Regular commenter and sometime contributor Doug Rennie recently took possession of a Celestron NexStar 6SE Schmidt-Cassegrain with GoTo. He kindly sent some unboxing photos and this first light report. I’ve scattered the pictures through the text. Thanks, Doug! – MJW
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After unboxing and assembling by gorgeous new 6SE, I figured that it would be a good week, maybe longer before we had an actual clear night here in Western Oregon.
Didn’t turn out that way.
The “New Scope Curse” was SUPPOSED to happen according to the forecast, but I walked out back around 7 and looked up into a totally clear and even dark (relatively) sky. I hadn’t expected this, so had done no real SE6 prep work. Whatever, I hauled it out back and screwed around with the hand controller enough to set the time, location, etc and then did the Auto Two Star alignment, picking Betelgeuse and then letting the Nexstar find star #2, Mirfak.
The mount whirred, the OTA moved. Then it stopped.
I started punching in targets, starting with the Double Cluster. The scope talked some more as it moved up to where I know the DC is, then stopped again and I hesitantly looked in the EP. The DC was not centered, but I could see the top 10% peeking up across the bottom edge of the FOV, so I did a little pop on the direction arrow and——zip!——there it was, right in the middle. Beautiful, breathtaking, as always. Sharp and clear and bright. As good as any view of the DC as I’ve had.
Then I spent about 90 minutes punching buttons and just flying around everywhere. Some objects (M42, M34, M35, some NGCs in Cassiopeia were in the FOV, albeit in the lower third while others were just outside it to varying degrees but I was able in short order to move them inside it.
The views I had of the three Auriga open clusters——M36, M37, M38——were the best ever. Maybe a hundred stars in each, and M37 appeared to be bathed in this kind of soft-glow pale silver dust. Mesmerizing.
Kemble’s Cascade was the best catch for the go-to, smack dab in the center and just magnificent. I wanted to do a sketch but was too busy jumping around, reveling in my new found power to stick the landing wherever I wanted.
Other than the foregoing, a partial list also includes NGCs 129, 225, 457 (terrific image of the ET Cluster), the 663/654 “near double cluster”, 1027, 2244, 2169, 2264 the Christmas Tree (another absolute sparkler), IC1848.
Now there must be some way to “adjust” the Nexstar go-to when your object is not quite in the FOV; with the Meade system, once you manually center a new object, you hit “Sync” and the system fine tunes itself based on that object and subsequent objects are then centered. So I’m sure there is some way to adjust intermittently during an observing session to improve pointing accuracy. I guess I could, you know, maybe read the manual.
What a blast this was! I saw as many objects——some for the first time——in 90 minutes as I normally see in a month. And there were another dozen objects that the 6SE slewed to but were too low, blocked by the high rooflines to my south, southwest and west. I have since learned that there is a filter where I can set a lower limit, in my case probably about +20 degrees and the go-to will not seek objects below this. Which will save a lot of time as in the “too low dozen”, the OTA ended up pointing at a wall.
And the optics are excellent. On some objects, such as the DC and Kemble’s Cascade, I think the image sharpness was on a par, or close to it, with that in my refractors. On others, particularly those with a brighter large star or two (The sextuple star Struve 761 in Orion comes to mind), they were maybe a half-notch softer than in the refractors but still better than in a Dob.
Other than the few I mention above, the SCT doesn’t quite have that pure pinpoint quality on stars that my smaller refractors ES AR 102, SV80ED, C102) have. But I didn’t expect it to, and it’s certainly——and satisfyingly——close enough. Just a delightful scope to use, and it’s only going to get better once I am fully flight trained.
Also, part of the above SCT-refractor discrepancy could be that the 6SE had zero cool down time. I mean, I took it from the warm sun room right out to the patio and fired it up immediately.
Oh, and I had the f/6.3 focal reducer plugged in the whole time; this cuts down the 6SE’s f/l from 1500mm to 945mm. I will probably leave it in most of the time, removing it for planets and for lunar closeups and the dim deeper stuff. So with this focal reducer, I essentially have two different ‘scopes for the price of one.
I used mainly the ES 24/68 and ES 16/68 during this session.