Best Telescopes for Beginners
Has astronomy been a passion of yours for years? Do you sometimes find your self staring into the night sky, check out all the stars and beauties above? Well, if you do then you most likely have a passion for astronomy and who wouldn’t as when we look up during the night, we see a vast universe waiting to be discovered. Now, you may be wondering how you can take the next step in your space exploration journey, and the piece of gear that may come to your mind is the telescope. There are a range of different telescopes on the market these days and some are more advanced than others but most likely if you are looking to purchase the first telescope you want one that is more targeted towards a beginner astronomer. In fact, there are specific telescopes that are particularly catered to the demographics of novices and beginners. Read on to find which one is right for you.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 16 hrs of research
For easy transport, the single fork and the tripod all break down into separate pieces
Features SkyAlign technology which aligns the telescope within minutes
Due to the large aperture, you can see several stars in the galaxies
Top 10 Picks
1. Celestron Nexstar 8SE
For easy transport, the single fork and the tripod all break down into separate pieces
Features SkyAlign technology which aligns the telescope within minutes
Due to the large aperture, you can see several stars in the galaxies
May require better eyepieces to take advantage of the optics
This is a prime example of a beginner telescope featuring advanced technology that even astronomy gurus can marvel at. But, at its core, the Nexstar 8SE is a simple machine that anyone can operate.Read more
Even though there are other versions of this telescope, the NexStar 8SE features an aperture of eight inches (203 mm). This can easily allow you to view the Whirlpool Galaxy and Hercules Globular Cluster.
Celestron constructed their telescope with high-quality components and this allows the pointing and tracking accuracy to be as sturdy as it gets.
While a simple red-dot finder scope and a 25mm eyepiece come included with this scope, to really take advantage of what the NexStar 8SE can deliver, you should opt for adding better eyepieces.
It is not necessary to be acclimated to the night sky above you, anyone can operate this machine. Because of SkyAlign technology, you can align this is mere minutes and the database of 40,000 celestial objects automatically tracks objects for you.
Not only does the steel tripod break down into separate components but this scope also features a single fork arm design. Both these combine to guarantee a highly-portable machine.
If you thought that beginner telescopes were watered-down versions of the superior models, then this probably came as a surprise to you. Do not let the immense price tag fool you, this is user-friendly and a relatively simple machine to master.
2. Skywatcher Dobsonian
You have the option of using either 1.25-inch or 2-inch eyepieces
Features a tension control handle that allows the tube to be locked into place
It is quite heavy at over 20 kilograms
Probably one of the best aspects of the Skywatcher Dobsonian Telescope, besides its fairly large aperture, is the integration of a tension control handle which is a real improvement over past designs.Read more
Much like the previous telescope, this features an aperture that is 203mm in size. Even when compared to more complex models, this gathers as much light and delivers an exceptional range.
Due to the tension control handle that has been designed into this telescope, you can lock the tube in its current position. It seems simple, but this design implementation will easily end up paying dividends.
Via a focal length of 1200mm and an optical finderscope that provides 9x magnification, you will become witness to high-quality, sharp images of the wonders of the night sky.
Some users have claimed that it can take some time to become accustomed to the mount but all in all, the set-up is a breeze. Literally, all you need to do is place the tube in the rocker box and secure it in place.
As this weighs over 20 kilograms, it is not exactly a light telescope. However, the closed-tube construction does adapt well for travel as it can easily be taken out and set-up.
Universally, this is a critically acclaimed and well-respected piece of equipment. There is a good reason for that and the aperture, tension control handle and superb image quality are several of the reasons to justify it.
3. Orion Skyquest XT8
Out of the box, there are six different viewing magnifications to choose from
The overall set-up is straightforward and mostly a breeze
Features an aperture of 203mm
It is both large and heavy at 40 pounds in total weight
While the SkyQuest XT8 Telescope may not be an ideal choice if you are seeking a telescope to lug around everywhere, due to its immense size, thanks to its aperture and overall construction it is still a model that can be enjoyed by a wide audience.Read more
This is the third straight telescope to feature an aperture of 203mm, which should start to make you realize how important this design feature really is for telescopes.
Orion is another manufacturer you have probably heard of before and they are still relevant to this day due to the quality of their machines. Their SkyQuest XT8 not only features a cast-aluminum support cell but also stability to keep it in constant equilibrium.
