The Orion StarBlast 6 Astro Reflector telescope is a tabletop type telescope package. It is available in a basic package as well as a kit which includes extra accessories. This review will be of the basic package.
The disadvantage of the tabletop design is that you need a table. And that table needs to be rock steady or the image will move around as the table moves. Some people love the table top design and some do not. This is purely a matter of personal preference.
As entry-level amateur telescopes go this has a fairly large aperture. Many beginner scopes have less than 100 mm aperture. So this telescope will show you more and dimmer items in the sky than the typical beginner’s telescope.
If you have a smaller aperture scope as your first telescope, this could expand your visual reach in a fairly compact package, making it easier to transport or take on vacation than a floor standing model.
Included in the package:
- Optical tube assembly
- OTA dust cover/cap
- Dobsonian tabletop mount/base
- 2 optical tube rings
- 25mm Sirius Plössl eyepiece
- 10mm Sirius Plössl eyepiece
- EZ Finder II reflex sight
- Collimation cap
- 3-Hole eyepiece rack
- Hex key Allen wrench (size 3/16″)
- A comprehensive user manual
Assembly and Component Review
Mount of Starblast 6
The StarBlast 6 uses the same tabletop “Dobsonian” mount design as its smaller cousins. Sticklers will note that it’s technically a single-arm fork design, with the scope pivoting up and down on a single bolt and Nylon/felt bushing while it moves in azimuth (left-right) on Teflon pads as in the Dobsonian. It also includes a tension adjustment knob which allows you to set the right friction so that the optical tube does not move on its own. If you purchase additional eyepieces, a Barlow lens or other accessories that go in the focuser, you will likely make adjustments to this knob during the night to compensate for the changing weight and balance.
The large footprint of the mount and the weight of the whole package may lead to some difficulty in finding a suitable surface to set the scope on, arguably its biggest drawback. Some people love the table top design and some do not. This is purely a matter of personal preference.
The regular StarBlast 6 mount also comes with all of the encoders needed to plug in Orion’s Intelliscope Upgrade Kit and convert it to the StarBlast 6i.
The Optical Tube
Unlike regular 6” Dobsonians which have a focal ratio of f/8 and a focal length around 1200mm, the StarBlast 6 is a stubby f/5 with a focal length of 750mm. Consequently, the StarBlast 6 produces about a 60% lower magnification and a wider field of view with a given eyepiece vs. an XT6, and the tube is much shorter. However, at f/5 you’re beginning to run into coma, and cheap eyepieces will struggle to produce sharp images across the entire field of view. Collimation is also a bit more of a pain.
Like most inexpensive 6” and smaller scopes, the StarBlast 6 uses an all-plastic 1.25” focuser. It’s a bit of a bummer that the StarBlast doesn’t have a 2” focuser, since it would be able to provide an even wider field of view and accept a coma corrector, but adding one is possible albeit with some drilling and significant expense involved.
Many tabletop mounts have a fixed attachment point on the optical tube. The advantage of the tube ring mounting method is that you can rotate the optical tube within the tube rings to get the eyepiece into the most comfortable position. Newtonian optical tubes that are not mounted using tube rings have the focuser at a fixed position which may or may not be optimal for you.
Once the rings are mounted, you slide the optical tube into the tube rings and snug down the knurled ring clamps. They don’t have to be super tight as you want to be able to rotate that tube or slide it forward or back to gain the best balance and eyepiece position.
Removing the rings and attaching a Vixen-style dovetail plate will let the StarBlast 6 be mounted on virtually any equatorial or altazimuth mount and tripod.
Orion Starblast 6 Eyepieces
The included eyepieces are 25 mm and 10 mm Orion Sirius Plossl eyepieces. It should be noted that these are very good quality eyepieces and a step above the typical Kellner or Modified Achromat eyepieces that are often included with telescope packages. I find these offer sharp images. They can serve you well for many years.
The 25 mm is a low power eyepiece. It will give you 30X and approximately a 1.7-degree field of view. This will be very good for star hopping, open clusters and other uses where a wider field of view is preferred.
The 10 mm will give you 75X and approximately a .7 degree field of view. Of the two, this is your high power eyepiece. However, a scope of this aperture is capable of much higher power.
In the future, I would recommend you plan for eyepieces and Barlow lens combinations for at least 160X and perhaps higher. Above that level, the atmosphere will start to become the limiting factor so I can’t tell you exactly what the maximum useful magnification will be for your location and situation.
A 150 mm aperture telescope would normally be rated up to 300X, but atmospheric conditions will vary from night to night and may limit you below that. Build your eyepiece set over time as you learn what your local situation will allow.
Collimation and the usage of manuals
Orion includes a collimation cap. All Newtonian reflector telescopes require minor adjustments from time to time to ensure that the mirrors are properly aligned to provide the best view. Many telescope brands do not include a tool for this important task, but Orion does. The collimation process is not hard to do and will a little practice takes only a few minutes.
Orion provides collimation instructions in the manual. They also provide an excellent “how to” video that I highly recommend.
Often reviewers overlook the user manual but the included manual is very comprehensive and provides real value. It goes well beyond the simple assembly of the package. They include instructions on how to aim the scope, how to focus and how to select your eyepieces.
