Celestron 130 GT GOTO Telescope Model 31132

Front view of my Celestron 130 GT

My Story With This Telescope

I bought this telescope from B&H Photo back around the 2003 time frame and rarely used it.

Every time I went to use it, something came along to take my attention away from astronomy and so it languished through life events like my personal illnesses, my father’s strokes and eventual death in 2012 and other key family matters. I did test it in the field once in 2011 and even mounted a Nikon D80 to it and did some astrophotography while the mount ran for about one minute per exposure. After that, it sat for 8 years without running.

Fast forward to 2019 and I decided, now that I am retired, to get outside again and back to this subject of astronomy that I love.

On powering it up, once I had the replacement battery pack, the telescope electronics leapt to life after half of it’s service life never seeing any activity. I found that one of my two hand controllers was just not working and I managed to score a new GT hand controller of Ebay for this telescope that was superior to the single working hand controller that had originally come with the telescope. The old handset is a parts unit now and the original handset is a backup unit only.

I also hooked up a Celestron RS-232 to DB9 connector from Celestron to a Plugable USB to Serial Adapter Compatible with Windows, Mac & Linux (RS-232/DB9 Female Connector, Prolific PL2303HX Rev. D Chipset) USB to DB9 connector and plugged in the telescope to my laptop. I saved some money on the USB to DB9 interface after consulting a number of forums and found that this model was recommended the most.

I was surprised that the entire rig powered up and communicated effectively with the free Stellarium software package that I found to be very impressive. Stellarium allows me, with the appropriate RS-232 cable and a USB to DB9 connector to point the telescope at deep sky objects which for me, having been out of this hobby so long, is just revolutionary! Note that my Windows 10 laptop easily identified the USB connector and the entire setup with literally plug and play with no trouble at all. Very satisfying to see something “just work” for once.

I do plan to develop a good setup checklist for this rig and did spend the time to clean the telescope with taking it apart and cleaning the mirrors and inside the OTA. I re-collimated it and everything looks ready to go for when I take it out on it’s first mission – I will comment here when that has happened and also shoot video to share. I will be adding my checklist as a list here on this site once I have refined it.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the absolutely beautiful and essential Nexstar Resource Site run by Michael Swanson. This site has EVERYTHING you need to know about Nexstar telescopes of all types. Michael reached out to me on Cloudy Nights when I had some questions there and helped me get my rig back to 100% in a very short time. I highly recommend bookmarking his site and also to visit him on the Cloudy Nights Nexstar forum with any questions you might have.

What I like

This telescope is a classic with it’s successor telescope the 130-SLT as the latest offering of what began with the GT series in the early 2000s.  For such as design to persist over 16 or so years is very telling.

I love the GOTO aspects of this telescope and with the updated controller, this unit allows for quick and easy finding of objects after a brief star alignment process. Hooking up the cables to get this telescope operating with Stellarium was simple and I’m excited to take it into the field to operate it for an evening of observing.

The optics of the 130mm mirror and secondary are of typical Celestron excellence. While I cut my teeth originally on a home brew 6 inch F8 telescope, this 5.1 inch mirror does just fine for most celestial objects and is a great beginner or “near grab and go” telescope. It does weigh more than a simple refractor, but it’s aperture and GOTO abilities more than make up for any downside to using it as a grab and go telescope.

Care needs to be used to insure that fresh batteries are used if using the basic power pack since it can deplete quickly.

I did lose track of the originally supplied eyepieces for this scope but I do have the “Celestron Eyepiece and Filter Kit – 14 Piece Telescope Accessory Set” which works well with this telescope and provides excellent views with the 130 GT.

Speaking of Celestron, In all my moving of the scope during the long years it sat idle, I lost the dust cap. I contacted Celestron and asked if they still had these caps and if so I was interested in getting one.

Celestron’s support team was VERY responsive and made me feel like they cared and I was beyond surprised when they SENT ME THE CAP FOR FREE! I am retired and watching my dollars is a priority now so I am very careful with what I purchase. I was all ready to spend $10 to $20 for the new cap and Celestron shipped it out to me at their expense via UPS and I had it in a few days.

Celestron made me a customer for life, on the spot. They do care about their customers and went out of their way to be helpful. This is something I WILL remember!

The overall weight of the entire package is shown as being around 18 pounds which is totally friendly for a partially handicapped person like me to lug out to the field with minimal discomfort. The successor Celestron SLT telescope also weighs in at the same overall weight. A review at Telescopewatch  incorrectly places the weight at 30.5 pounds for the entire assembly and gives the telescope a poor review due to the mount. I can agree in some respects with the shakiness of the mount, but with a variety of steps easily done to reduce the shakiness, the telescope can be made quite steady. In low power eyepiece views which I frequently use, the problem is not an issue that I find to be a real issue and I prefer to have the light weight for field transport given my disability and to deal with the small problems of the mount with a variety of easy to implement solutions. I will purchase a set of vibration suppression pads to see if they help as well.

Regarding this negative review mentioned earlier: This need to toss rocks at inexpensive telescopes is something I see in a lot of reviews, but given the sheer expense of heavy-duty GOTO mounts, there is a place for these smaller and lighter rigs and the reviewer does NOT take into account we who are handicapped in the review. I simply cannot handle large and heavy items without assistance. It’s something you see almost nothing about on any sites or forums and I think it does need addressing. The review also took issue with the the 130 SLT as an aging platform. Considering that the design is popular, sells well and is a classic, I really don’t see the issue. Telescopes do change over time and one day the Nexstar will be replaced. For now however, it is a great platform, especially for handicapped folks to set up and use.

