9 Best Starter Telescopes For Beginners 2022
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In this article, we’re going to look at the best starter telescopes for beginners because the first model you choose can mean the difference between a lifelong obsession or a fleeting interest in stargazing.
Getting the right start in astronomy is important for building a long-term love of it.
Stargazing helps in broadening our views. Whether you want to get a good look at the night sky or actually want to be more involved in the field of astronomy, a beginner’s telescope can help you point out the best stars in the night sky.
Table Of Contents
- 1 Best Starter Telescopes For Beginners
- 2 Beginner’s Telescopes - Reviews
- 2.1 1. Orion 76mm FunScope Reflector
- 2.2 2. Celestron - AstroMaster 70AZ
- 2.3 3. Celestron - NexStar 5SE GoTo Telescope
- 2.4 4. Orion 8944 SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian
- 2.5 5. SOLOMARK 114AZ Reflector Telescope
- 2.6 6. Celestron - 114LCM Computerized Newtonian
- 2.7 7. Celestron – StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ
- 2.8 8. Celestron - AstroMaster 130EQ
- 2.9 9. Sky-Watcher EvoStar 100 APO Doublet Refractor
- 2.10 10. Sky-Watcher Flextube 250P 10” Dobsonian
- 2.11 11. Celestron CPC 1100 StarBright XLT
- 2.12 12. Sky-Watcher Classic 200 8” Dobsonian
- 3 What To Look For In A Good Telescope
- 4 Which is the Best Telescope for me?
- 5 Best Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Telescope
- 6 Best Tips to Maintain Your Telescope
- 7 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- 8 Conclusion
Best Starter Telescopes For Beginners
|Top||Orion 10033 FunScope 76mm TableTop Reflector||Best Under $100||See on Amazon|
|Top||Celestron - AstroMaster 70AZ||Best Refractor||See on Amazon|
|Top||Celestron - NexStar 5SE Telescope||Best Computerized Pick||See on Amazon|
|Top||Orion 8944 SkyQuest XT6 Dobsonian||Best Dobsonian Pick||See on Amazon|
|Top||SOLOMARK 114AZ Newtonian Reflector||Best Under $200||See on Amazon|
|Top||Celestron - 114LCM Computerized Newtonian Telescope||Best Under $500||See on Amazon|
|Top||Celestron – StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ Smartphone App-Enabled Telescope||Best With Phone Adapter||See on Amazon|
|Top||Celestron - AstroMaster 130EQ||Best Under $300||See on Amazon|
|Top||Celestron - 80mm Travel Scope||Best Travel Telescope||See on Amazon|
Beginner’s Telescopes - Reviews
1. Orion 76mm FunScope Reflector
(Best Under $100)
- Type: Newtonian Reflector
- Aperture: 76mm(3″)
- Focal length: 300mm
- Focal Ratio: f/3.9
- Mount: Dobsonian
- Eyepiece: 20mm, 6mm
- Magnification: 15x, 50x
- Weight: 4.0 lbs.
The Orion FunScope is a perfect starter telescope designed to get beginners into the hobby without a large upfront financial investment.
The FunScope is designed for kids and adults new to astronomy. The idea behind the FunScope is to provide an affordable, easy-to-use, and portable setup.
It is lightweight, requires minimal setup, and is so easy to operate that young beginners can figure out how to set it up and navigate with no problem.
Moreover, if this telescope is going to be used primarily by kids, if it gets broken, the scope costs less than $100, so it won’t hurt that much.
Also, it’s covered by a 1-year manufacturer warranty.
The Orion FunScope is a very basic Newtonian with fast optics and a spherical mirror.
Given its fast optics (F/3.9), 76mm aperture, and 300mm focal length, the FunScope provides great wide-field views of the night sky.
FunScope lets you see craters on the Moon, bright planets in our solar system, and brighter sparkling star clusters and nebulas.
The FunScope comes with two eyepieces: 20mm and 6mm Kellners providing 15x and 50x respectively. It also includes a plastic 2x Barlow lens. With this telescope and its accessories, you get what you pay for.
It’s a classic Newtonian reflector, mounted on a single-arm Dobsonian-styled base.
To use the Funscope, you simply set it on a table, bar stool, bench, etc., and push it back and forth and up and down to aim it at a target.
The telescope also comes with an Orion Moon Map 260 which will prove to be helpful for beginners in identifying locations and learning the names of lunar features.
The portable FunScope weighs less than 4 lbs., so it’s easy for a beginner to take it on camping, on field trips, or for quick nighttime adventures out in the home’s backyard.
- Inexpensive starter telescope
- Lightweight & extremely portable
- Comes with a moon map
- Easy to use
- Decent accessories
- Small aperture
- Spherical aberration
2. Celestron - AstroMaster 70AZ
- Aperture: 70mm (2.8″)
- Focal length: 900mm
- Focal Ratio: f/13
- Mount: Alt-Azimuth
- Eyepiece: 20mm,10mm
- Magnification: 45x, 90x
- Weight: 11.0 lbs (5.0 kg)
The AstroMaster 70AZ is an incredibly affordable scope that’s easy to set up and simple to use.
This is one of the best value telescopes for beginners and it is also ideal for children, or anyone looking to explore the night sky.
