Best Telescope For Amateurs 2021; Reviews

Our comprehensive review of the best telescope for amateurs will introduce you to some amazing telescopes that will enable you to scope out this stellar scenery and satisfy your cosmos curiosity.

Few things are as awe-inspiring as being out under a clear night sky, looking up, and gazing at a seemingly infinite array of stars overhead.

Nowadays, with a relatively inexpensive telescope, anyone can indulge in some amateur astronomy and with a few simple add-ons, indulge in some astrophotography as well.

These are great times for anyone to cultivate the hobby of astronomy and stargazing.

That’s because there’s more choice, more accessories to make an amateur astronomer’s stargazing hobby more practical and fun. 

best telescope for amateurs
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Who is this article for?

The information provided in this article is mainly for amateur astronomers, beginners, kids, or if you are someone looking for a telescope that can be used by your entire family with minimum supervision and the least amount of set-up time. 

We have carefully chosen the telescopes that are designed to help you become familiar with the night sky.

Using one of these scopes, you can start with a look at the moon, move on to the planets of our solar system, and then venture on to the “deep sky” to examine star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies. 

During our research we found telescopes that had the appropriate range to start a new astronomer out and then keep them involved. 

Since we were majorly focussing on the needs of an amateur during our research, we have limited our testing pool to telescopes that were about $600 or less.

Once you extend your budget, telescopes become more specialized, and when you reach that stage you likely already know what specific features you’d like to spend more on.

Best Telescope For Amateurs

Fortunately, there is no lack of options when it comes to finding the best telescope for amateurs or for the entire family to enjoy home astronomy.

As a beginner, the key questions you need to ask yourself are: what do you want to be able to see? How much room do you have to keep the telescope when you’re not using it? How much do you want to spend? 

Best Backyard Telescope 

Celestron – PowerSeeker 127EQ

The Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ telescope is a Newtonian reflector, which means it uses mirrors to gather the light of the skies, and reflects it for viewing. With mirrors being much less expensive to produce than glass lenses, reflector telescopes offer more value in terms of inches of aperture.

The PowerSeeker 127EQ comes with two eyepieces (4mm and 20mm) and a 3x Barlow lens.

The 5-inch mirror on the 127mm PowerSeeker model limits useful magnification to about 250x, which is achieved using the 4mm eyepiece.

The larger 20mm eyepiece provides a more useful 50x magnification. This grows to 150x when coupled with the 3x Barlow.

If you’re considering an additional eyepiece, something like a 15mm Plossi would be a good option. This provides you with 66x magnification, or 198 when coupled with the Barlow. 

The telescope is ideal for near and deep-sky observation, Celestron’s PowerSeeker 127EQ 127mm f/8 Reflector Telescope features a respectable focal length and a large, parabolic mirror that produce detailed images of the Moon, clear views of the planets, and the ability to resolve bright distant objects such as nebulae and galaxies. 

The beauty of a Newtonian telescope is the longer focal lengths which can be offered in much shorter tube sizes—1000mm focal length in a tube which is only 20 inches (508mm) long . 

The PowerSeeker 127EQ is highly portable and one of the best telescopes for amateurs. You could easily fit this telescope and tripod in the trunk of a car and still have room for your other equipment, or maybe a late night picnic.

Additionally, you receive a copy of Starry Night astronomy software with a database of over 10,000 celestial objects.

Considering the telescope’s low price, compromises had to be made, and one such compromise is the use of a spherical mirror rather than a parabolic mirror. 

Optical aberrations tend to be more common with spherical mirrors. This telescope does, however, feature an erect image diagonal for the right way up images, which prevents some aberration.

This telescope comes with an Equatorial mount, designed for astronomy telescopes. Included are two manual slow-motion controls, these allow for smoother tracking of objects as they pass across the night sky. 

The tripod is made of aluminum, although lightweight, it is robust, solid and also comes with a very handy accessory tray which lets you keep extra eyepieces and T-rings for a camera, close to hand.

Pros:

  • Solid build quality
  • Stable mount
  • Comes with a 3x Barlow lens

Cons:

  • Spherical mirror leads to some amount of aberrations
  • Occasional collimation of the mirrors required

Best Refractor Telescope 

Gskyer Telescope

Gskyer is a German company and is one of the best telescope brands in the world, known to produce high-quality telescopes. 

This is a great starter telescope for the explorer who intends to take their telescope with them on their journeys. Hiking, camping, and even moonlit fishing trips will be more fun when you have this telescope along with you.

The Gskyer AZ90600 is one of the best refractor telescopes for amateur astronomers. If you live in the city and you aren’t able to see much of the sky due to light pollution, you’ll want a telescope like this that’s easy to carry with you.

