An excellent telescope will allow you to uncover all of those heavenly bodies and celestial views, but a poor pick will simply be money wasted. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of which telescope is ideal for observing planets and galaxies.
This will be determined by your budget, how you intend to use the telescope, and where you intend to use it – if you just have a limited budget, check out these excellent $300 telescopes. So, if you want to use your telescope in your backyard, your requirements will be very different from those of someone who wants to take a telescope on a trip or use it for astrophotography.
To assist you in making your buying decision, we’ve produced a list of our top picks for the best telescopes for the typical individual who wants to investigate planets and other DSOs in greater depth.
Buying a Telescope for a Beginner
With so many telescopes on the market, each with its own set of features, making a buying decision can be difficult. So, we’ve put together a buying guide to help you choose the best telescope for your preferences, hobbies, and budget.
Types of Telescope
There are three basic types of telescope that use different optics to allow you to see distant objects bigger and brighter. These are:
Refractor: This is the type of telescope that most people are accustomed to. They have a lens at the front and are low-maintenance in general. They can, however, quickly become more expensive as the aperture increases. Refraction telescopes provide excellent optical quality, especially if you choose an apochromatic model.
Reflector: Light is collected by a mirror at the back of the main tube in these telescopes. This is the least expensive sort of telescope, but you must be prepared to collimate or alter the optical alignment. This adjustment is intimidating for beginners, but as you gain more knowledge and confidence with your telescope, you will find it rather simple.
Catadioptric: These are often referred to as compound telescopes since they use a mix of mirrors and lenses. These are typically lightweight and have a small form. Schmidt-Cassegrain and Maksutov-Cassegrain scopes are the most common forms of catadioptric scopes.
The focal length (FL) of a telescope controls its magnification power. The focal length is simply divided by the eyepiece on the barrel. So, if your scope has a 25 mm eyepiece and a focal length of 500 mm, the magnification is 500/25, or 20x. Most telescopes come with a handful of eyepieces to allow you to vary the magnification, but you can also buy more eyepieces to extend the focal length range even further.
The finer the detail of fainter things, the larger the aperture size. However, this should not be the only factor to consider when purchasing a telescope. You can still view a lot of night sky objects with a good scope with a tiny aperture, especially if you have good eyepieces and there isn’t a lot of light pollution. Most galaxies will require a 6 or 8 inch aperture to be visible in a typical suburban backyard.
You should avoid telescopes with absurdly high magnification powers, such as 600x. The greatest practical magnification in most circumstances is 50 times the aperture measurement in inches. To see a decent image at 600x magnification and have optimal observation conditions, you’d need an aperture of 12 inches.
All telescopes require a robust support, but the mount you choose might have an impact on the performance of your scope. Many telescopes come with a tripod or mount, which may or may not be of great quality. These lightweight mounts, however, are usually plenty to get you started.
Furthermore, many scopes contain a mounting block that allows you to use several types of tripods, so you might be able to utilize your present camera tripod. Just make sure to double-check your telescope’s mount compatibility, since some include telescope-specific fittings.
There are two kinds of mounts: alt-az and equatorial. Alt-az mounts, also known as altitude azimuth mounts, are the more basic of the two, allowing you to move right and left as well as up and down like a camera tripod. If this isn’t enough, you might prefer an equatorial mount, which rotates on a single axis to track the motion of the sky.
However, equatorial mounts are heavier, bigger, and more expensive. Some mounts also include small motors that allow you to program the date, time, and position in order to track a library of celestial objects. This can be a very useful tool for both novice and seasoned stargazers. You might also think about getting a computerized mount to help you find galaxies and nebulae.
When you bring the light to a focus, your scope makes a picture, but you must use an eyepiece to see it. It enlarges the image by acting as a magnifying glass, and altering the eyepiece can affect the magnifying power of your scope.
As previously mentioned, most telescopes come with one or two eyepieces to provide a larger field of vision, but you can supplement your kit with additional eyepieces. Eyepieces come in a variety of styles, but the more expensive they are, the more lens elements they include. They can vary greatly in price, so thoroughly investigate your options before making a buying decision.
While a great eyepiece can boost the magnification of an average scope, there is no point in paying top bucks for a top-of-the-line eyepiece if you only have a basic, low-cost scope.
After you’ve built up your telescope, you’ll need to find something to direct it at. You may be able to view the moon and brighter stars through your telescope, but without a finder, you will not get the most out of your new equipment. Because your telescope can only show you a small portion of the sky, you’ll need a good finder.
