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Orion Spaceprobe 130ST

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The Spaceprobe has a 5.1” (130mm) mirror and is available in two options – a regular tube and a short tube (130ST). The short tube is the subject of this review. This scope is rated level 2 by Orion meaning it is aimed at advanced beginners and intermediate observers. It has a parabolic mirror which explains the higher price over the regular tube. At a focal length of 650mm this is an f/5 scope.

We own an 8” dob but I wanted something smaller and easier to pack. I would later discover that I still make multiple trips to the car so I didn’t really simplify packing. The total weight of the scope including the EQ-2 mount is 28.4 pounds. It does sit higher than the dob so it is easier on the back during observing sessions.

The 130ST has a wide field of view for low power observing. At first I was concerned that the maximum magnification of this scope was significantly less than the dob. I thought about it and realized the majority of our viewing is done between 48 and 200x which is theoretically doable with the 130ST.

The box arrived without a single dent, which is pretty amazing. The packaging was double boxed and well bubble wrapped. In fact there were a couple empty boxes whose sole purpose was to keep the other boxes from moving about during shipping. The package was a lot heavier than I expected. Not quite as grab and go as my mind envisioned it.

The assembly instructions were fairly clear. I could have used more and larger pictures, as I was completely unfamiliar with equatorial mounts. Orion claimed 30 minutes assembly time. It took me closer to an hour. Assembly tools were furnished. All the parts were there and they all fit together nicely. Balancing the scope was easy and took only a few minutes.

It is a good looking scope. The focuser is plastic but mine seems to work well. The finder scope is way too small. I replaced it with a green laser pointer. Included with the scope is a 25mm and 10mm Sirius Plossl eyepiece. It did not come with a Moon filter. I have a couple already but the absence of one surprised me. There is a smaller masking hole in the OTA end cap to reduce the amount of light from bright objects. The masking hole is not threaded so I don't know if a solar filter could be adapted to fit it safely. Never point any scope towards the sun without a solar filter!

Next I removed the lens caps and popped in the supplied collimation cap, as expected the mirrors were out of alignment. The supplied collimation instructions were well written and easy to follow. If it is your first experience with collimation you might disagree. Trust me these instructions are as good as it gets. Also trust me, collimation gets a lot easier to grasp once you turn a few screws.

One complaint: why Orion supplies the collimation cap and not the two allen wrenches required to make adjustments I can't understand. Luckily I located a proper sized wrench in my guitar tools. Collimation was pretty easy once I had the tools.

I adjusted the polar axis to match my local latitude and locked it down. I read and reread the operating instructions to understand how to use the slow motion controls and the setting circles. I spent some time just going over the controls and maneuvering the scope around to understand how it would actually behave in the dark.

Ready as I was going to get, I took my new scope out but started a little too late. It was already getting dark before I had everything set up. I did manage to get the tripod level in the daylight. I used a bubble level placed it in the accessory tray. This worked amazingly well and at only one dollar was a great idea.

Put the 25mm plossl in and pointed towards Jupiter in the Southern sky. At 26x it was a lot like viewing Jupiter in binoculars, except I could see a couple dark bands on the planet. Put in the 10mm plossl for a 65x view. The view was still very tiny. I didn't buy this scope to be a planet killer and it's a good thing as high power views are going to be harder to get.

By this time it was dark enough that Polaris was visible so I could polar align the scope. That's when I realized the latitude adjustment had moved. Apparently the way the mount is made I will have to check this during every set up. Polar alignment was a breeze so this is really no big deal.

I have heard others comment the EQ-2 mount is too wobbly. Being an entry level equatorial I didn’t expect it to be a rock but with the legs fully retracted I do not find it excessively unstable. I have never used an expensive mount and I am sure the difference is major, still for a 10 pound load limit mount the EQ-2 performs well enough.

The temperature on this September night was in the mid to low 70's. The wind was calm. The stars were steady almost no twinkle. I estimate it was a magnitude 5 sky. The Milky Way was visible from Cassiopeia to the southern horizon. Beautiful, beautiful night. The Moon would not rise for another three hours. Enough time for a first light deep space object run.

Pointed the scope at Vega so I could set the RA circle. That is when I realized I had left my list of star coordinates at home. That meant I was not going to be able to use the setting circles this night. This turned out to be a good thing. It probably kept me from becoming totally discouraged the first night out.

Moving the scope around and using the controls was so easy at home. Now, in the dark, I couldn't find or figure out the RA/Dec lock knobs. I couldn't find or figure out the slow motion controls. I couldn't seem to get the scope to point in the direction I wanted it to go for the life of me. When I did accidentally get it where I wanted, it wouldn't stay put.

