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Orion SpaceProbe 130ST EQ Telescope Review – Recommended Scope

While Dobsonians tend to be recommended to beginners, Orion’s SpaceProbe 130ST promises to deliver decent views with the promise of astrophotography down the road. It’s not a bad scope, but it’s of little practical benefit compared to just buying a Dobsonian.

This scope isn't included in the Telescope Ranklist

The Orion SpaceProbe 130ST is one of many beginner telescopes sold on an equatorial mount, with the premise that an equatorial mount is either more “advanced” or capable of astrophotography. Neither is actually the case. The SpaceProbe 130ST is little more than a 130mm f/5 tabletop scope slapped on an equatorial mount and tripod that is marginally more useful than a Dobsonian mounting, at the expense of a higher cost and a less convenient setup. It’s not a bad telescope by any means, and it might be something you really like, but in terms of actual advantages over similar priced Dobsonians, there simply aren’t many.

What We Like

  • Portable and available
  • 5” aperture
  • Decently priced
  • EQ2 mount works well for visual use
  • Nice included accessories
  • Can be upgraded to have motorised tracking

What We Don't Like

  • Collimation for beginners
  • Somewhat confusing assembly instruction
  • For the price, you could get a 6” Dobsonian
  • Mount is not as steady as a Dobsonian
  • Plastic focuser and mount parts
  • Astrophotography is basically impossible

Bottom Line

The SpaceProbe 130ST is a nice telescope; but if you want a truly astrophotography-capable instrument, you’ll need a bigger budget, and for purely visual use, a Dobsonian is probably a better choice.

Optics Performance Of SpaceProbe 130SLT

The SpaceProbe 130ST is a 130mm f/5 Newtonian, identical to the Zhumell Z130, Sky-Watcher Heritage 130p, and Celestron 130SLT/Astro-Fi 130. It has a 1.25” rack-and-pinion focuser, which is made mostly out of plastic but works pretty well.

At f/5, this scope delivers nice wide-field views, albeit with a little coma – nothing to worry about, however.

The primary mirror is made of plate glass, and both the primary and secondary mirrors are, of course, collimatable. For whatever reason, Orion has covered the back of the primary mirror cell with a useless metal plate, obscuring the collimation screws and hindering cooldown; it must be removed with a Phillips head screwdriver. Collimating the scope’s primary mirror requires a screwdriver, which can be rather frustrating in the field.

Orion SpaceProbe 130ST

The 130ST attaches to its mount with a pair of tube rings but no Vixen dovetail system. To put it on another mount, you’d need to buy a dovetail and attach it to the rings.

Are the accessories of acceptable quality?

The SpaceProbe 130ST includes 1.25” 25mm (26x) and 10mm Plossl (65x) eyepieces; these are much better than the cheap Kellners/Modified Achromats supplied with cheaper telescopes.

The newer version of the SpaceProbe 130ST replaces the old 6×30 magnifying finder with a red dot sight, which projects a red dot onto a window through which you view the sky. Just line the sight up with your telescope, and then aim the dot at your target, and you should have it in the field of view of the telescope. A red dot finder works well for aiming a telescope of this aperture and focal length, though aiming a scope on an equatorial mount manually is, of course, still a bit cumbersome.

A collimation cap is also included, though a Cheshire collimator or laser is ideal – read our guide to learn more.

About the Mount Capabilities

The SpaceProbe 130ST comes on a standard cheap German equatorial mount, this one being an EQ2. The EQ2 is up to the task of holding the 130ST but is not the steadiest mount available for such a scope – particularly if you extend the tripod legs to a comfortable height. Unlike with more expensive scopes/mounts, the 130ST’s tube rings simply bolt to the EQ2 rather than using a Vixen dovetail and saddle.

The primary advantage of an equatorial mount is that tracking the sky is much simpler than with an alt-az mounted scope/Dobsonian. You simply turn the RA slow-motion cable occasionally or install a motor drive. One can purchase a motor drive for hands-free tracking from Celestron or Orion, which will work fairly well for visual use, but simply isn’t up to par accuracy-wise for astrophotography. The drive makes high-power viewing nice, but hand-tracking at even 250x really isn’t a problem with the mount’s slow-motion cables, or even with a regular Dobsonian mount.