There are three varieties of finders: low power, wide field finders with no optics, “reflex” sights that emit a red dot to help you focus your telescope on a specific star or planet, and finderscopes. This is similar to a tiny telescope that attaches to your big telescope and brightens and magnifies the view.
This is the best way to navigate the sky, but it comes at a premium price. Although this may be regarded a vital feature for professional sky gazers, a reflex sight or low power finder will suffice for beginners or intermediate level astronomy aficionados.
At the moment, my favorite telescope is the Celestron NexStar series. The NexStar 8SE is the premium model, but there are also cheaper versions in the NexStar 6SE and even smaller models in the NexStar 4SE. The number simply refers to the aperture of each telescope, and when the 8SE’s 8 inch aperture (which allows more light in) is combined with its technology, you get a very powerful telescope.
However, this does not mean that you should immediately choose the 8SE; the 6SE has some advantages, such as being lighter and less influenced by factors like dew. So it all comes down to what you’re searching for. However, if you’re seeking for the best telescope, I’d choose the 8SE.
The 8SE is still only 11kg, making it light enough to move around if necessary. It’s also incredibly strong, which is essential if you’re going to take your astronomy seriously. But it’s the optical tube that really stands out. Celestron has been using the same C8 model for nearly 50 years since it performs so well.
Because it is computerized, the 8SE is my preferred scope. This means that you can simply put up your telescope, align it, and begin your expedition looking for constellations. This scope allows you to utilize the GPS feature to select the constellation or DSO you wish to see in the sky, and it will automatically display whatever you select, making it much easier to use than a manual telescope. The 8SE may be used with batteries, but it depletes them quickly. So, you’ll either need to plug it in or, if you want to use it outside, you’ll need to set it up with another kind of power (I use a cigarette lighter converter, which works great).
Overall, this is one of my favorite telescopes for both novice and experienced astronomers. The Schmidt-Cassegrain design is not what most people are used to, yet it is an excellent compound telescope that combines the best of refracting and reflecting technologies.
- Simple to use: The NexStar Series is simple to operate, even for complete novices.
- High performance: If you want to observe planets in great detail, you’ll need a competent telescope like the 8SE.
- Relatively light: The 8SE weighs only 11 kilos, which is rather decent for a digital telescope.
- Some people find it prohibitively expensive: Although it is an excellent telescope, it may be a little pricey for some.
- Limited Magnification: If you try to use batteries, you’ll need a lot of them because this beast consumes them quickly!
The NexStar series is fantastic, and if you’re searching for the best telescope for seeing planets, consider the 8SE, 6SE, or even the 4SE. It’s ideal for amateur astronomers as well as more skilled users who may take use of its computerized design.
Although I like the 8SE, if you’re looking for a telescope for astrophotography, I’d recommend an apochromatic refractor. Even if you’re brand new to astrophotography, an APO will produce higher-quality photographs faster than an 8SE (though this is still feasible with an 8SE).
Astrophotography is not the easiest pastime to start, but an APO refractor makes it a little easier. If you begin your adventure with a reflector or a cassegrain, you will simply make things more difficult for yourself. With a telescope like this one, you’ll find it quite easy to become used to aligning your scope and mount.
But what is it about this model that makes it stand out? The Skywatcher ProED, on the other hand, has an 80mm aperture and an f/7.5 focal length (600mm), allowing you to capture extremely crisp photographs while virtually removing all chromatic abberation. This model is designed to last.
If you want to use this Skywatcher for astronomy, make sure you get the proper mount with it (in fact, buying the right mount is just as crucial as getting the right telescope!). Personally, I recommend the Celestron AVX Mount, which is ideal for this scope.
- Value for Money: You won’t find a better telescope with the same capabilities at this price.
- Light & portable: If you’re new to astrophotography, the Skywatcher is ideal because it’s small and portable.
- Extras: This telescope comes with a ton of extras for you to make use of, meaning you won’t need to spend money on tons of accessories.
- Lens Cap: I’ve had a couple issues with the lens cap not staying on, but it could be because I prefer to maintain my telescopes in pristine shape.
- Upgrades Needed: Over time, you can easily spend a lot of money on upgrades for this model as you discover new ways to improve it, such as the focuser, but this is true for any telescope.
The Skywatcher is ideal for photographing at night. This telescope can be used by both novice and advanced astronomers, and while astrophotography telescopes are not inexpensive, this one is a fantastic value.
