You can learn anything if you put your mind to it. However, it helps if brands produce something that makes learning fun and easy. Beginner telescopes should be easy to use from setup to operation. That said, buying a telescope for a beginner can prove a difficult task, from Dobsonian and alt-azimuth to focal length and aperture, there is a plethora of words that may not be familiar.
This guide can help you understand what they all mean and recommend telescopes that have what you need as a newbie to astronomy, so that you can make an informed decision.
If you are also interested in cameras to join this new adventure we have a review for you - Best Cameras for Astrophotography.
A List of the Best Telescopes For Beginners - Top 10 Recommendations
Easy to use push-to IntelliScope Computerized Object Locator that helps beginners
Compact design and lightweight, both of which improve portability
Solar System Align for locating planetary and celestial objects during the day
Multi-coated 20mm eyepiece with a 60x magnification
Maximum Practical Visual Power 500X,
Meade 26mm QX Wide Angle Eyepiece.
90 ° diagonal 31.8mm diameter
Built-in WiFi for direct control from smartphones and tablets
MAGNIFICATION: 18X, 27X, 60X, 90X
360mm, Aperture: 50mm. Luminous: 0.139,Object lens focus:360mm.
Includes GoTo hand controller, 23mm (28.2x) and 10mm (65x) wide-field 60-degree eyepieces, EZ Finder II sight, and more
Huge GoTo database of over 42,000 objects
Two achromatic eyepieces SUPER 10 and SUPER 25 with a 31.75-millimeter (1.25-inch) diameter
The telescope comes with an azimuth AZ 114 GT SynScan computer-guided mount.
Fully automatic alignment procedure with fully computerized altazimuth mount
Quick-release fork arm mount and optical tube for easy, quick no tool set up
80mm refractor optical tube assembly with 400mm focal length
K10 and K25 eyepieces
We have a few other related articles for those interested in astrology. A look at some cheaper telescopes and a few Telescopes under $500. If you are looking for a telescope for your kids.
How to Choose a Telescope for a Beginner
When you are ready to buy your first telescope, there are several factors that you should have in mind. For starters, how and when will you use the telescope? It’s recommended that telescopes be used only at night and if used during the day, they should not be pointed directly at the sun to avoid eye damage.
Telescopes come in three main types including refractors, reflectors and compound. Refractor telescopes come with a concave mirror as compared to reflectors which feature an objective lens. The barrel is usually open on one end and the primary mirror sends light through the tube to the secondary mirror which magnifies the image before sending it to the eyepiece at the second end of the tube. Reflector telescopes, on the other hand, are cheaper and need to be aligned or calibrated occasionally. Compound telescopes combine the best of both the refractors and reflectors, hence the name hybrid scopes.
Get a Better View
You want a telescope with the biggest aperture you can afford if you hope to see the craters on the moon or the Rings of Saturn. The aperture refers to the diameter of the primary mirror or lens. It’s also important to ensure that it has a decent focal length. Ask any experienced astronomer and they will tell you that the most crucial consideration when shopping for telescopes is the aperture.
While a basic understanding of telescope use is important, it’s also vital that you invest in something that provides high quality images. With a larger aperture, more light passes through the opening thus allowing you to see faraway nebula and celestial objects more clearly than you can when using a telescope with a smaller aperture.
The details you can see on a planet or star are determined by several factors, including highest useful magnification and focal ratio. However, the eyepiece you use matters a lot. For instance, you get clearer images but smaller field of view when using a 10mm eyepiece as compared to a 20mm eyepiece. You want to go for telescopes whose eyepieces offer high magnification for more impressive views of the night sky.
Focal lengths and focal ratios are just as important in astrophotography as they are when it comes to looking for a telescope that meets your needs. Longer focal length allows for higher magnification, hence value for your money.
The ease of use is particularly important for newbies. You are more likely to stick with stargazing if the equipment is easier to assemble, transport to a remote location and set up. All of the products reviewed below were chosen with this in mind, approaching each with the mind of a beginner. Lightweight and compact models are easy to transport, which is why weight is an important consideration for new astronomers.
Different Type of Mounts
The type of mount you use may be linked to your preferences or different types of stargazing. For instance, alt-azimuth mount allows one to move the telescope right and left as well as up and down. They are usually compared with tripods and are the most common.
A telescope with a Dobsonian mount and a large aperture may prove beneficial for someone who’s observing in a location with minimum ambient light. Equatorial mounts, on the other hand, follow the rotation of the Earth making them a great option for astrophotography.
