Finding the best telescope isn’t just about what’s popular, but it is heavily dependent on what fits within your budget and what is good for you long term. Several variables come into play with this, and that is where this telescope reviews guide will be beneficial to those that are interested in meeting these challenges. This telescope guide will act as your all in one source for finding the perfect telescope for either yourself or another individual. It covers all levels, all important models, and most importantly it covers features that take care of the consumer. Without further ado here is our list with the top telescopes that will hopefully help you from top to bottom.
- Orion 10012 SkyScanner
- Brand: Orion
- Dimensions: 14 x 9.5 x 9.5 inches
- Aperture modes: 100-150mm
- Weight: 9.75 pounds shipping
- Celestron 21061 AstroMaster 70AZ
- Brand: Celestron
- Dimensions: 3.94 x 5.12 x 14.96 inches
- Aperture modes: Not specified
- Weight: 17.99 pounds
- Orion 10033 FunScope
- Brand: Orion
- Dimensions: 13.5 x 8 x 8 inches
- Aperture modes: Under 80mm
- Weight: 7.15 pounds
- Orion Observer 60mm AZ
- Brand: Orion
- Dimensions: Not specified
- Aperture modes: N/A
- Weight: N/A
Orion 10012 SkyScanner 100mm TableTop Reflector Telescope
Medium priced and a great bargain for under 200, the Orion 10012 SkyScanner 100mm TableTop Reflector Telescope takes advantage of the many upgraded features of the other series in Orion’s lineup. The end result is a very solid telescope for under 200, and one that is reliable enough to be a long term solution for several users. It also has going for it portability so that you can use it at home in your backyard or on the road with other stargazers.
It has a 100mm parabolic primary mirror optic that can view the stars as well as products twice the price. There are no special gadgets needed to boost the power of that 100mm and it does more than an admirable job at getting deep space details. They used a fully glass lens which is why it is so dominant, so it remains sharp even if you don’t add accessories. Accessories included are two 1.25 telescope eyepieces in 20mm and 10mm sizes. Then there is also the Starry Night astronomy software and the EZ Finder II aiming device. It’s everything you need to get started with stargazing, and with enough power to satisfy different levels for years.
Celestron 21061 AstroMaster 70AZ Refractor Telescope
Under 200 at the medium price range and around the same price as the Orion, the Celestron 21061 AstroMaster 70AZ Refractor Telescope is a better choice if you’re looking specifically for a refractor telescope. Refractor telescopes are completely different than reflectors, so doing your homework in this regard will help you decide whether or not the Orion or Celestron model is perfect for you.
The AstroMaster is also available in version 90AZ if you crave more power, and it also is available for under 200. The key to the design of both is their supreme durability as they can withstand a lot of damage and wear and tear that other telescopes can’t. The no tool setup is insanely easy, and it only weighs 18 pounds once it is fully assembled. Mounted to the scope is a StarPointer that will let you center things and become more accurate. As an added feature there is a quick release dovetail mount, but most users won’t be using this unless they pack up and down the telescope a lot during the week. The diameter of the optical lens is 2.6 inches, so expect to get a nice, wide, deep view of the galaxy. Worth a lot more than 200, this is one telescope that will be talked about for a long time.
Orion 10033 FunScope 76mm TableTop Reflector Telescope Moon Kit
When it comes to kids and telescopes then size makes a big difference for getting them started. The Orion 10033 FunScope 76mm TableTop Reflector Telescope Moon Kit is not only the perfect size, but it is also the perfect all in one telescope for kids to get them started. Part of a series that is built on innovation, the FunScope does not try to hide its humble beginnings. This particular model is small and made for desktop and travel use. Low priced and only 4 pounds in weight, it still features a powerful 76mm optic that can transfer up to 60% more light than traditional telescopes.
Where the product earns it stripes for kids is the inclusion of a lot of kid friendly beginner material. The Orion MoonMap 260 kids will be able to explore the moon fully and get detailed information on particular points of interest. Going beyond the Moon they will even be able to see distant star clusters and nebulas without any additional power. With dimensions of 8x8x13.5, this is one of the smallest telescopes on the market that doesn’t sacrifice performance in order to get its size. This will work well for kids that have an interest in stargazing, and all without dinging your wallet.