This refractor telescope offers a 70mm aperture and an f/13 focal ratio that’s enough to enjoy the Moon, stars, and bright planets in fascinating detail.
It can also be used as a terrestrial telescope, which means you can use it while hiking or camping to get stunning views of distant mountain peaks, deep canyons, or lush valleys.
You can also take this with you on your boat and use it to get views of the horizon to spot passing birds or ships or other sea life.
This telescope has an alt-azimuth mount and comes with an adjustable full-height tripod.
The mount offers an easy-to-grip panhandle to adjust the altitude and azimuth axes. Turn the handle to loosen it for movement and then lock it back in place.
It comes with bonus software for use with a PC, Mac, or laptop, the Starry Night Basic Edition.
This software is very helpful particularly for beginners as it will allow easy access to maps of the night sky so they can figure out exactly what they’re looking at.
For a decent inexpensive refractor telescope that comes with good accessories and can be used as a terrestrial scope for under $150, it’s a good buy for the beginner or a teenager as a starter telescope.
The telescope’s 70mm aperture can produce clear, sharp images of night sky objects.
It also comes with two Kellner eyepieces. One of them, at 20mm, offers 35x magnification, and the other one, 10mm, offers 70x magnification.
It’s great with double stars, the Moon’s craters, and brighter planets, but delivers a limited performance on dimmer objects.
With a 70 mm aperture, deep sky object viewing will be a challenge although some brighter nebulae and star clusters can be seen.
- Requires little to no maintenance
- Cheap refractor for beginners
- Great views of the moon & planets
- Limited DSO capability
- Decent accessories
- Lightweight and portable
- Usable for terrestrial viewing
- Small aperture
- Mount is not the steadiest
3. Celestron - NexStar 5SE GoTo Telescope
(Best Computerized Pick)
- Optical design: Schmidt-Cassegrain
- Aperture: 5 inch (125mm)
- Focal length: 1250mm
- Focal ratio: f/10
- Optical tube length: 330mm
- Total kit weight: 8kg
- Includes: Optical tube, single-arm fork mount, steel tripod, red-dot finderscope, NexStar+ hand controller, 25mm eyepiece, star diagonal
- Power: 8xAA batteries, 12V external source
The NexStar 5SE telescope combines portability and quality to create a small, simple to use telescope that will appeal to those who want to travel often with their telescope, prefer the convenience of having GoTo for automatic object locating and slewing, and who want to maximize their planetary observations and possibly planetary imaging.
The NexStar SE line features a massive built-in database of stars and celestial objects, a fully motorized goto mount, and quality optics which makes it perfect for a beginner who wants to grow with the telescope.
The Celestron NexStar 5SE is a future-proof starter telescope and is a great investment for beginners who don’t want to keep buying a new telescope every year.
Moreover, the telescope is built to last, so a beginner can use it for many many years to come, provided it’s maintained as recommended.
The NexStar 5SE is a portable compact telescope. Like many SCTs, it comes on a computerized alt-azimuth fork arm mount.
The 5” primary aperture is great because it allows for a lot of light-gathering ability without being too large or unwieldy. The visual quality of this scope is simply fantastic.
The NexStar 5SE is one of the best GoTo starter telescopes for planets and the moon. You can see surface details with great contrast and brightness with its f/10 focal ratio and 1250 mm focal length.
It also comes with a database of over 40,000 stars, planets, and other celestial objects. This database has been integrated with a fully motorized goto mount meaning that the telescope can find any one of these objects if they are viewable in the sky.
All you have to do is select an object on its handheld controller and the telescope will automatically slew itself towards that sky object for you to view through the eyepiece.
This is really great for beginners as it takes all of the guesswork, adjustments, pointing, and searching out of the equation and allows you to simply look at the objects in the sky without any frustration or hassle.
- Computerized goto mount
- Great optics
- Produces crisp images
- Massive database of sky objects
- Limited astrophotography
- No built-in power supply
4. Orion 8944 SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian
(Best Dosonian Pick)
- Type: Reflector
- Aperture: 150mm (5.9″)
- Focal length: 1200mm
- Focal Ratio: f/8
- Eyepiece: 25mm
- Magnification: 21x
- Weight: 20 lbs. (9kg)
For beginner and novice astronomers, the Orion 8944 SkyQuest XT6 Dobsonian offers the best bang for your buck.
It’s a powerful starter telescope that can provide you the brightness, sharpness, and clarity, to delight you with views of everything from the moon and solar system to distant deep-sky objects.
The XT6 is a well-built beginner’s Dobsonian with a nice fit and finish for under $500 and it can last a lifetime.
The primary mirror has a 6-inch (150mm) aperture with a focal length of 1200mm and a focal ratio of f/8. There is no spherical aberration as the primary mirror is parabolic.
That large aperture and large optical tube produce some really spectacular images. With a large image range and a high visual quality, this telescope strives to do it all.
Planetary detail is SkyQuest XT6’s strong suit. It easily extracts detail from Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Venus, and the Moon.
Jupiter’s The Great Red Spot, 4 Galilean Moon’s, and its many stripes are easily visible with Orion SkyQuest XT6.