Besides the fact that the 1200mm focal length offers crisp and clear views of the night sky, the mirror of this telescope boasts a 94 percent reflectivity. In turn, this transmits nearly as much light as possible for better views.
Included with the telescope is a MoonMap 260 which aids in helping you understand the lunar features you can explore. Also, there is a fast collimation cap to assist with optical positioning adjustments.
Let’s just say this, at 40 pounds in total girth, this is not something that you will enjoy traveling with very often. In fact, it may behoove some to carry the base assemblies and optical tube separately.
If you are avid about your new telescope being portable, this may not be suitable for you. For anyone else, though, the optics and fantastic construction will more than make up for its small shortcomings.
4. Meade Starnavigator
If desired, it could easily be used as a scope during daytime hours
Distorts color much less as compared to others of its size
Its lightweight nature can compromise the accuracy of astrophotography
This beginner telescope does not quite possess the range of the previous three but despite this, the quality is really as good as it gets. Plus, at 25 pounds (while not that light) it is not quite as bulky and heavy as some of the other telescopes in the world.Read more
The specific StarNavigator that is documented here is the 102mm refractor-version. However, the same telescopes come in various sizes of apertures from 90mm to 130mm.
Because of the sealed optical tube, you can expect that this machine will last several years with little to no maintenance required on your part. Of course, it does depend on how you treat it.
Most achromatic refractors will suffer from chromatic aberration but thankfully, as compared to others, this model distorts color much less and it results in stellar image quality.
Truthfully, it is as if a professional astronomer was installed into this system. Not only is there over four hours of audio presentations but also a database consisted of 30,000 objects to search for.
The single fork mount is fairly lightweight and the motors are not exactly beefy. Alas, though, the 25-pound weight may still prove to be an obstacle for some even though it is certainly not the heaviest.
For what Meade designed this telescope to be, they certainly accomplished what they set out to do. Sure, it may not have the best aperture and some may not like that it is an achromatic refractor but hey, just look at the glass half full.
5. Celestron Nexstar 130
Thanks to its pre-assembly, this can be set-up in no time
The included tripod is crafted from stainless steel
Features a well-polished aluminized glass mirror
Durability could be a concern in the long run
When it comes to telescopes, Celestron is a mainstay and one of the more well-known manufacturers of the technology. Their NexStar 130 SLT is right up there with some of the rest with its computerized controls and portable design.Read more
As you could probably gather from the product name, this NexStar telescope has an aperture of 130mm. While not the largest on this list, this allows you to view the rings of Saturn and also the polar ice caps on Mars.
Because both the tripod and the mount are fairly lightweight in nature, one could question the durability if this scope took a hit.
The aluminized glass mirror is well-polished and the secondary mirror is held securely in place to reflect the photons directly through your eyepiece.
Thanks to the fully computerized hand control system, you have the capability of looking at the 4,000 objects, 300 clusters, and 600 galaxies that are pre-installed on the system.
Overall, the durability may be compromised a bit for the portability. A telescope is always going to be a heavy machine; but, in terms of transport, this is more than applicable.
Could this be the classic case of construction versus portability? Possibly, but it is not as if this is made out of paper. If you are careful with it, then durability really should not be a concern.
6. Orion Starblast
Includes an object locator
The portability is above-average
Can be slightly difficult to set-up and use
Before you read a single word to describe the StarBlast 6i IntelliScope, you need to understand that a tripod is not designed with this. As such, a few limitations can present themselves but alas, it remains sufficient as a table-top design.Read more
With a six-inch aperture (which equates to roughly 152mm), it is feasible to expect to view the wonders of the Moon and planets such as Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars.
Orion certainly did not skimp with the construction phase as it is very robust. This is headlined by Teflon bearings and adjustable altitude tension for smooth maneuvering of the scope.
A 750mm focal length optics system will provide you with rich and clear views of deep-sky objects such as galaxies and nebulas.
While a supposedly easy-to-push object locator is in order here, some users feel that this telescope is not exactly user-friendly. It does not necessarily require years of expertise to operate and set-up but it can be a bit confusing for novices.
The lack of a tripod is ideal in at least one respect, it improves the portability. Due to the lack of extra components, it is more compact and the overall weight is reduced.
