Celestron StarSense Explorer Telescopes: Which Model is Best for You?

The Celestron StarSense Explorer range of telescopes were newly released in 2020 and are perfect for beginners looking for a first telescope.

They allow your smartphone to be used interactively with your telescope to make it much easier to find planets, galaxies and other objects to look at. This helps remove much of the frustration that can occur when starting with astronomy.

In this article, we provide an overview of the four different StarSense Explorer telescopes in the range so that you can understand the pros and cons of each and help you choose which to buy.

*This website makes money through affiliate commissions. This means we may be compensated if you click links on this page at no extra cost to you.

Cheap & small
Celestron – StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ Smartphone App-Enabled Telescope – Works with StarSense App to Help You Find Stars, Planets & More – 80mm Refractor – iPhone/Android Compatible
Portable power
Celestron – StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ Smartphone App-Enabled Telescope – Works with StarSense App to Help You Find Stars, Planets & More – 102mm Refractor – iPhone/Android Compatible
Budget power
Celestron – StarSense Explorer LT 114AZ Smartphone App-Enabled Telescope – Works with StarSense App to Help You Find Stars, Planets & More – 114mm Newtonian Reflector – iPhone/Android Compatible
Most powerful
Celestron – StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ Smartphone App-Enabled Telescope – Works with StarSense App to Help You Find Stars, Planets & More – 130mm Newtonian Reflector – iPhone/Android Compatible
Make & Model
Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ
Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ
Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 114AZ
Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ
Telescope Type
Refractor
Refractor
Reflector
Reflector
Aperture
80 mm (3.25-inch)
102 mm (4-inch)
114 mm (4.5-inch)
130 mm (5-inch)
Weight
9.2 lb (4.2 kg)
14.2 lb (6.4 kg)
10.4 lb (4.7 kg)
18 lb (8.2 kg)
Cheap & small
Celestron – StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ Smartphone App-Enabled Telescope – Works with StarSense App to Help You Find Stars, Planets & More – 80mm Refractor – iPhone/Android Compatible
Make & Model
Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ
Telescope Type
Refractor
Aperture
80 mm (3.25-inch)
Weight
9.2 lb (4.2 kg)
Check prices
Portable power
Celestron – StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ Smartphone App-Enabled Telescope – Works with StarSense App to Help You Find Stars, Planets & More – 102mm Refractor – iPhone/Android Compatible
Make & Model
Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ
Telescope Type
Refractor
Aperture
102 mm (4-inch)
Weight
14.2 lb (6.4 kg)
Check prices
Budget power
Celestron – StarSense Explorer LT 114AZ Smartphone App-Enabled Telescope – Works with StarSense App to Help You Find Stars, Planets & More – 114mm Newtonian Reflector – iPhone/Android Compatible
Make & Model
Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 114AZ
Telescope Type
Reflector
Aperture
114 mm (4.5-inch)
Weight
10.4 lb (4.7 kg)
Check prices
Most powerful
Celestron – StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ Smartphone App-Enabled Telescope – Works with StarSense App to Help You Find Stars, Planets & More – 130mm Newtonian Reflector – iPhone/Android Compatible
Make & Model
Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ
Telescope Type
Reflector
Aperture
130 mm (5-inch)
Weight
18 lb (8.2 kg)
Check prices

Last update on 2021-12-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Celestron StarSense Explorer Review & Comparison

There are four different Celestron StarSense Explorer telescopes which we cover in more detail below.

Each is different but they all feature the StarSense Explorer technology that essentially provides a halfway point between computerized (GOTO) telescopes and manual ones (see FAQs below if you want more information on GOTO telescopes).

What these StarSense Explorer telescopes do is allow you to attach your smartphone to the telescope. Then, using the app, it scans the night sky above you and tells you what you can see on that particular night, and then guide you to it.

For example, if Saturn or the Andromeda galaxy are above you that night, you can select them on the app and then follow the arrows on the app to point the telescope at them.

Here is a quick video that shows this:

This is a great, innovative feature that takes advantage of the smartphone that you probably already own, and gives you something simpler and cheaper than a fully computerized telescope.

There are a few differences between each of the models, so let’s look at each of them in turn to help decide what’s right for you.

Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ

Celestron – StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ Smartphone App-Enabled Telescope – Works with StarSense App to Help You Find Stars, Planets & More – 80mm Refractor – iPhone/Android Compatible

Starting with the Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ. You can take a number of its key characteristics from its name:

  • Celestron = Manufacturer
  • StarSense Explorer = the telescope range, as specified above
  • LT = refers to how the smartphone is attached. The LT models like this simply have the phone sit on top of the telescope tube. The DX models have the phone sit off the side of the mount. This makes very little difference.
  • 80 = the 80mm aperture of the telescope. This is the key measurement of its power and the views it can deliver. The higher this is, the better.
  • AZ = refers to the alt-azimuth mount that comes with it. This is the component on top of the tripod with which you control where the telescope points and looks. Alt-Az mounts are best for astronomy and the simplest to use.

