Celestron SkyScout Scope 90 Review

Article written: 12 May , 2008
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

When I first saw the Celestron SkyScout Scope 90 appear, I knew that some day, some how I was going to have to get my hands on one of these refractor telescopes. I am fascinated with my Celestron SkyScout Personal Planetarium and the thought of adding an easy-to-use telescope to it as as system was simply irresistible. My only thought was would this be the Celestron quality I’ve always known and loved… or would it be a disappointment?

The day the big box from Celestron arrived, my hands itched to take out the telescope and mount inside and see what it could do. Of course, the “astronomer’s curse” was in full force at the time and we all know that anyone who gets a new telescope has to endure at least a few days of clouds and rain before they’re allowed to use it. I was no exception. I kept watching the box and watching the skies; one of these nights, the SkyScout Scope 90 would be mine.

The moment the first sunny day arrived, the box was on the table and I was ready with a fresh, open mind; ready to see just how intuitive assembly would be and how the scope felt to my hands. With the neatly packed interior displayed, by some odd coincidence my hands chose to open the section that contained the mount and tripod first. Inwardly, I cringed. I’ve had a tremendous amount of experience with inexpensive telescopes and one of the major flaws with all of them is the mount and tripod. Please don’t tell me this is the same.

Please.

I needn’t have worried. The moment the Celestron altazimuth mount was freed from its styrofoam and plastic, I knew that my faith in Celestron was well placed. What I was holding in my hands might be lightweight – but it was in no respect cheap. Smooth, 1.5″ polished stainless steel legs were ended with well-attached feet. A critical link, the mechanism that tightens the tripod legs when extended, was rock solid and not prone to stripping out like competitor mounts. What’s more, the Celestron-quality altazimuth mount was already attached – fully assembled. While most of us (including me) are perfectly capable of assembling a mount and/or attaching it to the tripod, this extra Celestron feature scored heavily in their favor.

Why? The answer is simple.

For any of us who dis-assemble and re-assemble a scope frequently, you know the more often it is done, the harder it becomes on the parts. It’s also very wearing on some types of mounts and tripods to transport them fully assembled as well – one wrong move can mean stripped fittings and a forever “loose” scope. Not so in the case of the Celestron SkyScout Scope 90. This is one that is meant to be transported assembled and its anodized aluminum machinations are solid quality. You aren’t going to strip this Celestron mount out just by using it.

Next up? Scope rings. Here again we have a critical assembly part. Easily attached and Celestron quality. While the scope rings might seem like a minor thing, have you ever tried holding your optical tube steady with one hand while closing the scope rings and tightening them down with the other? Yeah. You get the picture. No one wants to take a chance at dropping their optical tube assembly and Celestron has thought about that. The tube rings have grips! In my estimation, this isn’t a minor point. This is a major convenience. By adding a “grip” feature on the tube rings, Celestron has made it easy for one person to set up the SkyScout Scope 90 – a person of any age and capability.

And now, the optical tube assembly itself. When the plastic came off, I discovered plastic underneath. Yes, it was a shock to discover the optical tube was plastic, but, this scope is under $300. Having faith in Celestron design, and also remembering how shocked I was that my first big dobsonian was cardboard, I hooked it up to the rings and was pleasantly surprised to find the dew shield is integrated. Well, hey! There’s another nice and thoughtful feature. The SkyScout Scope 90 is going to save you some money (and headaches) in the long run by already having a dew shield built right in!

Next up? Time to add the 6X30 finderscope to the quick release bracket. Here again is another very well thought out features by Celestron. For those not familiar with telescope terminology, a quick release dovetail is a type of slide that allows you to put on and take off the finderscope without messing up its alignment. A definite plus for those who transport their telescope and perfectly compatible with other types of finders – such as a red dot or green laser finder. I was also very pleased with the 6X30 image correct finder. It delivers upright images that are less confusing to the beginning astronomer and perfect for the daylight wildlife observer. To me, this is perfect aperture – capable of revealing fainter marker stars – but not so many as to be confusing with average star charts. The Celestron 6X30 finder was also very easily aligned and very secure in its housing. Both the quick release bracket and finderscope are high quality and should never need replacing. Score more points for the Celestron SkyScout Scope 90!

Now for the SkyScout Scope bracket. Viola. Again, the bracket attaches easily and securely and the Celestron SkyScout fits in it like a glove. Secure pegs match perfectly with the base of the SkyScout and an easy grip knob is provided should you wish to lock the personal planetarium down. Again, a perfect fit and easy alignment means no hassle on the user’s part and another big point in favor of this scope.