Really, this is a hit or a miss. There are a plethora of features that ensure it is worth an investment, such as its range and quality, but others that may steer you away, such as its lack of a tripod.
Accepts several other eyepieces on the mass market
It is both waterproof and fog proof
Not the most impressive aperture
Some may feel the aperture size of this telescope does not warrant its price tag. Fair enough, but convenient and advanced technology is integrated including a special ring assembly that creates a fog proof and waterproof core.Read more
With an aperture of 80mm, you can begin to question if this is worth the money. It certainly is not going to suffice for some people but still, it provides an in-depth look at space.
This is where the PF-80 Pentax Telescope truly shines. It is housed in a magnesium alloy-body and because of the special O ring assembly, it is not only fog proof but also waterproof.
Incorporated into the telescope is extra-low dispersion glass elements and this delivers an optimal optical resolution.
Overall, the set-up is basic and you should not encounter too many issues. To make focusing the scope easier, an extra-wide knob has been integrated into the design.
Weight and girth can be two different beasts as on the outside, it appears this is a highly-portable machine at under 10 pounds (according to Amazon’s specifications). But, one user did note that due to the size, it could be an issue for backpacking or similar adventures.
No doubt, this is definitely the most unique telescope on this list. Its waterproof construction is a huge bonus but at the end of the day, some may feel it is too limited with only an 80mm aperture.
8. Levenhuk Skyline
It is both compact and extremely lightweight
Incredibly simple to use
Features an anti-reflective coating on the lenses which increase quality
Ideal for a first telescope, but the 60mm aperture really limits the range
In several ways, this may be the telescope you have been searching for the whole time. Not only does Levenhuk do everything in their power to ensure the simplest experience possible, but their Skyline is also one of the most portable models out there.Read more
Okay, so the objective lens (aperture) is only 60mm. If you have been paying attention to this guide, you know that this is pretty low. Just know, it is a bit limited in this respect.
The tripod that comes with this scope is made from aluminum but overall, it may befit you to avoid rough handling with this machine as it is not designed for it.
While the aperture goes hand-in-hand with the focal length of 700mm, there is a special coating on the lenses that improve the light transmission. In turn, while it does not have the best focal length, the view is still fantastic.
Everything from the set-up to the use and control is all kept user-friendly. It is clear that Levenhuk aimed to appeal to beginners.
Its compact nature is worthy enough of praise when addressing the portability. However, 8.05 pounds of weight is an entirely different element worthy of accreditation. All in all, this has excellent portability.
Consider this the cliché beginner’s telescope. It is lightweight, extremely portable and utterly simple to use. Unfortunately, it accomplishes all this by neglecting the range a bit.
9. Celestron Skyprodigy 130
Integrates a Sky Tour option which is a list of the best objects in the sky
Uses specific technology to align with the sky and determine where it is pointed
Several users have claimed that this scope is not as simple as it appears
Celestron advertises their SkyProdigy 130 Telescope to be operational seemingly for nearly all ages and to be as simple as possible. While it is certainly not complex by any stretch of the imagination, several users have reported the simplicity claims are a bit exaggerated.Read more
Due to its 130mm aperture, if you are used to much larger telescopes, you will notice the field view being narrower. However, overall, it is a more than the respectable objective lens.
The tripod is crafted from stainless steel and is very sturdy overall. As for the telescope, there have not been too many complaints in regard to the durability.
The SkyProdigy 130 features a focal length of 650mm providing you with a wide-angle, in terms of what you can actually see when gazing through the telescope.
It seems all fine and dandy as there is an automatic alignment process, a sky tour option for a customized list of objects in the sky, and an easy set-up. Problem is, more than one user has brought up the alignment process is not that easy and that the advertising is misleading.
This telescope positively delivers when it comes to its lightweight nature and portability. When you want to show this off to your friends, it is pretty easy to transport it.
False advertisement is certainly not something to be trifled with. Several users have brought up that despite its claims, the simplicity is not quite there. Still, the quality is there.