Rings of Saturn are also easy to see with its Cassini Division, and many moons of Saturn are visible, including its largest moon Titan, which appears as a yellowish dot.
It comes with a single eyepiece – a 25mm Plossl with 48x magnification.
With the 6” aperture of the XT6, you’ll enjoy some breathtaking views of the moon and the planets, but it also has a reasonably wide field of view that can capture many of the prominent DSOs in vivid detail.
The base of this starter Dobsonian is home to a very smooth and fluid altazimuth mount that makes using this telescope a breeze.
The altazimuth mount is made from extremely high-quality materials, including reinforced bearings and a tension system that keeps everything properly aligned.
This scope comes with a single 1.25” eyepiece, a dust cap, a collimation cap, a 2x Barlow lens, a laser pointer, and a copy of Starry Night astronomy software.
- Sleek, stable, and durable
- Easy to use
- Large aperture for a beginner telescope
- Built to last a long time
- Great planetary as well as deep space performance
- It may be heavy for some users
- Some assembly required
5. SOLOMARK 114AZ Reflector Telescope
(Best Under $200)
- Type: Reflector
- Aperture: 114 mm(4.5″)
- Focal length: 500mm
- Mount: Alt-azl
- Eyepiece: 10mm, 20mm
- Magnification: 50x, 25x
- Weight: 11.88 lbs.
This telescope is a perfect starter telescope for kids and adults. It comes with a cell phone adapter and a 1.25-inch moon filter.
The 114mm telescope is powerful and an entry-level reflector telescope and is specially designed for astronomy beginners.
High-quality optics are the heart of this system. In addition, it features enhanced image brightness and clarity.
It has a 1.5x Barlow lens allowing the telescope to capture a magnification that meets all your needs
This telescope is a classic reflector with a small tube that puts its focal length at a good level for deep sky observing.
It also has the secondary effect of keeping the scope light and small enough to be portable if you want to take it on a trip.
The SOLOMARK 114AZ telescope is compact, lightweight, and easy to mount, making it ideal for older children, beginners, and amateur astronomers on the go.
Even at its full price, this is a low-cost instrument, but its optical capability is still powerful enough to make it worthwhile as a first telescope for a beginner.
It also comes with two Kellner eyepieces out of the box, a 10mm and a 20mm.
This telescope can show you crisp views of the moon and the planets. That 114mm aperture and optical tube produce some really spectacular images. With a large image range and a high visual quality, this telescope strives to do it all. And it largely succeeds.
- Decent aperture
- Smartphone adapter included
- Easy to set up and use
Mount could be better
6. Celestron - 114LCM Computerized Newtonian
(Best Under $500)
- Type: Newtonian Reflector
- Aperture: 114 mm (4.5″)
- Focal length: 1000mm
- Focal Ratio: f/8.8
- Mount: Motorized; Alt-Azimuth
- Eyepiece: 25mm,9mm
- Magnification: 40x, 111x
- Weight: 15 lbs. / 6.8 kg
Celestron’s 114LCM Computerised Telescope combines decent optics with a computerized mount to give beginners a great starter telescope with which they can begin their adventures in astronomy.
The Celestron LCM 114 GoTo Starter Telescope is compact and pretty lightweight. In addition to this, it comes with almost everything you need to start observing: two eyepieces, a red dot star finder, a computer controller, a tripod, and astronomy software (The SkyX).
The 114LCM consists of an optical tube with a 4.5-inch mirror and a focal length of 1,000mm giving a focal ratio of f/9.
It has a basic rack and pinion focuser that takes 1.25-inch eyepieces: 25mm and 9mm eyepieces are provided giving magnifications of 40x and 111x.
The 114LCM comes with a NexStar hand controller that has a database of 4,000 objects from the main deep-sky databases (Messier, NGC, and Caldwell).
Also included are the Solar System, variable stars, and double stars.
This Celestron Newtonian is a wonderful way to start observing the rings of Saturn, Jupiter’s belts of clouds, or even Jupiter’s moons and brighter DSOs.
As for how to power the mount on, you can either place 8 AA batteries inside or use a 12-volt power supply.
The telescope enjoys the advantages of the SkyAlign system, which is fast and easy to use.
Simply enter in the day, time, and coordinates where the scope is set up, and the Sky Align algorithms will go to where three prominent objects should be in the sky.
Simply confirm each one is in the center of the eyepiece and the scope is aligned with the GoTo system orientated.
Due to this computerized tracking system, there isn’t much you have to do, which is great for beginners and novices.
- Large aperture
- Computerized mount
- Easy to use for beginners
- Easy to move around
- Easy to assemble
- Burns through batteries easily
- Shaky mount
7. Celestron – StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ
(Best With Phone Adapter)
- Type: Refractor
- Aperture: 80mm(3.1”)
- Focal length: 900mm
- Focal Ratio: f/11
- Mount: Altazimuth Mount
- Eyepiece: 25mm,10mm,5mm
- Magnification: 24x, 60x, 120x
- Weight: 9.2 lbs. / 4.2 kg
The StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ is designed for beginners or for someone who doesn’t want to invest too much at the start.
The telescope takes advantage of a smartphone app that helps it locate objects in the sky, a kind of telescope that is growing in popularity among people looking for a starter telescope.
