Who can fail to be awed when staring at the night sky and looking at the millions of stars that shine there? For millennia the starry night sky has been a source of wonder and mystery and many have tried to understand the billion lights that seem to fill the sky after dark. If you want to take your interest in astronomy a step further then buying a telescope is a great way to make it happen.
- Our Top Telescope Recommendations
- For The Money – Celestron Nexstar 4SE
- For Beginners and Entry Level – Celestron 114LCM Computerized Newtonian Telescope
- For Kids – Gskyer Telescope, 70mm Aperture 400mm AZ Mount Astronomical Refracting Telescope
- For Astrophotography – Sky-Watcher Virtuoso
- For Viewing Planets and Galaxies – Celestron AstroMaster 130EQ
- For Backyard and Home Use – Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 114AZ
- Budget / Cheap / Affordable – Orion SpaceProbe II 76mm Equatorial Reflector Telescope
- Refractor – Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ
- For Stargazing – Celestron NexStar 6SE
- Computerized – Celestron NexStar 90SLT Computerized Telescope
- Portable – Celestron 80mm Travel Scope
- Dobsonian – Sky-Watcher Classic 250 Dobsonian
- Reflector – Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ Newtonian Telescope
- For High Light Pollution – Celestron NexStar 8SE
- Under $100 – Celestron 21023 Cometron FirstScope
- Under $200 – Orion Observer 80ST
- Under $300 – Meade Instruments Infinity 90mm
- Under $500 – Meade Instruments StarPro AZ 80mm Aperture
- Under $1000 – Celestron NexStar 127SLT
- Under $2000 – XYWCHK Telescope, Astronomy Refractor Telescope with Adjustable Tripod
- What To Look For In A Telescope
- Our Best Telescope Conclusion
In the following sections we offer our best telescope 2021 recommendations for telescopes for different types of users and at different price points.
Our Top Telescope Recommendations
For The Money – Celestron Nexstar 4SE
The NexStar 4SE is the smallest telescope famed SE range of compound scopes. It is a versatile scope that delivers for the backyard astronomer, and represents the best value for money in our selection of recommended scopes.
The 4SE is a Maksutov-Cassegrain design which is less expensive to produce and is generally used in smaller compound scopes. It is a compound, or catadioptric type telescope, that uses a combination of mirrors and lenses to achieve a long focal length in a relatively short tube. While the focal length of the NexStar 4SE is a large 52″, it is packed into a 13.5″ optical tube. The longer focal length provides higher magnifications and this is an excellent telescope for viewing the moon and the planets rather than deep sky objects since it only has an aperture of 100mm.
The telescope also comes with a GoTo computer which contains a database of 40,000 celestial objects which you can use to select a target object to view. Once you’ve selected it the motorized mount on the telescope will automatically find chosen object, center it in the eyepiece and track it as it moves across the sky.
For a small telescope it performs well, especially on brighter objects, and is a good starting best telescope for the money.
For Beginners and Entry Level – Celestron 114LCM Computerized Newtonian Telescope
This is the best telescope for people that are just becoming interested in astronomy. It provides middle range optics with a computerized mount that will give new astronomy buffs an experience of what there is to see in the cosmos.
It consists of an optical tube that contains a 4.5 inch mirror and a focal length of 1000mm (resulting in a focal ratio of f9) with a rack and pinion focuser. It comes with 9mm and 25mm eyepieces that provide magnifications of 111x and 40x, respectively. It has a built red dot finder that you can use to aim the telescope when you are aligning it. It also comes with a Nexstar hand controller that enables you to choose from 4,000 objects from a deep sky database that the scope will find for you automatically; the database also includes objects in the solar system, variable stars and double stars.
This is our choice for the best telescope for beginners and even though it is not designed for imaging, it is possible to capture images on a smartphone or webcam. While it does have a somewhat plastic feel in its finish (probably to reduce cost) it is more than adequate to whet the appetite of a beginner astronomer.