So how did it feel with all the bells and whistles attached? I went in prepared to be skeptical of having balance issues and within seconds was grinning like a fool. The pan handle control works like a charm and the clutch insures smooth and easy operation without feeling like the assembly is overloaded. On the contrary! The whole Celestron SkyScout Scope 90 balanced like a charm and there was no position that I put the scope in that felt unstable. I like confident equipment.

Are you ready for an optics test? I am. While I wasn’t too impressed with the included diagonal and 10mm eyepiece, the Celestron 40mm is the same quality that has graced my eyepiece case for two decades. Don’t get me wrong, for the diagonal and 10mm are perfectly acceptable, but I guarantee you’ll be using the included 40mm eyepiece in more than just the SkyScout Scope 90! The 40mm eyepiece is outstanding quality with good eye relief and field of view. While newcomers are terribly tempted to have that “high magnification” factor, Celestron has done you a favor in the eyepieces they choose to include. For the 90mm aperture Celestron SkyScout 90 at f/7, this particular eyepiece will give you bright, low power images that amaze you with richness of field. For lunar or planetary work, the included 10mm is right down at the limit of usable magnification. Trust Celestron, they honestly knew the two best eyepieces to pick for this telescope – not just ones to include

Terrestrial viewing? Superb. Very little color fringing and tack sharp images. Astronomical viewing? Outstanding. My first target was Saturn at low power. Crisp, clean, and well focused. (Although I haven’t mentioned it yet, the Celestron rack and pinion focuser on the SkyScout Scope 90 is also high quality. It’s very capable of fine adjustments and feels like it will last a lifetime. No slop!) What a delight to listen to the SkyScout Personal Planetarium tell me all about it while I was viewing! Oddly enough, others wanted to listen as well, so it was no problem to put a small, powered speaker right on the sturdy accessory tray. Next up? Mizar and Alcor – then Cor Caroli. Far from a tough split in either case, but the color correction is superb. How about deep sky? In the 40mm eyepiece both M81 and M82 were easily framed against their starry background and bright enough to be seen without aversion. What a pleasure! Other galaxies like M65 and M66 were easy. Even M51 and M104 were beginning to show structure and globular clusters like M3 and M5 some resolution. No vignetting… Just crisp, clean images. The plastic OTA? Guess what… Not only does it make the whole assembly lighter, but also promotes quicker cool down times.

Over the days – and away from the public eye – I continued to put the SkyScout Scope 90 to the test. These were the little things that only a backyard astronomer could appreciate – like knowing which star was Alpha Cancri so I could easily starhop to M67, or purposefully choosing difficult doubles like Porrima or Epsilon Bootes. Again and again, the Celestron SkyScout Scope 90 surprised me. Not only is it capable of the Messier objects, but a handsome portion of the NGC catalog as well. It performs well on the planets, and beyond the call of duty on the Moon.

All in all, you cannot go wrong with the Celestron SkyScout Scope 90. It’s extremely easy to assemble and its durability shines right through. Even if you never couple it with a Celestron SkyScout, the 90 will make an awesome beginner’s scope that won’t (unlike competitor’s similarly priced brands) fall apart in the user’s hands. No wonder Celestron guarantees it for two years! At only 18 lbs. it makes a great travel companion and for a great many users will provide a lifetime of fascination. I know I don’t want to let mine go.


8 Responses

  1. Matt says

    Thanks for this review! I’m planning on buying a beginner level telescope and thought this might be the neatest, the SkyScout seems like a tremendous help for novices to find object via star hopping.

  2. Member

    Hi, Matt!

    For a beginner level scope, this rocks. The ease of assembly, the “no confusion” altazimuth mount, the “no collimation” refractor… all of this combined with durability make it a wise choice for new hands.

    Please be very wary of competitor scopes. Unlike some folks who post here in UT, I won’t cut somebody (or their products) down in public, but I will say that I’ve had VERY personal experience with the other two big names in beginner scopes and both of them fell apart on me after just a few uses.

    Am I biased towards particular products / manufacturers? You’re darn right I am. I am biased towards the ones that last, not just have great advertisement and prices. My equipment doesn’t just sit there and look pretty – I use it. I would never steer you towards a product unless it was worthwhile.