This innovative integration of smartphone and telescope offers beginner astronomers a fast and easy way to discover what’s up in the night sky and where to view it.
The StarSense Explorer app calculates your position in real-time and guides you with a list of currently visible objects.
The StarSense Explorer app uses your phone’s camera to stream a constant series of images and compare them to an internal database to identify the starfield and determine its location.
Basically, as you aim the telescope into the sky, the app will pick up on things, while also naming what you’re looking at with your eye.
Even better, the app will let you know objects that are viewable every night, when they’re rising and setting and wherein the sky they’re located.
The LT 80AZ gathers enough light to show you the Moon in all its glory, as well as Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and many bright deep-sky objects.
It can also double as daytime terrestrial spotting scope as well, although you would forego using your smartphone when viewing earth-based objects.
This 80 mm refractor also comes with a 1.25” diagonal and a 2X Barlow lens. You also get two eyepieces, one that’s 25mm and one that’s 10mm, and a full-sized tripod, which can be toggled to different heights. That’s a perfect solution for families as it can grow with children as they get older too.
The StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ is a solid option for those looking for a telescope for beginners under $200.
It’s lightweight yet sturdy, and the StarSense app that pairs with it makes the telescope much simpler to locate objects in the sky.
- StarSense Explorer app is a must for beginners
- Affordable semi-automated starter telescope
- Delightfully easy to use for beginners
- Doesn’t need maintenance
- Lightweight & portable
- Plastic mount
- Mediocre accessories
8. Celestron - AstroMaster 130EQ
(Best Under $300)
- Design type: Schmidt-Cassegrain
- Aperture: 203.2 mm (8 inches)
- Focal Length (FL): 2032 mm (80 inches)
- Focal Ratio (FR): f/10
- Max useful magnification: 400x
- Mount type: Alt-azimuth outfitted with Goto-motorised tracking
- Weight: 48.9 pounds
The Celestron NexStar 8SE is aimed at beginners as well as advanced users that want a tool with great optical quality and a lot of light-gathering power.
It’s an 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain with a focal length of 2,032mm, giving a focal ratio of f/10. All of this fits into a compact orange tube that weighs 11kg and is just 432mm long.
The optics in the NexStar 8SE are incredibly well made and provide brilliant image clarity and detail.
They have Celestron’s own Starbright XLT coating for better light transmission, as a result of which, there are almost no noticeable optical aberrations.
The Nexstar 8SE also sports a high-quality mirror with a superb focal ratio.
It also comes with Celestron’s patented E Lux 25 millimeter Plossl eyepiece to complement the astonishing quality of the optics.
This top-notch GoTo telescope is mounted on a Computerized Altitude-Azimuth Single Fork Arm Mount, which is perfect for those who are looking for simplicity.
Read the complete review of the Celestron NexStar 8SE GoTo telescope here.
The GoTo mount also has a massive database of 40,000 celestial bodies and 200 user-defined programmable objects which will automatically find and then track whatever you want to see. That’s a huge plus for beginner and professional astronomers alike.
While the telescope can run on 8 AA batteries, you really need an external power supply as the mount tends to drain batteries quickly.
Why We Recommend It
The massive database and computerized mount of the Celestron 8SE take away all the time-consuming effort of trying to locate an object by map reading and star-hopping.
Instead, with the handheld controller operating the GoTo mount, you can go straight to the object you want to see and use your precious time viewing your favorite sky objects rather than trying to find them.
The telescope can be used for limited astrophotography as it comes with a built-in wedge to polar align the telescope.
Adding an inexpensive camera adaptor will let you connect your mirrorless or DSLR camera and dabble in some short exposure astrophotography.
The whole telescope breaks down into separate lightweight pieces making it easy to travel with or take it to your favorite viewing spot.
This 8” GoTo telescope is powerful enough to show you all the 40,000 objects in its database, no matter how far or faint the nebulae, star clusters or any other DSOs are.
You can expect to see clear and crisp views of Jupiter’s cloud bands, its moons, and the Great Red Spot.
The Moon’s ridges, faults, valleys, mountains, flatlands, craters, and more.
You can clearly see Saturn’s rings and the division in them, its cloud belts, and its moons.
You can see Mercury and Venus’ phases and Mars’ ice caps.
Outside the Solar System, you can easily see thousands of galaxies and star clusters, as well as hundreds of nebulae.
- Excellent powerful optics
- Portable large aperture GoTo telescope
- Fairly low maintenance
- Can show you great views of the planets and most DSOs
- Comes with just one eyepiece
- Narrow field of view
- No external power supply
9. Sky-Watcher EvoStar 100 APO Doublet Refractor
(Best For Astrophotography)
- Type: Apochromatic Refractor
- Aperture: 100 mm(3.9″)
- Focal length: 900mm
- Focal Ratio: f/9
- Mount: Vixen Style
- Eyepiece: 20mm, 5mm
- Magnification: 50x, 250x
- Weight: 8.4 lbs.(3.8 kg)
The EvoStar 100mm f/9 Doublet APO Refractor is truly one of the best telescopes for viewing and photographing planets as it features a doublet apochromatic lens system with Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass with metallic high-transmission coatings (MHC) on all air-to-glass optical surfaces.
