Best Telescope Under $500 (2021); Reviews

Our comprehensive review of the best telescope under $500 will introduce you to 9 amazing affordable telescope models that will allow you to explore galaxies along the magnificent Milky Way, give you the ability to surf the stars, and explore spaces in the universe that a normal eye cannot see.

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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.

best telescope under $500

Viewing the heavens through a telescope is a breathtaking venture that will leave you with life-long memories.

The ability to see the magnificence of the galaxies, planets, and stars up close is truly a breathtaking experience that will show you the world from a completely different position. 

However, if you’re intending to discover the night skies in a special way, you’ll need a high-quality telescope.

Nowadays buyers have way too many options to choose from, the availability of several options also means choosing the right model from the sea of options is very difficult. To help make things easier for buyers, we have compiled a list of the 9 best telescopes under $500 for you, while taking key criteria such as the type of telescope, aperture, focal length, mount, and eyepiece into consideration.

We’ve also included a buying guide. If you want to learn more about telescopes before you buy, or just want to make sure you’re getting good value for your money, be sure to check it out.

Best Telescope Under $500

Fortunately, there is no lack of options when it comes to finding the best telescope under $500 for amateurs, professionals or for the entire family to enjoy home astronomy.

With so many models and characteristics any modern telescope has, it becomes rather hard for both novices and pros to find the one  We have analyzed the features that make the best telescope to help you pick out the one that is most suited to you.

Best GoTo Telescope 

Celestron – NexStar 90SLT

The Celestron NexStar 90SLT Black Mak Computerized Telescope is a perfect consideration for entry-level to mid-level astronomers. It is a compact instrument that possesses top-notch features at a reasonable price.

The Celestron NexStar 90SLT 90mm f/14 Maksutov-Cassegrain is one of the best affordable computerized telescope as it gives you the ability to make detailed observations of the Moon, with the ability to easily see planets and reach outside the solar system to resolve bright deep-space objects like galaxies, nebulae, and binary or variables stars.

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

The brain of the NexStar SLT is the venerable NexStar computer controller. Equipped with a database of over 4000 objects, including the planets, stars, nebulae, galaxies, and the complete Messier catalog, it can also be programmed with up to 99 custom user-defined objects and filters for custom object lists.

Its intuitive menu-driven user interface provides the power to observe the heavens with nine slew speeds and three tracking rates, plus anti-backlash compensation.

For users who want to learn more about the sky they are observing, the scope comes with Sky Astronomy Software. This software provides the user with information about the nighttime sky, celestial objects and sky maps to enrich the viewing experience.

The Maksutov-Cassegrain optical system’s Maksutov corrector lens is fully coated on both sides with anti reflective material for high light transmission and good contrast. A no-tool quick release dovetail connects the tube to the mount for fast set-up and take-down.

The scope comes with two eyepieces The first is a 25mm providing 50x magnification, which provides expansive views of the Moon, star clusters, and terrestrial observing. The second is a 9mm providing 139x for close-up views of the Moon and planets, globular star clusters, binary stars and more.

With the built-in SkyAlign technology, lining up your 90SLT on the sky each night takes only minutes. Simply input the date, time, and your location into the computer hand control, then use the StarPointer red dot finder to align the telescope on any three bright stars, or to two stars and a bright planet or the Moon. The NexStar computer will automatically align itself with the sky.

Pros:

  • Excellent quality optics
  • Compact, travel-friendly and portable
  • Computerized go-to tracking
  • Features “The Sky X” planetarium software
  • Automatic alignment

Cons:

  • Battery runs out quickly
Cons:
  • Battery runs out quickly

Best Dobsonian Under $500

Orion  SkyQuest XT8 

The Orion XT8 Dobsonian is a mid-range reflector telescope. The XT8 offers a good balance between portability, price and performance. In this review we’ll look at the build quality of the XT8, along with how it performs at planetary and deep-space objects.

The Orion XT8 classic Dobsonian is also perfect for those looking to use the telescope for astrophotography.

The Orion XT8 SkyQuest Classic Dobsonian telescope features an expertly figured parabolic mirror housed in an enameled steel optical tube. 

The tube rides on a stable Dobsonian base that allows easy point-and-view navigation and has a convenient carrying handle. A 2-inch Crayford focuser, EZ Finder II aiming device, and a 25 mm Sirius Plossl eyepiece (size 1.25-inch).

