The SkyWatcher Explorer 130 boasts a Newtonian reflector design and at 5.1”/130 mm has enough aperture for studying both the moon and planets, but also deep sky targets such as star clusters, galaxies and nebulae.
The reason to buy the SkyWatcher Explorer 130 is for its equatorial mount, which has a polar axis tilted to be parallel with Earth’s rotational axis. In practice that means you need to know your latitude then position the polar axis dial to that number.
In the box are two eyepieces – 0.39”/10 mm (30x magnification) and 0.98”/25 mm (75x magnification) – along with a 2x Barlow lens for close-ups, a red dot finder, an accessory tray, and a reasonably sturdy aluminum tripod.
Optical design: Newtonian reflector
Aperture: 5.1”/130 mm
Focal length: 35.4”/900 mm
Focal ratio: f/6.9
Eyepiece focal length: 0.39”/10 mm (30x) and 0.98”/25 mm (75x)
Total kit weight: 27.8 lbs/12.6 kg
Mount type: German equatorial (EQ2)
SkyWatcher Explorer 130: performance
Most telescopes use an alt-azimuth amount. These are easy to use, but having to go up, down, left and right to lock onto targets can get rather tiresome. What you get with an equatorial mount is the ability to move your telescope in a completely fluid manner, but also in a way that easily follows targets as they appear to move in the night sky.
The equatorial mount on the SkyWatcher Explorer 130 doesn’t come with good instructions, which is a shame, but it's worth persevering with. It’s reasonably easy to use, but it's not the most accurate money can buy. Once you've slewed to a target there are a couple of knobs to lock into position, though doing so creates a little droop. Thankfully there are some fine hand controls to help get targets perfectly into the field of view.
It’s possible to buy a motor for this mount that will keep your chosen object in the field of view. The optical tube’s mount does have some threads for attaching cameras, though it’s not able to support much weight (and doing so will lessen the rig’s accuracy).
When locked-on to planets it’s possible to get some excellent close-ups using the SkyWatcher Explorer 130. We found the best approach was to use the 2x Barlow lens in conjunction with the 25 mm eyepiece, which gave us clear views of Jupiter and its moons. We were also able to split double stars using the Barlow and the 10 mm eyepiece, which is not something to be taken for granted at this price point.
What the equatorial mount brings in ease of use and accuracy it takes away in mobility. The mount alone weighs almost 7 kg. So does the telescope itself. Add a tripod and you've got a set-up that's just too heavy to move easily. It’s not impossible to move because the tube can be quite easily clipped out of the entire mount for transporting it in bits. Still, we would advise the SkyWatcher Explorer 130 is purchased primarily for a backyard rather than as a telescope to take places too often.
SkyWatcher Explorer 130: verdict
An excellent choice for anyone wanting to get their hands on an equatorial mount, the SkyWatcher Explorer 130 offers good all-round views of the solar system and deep sky objects. However, it's not the easiest telescope to use and definitely not to move. If you plan on being patient and largely permanent then the SkyWatcher Explorer 130 is a good value choice for a first serious telescope.
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