So you are interested in astronomy. Want to see distant nebulas and solar systems? Or maybe stay local by visiting our own planets. See the icecaps on Mars or the rings around Saturn. Astronomy can be a fun, educational, and rewarding hobby as long as you have the right telescope. How can you tell which telescope to buy? We will give you our picks for telescopes that are perfect for beginners.
Here is a guide to the different kinds of telescopes. Refractor telescopes have a simple design and are easy to use. They tend to be very sturdy and require little maintenance. They can also be used for objects on earth, if that is something you are interested in. However they can often be heavy and bulky. Reflector telescopes tend to be compact and lightweight, and will usually have a very high image quality. However it requires more maintenance than a refractor telescope, as the open tube can collect dust. Also you can’t use it to view earthly objects. The third kind of telescope is a compound telescope which has both mirrors and a lens. It is usually more expensive and tends to be large and bulky. But a sealed tube protects the optics and the image quality is good. You can use this kind of telescope for objects on earth as well.
In addition, telescopes can be divided into analog and digital models. Analog models tend to be cheaper and will have plenty of good advantages to recommend them. However you will need to be able to adjust the telescope manually, with the aid of star maps, to locate the objects you are interested in. Digital models are computer controlled. They often come with a large library of celestial objects and the best times to observe them, and they can point themselves in the direction of interesting objects automatically. You can still manually find objects if you like, but the computer tracking makes it easy to quickly find celestial highlights.
When considering telescope features, you want the most bang for your buck. Key metrics include aperture, focal length, and magnification. The aperture is the diameter of the telescope’s mirror or lens. The magnification is determined by the focal length and the eyepiece. So to get the best viewing experience, you will want each of these three numbers to be as large as possible.
It is no good buying an expensive telescope if you don’t operate it properly. Follow all of the manufacturer recommendations and tutorials. Also we would suggest the following tips. Light pollution will greatly affect your viewing experience, so you should try to find a wide open area away from city centers. If you want to view stars and planets, the sky will be nice and dark the week of a new moon. If you want to view the moon itself, time it when the moon is waxing or waning, not when it is full. Always use a filter when observing the moon to protect your eyes. Never look at the sun through your telescope.
Even the smallest vibrations will impact your viewing experience. Weigh down your telescope on a solid surface so it’s less shaky. Make sure to only touch the telescope with your eye, never with your hand, for stable images. You may want to consider investing in anti-vibration pads and a good telescope mount like an Altazimuth mount.
Did you know there are many astronomy apps available to help enhance your stargazing experience? No matter what kind of mobile device you have, there is probably one that is available to you. Reviewers recommend Star Walk 2, ISS Spotter, and NASA mobile apps.
But you first need to buy the telescope! Here are some of our telescope reviews for the best telescopes available for the beginning astronomer.
Celestron NexStar 130SLT Refractor Telescope
The Celestron NexStar 130SLT Refractor Telescope is a computerized telescope. Its aperture is 5 inches; its focal length is 650mm; its maximum magnification is 307x.
The NexStar 130SLT has amazing image quality. Its large aperture offers wonderful detail on objects even at lower magnifications. With this fat telescope, you can see objects that wouldn’t be visible with a smaller reflector. Clearly see details such as moon craters, Mars ice caps, and Jupiter’s cloud belts. Take advantage of the top-of-the-line SkyAlign computer control, with a database of 4000 objects, which makes it easy to find and track objects in the sky. Go-to function allows you to enter the date, time, and your location, and the telescope will point toward the celestial object that you want to see. In addition, assembly is a piece of cake, so that a newbie can get to stargazing right away. It comes mostly assembled so you just have to fit the pieces together and tighten a few screws.
Two eyepieces come with the telescope – a 9mm and a 25 mm. The 9mm eyepiece gives you higher magnification, while the 25mm eyepiece offers a wider field of vision – perfect for touring the skies. It also comes with a solid motorized mount and tripod. The telescope is also equipped with the star pointer finder scope with a red LED to help navigate and align the scope. Included software is “The Sky” planetarium software (Student-version) and NSOL telescope control software, along with an RS-232 cable.