  3. peter says

    Does this telescope invert the image or present it “right side up”? The inversion thing is one of the most irritating features on most astronomy telescopes that makes them useless for pointing at anything but the sky whereas a good spotting scope can be multipurpose.

  4. Member

    Hi, peter! Thanks for your question…

    This is another point in the Celestron Sky Scout Scope 90’s favor. All images – including what you see in the finder scope and the eyepiece – are “image correct”. This makes it not only easier for beginners to understand what they see, but makes the Sky Scout 90 do double duty as an excellent terrestrial scope as well.

  5. Chris says

    Tammy,

    Isn’t the tube made of plastic because the SKY SCOUT is VERY sensitive to metal?

    For newcomers finding deep sky objects is very frustrating. Does the Locate feature on the Scout make the finding of DSO’s easier than a stand alone scope?

    I don’t understand your reluctance to knock a product. If a product is junk you owe it to your readers to tell them that.

  6. Member

    After a long, long time of not knowing this post was here – I’m back to answer.

    Yes, Chris. The GPS on the SkyScout is sensitive to being too close to metal and you’re probably very correct in your assumption that that’s why the tube is plastic. Nice catch! And no, the locate feature doesn’t really take the place of a GoTo unit – but it is a nice assist. For example, once you’re pretty daggone sure you have the object targeted, the SS can then help confirm that.

    My reluctance to knock a product only come from the fact that almost all of my bad experiences have come from one particular company. Right now I’m sitting on two more of their products that I just want to shake my head and give up. Why go to such great lengths to produce outstanding optics and then overlook a critical design flaw? The reality check is if i DO come right out and say what the problem is and who the company is that produces it – readers are going to accuse me of “bashing” a well-loved company.

    How far would you stick your neck out if you knew that 200 readers were going to write you angry letters accusing you of bashing one company and favoring another? I taking my brave pills and hoping one day I can just out with the truth about some of these less than desirable products without offending the folks that provide them and our readers.

  7. Chris says

    You are a review writer and just admitted you pull your punches for fear of criticism. If you can’t stand the heat perhaps you aren’t meant to be a writer. The honest to God truth is I write what I think and I think any writer owes that to their readers. Why do you get to know which company or companies are short changing their customers but not your readers? The vast majority of your readers will ultimately reward you for calling a spade a spade and you owe them the truth. Also, there are just a few manufacturers. It doesn’t tale a physicist to figure out who you are talking about.

    I bought the SkyScout Scope 90. There are major problems you glossed over or you figured they were acceptable due to the low selling price. The mount is too short so that anybody in the USA can forget looking at anything above Polaris unless they get down on the ground. That fix required a 9 X 50 Right Angle finder and a dedicated astronomy chair which will lower one to about a foot above the ground. Even with those additions it is still impossible to view anything near the zenith since the panhandle hits the mount and it causes a “blind spot”.

    The Amici prism which is enclosed is what I’d expect with a toy and it seriously degrades the image so count on another $75 or more for a decent star diagonal. To your credit you mentioned it but it has to be replaced for astronomical viewing.

    There is a lot of backlash when adjusting the altitude and it is very annoying when using the 10mm EP. The 40mm EP is unusable because of excessive eye relief which causes “blackouts” or a “kidney bean effect”. Lastly, I’m going to buy a quality GEM
    mount provided that dovetail is universal or easily adaptable.

    It may sound like I am saying the scope is junk but that’s not the case at all. It is just unrealistic to expect a quality telescope AND mount for $300. Unfortunately, you made it sound like it is.

    I bought this product because I recently became reinterested in astronomy after a 30 year break. What got me reinterested was the Sky Scout. I wanted a light grab-n-go scope for occasions when I don’t feel like lugging out my heavy Newtonian and the SkyScout Scope 90 is made for the Sky Scout.

    To make this scope enjoyable for me has/will require 2 new EP’s, a diagonal, a right angle finder, and a better mount. A minority of users may be happy with the telescope as is but they will face serious physical and mechanical problems. Unless the upgrades I mentioned are made I’m afraid most purchasers will quickly tire of the challenges and relegate the scope to the nearest closet.

    Tammy, I don’t mean to be harsh or make this article about you instead of the telescope,but can’t you see by witholding your criticism for that other company you made it clear you are a Celestron fan and it makes one wonder if that played any role with regards to your favorable review? You are similar to a baseball umpire and can’t afford to be a fan of any company. Just call them as you see them and let the chips fall where they may.

    Warmest regards,

    Chris

  8. tom says

    Chris-is-a-tool-box.

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