The easy-to-use finder and optical tube allows viewing of most extra-terrestrial objects like star clusters and even obscure matter such as nebulae. 

A camera for astrophotography can be attached to the telescope with a ‘T-adapter’. Setting up the SkyQuest XT8 is fairly straight-forward, the telescope comes in two easily attachable parts, which need to be connected by the integrated springs.

Additionally, the CorrecTension springs allow enough resistance, so the telescope stays upright. Talking about its balance, a particular strength that has been found with the SkyQuest XT8 is its sturdy base – if it is set up on the uneven ground, viewing the night sky is not impacted significantly.

It should take around 30 minutes to assemble the telescope solo or 15-20 minutes with someone else giving you a hand. 

The Orion XT8 Telescope is undoubtedly one of the best astronomy telescopes under $500 – suitable for all types of stargazers, whether they are beginners, amateurs or die-hard observers. 

Those who are new to the art of astronomy will find this telescope easy to use, and experts will find most of the functions satisfying.

The XT8 classic Dobsonian is also family-friendly, allowing kids to enjoy the fascinating hobby of stargazing, and the beginning of their interest in astronomy to flourish.

Its specifications are more than capable of observing a wide array of objects, and with surprising detail- satellite craters can be clearly viewed, as well as obscure nebulae.

Its minimalistic yet very ergonomic design is also very appealing. 

Pros:

  • Decent size optics with a lot of light gathering optics
  • Ultra stable base
  • Perfect for astrophotography
  • Can last you a lifetime
  • Perfect for the kids and entire family

Cons:

  • A little on the heavier side
  • Red dot finder is of extremely limited utility

Best Beginner 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 . 

best portable telescope

The PowerSeeker 127EQ is highly portable and one of the best travel telescopes under $500. 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
Related

Best Computerized Telescope  

Celestron – NexStar 4SE

Celestron’s NexStar 4SE 125mm f/13 Maksutov-Cassegrain GoTo Telescope is a powerful, versatile, and user-friendly catadioptric-style scope that can be used for observing everything from the Moon and planets to bright deep-sky objects like stars, galaxies, and nebulae.

The 4SE also has an integrated “flip mirror” at the back, which means that there is a built-in star diagonal which can be retracted to allow light directly out of the back of the telescope and into a camera adapter, usually for a DSLR or mirrorless camera. 

Celestron’s NexStar 4SE’s big selling point for this model is the GoTo computer.

You can select from a database of 40,000 night sky objects. When you’ve picked a target, the motorized mount will slew the telescope around to point at the object you’ve chosen. 

Once in your eyepiece, the motor will track it as it moves across the sky so you don’t lose sight of it.

Theoretically, this is a great solution for the more casual backyard astronomer who is more interested in spending time outside seeing objects than finding them.

The 4SE’s 102mm aperture isn’t huge, but the portability of this rig far outweighs any size limitation. And Celestron’s nicely coated optics make the most of every photon fetched.

best telescope under 500

If you want to get your feet wet with astrophotography, the 4SE has a camera control option. It helps you take a series of long duration exposures with your DSLR camera. 

Just don’t try to hang a very heavy camera body on this little telescope; an oddly weighted mount won’t track well enough for sharp images.

Because it is a compound telescope, you are going to get picture-perfect images and a wide field of view. Of course, the StarBright XLT coating on the Celestron 4 SE helps, as does the inclusion of a 25 millimeter Plossl eyepiece that delivers 53 times magnification, as well as a 12.5 millimeter eyepiece that can be added to give you 100 times magnification. 

As a result, this one of the best telescope under 500 dollars will be powerful enough to capture impressive details of many objects in our solar system, including the Moon, Jupiter, Mars and other planets. 

Deep-sky objects, however, will appear less impressive than with a bigger aperture telescope.

The 4SE is so small and light, and the tripod folds so easily, you can quickly jump into almost any vehicle and drive to find dark skies. 

And someday, if you grow into a larger telescope, you’ll probably want to keep this one as a “grab-and-go” scope. It’s great for chasing solar eclipses in faraway locations where you can’t lug a lot of luggage.

Pros:

  • Very sharp optics
  • Quality mount with acceptable gearing
  • Acceptable aperture
  • Very stable
  • Good included low-power eyepiece
  • No collimation required

Cons:

  • Small aperture for the price

Best Reflector Pick 

Orion 09007 SpaceProbe 

The Orion SpaceProbe 130ST Newtonian Reflector is an excellent and one of the best telescope under $500. 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.

best reflector telescope under 500

The included aluminium 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.