Users rate this telescope very highly for stability, tracking, simplicity, and build quality. It comes at an attractive price point, and its durable engineering will keep you stargazing for many years to come.
Gskyer Space Astronomical 400x80mm Dual-speed Slow Motion Refractor Telescope
The Gskyer Space Astronomical 400×80 Refractor Telescope is an analog telescope. Its aperture is 3.1 inches; focal length is 400mm.
The Gskyer Space Astronomical 400×80 Refractor Telescope is the best home telescope at a bargain price. You won’t get a lot of bells and whistles, but you will find that it is practical and functional. It comes with three low, medium, and high magnification eyepieces. Its operation is very user-friendly and assembly is no problem at all, making it an excellent beginner telescope. Manually adjust the field of view, and use a lever to pan across the sky. It is only 18 pounds, so it is easy to transport. The telescope mounts on an adjustable stainless steel tripod. At full extension, the telescope will be about 5 feet high. This telescope is optimal for lunar and planetary observation, with the moon filter, and green-coated optics that make objects appear brighter.
Included with purchase is an Altazimuth mount with dual-speed slow motion control. You will also get a beginner’s version of Deepsky Astronomy software.
If you are just trying out stargazing, you can buy this telescope and figure out whether you enjoy the hobby before dropping a lot of money on one of the premium scopes. The Gskyer Space Astronomical 400×80 Refractor Telescope is a reliable and commendable product.
Levenhuk SkyMatic 135 GTA Reflector Telescope
The Levenhuk SkyMatic 135 GTA is a computerized reflector telescope. Its aperture is 5.1 inches; focal length is 650mm; maximum magnification is 260x.
The Levenhuk SkyMatic 135 GTA is the best beginner telescope at this price point. It is easy to assemble, simple to use, and very accurate. At 26.5 pounds, it is a highly stable telescope, which contributes to the high quality imagery. However its weight does make transportation a bit more difficult. Above-average magnification will allow you to make out more details and see crisp, clear images up-close. Observing a celestial object doesn’t require any specific knowledge, since the telescope’s built-in GoTo function automatically locates the object and aims the telescope at it. The finderscope is a useful feature that helps you direct your telescope toward an object, before fine-tuning and focusing the scope on the object. The movement is not motorized, which helps beginners learn how to find celestial objects manually, rather than letting the computer do all the work. The SkyMatic comes with an eye-popping library of 42,900 objects.
Included with the SkyMatic is an azimuth mount, and planetarium software.
Overall, it’s a simple, reliable telescope for a reasonable price. The Levenhuk SkyMatic 135 GTA is available on Amazon now.
Orion 8944 SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian Telescope
The Orion 8944 SkyQuest XT6 is an analog telescope. Its aperture is 6 inches; focal length is 1,200mm; magnification is 48x.
The Orion 8944 SkyQuest XT6 proves that you don’t have to sacrifice quality for an economical price. Its best-in-class Dobsonian design makes it the best non-digital telescope on the market. Its operation is quite simple and easy for a beginner to learn quickly. Despite its large size, the telescope is relatively portable to go stargazing anywhere. It has a convenient built-in handle to assist in transport. In transit, springs hold the optical tube snugly to the base, so there is no need to re-adjust any settings you might wish to have. The jumbo-sized optics allow you to see more detail and brighter images. The Dobsonian base is extremely stable and resists vibrating and shaking.
The Orion 8944 SkyQuest XT6 comes with a free version of Starry Night software, to help budding astronomers plan observing sessions and interpret what they see. Other features include a finderscope, collimation cap, plastic feet, and 10mm and 25mm Plossl eyepieces.
Customers and critics praise this telescope’s durability and user-friendly design. And the bargain price is just the cherry on top.