This combination of glass, lenses, and coatings virtually eliminates chromatic aberrations for clear and bright high-contrast images with true color rendition.
This telescope is one of the best high-end telescopes with a 900mm focal length which offers a medium-to-wide field of view.
In addition to the telescope itself, you get 25 mm and 5 mm long eye relief eyepieces, a right-angle 8×50 finder and bracket, tube rings, a Vixen-compatible plate, a two-inch dielectric diagonal, and a fitted foam-lined aluminum case.
The telescope is lightweight and is perfect for any experienced astronomer as a grab-and-go astrophotography scope.
The Sky-Watcher PRO 100ED has enough premium high contrast/high-resolution optical performance to let you use it on an altazimuth or equatorial mount as the heart of your observing system.
Why We Recommend It
This is a medium-speed telescope, so it also delivers sharp contrasting lunar and planetary detail without any chromatic aberration on the edges while looking at the moon.
You can see Saturn’s Cassini division within its rings, Titan, and a handful of its other moons. The Pro 100ED will give you great views of Jupiter’s two cloud belts, the Great Red Spot, and its four bright moons.
You can see Mars’ tiny white polar ice caps provided the viewing conditions are favorable.
Among double stars, the author favors Iota Cassiopeia, a tight triple star system with a large magnitude difference between its components. With the 5 mm eyepiece (180X) under the right conditions, all three components could be seen.
Although its 4” aperture is too small to gather enough light to show you faint deep sky objects, you can, however, easily see the brighter DSOs.
You can get great views of the clusters M45, M37, M36, M38, NGC 457, the Andromeda and M33 galaxies, the Orion Nebula, and more.
One of the main reasons astronomers buy the EvoStar 100 ED is for its excellent quality astrophotography.
The 100ED delivers crisp, clear images free of distortion.
This telescope offers nearly the best image quality at a significantly lower price point than the best options currently on the market.
- Great for long exposure astrophotography
- Crisp and clear details of the moon & planets
- Extremely portable
- No optical aberrations
- Excellent included accessories
- High-quality multi-coated optics
- Doesn’t come with a mount
- Some may find it pricey
10. Sky-Watcher Flextube 250P 10” Dobsonian
(Best For Deep Space Objects)
- Type: Newtonian Reflector
- Aperture: 254mm (10”)
- Focal length: 1200mm
- Focal Ratio: f/4.7
- Mount: Dobsonian
- Eyepiece: 25mm, 10mm
- Weight: 60 lbs.(27.2 kg)
Sky-Watcher 10″ Collapsible Dobsonian Telescope features an elegant truss tube design that was carefully engineered to combine ease of use, extreme portability, and excellent optical performance in an affordable package.
This is a large aperture, one of the best Dobsonian telescopes that is totally worth every penny.
It is essentially a Newtonian with a large 10″ aperture which is ideal for beginners who can invest a fair amount as well as professionals.
The telescope comes with a great focal length of 1200mm and with a focal ratio of f/4.7.
It comes with two super wide-angle Plossl eyepieces (25 mm and 10 mm). The wide-angle viewing, fast optics, and 10” aperture make for a great deep space searcher and stargazer.
The base is like a typical Dobsonian, it is easy to assemble and use, is reliable and strong, and stands on the floor.
The mount construction is sturdy and rigid. Mount design, while simple, facilitates smooth motions about both axes.
The telescope comes with a right-angle 8×50 finder, 25mm and 10 mm Plossl eyepieces, 1.25 and 2-inch adapters for the focuser, dust covers for upper and lower tube assemblies, and various tools for assembly.
Why We Recommend It
A 10” Dobsonian is the best bang for your buck in general–so you’re on the right track if you’re considering one of these for visual observing.
With a 10-inch aperture, the Flextube 250P Dobsonian collects 1235 times more light than the human eye.
This simple yet effective design is perfect for visual observation of faint objects, such as nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies.
Although the Sky-Watcher 250P is not a lightweight telescope (33lbs.), transporting it proves to be about the same as transporting a traditional Dobsonian as its tube collapses down to save almost a foot of space.
This telescope can obviously show you the usual moon, Mars and Jupiter, and Saturn’s moons, Neptune and Uranus, but it really shines at producing great images of the faint DSOs even under light pollution.
With its large 10” aperture, the sky is your playground. Choose a distant nebula, galaxy, or star cluster and just point this instrument towards it and enjoy the breathtaking views.
You can also dabble in some short exposure planetary astrophotography with a wide-angle, high-quality eyepiece and a strong Barlow lens.
- Large aperture, light bucket
- Excellent for dim distant DSOs
- Limited astrophotography
- Great value for money considering its massive aperture
- The collapsible tube makes it easy to store and transport
- Suitable for beginners, intermediates, and advanced users
- Heavy and bulky
- Doesn’t come with a Barlow lens
11. Celestron CPC 1100 StarBright XLT
(Best For Deep Space Astrophotography)
- Type: Schmidt-Cassegrain
- Aperture: 280 mm (11”)
- Focal length: 2800mm
- Focal Ratio: f/10
- Mount: GoTo: Alt-Azimuth
- Eyepiece: 40mm
- Magnification: 70x
- Weight: 65 lbs.