For Kids – Gskyer Telescope, 70mm Aperture 400mm AZ Mount Astronomical Refracting Telescope
This is an inexpensive telescope that is perfect for kids that are interested in astronomy. It comes with a 3x Barlow lens as well as 25 mm, 10 mm eyepiece and includes a finder scope that offers varying levels of magnification. Additional accessories are available for this telescope to further enhance its optical ability.
It also includes a smartphone adapter and a wireless camera attachment so that you can capture images from the scope remotely using WiFi. This is a great option for kids which will let them show off what they’ve seen to their friends. It comes with an adjustable tripod, that enables you to position the scope in multiple viewing positions, in an aluminium alloy chassis and comes with a carrying case for easy transport. This is a great kid’s telescope with an easy to use rack and pinion focus system that will help them fine-tune the positioning of the telescope to produce crisp, vibrant images. It comes with a lifetime maintenance guarantee and can’t be beaten for the price.
For Astrophotography – Sky-Watcher Virtuoso
The Sky-Watcher Heritage 90 Virtuoso is an easy to use starter telescope that is simple to use and portable. It is a compact table-top scope that can be stored fully assembled so it only requires a power supply and a table to put it to work.
It is a 3.5 inch Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope that offers a minimalistic altaz-style table-top mount. It comes with two eyepieces, a 25mm eyepiece giving 50x magnification and a 10mm that offers 125x magnification. The scope is collimated as part of its manufacture and is non-adjustable; however, barring any serious accidents, the optics maintain their alignment and adjustments are not required. It comes with controls to set tracking but automatic tracking cuts out after 30 minutes. It comes with a red dot finder and a SynScan port that automatically tracks objects that can be upgraded to a full GoTo system by attaching an AZ hand controller.
This telescope is a good option for astrophotography as a DSLR camera can be attached to it using a supplied bracket. It offers a range of user-programmable photography functions and the camera shutter can be triggered through a SNAP port on the scope.
For Viewing Planets and Galaxies – Celestron AstroMaster 130EQ
The Celestron AstroMaster 130EQ telescope is a popular choice if you are developing a more serious interest in viewing the cosmos and want to invest in a somewhat larger, higher powered telescope. It is a good looking scope that features high quality manufacturing throughout and consists of precisely machined cast aluminium components including a German-made equatorial mount.
It has a reflector aperture of 130mm with a 650mm focal ratio. It comes with 5 eyepieces ranging from 1 to 20mm featuring fully coated optics and is mounted ona CG-3 equatorial mount drive.
Classed as a dual purpose telescope, it provides bright, clear views of both terrestrial objects and astrological bodies. It offers repeated steady views, is beautifully made and is light-weight and easy to transport and to set up.
Simple to use, it delivers fantastic results from its crystal clear optics when viewing objects in the solar system in particular. You can also buy additional accessories for the telescope as you become more proficient. You can add a camera mount, for example, for a DSLR camera or a purpose built, WiFi transiting camera in Celestron’s NexImage solar system imager. With a little bit of practice and dedication even a novice astronomer can achieve some fantastic results with this telescope.
For Backyard and Home Use – Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 114AZ
This telescope takes advantage of smartphone capabilities in a clever way to make an affordable yet powerful telescope. Celestron has combined a star map with an affordable telescope and mounts. The secret ingredient is a mirror that is attached off the side of Celestron’s telescope and holds your phone in place. The supplied phone app uses your phone’s camera, pointed down into the mirror, to figure out where your telescope is pointed, and then directs you in moving it to find whatever you want to look at. The app is well designed and provides enough objects for months of viewing and is especially good if you are just dabbling in astronomy at home.
The telescope is a Newtonian reflector with a 4.5 inch aperture and a 1000mm focal length (f/9). The glass mirrors are coated with aluminium and silicon dioxide coatings. It comes with 25mm and 10mm eyepieces that deliver 40x and 100x magnification with a red dot finderscope included. It comes with a manual alt-azimuth mount that can be adjusted up to a 52 inch maximum height.
