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At one time or another, we’ve all gazed at the sky with amazement at the vastness of the universe. For some of us, the amazement grows into a hobby. So what’s the best telescope to enable you to explore your sense of wonder?
If only we could give you one right answer! The best telescope for you is one that matches your level of interest in the cosmos, so the best answer to that question might be unique to you.
The market for telescopes reflects the fact that there are — excuse the pun — an astronomical number of interests in worlds beyond Earth.
From basic telescopes for children to more expensive scopes with precision optics and computerized controls, you’ll find choices to fit all your interests and desires.
Reflective or refractive, Dobsonian or traditional, we looked at all the options to help find the one that’s right for you.
Our journey to the stars begins.
How Do Telescopes Work?
Though they may look basic, telescopes contain an enormous amount of technology – some more than others.
As you seek out the best telescope for your needs, here are some basics on how the technology works.
A telescope is simply a giant magnifying glass that lets you look at distant objects. The telescope draws in light from a distance and focuses it so that you can view distant objects with your eye.
Today’s telescopes principally do this with lenses or mirrors. The better telescopes will have larger lenses or mirrors.
However, that doesn’t mean bigger is always better. Think of telescopes as a system. Find the system with the best balance of all the variables, and you’ll have the best telescope.
Reflecting? Refracting? Re-What?
Telescopes are placed into one of two categories based on whether they are built with lenses or mirrors, according to NASA.
Telescopes that use mirrors are described as reflecting telescopes. The second category, refracting telescopes, are made with lenses.
Both have their advantages and disadvantages. In general, reflecting telescopes are much lighter. That’s because in a refracting telescope you need bigger and bigger lenses to see farther.
Whether lens or mirror, both require precise manufacturing. The slightest defect can render a telescope inoperable, as NASA discovered with the Hubble space telescope.
Mirror-based optics have allowed NASA to explore deeper and deeper into space, simply because they are so much lighter.
What to Look For
You can spend a lot or a little on a telescope. The best telescope, though, won’t necessarily have the highest price tag, according to Sky and Telescope Magazine.
To make the best choice, you need to know some of the basics involved in determining a telescope’s performance. At a minimum, Sky and Telescope says you want a telescope with “high-quality optics and a steady, smoothly working mount.”
To evaluate the optics, you’ll need to know some of the basics about aperture, magnification, and mount.
Telescopes are all about light. It’s the aperture that determines how well you can see that light, whether from a distant landscape or on high from the universe.
The aperture is the diameter of the telescope’s opening. On spec sheets, you’ll typically see aperture expressed in millimeters.
As a rule of thumb, Sky and Telescope suggests that you look for a telescope with at least a 70 mm aperture. Other sizes can work, but that size diameter will generally give you the best experience.
Another key piece of data to help evaluate the best telescope is magnification. You’ll typically see it expressed with a number and an “X” – as in “50X magnification.” That means what you see is 50 times larger than it actually is. The higher the number, the more distant and clearly you can see — in theory.
Your instincts might tell you to pursue the highest levels of magnification. Resist. Higher magnifications come with more tradeoffs – images with less clarity, for instance, or one that is subject to shaking due to wind or vibrations, according to B&H Photo and Video.
The best advice from the experts: Stick with average magnification. It will give you the best overall viewing experience.
Climbing the mount
It’s right to pay close attention to the optical system in deciding on the best telescope. Yet, if you don’t also consider the mount, you could be disappointed.
The mount governs how well you’ll be able to track objects across the sky. As B&H Video reminds us, we’re not viewing static images when observing space. The Earth is moving — and so are the things you are looking at.
Mounts, according to B&H, generally fit into two categories: Alt-Azimuth (the most common) and German Equatorial. Depending on which you end up with, you’ll operate your telescope slightly differently.
Generally speaking, it takes more effort to learn the nuances of the Equatorial Mount, but both are approaches that can work for your needs.