Telescopes that help identify celestial and planetary objects are of great use for beginners, hence the reason why we give more credit to the go-to telescopes. Those that are computerized often feature a database with information on thousands of stars, galaxies, planets, and other space details. With one of these, identifying a specific star in the sky is easy.
There is no better way to control your travel through space than through a smart device. The Celestron Astro Fi 90mm offers just that by being Wi-Fi controlled. Simply hold your tablet or phone to the sky then tap what you want to view.
The telescope will shift to provide sharp, high-contrast and high quality images on the screen. It will also display basic information about specific objects that you view. The telescope comes with a large aperture that opens wide to gather light and provide crisp images of the moons of Jupiter, rings of Saturn and the craters of the Earth’s moon. Other notable features include:
- Glass optics
- Accessories, like mirror star diagonal, 2 Kellner eyepieces, StarPointer finderscope and accessory tray
- Rubber-lined area for a smartphone or small tablet
- Integrated Celestron SkyPortal app that lets you control your telescope via Wi-Fi. The software is compatible with iOS and Android devices.
The 90mm refractor has fully coated optics that offer spectacular views of the Hercules Globular cluster, the Orion Nebula, Great Red Spot on Jupiter and so much more. Astro Fi is also available with a 102mm Maksutov-Cassegrain as well as 130mm Newtonian fully coated glass coated optics.
This beginner telescope has many strong abilities. Its aperture alone is much better than that of other options. In addition, it can tell you how to find the best views regardless of the time of the year. While the stability of the tripod is not bad, it can get shaky at times.
It comes with a 6-inch aperture that has plenty of light gathering capability especially for a newbie telescope. This model requires less battery power compared to most reviewed on this list, but you may still need a portable power supply. Other features of this telescope include:
- Easy to use push-to IntelliScope Computerized Object Locator that helps beginners and experienced astronomers locate more than 14,000 celestial objects
- Compact design and lightweight, both of which improve portability
- Optics with a focal length of 750mm (f/5.0) for contrast-rich views of galaxies, nebulas and stars
- Substantial 6-inch aperture for sharp views
- An eyepiece rack that keeps your oculars ready for action
The telescope comes with a one-year limited warranty. The main downside is that it sacrifices ease of use for a large aperture, which we think is a worthy compromise.
When Celestron first launched its NexStar Special Edition range, it was only fitting that they should capitalize on the legendary tube C8. The four telescopes in this range came with apertures of 4”, 5”, 6” and 8”. They are all Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes, except the 4-inch NexStar SE. The number in the name is significant and refers to the aperture size, e.g. Celestron NexStar 6 SE has an aperture of 6 inches.
This model utilizes a single-arm alt-azimuth GoTo mount as well as a tripod with a quick-release optical tube. It weighs 14 kilograms (about 30lbs) and setup is easy thanks to a four-page illustration guide that’s included in the package. The telescope has five alignment modes that are adjustable to any observational position. The SkyAlign feature does a great job of creating a mathematical model of the sky as well as naming objects at which it is pointed.
- Solar System Align for locating planetary and celestial objects during the day
- Multi-coated 20mm eyepiece with a 60x magnification
- 6-inch Orion Newtonian Optics equipped with Hilux coatings
The optics quality of this telescope is good for the price. It is also easy to setup and delivers everything that one expects of a compact optical system with a solidly engineered mount.
While the tube is the single largest feature of a telescope, many manufacturers of Dobsonians with a large aperture prefer to get rid of it. In this case, they connect lightweight tubular bars to the altitude axis and primary mirror. Truss-tube Dobsonian telescopes can be broken down into manageable sections for portability and easy storage.
The Meade Lightbridge 10” Reflector telescope is built with this in mind. The clever design of the three 24-inch A-frame truss sections makes it easy to put this scope together. The altitude axis is 18 inches from the ground once assembled while the eyepiece height varies from 26 inches at the horizon to the 49 inches at the zenith.
Accessories that come with the purchase include a superior reflex finder, f/5 optics and 2-inch QX Wide Angle eyepieces.
The Celestron NexStar Evolution is an 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope that comes with a computerized single fork arm. It features an alt-azimuth mount and sits on a tripod made from stainless steel.
Other notable features of this beginner telescope include a star diagonal, 40mm and 13mm eyepiece, Celstron’s StarPointer red-dot finder scope and a mains power cable. Integrated into the single arm is a lithium-ion phosphate battery, which eliminates the need for an external power pack.
