Celestron NexStar Evolution 8" EdgeHD with StarSense
Updated: Jan 31, 2021
I purchased the telescope from Highpoint Scientific during spring 2020 when this package was on sale for $300 off. The telescope arrived in one large double-boxed package, with four separate boxes within the larger container. The smallest box contained various accessories, the longest box contained the tripod, one of the other two boxes contained the Edge HD SCT telescope along with the StarSense camera box, and the last box contained the Evolution mount head.
Assembly is easy, with the mount head attaching to the tripod with three captive bolts. The mount head self-aligns with the bolts, making attaching it quick and easy. The telescope then simply attaches to the dovetail saddle like any other mount that accepts a vixen rail.
Anyway, let's summarize what you get with the package:
And here are all the specifications of the 8" Edge HD telescope and Evolution mount:
So, what are the Pros and Cons of this system?
Another really nice feature is the extra three eyepiece holders in the top section of the mount. So, the mount can hold six 1.25" eyepieces and one 2" eyepiece as it is. Plus it has a little tray for filters or other accessories.
Here is a price comparison of the various Evolution and Nexstar SE telescopes. Note that you can buy the larger 9.25" SCT on the Evolution mount along with a sturdier CPC tripod for less than the Evolution with the 8" EdgeHD telescope. The C9.25 will produce somewhat brighter images and give you more resolution on planets, but it is an extra 20 pounds of gear to set up and takedown. While not extreme by any means, that is enough weight to really prevent you from carrying the scope and mount out the door to the backyard fully assembled. Especially when you consider you will likely have several additional pounds of gear on the telescope including the diagonal, eyepieces, finder scopes, etc.
The best value in an 8" telescope with goto and tracking is still the Nexstar 8SE. It will give you the same optical performance as the standard Evolution 8" package, but for $500 less. The tradeoff is that you don't have a built-in rechargeable battery and have to use either an AC cord or eight AA batteries (energizer lithium are the best bet there), plus the mount isn't quite as stable, and you can't release the clutches and move the scope around by hand. You have to use the hand controller. There is also no built-in wifi, so if you want to control the scope through the Celestron phone app, or Sky Safari, or another application, you have to buy the wifi adapter for an extra $121. Even so, that still gets you in the door for a lot less. Also, the 8SE is often on sale for $999 around the holidays and again sometime around early summer most years.
If you do buy this telescope system, what other items will you need or should you upgrade first?
Another nice upgrade is the Celestron 8" solar filter cover that snuggly attaches to the front of the telescope allowing you to clearly see sunspots on the sun. This isn't the best solar filter you can buy, as I think the Astrozap solar filters that use the Baader film produce a sharper image that is closer to true color, but this filter is still good and is smaller and more convenient to use.
I've been doing a lot of planetary imaging with this telescope, and here is a selection of the images and videos I've made using this telescope, a Televue 2.5x Powermate, and an ASI224MC imaging camera. Since I'm still improving at planetary imaging, these images don't show you the maximum potential of this scope but give you a good sample of what you can expect.
Ok, after all of this, and using the scope for several months, how do I feel about the scope now?
Well, part of me wishes I had purchased the 9.25" version, but the reality is that this is the perfect scope for me right now. I can carry the scope out the door fully assembled and be observing or imaging in under five minutes from late spring through early fall when cooldown is not an issue. I wouldn't be able to do that with the heavier 9.25" version which in turn would reduce how often I use this scope. The EdgeHD optics are also fantastic, and when combined with a 31mm Nagler, you can get a brilliant 1.2-degree field of view with refractor-like pinpoint stars across the entire field of view.
The go-to and tracking are quick and accurate with the star sense camera, but you can also do a quick 30-second solar system alignment on a planet and get tracking and ballpark go-to for quick observing or planetary imaging.
There are a few wonky things with the scope, but the combination of the great ergonomics, really nice optics, built-in battery, and other features make this a wonderful scope to use for visual use and for planetary imaging. Any deep-sky imaging will really require an equatorial mount, though you could get the optional wedge.
The bottom line is that you will always want a larger aperture scope, but you also need to know your limits in terms of what you are going to regularly use. At some point I might obtain a larger SCT for planetary imaging, hopefully, a C14 someday before I get too old, but the great portability and ease of use of this 8" Evolution mount and scope make it a keeper and a great option for either your only scope or a nice middle ground between a larger scope and a smaller refractor.
Anyway, this is a great telescope package to consider, but since they usually go on sale for $150-300 off (depending on the telescope size) twice per year, try to wait for one of the sales if you are interested in picking one of these up.
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Here is a video review of this telescope.