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

Best Telescope For Astrophotography 

Sky-Watcher Evoguide 50 APO

Тhе ЅkуWаtсhеr tеlеѕсоре іѕ аn ехсеllеnt ѕtаrgаzіng tеlеѕсоре that іѕ ѕuіtаblе for all user level. Іt’ѕ аttrасtіvе tо ехреrtѕ аnd іntеrmеdіаtеѕ fоr іtѕ соmрасt аnd роrtаblе dеѕіgn. Uѕеrѕ wіth ехреrіеnсе wіll рісk thе ЕvоGuіdе аѕ а ѕuррlеmеntаrу tеlеѕсоре tо mоunt аtор thеіr lаrgе rеfrасtіng ѕсоре.

Веgіnnеrѕ mау bе іntіmіdаtеd bу thе fасt thаt thіѕ іѕ а ѕtаnd-аlоnе рurсhаѕе. Тhеrе іѕ nо mоunt аnd trіроd іnсludеd іn thе buу, аnd іn fасt, thеrе аrе nо іnсludеd еуеріесеѕ. Тhіѕ іѕ а tubе-оnlу рurсhаѕе thаt іѕ оftеn mаrkеtеd аѕ а fіndеrѕсоре аѕ а ѕесоndаrу орtіс fоr а рrіmаrу tеlеѕсоре а uѕеr аlrеаdу оwnѕ. 

Вut, а bеgіnnеr mау wаnt tо ѕtаrt wіth the wіdе-fіеld аѕtrорhоtоgrарhу wіth thе ЕvоGuіdе rеgаrdlеѕѕ оf іtѕ ѕmаll ареrturе.

The 50mm aperture, when coupled with the ED lens element, doublet apochromatic design, and helical focuser makes the Evoguide much more precise than standard guidecopes, producing the higher quality images required for accurate autoguiding. 

The smaller aperture and smaller size also makes it ideal for use with smaller imaging systems utilizing small chips for wide-field astrophotography techniques.

Іt реrfоrmѕ ехсеllеntlу аѕ іntеndеd, but іt саn аlѕо реrfоrm wеll аѕ а ѕmаll ареrturе аѕtrорhоtоgrарhу tеlеѕсоре fоr wіdе-аnglе ѕhоtѕ аnd dеер-ѕkу аѕtrорhоtоgrарhу. 

Іt wіll tаkе ѕоmе ехреrіmеntаtіоn tо асhіеvе fосuѕ wіth thе rіght equipment fоr thе brіghtеѕt tаrgеtѕ thе ареrturе саn rеѕоlvе.

Yоu саn vіеw thе mооn аnd рlаnеtѕ wіth соlоr fіdеlіtу, соntrаѕt, аnd rеѕоlutіоn, but рuѕhіng thе mаgnіfісаtіоn аbоvе 100х wіll рuѕh іtѕ орtісаl lіmіtѕ ѕіnсе іt іѕ rеѕtrісtеd bу іtѕ ѕmаll ареrturе. 

Вrіght DЅОѕ саn bе vіеwеd аnd сарturеd wіth а саmеrа, but іt wіll tаkе аddіtіоnаl іnvеѕtmеnt tо асquіrе thе ѕеtuр уоu’rе аftеr.

The mounting rings and foot are in aluminum and the collimation thumbscrews have a knot to keep record of how much the screws must be screwed in to realign the Evoguide to the desired direction with respect to the imaging scope. 

This reduces the amount of fiddling you have to do in the dark to set up your guiding.

The collimation screws also have a nylon tip so as not to scratch the Evoguide.

The prims rail is included in the latest version of the Evoguide, and it is the only difference from the previous one. 

The prism rail makes it easy to use the Evoguide as a spotting scope, and for this use, you will also find in the box a 1.25” stop ring: fit that on a 1.25” eyepiece to be sure you will achieve focus. 

Тhе ЕvоGuіdе саn аlѕо bе uѕеd аѕ а tеlеѕсоре fоr wіdе fіеld vіеwіng аnd іmаgіng. Whіlе іt саn рrоvіdе vеrу wіdе fіеldѕ оf vіеw, іt dоеѕn’t hаvе thе ареrturе tо rеасh оut tо fаіnt DЅОѕ. Оnlу thе brіghtеѕt DЅОѕ wіll bе ѕееn. 