The Celestron CPC 1100 XLT GPS is a high-end telescope that comes with a hefty price tag but it has GoTo, the NexStar+ hand control, a huge 11” aperture, and excellent quality from top to bottom.
The telescope was awarded the “Telescope of the Year” title in the year 2013.
The CPC 110- GPS (XLT) computerized telescope is a work of art featuring Schmidt-Cassegrain optics with premium Celestron StarBright XLT coatings for crisp, clear and bright images of celestial objects and deep space formations.
The 280mm (11-inch) aperture, the 2800mm focal length, both lead to a focal ratio of f/10.
The telescope is equipped with Celestron’s proprietary SKyAlign technology. With this, users can quickly select three bright objects in the sky and let the telescope align itself.
It also has an internal GPS that helps the telescope in easily locating itself in the world and showing you everything that’s available to look at in the night sky at your particular location.
The telescope is perfectly suitable for deep space astrophotography and it can show you the faintest of the galaxies and star clusters with the help of its massive 11” aperture.
This telescope is particularly designed for advanced users, or for those who are still developing their skills but are looking for a telescope that they can grow with.
Its mount provides reliable AZ movement, but it can also polar align and be used with a wedge for precise tracking needed for astrophotography.
The NexStar+ hand control is the chosen controller for the CPC telescope. It has a 40,000+ object database, adjustable backlighting, a USB port, and 9 slew speeds.
Why We Recommend It
Finding, focusing on, and identifying any celestial object is simple with the computerized technology built into the telescope.
Its 11-inch aperture provides a stunning light gathering ability of 1600 times that of the unaided human eye.
You can see the moon and the planets such as Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Neptune, and Uranus, but the CPC 1100 StarBright XLT’s strength lies in providing greater resolution at max power. It’s an excellent performer for deep sky and even faint DSO viewing.
This telescope even promises to show you decent views of the faraway planet Pluto.
You can expect to see the nebulas, clusters, double, triple, and quadruple stars with the help of this telescope.
The CPC 1100 is undoubtedly one of the best telescopes for deep sky astrophotography.
As a slow telescope with a very long focal length, you’ll be able to achieve very high magnification suitable for lunar, planetary, and faint DSO observation and astrophotography.
Although it’s a huge telescope that weighs almost 65lbs., its fully ergonomic design is a delight and you don’t have to work out and grow muscles to operate the system.
Its shorter optical tube and adjustable length tripod are somewhat easy to transport by car but not so much by air.
- Large aperture
- Great for DSOs
- Best for DSLR astrophotography
- Easy to use
- StarBright XLT coated optics
- Solid stable mount
- Suitable for all user levels
- Some may find it bulky
12. Sky-Watcher Classic 200 8” Dobsonian
(Best Under $1000)
- Type: Reflector
- Aperture: 203mm (8″)
- Focal length: 1200mm
- Focal Ratio: f/5.9
- Eyepiece: 25mm, 10mm
- Magnification: 48x, 120x
- Weight: 45 lbs.
The Sky-Watcher Classic 200 Dobsonian 8-inch Aperature Telescope is a large light bucket with fast f/5.9 optics which allows you to enjoy wide-field views of deep-sky objects that are not observable with most beginner telescopes.
The telescope is large, sturdy, and does everything you expect a large Dobsonian to do.
The 8” Traditional Dobsonian is best suited to beginners looking for a first-time buy or even for intermediate or advanced users who want something a little more lightweight, compact, and more practical to use over larger Dobs.
The Dobsonian mount is strong and smooth to use and to promote stability, it has a patented tension control handle to keep the optical tube exactly where you want it – even if it’s not balanced.
The telescope comes with two 25mm (48x) and 10mm (120x) Plossl eyepieces. Other accessories include – a 9×50 finderscope, a solid rocker-mount with Teflon bearings and tension clutch for altitude, and an accessory tray.
This telescope is not suitable for long exposure astrophotography partly due to the Alt-azimuth’s tracking limitations.
However, you can use it to take short-exposure photographs of the moon planets and the DSOs.
Why We Recommend It
With an eight-inch aperture, its light-gathering capabilities easily outrival telescopes of similar price and have almost double the aperture of refractors and other Dobsonians in the same range, allowing deep sky objects to be viewed with incredibly rich detail and contrast.
You will be able to view nebulae with color-rich patterns, as well as the planets and galaxies.
The image quality and light gathering ability is bolstered by mirrors which have been highly polished to be 94% reflective. This level of near-perfection is not present in every reflector telescope.
You can see craters and mountain ranges on the moon, clearly see the Giant Red Spot and cloud bands on Jupiter, the Cassini and Saturn’s rings, and much more.
Beyond the Solar System, you’ll be able to observe the entire set of 110 astronomical objects of the Messier Catalog and have a useful resolution for star clusters like the M2, M3, M4, and M5, and more.
You can even see the dimmer star clusters like M10 and M12 as your skills improve and you get the hang of using this top-class Dobsonian telescope.