How We Reviewed the Telescopes
Astronomy is an established hobby that shows no signs of tailing off. So opinions abound as to the best telescope.
To reach our list, we consulted specialists such as Sky and Telescope Magazine, Cloud Break Optics, and B&H Video. On top of that, we also studied opinions from more sources such as Popular Mechanics and Space.com.
In developing our list, we chose telescopes with a range of technologies and price points. We wanted to raise our chances of finding you the best telescope.
- 100 mm APO Refractor with ED Schott glass, 900 mm focal length (f/9), Dual-speed 2" Crayford-type focuser with 1.25" adaptor,
- 20mm and 5mm 1.25" eyepieces, 8x50 RA viewfinder, 2" dielectric diagonal
- Tube-ring attachment hardware, Aluminum carry case
We start with a telescope that should have you covered no matter how you intend to use it — almost. It’s not the cheapest around but has a good balance of the right specifications.
The Sky-Watcher ProED Doublet Refractor Telescope offers a 100-millimeter aperture with a focal length about nine times that. The focal length will determine how long a telescope is, which determines how easy it is to carry. That’s important because you’re not likely to only view the sky in one location.
Reviewers on Amazon give the Sky-Watcher 4.5 stars out of 5.0. One happy customer expressed how much he liked the lightweight nature of the telescope and found it delivered sharp imagery.
A less enthusiastic reviewer felt the color-correction in the scope was a bit off, producing a pink tinge around certain objects.
- Item may ship in more than one box and may arrive separately
- A large aperture Classic Dobsonian reflector telescope at a very affordable price!
- 8" diameter reflector optics lets you view the Moon and planets in close up detail, and has enough light grasp to pull in pleasing views of faint nebulas, galaxies and star clusters
- A perfect Dobsonian telescope that can last a lifetime for the beginning astronomy enthusiast or whole family
- The ultra-stable Dobsonian base keeps the reflector optical tube perfectly balanced for point-and-view ease of use
- Includes a 2" Crayford focuser that accepts 1.25" and 2" telescope eyepieces, a 25mm Sirius Plossl eyepiece, an EZ Finder II reflex sight, collimation cap, Starry Night software, and more!
Your search for the best telescope won’t go far before you come across the name of James Dobson.
A chemist by trade with a personal fascination for space, Dobson is credited with developing telescopes that turned astronomy into an everyday hobby. His methods have been replicated in so-called “Dobsonian” telescopes.
The Orion 8945 SkyQuest XT8 Classic comes with a larger 200-millimeter aperture and about 48x magnification. It’s also handy to move. The optical tube and the base separate easily for relocation or storage.
The Orion 8945 receives 4.5 stars out of 5.0 from reviewers on Amazon. One customer described the telescope’s performance as fantastic, noting that it allowed him to see almost anything he wanted in the sky.
A less-enthralled (but tall) customer complained about Orion’s size. He said he had to get down on his hands and knees to use it.
- 70mm Acromatic Refractor Telescope with Smart Phone Imaging Adapter
- Apeture 70mm/ Focal length 700mm, Focal Ratio f/10
- Low (26mm), medium (9mm), high (6.3mm) magnification eyepieces & 2x Barlow lens doubles the magnifying power of each eyepiece
- Altazimuth mount with a slow motion control rod for precision tracking means you can easily track objects day or night
- Vixen-style dovetail/ Full size adjustable aluminum tripod with integrated accessory holder
A more affordable but still high-quality telescope is the Meade Instruments 234001 Star Pro AZ. It’s a 70 mm aperture refracting telescope with a bit of a twist. Meade includes an adapter that allows you to attach your smartphone to the telescope for picture-taking.
Reviewers give the Meade 234002 a rating of 4.6 stars out of 5.0. One enthusiastic reviewer found the telescope very simple to assemble and quick to put into motion.
Somewhat less positive was a reviewer who wrote that the telescope did not meet certain specifications as promised on the package.
