How to Set Up & Align a Reflector Telescope

Learning how to use a reflector telescope properly is an art. Reflectors provide more power for their price in comparison to refractors, however you might need to invest a little time in the beginning setting them up. Reflectors give amateur astronomers the ability to see further into the night sky, with cheap telescopes that still have a lot of power.

A reflector can be the best option for those looking for a cheap telescope, and they make up the majority of my best telescopes under $200. This is because they have a large aperture and focal length for their cost. The downside of this is that they’re much more difficult to set up than refractor telescopes, with alignment and collimation being a necessity.

But how exactly do you get the most out of your reflector telescope? We’re going to look at how to use a reflector telescope properly, as well as some tips that can help you use your reflector more effectively.

How to Set Up a Reflector Telescope

This is a good guide on how to use a reflector telescope properly. For this example I’ve used an Orion Starblast, but this guide can be adapted for any reflector telescope. Generally, you should be able to completely align your telescope within 10-20 minutes, but if it’s your first time, then it might take a little longer.

First, check you’ve got all the right equipment.

If you’ve already set your reflector up, then you can double check that everything is in order. There are different parts to a reflector telescope, including; the optical cube, the tripod legs, the head of the mount, a finder scope, a collimation cap or tool, your motion controls, a counterweight(s) and all of your accessories. This might sound like a lot, but all of these parts are crucial to your reflector, so check that you’ve got them!

Connect your mount and tripod together.

The next thing that you need to do is attach the head mount and the tripod legs together. Your reflector should come with some screws, that you can use to attach both of them together. Don’t worry about doing this tightly, as you’ll tighten it up more when you attach the accessory tray. Obviously, you need to do this for all the legs, as well as inserting the wing nut into the bottom of the legs.

Attach the Accessory Tray.

The next thing that you have to do is attach the acccessory tray bracket, This is quite easy, and typically a reflector you will need to use a Phillips head screwdriver to do this. Different models have the accessory tray in different positions, so this part does depend on your telescope. Whilst your main telescope is important, it’s only as powerful as your accessories; your barlow lens and telescope eyepieces are key if you want in depth views of celestial objects.

Attach the counter weight accessories if necessary.

This depends on whether you have an equatorial mount or an Alt-az mount. If you have an equatorial mount, then you’ll likely need to screw in your t-bolt and your motion controls now, as well as the counter weight itself. However, Alt-az telescopes don’t need counter weights, as they’re centered on the mount.

Attach the Optical Tube.

The next step is to attach the two tube rings to the top of your mount, and then attach the optical tube itself. You can play the optical tube quite comfortably into the rings, and they secure the tube by securing the two rings over the tube itself. Your telescope tube can be heavy, so make sure that you’re careful when attaching it.

Balance the counter-weights.

Again, this is only if you have an equatorial mount, but now is the best time to balance your telescope out. You can slide the weight up and down to see whether your optical tube continues to fall – it should balance itself out at a horizontal angle.

Hopefully if you’ve followed all of the instructions above, you should have been able to get your telescope built properly and stable. If this is your first telescope that you’ve set up, then it might take a while, and you’ll probably be ready to start looking at the stars.

However, even after you’ve done all of this, you’ll still need to align your telescope properly. This shouldn’t take too long, so you’ll be up and running before you know it!

How to Align a Reflector Telescope

The only issue that some people have with reflector telescopes is that they need to be collimated a lot more frequently than some cassegrains, and refractors – well, they don’t need collimating at all unless you have an issue with it. So, the price that we pay for a more powerful reflector telescope is that you’ll need to know how to collimate it.

The first thing that you need to do is ensure that your secondary mirror is actually in line with the primary mirror. When you’re looking down the eyepiece, you want to be able to see a reflection of the primary mirror from th secondary mirror.

After this, you should place the laser collimator into the draw tube. When you look down the optical tube, you should be able to see the laser reflecting on the opposite end. If your laser is centered, then the secondary mirror is aligned properly.

From there, you can begin to tighten up the knobs at the bottom end of your reflector telescope. You need to ensure that the laser is pointing onto the target on your laser collimator, and you can do this by adjusting it’s aim with the knobs at the bottom of the telescope. After this is done, your reflector telescope should be aligned properly!


In conclusion, this is just a short guide on how to set up and reflector telescope and use it properly. You can use this guide for pretty much any reflector, and the majority of telescopes too. However, you will need to use some common sense and adapt this to whichever telescope it is that you own!

They don’t cost a lot, but they give you a decent amount of power, which can enable you to see many distant objects in the night sky.

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