- Large aperture
- Best value Dobsonian
- Fast setup time
- Great views of the DSOs, planets, and the moon
- Bulky and heavy
- Not portable
- Not for serious astrophotography
What To Look For In A Good Telescope
Whether you’re seriously considering buying your first telescope or just daydreaming about it, this guide will help you understand the most important features that you should look for in a telescope.
Types of Telescopes
Most telescopes fall into three broad categories: refractors, reflectors, and compound telescopes (also called catadioptric).
1. Refractor Telescopes
This is the oldest and most popular telescope design. At the front of the telescope, a lens known as an “aperture” directs light through the finder scope to a mirror and into the eyepiece.
Because this style of telescope doesn’t invert the image before it reaches the eye, users can view objects both in the sky and they can use a refractor during the day as a terrestrial telescope.
Generally speaking, refractors are great for views of the moon, planets, and bright deep-sky objects.
Most importantly, they require very little maintenance.
2. Reflector Telescopes
Reflectors, or reflecting telescopes, use an internal primary and smaller, secondary mirror to focus the light into the eyepiece in order to create an image.
Reflectors can be much shorter in length while also allowing for wider apertures, although because of the open OTA they require more setup and maintenance to keep everything in alignment.
The large aperture reflectors such as Dobsonians are great for faint deep sky objects.
3. Compound Telescopes (Catadioptrics)
Compound telescopes, are simply a combination of the refractor and reflector and employ both mirrors and lenses that allow for even smaller and more portable telescopes (albeit at a higher cost).
The greatest appeal of these instruments is that, in their commonly encountered forms (the Schmidt-Cassegrain and Maksutov-Cassegrain), they are very compact.
Their tubes are just two to three times as long as wide, an arrangement allowed by the “optical folding” of the light.
The smaller tube can use a lighter and thus more manageable mounting. The upshot is that you can obtain a large-aperture, long-focus telescope that’s very transportable.
Which is the Best Telescope for me?
If you’re wondering: Which telescope type should I get? Here’s a small checklist that you can go through to decide which telescope will best suit your needs.
- If you want a beginner telescope: Refractor or Reflector
- If you want a rugged telescope that requires little or no maintenance: Refractor
- If you want to also observe objects on land (e.g. wildlife): Refractor or Compound
- If you want to view faint, deep sky objects: Reflector or Compound
- If you want the best image quality: Reflector or Compound
- If you want the biggest bang for my buck (high value): Reflector (Dobsonian)
- If you want to do astrophotography: Compound
Factors To Consider Before Buying a Telescope
The most important aspect of any telescope is its aperture, the diameter of its main optical component, which can be either a lens or a mirror.
A scope’s aperture determines both its light-gathering ability (how bright the image appears) and its resolving power (how sharp the image appears).
2. Focal Length
Focal length is the distance from the “focal point” of your telescope to the lens or mirror. It’s not as important as aperture, but the longer the focal length the bigger objects will look. So keep an eye on this. The best telescope would the one that you can afford and has a large aperture and long focal length.
Magnification is determined by your telescope’s focal length and your eyepiece. However, with very high magnification, objects may look dim and blurry. To solve this issue, magnification needs to increase along with the size of the aperture.
As the size of the telescope aperture gets bigger, the amount of light that can be collected and clearly viewed also increases, so dim and blurry objects become clear. Most users find a useful magnification is about 20x to 50x per inch of aperture.
The eyepiece, an integral part of the optical system of a telescope, can completely change the view of the sky.
Eyepiece measurements, which normally appear in millimeters or inches, range greatly in size.
To ensure the eyepiece has an appropriate magnification for the telescope, compare the size of the eyepiece to the focal length of the telescope.
For instance, a 1200mm focal-length scope, used with a 25mm eyepiece, delivers 1200 / 25 = 48 power (or 48x magnification).
Switch to an eyepiece with a shorter focal length for higher magnifications: a 10-mm eyepiece used on the same scope delivers 1200 / 10 = 120x.
As you can see that it’s only the telescope’s focal length that matters here — the size of its main mirror or lens does not affect the magnification.
5. Ease of Use
Another important factor that you should consider when choosing the best telescope for yourself is how easy it is to use that particular telescope.
A telescope that’s too hard to set up is a telescope that won’t get used as much as a simpler no-tool-required-to-setup telescope.
You also have a choice between manual and computerized movement. A fully manual telescope might be less expensive, but it could prove to be frustrating for someone just starting out.
Computerized telescopes (or GoTo telescopes) can help you easily find objects in the night sky with minimal setup, and will continue to serve you well as you grow into the hobby. Computerized movements, like some telescope mounts, require a power supply.
6. Size and Portability
Before you buy a new telescope, consider where you want to use it and how you plan to transport it.
Having a telescope that’s too small to properly see anything probably is a waste of money, but a telescope that’s too big to move easily is even more wasteful unless you can leave it all set up permanently at one place in your home.
Many people find they set up a bulky telescope only once or twice, then leave it to gather dust because it’s too much effort to set up and haul around.
So always consider the weight and size of the telescope according to how you are planning to use it.
You can spend as much as you want to on a telescope. In most cases, the more you spend, the better and bigger aperture telescope you can buy.
That said, I would strongly recommend not buying a telescope that costs less than $100, but I wouldn’t recommend spending too much on a telescope either unless you have explored the hobby a bit and know which direction you want to take your next step toward.