- ED Objective Lens: Minimizes chromatic aberration, accurate color reproduction, increased resolution and contrast
- XLT Coatings (Fully Multi-Coated Optics)
- 22-67x Zoom Eyepiece;Fogproof
- Magnesium Alloy Body: This material is strong and durable, but lighter weight than traditional aluminum alloy housings
- Rotating tripod mount with detents: Place the orientation of the eyepiece in the best viewing position for application
If your ideal for best telescope includes a unique look and feel, then consider the Celestron 52306 Regal M2 100ED Spotting Scope.
Celestron has built this telescope using a magnesium alloy, which the company says provides extra strength without adding extra weight.
This telescope comes with a rotating tripod that will allow you to view the sky from whatever position suits you best. Celestron marks the 52306 in 65 mm, 80 mm or 100 mm options. Following Sky and Telescope’s advice, stick with either the 80 mm or 100 mm.
Amazon reviewers rate the Celestron at 4.0 stars out of 5.0. Positive reviewers described it as sturdy and well-built with sharp images and smooth ability to focus.
A reviewer who gave the telescope two stars wrote that he disliked the focus function.
- This 5.1 inch 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
- Short 24 inch 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
- Sturdy EQ-2 equatorial telescope mount and adjustable tripod allows manual slow-motion tracking of celestial objects as they appear to migrate across the night sky , Counterweight bar length - 8 inches
- Complete assembled telescope weighs just 27 lbs. for convenient transport
- Includes two 1.25 inch Sirius Plossl eyepieces (25mm and 10mm), 6x30 finder scope, 1.25inch rack and pinion focuser, tripod accessory tray, collimation cap, Starry Night astronomy software, and more!
If you’re looking for more advanced features for your version of the best telescope, consider the Orion 09007 Space Probe 130ST.
In addition to having the coolest of names, the Orion is a reflector telescope with a 130 mm diameter aperture — pretty cool in its own right. It still comes with a “short-tube” – a compressed focal length that makes the telescope easy to move around.
Amazon reviewers give this telescope 4.1 stars out of 5.0. An extremely enthusiastic customer raved about the clarity of the images he saw through the telescope, including a rare look at the rings of Saturn.
Others were not so positive. One reviewer, who himself claimed to be a 40-year astronomer, felt there were better values available on the telescope market.
- High Magnification. ToyerBee telescope is equipped with three eyepieces (H20mm, H12.5mm and H4mm) and a 2X Barlow lens. The Barlow lens doubles the magnification of each eyepiece. Kids can get magnification of 35X to 350X. Whether it's watching stars and moons at night or observing planets, ToyerBee telescope is the best helper for kids & astronomy beginners.
- Quick to find the view. Focal length 700mm with a finder scope help you to locate the object quickly. A solid & adjustable tripod which can be used on most surfaces can stabilizes the telescope when you focus. Whether you want to see the moon in the distance or the trees across the road, the telescope can help you quickly target.
- Large aperture. 76mm aperture provides more lights and clearer images, even beginners can get clear images. The bigger the aperture, the bigger the field of vision, and the clearer the image. Imagine that the moon at night is as clear and bright as the scenery during the day.
- Easy to assemble& dismount. We have a full set of paper and video Installation Guidelines. Don't worry about any installation problems. Even for first-time users, children can install it themselves without any tools.
- Satisfaction Warranty. 3-year guarantee was offered by ToyerBee. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about our telescope and service.
Don’t be fooled by the name. While the ToyerBee Telescope is geared toward young users as well as beginning adults and it is not a toy.
The telescope opens to a 76 mm aperture with a magnification of up to 350x for delivering images from distant parts of the universe.
This telescope also comes with an adjustable aluminum tripod — as well as three eyepieces.
The ToyerBee Telescope gets a near-perfect 4.9 stars out of 5.0 on Amazon. One unhappy reviewer rated the telescope at 1 star because it came missing a key component that rendered the telescope unusable for a time.
A more positive 5 star reviewer, though, wrote about how easy the telescope was to use. She also liked that the telescope came with a three-year warranty.
