AWB OneSky Telescope Review

Stock photo of the OneSky courtesy of Astronomers Without Borders.

Stock photo of the OneSky courtesy of Astronomers Without Borders.

A well designed, compact 5″ telescope and mount for $200? It may sound too good to be true but despite a few caveats this 130mm f/5 reflector is a capable telescope at an outstanding price.

Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) is an organization that offers astronomy outreach programs all over the world. The OneSky telescope is made for Celestron in China and sold in the US by AWB to help fund these programs. My intent in purchasing the OneSky was for use as a travelscope but for now I want to focus on its suitability as a general use telescope.

[Update Read more about using the OneSky as a travelscope.]

What’s in the Box

The OneSky comes with a wooden (particle board and laminate, to be specific) table-top mount, red dot finder, 25mm and 10mm eyepieces yielding 26x and 65x respectively, and a cheshire collimation tool. The included eyepieces are of decent quality though the scope is good enough that investing in an extra eyepiece or two is worthwhile.

Setting up the Scope

The telescope is shipped assembled in a fairly large box. My telescope arrived undamaged and setup required only mounting the included red dot finder to the upper end of the tube assembly. The scope has a long Vixen-style dovetail rail attached, which allows the scope to be balanced easily balanced fore and aft while in use.

After setting up the scope I noticed a separately bagged screw whose purpose I wasn’t sure about until I saw that it fit in the threaded hole at the top end of the dovetail. Here it works as a stop to prevent the scope from sliding out of a loose dovetail mount. I haven’t had the scope slip on me in any of my mounts but the stop screw does provide peace of mind.

Design and Mechanics

The telescope is a 130mm f/5 Netwonian reflector of similar optical design to other scopes made by Synta but with a few tweaks to the tube assembly for this scope’s intended application. The biggest difference is that upper half of the OTA collapses down, making the tube only about 16″ long when not in use. When extending the OTA the trusses seem to click into place and two large thumbscrews allow the position to be locked.

The 1.25″ plastic rack and pinion focuser used on similar telescopes has been replaced by a plastic helical focuser with a much lower profile. The design choice makes sense but the quality of the focuser assembly reflects the price and there is some play in the mechanism when focusing. Adding some teflon plumbing tape to the threads on the focuser can help tighten up the action.

The wooden table top altitude-azimuth mount is sturdy and the motions were fairly smooth out of the box. Tension is adjustable on both altitude and azimuth bearings and the integrated carry handle makes it easy to get outside and start observing.

Observing with the OneSky

The 130mm f/5 reflector is a versatile design capable of fairly wide fields at low power and crisp views at high powers. The provided 25mm eyepiece gives a true field of view of nearly 2º at 26x, which is very good for viewing many open clusters. While the Pleiades won’t quite fit in this field, adding a 32mm Plossl will get you to 2.5º at 20x and give a fantastic view of this showpiece cluster.

The included 10mm eyepiece gives 65x and will give a taste of what the scope is capable of at higher powers. Jupiter’s two main bands will be seen and many features on the Moon will be visible. Adding a good quality Barlow or investing in a higher power eyepiece is recommended. The OneSky has impressed me with its views of Saturn at 180x using a 8mm eyepiece and 2.25x Barlow, with the Cassini Division easily visible and the planet showing some nice color and subtle banding.

I’ve found the scope’s red dot finder to be accurate once aligned, making it easy to get the scope pointed at objects I can either see or know where to find. When finding new objects that are too faint to see the OneSky’s 2.5º max field of view is workable for star hopping but the addition of a supplemental finder goes a long way in improving the ease of finding faint subjects.

Unless you want to sit on the ground (in good weather laying out a blanket and using the scope this way works well) the table-top mount requires a sturdy surface. A milk crate can be used in a pinch but if you have some basic tools you can follow David Fuller’s instructions for an inexpensive custom support.

The collapsible design is one of the OneSky’s strengths but it does leave the secondary mirror exposed making it quite susceptible to dew and, if used in an area with lights nearby, loss of contrast. Adding a shroud made of Kydex plastic or craft foam is simple and virtually eliminates these issues.

Enhancements and Potential

As a general use scope the OneSky brings a lot to the table right out of the box but one of the best aspects of the scope is in its potential to adapt to your changing needs. The optics and design of the telescope are of high enough quality that it makes a nice platform for enhancements and customization. The fact that the telescope uses a standard Vixen-style dovetail allows the OTA to be used with many other astronomical mounts and makes the scope even more versatile.