One final point: For this reviewer to specify a weight of 30.5 pounds for the entire rig in this review is something I find inexplicable. I triple checked and the assembled weight is coming out at 18 pounds repeatedly on all of the sites that sell the 130 SLT. So I just don’t know where they got that figure, but it is wrong. I suspect that these reviewers come from a viewpoint of supporting big, heavy and expensive rigs that are out of reach for most folks and try to steer them towards those big dollar setups for a reason.

Perhaps I’m a little out of touch, but having come from from the Sam Brown generation of telescope makers, I find that inexpensive and effective telescopes are something to be cherished and not criticized to excess for their deficiencies which can be overcome with ingenuity and elbow grease. And for handicapped astronomers, this is one sweet rig for seeing the night sky in all it’s beauty.

What I didn’t like

Recall that I’m reviewing and discussing a 16 year old telescope model. It’s BOUND to have issues. Fortunately, these are small potatoes problems.

There is no way to disengage the motors to allow for free slewing of the telescope. GOTO mode is the only mode, but you can slew the scope in the altitude to prep it for alignment. Perhaps adding a clutch would be great for this. I note on my Meade GOTO telescope that this is not an issue and the telescope freely slews with the motors attached.

The default power pack that comes with the telescope is nowhere near enough for an all night session and with lower temperatures. While Celestron does provide a “power tank” power supply, I am building my own power supply to power the telescope with an appropriately insulated container to isolate the batteries from external temperatures.

The original power supply did NOT survive the years and the plastic for the battery holder literally fell apart on the old power supply when I handled it. I ordered a new set of two off Ebay and paired the new design with a 9-volt clip to easily disengage the power pack if I needed to switch it to the second fresh pack. Note that care is required to insure proper polarity to the mount. I would suggest to Celestron to add a polarity protection circuit to their scopes to prevent any possible damage from mistakes in getting the polarity wrong.

Cable management is also a chore with this scope. I have added Velcro holders on all 3 legs of the tripod to all the hand controller to be placed in the appropriate spot depending on where the azimuth is pointing. It’s not a deal breaker, but it would be nice to have the controller hang on the main altitude arm and I may try Velcro there as well to see how well it works.

The same issue exists for the power supply. It is easy for the power plug to wrap around the outside of the azimuth ring and one finds themselves constantly moving the power pack around. The less times you need to fiddle around with power the better.

My Modifications

  • The power supply is the largest modification with a large steel ammunition box converted to provide 12 volt power for an entire evening. There is also a trickle charger built right into the case to ease the task of recharging the batteries.
  • Default battery pack replacement. Old one was cheap and literally fell apart as I handled it to try powering on the telescope after years of inactivity.
  • Velcro add-ons to place the handset controller as needed to prevent cable wrapping and stresses.

To be modified:

  • Re-grease the drive train. I still need to figure out what type of grease to use. Once I get that sorted out, I will shoot video of this operation.
  • Replace slightly out of spec power receptacle on the control arm with a new one to better hold the power cable.
  • Add a 3-D printed part for a DSLR camera to be piggybacked on the telescope.
  • Various designs being looked at for improving the tripod stability.

The Bottom Line

This is a great telescope for beginner, intermediate and experienced amateur astronomers who wants a very portable reflector telescope that can easily be transported while allowing for quick pointing to many deep sky objects as well as solar system objects. For a handicapped astronomer like myself, this is a wonderful unit because of it’s lightweight and easy to use GOTO capabilities.

Even after 16 years of basically doing nothing, this telescope is still on the job and will now finally see regular use as one of my more frequently used telescopes.

I give this telescope a thumbs up with a 4.5 out of 5 stars.


From Celestron’s 130 GT Product Page: “The popularity of our NexStar 114GT inspired us to go bigger! We are proud to introduce our newest NexStar computerized GoTo telescope with our NexStar 130GT. The NexStar 130GT has 30% more light-gathering power than our 114 mm telescope. The computerized hand control gives you the ability to automatically slew to any of its 4,000+ objects, including over 600 galaxies, 300 clusters and dozens of beautiful binary stars. View the details of the lunar surface, the rings of Saturn, the polar ice caps on Mars, the cloud belts on Jupiter or a number of the Messier objects such as the globular cluster in Hercules (M13), or the Great Nebula in Orion (M42). Begin to explore some of the fainter Messier objects using the additional light-gathering capabilities of the 130GT’s 5″ primary mirror. Because of the Newtonian design, the mirror gives fully color-corrected views that are best suited for astronomical use.”

Specs (as supplied by Celestron and Nexstar Resource Site):

Optical System: Newtonian Reflector
Approximate Street Price: $360 (includes tripod)
Aperture: 5 inches (130mm)
Focal Length: 650mm
Focal Ratio: f/5
Supplied Eyepieces: 10mm SMA (65x), 25mm SMA (26x)
Maximum Magnification: 260x
Maximum Field of View: 2.7°
Magnitude Limit: 12.3
Resolution Limit: 1.1 arcsecond
Finder: 1x power red-dot
Objects in HC Database: 4,033
Weight (includes tripod): 18 lbs. (8.2 kg)