Review: Explore Scientific 10″ Truss Tube Dobsonian

Nearly flawless
4.5/5

The Explore Scientific 10” Truss Dobsonian is a relatively high-end telescope at a great price point, stripped of everything except the bare essentials it needs to function. However, it is a bit like buying a base model supercar while learning to drive. You’ll be rewarded with great performance, but the scope has a bit of a learning curve and there’s a lot of shopping to do before you can utilize it effectively. 

  • It’s got a big primary mirror capable of collecting a lot of light
  • The all-metal construction will last a lifetime
  • Compact
  • Good quality optics and focuser
  • Poor light baffling
  • Aftermarket accessories are a necessity for maximum performance
  • Expensive for its aperture compared to simpler offerings

The ES 10” Truss Dob isn’t for everyone, and you might want to consider some other scopes with slightly different features perhaps a little faster or easier to assemble, and maybe with some more stuff included in the base price. Most Explore Scientific telescopes tend to be a little more a-la-carte than other brands’ offerings, a concession made to keep prices low and attention on the telescopes themselves rather than their accouterments. 

If you want a truss tube, there are a few other options at the same price as the ES 10”. The Meade 10” Lightbridge Plus is still a truss, but it’s a bit more well-accessorized than the ES from the start, albeit a bit less compact and with a heavy and bulky particleboard base. It also is a little less delicate with a more robust framework than the ES. The Sky-Watcher 10” Collapsible is yet another step towards simplification with a simple collapsing tube and no truss poles or knobs to fiddle with, but lacks the dual-speed focuser of other offerings. 

If a solid tube is more your thing, the GSO 10” Deluxe Dobsonian, sold as the Apertura AD10/Orion Skyline 10/Zhumell Z10 doesn’t feature any sort of collapsing or compactable tube, but it’s a fair bit cheaper and simpler, featuring a bunch of decent accessories thrown in to boot. The larger 12” model is about the same price as Explore Scientific’s 10” truss and offers a fair bit more light gathering capability, but it’s a bulky and inconvenient thing the size of a water heater and we’d really recommend you just step up to a 12” truss instead.

Contents Of This Review
Explore Scientific 10" f/5 Truss Tube Dobsonian Telescope

Explore Scientific 10" Truss Tube

Rating: 4.5/5

The Optical Tube Assembly

The Explore Scientific 10” Truss Dobsonian, is, as the name implies, a truss tube telescope. Unlike many mass-manufactured truss telescopes, the ES 10” Truss uses a square lower tube assembly, much like premium and homemade instruments usually do. It’s also almost entirely made out of aluminum, with no wood or plastic to be found.

The tube essentially consists of 3 components: the mirror box, the trusses, and the upper tube assembly. The mirror box is entirely aluminum and contains two cooling fans and an adjustable mirror cell for the mirror. Like the mount, the mirror box is held together solely by rivets, which is pretty unusual and reminds one of an aircraft.

Adjusting the primary mirror cell collimation is a bit unusual – you stick a long supplied rod down into the mirror box, grab onto a collimation screw and turn it (as opposed to turning knobs on the back of the mirror box). This allows you to collimate the scope while looking through the focuser, which in theory makes collimation easier with a cap or Cheshire. However, in practice in the dark, there’s quite a risk of accidentally hitting the mirror with the rod, which, while rubber-coated, still probably shouldn’t be bumping into the reflective surface. This arguably negates the slight practical benefit of the whole system (using a laser collimator would also make it sort of pointless). 

The top cover for the mirror box is square, and hinged. You tuck it out of the way and secure it to the scope’s altitude bearings (themselves detachable) when in use. Convenient, but not exactly well-designed. Without any sort of baffling on the mirror box, it’s easy for stray light to get in, and there’s nothing to protect the mirror while you install the truss poles. 

The 8 trusses bolt onto each corner on the inside using thumbscrews. Unlike the collimation rod, these poles do not have any sort of safety rubber and will damage your primary mirror if they are knocked, scraped, or dropped onto it – a significant risk both when setting up and dismantling the scope. Making a makeshift cardboard, plastic, or fabric cover or simply draping a towel over the mirror during setup is a really good idea.

The upper tube assembly bolts atop the truss poles with a couple of hand knobs, a relatively easy task. The UTA only has baffling directly across from the secondary, which can lead to issues with light getting in the tube. For best results, we’d recommend adding foam or black plastic to the entire periphery of the upper tube assembly, as well as purchasing Explore Scientific’s light shroud unit for the telescope.

Like the primary mirror, the secondary collimation screws on the ES 10” are a little unusual, as they’re at a right angle to what most scopes come with. For beginners, you might not even notice this – experienced Newtonian users may be a little disoriented.

The focuser on the ES 10” Dobsonian is a nice 2” dual-speed Crayford. It works very well, and would easily cost a couple of hundred bucks by itself if sold separately.

Explore Scientific 10″ Truss Tube Mount

The ES 10” truss Dob is a standard Dobsonian design, but more closely resembles the premium Dobsonians devised by David Kriege back in the 1990s. It uses a pair of large, semi-circular altitude bearings with pebbled glass board for moving in altitude, and glass board for azimuth motion – both on Teflon. The large altitude bearings keep the center of balance from shifting when you swap out eyepieces and accessories, though the scope is inherently top-heavy – so much so that you probably will want Explore Scientific’s counterweights or to rig up a DIY counterweight system if you plan on using 2” eyepieces, a better finder, and/or a shroud (all of which are really good ideas). Like the tube, the entire mount is made out of aluminum sheet held together by rivets, with the altitude bearings made of solid cast aluminum.

Accessories

The only actual accessory included with any of the Explore Scientific truss Dobsonians is an abysmal red dot finder. It’s hard to adjust, doesn’t stay aligned, and the window is actually tinted, making the whole affair marginally better than just sighting down the tube. A better finderscope is basically required to use the telescope, along with, of course, a couple of eyepieces.

What can you see with ES 10″ truss dob?

The ES 10” Truss is an extremely capable instrument on the Moon, planets, and deep-sky objects. Mercury and Venus’ phases are easy, and craters just a couple kilometers across are visible on the Moon on steady nights. Mars’ ice caps, a few dark patches, and any dust storms are visible when the Red Planet is close to Earth. Jupiter’s cloud belts, the Great Red Spot, and its 4 largest moons look great, and on a perfect night, Ganymede’s northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere may appear to be slightly different colors. Saturn’s rings, the Cassini division within them, and a few cream-colored cloud belts can be seen, along with around half a dozen of its moons. A couple of Uranus’ moons and Neptune’s moon Triton can just barely be seen, their host planets mere bluish dots devoid of detail. Under a dark sky, you’ll also be able to catch Pluto if you know where to look.

With 10” of aperture, you’ll also be able to see a lot of detail in deep-sky objects. Even from a light-polluted suburb, globular clusters can be resolved with the ES 10” and the blue and green colors of many planetary nebulae will catch your eye. Open star clusters look magnificent at low magnifications. With a dark sky, you’ll be able to really appreciate the thousands of detailed galaxies and numerous bright, detailed emission nebulae that the scope can reveal.

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