The 90 millimeter aperture is perfect for viewing most of the things you’d want to view, and all of the glass optics are coated to automatically adjust the brightness of the stars to a level safe and comfortable for observation.

Though this is a beginner telescope, you can use it to observe the moon, stars, meteors, and planets. The telescope offers great clarity, allowing you to see the surface of the moon, the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter. 

It also comes with a smartphone adapter, which allows you to use the phone as a screen, or as a camera to take great pictures. 

Plus, this model is extremely easy to assemble and doesn’t require any calibration. If you’re a telescope beginner, you won’t have to worry about any tricky steps or complicated tests. 

The Gskyer AZ90600 comes with an adjustable tripod. This adjustable aluminium tripod offers the viewer many different viewing positions. The height of the aluminum tripod can be adjusted from about 31.5-inch to 49-inch.

It’s 90mm (3.5″) aperture gives bright, sharp images for both land and celestial objects. 

Whether you’re viewing the rings of Saturn, the moons of Jupiter, surface details on the Moon, or terrestrial objects, the Infinity 90 Refractor allows the amateur astronomer to explore the solar system and beyond.

Pros:

  • Large aperture
  • 3 eyepieces
  • Smartphone adapter
  • Easy to assemble and use
  • Adjustable tripod
  • Perfect travel telescope

Cons:

  • Good for viewing planets, stars not so much

Best Reflector Telescope 

Orion 09007 SpaceProbe

The Orion SpaceProbe 130ST Newtonian Reflector is an excellent and one of the best telescope for amateurs for DSOs. It is well-suited for both beginners as well as intermediate stargazers.

The SpaceProbe 130ST is a 130mm f/5 Newtonian reflector telescope.

This 5.1″ aperture reflector telescope gathers an ample amount of light for great views of the planets and Moon, as well as brighter galaxies, nebulas, and star clusters

The telescope also comes with tools to help you assemble the product, and two eyepieces: 10mm for 65x, and a 25mm for 26x magnification, respectively.

The quick set-up and ease of use makes the SpaceProbe 130ST EQ a very versatile telescope which the whole family can enjoy.

This Orion space probe telescope also boasts a short 24″ long optical tube design which enhances its portability, while the 130mm optical diameter, and the 650mm focal length are in perfect balance with the f/5.0 focal ratio.

In addition, it possesses design features, such as a parabolic mirror and a specially designed holder for the secondary mirror, that focus the light captured by the aperture and use it to sharpen the images produced by the scope, even with its shorter tube.

The included aluminum tripod is very sturdy, and also includes an accessory tray that can be very useful when you are outdoors in the dark and need a place to organize your accessories neatly.

The equatorial mount is perfectly built and allows manual slow-motion tracking of celestial objects as they move across the sky. 

The mount can also be upgraded at a later time to a motorized option that tracks objects automatically, so that’s a nice option to have and definitely a plus if you are using the Orion SpaceProbe 130ST for astrophotography.

Just like many other similar products, the Orion 09007 also comes with Orion’s Starry Night software, which is very useful for beginners, and has the added benefit of alerting the user of upcoming celestial events.

Short 24″ long optical tube design for easy portability and fast f/5 focal ratio for pleasing wide-field performance makes the SpaceProbe 130ST EQ a very versatile telescope the whole family can enjoy

Pros:

  • Nice set of accessories
  • Can be upgraded to have motorized tracking
  • Comes with an Equatorial mount and a versatile tripod
  • Easy to assemble and transport

Cons:

  • Plastic focuser and mount parts
  • Somewhat confusing instructions
Related

Best Budget Option

Celestron – PowerSeeker 70EQ

The 70EQ Power Seeker is a refractor telescope with a 70mm aperture and a focal length of 700mm. Its low price combined with excellent optics, easy assembly, clear instructions, included eyepieces and other features that make it easy to use even for beginners, make it an excellent choice for anyone wanting to learn more about the nighttime sky.

At f/10, there is some chromatic aberration but nothing significant enough to ruin high-power views with this telescope. The optical quality of the Powerseeker 70 is quite good.

The scope’s focuser is a 1.25” rack-and-pinion made mostly of plastic. The focuser even includes a tension adjustment knob, should you find the focuser to be too loose or too tight.

Since Celestron 21037 PowerSeeker 70EQ telescope is a family-friendly scope, it is very easy to set up and use as it needs no extra tools. The instructions manual clearly describes every setup step, giving clear information on each of the telescope’s parts and uses.

With an aperture of 70 mm (2.76“) and a focal length of 700 mm (28”), the Celestron Power Seeker telescope allows stargazers to see the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn and other celestial wonders with ease.