Іf uѕіng thе ЕvоGuіdе аѕ а tеlеѕсоре, уоu’ll fіnd thаt іt lасkѕ а fіndеr ѕсоре іn thе расkаgе. Тhе ѕhоrt fосаl lеngth mеаnѕ іt’ѕ а fіndеr ѕсоре іn іtѕеlf, ѕо уоu wоn’t hаvе tо wоrrу аbоut thіѕ аѕ уоu’ll fіnd оbјесtѕ еаѕіlу еnоugh wіth thе wіdе fіеldѕ аnd thе lоw роwеr.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Great looking
  • Lightweight
  • Multipurpose
  • Good build quality
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Can’t focus with a diagonal and an eyepiece for visual observations
  • Loose front cap

Best Astronomy Telescope 

Celestron – AstroMaster 130EQ 

The telescope is fitted with a 1.25 rack-and-pinion focuser and two eyepieces to get new users started – a 10mm that yields 65x power and a 20mm for a 32.5x magnification. 

The 20mm eyepiece integrates an erecting system to correct images horizontally and vertically to allow easy terrestrial use. 

The AstroMaster 130EQ also features an unmagnified red-dot finder to help set-up, align and navigate easier.

Celestron’s AstroMaster 130EQ 130mm f/5 Reflector Telescope features a 650mm focal length and an oversized parabolic mirror that produce detailed images of the Moon, clear views of the planets, and the ability to resolve distant objects such as nebulae and galaxies.

The 130EQ comes on a lightweight German equatorial mount that works well enough for the 130 mm f/5 OTA, and it should work okay with a DSLR camera piggybacked on top.

Since it can get quite hard to keep the object in the view because of the Earth’s rotation, there is an upgrade for this mount to help you with that. 

It is a simple clock motor which you turn on after you get the object in the view and it will track the object keeping it in the middle of the eyepiece. It’s much easier to stargaze like this rather than twisting the knobs while looking through the eyepiece. The motor is not included but it can be bought separately.

best telescope under 500

The Celestron’s AstroMaster 130EQ is one of the best budget telescopes for beginners as not only is it great for planetary viewing, with the moons of Jupiter and rings of Saturn being star attractions, but being a reflector telescope with a wide aperture, it could be one of the cheapest telescopes on offer that can decently display deep space objects.

At just 17 lbs total weight and thanks to its compact design, the Celestron AstroMaster 130 EQ is very portable. You can take it literally everywhere with you, unlike heavier and bulkier telescopes for professional use.

Pros:

  • Very good optics
  • Decently priced telescope
  • Suitable for beginners as well as advanced users
  • Clear crisp mirrors

Cons:

  • Focuser is of limited usability
  • No filters included

Best Refractor Option 

Meade Instruments – Infinity 102mm

This scope provides a 4” aperture, which captures a decent amount of light to illuminate various celestial objects. 

This scope’s short focal length puts the focal ratio at f/5.9, which gives a beautifully wide field of view for capturing bigger objects, such as galaxies, star fields, and nebulae. 

For an entry-level telescope, we were pleasantly surprised by its optical performance. It excels at low power for wide field views. 

A plastic dew shield fitted to the front end of the optical tube prevents condensation on the objective and blocks stray light. 

As this is an achromatic refractor with a fast focal ratio, chromatic aberration will be present appearing as color fringing around the edges of brighter objects like the moon. 

An added bonus is the ability to use the telescope for daytime terrestrial viewing.

The telescope comes with three different eyepieces of 26mm,9mm,6.3mm that provide a magnification up to 23x, 66.3x, 95x (magnification=focal length of telescope /size of an eyepiece).

The 26mm eyepiece provides a wider field of view of the sky, easy for spotting the object and the 6.3mm eyepiece will provide a magnified view of that object once spotted.

The altazimuth tripod comes fully assembled and is constructed of cast aluminum with stainless steel tube legs. The height is adjustable from 33 to 51 inches. It is fairly sturdy and the legs are well constructed. 

Most images are incredibly sharp and clear with this scope, especially the brighter objects in the solar system, including the moon, planets, and stars. 

It also handles star clusters and brighter nebulae very well with its wide field of view and good levels of contrast.

For travelers, this scope is ideal. The optical tube and mount weigh in at under 20 pounds, and it’s compact enough to bring practically anywhere with you. 

Its compact size also offers the benefit of cooling rapidly to the ambient temperature, which is essential for the best views.