Orion Observer 60mm AZ Refractor & Starter Kit
If looking for something a bit more traditional than the FunScope, then the Orion Observer 60mm AZ Refractor & Starter Kit should fit the bill quite nicely. Low priced and full featured, it comes bundled with the Star Target planisphere round star chart. Learning how to use it is essential, and once you get everything down you’ll be able to know what important points are in the sky at any point during the year. With that knowledge in place, stargazing becomes a lot easier for the beginning astronomer.
Just like the last Orion product, the MoonMap 260 is included and does a great job of pointing out all of the juicy details that can be seen on the surface of the Moon. Best use comes when you combine the MoonMap 260 software with the others in order to get stellar results. And to compliment all of those products is the information filled Astronomy book that has all of the terms, knowledge and pictures that a beginner will ever need. Although a bit less powerful than the FunScope, it is still a great product with a 60mm refractor using two coated 1.25 eyepieces made of fully glass lens. Trying to decide between these two options for kids will be hard, as the Observer is another addition to an already great series.
- Meade Instruments 209001
- Brand: Meade
- Dimensions: 52 x 39 x 39 inches
- Aperture modes: 50mm(2")
- Weight: 5.65 pounds
- Orion 27194 XT8 Classic
- Brand: Orion
- Dimensions: 22.5 x 22.5 x 50.5 inches
- Aperture modes: 203mm (8")
- Weight: 57.25 pounds shipping
- Celestron NexStar 8 SE
- Brand: Celestron
- Dimensions: 12.99 x 23.66 x 42.01 inches
- Aperture modes: over-200mm
- Weight: 16 pounds
- Orion 09007 SpaceProbe 130ST
- Brand: Orion
- Dimensions: 51 x 24 x 24 inches
- Aperture modes: 100-150mm
- Weight: 36.7 pounds
Meade Instruments 209001 Infinity 50 AZ Refractor Telescope
Meade Instruments isn’t a name you’ll hear a lot in the telescope sector, but they are very much a good buy. The low priced of their options is the Meade Instruments 209001 Infinity 50 AZ Refractor Telescope, tailored from the ground up for beginners. It comes in blue and has a very traditional feel to it, but also does a good job of just being a good all-around telescope. You can see both the planets and the stars, and all without any confusing configuration options that sometimes takes up to half an hour on other scopes.
The tradeoff is deep space viewing is limited, but as a beginner telescope it is really golden at enhancing that particular experience. You’ll get an aperture of 50mm and a focal ratio of f/12 to really draw in those crisp images at night. The Rack and Pinion focuser is a great value by itself, and really makes up the meat and potatoes of this telescope. You can change the magnification settings to high, medium or low based on your preferences. They bundled in an instruction DVD with astronomy software and 2x Barlow lenses for extra power. For something a little different that touches on all the things a beginner needs, this is going to be the telescope that gets it done.
Orion 27194 XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope
The Orion 27194 XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope is a high priced option for beginners that want to be a step ahead of others in their same category when it comes to power, ease of use, and features. An incredible 203mm aperture will let you see things other telescopes can’t even get in their view, with a wide enough angle that you don’t lose specific focus. The focal length is 1200mm, so expect clear and easy to decipher images that will leave you breathless. The included point and view system makes things easier on the beginner so that they don’t have a hard time finding a planet in space.
The entire set comes with a 2x Shorty Barlow Lens, the incredible Stargazers Toolkit, and a small LED light. It is the ultimate beginner set that contains everything but the kitchen sink. The Stargazers toolkit alone will give you countless hours of information that will contain many helpful tips on getting the most out of the telescope. If all of your questions aren’t answered by the time you go through the kit, the Orion website and forum is more than helpful and diligent when it comes to finding answers. For buyers that are willing to spend a little more money, then this will come as the best option for beginners.
Celestron NexStar 8 SE Telescope
Celestron doesn’t pull any punches with the high priced Celestron NexStar 8 SE Telescope, which comes close to being over 1,000 but manages to sneak underneath. Don’t get fooled by the price of the telescope though, as it is easily worth double the asking price. Available in styles of 4 inches, 5 inches, 6 inches and 8 inches, it covers a wide variety of users and power ranges without stripping each individual option of what makes it special.
The Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope with Starbright XLT transmission coatings are the same quality that experts use in some of their scopes. There is built in configuration software that uses StarPointer to get you exactly what you need. If you use it with SkyAlign it’ll lock onto your zip code and be able to center itself so you’ll always know where everything is no matter where you are in the world. Set up and break down of the telescope is quick if you use it on the road, as it uses a quick release fork arm mount. This is going to be a big winner for the price they are asking, as you can’t go wrong with the technical specs. As long as you take the time to learn the product it will be one of the best purchases you ever made.