The 3x Barlow lens manages to triple the magnifying power of all eyepieces, while the 1.25″ Erect Image Diagonal makes the telescope ideal for both astronomical and terrestrial use.

The telescope includes fully coated optics, meaning that at least one lens in the telescope has been coated with multiple layers of substances designed to capture and focus the light that goes through the lens.

The equatorial mount supplied with the 70EQ is actually a good match for it. The motions are reasonably smooth, the mount’s extruded aluminum legs are quite steady with such a lightweight tube. Furthermore, the whole setup is pretty light at about 14 pounds.

The 70EQ PowerSeeker is the best budget telescope for astrophotography as it comes with a camera attachment that allows the user to take photographs of the objects being viewed.

Pros:

  • Family-friendly, easy to setup and use
  • Coated glass, decent optical components 
  • EQ mount with slow motion controls
  • Budget option refractor telescope for astrophotography
  • High and low power eyepieces
  • Ideal for both terrestrial and celestial viewing

Cons:

  • Not suitable for professional use
  • Most components are built with plastic

Best For Deep Space Objects 

Sky-Watcher Flextube

The 8ʺ dobsonian is an f/5.9 Newtonian, manufactured by Suzhou Synta Optical Technologies (Synta), the same company that owns Celestron. Synta also builds Orion’s XT and XX Dobsonians. The mirrors are made of borosilicate glass, also known as Pyrex, which expands far less with expansion and contraction than plate glass.

Sky-Watcher 8″ Collapsible Dobsonian Telescope features an elegant truss tube design that was carefully engineered to combine ease of use, extreme portability and consistent performance in an affordable package. 

Unlike other truss tube designs, the Sky-Watcher Collapsible Dobsonian does not need to be disassembled between uses

It transports as two compact pieces that can be assembled and ready to use in minutes. It is easy to collimate once set up, and it holds its collimation throughout the viewing sessions.

It is essentially a Dobsonian style Newtonian with a large 8″ 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/6

The Sky-Watcher 8″ Collapsible Dobsonian features a 2″ single speed Crayford style focuser and comes with a 1.25″ adaptor.

25mm and 10mm 1.25” super Plossl eyepieces are included. Metal construction, captive recesses on the barrels and rubber fold-down eye-cups make these good quality eyepieces that are certainly adequate to get you started.

This is one of the best telescope for amateurs for DSOs as it has a low-hassle OTA design which is not only simple in construction and use but it also provides the viewer with maximum light for viewing deep space objects without any aberrations or blurriness.

The Sky-Watcher 8″ Dob utilizes quality components throughout.

On each parabolic primary mirror, and elliptical diagonal mirror aluminum is vacuum deposited to the front glass surface and then over coated with hard quartz. Additional layers of Titanium Dioxide and hard quartz are then applied.

The mechanical and structural components of the OTA exhibit rigid construction and outstanding stability. 

The mount construction is sturdy and rigid. Mount design, while simple, facilitates smooth motions about both axes. 

The Sky-Watcher 8” comes with quality accessories that enhance the observer’s viewing experience.

Pros:

  • Easy to transport due to collapsible tube design
  • Focuses very accurately
  • Easy to use
  • Can be used by beginners & professionals
  • Viewfinder helps in easy spotting of objects
  • Built with high quality materials

Cons:

  • Doesn’t come with a Barlow lens
  • Needs a light shroud

Best GoTo Telescope 

Celestron – NexStar 6SE

The NexStar 6SE offers consumers the proven quality of the Celestron brand in a compact, portable, and technologically advanced telescope. 

The scope’s 6-inch aperture, portable design, fully functional computer, and extensive database, among other features, make it easy to use, easy to transport, and easy to enjoy regardless of experience level. The NexStar 6SE is quite evidently the best computerized telescope for amateur astronomers. 

The NexStar 6SE is a 6-inch Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope, which has an actual aperture of 150 mm and focal length of 1,500 mm, giving it a focal ratio of f/10. The OTA comes on a Vixen-style dovetail bar, which fits into the dovetail saddle on the mount.

The telescope also comes with a 1.25” prism diagonal, 25 mm Plossl eyepiece (providing 60x when used with the 6SE) and Celestron’s StarPointer, which is a zero-power red-dot-style finder.

The Celestron NexStar 6 SE is a solid and sturdy telescope, perfect for home use and astrophotogaphy.

The Celestron NexStar 6 SE is easy to align with Celestron’s SkyAlign Go-To Alignment system

On average it takes a new telescope user approximately 5 minutes to do a full sky alignment with the NexStar 6 SE. 

Once aligned, the telescope is incredibly easy to operate. The hand controller on the NexStar 6SE allows you to move the telescope at your discretion. If you are looking for a telescope that can help you transition from beginner to a bit advanced astronomer without much guidance then look no further than the NexStar 6SE.

