Celestron’s FirstScope 76 Starter Scope

All about inspiration. Celestron’s Firstscope features the names of astronomical luminaries. Credit: Celestron

A $59 telescope?

Celestron’s FirstScope 76 is a 3-inch f/4 reflector on a Dobsonian (up-down-left-right) base and comes complete with 20mm (15X) and 4mm (75X) eyepieces. Celestron’s FirstScope Cometron 76 and Orion’s FunScope 76 are variations on the same base unit, packaged with different accessories.

Enough already! You want to know how a $59 telescope performs, or if it even works! 

It does work. Put in the supplied 20mm eyepiece, aim it at something, adjust the focus knob, and an image will form. Those new to astronomy might want to practice in the daytime before heading out at night.

Firstscope Signature Series featuring images from lunar imager Robert Reeves highlighting key lunar features. A free PDF download of his Lunar Landscapes ebook in included. Credit: Celestron

When you do get out at night, your major battle will be finding something to set it on. People have used portable tables, barrels, plastic tubs, and trash cans turned upside down, among other items. It needs to be 1) something sturdy, 2) something you can walk around (the hood of a car or a picnic table will likely frustrate you) and 3) something at least around 30” high to prevent neck strain as you sight along the back.

Your second major battle will be finding objects. While other variations of this scope come with finders (at a higher price) this version does not, so you will be stuck sighting along the back of the tube. It can take some time to acquire this skill; be patient. If you’ve practiced in the daytime, you should be able to at least find the moon.

The optics are OK. Not great, but OK. Stars in the outer third of the field of the view are distorted and you will have to learn to avoid looking out there. Concentrate on the sharp part in the middle. The author was able to locate the Orion Nebula, the Pleiades, and the cluster M35 in Gemini. Again, the views were acceptable.

Celestron’s Firstscope Accessory Kit (sold separately) includes additional accessories and software. Credit: Celestron

The supplied 20mm Huygenian eyepiece is usable, but could be better. Huygenian and Ramsden eyepieces (characterized by the letters “H” and “R” written on the barrel) are among the worst types that money can buy. The supplied 4mm Ramsden eyepiece is useless. It is a tiny, squinty pinhole, and the author wound up using it as a backup dust cover for the focuser. However, the good news is the telescope’s focuser uses the telescope-standard 1.25” format. As a result, you can buy or borrow regular eyepieces and try them out. The author found that even a small upgrade to a generic 17mm Kellner or 20mm Plossl eyepiece cleaned up the views considerably.It is uncharitable to complain about a $59 telescope? Perhaps. In this price range, you can also consider a pair of 7X35 binoculars. If you have more money to spend, a slightly larger Dobsonian reflector like the Orion Starblast or the Sky-Watcher Heritage 130 Tabletop Dobsonian will last you longer. But the FirstScope 76 is still a good tool for teaching budding astronomers how to use, aim, and focus a telescope, while delivering OK-to-acceptable views, and costing next to nothing in the process. 

Note: For more on the FirstScope 76, see Ed’s YouTube video:

MSRP: $59

 

About Ed Ting

Ed Ting is a well-known amateur astronomer. His work has appeared in Sky & Telescope, Night Sky, Skywatch, Amateur Astronomy, Discover, and Popular Mechanics magazines. His web site, www.scopereviews.com, is a widely-read telescope review web site. He is a National Science Foundation Ambassador to Chile and a NASA Solar System Ambassador.

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