Orion Skyquest XX12
By Terri Welisek
This evaluator is not easily given to emotional praise but
the Orion Skyquest XX12 with Intelliscope gets a huge Yippee complete
Snoopy dance from me.
The XX12 is set up
next to my 10" Lightbridge for comparison.
An amateur astronomer for the better part of 25 years, my
most recent tool a 10" Meade Lightbridge, I am justifiably impressed
Skyquest. Orion has brought together the portability of truss-tube
with push-to functionality, the perfect solution for those of us who
need as this petite star gazer does, a lightweight grab-and-go
complete with substantial light gathering capability.
The boxes where pretty savagely handled by FedEx Home
delivery but the contents basically survived with the exception of one
OTA cover which was cracked by a puncture wound.
The Skyquest XX12 ships in three well-packed cartons. One
cover was broken in shipping and Orion immediately shipped a
The initial build takes about 3 hours to complete. The
instructions are clearly written and pictures very helpful. The
to assemble is the base encoder for the azimuth. The spacing on the
critical and the attachment at the base is a bit awkward to accomplish
assembly. Since the base is not to be placed on its side, it requires
the base only slightly and then working in the small area underneath
which makes it difficult to see if alignment with the holes provided is
Thankfully this should be a one-time activity.
The hand box has some very helpful diagnostic routines to
test the signal strength and functionality of the encoders. The hand
simple to use and requires only two known stars for precise alignment.
planets it also requires the date for calculations. The rack holds one
eyepiece and three 1 1/4" eyepieces. The blue band is actually a rubber
for holding a heat pack on the controller in sub-zero weather. The cord
little short and the hook and loop a little cheap for mounting the box,
overall it is easy to use.
Once the initial assembly is completed the Skyquest XX12 field
assembles in minutes with the largest piece being the base cradle
34 pounds. Caution is needed when placing the mirror box into the base
would be easy to damage the altitude encoder which could catch on the
rotational wheels on the main mirror tube. The instructions suggest
the trusses and then the cage. However, at 5'4" I found the height
secondary cage would align with the trusses to be a bit uncomfortable.
two trusses in the base and the other two on the secondary and then
them together was easier for me to handle solo. Once assembled I have
problem accessing the eyepiece when the OTA is in the vertical
step tool or ladder is necessary.
The mirror cell has a cooling fan as standard equipment
and the battery pack takes four D cell batteries. Collimation
three point with three locking screws. Collimation is very easy and the
come standard on the primary but the secondary requires an allen wrench.
The optional carry cases are superb construction. Though not
necessary, these cases make moving the scope even more convenient and
security that the mirrors are protected from the elements. I use them
storage too, especially nice for slow acclimation on those bitter cold
of viewing. In fact, a recent night at zero degrees F proved that this
handle extreme cold very well. Assembly and the reverse was quite easy
are no small parts that would make tear down difficult with gloved
The optional soft cases consist of case for the cage,
with felt sock for the secondary), a truss bag that rolls up and a main
OTA/mirror cell bag with side pouch for the 50mm finder and control
that the handles for the main bag are off center to balance the load of
mirror cell at one end. A nice touch.
Here is a close-up of the 8 truss supports and their
knobs. Field assembly of the telescope is tool free with the exception
allen wrench for the secondary. Also notice the friction brake for
hold. There are hard covers provided for both the cage as well as the
A standard two speed focuser and 50mm finder scope complete
the unit. A steering knob is also provided on the bottom of the cage
rarely used. Movement in altitude and azimuth is stiffer than the
but is acceptable.
The LED screen on the Intelliscope controller did have the
same fading in clarity and slowed response seen on other LCD units in
conditions, a shortcoming of the technology that has yet to be
However, the Skyquest XX12 was easily aligned with a vertical point
two alignment stars. Although I enjoy struggling to find objects
technology first, it is great to have the backup of the Intelliscope.
Skyquest XX12 offers a truly satisfying experience.
So how about the accuracy of the Intelliscope? Orion
promotes the accuracy of the Intelliscope as having the desired object
the field of view if using a 25mm or higher lens on the initial search.
conservative on their part. I would argue that the accuracy is better
still. I use
a 13mm Ethos and was finding dim objects like NGC 7331 galaxy within
of view on the first attempt.
The weather has been terribly inhospitable here in Wisconsin
since getting the Skyquest at Christmas, (isn't the new equipment curse
typical). We've used the scope for two, cold and
windy nights so far.
The collimation of the Skyquest
XX12 was straight forward for using a Glader laser and Blug. Optically
scope is very good. We were running a TV paracor and primarily using a
8mm Ethos which seem to be a good combination with the scope for medium
high power. Both nights were not good enough to see the E and F stars
Trapezium, but I'm sure it would be no issue on a calm night. The scope
with a 10mm and 35mm eyepiece. The 10mm is still in the box untried and
35mm doesn't appear to be the best quality. The light gathering of the
is noticeably closer to our C14 than it is to the 10" Lightbridge.
With the so-so conditions we started by finding an 11.6 magnitude
bad given to conditions. We moved off to NGC 7331 and using the encoder
looked for Stephan's Quintet, which appeared on the edge of visibility.
is even difficult for the C14 with the sky glow we typically have. We
M31 and could see a hint of dust vanes. M110 and M32 were no problem.
the 35mm eyepiece looked like a fuzzy ball without definition or
stars, but switching to the 13mm Ethos the embedded stars were tack
NGC 604 became visible. As high ice clouds came in from the south we
quick look at NGC404 off of Mirach. To finish up the night we used the
system to find the Blue Snowball off of Polux and also M1. For as bad
sky conditions have been we haven't had a chance to give the optics a
test under dark skies. From what I have seen with the limited use we've
afforded, the Orion Skyquest XX12 looks to be a nice addition.