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From wilderness lovers who enjoy spending free time outdoors taking in the natural scenery to those who look to the sky and wish they could get a little bit closer to the moon, stars and planets, a refracting telescope is a must-have item. A refracting telescope is available in a wide variety of price points, magnification levels, and sizes, which means it’s easy to find the model that fits your needs and will make you feel like an explorer.
A refracting telescope works by refracting or bending light. First created in the early 17th century, refracting telescopes have an objective lens that works with an eyepiece to gather more light than is possible by the naked eye alone. The lens focuses this light, with the refraction creating parallel light rays that converge at the same focal point, so that the non-parallel beams of light land on a focal plane. The two groups of light make angles, and the ratio between the two angles creates an angular magnification that makes the area users see through the viewfinder appear significantly larger.
Refracting telescopes can be large enough to fill an entire observatory or compact enough to be carried in a backpack and set up on a balcony. We’ve rounded up the best refracting telescopes that aren’t quite large enough to warrant their own observatory but still deliver a stunning view.
1. Celestron AstroMaster Newtonian Reflector Telescope
The Celestron AstroMaster Newtonian Reflector Telescope is perfect for those who are new to telescopes and for those who are more experienced. This telescope has high-quality 130mm optics, making it perfect to see the constellations. Coming with an option for just the telescope or with the smart phone adapter, this telescope is efficient.
Pros: Comes with a two year warranty and technical support.
Cons: Most expensive on our list.
2. TELMU Telescope
The Telmu has a 400 mm focal length and 70 mm aperture that captures a clear picture for users. Designed for students and beginners, the Telmu includes two Keller eyepieces (K6mm/16X, K25/67X) to be used in conjunction with the 5 x 24 scope finder. The scope finder contains a mounting bracket and cross-lines that make it easy to locate specific targets. The Telmu includes a smartphone attachment, carrying case and tripod, which has a low beginning height of 17.7 inches, making it an excellent option for using on a desk or table.
Pros: The Telmu includes a hook on the bottom of the tripod that allows users to hang weights to provide added balance and security, which is a great benefit when using outdoors in windy conditions.
Cons: The Telmu tripod has a max height of 35.4 inches, which is shorter than the Gskyer’s 49-inch tripod. Unlike the Gskyer, the Telmu does not come with a remote for the smartphone feature.
3. Orion SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector Telescope
The Orion features a 5.1-inch aperture that is designed to pull in ample light and give users a clear and bright view of the night sky, including galaxies, nebulas, and star clusters. The Orion has a short 24-inch optical tube and fast f/5 focal ratio that creates a wide field of vision. Packaged with an equatorial telescope mount and adjustable tripod (balance weight included), users can smoothly pan while looking through the two 1.25-inch Sirius Plossl eyepieces (25mm and 10mm) and 6 x 30 finder scope. The Orion comes with all the tools necessary for assembly.
Pros: The Orion comes with Starry Night software that teaches you how to find specific constellations.
Cons: The Orion has the biggest price tag on our list. It also doesn’t come with the same bonuses at other models, including a carrying case and smartphone adapter.