10. GSkyer AZ Space
Can achieve up to 18x magnification
It is a very stable telescope and performs as advertised
Uses a CF4 optical glass to eliminate chromatic aberration of certain colors
Users have griped about the poor instructions and lack of proper translation
This is not a telescope that is going to crack the record books and win any prestigious awards. Instead, it is a high-quality machine that allows amateurs to get their feet wet in the world of telescopes. However, lackluster instructions and improper translation of them have been common complaints.Read more
An aperture of 80mm is not an incompetent size but know this, as you have probably already garnered, those obsessed with everything in the universe will want more.
Overall, for the price, this is the kind of construction you would expect. It features an integral forming aluminum alloy tube and a stainless steel tripod.
Notwithstanding a focal length of 400mm that really limits your magnification, a CF4 optical glass is integrated that eliminates chromatic aberration of blue, red, and green. Plus, the lenses are coated for improved images.
While the method for fine adjusting the telescope needs to be improved, the real quarrel here is the horrid instructions. Many have griped that they are nearly 100 percent insufficient.
The short focal length of 400m may not be doing any favors for magnification but it certainly lends a hand in the portability.
If some good, albeit decent, instructions were included, this could have possibly climbed even higher on this list. What that tells you is the performance and construction, among other factors, are pretty darn good.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
If a telescope was made up of human organs, then the aperture would be the heart. In other words, it is the epicenter of the machine and is 100 percent mandatory for it to function. So, if every single telescope has one what exactly separates good versions from the bad? It really comes down to this simple concept, the larger the aperture size the brighter and crisper the view will be. The reason for this is because with a larger aperture, or sometimes called the objective, more magnification prowess is provided for you. As you can technically control magnification via the eyepieces you use, why is this a big deal? Imagine zooming in on a photo; eventually, the view will become so blurry that it is impossible to distinguish what you are seeing. With a larger objective, the image will remain potent.
For a good point of reference, you will get anywhere from 20x to 50x magnification per inch (or around 25mm) of the objective lens size. Given how vast the universe is that surrounds us, you will want a large aperture if you want to see as much as possible.
When you invest in a machine that is going to cost you hundreds of dollars, generally speaking for most high-quality telescopes, it goes without saying that you want it to last you a long time. In order for this to happen, the construction must be up to par. The positive aspect to telescopes is they are not devices that can be easily broken and typically, they are never in any danger of being damaged. Of course, it never hurts for a telescope to be able to withstand a hit if something happens. However, perhaps more important is the stability of the scope.
The sturdier the telescope is, the more precise and accurate the pointing and tracking of the telescope is. If you are planning on photographing what you find in the starry sky or simply do not want to deal with a constantly shaky machine, this will be vitally important to you.
Ease of Use
Given that this guide is intended specifically for telescopes that are designed for beginners, simplicity is an obvious point of emphasis. But, what is the point as they are all designed like this, you may say? Well, the reality is, certain models may be simple in certain ways and somewhat difficult in others. For example, the set-up process. Clearly, setting up your telescope is the first task you must accomplish but not the only one. Also, the ease of aligning the scope may be important to you. Some beginner telescopes will use a specific technology to automatically align themselves with certain celestial objects within their database.
Speaking of which, computerized controls and software also come into play. If you have no knowledge of the universe, a database that is filled with clusters, galaxies, and other objects will assist you in finding specific ones. Remember, even though the models on this list are catered to a certain demographic of novices, there still may be a learning curve if you have never even touched a telescope.
Depending on who you are, this may or may not be that significant to you. If your intentions are to use your telescope at a certain location and to never travel with it, portability is not going to be a point of emphasis for you. Then again, half the enjoyment of owning a telescope is showing it off to people. As such, you may intend to travel with the machine.
First off, remember that weight and girth are two different aspects. A device can still be compact even if it weighs a ton and vice versa. Thus, do not just look at the weight and judge it on that. Ensure that some of the components can be broken down and when they are, that it is small enough to not take up too much room (if this means anything to you). But, do not get it twisted, the overall weight is still of value to you. After all, would you rather lug around a 20-pound or 50-pound telescope?
Expert Interviews & Opinions
There is absolutely nothing wrong with admitting you are a beginner, especially when it comes to space. I think with the vast amount of space up there, we are all in a sense beginner explorers. Let’s be honest, telescopes are not toys and at their core, they can be complex and show you some amazing things. So invest in one of these telescopes and start your astronomer career off, you will never know what wonders are waiting for you in the night sky. Also if you are storing it indoors, do so in an environment that dry and mostly dust-free. However, if there is no place for you to store it indoors and it must be kept outside at all time, invest in a heavy-duty cover designed for them. When doing so, ensure that the cover for the rear and the dust cap are on.