Best Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Telescope
- Always start with easy-to-locate objects such as the moon and bright planets and use the computer control.
- Use a low magnification eyepiece first to find objects quickly, then switch to more magnification if desired.
- Use vibration pads or a piece of old carpet if the tripod is shaky.
- Once aligned, don’t unnecessarily touch the telescope and use only your eyes.
- Don’t ever look directly at the Sun through your telescope. You may permanently damage your eyes.
- Use a moon filter to look at the moon. The result will be a much clearer image with a lot of contrast.
- Always practice setting up your new telescope a few times during the day before your first night of stargazing.
- Stay away from buildings, roads, and sidewalks as they release heat at night. Use your telescope in a clear area where there are no obstructions.
- Wait until your eyes are fully adjusted to the dark before trying to look at the night sky.
Best Tips to Maintain Your Telescope
- Telescopes should be kept dry to prevent moisture from affecting the quality of your viewing experience. So use a dew shield, shroud, or dew heaters.
- Never touch the surface of a lens or mirror. The acids in skin oil can attack optical coatings over time.
- Use a lens safer cleaner and soft wipe to do clean lenses and mirrors to avoid scratching them.
- If moving the telescope from a warm room to a cold backyard, it’s best to let the telescope sit for a while so it reaches a temperature equilibrium with the surroundings.
- Always store your telescope in a dry, dust-free, secure, and large enough place to get the telescope in and out easily.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Which telescope is best to see planets?
You don’t need a very big aperture to see planets as they are among the brightest objects in the sky. You will rather need a telescope with a long focal length and a high focal ratio to view planets with clarity.
A telescope with a minimum focal ratio of f/8 is best suited for observing planets. The Orion SkyQuest XT4.5 Classic Dobsonian Telescope on our list is perfect for planetary observation.
2. What is the most powerful telescope for home use?
This will typically depend on what you want to see with your telescope and who will be using it. A good telescope that the whole family can use is typically a small, more affordable telescope with an aperture of at least 70 millimeters. These units usually have a straightforward model with an easily adjustable mount. Moreover, these telescopes are lightweight, portable, and generally can be used for terrestrial viewing also.
The Zhumell Z130 Tabletop Reflector is one such telescope that the whole family can enjoy at home.
3. How big of a telescope do I need to see Saturn?
Saturn is quite an easy target to view with the help of a telescope and most importantly you don’t need a very powerful telescope to view it.
Saturn can be seen clearly even with a small telescope with a 3” aperture at 50x magnification. This is enough to show you Rings of Saturn too, but if you want to see Saturn’s moons, you may need a slightly larger telescope with at least 5” aperture.
4. Which is the best telescope to view galaxies?
To view brighter galaxies and nebulae, you’ll need a telescope with at least a 6” aperture. The Celestron – NexStar 6SE Telescope on our list is an excellent computerized telescope that can show you great views of the galaxies and other deep sky objects.
5. How do you travel with a telescope?
Most telescopes are very fragile as they have delicate glass components such as lenses and mirrors. Moreover, the elements in the OTA have to be perfectly aligned to produce decent images. So, it’s highly imperative to take very good care of the telescopes while traveling with them.
Before taking the telescope along with you make sure that you store it in a bag or case with the lens cover and appropriate padding around it. When traveling in the car, make sure that the box/bag doesn’t move around a lot. If you are planning to travel with your telescope by air, make sure that you take it as carry-on baggage in the cabin with you. Don’t ever transport your telescope with checked baggage.
6. What can you see with a 100mm telescope?
A 100mm or 4” telescope is an appropriate choice for beginners and intermediates. With a 100mm telescope, you can see the moon, Jupiter, Great Red Spot, four of the largest Jupiter’s moons, Saturn’s rings, the Cassini Division, Mars’s polar ice caps. A 100mm telescope can also show you decent views of the brighter galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae.
7. How much does a good telescope cost?
With telescopes, the more you are ready to pay, the better quality telescope you can expect to buy. For a decent size, a good telescope for a beginner can cost between $200-$300. You can expect to get a 4”- 6” telescope in this price range that can produce crisp clear images of the moon, planets, and brighter DSOs.
8. What’s the best telescope to see the moon?
Moon is one of the brighter objects in the sky so you don’t need a very powerful telescope to view it. A telescope with a 70mm aperture is good enough to show you great views of the moon. The Gskyer 70mm Telescope is a good beginner’s telescope that can resolve good images of the moon.
9. What’s the best telescope for astrophotography?
For a good telescope for astrophotography, you’ll need decent optics, an Equatorial mount that is capable of tracking the objects in the sky for a long time, and which is stable and sturdy enough to withstand the extra weight of a DSLR or a CCD camera.
The Celestron CPC 1100 StarBright XLT is an excellent telescope that can be used to take long exposure images of the moon, planets, and even the faint deep sky objects.
The best telescope is the one you feel comfortable with, both in function and price. It could be a computerized telescope, a simple refractor, or a reflector telescope. The best telescope for you should also be easy to operate and transport, and it shouldn’t require a ton of maintenance. What’s most important is that you enjoy using it.