You don't have to spend a lot of money to enjoy the wonderful views the night sky has to offer. Take the XT6 IntelliScope from Orion. It offers a generous 6" aperture with excellent optics, comes with plenty of accessories and is a joy to use. With the optional IntelliScope Computerized Object Locator, it can even guide you to thousands of celestial objects.
The 6" (15 cm) reflector has been a popular beginner's telescope for decades. It's easy to see why; it offers enough aperture to provide good views of the planets and brighter deep sky objects, while providing great value and portability.
Out of the Box
The XT6 IntelliScope arrived in three packages: tube assembly, mount, and computerized object locator. The components were well packed and there was no shipping damage.
The assembly instructions were clear and it took me about two hours to put everything together.
The tube assembly houses the optics and comes with a 6x30 finderscope and a smooth 1.25" rack-and-pinion focuser that can take standard 1.25" eyepieces. Two quality eyepieces of the Plossl design are included — a 25mm and a 10mm, yielding 48x and 120x magnification.
The XT6 IntelliScope tube assembly is supported on a Dobsonian mount. In recent years this mount has become very popular. It provides great stability, ease of use and makes setting up the telescope a snap. It is also less expensive to manufacture than the traditional equatorial mounts, meaning the emphasis is placed more on where it counts — the optics.
A Smart Telescope
The optional IntelliScope Computerized Object Locator brings the XT6 into the computer age. The computer device reads the digital setting circles on the mount and provides computer aided pointing to thousands of celestial objects.
To begin using the computer feature, all you have to do is point the telescope at two alignment stars. Locating the two stars may prove challenging at first for a beginner. Printing a chart of the whole sky with the included Starry Night planetarium software will help you locate these stars. In early June, I found Spica and Vega to be a good pair to align on.
Once the telescope is aligned, you can choose from an extensive database of objects, including all the Messier, NGC, and IC deep sky objects, 288 interesting stars, and 8 planets. There are twelve monthly sky tours to get you started. These tours work well at a dark sky site, but many of the objects will be invisible to a city-bound observer.
Objects are centered in the eyepiece by manually moving the telescope tube and "zeroing" the two readouts on the hand controller: altitude (up-down) and azimuth (left-right). There are no motors, so moving from object to object is a quiet affair and easy on the batteries.
The computer consistently placed the object in or very near to the low power (48x) field and the views at all powers were very pleasing. Jupiter revealed fine details within its cloud belts, though an eyepiece more powerful than the 10mm (120x) supplied was needed. Close double stars were cleanly split, and deep sky objects showed all the detail a 6" aperture is capable of. The "navigation" knob made it easy to move the telescope from object to object. Telescope movements were smooth and the tube remains still when you let go.
Most beginners will be extremely pleased with this well-made telescope. It is excellent optically and mechanically, and its computer allows access to a large number of interesting objects. Highly recommended as a first telescope or as a quick setup or star party telescope for the advanced amateur.
Geoff has been a life-long telescope addict, and is active in many areas of visual observation; he is a moderator of the Yahoo "Talking Telescopes" group.