Pros:

  • Perfect grab and go telescope
  • Easy to setup and use
  • No need to collimate
  • Can be used for terrestrial viewing
  • Comes with a Barlow lens and an accessory tray

Cons:

  • Tripod might be a bit shaky

Best For Smartphone Astrophotography 

Gskyer Telescope

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.

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.

Many users of this scope say that the Gskyer AZ90600 is the best telescope under $500 especially for viewing the planets.

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.

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.

If you’ve never owned a telescope before, This 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

Buying Guide: How To Choose A Telescope Under $500

Telescopes are an incredible door to the heavens, for anybody intrigued by space and astronomy.

Telescopes are an incredible door to the heavens, for anybody intrigued by space and astronomy and is willing to investigate the unending immensity of the world. If you are looking for the best telescope under $500 then you are bound to encounter a wide variety of choices. The telescopes for under $500 are ideal for amateurs to intermediates to advanced as well. 

A telescope in this price range will enable you to view planetary details like shadows and texture of the moon, nebulae and galaxies, among other objects. 

There is a big variation between telescopes used for watching mountains and cities, than those for watching the Moon and neighbouring planets, or the ones for deep space exploration.

thebigbangoptics

What is generally important are good optics for a clear view especially if you are someone interested in astrophotography paired with a stable and secure stand as well.

One common misconception is that telescopes are meant to magnify small objects. The objects in space are certainly not small – they are enormous.

They only appear small to us. And if we only magnify what we can see with our eyes, we would simply get a big smudge with a distorted picture. Imagine this scenario as zooming into a low-quality picture.

What is important is the gathering light capability, the size of the aperture This will allow us to see more details – only then the magnification actually makes sense.

So, while magnifying power is important, it relies on a more significant feature – objective diameter, or aperture.

A bigger aperture allows for greater magnification. But keep in mind that magnification also depends on the focal ratio.

So if you want to look at smaller details with a bigger magnification, you might want to use slow telescopes with a high f-number, instead if you want a wide field of view with lots of stars and galaxies, a fast telescope with a low f-number is a better choice.

Finally, make sure to always double check whether or not your telescope under $500 (it should) comes with a stand because some models do ship without a stand and mount.

You can also consider telescopes with GoTo Mounts, these will help you guide the telescope automatically with a handheld computer.

Features To Look For In A Telescope Under $500

Type Of Telescope

The telescopes, for all their varied shapes and sizes, types of telescopes can be divided into three classes: refractors, reflectors, and catadioptrics.

1. Refractor Telescope

The refractor telescope uses a lens to gather and focus light. The first telescopes built were refractors. The glass lens is at the front of the telescope and light is bent (refracted) as it passes through the lens.

Refractor telescopes are rugged. After the initial alignment, their optical system is more resistant to misalignment than the reflector telescopes.

The glass surface inside the tube is sealed from the atmosphere so it rarely needs cleaning.

Since the tube is closed off from the outside, air currents and effects due to changing temperatures are eliminated. This means that the images are steadier and sharper than those from a reflector telescope of the same size.

All refractors suffer from an effect called chromatic aberration (“color deviation or distortion”) that produces a rainbow of colors around the image. Because of the wave nature of light, the longer wavelength light (redder colors) is bent less than the shorter wavelength light (bluer colors) as it passes through the lens.

2. Reflector Telescope

The second type of telescope, the reflector telescope, uses a mirror to gather and focus light. Its most common form is the Newtonian reflector, with a specially curved concave 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.

3. Catadioptric Telescope

The third type of telescopes are the catadioptric or compound telescope. These were invented with the desire to combine the best characteristics of refractors and reflectors: 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.

Aperture

best telescope under 500

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). When learning how to choose a telescope, knowing all you can about the aperture is crucial to your ability to see the night sky.

This simply means – the bigger the aperture the better. With a 6-inch telescope you can discern craters on the Moon as small as about a mile across — half the size of those visible in a 3-inch scope (under the same conditions using the same magnification). 

The same two instruments turned toward a faint galaxy on a moonless night would tell an even more dramatic story. Because the surface area of a 6-inch mirror is four times that of a 3-inch mirror, it collects four times as much light, meaning the galaxy would appear four times brighter. 

Focal length

Focal length is the distance from the main optical component where light is gathered to the point where it is brought to a focus for the eyepiece to form an image. This obviously influences the level of magnification. A long focal length has higher magnification but offers narrower fields of view than a short one. It is suitable for objects that are closer like the moon, stars and planets. 