Orion 09007 SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector Telescope
Big and powerful, the medium priced Orion 09007 SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector Telescope is one of the better choices form the famed SpaceProbe series. It doesn’t try to hide its grandiose features nor does it shy away from competing with brands twice its price. The 5.1 inch aperture reflector telescope collects a lot of light on its own so that views of planets and stars come in clear. You won’t get blurry images if you use the correct settings, and there is little chance that something you want to see is out of reach of this telescope.
Using a large 24 inch optical tube and f/5 focal ratio people at stargazing parties will have a hard time keeping up with what this product can do. Smooth manual slow motion tracking built into the mount and tripod offer a better experience than other manual motion telescopes. The steadiness of all the mechanics working together should provide a better experience for all levels. Total weight of the product is 27 pounds and it includes 2 1.25 inch Sirius Plossl eyepieces and a 6×30 finder scope. It also has a 1.25 rack and pinion focuser and an expansive tripod accessory tray. If looking at this product and the last, it becomes pretty hazy which is the better deal. If you decide to go with the SpaceProbe, you’ll still come out ahead.
- Celestron COSMOS 90GT
- Brand: Celestron
- Dimensions: 37 x 57 x 37 inches
- Aperture modes: 90 mm
- Weight: 13.2 pounds
- Orion Limited Edition SkyQuest XT8
- Brand: Orion
- Dimensions: N/A
- Aperture modes: over-200mm
- Weight: N/A
- Orion 10066 StarSeeker
- Brand: Orion
- Dimensions: 52.5 x 8 x 11 inches
- Aperture modes: 80mm-90mm
- Weight: 18.05 pounds
- Celestron EdgeHD 1100 CGEM
- Brand: Celestron
- Dimensions: N/A
- Aperture modes: N/A
- Weight: 160 pounds shipping
Celestron COSMOS 90GT WiFi Telescope
If you want to be at the forefront of telescope technology then the high priced Celestron COSMOS 90GT WiFi Telescope is about the most advanced on the list. It is the first to introduce Wi-Fi features, and it integrates them beautifully. Using an IPhone, IPad, or Android device lets you operate the telescope using their free COSMOS Celestron Navigator app. It’s easy and intuitive, and best of all it is free with no extra cost or IAP! Using the app with the telescope enhances accuracy and gives you full control of one of the most powerful telescopes on the market.
The telescope comes as a collector’s edition, and features a COSMOS eye nebula badging with a 3D Spaceship on the fork arm. It isn’t distracting at all, and fits the profile great. The telescope itself has a 90mm refractor with full coated glass optics rather than the cheap plastic ones that a lot of lesser telescopes come with. It doesn’t matter if you’re viewing stationary or moving objects, this is the telescope that can follow them hassle free without taxing the user with bad movement. One of the best, this is a collector’s edition item that you don’t want to miss out on.
Orion Limited Edition SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Bundle
If looking for something more traditional when it comes to looking and following comets, then the high priced Orion Limited Edition SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Bundle comes with just about everything you need to find and follow comets. This is a limited edition bundle with 8 inch aperture and a tube colored a distinct ruby red. There will be no mistaken this telescope when you see it with a bunch of others, as it does stand out from the crowd. Included with the package is a 35mm DeepView 2 inch telescope eyepiece with a 1.25 inch Shorty Barlow lens.
It offers a complete configuration package that is second to none when used correctly. But don’t let the deep customization fool you, Orion kept everything simple and in laymen terms for everyone to understand. The light gathering is automatic and gets a good amount in so that you don’t have to fight for the best picture. So pictures that usually show up blurry in other telescopes will be vibrant and detailed in this product. Whether home or away, you can expect the highest quality when stargazing. If the high tech route isn’t your thing then try the SkyQuest XT8 and you’ll be surprised with just how versatile it really is.
Orion 10066 StarSeeker III 90mm GoTo Mak-Cass Telescope
Surprisingly only around mid-price, the Orion 10066 StarSeeker III 90mm GoTo Mak-Cass Telescope is a rare model that combines features with ease of use, all in one low cost package. This is while including a keen set of electronic mechanism built into the unit and being portable. Enhancements such as the GoTo database gives you the information of the entire galaxy at your fingertips. The database is filled with over 42,000 objects for you to become familiar with.
