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Celestron NexStar 8 GPS XLT

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I have owned several telescopes covering a wide range of apertures – anywhere from 102mm – 254mm. None of them had tracking or go-to capabilities, having been either Dobsonian-mounted Newtonians or a small Mak-Cas on an alt-az mount. Having spent a few years learning the night sky, I was beginning to realize how annoying it was tracking objects at high powers. Being a planter/lunar observer primarily, I use relatively high powers most often. The logical solution would be to get a tracking-capable mount, and so I began my lengthy search.

I perused the CloudyNights classifieds for a while and did quite a bit of research on what was being offered. Eventually I came across a Celestron NexStar 8 GPS XLT, which just happened to be one of my dream telescopes. Discussing it with my wife for a day, we made the decision to purchase it.

Upon arrival, I quickly assembled the telescope. It was extremely easy to do, even without instructions (not recommended…I just couldn’t contain my excitement). The following is my review of the telescope assembly broken down into key components. For reference, I live in central Virginia. I have been active in the hobby for about 5 years now, though most of my observing has been over the past two years.


The tripod is made of 2” steel and is very sturdy. The center leg brace is possibly the only downside to the entire assembly as it was not made to hold eye pieces. Once the leg brace is tightened into position, the tripod is stable and I have not had a single issue with it in the months that I have owned it. The fork/optical tube assembly mount onto the tripod by centering the fork onto the positioning pin. This took a few attempts at first, but has become second nature and is easily done in the dark. I imagine it would be a bit more difficult with larger apertures. The fork/tube assembly is secured to the tripod using three (3) mounting bolts. Again, this was also difficult to do at night at first but has become second nature. With the full weight of the assembly on the tripod, it remains steady. Any vibrations are quickly dampened to the point where I wonder how I survived using previous mounts. It weighs roughly 20 pounds, and every pound is worth the quality, stability, and reliability.


The fork/OTA combo weighs in at around 50 pounds. That’s a lot heavier than I imagined it would be, and I’m young and in fairly good condition. The fork has two hold-points. One of them is a handle extending out of the left side of the fork, while on the right side there is a hand-hold underneath the hand controller location. Placing the assembly on the tripod is best done with the altitude clutch disengaged; otherwise, the OTA will flop around and make the mounting process difficult. The azimuth clutch does not have to be disengaged at this point, but it can’t hurt. A tricky point comes into play here – the three mounting bolt holes on the fork assembly must align with the holes on the tripod. How is this done when you can’t physically see them? Easy! On the fork assembly at the base, there is a small recessed area where the power switch and power input is located. Between the switch and the input is a ridge – simply align the ridge with the center of one of the tripod legs (doesn’t matter which) and the holes are lined up. It is a lot easier than it sounds, and makes assembly at night a breeze. The only annoyance is the azimuth clutch lever as it can be difficult to located, but since it is only used twice (assembly and disassembly) during each session it is not something to be overly concerned with.

The OTA is a carbon fiber tube of (you guessed it) solid construction. Nothing on this entire telescope feels cheap. One easily feels confident that it will last many years. The 8” OTA is plenty of aperture for me since most of my viewing is planetary/lunar, clusters, and double stars. My experience with a 10” has shown that the 10” makes for a huge improvement in globular cluster observing, but not much else. The optics are excellent, but I still need to fine-tune the collimation. The telescope has travelled across the country twice from going from owner to owner to me, so it isn’t quite perfect. Being new to SCTs, I’m still learning how to collimate although it isn’t too difficult. My biggest difficulty has been the inability to collimate with the bubbling atmosphere during the hotter months. I will work on it over the winter and will get a better feel of the optics at that point. So far they have provided me with the best views of Jupiter and the Moon in any telescope I have owned.

Hand controller


Setting up the telescope, after a few tries, is extremely easily and painless. Even though there are times where it is physically impossible to see where things are lining up, there are little tricks to help you out and get you lined up right every single time. I’ve only used GPS alignment so far and have had issues with it, but I can promise you that it is operator error. Once aligned, objects remain firmly planted in the center of the eyepiece. And this is where I am most pleased. I wanted something that could track automatically – the go-to is a nice feature although I still manually find objects from time to time. I can track objects at higher powers without having to relocate the object, and best of all – I can share my observing time with my wife, family, and friends. Instead of trying to explain to people how to move the telescope to track an object, I can just tell them to look through the eyepiece and enjoy. Sharing my love of astronomy is important, and this telescope has helped out a great deal.


The telescope is a joy to use. Reliable, sturdy, and of adequate aperture to enjoy for a lifetime. I can’t find much to complain about except a few things that can easily be fixed or ignored with no ill consequence. I NEED to get a Telrad…but that can be said for any telescope depending on preference. Speaking of which…my preference go-to is simply that. I understand there is a constant debate of manual over go-to. I just happen to prefer go-to telescopes after having experience with both. Also, if you are reading this to aid in research for a telescope purchase, realize that there is no perfect telescope. One must make tradeoffs, but they can be minimized or resolved with little or no expense. Lastly – would I recommend this telescope? Absolutely.

Showing alignment of fork on tripod

Celestron NexStar 8 GPS XLT

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