A Great Entry-Level Telescope
When buying a first telescope to observe the moon, planets, and deep sky objects, it can be tempting to pick up the many cheap options available online in the $75 to $150 range. But it is worth it to spend more. Trevor Jones of astrobackyard.com says, "Expect a quality telescope for visual observing to start at a cost of about $300 ... In my opinion, it is not possible to purchase a quality telescope for under $100, and doing so may result in a poor user experience and a night of frustration."1 Cheaper telescopes often have inferior optics, smaller apertures, and shaky tripods.
If you want a telescope that is right at that $300 minimum, consider Celestron's Popular Science StarSense Explorer DX 100AZ, which sells for $314.96 on both celestron.com and Amazon at the time of writing. It is a smartphone app-enabled telescope, which works with Celestron's iPhone/Android compatible StarSense App. StarSense "uses your smartphone to analyze star patterns overhead and calculate its position in real time." Choose an object you want to view (for example, Jupiter), then the app will direct you to move your telescope until it aligns with the target.
These are some pros and cons you should consider before buying a Celestron Popular Science DX 100AZ telescope.
When I removed the telescope tube and the tripod from the box, I was surprised by how sturdy they were. They are definitely well-made.
StarSense Makes Finding Celestial Objects Easy
The StarSense app makes this a great beginner telescope. It's a lot easier than when I was a teen with my first telescope, depending on Planispheres and astronomy magazines, to figure out the locations of objects. According to the product description, "The app tells you what’s in the sky based on your exact time & location. View planets, brighter nebulae, galaxies, and star clusters from the city PLUS fainter, deep sky objects from darker sites." Most smartphones can fit in the dock.
Uses a Red Dot FinderScope
When you are looking at objects like planets, nebula, galaxies, or binary stars through a telescope eyepiece, you are viewing a very small part of the sky. A finderscope is "a small auxiliary telescope attached to the main telescope. A finderscope uses low power with a wide field of view and assists you in locating objects to observe through the main telescope."2
The finderscope on the DX 100AZ has a battery-powered red dot feature. The object that the red dot covers or overlaps with will be centered in the main telescope. This makes it much easier to find the objects you want to observe.
Small Enough to Use as a Travel Scope
The DX 100AZ is small enough to use as a "grab-and-go" scope for camping trips or excursions to areas with less light pollution. Consider getting a sturdy case to prevent damage. It is heavy, which is something to consider if you plan to take it on an airplane.
The telescope comes with app codes for StarSense and version 8 of Celestron's Starry Night software, which "offers incredible renderings & precise positioning of over 36,000 targets."3
Easy to Assemble
The telescope is easy to assemble because it comes with a small number of parts. Attaching the slow-motion controls is a little tricky and the only difficult step. But even that step took me about five minutes. One step that had me stumped was rotating the locking screw to the top of the clamp assembly because the instructions didn't explain how to do it. The video below explains how this is done.
The DX 100AZ Is Heavy
This is both a pro as well as a con. It is heavy because the tripod, mount, and telescope tube are high-quality. However, if you are buying this telescope as a gift for a young child or an elderly person, they may have difficulty moving it around. I keep my telescope upstairs, and carrying it up and down requires some effort. According to the Celestron specifications, the Total Kit Weight is 13.5 lbs (6.12 kg).
Expect Additional Costs
Accessories such as eyepieces, the diagonal, and the Barlow lens that come with entry-level telescopes often aren't the best, so many experienced amateur astronomers recommend upgrading them. The Popular Science DX 100AZ doesn't come with a Barlow lens, so if you want one, you will have to buy it separately. The diagonal that comes with this telescope isn't great. I upgraded mine and saw a big improvement in view quality. The eyepieces are pretty good, but I bought two SVBONY 68 Degree Ultra Wide Angle eyepieces to use as well. You should also consider investing in a set of filters.
The StarSense App Can Sometimes Be Time-Consuming
The StarSense app works well for me overall, but it sometimes "forgets" where it is while I'm trying to target an object, and I have to repeat the process of pinpointing its position. You may also have to realign it before each stargazing session.
Moving the Telescope Up and Down Is Slow
This telescope has an altazimuth or alt-azimuth mount. According to Wikipedia, this is "a simple two-axis mount for supporting and rotating an instrument about two perpendicular axes – one vertical and the other horizontal." You will, of course, have to move the telescope both left and right, and up and down, to point at an object you want to observe. Moving this telescope left and right is easy enough because it rotates on the tripod. Just push the tube in the direction of your target.
However, you can't simply push the telescope up and down. Any up-and-down movement requires turning the slow motion control for vertical movements. That can be time-consuming if you want to point at an object high in the sky.
The DX 100AZ is a great entry-level refractor telescope with quality optics and construction. It is a good choice for casual stargazing and is ideal for anyone who wants a good telescope without breaking the bank. If you are willing to spend more to get a higher-quality product, consider these Celestron refractor telescopes with similar specifications:
- StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ: Has superior optics and coating compared to the DX100 AZ
- NexStar 102SLT: A computerized and motorized telescope that uses SkyAlign technology
1. How Much Does a Telescope Cost? by Astrobackyard
2. What is a Finder Scope/ Star Diagonal/ Eyepiece/ Star Pointer? by Celestron
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2023 LT Wright