The telescope itself is a 90mm Maksutov-Cassegrain design that has the power of the more expensive scopes without the larger size. It’s sneaky powerful and doesn’t depend on accessories to stack on and provide that extra power. Since it can automatically track an object, once you find what you want you can leave the rest up to the superior electronics of the scope itself. There are 10mm and 25mm 1.25 inch eyepieces and an optional EZ Finder II reflex sight. All of these comes to a base unit weight of only 10.7 pounds, so prepare to make this your road buddy if you travel a lot. Astrophotography doesn’t have to be a headache, and with the Starseeker III you have a friend on the inside.
Celestron EdgeHD 1100 CGEM Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope
The EdgeHD series is full of a lot of winners, but none are as outstanding as the high priced EdgeHD 1100 CGEM. The 1100 CGEM is one of the more sought after in the series, and not just for its long laundry list of features. It has a large 11 inch aperture that improves on the previous advancement in the series and lets you see more of the galaxy without compromising detail. Flat focal planes are of high astrograph quality and are not emulated so you get the best experience possible.
Image shift is reduced with built in safety measures so that you don’t have to do a massive amount of configuration changes every time you see something interesting. The included mount is rock solid and the cooling vent on the rear cell will keep the optics clean and fog free despite the weather. Optional features like the tension clutches fine tunes performance in less than ideal conditions while the massive 160 pound weight ensures that durability will never be a question. It is one of the heaviest available, if not the heaviest. Even though it isn’t travel friendly, it is hard to imagine another telescope that has as detailed a view as this model.
- Bushnell Astronomical Voyager
- Brand: Bushnell
- Dimensions: 10 x 29.6 x 7 inches
- Aperture modes: N/A
- Weight: 11.7 pounds
- Celestron Omni XLT
- Brand: Celestron
- Dimensions: 10 x 10 x 53 inches
- Aperture modes: N/A
- Weight: 64.85 pounds
- Meade Instruments 20130
- Brand: Meade
- Dimensions: 16 x 13 x 37 inches
- Aperture modes: N/A
- Weight: 19 pounds
- Celestron 127EQ
- Brand: Celestron
- Dimensions: 11 x 17 x 33 inches
- Aperture modes: 100-150mm
- Weight: 25.93 pounds shipping
Bushnell Astronomical Voyager with Sky Tour 800mm x 70mm Refractor Telescope
Bushnell has been in the optics business for a very long time, but not when it comes to telescopes. So when they introduced the Bushnell Astronomical Voyager with Sky Tour 800mm x 70mm Refractor Telescope it entered the market to rave reviews. It is priced at the medium price point and comes available in both 60mm and 70mm versions, with both have a precise and clear optic that puts its competitors to shame. With that being said, the 60mm version is just as powerful as some companies 70mm version, so don’t let the size fool you with a Bushnell product.
There is a very professional look to the telescope, and it includes bonus features like an LCD handset and LED red dot finder scope all out of the box. A unique feature to the Bushnell brand of telescopes is the illuminate smart mount that no other company on the list has delivered at the current price. Night time usage is a lot better when you can actually see what you’re doing. With the advanced features of the scope you will not only find your target faster but you’ll be able to track it a lot smoother. Don’t sleep on this refractor scope, as it has a lot to offer all levels of users.
Celestron Omni XLT 150 Refractor Telescope
Celestron enters the list again, showing off their Omni XLT 150 Refractor Telescope that is possible one of the most expensive in the market. But beyond the build quality and features there are a lot of cool things that are offered with this model. Included in the box is a 6x30mm LER Finderscope and a 25mm 1.25 eyepiece that comes in as one of the higher end versions rather than the throw in kinds. This isn’t just an eyepiece they included in the box to satisfy accessory requirements, and you’ll see that when you first use it.
An equally impressive tripod with a 4 pound counterweight stays steady in unfavorable conditions, but is light enough to not be a hassle when you truly want to move it. The tray built into the tripod is a little roomier than others and allows you to hold more objects than normal. And with StarBright XLT coatings natural light is grabbed at a higher rate so that images come out at their highest potential. With 20mm eye relief the field of view is about 50, and the German Equatorial mount is the best on the list and even includes setting circles. Strong, steady and reliable, this is one of the best refractor telescopes for your money.