Orion SpaceProbe 130ST Reflector Telescope
The Orion SpaceProbe 130ST is an analog reflector telescope. Its aperture is 5.1 inches; its focal length is 650mm; its maximum magnification is 65x.
The Orion SpaceProbe 130ST is a good telescope that packs in a lot of features for a decent price. It has fantastic image quality and clarity and very smooth, low-vibration motion. The smooth operation enables small, incremental movements to fine-tune the telescope’s alignment. A center-marked primary mirror and finder scope are two useful features included to help you manually guide the scope into the correct alignment. The SpaceProbe is an equatorial mount telescope. That means you can adjust for the Earth’s rotation and keep a celestial object in focus night after night. The SpaceProbe delivers a wide field of view and brighter images. The light weight means this telescope is easily portable; however it is also susceptible to tipping or wind conditions.
The Orion SpaceProbe 130ST includes two eyepieces, 10mm and 25mm lenses. Starry Night computer software is included which contains simulations and helpful tutorials.
Overall, the Orion SpaceProbe 130ST delivers a lot of advantages, at a price that won’t bust your budget. The beginning stargazer will be excited to use this durable and remarkable telescope.
Orion StarSeeker IV 130mm GoTo Reflector Telescope
The Orion StarSeeker IV 130mm GoTo is a computerized reflector telescope. Its aperture is 5.1 inches; its focal length is 650mm.
The Orion StarSeeker IV 130mm GoTo Reflector Telescope delivers excellent quality and performance for under $500. High quality optics give you crisp and breathtaking images. It is a smart GoTo telescope with motorized object-location technology. But you can still move the scope manually as well, touring the stars using the hand controller. The computer remembers the previously set alignment so you can return to it easily. The included software assists you with its database of 42,000 objects. Once you choose an object, the telescope locates and tracks it automatically. A nifty “Tour” mode feature of the included GoTo hand controller makes it easy for any novice to explore the wonders of starry skies. Assembly is fairly easy and quick.
The StarSeeker IV GoTo mount is constructed with a slanted, single-arm altazimuth design. This enables a full 360 degrees of azimuth motion and 90 degrees of altitude motion. Point your telescope anywhere between the horizon and zenith. The telescope secures in an efficient manner to the mount and tripod without tools, enabled by a quick-release narrow dovetail saddle. The stainless steel tripod is stable and sturdy, thanks in part to the new spreader plate.
Overall you can expect a fantastic stargazing experience with this telescope. Beginners will love getting to know the Orion StarSeeker IV 130mm GoTo Reflector Telescope.
Celestron NexStar 90SLT Mak Computerized Telescope
The Celestron NexStar 90SLT Mak Computerized Telescope is a compound telescope with both mirrors and lenses. Its aperture is 3.5 inches; its focal length is 1250mm; its maximum magnification is 139x.
The Celestron NexStar 90SLT Mak is an extremely compact and portable telescope, a perfect entry level model for beginners. Consumers love the versatility of being able to use it on celestial objects as well as Earthbound objects. Assembly takes only a matter of minutes with no tools required, thanks to preassembled, adjustable stainless steel tripods, and quick release fork arms and tubes. The NexStar 90 SLT incorporates Celestron’s patented SkyAlign technology. It may take some practice in order for you to get comfortable using it, but in the end it will be worth it to have the power of SkyAlign at your fingertips. With SkyAlign you don’t need a star chart or a compass to align the telescope. Simply enter the date and time then point the telescope at three bright stars. SkyAlign identifies the stars and then takes it from there. It is capable of finding 4000 objects right out of the box, but the included software expands that number to 10,000. Images are bright and clear with good detail. Two eyepieces are included, 9mm and 25mm. When looking at celestial objects in deep space, like the Pleiades cluster or the Andromeda galaxy, choose a larger eyepiece for a wider field of view.
Overall, the Celestron NexStar 90SLT Mak Computerized Telescope offers terrific value and solid performance. You will enjoy touring the galaxy with the aid of your new telescope.