To observe distant galaxies, choose a telescope with a short focal length and large diameter that provide wider and brighter views.

Focal length is closely associated with focal ratio which is denoted by f/number. Focal ratio is the focal length divided by the aperture diameter. 

A ratio of f/11 to f/15 will have high magnification and narrow fields of view while a ratio of f/4 or f/5 will have lower magnification, brighter images and wider fields of view suitable for dim and distant objects.

Mounts

The best telescope in the world is useless unless it’s on a solid, stable, smoothly-working mount, one that permits it to be directed to the desired part of the sky and to follow a celestial object smoothly and precisely as the Earth turns beneath it.

Investing in a good mount will give you years of use even after you have upgraded your telescope.

Altazimuth and equatorial are the two most common types of mounts.

1. Altazimuth Mounts

An equatorial mount should be used for a telescope intended for astronomy, and for which astrophotography is a future prospect, the equatorial mount here automatically counteracts Earth’s rotation.

It’s far easier to track a celestial object with a scope mounted this way, since you need only concern yourself with turning the scope about one axis — not two simultaneously, as in the alt-az. When an equatorial mount is properly set up, turning the slow-motion control of its polar axis is all that’s required to keep an object in view.

2. Equatorial Mounts

An equatorial mount should be used for a telescope intended for astronomy, and for which astrophotography is a future prospect, the equatorial mount here automatically counteracts Earth’s rotation.

It’s far easier to track a celestial object with a scope mounted this way, since you need only concern yourself with turning the scope about one axis — not two simultaneously, as in the alt-az. When an equatorial mount is properly set up, turning the slow-motion control of its polar axis is all that’s required to keep an object in view.

Eyepieces

Eyepieces determine the magnification and field of view of a telescope. Different eyepieces are used to view different objects.  

Some objects, such as nebulae and star clusters, appear quite large and are best viewed at low magnifications (which give a wider field of view), whereas planets appear very small and are normally viewed with high-magnification eyepieces.  

One of the most common misconceptions in amateur astronomy is that magnification is the most important aspect of a telescope.  

In reality, the diameter (aperture) of a telescope determines its power and different eyepieces are used to get the best view of a given object.  Often the best view is at a low magnification.  

There are two standard sizes of telescope eyepieces.  The sizes are determined by the diameter of the eyepiece barrel that fits into the telescope.  The two standard sizes are 1.25″ and 2″. 

Weight

The size and weight of the telescope you are willing to carry is probably the biggest problem one must ponder.

Telescopes can range from around 15 lbs. to well over 300 lbs. Most can be broken down into 3 subsections for transportation: the optical tube assembly, the telescope mount, and the tripod or base. Remember, if the scope is too heavy, you may not use it at all.

Magnification

The magnification (power) of a telescope is variable and depends upon the eyepieces one uses. The power is computed by dividing the focal length of the primary objective (aperture) of the telescope by the focal length of the eyepiece being used.

Other Features

It is also important that you consider extra features such as accessories, warranty, instructional DVDs, and more.

Additional features might also include softwares such as StarryNight as in Orion 09007 and SkyX in Celestron NexStar 127SLT, an accessory tray or an extra 3rd eyepiece as with Gskyer AZ90600.

A database of celestial objects, instructional DVDs or Barlow lenses are other accessories that you should look for in a telescope under $500.

Conclusion

Our top pick for the best telescope under 500 dollars is the Celestron – NexStar 90SLT. he Celestron NexStar 90SLT 90mm f/14 Maksutov-Cassegrain GoTo Telescope gives you the ability to make detailed observations of the Moon, with the ability to easily see planets and reach outside the solar system to resolve bright deep-space objects like galaxies, nebulae, and binary or variables stars.

Orion 8945 SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian edged out other models to rank among the top of our best telescopes under the $500 list with the Dobsonian design which has a cult following, and with good reason. A look at the features of this model, which include a large 203mm aperture and the Dobsonian cradle mount, makes you understand why people cannot get enough of it.

Our third pick is the Celestron – PowerSeeker 127EQ, which in our opinion is also the most suitable option for beginners. One thing most buyers will appreciate about this unit is how it comes pre-assembled, which makes the device really easy to use.

This unit is also very versatile as it can be used for observing both celestial objects and the beautiful night sky.