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Retro Styling with Today's Technology
Celestron's NexStar Series looks forward with a nod to the past

By Jarod Connerty

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Celestron has created quite a stir in the über-competitive advanced amateur astronomy marketplace with their newest line of attractively priced Cassegrain-type telescopes, the NexStar SE Series. The NexStar SE will soon be available at B&H in a 4" Maksutov-Cassegrain version, or as 5", 6" or 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain models.

The NexStar SE draws from Celestron's stylistic roots with its classic orange tube style of years past. Beyond the retro exteriors, however, the NexStar SE Series is firmly rooted in the 21st century. Perhaps most impressively, they've essentially done away with the biggest problem that has always plagued novice stargazers; finding things to look at in the first place. The sky is an enormous place by any measure; a beginner's chances of actually seeing a particular celestial object by blindly pecking around are only slightly better than guessing lottery numbers.

If a telescope's mount knows exactly where it is pointing, however, it can flawlessly guide you to whatever you want to view. Celestron's SkyAlign™ technology makes quick work of telescope alignment. With SkyAlign instead of hunting for hours for a few minutes of awe, beginners are guided straight to the prize.

While earlier alignment technologies required you to have your telescope precisely level and pointed towards Celestial north, SkyAlign technology is far more forgiving; just make sure the telescope is approximately level (a bubble level on the top of the tripod helps with this), enter the date, time and location (or let the optional GPS accessory do this for you) and point the telescope at any three bright objects in the sky.

The telescopes computer takes the data you enter and accesses its database to determine exactly where your telescope is pointing. After that you can spend the rest of your evening telling the telescope which of 40,000 objects you wish to observe (or just ask to be taken on a guided tour of the best objects for viewing given the date and your location).

The NexStar SE Series' list of niceties goes beyond the ease of its alignment procedure. Product upgrades for the hand controller are available through Celestron's website - a nice touch - and its design has been improved so it's now impossible for controller's cord to get wrapped around the telescope base in the dark of night. Mounting and breaking down the telescope is speedy and simple, with no need for tools even in complete darkness. All of this comes in a relatively compact package; even the largest of the group, the 8" model, should easily fit in the trunk for the ride to a favorite dark sky location.

We're also glad to see that the NexStar SE is available exclusively with their StarBright XLT multicoatings. The superior coatings are worth the added expense; when conditions are dark enough you'll see objects previously only visible with a larger aperture without adding any weight to your rig. Most buyers already chose to pay extra for multicoatings; kudos to Celestron for finally making it standard-issue.

Best of all, the NexStar SE offers the optics, coatings and easy alignment at prices previously unheard of for the combination of the three. If you're in an urban or suburban area with heavy light pollution we suggest going with the 4" or 5" model (in light-polluted areas, the two larger scopes only amplify light pollution around you, as opposed to showing you more of what you want to see). If you live in a relatively dark area, select the largest size your budget allows. Celestron also features enough accessories to choke a horse - from binocular viewers to nebula filters, power supplies and GPS devices and anything and everything in between!

B&H is now accepting orders on the Celestron NexStar Se Series.

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