Testing the Skywatcher 130 mm Mini-Dobson IYA Telescope

When ordering some eyepieces for my 110 mm William refractor a while ago, I saw on the web page of  Teleskop-Service an advertisement for a 'cheap' telescope produced during the International Year of Astronomy (IYA) for under 200 Euros. Well, it was 199 Euros... My first telescope was the same price but a really primitive Tasco 75 mm reflector, so I was curious - would the manufacturers do better nowadays? It was advertised to be on a Dobsonian mount, my first Tasco was a very wobbly and impossible-to-point azimuth mount. Would this one be better? There is only one way out - buy it!

So I bought it. For some of us 200 Euros will be a lot of money, but I just wanted to know. And, to preempt my review, it's worth it! I kept telling people asking me how much money you have to spend for a beginners telescope: "If you don't invest at least 500 Euros, you'll just discourage the person from using a telescope". I changed my opinion -  If you want your kids to have a telescope, or if you're not sure yourself and want to spend little money - this one is a good deal! But read the rest too...
So I received the telescope with some other stuff recently. This is how it looked like.

After unpacking the first box, it looked like there's a telescope in there...

The scope is packed well. I take it out of the box. Out came a nice 13 cm Dobsonian and a cardboard box with a laser-dot finder and two eyepieces. The scope is almost aligned. I find a thin instruction book. It gives all the relevant information on setting up the telescope and aligning it. Using a small allen wrench and a hex screwdriver (provided by myself - they were not in the box!) I follow the book to align it. I set up the scope outside, on my garden table. To make it operational, I have to extract the top part with the eyepiece holder, by pulling out two rods. The rods slide easily and smoothly lock in place.
The scope in the box - nicely packed. I decided I will keep the box for transport.
Here's the sope outside the box - and nicely protected against damage with foam.
When I tried to align it, I discover the first (and so far only) issue - one of the allen screws of the secondary seems damaged, I can't turn it. Will need to look at this again later...

In the evening I take the sope outside. Unpacking takes only a few minutes. To avoid that I have to kneel low on the ground, I set it up on my garden table. Not the most stable mount, but it should be good enough to test this telescope.

I look at my first star - Vega. It's brilliant and sharp - in both magnifications, with the 25 mm and the 10 mm eyepiece. I move the scope to Epsilon Lyra and see the nice double star. In the larger magnification (10 mm eyepiece = 60 x) I can't resolve the four stars - but the image quality is such that I would expect them to be resolved with larger magnification, say with a Barlow lens.

I check out M51, the spiral galaxy with the compagnion. I see both the main galaxy and the compagnion - even though I am under horrible Dutch skies. I am impressed.

My conclusion: This is a nice telescope, and I take back my statement that you need 500 Euros to buy a decent scope. For 200 Euros you get a 13 cm Dobson with a nice easy-to-use laser pointer and two good-quality eyepieces which will let you enjoy the sky for many years!

Since clouds came in I went inside. After about one hour, I checked outside and it was clear again. The Moon came up - so I went outside to have a look. When I did, I saw a slow-moving point in the sky - the space station! It took me 30 seconds to put the scope on my garden table and point it to the ISS. I peeked through the eyepiece and saw an elongated something - clearly the solar cells of the ISS. Super! I looked at the Moon and saw many details. My simple one-shot digital camera provided the following view (one out of 6 tries to get a good image):

So, all in all - it looks like this is good value for money. Still have to check this telescope with a globular cluster or a planet to see how much details it shows... Anyway, I wish this telescope would have been available when I started astronomy - it would have been much simpler for me to get started with astronomy!

If you want to get your nephew or nice something nice for their birthday or christmas, get this telescope, plus a barlow lens and a nice book to find interesting objects. E.g., if you are German, take R. Stoyan's 'Deep Sky Reisef"uhrer'. Then add some dark clear skies, and you will have many phantastic evenings enjoying our sky! This would have kept me busy for a few years.

Detlef Koschny, 22 Jul 2009

This page prepared by Detlef Koschny, 26 Jul 2009. Back to the main page of The Koschny Observatory.