The focuser seemed to always be pointed in an awkward position and the finder scope was often in an impossible to use location. The manual doesn't tell you this is going to happen or what to do when it does. Here's what you do - loosen the knobs on the rings that hold the optical tube and rotate the OTA in the rings until the focuser and finder are in a comfortable position. While doing this watch that the tube doesn't slide up or down in the rings or it will throw off the balance of the scope. Don't forget to retighten the screws!

I started getting really frustrated but it was such a beautiful night I was determined not to let it be ruined. I stepped back from the scope, reached for the Oberwerks, and just leaned on the car with the binoculars. I scanned up and down the Milky Way with no particular target in mind. I happened upon a number of globular clusters and nebula.

This proved to be so much fun that I got the courage to go back to the scope. This time I didn't worry about controls. I loosened up the locks and just began to push the scope as if it were a dob. As I did with the binoculars I began scanning from the horizon up the center of our galaxy. Even at very low power I was thrilled with the images in this rich field telescope.

I had only been at it a few hours when my dad arrived to see the telescope. He didn't so much want to look through it, as to look at it. It's dark out so how is he going to do that you ask? Well, he has a flashlight! A brilliant, overpowered, white light menace of a flashlight! After blinding me on multiple occasions he happily and obliviously walked away. I knew my first night out had drawn to a close, especially since the moon would be heading over the horizon soon.

The next afternoon I set the scope up in my home and just sat and looked at it for a while. I was pretty sure the troubles I experienced were far more my own doing than the scopes. I began slowly working with the controls and knobs and began to get a feel for them. It started making more sense. I did some research on the setting circles, then went back to the scope and imagined applying what I had read. I was pretty sure I had it this time.

That night I packed my scope and my son packed the 8" Deep Space Hunter into the car and off we went to try again. Got to our site an hour before dark this time. My son can have the dob set up and aligned in about three minutes. He is a pro. I am still trying to learn this scope so it takes me a little, ok a lot, longer.

The sun goes down and the Milky Way again begins to reveal itself. The conditions are pretty much a carbon copy of the night before. Mid 70's, very low humidity, magnitude 5 stars, very little twinkling. Nights like these are rare around here.

My scope is polar aligned and locking clamps set. This time I have my star location charts. I swing the scope to Vega. I look at the setting circles and realize I still don't understand them. So setting circles are going to have to wait for a star party where an expert can show me how to read them. That's ok, we will just have to find targets the old fashioned way.

First object I sought out was M51, the whirlpool galaxy. Found it easy enough but it lacked detail. My son located it in the dob. Same story. That is a good thing. It means it is not my scope. We have seen dust trails in this galaxy before, now it is just a fuzzy patch. Another plus is it was just as bright in my eyepiece as it was in my son's. The background in the eyepiece was fairly bright making detail hard to discern.

Next went to Andromeda M31. Same story only bigger. No detail big fuzzy patch. My son then found M81 and M82, which we have never seen before - two galaxies in the same field of view. Now that we knew where to look, I turned my scope on them. Pretty much the same exact image. Cool. No detail, but cool.

After viewing these galaxies, I turned the scope South into the regions of Scorpius and Ophiuchus which are teeming with globular clusters. With the panoramic views at low power I didn't even have to work at finding them. I simply pointed in the general direction and scanned a little and they jumped right out. I viewed about a half dozen of them. I also viewed a couple open clusters in this region. Next time I will work at putting some power to them and see what kind of detail I can bring out. Even at low power many individual points of light were easily seen in each cluster. I also viewed three Nebulas this night including the Trifid nebula. Sorry I didn’t keep better records of my observations but I was kind of caught up in learning this new scope.

I purposely viewed all of this nights outing at low power. I wanted to see the wow factor of the scope at its lowest magnification. I was very pleased with it in this regard. All of my eyepieces are fairly generic plossls. I had tried the night before to reach higher power using my 6 and 4mm ep’s and the image was mushy. These same ep's work ok in my 8" scope, I wouldn't have thought going from F/6 to F/5 would make that much difference but it does. The focal length is roughly half at 650mm compared to 1200mm. A better grade of eyepiece seems necessary to reach high power with this scope or a 2x and 3x Barlow could be just the ticket without adding a lot of expense.

Although this was still a night of learning, I did have a lot of good viewing time. The images were bright. The stars focused to pinpoints. I am happy with the performance and quality of the scope. It is a pretty good bargain at the price. Rotating the tube in the rings to keep the focuser in a comfortable position became second nature very quickly. Moving the scope on the equatorial mount, though not simple, came a lot easier this second night. Using the slow motion controls was easy and required very little additional thought.

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