Whether you’re new to astronomy or already immersed in this fascinating pastime, choosing a new telescope is a big undertaking. Star-gazing doesn’t always come cheap and when you’re trying to pick the best option, it’s important to separate the ‘must-have’ features from the ‘might be nice’ qualities.
One thing which all experienced backyard astronomers agree on is that aperture size is king. This is the one feature which cannot be ignored when making your choice. All telescopes work in the same way, gathering light and then focusing it to a point and a bigger aperture means better detail. The eyepiece is there to magnify the images which are being focused so that far-away details may be seen clearly.
Celestron NexStar 6 SE Telescope – Our BEST pick
This recently updated design of the Celestron NexStar offers a great user-experience for beginners and experienced observers alike.
The scope has a decent weight to it so it remains stable when in use which is a bonus for those who want to take it out and about; it also includes some nifty technology to help new observers work out what they’re looking at.
- No collimation is necessary (collimation is a real fiddle for inexperienced users) and images are razor-sharp
- Amazing 25mm eyepiece (60x magnification)
- Easy to mount and use
- Upgrading is costly
- Battery life is not the best
Orion 10015 StarBlast 4.5 Astro Reflector Telescope – BEST Value
This great all-rounder arrives ready assembled so there’s no need to get involved in complex set-up before you can enjoy it. A more than decent aperture of 4.5 offers high-quality images.
With a stable base and focal length of 450mm, the Orion 10015 StarBlast is a brilliant choice for hobbyists who might like to become more serious about astronomy.
The magnification is more than good enough to enjoy detailed and sharp images and it’s light and easy to use which is a big plus if you’re purchasing a good microscope for teenagers. It’s primarily a viewing telescope, so not what you’d choose if you wanted to indulge in long exposure photography.
This is a great telescope for general deep sky viewing but for even more visibility and detail, it’s a good idea to purchase some extra lenses for more magnification, this is the main compromise you’re making when choosing this telescope but bear in mind that if you’re on a budget, you can always make time to allow for more lenses in the near future.
- Arrives pre-assembled
- Highly portable
- Easy tracking of celestial objects
- Does not work with a motorized drive so taking photos with an SLR or DSLR is difficult
- Collimation can be extended and tricky
Celestron 31045 AstroMaster 130 EQ Reflector Telescope – BEST Budget Performance
This telescope is by far one of the easiest to set-up and really delivers on performance for a very affordable price. No tools are needed and it includes a permanently mounted StarPointer finderscope too.
The versatile and affordable Celestron 31045 AstroMaster is a great buy and it’s highly transportable too. It uses a spherical mirror rather than a parabolic one and includes a corrector + 2 Barlow lens beneath the focus tube. This allows for its compactness…without these features it would need to be twice as long as it is.
The image quality with this telescope is fine enough that users will be able to see the moon in great detail and even the rings of Saturn. Set-up is simple though the tripod is a tad light…this can result in some instability which isn’t ideal if you’re planning on taking it out into the wilderness!
- Excellent optics for the price
- Visually pleasing
- Great price
- Focusing can be tricky- especially for newbies
- Tripod is a little unstable
Celestron – PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope
A great buy for beginners, the Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ is easy-to-use without compromising on power. This model is designed for adults new to stargazing and includes two eyepieces, 20mm and 4mm and a 3X Barlow Lens to triple the power.
Lightweight yet sturdy, this is the ideal telescope for camping trips. This model has a 127 EQ has a 127mm aperture (5 inches) which is a very respectable size for a starter and allows excellent detail when viewing the moon and brighter planets.
- Optic quality is very good
- Simple assembly
- Collimation is tricky for newbies
- More eyepieces are necessary to really get the benefit
Orion Observer 80 Short Tube 80mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope
Best described as a telescope for first-time-users, the Orion Observer 80ST 80mm Equatorial Refractor offers a lot of bang for your buck with an easy set-up and excellent viewing capabilities.
The small aperture and wide field of view mean it’s great for viewing targets and bright galaxy clusters.
- Highly affordable
- Lightweight and transportable
- May be used for astrophotography
- Not as powerful as more advanced telescopes
- Detailed views are tricky to achieve
Celestron 21035 70mm Travel Scope Telescope
One of the most remarkable features of this telescope is its portability and a huge plus are the accessories which are included. It also has a respectable 70mm aperture which is a big plus for an affordable telescope.
Along with the telescope comes a sturdy backpack case, tripod, high and low power eyepieces and Sky X software which introduces you to not only the use of your telescope but also the features of the night sky.
Perfect for travel and offering a bright and crisp view, it’s ideal for beginners who want to get out and about with their telescope.
- Great accessories
- Perfect package for beginner as it includes everything you need to get started
- Too basic for intermediate users
- Not the most powerful on the market
- Tripod is a little flimsy
Features To Look Out For
There’s no perfect telescope. It’s important to accept this as you set out on your buying journey. You need to choose your ideal telescope based on your personal interests, your budget and your environment.
Ask yourself the following questions when deciding which features matter to you.
- Where will I be using my telescope?
- Do I want to use it for photography?
- What’s my budget?
The best telescopes always include high-quality optics and a good, smooth mount. As we mentioned earlier, aperture is king. The aperture is the diameter of the light gathering lens or mirror. This is sometimes referred to as the objective.
For those people who want to travel with their telescope then portability and weight become an important factor, as does battery-life.
Once you’re clear on what you want from your telescope, you’ll find choosing much simpler.
As a rule, you should aim for at least an aperture of 2,8 inches (70mm) or more.