The setting circles on the EQ2 are way too small and inaccurate to be useful for much of anything and are purely decorative, as on most modern equatorial mounts.

The mount lacks a polar scope or sighting hole, so precise polar alignment is difficult, but for visual use, this isn’t a huge concern. For photography, however, it’s a problem.

Should I buy a used SpaceProbe 130ST?

The SpaceProbe 130ST is quite a nice scope, and our main criticism of it is that it is not such great value if bought new. If you can get a deal on a used one, by all means, go for it.

Aftermarket Accessory Recommendations

The 130ST’s 650mm focal length means that even the “high magnification” 10mm Plossl provides only 65x. Even under poor seeing conditions, the 130ST can take 100x and up to 250x is possible on good nights with good collimation. For optimal views of the Moon and planets and to split close double stars, we’d recommend using between 100-175x. 

A 6mm “goldline” will give you 108x, or you could buy a 2x Barlow lens to get 130x with the 10mm Plossl and a moderate magnification of 52x with the 25mm Plossl that comes with the 130ST. An Astromania 4mm Planetary will provide 163x, which is getting closer to the upper limit of magnification that the 130ST can handle on most nights.

The 130ST’s equatorial mount has an attachment for a motor drive. You could get Orion’s dual-axis EQ-2M drive and have push-button slow-motion adjustments on the RA axis, or opt for the more simple Celestron Logic Drive which just tracks the sky with no other functions.

What can you see?

The SpaceProbe 130ST does a fairly good job on the Moon and planets, at least if you purchase an additional eyepiece or Barlow – 65x isn’t exactly going to make viewing small details on them easy. You’ll be able to see Jupiter’s cloud belts, the Great Red Spot, and even shadow transits of its moons on a night of good seeing. Saturn’s rings, the Cassini division within them, some cloud belts, and a handful of moons can also be seen. Venus and Mercury will show their phases, while Mars reveals a few dark spots and its polar ice cap. The Moon is great, as always; Uranus and Neptune are little more than star-like points if you can manage to locate them in the first place.

The 130ST’s 650mm focal length gives it a relatively wide field of view at low magnifications, making it great for viewing big and bright deep-sky objects like the Pleiades, Andromeda Galaxy, and so forth. You’ll be able to see hundreds of beautiful open star clusters, details in a few dozen galaxies (provided you have dark skies – under urban or suburban viewing conditions most galaxies are little more than smudges), jaw-dropping details in nebulae like Orion and the Swan, and you can just begin to resolve bright globular clusters like M13 and M22 into individual stars on a good night. Planetary nebulae like the Cat’s Eye begin to show colours and perhaps even detail at moderate magnifications.


So, what can you really do astrophotography-wise with the SpaceProbe 130ST?

A DSLR camera is too much for the focuser and mount to handle, so deep-sky astrophotography is basically out of the question – in any case, autoguiders and the like would be needed for good pictures, and the SpaceProbe cannot accommodate these things. You’re limited to the Moon and planets, using a webcam-style CCD like a Celestron NexImage or ZWO ASI camera.

In addition to the power and laptop requirements, you’ll need a 3x or 5x Barlow lens to get the SpaceProbe to an optimal focal length — barlows this strong are too much for visual use, but the optimal focal ratio for planetary imaging is f/15 to f/25.

In addition, the mount needs to be aligned accurately to keep tracking accurate enough to keep whatever you’re imaging in the tiny field of view of the camera, which is hard when there’s no polar scope or sighting hole as I mentioned previously.

All in all, while planetary astrophotography can be done with the SpaceProbe 130ST, you’ll be spending more than the scope costs to do so, and you’ll be limited severely by its inexpensive mount and 5” aperture.

An amateur astronomer and telescope maker from Connecticut who has been featured on TIME Magazine, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, La Vanguardia, and The Guardian.

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