This model also comes with in-built Wi-Fi that allows you to control it via mobile devices using the Celestron SkyPortal app, as well as a hand controller. The main downside is that astrophotography is limited to the brighter planets and the moon as it has an alt-azimuth mount.
This is one of the most affordable telescopes for beginners. You will not get better specs than the Celestron NexStar Evolution but the low price point for this model is very tempting. The Geertop 90x offers a budget way for beginners to get started with astronomy. Being a refractor telescope, users will only be able to use it for stars and observing objects that aren’t too distant.
Features include an aperture of 2 inches, a focal length of 360mm as well as magnification of 90x. The main disadvantage is that it is not computerized, which may not sit well with those who like to have information on celestial objects at hand.
The great thing about the Orion Startseeer IV 130 is that it gives you crisp images from the first night you take it outside. Even if you know nothing about the night sky and don’t have a star map to guide you, the Orion StarSeeker IV 130 navigates easily and provides educational information about what you view thanks to its go-to features and integrated software.
It comes with a 130mm aperture that lets in plenty of light for clear images. This model has a shorter focal length than most on this list, which gives beginners a faster focal ratio. This, however, means that you get a lower magnification. Overall, the optics are of high quality and the mount is stable. You get a 10mm lens and a 23mm lens for viewing a variety of planets and stars.
Assembling and setup is easier compared to most Orion telescopes, thus making learning more fun. And while it may be heavy, the buttons on the hand controller make it easy for you to navigate to the bodies you want to observe. The database of more than 42,000 bodies means that you can study something new every night.
This is a stable and easy-to-assemble beginner’s telescope. It comes with reflector optics, meaning that it utilizes mirrors to focus light that comes into the tube. It weighs 26.5 pounds, making it too heavy to transport easily. It has a 130mm aperture, which is quite impressive for a beginner telescope.
However, combined with low magnification, the wide aperture lowers its imaging capabilities. It is a good telescope for capturing clear photos of celestial objects. It has a focal length of 650mm and a focal ratio of f/5. This translates to a 50-52 degree field of view, which allows you to view detailed images. It’s highest useful magnification is 260.
Perhaps the best feature is the finder scope that helps you direct the telescope towards the object then fine-tunes and focuses it on the target. It comes with more than 42,000 pre-recorded celestial objects in its database. The main disadvantage is that you may experience image bleeding when moving to a new position.
Using a smart telescope that positions itself is one of the best ways for beginners to ease into astronomy. The Celestron SkyProdigy 130 is one of the few affordable beginner telescopes with smart capabilities. It gives extremely clear images of celestial objects, which is no surprise considering it has an aperture of 130mm.
The telescope also comes with 9mm and 25mm lenses and a focal length of 650mm. It utilizes a CCD digital camera to track pre-programmed objects, which is a huge advantage over telescopes that require manual alignment. The Sky Tour provides an excellent introduction to astronomy for novices. It has a library of more than 4,000 objects to view.
It doesn’t come with a money-back guarantee but the integration of both manual and automatic calibration makes it a worthy purchase.
The fact that this beginner telescope costs less than most of the others is one of the reasons why it stands out. While you may have to sacrifice light-gathering power to get there, it is a good fit for new astronomers. It comes with a small aperture of 80mm, which limits your ability to see faint objects.
The affordable optics may not be able to provide crisp images of galaxies and stars but they are functional enough for fun exploration of the moon and other celestial objects. It features the company’s Cube mount and being a refractor telescope, it offers both terrestrial and celestial views. The go-to feature is straightforward and allows you to find objects of interest easily. Portability is easy, making it suitable for travel.
The main downside is that the customer support provided by iOptron is far from reliable. Customers have complained of getting recordings even during business hours. The small aperture also doesn’t sit well with some users.
Protect your Investment
Defects happen and as such, you want to ensure that the telescope you purchase comes with a solid warranty that protects you. Some manufacturers offer money back guarantees, but only for 30-45 days. Most manufacturers offer 1-2 year warranties, although some like Levenhuk offer a lifetime guarantee.
It was difficult to choose a favorite beginner telescope because all of the models are easy to setup and use. If you are looking for an affordable option, we recommend the iOptron SmartStar R80 as it costs less than most of the other models. It has the smallest aperture on the list but for a novice, you will get to see detailed views of the moon as well as some of the closer star clusters on dark, starry nights.
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