The Celestron Astromaster 130EQ is a good choice for individuals searching for a powerful telescope at a reasonable price. It’s a Newtonian reflector telescope, which is one of the most prevalent forms of reflector telescopes.
The advantage of Newtonian reflectors is that they are inexpensive. In fact, they’re renowned to be the finest bang for your buck if you’re seeking for a telescope with a large aperture without spending a bunch. It is also relatively lightweight, so you won’t have to worry about it being difficult to transport.
The Astromaster series is well-known for providing excellent value for money. With a 114mm aperture and a 1000mm focal length, we get an f/8.7 focal ratio. It includes eyepieces with a magnification of up to 269x.
The sole drawback of this model is that its aperture is only 114mm. This may not be sufficient for more skilled astronomers seeking detailed views of faraway planets and stars. However, for beginners, this is most likely the finest alternative currently available.
- Simple setup: Reflectors are notoriously difficult to install. This telescope, on the other hand, is a breeze to set up.
- Great price: This is one of the greatest deals I’ve seen for this telescope recently in terms of value for money.
- Eyepieces included: This is a package purchase that comes with eyepieces included.
- Not good for astrophotography: While it is an excellent choice for anyone interested in casual astrophotography, it is not suitable for more skilled users.
- Limited Aperture: When compared to more expensive models, the aperture is rather small, and it may not provide in-depth views of distant objects.
The Astromaster 130EQ is an excellent value for money for those searching for a beginner’s telescope. It’s an excellent spot to begin your astronomy exploration.
Despite its low price, the Orion StarBlast is a wide-field telescope with a field of vision of 4o. It comes with two Kellner eyepieces, one 6 mm and one 17 mm. While these eyepieces are a tad on the inexpensive side, they will enough to get you started.
This only provides 76x magnification, but you may expand your range by upgrading your telescope with extra eyepieces such as a 24 mm and 32 mm. Especially if you choose higher quality eyepieces such as a Plossi or Barlow, which will vastly improve your viewing experience.
The StarBlast also comes with a red dot finder, which is useful for getting a larger field of view. However, because there is no adapter, you will struggle to attach your camera, so if you want to get started with astrophotography, this is not the best choice for you.
With a focal length of 450 mm, this reflector scope gives optical power unrivaled in this price range, and you may add filters to explore darker nebulae.
Although searching for things can be difficult, this telescope is a lot of fun. You’ll be able to see Venus’s phases with easily if you upgrade to stronger eyepieces.
- User Friendly: This low-cost scope comes pre-assembled, making it extremely user-friendly, especially for novices.
- Great Focal Length: The 450 mm focal length provides excellent light gathering potential.
- Limited Eyepieces: The included eyepieces are cheap, which may be enough to get you started, but will need to be upgraded if you want to get more serious about astronomy.
- Not Astrophotography Friendly: It is not possible to attach a DSLR camera
If you’re searching for an inexpensive and cheerful telescope, the Orion Starblast is one of my top recommendations — you won’t be disappointed with this model.
This scope was created with portability in mind. While it may not have the quality of more expensive refractor telescopes, it does have a 70 mm f/5 refractor that can provide clear images and magnification up to 40x.
A plastic dew shield, two eyepieces, an aluminum tripod, and a padded backpack are included to transport everything. The eyepieces have magnifications of 20x and 40x, but you can expand the range by purchasing additional eyepieces. All of the bundled gear fits neatly in the backpack, allowing you to take everything on your excursions without feeling weighed down.
A copy of Sky X software is also included with the TravelScope. This is a fantastic resource for novices who want to learn more about the stars because it has an excellent 10,000 object database with printable sky maps.
Although some may claim that this scope appears to be inexpensive, it is more than capable of producing adequate photos. This label is owing to the fact that some of the pieces are plastic, and some users may find the finder and focuser to be a touch fragile. However, this scope is truly tough enough to withstand regular use.
Because the tripod is a touch light, you may need to upgrade to a more sturdy tripod if you plan on stargazing in harsh terrain.
Overall, the Celestron TravelScope is an excellent choice if you want to utilize your telescope while traveling without breaking the budget. Although it does not provide the results of a more expensive telescope, it is ideal for novices or those who are concerned about dropping their equipment while hiking to the appropriate viewing spot.
- Excellent Portability: With its supplied backpack that can accommodate the telescope and accessories, the TravelScope kit weighs only 3.3 pounds.
- Superb Value: This telescope offers a great balance of features without a hefty price tag.
- Durable Finish: Although some of the components are plastic, this telescope is durable and reliable.
