Celestron NexStar 6SE: Review of the Venerable Entry-Level Schmidt-Cassegrain

This Schmidt-Cassegrain uses StarBright XLT coatings. Credit: Jamie Carter


There are two types of amateur astronomers the Celestron NexStar 6SE is ideal for – experienced users wanting an optical upgrade and serious beginners with bigger budgets. A world away from the low-budget telescopes found in big box stores, this motorized, computerized GoTo telescope with a 6-inch aperture is nevertheless an entry-level product in the world of Schmidt-Cassegrains.



The Celestron NexStar 6SE sports the brand’s iconic optical tube livery. Credit: Jamie Carter


Its space-saving iconic orange optical tube comes on a simple altazimuth fork mount with a NexStar hand controller wired to it. The optically impressive tube (which comes with StarBright XLT coatings) attaches via a dovetail mount, with the mount sitting on a custom-made tripod. At 21 lbs, it’s not particularly heavy but the mount’s L-shaped design doesn’t make it easy to grip when moving the rig outside. I need to lower the tripod to get it through doorways and into the backyard.


The telescope includes just one eyepiece, a 25mm Plossl. Credit: Jamie Carter


Armed with a focal length of 59” and a focal ratio of f/10, it achieves usable magnifications of up to 354x. However, only one eyepiece is included in the box – a 25mm Plossl capable of 60x magnification – which isn’t sufficient for getting the best from the Celestron NexStar 6SE. Optically it’s very impressive, with views of the lunar surface highly impressive at high magnifications. If you’re a lunar lover then this telescope will suit you well – if you have higher-power eyepieces to insert into its star diagonal. Ditto for nebulae, with a clear and precise view of reflected starlight on the Orion Nebula’s interstellar cloud.


A dovetail mount attaches the tube to the fork mount. Credit: Jamie Carter


Out of the box, the finderscope alignment was way off. It took a few minutes of using a screwdriver and making a few daylight and twilight observations to get the red dot and the center of the telescope’s field of view in sync. I also found that unless the tripod had been carefully leveled the GoTo system was prone to failing.


The NexStar hand controller fits snugly into a recess, but it pops out too easily. Credit: Jamie Carter


Thanks to the NexStar hand controller’s StarAlign system, aligning is simple. Manually slew to three bright stars and the computer plate-solves using its built-in planetarium software to figure out where everything is. The user doesn’t even have to know which three stars they are, though to avoid failures it’s best to use three stars that are as far from each other as possible (though there are other options to do a 2-star alignment and even just a Polaris alignment). What I didn’t like was having to punch in country, city, and local time every time I set up the Celestron NexStar 6SE.


Celestron’s StarPointer red dot finder is accurate but takes some aligning. Credit: Jamie Carter


The main drawback of this telescope is its power-hungry nature. There’s a curved battery cover on the base of the mount that houses 8x AA batteries, which the Celestron NexStar 6SE chews its way through in a few hours. It is possible to run the mount on low power (which is also much quieter), though. Celestron sells its Powertank lithium-ion battery pack and an AC adaptor if you don’t mind trailing cables, though the connection on the review sample I tried was a little loose; I had to use some masking tape to make sure it stayed in place so the telescope stayed powered. Ditto the NexStar hand controller; twice during my week with the Celestron NexStar 6SE the controller disconnected from the mount despite being tethered via a coiled cable. Hanging the hand controller on the telescope is also problematic; there is a hook and a recessed area to hang the hand controller on the telescope but the hook is way too small and the positioning is all wrong. I ended up resting the hand controller on top of the curved battery cover, with obvious consequences. Either way, the NexStar hand controller is beginning to show its age in a market that now includes smart telescopes such as the Unsistellar eVscope 2 and Vaonis Vespera, which have far more polished aligning and observing systems that rely solely on smartphones. Celestron already has its own smartphone-centric StarSense system for manual telescopes (see reviews on AGT here), so I would expect the next NexStar to have a major tech refresh.


A basic eyepiece tray sits between the tripod legs. Credit: Jamie Carter



The NexStar GoTo system is effective but shows its age. Credit: Jamie Carter


Final thoughts

With sharp, accurate, and precise optics, the Celestron NexStar 6SE is equally at home with deep sky and solar system objects, and it’s reasonably easy to align if you take the time to do it properly. Impressive though its NexStar GoTo system is, the need to hold a hard-wired controller does seem dated in this age of smartphone apps. The Celestron NexStar 6SE is highly impressive, but in terms of usability, we’d bet that the next generation of Celestron Schmidt–Cassegrain telescopes will come with a refreshed GoTo system.


102mm/4.02” mm version (Maksutov-Cassegrain): $679
125mm/4.92” version: $939
150mm/5.91” version: $1,099
203.2mm/8” version: $1,599 (all Schmidt-Cassegrain)




About Jamie Carter

A science, travel and technology journalist for over 20 years, UK-based Jamie Carter writes for Forbes Science, Sky and Telescope magazine, the BBC's Sky At Night, Travel+Leisure and the South China Morning Post. He edits, leads tours to see eclipses, and regularly tweets about stargazing (@jamieacarter) and eclipses (@thenexteclipse).

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