Sometimes, life down here on earth is a real buzz kill. From wars to famines to literal pandemics, things can get rough for the human race and we all need a way to escape. And what better way to escape than by pointing a telescope towards the sky, peering into the distance and being transported to galaxies far, far away?
Telescopes are amazing visual innovations that have brought us closer than ever to the other moons and planets we share a solar system with, as well as other solar systems we share an entire galaxy with. Investing in a good telescope opens you up, quite literally, to other worlds, and is one of the best ways to widen your perspective.
We’ve previously discussed the best telescopes for beginners as well as some handheld options, but what about the best of the best? Today, we’re tackling the best telescopes available on the web, whether you’re a beginner, enthusiast hobbyist or seasoned star expert. We’ve included many options below, from budget scopes available in the hundred-dollar range all the way to professional-grade setups that go for over $1,000. These are the best telescopes available for the average consumer today, and we’re sure no matter your budget or experience level you’ll be able to find something that works.
What to Consider Before Buying a Telescope
- Budget: Telescopes are not cheap, especially ones made for adults to use and hobbyists to enjoy. The higher you go in price, the more you’ll be able to see and the clearer your shots will be. However, you can also get a solid introductory telescope for a few hundred dollars. There are very few options below $500 that are worth sneezing at, so beware this is a more expensive product category in general. Assess how much you’re willing to spend, and you’ll quickly be able to make a decision.
- Space: No, we don’t mean THAT space. We mean the space in your home you’ve got to dedicate to a telescope! Some of these apparatuses are quite large, so be sure you’ve got enough room if you’re going to splurge on a large machine. There are also plenty of slim, collapsible or even desktop models as well.
In addition, before buying your first telescrope, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with Key Telescope Terminology. Here are a few key terms that are important to know, as you research the best telescope for you.
- Aperture: The diameter of the aperture of a telescope allows more or less light into the eyepiece while you’re gazing, we recommend a bigger aperture for being able to see deep into the night when skies are dark and clear.
- Focal Length: This is the distance within the telescope between the main optic point and where the image is formed and can be viewed. Shorter focal lengths give you a wider field of view but the objects are smaller, longer will give you more magnification, but you won’t be able to see as much.
- Magnification: Without getting too technical, magnification equals focal length divided by eyepiece focal length, and you’ll want to aim for at least 50x magnification.
- Alt-Azimuth mount (Alt-az): This is the mount that enables the user to control the movement of the telescope.
1. Gskyer Astronomical 70mm Refracting Telescope
This telescope has a 400-millimeter focal length as well as a 70-millimeter aperture, and a fully coated optic glass lens for transmitting crystal clear, stunning images that also protect your eyes. It comes with two replaceable eyepieces, a 5×24 finder scope and a mounting bracket with cross-hair lines to make finding objects easier. The telescope has an AZ mount that makes moving it around easier, and an adjustable alloy tripod for setting it up in just the right spot.
Why We Chose It: We’ve written about Gskyer telescopes before on SPY. Are they the best telescopes in the world? No, but we do think they’re the best telescope for most people thanks to the combination of nifty features and a beginner-friendly price
2. Celestron 70mm Portable Refractor Telescope
Sometimes, the best star gazing happens in a remote location you’ve got to travel to. Whether it’s the middle of New Zealand for a solar eclipse or a mountaintop for the full moon, your telescope very well may need to join you in a remote location. This one is perfect for that. It’s got a lightweight frame that’s easy to carry and a 70mm objective lens for zooming in. It comes with a 20mm and 10mm eyepiece for viewing, as well as a full-height tripod and a travel backpack designed to be taken anywhere.
3. Celestron 203mm NexStar 8SE Telescope
Celestron’s iconic orange tube design is infamous in the telescope world of stargazing aficionados both for its look and its superior performance. Of course, this telescope also has a much higher price tag than other options on this list, so we recommend this for more experienced stargazers who are very passionate about the past time. It’s got an 8-inch primary mirror for light-gathering abilities as well as a fully-automated mount. It’s got a database of more than 40,000 celestial objects and can automatically locate and track them for you. It’s got a single fork arm design that’s easy to set up and take down, and the SkyAlign technology can get it ready and aligned in just a few minutes.
4. Hexeum Astronomical Portable 80mm Refracting Telescope
AMAZON BEST SELLER
The low price point and ease of use make this one of the best telescopes for beginners. It’s designed for the whole family to use and features two replaceable eyepieces for the best possible views. The unit is portable (it comes with its own carrying case) and can be remote controlled wirelessly, plus there’s a phone adapter and adjustable tripod so you can also capture amazing photos. We like that it sets up in a matter of minutes and that you can magnify objects up to 180 times, making this an invaluable tool for family nights outdoors.
5. Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope
BEST FOR MOON VIEWING
This telescope is designed to be entry-level and perfect for beginners, as it’s easy to use but simultaneously powerful. It’s got a manual German mount and a Newtonian Reflector design. Plus there’s a slow-motion altitude rod for smooth, accurate pointing, and it’s compact and lightweight, making it portable. It comes with two different eyepieces, 20-millimeters and 4-millimeters, as well as a 3x Barlow lens for tripling the power of each one if you’d like. This telescope is also built for equally clear image viewing during the day and night.
This 127mm telescope is more powerful than the telescopes for beginners featured above but less powerful than some advanced models. While it’s not quite advanced enough for serious astrophotography, it’s an ideal telescope for viewing the moon.
6. Orion 10022 StarMax Tabletop Telescope
This telescope is built for being placed on a desk or tabletop rather than needing a whole corner or deck of space, so if you need something compact it’s a great pick. It’s got a “grab-and-go” design and weighs just 6.5 pounds. It’s got a 90-millimeter aperture to gather just enough light to capture star clusters, nebulas and other bright solar systems. It’s got a sturdy tabletop base but can also be attached to a tripod, and it’s got an EZ Finder II reflex sight that makes aiming easier.
7. Orion 09007 SpaceProbe 130ST
Whether you’re searching for planets and the moon or nebulas and star clusters, this reflector telescope is designed to gather enough light to give you breathtaking views. The unit weighs less than 30 pounds and is small enough to easily transport to your favorite star-gazing site. The equatorial telescope mount allows manual, slow-motion tracking of objects as they migrate across the sky. This telescope is best for adults, but once set up, kids can certainly get a good view of cool objects as well.
8. Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refractor Telescope
BEST FOR ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY
This telescope is made to integrate with your smartphone so you can take beautiful astronomical images easily. It’s got an easy setup, with a foldable accessory tray, smooth tripod legs and a lock knob. Plug in the built-in smartphone adapter and you’re good to go. It’s got an asymmetrical mount that offers a stable weight distribution and great light, and it comes with a red LED flashlight so you can make adjustments in the dark if need be.
9. Sky-Watcher Flextube 300 SynScan Aperture Telescope
This is one of the most expensive, high-ticket telescopes we found, but if you’re a professional looking to drop some serious coin on a machine that’ll give you crystal clear images, this is it. It’s built with a large aperture for bright, bold images, and it’s got a collapsible design so you can transport it a bit easier. It weighs almost 100 pounds, so it’s a heavy machine and not built for portability, but the design is as accommodating as possible.
It’s made with 94% reflective, multi-coated borosilicate primary and secondary mirrors for amazing views, and it’s got a 42,000 object database that can automatically route to a whole bunch of locations in the solar system. It comes with two eyepieces and a finder scope as well.
10. The Automatic Star Aligning Telescope
BEST FAMILY TELESCOPE
Are you looking for a telescope to use with your children? Stargazing can be an excellent way to bond with your kids and encourage their interest in science. Fortunately, you don’t need to be a master photographer yourself to start stargazing as a family. The National Geographic Automatic Star Aligning Telescope is great for beginners and young people because it will automatically align with thousands of celestial bodies.
11. Meade Instruments Polaris 127mm Portable Reflecting Astronomy Telescope
Another great telescope for beginners, the Polaris 127 comes with all the accessories you need to rock your galaxy. The telescope includes various magnification eyepieces for a variety of viewing situations and includes an equatorial mount for slow-motion tracking and viewing. Once you get the hang of this telescope, you can also make use of Meade’s optional add-ons, like the 6mm eyepiece that some users have added in order to see as far as Saturn’s rings.
12. Celestron EdgeHD Optical Tubes
BEST FOR ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY
Astrophotography isn’t the kind of hobby you can casually jump into, and it will require a more advanced understanding of optics, astronomy and photography. However, if you’re serious about finding the best telescopes for astrophotography, then you should be prepared to spend several thousands of dollars. Unlike most of the telescopes on this list, the advanced Celestron Edge HD line of optical tubes doesn’t come with their own mounts or tripods, and you’ll need to buy your own motorized tripod. This kind of customized setup will allow you to create long-exposure astrophotography and capture truly unique images of the night sky.
You can learn more about these optical tubes at the Celestron website, and you can also purchase them online.