- NexStar 8 Schmidt-Cassegrain - 25mm E-Lux (81x) Eyepiece - StarPointer Finderscope - Star Diagonal & 1.25 - Pre-assembled Steel Tripod - Software: NexRemote & The Sky L1 - Celestron Warranty - Note: Power Supply 8-AA batteries (not included & user supplied) - Bundle Items: - Deluxe Accessory Kit: 5 x Plossl Eyepieces: 6 & 8 & 13 & 17 & 32 mm - Barlow Lens 2x - Moon Filter - 6 x Wratten Filters: 12 & 21 & 25 & 56 & 58A & 80A - Aluminum Accessory
- The worlds most beloved telescope! The classic, 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain revolutionized amateur astronomy in the 1970s. Now, the iconic orange tube design is updated with all the latest features to provide the best stargazing experience for beginners and experienced observers alike.
- Large, 8-inch aperture with excellent light-gathering ability provides spectacular views of the Moon and planets, along with deep sky objects like the Whirlpool Galaxy and Hercules Globular Cluster.
- Fully automated, GoTo mount with database of 40,000+ celestial objects automatically locates and tracks objects for you.
- SkyAlign technology gets your telescope aligned and ready to observe in minutes. Even if youre unfamiliar with the night sky, you can easily align your telescope on any three bright objects.
Maybe you’re past the newbie stage in astronomy and are looking for a very robust best telescope. For this, you should consider the Celestron NexStar 8 SE Schmidt-Cassegrain Computerized Telescope.
Back in the 1970s, Celestron says this model was the “world’s most beloved telescope.” It’s now been updated into the age of technology.
Offering a 200 mm aperture, this Celestron telescope is computerized. You’ll be able to give the telescope instructions on what you want to see, and it will focus in.
Amazon reviewers give this telescope 4.7 stars out of 5.0. One happy reviewer describes the telescope as “almost perfect.”
A less-pleased user ranked the telescope at 3.0 stars because he found that the tripod to be shaky at best.
- 【Optimum Magnification】 1000mm focal length and 90mm aperture, fully coated optical glass with high transmission coatings creates crisp images with increased brightness and clarity. Includes 3 eyepieces (K25mm & K10mm & 5mm) which you can enjoy the magnification from 40X to 600X. And 6*30 Finderscope can locate objects faster.
- 【Wireless Control】 Quick pairing via Wireless in seconds, just by pushing the button on the remote, you are able to capture awesome photos and videos even from up to 30 feet away.
- 【No-tool Set UP】 This telescope is quick and easy to set up even for the novice and will encourage kids to love learning about space, great holiday or birthday gift idea for kids who love science and astronomy!
- 【Adjustable Tripod 】 Rugged,the telescope tube, stainless steel tripod and all accessories for easy storage.The tripod can be adjusted to suit the user.
- 【Lifetime Guarantee】 100% satisfaction guaranteed, our product comes with 12 months manufacturer's warranty. We will replace or refund If you have any concerns.
It’s not fully computerized like the Celestron NexStar, but the GSkyer 90 mm Astronomy Refractor Telescope nevertheless helps you take advantage of technology.
GSkyer includes a smartphone adapter that lets you attach your cellphone camera to the telescope for picture-taking. The telescope comes with a 90 mm aperture with a manageable 1000 mm focal length.
Amazon reviewers gave the Gskyer a rating of 4.3 stars out of 5.0. A happy reviewer found the telescope easy to set up and loved that it provided such clear pictures of stars and planets.
A 1-star reviewer felt the opposite — writing that the telescope delivered poor images of the sky.
The Best Telescope
The sun, moon, stars, and planets visible in the night sky with a telescope provide joyful wonder about our shared experiences on Earth. The best telescope will take that wonder even further.
Shop carefully, and we bet you and your family will soon be carried away by the amazing things you’ll see.
Do you have a telescope yourself? Let us know how you got started in the comments!