Meade Instruments 20130 StarNavigator 130-Millimeter Reflector Telescope with AudioStar
Hovering at around the middle price range is the Meade Instruments 20130 StarNavigator 130-Millimeter Reflector Telescope, a powerhouse portable option for those that just want the best reflector available. It has a 130 millimeter aperture with 1,000 millimeter focal length. That includes a focal ratio of f/7.7, so power isn’t something that is lacking in this product. The included mount is motorized so you’ll get the best comet chasing abilities out of the box and a tripod that is made to be stable.
Software included is AutoStar and accessories are 2 1.25 inch eyepieces that give you a wider view of the galaxy. Buyers will get a full 1 year limited warranty that provides great support if you ever need it, and wait time is relatively low for even non warranty purposes. Weight of the entire unit is 25 pounds, giving it great durability for the long-term. Dimensions of the product are about 37x13x16, and is small enough when packed to fit just about anywhere. Eight AA batteries are required but are not included, so make sure to load up on those even though they last a while even if they are not alkaline. A surprising superstar in reflector telescopes, don’t let this good deal pass you up.
Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker Telescope
Available in multiple models, there is something for everyone with this particular telescope. The Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker Telescope has a one model fits all policy and gives buyers the choice of buying one that meets their specifications for use. Available models are 114EQ Newtonian, 127EQ Newtonian, 60EQ Refractor, 70EQ Refractor and 80EQ Refractor. Items include a 3x Barlow lens for maximum magnification and a German Equatorial mount.
Considering this is a low priced telescope, it is surprising to see a mount of such high quality that also provides a good telescope that offers high quality images through the lens. Aperture is a cool 127mm with a 1000 focal length, so power is definitely a strong suit of this series. The tripod is made of aluminum and it comes with an accessory tray that is average in size. Don’t let the aluminum tripod ward you off, as it is very strong and holds up well on uneven surfaces. Dimensions of the product are 11x17x33 inches and the weight is only 25 pounds in total. It is one of the more portable reflector telescopes, no matter which iteration you decide to go with. They also bundled in “The Sky” Level 1 planetarium software, and as a standalone it is one of their most popular sellers. If you want a little variety when it comes to buying a reflector telescope, then the PowerSeeker was built for all.
The best telescope isn’t always going to be the most expensive telescope. Just because a telescope is expensive that doesn’t mean that you are going to get a better deal, even if it is from a name brand company. The big takeaway from expensive telescopes are the extras that come with the product rather than the product itself. A good example of this are beginner sets that come with a range of accessories, books, online help, longer manuals, and even software. The user is paying a premium price to have all of the beginner tools in one product as a ‘kit’, while if it wasn’t included then they would probably be paying half the price. This is true for most models of telescopes that are sold as kits or come with a lot of extras.
But don’t look at it the wrong way, as those extras are discounted and would cost a lot if you purchased them separately on their own. Expensive ‘kits’ are a good way for a company to move a lot of product that is beneficial to the customer, and all in one package. The only customers that should turn their nose at such collaborations are expert and professional astronomers, as they don’t need any of the extras. In the rare case the customer is just replacing an old or broken telescope, then they also don’t need these kits and can get a barebones telescope. The great thing about the price differences is that they give the consumer a choice, but that choice won’t mean anything if you aren’t aware of why they’re priced that way to begin with. There is no point in avoiding telescope kit if you’re just going to eventually purchase the materials separately on your own. Try not to overthink it, and if you see accessories included with a product that you want then go for the whole package-why not?
Bigger Benefit; Refractor or Reflector?
If money isn’t an option, then going for a reflecting telescope is usually going to be the brightest option. Refracting is the way to go if you want to save some money, or if you are purchasing it as a second telescope. More professionals use reflecting telescopes, so that right there is going to be the main draw of anyone that wants to take astronomy seriously. They have less image faults than refracting telescopes, and with the way they manipulate and bend light they give a perfect 1:1 image when it comes to looking at the galaxy. Since they are used widely in research by professionals, they have a longer history of innovation.
This means you are more likely to see a new feature in a reflecting telescope than in a refracting telescope, where the latter will get it much later in its lifespan. This has led to a lot of debate about whether the refracting models can be reimagined for better update support. Reflecting telescopes also have a better way of correcting their own errors, often having a built in feature that handles image correction on the fly. The only fault of a reflecting telescope is going to be its durability, in which case refractor telescopes are the better option.
Do Accessories Make A Difference?