Not in the name, but worthy of note, is that it is a refractor telescope (as opposed to a reflector telescope). This refers to the telescope’s build and shape.

Generally, refractors are less bulky and easier to operate. However, reflectors tend to give you more aperture (power) for the same price, with the downside being the bigger size and more cumbersome operation. This model and the 102 AZ are refractors. The 114AZ and 130AZ are reflectors.

Pros

  • The lightest, most portable and easiest to operate of the range
  • Generally the cheapest (although check prices)

Cons

  • The 80mm/3-inch aperture is the smallest of the range and will limit the brightness and clarity with which you can view night sky objects.

Overall, this is the most entry-level of the four telescopes in this range. It is the most portable (being the lightest) and is generally the cheapest. These reasons may make it the best option for kids. However, it has the lowest aperture, which will limit your viewing capacity.

It’s a great budget option, but if you have the space and intend to use it mostly at home then the 114AZ will give you more power for a similar price. If you prefer a smaller refractor, then the 102AZ below could work but will almost certainly cost more.

Key specifications

  • Type: Refractor
  • Aperture: 80 mm (3.25-inch)
  • Focal Length: 900 mm (35-inch)
  • Focal Ratio: F/11.3
  • Weight: 9.2 lb (4.2 kg) (fully assembled)
  • Accessories: Two eyepieces (10 mm and 25 mm), 2x Barlow lens, smartphone dock, erect image diagonal, red dot finderscope, tripod.

Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ

Celestron – StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ Smartphone App-Enabled Telescope – Works with StarSense App to Help You Find Stars, Planets & More – 102mm Refractor – iPhone/Android Compatible

In order of aperture, the DX 102AZ is the second most powerful in the range.

As noted above, the 102 in the name refers to the telescope’s aperture of 102mm (4-inch). This is the best measurement of a telescope’s capacity to provide good views.

It shares many of the characteristics of the other refractor in the range above in that it is smaller, lighter and less cumbersome to operate, but it is more powerful with the larger aperture and you will be able to see more through it.

In addition, the faster focal ratio of F/6.5 will also make it better at taking astrophotography images.

Pros

  • Most powerful refractor in the range
  • Improved focal ratio for better photography
  • Smallest telescope tube
  • Less cumbersome than the larger models below

Cons

  • Less power (aperture) than the two reflector options below
  • Generally the most expensive

Overall, this is a great option if you prefer a smaller and less cumbersome refractor telescope, but want something more powerful than the 80mm option above. The downside is that it is generally more expensive.

Key specifications

  • Type: Refractor
  • Aperture: 102 mm (4-inch)
  • Focal Length: 660 mm (26-inch)
  • Focal Ratio: F/6.5
  • Weight: 14.2 lb (6.4 kg) (fully assembled)
  • Included accessories: Two eyepieces (10 mm and 25 mm), smartphone dock, erect image diagonal, red dot finderscope, tripod.

Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 114AZ

Celestron – StarSense Explorer LT 114AZ Smartphone App-Enabled Telescope – Works with StarSense App to Help You Find Stars, Planets & More – 114mm Newtonian Reflector – iPhone/Android Compatible

The Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 114AZ is different from the models above in that it is a reflector telescope.

This means that it is larger and heavier. Also, you look into an eyepiece on the side, rather than at the bottom. Often this makes for more comfortable viewing with less stooping.

It has an aperture of 114 mm (4.5 inches). This is more powerful than those models above and will provide better views.

Pros

  • More aperture and better views with 4.5 inch aperture
  • One of the cheaper options alongside the 80AZ model

Cons

  • Larger, heavier, more cumbersome and less portable than the refractors above

Overall, this is a good option if you only have the budget for one of the cheaper telescopes and want more power.

The downside is that it is heavier and bulkier, and so you should think about where you will use it and whether you value power over portability.

Key specifications

  • Type: Reflector
  • Aperture: 114 mm (4.5-inch)
  • Focal Length: 1000 mm (39-inch)
  • Focal Ratio: F/8.8
  • Weight: 10.4 lb (4.7 kg) (fully assembled)
  • Included accessories: Two eyepieces (10 mm and 25 mm), smartphone dock, erect image diagonal, red dot finderscope, tripod.

Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ

Celestron – StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ Smartphone App-Enabled Telescope – Works with StarSense App to Help You Find Stars, Planets & More – 130mm Newtonian Reflector – iPhone/Android Compatible

Finally, the DX 130AZ model is the biggest in terms of both physical bulk and aperture.