- Lightweight Tripod: Some users will find the tripod is a little lacking for uneven surfaces
- Delicate Parts: Since the finder and focuser are made of plastic, they can be a little delicate
- Limited Magnification: Since this scope can only deliver 40x magnification, more experience stargazers may find it lacking.
If you’re searching for a low-cost, portable choice, you won’t find many better than this Celestron Travelscope.
The Meade 216004 has a 1000 mm focal length and a 114 mm aperture, resulting in exceptional image quality. An equatorial mount with slow motion control is included, allowing you to effortlessly view in multiple directions to obtain the greatest photos.
The 216004 comes with numerous attachments, including a red dot viewfinder, which is a zero magnification feature that creates a small red dot in the sky to use as a pointer. Simply gaze through the sight and move your scope until the dot and the object combine. There are also three eyepieces and a 2x Barlow Lens for capturing both short and long-range subjects.
This telescope weighs 22.3 pounds when fully completed, making it a little difficult to carry, but if you have a certain location for stargazing, this is a fantastic kit.
This type, like all Meade Polaris scopes, comes with a copy of AutoStar Suite Astronomer Edition. This app displays over 10,000 items to assist you in learning more about the night sky.
Because this scope produces clear, bright photos, you’ll be able to investigate Saturn’s rings, the Moon’s craters, and much more to get some stunning shots with excellent clarity.
- Software Included: This scope is supplied with a DVD of AutoStar Suite Astronomer Software.
- Red Dot Viewfinder: This acts as a pointer to sight any celestial objects
- Premium Spec: While this scope does have some premium features, this is reflected in the price.
- Heavy: With a weight of 22.3 pounds, this is not the easiest scope to move around.
If you’re looking for a low-cost astrophotography telescope, this Meade model is a good option.
This bright, colorful telescope is great for children who like to figure things out for themselves. There are interchangeable, movable pieces that can be swapped out to accommodate various forms of astronomy. This may appear difficult, but it is actually pretty simple in practice. To discover crisp, brilliant photos, your youngster will be able to explore with lenses, filters, scopes, and tripods.
“Moonscope” is the standout feature of the Nancy B telescope. This is a set of eyepieces with magnification settings that will allow your child to discover lunar craters. Even if the sky is cloudy, your youngster may use this telescope to scan the skies with the optimal settings.
Other significant characteristics of the Nancy B scope include the ability to install special filters over the lens if any item is too bright to see with the naked eye. A simple LED system is used to display power levels, and a 22-page diary is included to learn more and record observations.
As a result, this is an excellent first telescope for children to learn about the stars and experiment with seeing the night sky.
- Simple Design: Although this scope has a simple design, there are lots of viewing options
- Great Magnification: This scope offers a decent magnification range
- Predetermined Settings: No fine tuning is possible, as the scope only has predetermined magnifications.
This Educational Insights telescope is ideal for younger youngsters who are just starting started with their astronomy interests.
The M2 is the F-ED scope of the future. This is a portable spotting scope that may be used as a travel telescope as well as for bird watching, nature treks, and other outdoor activities. The M2 can produce sharp images and adequate magnification whether used during the day or at night.
The M2 includes numerous advanced features that are often seen only on more expensive telescopes, such as Extra Low Dispersion Glass. When compared to earlier versions, the magnesium alloy body has reduced overall weight by 14%. It also includes an enhanced dual focus that allows for faster concentration, which is especially handy when stargazing or trying to identify fast moving critters in the outdoors.
This scope is also nitrogen purged and totally waterproof, so you won’t have to worry about fogging. It also has a T-Adapter for attaching your camera and a compact carry case.
The 22-67x eyepiece adjusts magnification for detailed close viewing or general viewing, but the 1.25 inch standard mount allows you to connect additional eyepieces to widen the range even further.
The M2 lenses have also been coated with unique XLT coatings to improve light transmission and image brightness. The movable sunshade reduces stray light and keeps moisture off your lens. You can also assure comfortable viewing by twisting up the eyecup, which ensures a proper position.
- Durable: The body is made with a magnesium alloy, which is lightweight and durable.
- Adjustable Eyecup: The highly adjustable rubber eyecup ensures a comfortable fit for those long nights of sky gazing.
- Higher Price Point: Although it does have some great features, it is a more costly option
- No Tripod: As this is marketed as a spotting scope, the included accessories does not include a tripod.
If you’re looking for a low-cost astrophotography telescope, this Meade model is a good option.