Accessories make a difference only based on your level and your purchase reason. The breakdown goes like this; Experts and professionals don’t need the extra accessories like books, software or even extra scopes, lens or finders. This is because they already have the items left over from previous products, so much that they could probably give away a bag full of it. Experts and professionals are concerned with one thing, and one thing only; the telescope and its performance. So purchasing a good telescope with a lot of accessories versus a great telescope with no accessories is a no brainer for this group, and also ends up saving them a lot of money by doing so. Why purchase accessories that you aren’t going to use? This also applies to groups of all levels that ends up buying a secondary telescope to back up their current one. Getting an accessory heavy telescope as a secondary unit makes no sense. Saving that extra money on the secondary by purchasing a bare unit will save money to the point they can use it to spruce up their main scope.
But in the eyes of kids, hobbyists, beginners and intermediates, the more accessories included the better. Buying a telescope without accessories for this group isn’t recommended, and if you hand a kid a telescope with no documentation then you’re going to be in for a long week. The learning tools provided with telescopes are perfect for these groups, and accessories like the EZ Finder II are essential in providing a complete experience when they want to look at the stars. Buyers in this group can get all of this with a bit of a discount, and a pretty admirable telescope included in the package. It’ll be everything they need to get started, and for the first couple of years.
Finding the Right Accessories
Not all accessories are created equal. A good example of this is how some can be incompatible when you start using them across multiple products, even within the same company. To get around this you can always check for compatibility issues, but the easiest way is to find an upgrade path that uses the same type of accessories. Finding the correct accessories becomes a lot easier when you stay within the series that it was meant for. But in order to do this you have to choose the correct telescope from the start and star with it for the duration of the series, which for some can be a bit of a slog.
Some people find something that they like a lot better than the current equipment and in the end the leave not only the series, but the brand. In this case not all is lost, but it does get a bit more difficult. Checking to see which lenses and updates from your last telescope will be compatible with the new one may save you a bit of money in the long run. But for the ultimate hassle free reusing of the accessories experience, you should definitely consider staying within the series of your first telescope if possible.
Understanding User Levels
Telescopes are more user friendly to the customer if they are bought with their specific level in mind. Grouping a customer by level isn’t a bad thing, and is very important since a bad user experience can sour the customer on future telescope products. Here is a breakdown by user level, with further insight into what they should be looking for most. The hobbyist is the most versatile of all of the groups, because they can use just about any telescope they want. The hobbyist just chooses whatever accomplishes the task the best, so they can either go by price, features, or brand favoritism.
The beginner is probably going to be the strictest level, and should always stick to telescopes that are considered ‘kits’ or come with a lot of starter material. The more reading material and software that is included with the product the better the telescope is for the beginner. Unfortunately the last thing you want to do is hand a telescope with no documentation over to a beginner. Not only would they struggle with learning the basic concepts, but they would spend more time researching how to properly use it and find planets. This would kill the beginning user experience, and turn them off of astronomy. You should also consider purchasing a well-known series for the beginning so that they have a clear upgrade path.A clear upgrade path means that materials within the same series can get reused as they get more comfortable using more powerful telescopes.
Intermediate users are the second most flexible group, since there are intermediate users that are just coming out of the beginner category and intermediate users that are more advanced. With these users you have a little bit of flexibility when it comes to purchasing a telescope. Just be mindful of how far up or down they are in the intermediate status, and you won’t have any troubles picking out a great telescope for them. Just like the hobbyist the margin for error is clearer than the other groups, giving you plenty of options to consider when you need to make a gift purchase.
Experts and professionals are the hardest group to buy for, but there is one thing for sure with this group; never buy a set that has a bunch of beginner, starter, or software bundles. This level only cares about the telescope itself and not the extras, so putting the money towards getting the highest quality telescope possible is a must. Buying for this group will also give you the best value, since all of the materials included will be of the highest quality possible. Deals for this group are always the best and meant to be twice as powerful and durable than others.
Things to Look At During Night
It doesn’t always have to be a clear night, but it does help if you want to get the most out of your product. The Moon is the most popular option, and is considered to be the earth’s natural satellite. This is going to be the closest option for any person with a telescope, since you can also see it without one. Looking at the Moon through a telescope gives a dazzling display of detail and the power of the telescope. Many of the beginner and intermediate kits have Moon maps or other documentation that give a good amount of data to go through when looking at the Moon. So while Moon maps may be corny for some of the more experienced users, for new users it is essential for finding all of the cool spots on the Moon. It is the most readily observed object in the night sky, and looks great whether you look at it with your eyes or your telescope. Remember that the Moon has many phases, so it never gets boring trying to nail down the one of a kind look that the Moon gives off.
