Celestron’s NexStar 4SE is what’s known as a hybrid telescope. It uses features of both reflectors and refractors. You see it’s a sealed tube with a lens on the front – in this design it’s actually called a corrector plate. There’s a primary mirror at the back with a hole in it through which you look. And back up front smack dab in the middle of the corrector plate is a secondary mirror, ready to bounce light down into your eyepiece. * This particular hybrid is called a Maksutov-Cassegrain design. Bouncing the light back and forth like this lets the tube length shrink down to something you can easily carry. And something well-balanced and not too massive for a small motor to drive. * This all makes the NexStar 4SE extra-compact and portable. At 11 pounds, it's the lightest weight scope we tested. But it still boasts plenty of aperture: 102mm – big enough to catch some cool sky-critters! * You won't have to worry about aligning optics or collimating the primary mirror. Mak-Cas designs rarely need much attention. And when they do it’s usually a factory refurb job. * We really liked the optics on this telescope. It’s good glass, nicely coated and each element passes a lot of lovely light. * The 4SE assembles FAST! You could be up and observing less than 10 minutes after un-boxing this little beast. But if you expect to use the go to features, better allow much more time: * Celestron's SkyAlign system makes set-up pretty simple, but it's not automatic. You need to know how to find a few specific bright stars. And you need to know where you are, and WHEN you are on the Earth, in terms the telescope can understand: latitude, longitude and universal time. * Go-to capability means this scope will find targets for you. * It has a monster database of 40,000 objects. So you'll never be at a loss for something to see, even if you're dodging around the sky poking through holes in cloud cover. * This simple, one armed Altitude-Azimuth mount is pretty user-friendly for viewing daytime targets here on Earth, as well. Normally, we’d be worried about a single arm’s ability to accurately track a telescope hanging off the side, but the compact form-factor of the 4SE makes that a non-issue. * You'll get everything you pay for with this instrument. But you will pay more. Prepare yourself for some slight sticker shock. But if you think value and not just price, the Celestron NexStar 4SE is a solid investment in a great hobby that your family can enjoy for decades.
Compact size, innovative light-path and beefy mount got our reviewers' attention. Celestron's NexStar 4SE is one of the best hybrid telescopes for beginners, with a database of 40,000 celestial objects and daytime spotting scope capability.
Credit: Dave Brody | SPACE.com