Other Factors to Consider
The aperture does have something to do with the image quality. However, it was so important that it deserved its own section. Of course, you are now knowledgeable about the objective so nothing needs to be reiterated. However, there is more that goes into image quality. For starters, how about the type of refractor (whether achromatic or apochromatic). To keep it as simple as possible, the latter is specifically designed to eliminate chromatic aberration while the former generally suffers from it (but they are usually cheaper). In addition, something as simple as coating the lenses can improve the light transmission and hence, the quality.
But, the focal length is another specification that is nearly as important as the aperture. Unlike it, though, the larger it is, it does not necessarily indicate it is better. If the focal length is larger, the magnification prowess will be increased as it has a narrower focus. Thus, making it ideal for high-power objects such as planets. However, shorter focal lengths have wider views that lend you to seeing numerous galaxies. Honestly, it is a matter of your preference.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What Is the Best Way to Store a Telescope?
Even astronomers who do this type of work for a living are not going to utilize their telescope 24/7. Much like every other consumer product that you ever invest in, there will be occasions where you are not using it. Clearly, this is evident with telescopes as for most people, it will be a simple hobby and something they maybe do one or two times a week. Of course, others will be obsessed with it and look into the sky every night. No matter what, you need to properly store the telescope at all times. Thankfully, it is not difficult to do so.
q: Does a Telescope Need to be Used in Low Light Areas?
Before this question is actually answered it is noteworthy to point out that yes, it can make a difference when you gaze the night sky in either the city or the country. However, is viewing the sky through a telescope in the middle of the city an incompetent way of doing so? No, but it may come with limitations. Here is the reality, if you are aiming to simply view the wonders of the Moon and other planets, it is equally achieved from the country or the city.
But, viewing certain objects in the sky, such as galaxies, may be easier when there are no surrounding lights and there is nothing but darkness. In this environment, it is more likely that enhanced details will be revealed. In turn, this may improve your experience.
q: How Do You Transport a Telescope?
Several times throughout this guide, portability has been brought into the limelight. It just seems likely that eventually, you will feel the need to want to utilize your telescope in a different area (or show it off to your friends and family). However, it is not quite as simple as throwing it in the back of your vehicle and taking off. Instead, it is actually quite a process. For starters, you will want to separate the telescope from the mount; which should only require you to loosen a few thumbscrews. In addition, you may want to remove any accessories that are currently installed on the optical tube. Also, remove the accessory tray so you can close the tripod legs.
Now that you have everything dissembled, as much as you can at least, it is time to pack everything carefully into your vehicle (or other means of transport). To do so, you can opt to protect the optical tube with some sort of padded insulation to potentially prevent scratches.
q: How Much Maintenance Is Required for Telescopes?
Earlier, the durability and construction of telescopes were addressed. This possibly led you to think about how much maintenance is really required for a telescope. Truthfully, they are designed to take care of themselves and as long as you treat it carefully, you should never have to worry about it. Then again, certain types of telescopes will technically require a little more maintenance than others. For example, reflector telescopes versus refractor versions. When it comes to the former, collimation (alignment of the mirrors ) can be one of the biggest issues. If this happens to you, look up online tutorials to guide you through the process.
However, refractor telescopes will probably only require you to occasionally dust off and clean the lens before you use it. Thus, making it ideal for you to touch the lens as little as possible.
q: Will Objects Appear Like They Do in Photographs?
Probably one of the most common wonderings that you may have is whether or not you will be able to see as clearly as some photographs depict the solar system. In some ways, yes, this will be possible. If you are gazing at objects such as the Moon and various other planets, you may be able to view the colors and vast features that a photograph would display. Of course, on the contrary, the fainter objects in the sky will prove to be more difficult. Because the eyepiece is limited, no matter which one you have installed, it is not able to detect colors at low-light levels.
Due to the way photography works, digital images can be exposed long enough to be able to show off certain colors that you would not see visually. Also, remember, this is where the aperture and focal length will come into play (and the eyepiece that you are using).