The NexStar 6SE’s hand controller offers a tour of the night sky and easily allows you to locate planets, galaxies or any of the 40,000 celestial objects in its database.

To power the 6SE you have two options, 8x AA batteries or 12v DC power supply. The 8x AA batteries would last you about 3 hours (included alignment of finderscope and general terrestrial viewing and the 40 minute observation session). 

You can download all the available upgrades from Celestron’s website. In this way, you can keep your telescope up to date, and you can even control your telescope via computer.

The 6SE makes a good choice for consumers living in areas with light-pollution who are looking for clarity and accuracy in their viewing experience. 

It is also one of the best telescopes for beginners under $1000 who are willing to invest a fair sum of money into the hobby in order to learn more about the star gazing experience. Also, the 6SE is a good choice even for more experienced star gazers who wish to have a more portable scope for easier transport and for viewing deep space objects.

Pros:

  • Easy to mount and to use
  • Good optics
  • It’s very sturdy and low maintenance
  • Motorised and automated GoTo mount
  • Portable, fits perfectly in the back of any normal car

Cons:

  • 8 AA batteries tend to drain out fairly quickly
  • User manual and instructions are not very clear

Best Dobsonian  

Orion SkyQuest XT8 Plus

  • Type: Refractor
  • Aperture: 203mm (8″)
  • Focal length: 1200mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/5.9
  • Eyepiece: 28mm, 10mm
  • Magnification: 120x, 43x
  • Weight: 42 lbs. (19kg)
  • Our Rating: 9/10

The XT8 is an 8” f/5.9 Newtonian reflector with a fairly simple design.

It includes a 28mm DeepView 2-inch eyepiece, 10mm Plossl 1.25-inch eyepiece, 1.25-inch 2x Barlow lens, full-aperture solar filter, red-dot finder, collimation cap and the planetarium program Starry Night.

You can observe various heavenly bodies including Mars, Saturn and Jupiter that you can view in excellent detail. 

Thanks to the enhanced reflectivity mirror coatings, you can get up to 94% reflectivity so there’s an optimal amount of light transmitted to the eyepiece, which ensures delivery of astoundingly clear views.

The XT8 PLUS has a focal length of 1200 mm (f/5.9) to allow you to achieve clear and crisp views at intermediate to high magnifications on clear nights when seeing conditions are favorable. 

The  SkyQuest XT8 Plus comes with a large 2″ dual-speed Crayford focuser.

A step-down 1.25″ adapter is included to allow the use of 1.25″ as well as 2″ eyepieces. The Crayford design enables smooth, precise focus adjustments that are essentially free of backlash and flexure.

For easy transport and storage, the Orion XT8 PLUS telescope can conveniently be broken-down into two separate pieces. 

By unthreading the two altitude tension knobs from the Dobsonian base, you can detach the 46.5″ long reflector optical tube and transport each piece separately.

The Orion SkyQuest XT8 PLUS Dobsonian’s sleek redesigned base not only has an appealing look, it also features cutouts for reducing weight to give the XT8 PLUS more portability. The base also has white trim to make it detectable at night.

Pros:

  • Large aperture for a low price
  • Decent optics and mechanics
  • Very good single-speed Crayford focuser

Cons:

  • Red dot finder is of extremely limited utility
  • Other 8” dobsonians offer more accessories

VIEW ON AMAZON

Best For Astrophotography

Celestron – NexStar 127SLT

The Celestron NexStar 127SLT is an entry-level GoTo telescope designed for anyone looking for a reliable telescope with which to enjoy the nighttime sky. 

The telescope features a 127mm aperture and Celestron’s SkyAlign technology, this telescope offers consumers good views. In addition, the telescope’s single fork arm and simple design make it easy to set up and use.

The scope’s focal length is 1500mm, and it has a focal ratio of f/12. As far as eyepieces are concerned, each Celestron NexStar 127 SLT telescope comes with a 25mm eyepiece and a 9mm eyepiece, having a maximum magnification of 167x with the default 9 mm eyepiece.

The Celestron NexStar 127 SLT telescope stands on top of a motorized Altazimuth mount, which can be controlled via the provided digital hand controller.

Alternatively, the mount can be hooked to a computer for increased precision. 

With preassembled, adjustable stainless steel tripods, and quick release fork arms and tubes, the NexStar 127 SLT telescope can be set up in a matter of minutes with no tools required.

The 127 SLT with its large aperture is great for viewing the surface of the moon, phases of Venus, rings of Saturn or Jupiter and its four largest moons, and other deep-space objects.

The Celestron NexStar 127SLT is also the best computerized telescope for astrophotography under $500 on our list.