Budget / Cheap / Affordable – Orion SpaceProbe II 76mm Equatorial Reflector Telescope
With its 3 inch aperture optics and equatorial mount, this telescope is a great choice if you are a budget-conscious astronomy fan. It collects a good amount of light from the night sky and produces impressively bright and detailed views of celestial bodies. It produces great views of the Moon, the brighter planets, and star clusters.
It has a 76mm primary mirror and a focal length of 700mm (f/9.2) which provides sharp views. Included are two anti-reflection coated 1.25 inch Kellner eyepieces, 25mm and 10mm, which yield 28x and 70x power magnification, respectively. The telescope features a red-dot sight that you can use to accurately aim the telescope at objects in the sky like the Moon and bright planets. Also included is the Orion MoonMap 260 that names and enables you to focus on over 260 lunar features.
The Orion SpaceProbe II 76mm Equatorial Reflector telescope also comes with an EQ-1B equatorial mount that allows easy manual tracking of celestial objects and includes slow-motion control cables. An adjustable-height tripod with accessory tray and aluminum legs is also included with this budget priced, yet feature-packed telescope.
Refractor – Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ
The Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ (like the LT 114AZ) combines real-time information from a smartphone with a quality, solid telescope that Celestron is famed for. It is a 102mm refractor scope (f/6.5 focal ratio) with an azimuth mount and is equipped with the latest of their StarSense technology. This is a decent sized refractor telescope that offers 240x highest magnification, which is quite respectable, and is capable of doing everything you will want.
Although the focal ratio is a little low for a refractor type scope, the visual range is wide and provides great images of deep space, middle space, and near space. When combined with the StarSense app package it makes for a very versatile telescope.
Once you attach your phone to the telescope, the app will automatically queue up a list of readily visible objects based on your location on the earth, the season and the current position of celestial objects. Once you pick your desired object the app will guide you using arrows to manually align your scope and tell you when you have found it. The advantage of a refractor telescope is its inherent versatility: as well as a powerful telescope for stargazing you can also use it terrestrially. It can also host a wide range of different eyepieces, sights, filters and pointers.
For Stargazing – Celestron NexStar 6SE
With its many capabilities it is quite difficult to outgrow this scope. It can be used as your main instrument or even as an addition to other equipment. It provides you with the flexibility of a quick, no-fuss skywatching experience that beats more complex setups but still maintains viewing quality. There are an array of additional eyepieces, red dot finders, filters and star diagonals which you can purchase for this scope to improve your views of solar system and deep-sky targets.
The telescope also offers the opportunity to dabble in astrophotography with the addition of a T-ring or adapter (to image with a CCD, CMOS or DSLR or a smartphone). While you might find the idea of using a GoTo telescope daunting at first, the comprehensive manuals and software that come with it ease your concerns.
It has flawless optical coating and is a high-quality built instrument that is built to provide excellent views of the night sky. It comes with a 1.25″ eyepiece fitting which enables you to swap its mount and improve it using third-party filters and eyepieces while keeping in mind that it provides a very useful magnification of 354x as standard.
Computerized – Celestron NexStar 90SLT Computerized Telescope
The Celestron NexStar 90SLT is a computerized telescope that sits on the lower end of the scale in terms of price and specifications. The SLT in the name stands for Star Locating Telescope and uses its SkyAlign technology to find a huge number of objects in the night sky.
It is a relatively small Maksutov-Cassegrain type telescope that provides highly focused views of nearby space and good quality images. You’ll be able to look at the moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Orion’s belt and so on in great detail but with its high focal ratio of f/14 it is not as good at focusing on deep space objects. It is a good, durable telescope that is good for taking on camping trips.