Jupiter is a giant planet (or star, depending on which studies you follow!) that is so gigantic that it is probably the second easiest to see through a telescope. It is not as bright as the Moon but has an eerie glow to it, almost like a giant sandstorm rolled into a ball. That is probably due to a storm that has been raging for years on the planet that it looks like that, with cloud belts that have a mind of their own. But the most interesting thing about Jupiter is that it has its own Moons. These moons are sometimes not always viewable at the same time, and depending on which part of the year or time you look at it, you may be able to catch all of Jupiter’s secrets. This makes it an interesting find for all types of users, as you never know what you’re going to see when you observe it. For an object that is more than 630 million km away from earth, that isn’t half bad!
M42, or better known as the Orion Nebula is one of the prettiest sights for the eyes, and even a better treat when you look at it through a telescope. This assortment of stars contains new ones being born every day, emitting their dust and creating a spectacular sight for all to see. One of these great sights is a quadruple star called the Trapezium, but does require a fairly good telescope to fully appreciate. Although it hasn’t been confirmed yet, there may be evidence of a black hole within the same area. This would be an exciting discovery from a telescope in your backyard if you’ve got the time.
Galaxies like the Andromeda and Triangulum are best observed from the northern hemisphere. In the Northern hemisphere you’ll get a good view of M31, or the Andromeda galaxy. It’s the same size as our galaxy, so when looking at it through a telescope, trying to imagine the scale of it is really fun. It’s the closest galaxy to ours that is that large, and in about 4 billion years it will collide with our galaxy. But who knows what will happen in 4 billion years right? M33 is about the third largest galaxy when you include M31 and our galaxy. It is three million light years away and is double the size of the Moon. It has some of the more interesting patterns, and when viewed at a certain angle has just as many secrets as the Moon.
Things to Look At During the Day
While some telescopes allow you to view daytime images right out of the box, there are a few that requires extra accessories. But daytime viewing with a telescope is a very real thing. The sun is the first thing that comes to mind, and is a surprise for most people since viewing the sun extensively with your eyes can cause damage. But there are filters for telescopes that actually allow you to observe the sun without worrying about that damage. These are either built in, come with the set, or are an inexpensive purchase. The sun has a lot of history behind it and is more than just some big bright light. It has a laundry list of atmospheric effects that are just as interesting as what you would see when viewing the night sky.
The Moon in the daytime? You bet! Not a lot of people know that the Moon is viewable in the daytime sky, even though it tends to hide a lot depending on where you are at the time. Many might notice that the Moon in the daytime is sometimes a beautiful crescent shape, and can be one of the really nice things to miss in daytime telescope observing if you don’t pay attention.
Venus is a planet that can be seen in the daytime, but requires everything to be just right in order to do so. Because the daytime is so bright, it becomes that much harder to view one of the brightest planets in the galaxy. With it blending in with the rest of the light, things get considerably harder. But you can and will spot Venus as a tiny white dot in the daytime sky, a big difference from what you would see at night.
What about manmade objects like satellites in the daytime sky? Although it is better to see these at night, the fast moving satellites are always a fun find when you get them within the crosshairs of your telescope. But the only satellite you can view in daytime goes by the name of Iridium, thanks to its reflective surface. When you happen to catch this rare glimpse of the sunlight reflecting off of their surfaces it is known as an Iridium Flare.
Jupiter is another one of the hardest daytime observations you can make, but thanks to its massive size and placement it can be done. During a quadrature is the best time to see Jupiter in the daytime, and even then it is still easy to miss. Make sure that you have everything perfect and you’ll be in for a daytime treat.
Positive Points of Owning A Telescope
Telescopes are one of the few old time get together that is still popular today. While certain hobbies have turned more into niches without any professional outlet, telescopes and astronomy are joined at the hip, and it isn’t often that a consumer can afford the same type of equipment that the professionals use. You’re basically getting an identical item to what the top professionals use in their own time, and sometimes even on a professional level when away from the lab and scouting. This not only opens up new career ideas for some people, but it gives them a broader perspective on what they can do with the right equipment.