The Celestron NexStar GoTo mounts are powered by eight AA user-supplied batteries, or an optional AC adapter, making them perfect as a travel telescope.

With Celestron’s SkyAlign Technology, aligning your telescope is fast and easy. Simply input the date, time and location (the CPC models have built-in GPS that does this for you) and then align the telescope to three bright stars of your choosing. 

You do not need to know the names of the stars, you can even pick the moon or bright planets. The NexStar computer system will automatically figure out which stars were chosen and then align the telescope. 

The 127SLT’s diagonal is a prism, and a nice one at that – unlike the cheap diagonals supplied with many entry-level scopes which are cheap mirrors that aren’t very flat, which tend to offer dim and fuzzier images.

Pros:

  • Super optical construction
  • Very easy to operate with
  • Compact and portable design
  • Included needed additional accessories
  • Suitable for lunar/planetary astrophotography

Cons:

  • 8 AA batteries required but not included
  • Tripod can be more stable

Best Travel Telescope 

Orion 10013 GoScope

The Orion GoScope 80mm Tabletop Refractor Telescope,  is a rare telescope model that has the advantage of being both incredibly portable, as well as extremely easy for a beginner to use.

This ultra-compact, entry-level refractor with a tabletop mount makes a great, high-quality first telescope for children and beginners. 

Although it may look like the telescope for kids, it’s not just for newbies – the GoScope 80mm TableTop Refractor’s convenient small size makes it a true “grab-and-go” telescope, perfect for on the move experienced stargazers. 

The telescope comes complete with 10 mm and 20 mm eyepieces, and can magnify objects in the night sky by up to 165 times their size. An EZ finder is included that allows novice astronomers to locate objects in the night sky, and follow their movements with ease.

The entire telescope weighs just 5.65 lbs. assembled (including eyepiece and reflex sight) so it’s easy for anyone in the family to take it out to the backyard table or an observing site.

The Orion GoScope 80mm Tabletop Refractor has an 80-mm aperture that captures a large amount of light to give you the benefit of very bright images. The brightness gives the telescope the ability to target distant objects in the deep sky, so that you can see things like the Orion Nebula that smaller telescopes would likely miss.

Being light (around 9 pounds), compact and easy to travel with, the Orion 10013 GoScope 80mm TableTop Refractor Telescope will definitely become your best pal in trips or while camping with the family. If you want any extra height, you can place it on a regular tripod as the Go Scope has a special insert on the bottom.

The optical tube assembly of the GoScope 80mm Refractor Telescope is attached to its sturdy table-top swivel base with a quick-release dovetail saddle which features adjustable altitude tension. This allows you to set the up/down tension of the mount according to your preference, for smooth motion.

The GoScope travel telescope tube can easily be removed from the base and mounted on an optional photo tripod, utilizing threaded holes on the optical tube mounting block. 

Alternatively, the GoScope’s swivel base itself can also be mounted on a camera tripod to raise the telescope if you cannot find a convenient flat surface nearby.

Pros:

  • Surprisingly good optics
  • Great for beginners and children
  • Easy to use and travel with
  • Can be easily attached to a mount
  • Produces extremely bright images

Cons:

  • Not good for astrophotography
  • Not for professionals

Best For Smartphone Astrophotography

Gskyer Telescope, 70mm

The Gskyer’s AZ70400 Telescope is a 70mm aperture and 400mm short focal length refractor telescope mounted on a camera type tripod. It includes a 45 degree diagonal, a carry case, finder scope, two eyepieces, and a 3x Barlow lens.

The overall assembly of the telescope is straightforward and perfect for anyone with little to no prior knowledge.

The included 3x Barlow lens, 25mm, and 10mm eyepiece all offer varying levels of magnification. The maximum magnification is x120 and provides clear images of the moon, planets, and some star arrangements.

The telescope comes with an altazimuth mount screw tripod made of aluminum alloy for support and stability while viewing distant objects. 

It also comes with a smartphone adapter which can be used to fix your iPhone/Android to the telescope for astroimaging of the night sky.

In addition, the telescope comes with a rack and pinion mechanism to assist the focuser in bringing distant objects closer for easy and detailed viewing. The slow motion lever enables you to track celestial objects in motion quite easily.

Setting up the scope typically takes anywhere from 15-30 minutes. Regardless of previous astronomical equipment experience, the step-by-step guide makes putting the telescope together quick and easy.

Because of its rugged design, this type of telescope provides reliable performance in the most demanding conditions so images are kept steady, with no interferences or reflections on the path of light.

