Sunday, 15 September 2013

Reinventing myself - Astromony Pt. 2

Yesterday's entry dealt with ordering a new telescope and preparing a stand for it. This entry will be a review of the 'scope itself, the Orion Starblast 6i. We have a fair amount of past experience with Orion telescopes and have always found them to have great products that are also affordable; I highly recommend the company. The Starblast 6i is a 6" f/5 reflector on a Dobsonian base, with the added benefit of push-to technology. The Starblast 6 (minus the push-to computer) is usable pretty much out of the box, but the Intelliscope option requires quite a bit of prep work on the base and installation of the various components that go into making the technology usable. There are quite detailed instructions, but if we hadn't already assembled Mike's SkyQuest 12" Intelliscope a year ago we would have had a much more frustrating go of it working through the sometimes tangled web of procedure. This time it was a lot easier due to experience. Orion's tech support is always helpful, though, and I do suggest contacting them if necessary throughout this procedure. I had bought a "2nd" as I saved a lot of cash this way, and I must say that the scope looked brand new. We did run into a problem in that the two bolt assemblies that attach the tube cradle to the stand were missing. A call to Tech Support to get the exact dimensions and configuration and a quick trip to the hardware store solved that problem.

In the field, this is an amazing 'scope. I did have to figure out some kind of portable stand (see Astronomy Pt. 1 for how I solved this).

The 'scope on its new stand.

Detail of stand.

I spent the first two observing sessions just playing around with the computer to learn its ways for myself (I knew a bit from helping Mike with his) and checking out the optics on various objects, mostly Messier objects (clusters, globulars and galaxies) and double stars and was really pleased with the results. The 'scope comes with two eyepieces (25mm and 10mm), but I already had other eyepieces to round out what I would need for all-round observing. I presently use an Edmund Scientific 28mm, Orion Epic II 18mm, the 10mm one that came with the scope and a huge Orion Long Eye-relief 6mm. These effectively give me 27x, 42x, 75x and 125x with this scope. These can all be doubled with my Barlow. Right now I seldom use the 25mm that came with the scope as it isn't much more powerful than the Edmund, but I might start using it more.
My first real observing session with the 'scope took me to Aquila and Lacerta. It is a beauty on double stars and open clusters. Even faint planetary nebulae were viewed well. Galaxies are amazing in this 'scope, the views giving long arm extensions (I poked south of Lacerta to take a peek at NGC7331, which is actually in Pegasus). For my aging eyes and the skies I normally view in, the limiting magnitude for this scope is effectively 14. I did make a dew cap to fit the Starblast, as I do with all my 'scopes, this being a fairly humid climate.

The Intelliscope interface is great. Although I do tend to "starhop" a lot, it has saved me many times when in a sparsely-populated part of the sky. Also, for fairly faint objects (planetary nebulae, particularly) it gets me to the spot so I can confidently boost power in an attempt to view the object.

This is an extremely portable instrument, sitting in the back seat with the belt around it. We have a VW Tiguan (small SUV), and we can, in fact, pack Mike's complete 12" components, my 6" 'scope, the stand, a folding table, our two accessory cases (essentially foam-lined hard-sided suitcases that hold all of our eyepieces), several books and star atlases, clipboards, a briefcase, a folding chair, two large dew caps, cold-weather clothing, a food bag and both of us and still have some space left in the back seat!

In conclusion, the Starblast 6i is a small 'scope with big muscle and I look forward to many, many satisfying hours of observing with it. A great 'scope for novices (without the Intelliscope) it would also be an excellent second 'scope for an experienced observer who would like an easily portable instrument to throw in the car for travelling or star parties. I am a very, very satisfied customer and highly recommend this 'scope!


  1. Hi Deb. I am thinking of you this evening and hoping you are doing well. Yes, I know that "well" is a relative term. However you define it, I wish you nothing but good things.

  2. Hi,

    I purchased my first telescope, a used "Starblast 6", about a year ago and have also been very happy with it. As I needed to transport it some distance from the car, I purchased the Orion carrying-case for it. It is a little pricey, @ $60, but was worth it for me because it balances perfectly on my shoulder when carrying it and keeps it clean & protected in it's home in the back of my car. The red-dot finder failed and I replaced it with the Orion 6x30 RACI finder. The new finder was much easier to use as I no longer wrench my neck having to get low-enough to use it. I still use the Orion 25mm Plossel EP but not the 10mm. I replaced it with the Orion Expanse 9mm EP and also picked up a 2X-Shorty Barlow. It is probably not worth replacing the 1.25" R&P focuser but I made a larger, slide-on knob for it from a piece of plastic and it gives me better control for fine-focusing.

    Best Regards, Mike