The 40,000 object database that is included with the telescope, however, is a bit ambitious since the scope is not really capable of resolving the less bright objects contained in it. The SkyAlign software works as promised, however, but the telescope’s optical tube is not really able to focus or quantify the images that are required for the software to work at its best. The scope also comes with manual controls and is excellent at imaging planets in the solar system and features of the moon.
Portable – Celestron 80mm Travel Scope
At this price range, however, it is a good compact telescope that is able to provide stability and reasonable optical quality. A tabletop reflector might be a better option but is less convenient than a tripod telescope if you are going to use your telescope when travelling.
This telescope is made so that you can carry it around as easily as possible, so the lesser image quality and difficulty in focusing at high magnifications is a price that you pay for this portability. The build feels adequately sturdy and durable at this price point.
It is aimed at kids and people who want to use it for hunting or bird viewing and is not a device that is built specifically for astronomy. It is an inexpensive portable telescope with a light,plastic tripod that is easy to carry and can be stored in an included backpack.
Dobsonian – Sky-Watcher Classic 250 Dobsonian
The Sky-Watcher Classic 250 Dobsonian telescope provides excellent all-round performance if you want to observe the Moon, the planets, deep field objects and nebulae. It is based on the alt-azimuth principle and the telescope can be quickly and easily set up. It come in a box-type mounting that allows the telescope to pivot in altitude and the box is rotated on its base in azimuth. The secret of using this design to its best effect is to correctly balance the optical tube and use materials to that allow it to moved easily when required but to otherwise stay locked in position. To this end it offers super smooth azimuth movement by using Teflon pads and comes with a wooden Alt-Azimuth mount with accessory tray. The mount is also designed to be driven by hand and has no slow motion controls.
It comes with eyepieces of 10mm and 25mm size that offer 48x and 120x magnification. The primary mirror has a diameter of 254mm and a focal length of 1200mm (f/4.7) It includes a dual-fit 1.25″/2″ Crayford-style focuser and comes with a 9×50 finderscope. It has a DSLR camera connection built in.
Reflector – Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ Newtonian Telescope
This reflector telescope is part of Celestron’s AstroMaster range which has the reputation of being a sound entry point into astronomy telescopes because of the range’s build quality, affordability and ease of use. The Celestron Astromaster 114EQ continues this tradition with an enormous beginner scope that offers good power and is very inexpensive considering what you get. It is a great option for anyone who wants to get a reflector style telescope that is better than the smaller options but that won’t break the bank.
It is a Newtonian style reflector scope featuring a 114mm primary aperture with f/8.6 focal ratio that delivers 269x highest theoretical magnification.
The optical quality of this telescope is very good for the price and is a tremendous all-around reflector scope. The optical tube is perfect for the beginner stargazer with the aperture size, magnification power, and focal ratio all standard making it a very balanced telescope. Because it doesn’t stray too far in terms of zoom and focus, it is an excellent choice for a general stargazer.
Some telescopes are good for looking at planets and moons, while others are better for looking at deep space objects; this one does both well. This is a good scope if you are a beginner astronomer that does not require the specialized abilities of telescopes for niche areas in astronomy. The ability of this telescope to do multiple things well is its best feature.
For High Light Pollution – Celestron NexStar 8SE
The Celestron NexStar 8SE is an ideal telescope if you are a beginner or looking to upgrade to a larger aperture. It is a Schmidt-Cassegrain type telescope with an Altazimuth mount that has Goto motorised tracking. It has a focal length of 2032mm and an aperture of 203mm giving a focal ratio of f/10. It also offers the GoTo feature that can locate any object in a 40,000 strong database and has motorised tracking features for a relatively low price.
This is a catadioptric telescope that combines mirrors and lenses to provide a long focal length in a short body. It is a reasonably expensive telescope but has big light-gathering power and is best if you want to see the best objects in the night sky within an hour of getting your scope.