Pros:

  • Easy to setup and use
  • Very portable
  • Perfect for beginners and family
  • Decent optics
  • Comes with its own backpack
  • Robust design

Cons:

  • Instruction manual is a bit vague
  • Difficult to collimate

Best For Home Use

Orion StarBlast II 4.5 Reflector

The StarBlast II 4.5 EQ is one of the best reflector telescope for adults which also the whole family can enjoy, thanks to its great optics, convenient portability, and easy-to-use operation.

Views of everything from the Moon and planets to distant objects like star clusters and galaxies appear bright and clear through this amazing telescope.

It works amazingly well with the included Expanse telescope eyepieces which yield a very wide 66° apparent field of view that allows you to see distant deep space objects as well as moon and planets.

The included 25mm Sirius Plossl eyepiece provides 18x power magnification, while the 10mm Sirius Plossl eyepiece bumps up the power to 45x magnification. The 25mm is a great eyepiece to begin observing sessions with, since it provides a large window of night sky for you to view. 

The telescope’s combination of short 450mm focal length and sizable 4.5″ aperture means the StarBlast II 4.5 EQ will provide brighter views at any magnification compared to longer focal length telescopes, which makes it easier for everyone, and especially beginners, to locate interesting sights in the night sky.

The StarBlast II sits inside two felt-lined tube rings that bolt onto the EQ-1 mount’s top plate – larger/more expensive equatorials use a Vixen dovetail and saddle which is slightly more convenient, but the simple system used with the StarBlast II works just fine.

Setting up and using the EQ-1 is pretty easy – just level the tripod, put the mount/scope together, balance the scope on both axes, and roughly line up the mount’s polar axis with Polaris. 

Thanks to this design, it’s easy for anyone in the family to manually track a celestial object using slow-motion control cables. You can even add an optional electronic motor drive (sold separately) to the EQ-1 equatorial mount so it can track objects automatically once you’ve centered the object in the telescope eyepiece.

Pros:

  • Wide field of view
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Easy to use
  • Compatible with high-quality accessories
  • Suitable for astrophotography
  • Great for beginners and families with children
  • Sturdy equatorial mount

Cons:

  • No finder scope
  • Not suitable for use in daylight

Amateur Telescope Buying Guide 2021

Buying a telescope is an important first step towards a new level of appreciation for the night sky, and the wonders found within it.

The best telescope for amateurs is one that guides you through the process of learning the night sky in a straightforward and gratifying way. It’s easy to get swept away with an optical instrument that is likely too complex for a beginner to learn early on.

Here is a comprehensive telescope buying guide which will explain the importance of all the parts of a telescope and the important features that you should look for when purchasing your first telescope.

Features To Consider When Choosing A Good Telescope For Amateurs

A telescope is an amazing device that has the ability­ to make faraway objects appear much closer. Telescopes­ come in all shapes and sizes, from a little plastic tube you buy at a toy store for $2, to the Hubble Space Telescope, which weighs several tons. 

Amateur telescopes fit somewhere in between, and even though they are not nearly as powerful as the Hubble, they can do some incredible things.

As an amateur astronomer- Here are the different features of a telescope that you need to know about before making a final purchasing decision.

Lenses & Mirrors

Depending on whether it is a refracting or reflecting telescope, the primary light-gathering part of a telescope is its primary mirror or lens — the bigger the lens or mirror of the telescope. Therefore, bigger is better when it comes to the lens or mirror size of a telescope.

While consumer telescopes can be either reflecting or refracting, the true scientific or astronomical telescopes used by scientists are always reflecting telescopes, like the above mentioned The Hubble Space Telescope. 

Mirrors are amenable to precision manufacturing and can have smoother surfaces than lenses. Lenses also bend the light of different wavelengths differently, introducing complications in focusing the final image.

Eyepiece Holder & Focuser

The eyepiece holder holds the eyepiece and they are available in three sizes — 0.965 inches (2.45 cm), 1.25 inches (3.18 cm), and 2 inches (5.08 cm) in diameter. The focuser moves the eyepiece holder and adjusts the focus of the eyepiece.

Aperture

Aperture might be the most discussed component of a telescope. The aperture is the diameter of the telescope’s mirror or lens, and it determines how much light the telescope lets in and, in turn, how sharp the image appears.

One mistake that beginners make when choosing their first telescope is thinking that bigger aperture is always better when it comes to aperture. Bigger aperture generally means a higher price and a bulkier telescope.

As a thumb rule –  a refractor telescope should have a 6-inch (150 mm) mirror at least while a reflector telescope requires a 4-inch lens.

Focal length

It is the distance between a telescope’s primary optics and its focal point. It works with the focal length of your eyepiece to produce your desired magnification. In many cases you will get the telescope’s focal ratio instead. This is just the ratio between the focal length of the telescope and its aperture.

Magnification

The focal length is important, because it’s a factor in how well a telescope magnifies objects. 

