Orion StarBlast 6i
* This is the Orion StarBlast 6i. Thats “i” as in “intelliscope” Orion’s way to saying this scope has smarts. More about that in a moment…
* The 6 in StarBlast 6 means 6 big inches of aperture. With this large light bucket funneling photons into your eyeball, you'll see fainter objects in more detail. Sure, you can observe features on the bright Moon – if you screw a lunar filter into your eyepiece. And you can certainly catch planets in the act of being themselves: perhaps nabbing Jupiter's festooned cloud bands roiling across that huge world. But you'll really stand a much better chance of resolving the fuzzies of deep space: nebulae, galaxies, star clusters, even comets.
* With this much aperture, you would also be right to expect this unit to weigh something substantial. And it does: 23.5 pounds when fully assembled.
* But that's the whole beauty of Dobsonian telescopes. They are simple, inexpensive and easy to understand. The big AltAz mount - some astronomers call it a "rocker box" - let's you quickly rock and roll your way around the universe.
* This telescope points you to targets, but it doesn't swing you to them by itself. In keeping with the spirit of Dobsonian telscopes, you are the driver. So the on-board computer plays a game of “Warmer – Cooler” or “Marco Polo” between you and the sky. This type of system is called a "push-to" rather than a “go-to.”
* One nice feature of push to systems: because your muscles are the motors, push-to scopes take less battery power than go-to's. This Orion requires only one 9-volt battery and it can last for months.
* The intelliscope comes loaded with 12 tours: each an excursion through the month’s best targets.
* Or you can work backwards: hunt around the sky until you see something interesting; push a key and the display tells you what you’re looking at.
* Setup is a bit different from other types of scopes. Funnily, this Dobsonian – which is supposedly a very simple design to build – gave our assembly crew the most moments of head-scratching puzzlement.
* And look at the design: it’s a table-top telescope. But you need a pretty hefty stable-table. Or you need some other flat, level, elevated surface. What you don't want to do is spend your night crouching or kneeling on the cold ground. Just don’t be that guy! You won't appreciate the sky as much when you're uncomfortable and you'll give up and pack it in sooner!
* The StarBLast 6 isn't small, but it is compact enough to fit in the front seat of almost any car.
* Dobsonians really come into their own at sizes larger than this one. And Orion makes some great ones. Totally worth investigating, but we’ll do that another time.
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Big light-gulping aperture and simple intuitive operation give Orion's StarBlast 6i a strong edge among low-price Dobsonian telescopes for neo-astronomers. There are no motors to drive it but the "IntelliScope" computer helps you find targets.