The optics in this telescope are incredibly well made and provide brilliant image clarity and detail even in relatively light polluted areas because of its aperture size. Its aperture and focal length mean the telescope will provide good viewing at the 150x to 200x magnification levels which is ideal for the moon and planets. You can also push it beyond 200x magnification for bright distant objects. Its big aperture also enables you to see dimmer objects like galaxies and nebulae in detail.
Under $100 – Celestron 21023 Cometron FirstScope
The Celestron 21023 Cometron Firstscope is an inexpensive and very basic, entry-level, easy to use, low power telescope that is designed to introduce kids to observing the night sky. It has a 300mm focal length that is combined with a low power eyepiece that only offers 15x magnification while an included high power eyepiece provides 60x magnification.
This is a very small telescope and when observing the planets you will only be able to see a mere dot. The telescope is best if you want to observe the phases of the moon or large deep sky objects like the Orion nebula or the Pleiades. It is designed to be a basic, introductory child’s telescope and is too small of a telescope to display any planetary detail. However at this price it does its job adequately and provides just enough power to whet a child’s appetite and set them on the path to astronomical observation and, if not, you a least haven’t spent too much money on this beginner telescope.
Under $200 – Orion Observer 80ST
For nearly three decades, Orion offered a telescope known as the ShortTube 80. The Orion Observer 80ST is the telescope that replaces that offering It is an achromatic reflector scope with an 80mm aperture and 40mm focal length (f/5).
Because it is an inexpensive achromat style scope, it suffers from some chromatic aberration, which can result in blurry images at high magnifications (especially when observing the Moon and the planets).This issue becomes particularly problematic at magnifications of over 50x.
Overall, however, the Orion Observer 80ST is a well-made, entry-level telescope for deep space and planetary observations is good for exploring deep space because of its wide aperture. A decent telescope at this price range is hard to come by, but Orion is an experienced telescope manufacturer and this is a decent entry-level telescope that will serve you well.
The 80mm aperture and the 400mm focal length provide a good wide field view with deep space objects such as the Orion nebula, Andromeda galaxy and Pleiades star cluster all looking bright and detailed through this scope. The optics are ideal for deep space observations, but are not as good for planets in the solar system (as noted earlier).
Deep space performance is especially good since refractor telescopes have more light gathering ability than reflectors and the wide-field view will give you reasonably good deep space images.
Under $300 – Meade Instruments Infinity 90mm
The Meade Instruments Infinity 90mm comes complete with everything you’ll need to view the wonders of the night sky for the first time astronomer. This telescope is designed to be a beginner telescope for children, but adults will be able to get enjoyment from it as well.
It is an achromatic refractor, Altazimuth mounted telescope that features slow motion controls for both axes of motion. You can point the telescope roughly in the desired direction by moving it with its handle; you then center objects in the eyepiece and track them using the provided slow motion controls. It can be used to view craters on the moon, the bands of the planet Jupiter and the rings of Saturn in the solar system, for example.
It has an aperture of 90mm and a focal length of 600mm giving a focal ratio of 6.7. Included are three eyepieces that offer 23x, 67x and 95x powers of magnification. You use the low power eyepiece to find a target, then increase the magnification as needed to view your object. Some larger objects, such as the Andromeda galaxy, require the use of low magnification just to fit in the eyepiece.
It delivers bright and detailed images and is a perfect telescope for viewing celestial and land objects. The precision Altazimuth mount, along with the slow motion controls makes it easy to track objects as they move across the night sky. A red dot finder helps you to locate objects and it comes with a sturdy tripod and mount.
Under $500 – Meade Instruments StarPro AZ 80mm Aperture
Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between telescopes at this price range from those that are made from plastic, feel cheap and are poor quality making them more suitable as a children’s toy than usable instrument. The StarPro AZ does not suffer from these limitations and its overall quality make it a great option for a starter scope for an adult in this price range.
It is a telescope that can be shared with multiple users and if you include a smartphone adapter in your purchase you can share images of what you have viewed with others.
It has an aperture of 80mm and a focal length of 900mm that provides a focal ratio of f/11.3 It comes with three eyepieces: 6.3mm, 9mm and 26mm.