To figure out the magnification, divide the focal length of the telescope by the focal length of the eyepiece: 

If you have a 25-millimeter eyepiece and a refractor of 900 mm, the magnification is 36 power, written as 36x (or, 900 / 25 = 36). 

To avoid fuzziness, make sure to magnify a telescope to no more than twice the aperture of your telescope in millimeters.

Finderscope

A finder scope comes included with a telescope and is normally mounted on the telescope itself. 

Each finder scope has either a battery-operated red dot or a set of crosshairs to allow you to align and center an object in its sights. 

Aligning the finderscope before viewing through your telescope is an essential step that will help you locate what you’re looking for through the more powerful telescope.

Telescope Mounts

There are lots of different types of telescope mounts and many manufacturers have designed their own. While they look quite a bit different they pretty much comply with either one or the other of the two major types of mounts.

1. Alt-Azimuth Mounts

This is the simplest type of telescope mount and the easiest to use. 

It moves your telescope in two directions – up/down and side to side. Pretty much as easy as that. And it is very intuitive because anyone can easily learn how to use a telescope with this kind of mount. 

This type of mount is often seen on inexpensive telescopes because it is the simplest to use and the simplest to make. 

To use a telescope mount like this you simply move the scope up/down or left/right to point at whatever object you want.

Small telescopes with alt-az mounts are a simple affair and can make for a great combo if you are looking for the best telescope for amateurs. 

Good quality alt-az mounts will have finely threaded slow-motion controls so that the scope can be moved smoothly in tiny increments.

2. Dobsonian Mounts

Dobsonian mounts are a special version of the altazimuth mount made for beginners. These mounts are grounded by heavy platforms and designed for large Newtonian reflector telescopes.

They are light, affordable, and great for any beginner or junior astronomer.

3. German Equatorial Mounts

Equatorial mounts (EQ) are made to watch the entire night sky and are very popular in astrophotography. They are easy to adjust on the fly and can be powered either manually or electronically.

The German version uses counterweights to properly balance the telescope on what is known as the polar axis. Aiming this axis towards Polaris aligns the entire mount with Earth’s rotation.

4. Fork Equatorial Mounts

Telescopes with shorter tubes tend to use fork mounts. These equatorial mounts balance telescopes at their center of mass and therefore do not need counterweights. The telescopes are mounted on two arms connected to a motor.

More hybrid than true equatorials, you can switch these mounts between AZ and EQ modes as needed.  This makes them the most versatile but also heavier and less portable than any other mount.

5. Go-To Mounts

It’s basically a computer that will move the telescope to a location based on the axis of the body you want to see. There are normally hand controls that will move the mount smoothly and easily without much effort on the part of the user.

Telescope Tube

The telescope tube has the main mirror. Normally, the telescope tube has 8 inches diameter and it has a tube cover.

The telescope tube enhances the setting of the focal length through controlling the knob which is usually below the visual back. Therefore, the telescope tube makes an important part of the telescope functionality.

Other features

Besides all the above features, there are many other ones you can check to make sure you buy an ideal telescope for beginners which is going to meet your needs. 

Refer to the section about Mounts, Eyepieces and Finderscope of this article before making a final purchasing decision.

Another factor to consider is the weight and the dimensions of the telescope.

Also, the included accessories which accompany the telescope should be checked – whether it has a tripod,  a Barlow lens, a carrying bag, etc. Most of these accessories are generally included in telescopes under $500 and above.

Tripod

The tripod is made of at least three stands. It holds and retains the telescope on its surface. The tripod is made in a way that it can support the telescope in slanted, straight, or inverted positions. At the same time, an observer can easily move the telescope to different directions with ease.

Types Of Telescopes

Telescopes come in all shapes, sizes, and functions. There is a telescope type for each and every band of electromagnetic radiation from gamma rays to light to radio. However, the optical types are all you need. Optical telescopes may only work for visible light, but will let you see just about everything nature has to offer. There are three types of optical telescopes on the market and each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

1. Refractor Telescope

Refractor telescopes are the original, earliest type of telescopes. Basically, a long tube with a large lens in front and an eyepiece at the back. 

The front lens (the objective) focuses light to form an image in the back. The eyepiece is a little magnifying glass with which you look at the image.

High-quality refractors are often sought out by lunar and planetary observers who value their crisp, high-contrast images that can take high magnification. 

In fact, when well made a refractor can provide the finest images attainable with a given aperture.

Another advantage of the refractor is that it’s generally more rugged than other types of scopes, because it’s lenses are less likely to come out of alignment. 

For this reason refractors are well suited to those who wish to have a portable telescope or who have no desire to tinker with the optics.