The manual includes recommendations for picking your observing site and then goes into a number of great tips that will help you get started observing with your new telescope. They also include basic star charts and lists of good targets for your new telescope.
Many companies leave the manual out as a cost-cutting measure. Writing good manuals is expensive. Orion has done a very good job on the user manual. Be sure to read the friendly manual!
The manual also goes into the addition of the Orion Intelliscope upgrade option for the StarBlast 6. I will not be reviewing the Intelliscope feature. This is a PushTo style computer assist that allows you to find things in the sky with the assistance of a computer that tells you where to point the telescope. This can be added later.
Using the StarBlast 6
The package includes a 1.25” rack and pinion type focuser that comes already mounted on the optical tube. This will accept any eyepiece with a 1.25” barrel which is the industry standard. The choice of eyepieces is huge as the eyepiece brand does not have to match the telescope. However, Orion offers a very wide selection of eyepieces and Orion’s eyepieces are considered to be good quality.
The finder is an Orion EZ Finder II red dot finder. This is a very simple to use finder. An internal light source projects a red dot on a plastic screen. You look through the finder from behind and align the red dot with your target in the sky. An advantage to this type of finder is the simplicity of use and your ability to use both eyes at the same time. So you can see the sky and the red dot at the same time.
The Orion EZ Finder sits on a standard dovetail type mount which fits into a dovetail shoe on the scope. The finder mount is already installed on the optical tube when the telescope arrives. This shoe will also accept other finder types so if you would like to add a magnifying finder or a laser pointer finder the shoe will accept them if they use a standard size foot.
The Orion EZ finder needs to be aligned to the scope in order to get the most accurate results. This is best done during the day and only takes a few minutes. Put the 25 mm low power eyepiece in the focuser. Now, from behind the optical tube, sight down the optical tube and line it up with a distant phone pole, street light, chimney top, or some other fixed object that is at least ¼ mile away. Centre that in the field of view of the eyepiece. Now switch to the 10 mm and again centre the target in the field of view again. Turn the tension knob to lock the optical tube in place.
Turn on the EZ Finder. Note that there may be a tab to be removed so that the battery makes contact. Now look through the finder and adjust the two screws till the red dot is centred on the target. Check the eyepiece to make sure the target is still centred. Check that the red dot in the finder is also centred. Now your finder is aligned to your telescope and you are ready to view the universe.
Finders have a tendency of being bumped during transport. When you make your first use of the telescope each night you may have to make a slight adjustment on the finder so that it and the telescope are perfectly aligned.
Orion has included two Orion Sirius Plossl eyepieces. The 25 mm will yield 30X. The 10 mm will yield 75X. These are enough to get you started but do not take full advantage of the scope’s aperture. You will want to add eyepieces and/or a Barlow lens to achieve higher magnifications and more choices to optimise the view.
An eyepiece rack is included that just slips onto two preinstalled screws on the base. Just slide it over the screws and tighten it. This rack can hold three 1.25” eyepieces for convenient access to your eyepieces during an observing session.
Should I buy a used StarBlast 6?
Yes! Make sure that the mount isn’t damaged and the optics don’t have any coating damage. If you care about being able to upgrade the scope to a 6i, also check to make sure that the encoders aren’t damaged or missing.
Aftermarket Accessory Recommendations
The short 750mm focal length of the StarBlast 6 means it’s a bit of a struggle to get high magnifications out of it. For planetary viewing, you’ll want to use between 175x and 300x. A 6mm “gold-line” eyepiece, while great, only provides 125x. For more magnification, you might want a 2x Barlow, which will get you 250x with the goldline and 150x with the stock 10mm Plossl eyepiece. Keep in mind that for deep-sky objects, you’ll usually want to use the lower magnifications provided by the included eyepieces for a bright and wider field of view.
What can you see with a SkyBlast 6?
A telescope with a 6”/150 mm aperture can show you quite a lot. The fast focal ratio of the StarBlast 6 combined with its easy-to-use tabletop Dobsonian mount makes it a great wide-field scope for viewing the largest star clusters, galaxies, and nebulae in the night sky. However, with suitable additional accessories, it makes a great planetary, lunar, and double-star instrument as well.
Assuming you expand your magnification range you should enjoy excellent views of the Moon, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter. There will be hundreds of open clusters, globular clusters, and double stars for your exploration. If you have a moderately dark location to view from you should enjoy finding galaxies and nebulae with your StarBlast 6.
The Orion StarBlast 6 is a very capable telescope package. The included components are of good quality and should serve you well. If you prefer the size and portability of the table top design this is an excellent choice. It will show you a lot and Orion has a reputation for excellent customer service.
If you are open to a physically larger model, I would recommend you also take a look at the Orion XT6, a full sized floor standing 6”/150 mm Dobsonian style telescope. The XT6 is less expensive for the same aperture and does not require a table.
The XT6 weighs about 11 pounds more but can be moved in two pieces so the weight difference may not be an issue, and again no table needed. I prefer the floor standing models but you may prefer the table top. Optically, their reach will be very similar.
The only disadvantages that I see are the need for a table and the fact that the full-sized model is actually lower cost. But if the table top design is an advantage for you then add ½ a star to that. Either way, the performance of Starblast 6 is very good for its price range and Orion’s great support is a big plus.