This is a sturdy refractor style telescope that is an affordable beginner instrument that will bring pleasure to the entire family. It features a single-arm fork mount, a sturdy tripod and excellent optics that will more than satisfy an amateur astronomery. It is lightweight and easy to set up and put away. Because of its portable design it is great to take on camping trips and can also be used to view distant terrestrial targets.
Under $1000 – Celestron NexStar 127SLT
The Celestron NexStar 127SLT is a stellar performer. If you’re an observer who is mainly looking for planetary or lunar views, with an occasional foray into deep-sky targets, then this is an affordable, quality telescope that has stunning optics and the views only get better if you invest in additional eyepieces. It features a computerized mount that is easy to set up and operate and attaching the scopes components is also intuitive. It is a perfect telescope for you if you are starting out and are looking for an affordable telescope to view the solar system and bright deep-sky targets.
This Maksutov-Cassegrain style scope features a decent-sized aperture of 5 inches and a focal length of 1500 mm (59 inches) providing a focal ratio of f/12. It comes with two 1.25 inch Plossl eyepieces of 25mm and 9mm focal length giving 60x and 167x magnification, respectively. Along with the scope you also receive an accessory tray, a red dot finder and the telescope tube, tripod and mount as well as software and instruction manuals.
Under $2000 – XYWCHK Telescope, Astronomy Refractor Telescope with Adjustable Tripod
It has an 80mm aperture and a focal length of 600mm resulting in a focal ratio of f/7.5. It features fully coated green glass optical components with high transmission treatments for enhanced image brightness and clarity. It comes with high magnification and low magnification eyepieces (25mm and 10mm) offering 60x and 180x magnification. It includes am optical finder that is composed of a 6×25, five piece, three group optical structure. It has an app that can be used to locate objects in the sky through a coaxial connection. It also features an EQ3 equatorial tracking system that can be operated manually and automatically. The telescope is extremely light weight and includes and aluminium tripod.
It can be used as telescope for viewing terrestrial objects as well as those in the sky. You can get a full positive view of the (inverted) image of the scope so that it is easier to view objects on land. It is an ideal telescope for both kids and adults.
It comes with a carrying case and a full-height aluminium tripod making it a great portable telescope. It is a powerful telescope for kids or beginner adult astronomers that will encourage their interest in astronomy and science.
What To Look For In A Telescope
There are many brands of telescopes to choose from but they come in three main types: refractors, that collect light with lenses; reflectors, these use mirrors; and compound telescopes that are combinations of the two.
Refractors have a lens at the front of the telescope’s tube and don’t need much effort to maintain, however the bigger the size of the lens the more expensive they are. There are two types of refractors: apochromats and achromats; apochromats offer better optical quality but are more expensive.
Reflectors tend to be a more affordable option than refractors although they do need more maintenance because they can fall out of alignment. Compound telescopes work by using both lenses and mirrors to gather light and are smaller and portable. The most popular designs of compound telescopes are Schmidt-Cassegrains and Maksutov-Cassegrains.
You should always pay attention to optical quality when choosing a telescope and make sure it has a stable mounting system so that it is easy to maneuver it around the sky. You should always try out one of these best telescope options before you buy one – visit your local astronomy club if possible and ask them to demonstrate some of the different types of telescopes they have available. It is always best to buy new when purchasing such a sensitive piece of equipment and always make sure that the telescope comes with a guarantee.
Our Best Telescope Conclusion
Astronomy can be a fascinating are of investigation. There’s nothing more exciting than the first time you look through an eyepiece of a best telescope and see details of the moon’s surface with high magnification or other planets in the solar system such as Saturn with its rings or Jupiter with its massive bands intersecting it. We’ve covered a wide range of telescopes that you can use to further your interest in the night sky with an option for all users, from beginners to semi-professional so that you can pick the right one. Good viewing!