2. Reflector Telescope

The reflector telescope uses a mirror to gather and focus light. Its most common form is the Newtonian reflector (invented by Isaac Newton), with a specially curved concave (dish-shaped) primary mirror in the bottom end of the telescope. 

Near the top a small, diagonal secondary mirror directs the light from the primary to the side of the tube, where it’s met by a conveniently placed eyepiece.

If you want the most aperture for your money, the reflector is the scope for you. 

When well made and maintained, a reflector can provide sharp, contrasty images of all manner of celestial objects at a small fraction of the cost of an equal-aperture refractor.

There is another benefit – A reflector is, by and large, the only type of telescope that shows you a “correct-reading” image rather than a mirror image. 

This is especially important when you’re trying to compare what you see in the eyepiece to what’s on a star map.

3. Compound Telescope

The third kind are the catadioptric or compound telescope.They employ both lenses and mirrors to form an image. 

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 “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.

Like the Newtonian, the Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope needs occasional optical collimation that lessens its appeal to those who are not too keen to tinker with the mechanics of a telescope. 

Their fields of view can be rather narrow, too. In terms of cost the catadioptric lies midway between the reflector and the refractor.

Words Of Advice For Amateur Astronomers

Amateur Astronomy can be fun, educational, and very interesting. However, being a backyard stargazer is not all fun and games. 

There are a few things you should keep in mind if you want to be a successful amateur astronomer. Here we have gathered a few practical tips that you can put to good use if you want to start getting more familiar with the night sky.

Invest in Books, Not a Telescope, First

Telescopes are expensive. Buy a stargazing book or two, first. After a few months, gauge your own interest. For some people it will still be there. For others, not so much.

Learn your way around a telescope

When you finally start setting up your telescope, take whatever time is needed to learn its use and operation. Be sure that you have assembled everything with great care. 

In the beginning, practice how to aim and focus your new instrument on daytime terrestrial objects. Not only are they bright and easy to see, but unlike night sky objects, they will not drift out of your field of view due to Earth’s rotation.

Find a right spot for stargazing

You should look for a place where you can get a good view of the night sky. Avoid light pollution, if possible. For some living in the big city this might mean finding a spot outside of town. Those living in the countryside might want to look for a place free of trees that will obscure your view.

Move your telescope in the shadows

Try to find a spot in your backyard that is in shadow to improve the contrast of objects.

Some astronomers have even had success building their own shielding to block out local streetlights.

Buy red tinted glasses to speed up dark adaptation

You will always see more through your scope once your eyes have adapted to the darkness.

Your eyes can take 20 – 40 minutes to adapt fully. 

You can also buy orange tinted glasses for the same effect. They also work as blue light blockers which are said to prevent the delay of melatonin build up before sleep.

Wearing them for a short time indoors before you step outside will start the activation of the ‘night vision’ receptors in your eyes.

Set your telescope up away from concrete if possible

Concrete radiates heat stored up over the day, causing air disturbance around you, which means poorer seeing conditions. This is particularly apparent on a hot day.

If you can, avoid pointing your telescope over the roofs of houses. Houses radiate heat if not well insulated.

Ideally, you want to point your telescope over grass, which uses up the Sun’s energy in the day through photosynthesis and does not radiate the heat back out at night.

Join an amateur astronomy club

Join a local astronomy club. You can probably locate the one nearest to you by consulting the website of the Astronomical League (AL), by far the largest national organization of amateur astronomers (http://www.astroleague.com). 

The AL is composed of scores of local amateur astronomical clubs and groups, totaling thousands of individuals.

By attending local club meetings, you’ll get to meet any number of fellow sky gazers who can offer you valuable advice. 

If you own a telescope, but are experiencing problems with it, there is no better place to go than an astronomy club whose members can offer assistance and helpful suggestions. 

Which are the best nights for stargazing?

Those cold winter nights that leave us shivering might be less pleasant than a warm summer’s night, but winter nights tend to have less humidity in the air, which reduces haze and makes for great ‘seeing’.

So depending on where you are in the world, if you intend to spend the requisite nighttime hours to get a grasp on what is above you, be prepared with warm clothes, snacks, and a firm resolve. We suggest investing in a red flashlight or a headlamp with that function so as not to affect your hard-earned night vision or that of your viewing partners.

 

Conclusion

Our top pick for the best telescope for amateurs is the Celestron – PowerSeeker 127EQ. The Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ is an easy-to-use and powerful telescope. The PowerSeeker series is designed to give the new telescope user the perfect combination of quality, value, features, and power

Our next best telescope for amateurs is the Gskyer Telescope AZ90600. This 90x600mm refractor telescope can be a good observation of celestial bodies and terrestrial objects – best for viewing Lunar and Planetary. Featuring all coated glass optical components,our telescope provides clean, crisp views.