Celestron SkyProdigy 130 26×345 Reflector Telescope
The Celestron SkyProdigy 130 26×345 Reflector Telescope is a computerized telescope. Aperture is 5.1 inches; focal length is 650mm; maximum magnification is 72x.
The Celestron SkyProdigy is toward the higher end of computer-operated telescopes. It is a phenomenal option for novice users because the computer-assisted operation does all of the work for you. This uniquely engineered system combines electric motors, an intelligent on-board computer, a digital camera and StarSense technology to deliver automatic, instant alignment. It really is as simple as turning it on and pushing a button. When you first set it up, it will take three minutes to self-align, without any user input. The programmed Sky Tour points the SkyProdigy toward the most prominent visible celestial objects depending on the time of year. The telescope is quite lightweight and portable so you can take it to your favorite viewing spot. In terms of images, the SkyProdigy focuses quickly and provides extremely clear pictures and high quality.
The SkyProdigy includes The SkyX First Light Edition, which contains an objects library programmed with over 4,000 celestial objects. It also includes a motorized altazimuth mount, a sturdy stainless steel tripod, and a battery pack providing 30 hours of power.
If you want to learn quickly and be engaged from day one, this is the perfect telescope for you. The Celestron SkyProdigy 130 26×345 Reflector Telescope is available now on Amazon.
iOptron SmartStar R80 9802 Refractor Telescope
The iOptron SmartStar R80 Refractor Telescope is a computerized telescope. Its aperture is 3.1 inches; its focal length is 400mm.
The iOptron SmartStar R80 Refractor Telescope is probably the cheapest computer-assisted telescope you will find on the market. It is a practical and serviceable telescope for beginners, with solid and reliable performance. Its small aperture and low-cost optics may not be the best in their class, but they still deliver delightful views of the planets, moon, and other objects within the solar system. You can also use it to view Earthbound objects. The telescope’s function is extremely user-friendly, both in setup and in operation. The built-in GoTo feature is intuitive and straightforward. The GoTo Nova hand controller is paired with a 5000-object database to help you navigate the sky and align the telescope properly. The whole set is surprisingly lightweight and portable. The set comes with an aluminum tripod with adjustable height control, and an award-winning Cube mount.
This is an excellent telescope for the stargazer shopping on a budget, looking for something durable and functional. The iOptron SmartStar R80 Refractor Telescope is available now at Amazon.
Celestron Omni XLT AZ 102 22150 Refractor Telescope
The Celestron Omni XLT AZ 102 Refractor Telescope is an analog telescope. Its aperture is 4 inches; its focal length is 660mm.
The Celestron Omni XLT AZ 102 is a great telescope for beginners because of its portability, stability, and simplicity. No tools are needed for the easy assembly. The telescope weighs only 13.8 pounds, easy to take along to your favorite viewing spot or even on a camping trip. Images will be high in clarity and focus, but you will get the best performance when viewing objects in our local solar system. You can also use this telescope to view Earthbound objects. The altazimuth mount is particularly sturdy and stable. You will have a flexible range of motion both vertically and horizontally. Worm gears will keep your stand and telescope in the correct position when you step away. In many telescopes this was a drawback as the telescope would sink down several degrees after positioning it.
The Celestron Omni XLT AZ 102 is constructed of quality components. Optical components are fully coated using Celestron’s proprietary XLT coatings. This is the same type of coating found on observatory-grade telescopes, and it enables maximum light transmission and crisp views. Another great feature is the premium StarPointer Pro finderscope. Other telescopes project red dots, which sometimes has the effect of obscuring the object you want to view. The StarPointer Pro projects a dual-circle reticle. Simply locate the celestial object of interest and position it in the middle of the circle.
Overall, the Celestron Omni XLT AZ 102 provides excellent value. For those interested in learning the star charts by manual and analog methods, you will be engaging different parts of your brain for better learning and retention.