Stay tuned for more on this impressive little scope.


Original content copyright 2015 by David Philips. All Rights Reserved. This post may contain links to affiliate sites; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.

6 thoughts on “AWB OneSky Telescope Review

  1. Tim

    Great blog – glad I came across it. Like you I live in Masschusetts, North Shore area to be exact, so it is encouraging to know there is some good viewing here.

    Also like you, I am interested in buying my first telescope. As a child I grew up with a small Meade telescope that my parents bought for me at a department store. The telescope is long gone and I’ve always wanted to buy an “adult” scope. With a mortgage and newborn and all of that, the OneSky scope seemed like a perfect fit. I’m looking for an entry level scope that I won’t need to upgrade in the near future – I intend on being a casual astronomer so I don’t need the fancy motordrives, tech, etc. – just a scope I can use to view in my backyard or the fields near my house. What can I expect, visually, with this scope? I’ve read your posts about the moon and some planets, what about deep sky objects? I don’t expect Hubble like views (obviously) but would this be a good scope to see a fair amount of planetary and deep sky objects? What is the major difference between the OneSky and lets say the Orion 90mm you have? Thanks for any advice!

    1. David Philips Post author

      Tim, the biggest difference between the OneSky and something like the Orion 90mm Mak is the footprint of the scope. The OneSky is a much larger scope but the views are much brighter and more detailed. For both planetary and lunar viewing you will want a higher power eyepiece and/or a Barlow. The OneSky is a very good performer at powers around 200x and even higher and will show Saturn’s rings and the Cassini Division, and many of its moons as well as Jupiter’s moons, bands, and Great Red Spot.

      Even from my red zone backyard the OneSky is capable of showing many DSOs. 5″ is a great aperture for many open clusters and will also show many galaxies – though it can be difficult to tease much detail from them due to the brightness of the sky. The brighter globular clusters will show some stars but 8-10″ telescopes are where globular clusters start to become really interesting.

      Here are a few objects I observed with the OneSky one Fall evening:

      M54, M70 – globular clusters that could not be resolved, bright center with fuzzy surrounding area
      M22 – this large globular is easy to resolve
      M29 – open cluster in Cygnus
      Albeiro – beautiful color paired double star
      Double Double (Epsilon Lyrae) – looks nice at 97x
      M57 (Ring Nebula) – small but easy to see at 97x
      M27 (Dumbell Nebula) – large at 97x
      M52 – open cluster in Cassiopeia, nice at 97x
      Double Cluster – stunning at 27x

      If the size and cost of the OneSky is a good fit for you it is hard to beat. If you think you could handle a larger scope then an 8″ Dobsonian is worth considering.

  2. ron coursen

    Can I see the Great Red Spot on Jupiter and Jupiters moon transits and the Apollo 15 site at the Hadley Rille?……ron

    1. David Philips Post author

      Ron, The OneSky shows Jupiter’s GRS and moon transits very well. With good seeing you should be able to detect clear separation between the Souther Equatorial Belt and the GRS. I haven’t viewed the Apollo landing regions but according to this Sky & Telescope article, the 5″ OneSky should be capable of locating and viewing the general regions of all six sites. For both of these uses I would recommend a good quality Barlow or higher power eyepiece to go above the 65x given by the included 10mm.

  3. Robert Barth

    Hi Dave,

    You mentioned an 8mm eyepiece and 2.25x Barlow. I’m a novice. Do you have a link to purchasing information to improve viewing of Saturn that is compatible with the AWB 130 Newtonian? I bought this for my son last month.

    1. David Philips Post author

      Robert, a combination I’ve found to be very useful is an 8-24mm zoom and a 3x Barlow – the zoom gives you powers of 27-81x without the Barlow and 81-243x with the Barlow.

      Most nights you may not be able to make use of the highest powers as you’ll need very good seeing to go up to 243x but you’ll be ready for it when those great nights come along. With the zoom it is easy to find the best magnification for the seeing, you just go up until you reach a power that isn’t crisp, then back down a bit. You’ll find the best power is usually one that isn’t crisp all the time but shows the most during the brief glimpses when the atmosphere is steady – the longer you watch the more you will see.

      The Celestron 8-24mm zoom is a very decent eyepiece that won’t break the bank and works well with the OneSky and this Meade 3x Barlow would be a good choice to pair with it.


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