The 130 mm (5-inch) aperture is fairly large and will enable truly great views of planets and deep-sky objects when the night sky conditions are right.

Pros

  • Large aperture for the best views of objects in the night sky

Cons

  • Larger, heavier, more cumbersome and less portable than the other models
  • The most expensive (alongside the 102AZ)

Overall, this is the best option if you most value a higher aperture for better views.

The downside is that it is generally in the higher budget range and that it is less portable, heavier and bulkier.

Key specifications

  • Type: Reflector
  • Aperture: 130 mm (5-inch)
  • Focal Length: 650 mm (25-inch)
  • Focal Ratio: F/5
  • Weight: 18 lb (8.2 kg) (fully assembled)
  • Included accessories: Two eyepieces (10 mm and 25 mm), smartphone dock, red dot finderscope, tripod.

Celestron StarSense Explorer FAQs

Is Celestron StarSense Explorer a good telescope?

Yes, the Celestron StarSense Explorer telescopes are good. There are four different models to suit different budgets and priorities.

Celestron are one of the most reliable telescope manufacturers in the world.

What can you see with Celestron StarSense Explorer?

What you can see will improve according to the size of the aperture. The 80 mm model is the smallest with the weakest viewing capacity, and the 130 mm model is the largest with the best.

With all models, if the conditions are right you should be able to view the planets of the solar system and deep-sky objects like other galaxies. These views will be much brighter and clearer with the larger aperture models.

Which Celestron StarSense telescope is best?

If you disregard factors like size and portability, then the Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ is the best as it has the highest aperture and will provide the best views.

Can you take pictures with the Celestron StarSense?

Yes, you can take astrophotography pictures with the Celestron StarSense Explorer telescopes using a smartphone adapter like this basic one or this premium one.

There is an issue though in that if you are using your smartphone attached to the telescope to use the StarSense technology then you won’t be able to attach it to the eyepiece to take a photo at the same time.

You’d have to either unattach the phone and try not to move the telescope, or use two separate phones.

Celestron StarSense Explorer vs Celestron AstroMaster Telescopes: How do they compare?

Some of the Celestron Astromaster telescopes use similar OTAs (telescope tubes) and similar AZ mounts.

They are completely manual though and do not have the StarSense technology and smartphone interactivity (although you may be able to replicate this with other adapters and apps.

Celestron StarSense Explorer vs Celestron NexStar Telescopes: How do they compare?

The Celestron NexStar telescope range are all full computerized compound / catadioptric telescopes.

This means they have the advantages of GOTO technology and are smaller telescopes in terms of physical size. They are generally more expensive though.

See our overview of all the different Celestron NexStar models.

Are Celestron StarSense Explorer telescopes computerized / GOTO?

Celestron StarSense Explorer telescopes are manual, not computerized, but their design gives you many of the advantages of this technology. For information:

  • Computerized/GOTO telescopes feature a mount that operates where the telescope points and can find astronomical objects for you to look at automatically (usually operated by a hand controller). These are really good, but can be expensive and require a power source.
  • Manual telescopes have a mount that you operate by hand and you usually have to locate things in the sky by looking for them with your eyes. These are cheaper, but make it much harder to find things, especially if you not an experienced astronomer.

The StarSense technology on these telescopes enables you to use your smartphone to give you much of what you’d get from a GOTO telescope. They won’t find things automatically for you, but they will search for what you can see and guide you to look at whatever planet or object you want to look at.

The other advantage is that no power source is needed.


Conclsion: Which Celestron StarSense Explorer is best for you?

In terms of which one is right for you, there are two key things to look at it – price and size:

  • The 80AZ and 114AZ are the cheaper models. The 114AZ is heavier and more cumbersome but has higher aperture and you will see more through it
  • The 102AZ and 130AZ are the more expensive models. The 130AZ is heavier and more cumbersome but has higher aperture and you will see more through it

The fact that the price difference is fairly large actually helps narrow it down as, if you know your budget, you just need to pick what matters to you most:

  • Smaller size and greater portability for the 80AZ or 102AZ refractors, or
  • More power but larger and bulkier 114AZ and 130AZ reflectors.

In summary:

  • If you have the space and plan to mostly use at home then the 130AZ is the best and will provide great views.
  • If you have the budget but value something lighter and more portable, then the 102AZ might be right for you.
  • If you want the cheaper option and have the space then the 114AZ might be for you
  • If you want the cheaper option but prefer something lighter and more portable, then the 80AZ might be best.

Please let us know if you have any questions by leaving a comment below.

For further details on these telescopes, you can also check out Celestron’s website and you can seek more articles like this in our Astronomy hub.

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