The cost of entry is lower than any athletic sports like football, soccer, hockey, tennis and even basketball. Everything that you need to get started can be bought in a single kit, and it can be fully realized within a month of practice. The low barrier of entry also puts it ahead of other hobbies like personal computers, modeling (boats/cars), and collecting. It’s easy to get into, and it won’t break the bank in the process.
Anyone can do it, regardless of age. Getting into astronomy doesn’t have steep requirements other than a willingness to learn. Even if you don’t have steady hands you can use a telescope. Even if you have bad eyesight, you can use a telescope. A telescope can be used by anyone in a wheelchair, whether in or out of the home. Many models are just as accommodating to the individual as the other, and it is one of the great joys of owning a telescope. Groups are easy to find to collaborate with, and the community is always a joy and won’t look down on you.
Community is big part of owning a telescope, and although optional, can be an important part of the experience. Joining a stargazing group will give you access to an unlimited amount of data and like-minded people. Whereas social interaction between people of the same hobby can lead to contention, stargazing is a different beast altogether and promotes togetherness. It is all about discovery, and not about competition or who is better. People provide helpful tips, some even bring out of this world snacks, and overall it is a better family experience if you want to keep your kid safe.
You get more value for your money over the long-term. A telescope that is well taken care of won’t lose a lot of value and can be resold with only a 20% drop in profit. This is a big deal if you’re upgrading your telescope and need extra money to complete the purchase. And in a situation where you want to pass down the telescope to someone else, they are usually very easy to take care of and don’t ding up easy. You are always going to get your money’s worth when buying a telescope from a reputable company.
A telescope is also good for people who live out of their RV’s. What’s better for a portable family than a portable hobby? Telescopes are a great way to break up the monotony of an RV camp and take full advantage of your surroundings on any given day or night. And as a couple that travels you’ll have a greater vantage point than someone that only stargazes from their backyard. A telescope compliments RV users in a great way, and doesn’t even require a high profile purchase.
The Old Dobsonian Debate
It is the debate that never dies, and it is about the value of a Dobsonian telescope in the hands of an everyday consumer. We’re not talking about the tabletop version, but the 30+ alt-azimuth mounted Newtonian telescope version that looks like a giants play toy. The fun thing about these telescopes is that they come mounted to a base already, leaving you without the worry of dealing with a defective mount or tripod. They are also a lot steadier than a mount and a tripod, featuring a heavy, flat bottom that takes a lot of push to knock it off balance. These things are made for all surface types and won’t disappoint even when put on uneven surfaces. When it comes to creating your own telescope, the Dobsonian is the most popular design to copy. This is true for both highschool students and college students that are looking to build their first telescope. And it is no secret that many consider the Dobsonian the most powerful telescope of all the types listed. But how does it fair on a consumer level?
With electronic telescopes now becoming a thing in the world, they have sold a lot better than the Dobsonian counterparts. This isn’t because they’re exactly better, but on a consumer level they are more portable and accessible. Technically for an everyday consumer the Dobsonian may not be the best #1 option, although that is purely based on whether it will be permanently in the backyard or in the inside of some type of shelter. While a Dobsonian will always be tops for power, it does so by taking a backseat for convenience. This isn’t a surprising turn of events, but it is exactly why Dobsonian’s aren’t taking off as fast as their electronic telescope counterparts. Consumers demand convenience, and there are few Dobsonian’s on the market that can deliver that. So when it comes down to it this is going to be a great purchase for the customer that does their homework on the model. Don’t sleep on what the Dobsonian and its great features can do for your stargazing.
Telescopes to Avoid
With all of the winners on this list, there are just as many losers that were not included. How do you go about avoiding some of the bad eggs in the industry and what they try to peddle to unsuspecting consumers? And does brand play a difference in this? These key samples below will guide you to a better understanding of what it means to pick out a good telescope.
Avoid brands that have an unrealistic feature set. If Orion’s cheapest telescope is about $70 and has an aperture of 70mm, then an off brand company that sells one for $20 and has an aperture of 300mm is more than likely a marketing gimmick or scam. There is a certain cutoff point to where the manufacturer makes and loses money, and no legit company is going to sell a telescope that is going to lose them money. Outrageous feature sets like these will only confuse a consumer, so don’t get sucked into it and buy something that clearly can’t support the feature it is marketing.
Stay away from telescopes that have a bunch of accessories but offer a telescope that overall is weaker than what it should be. This is tricky, since there are a lot of kits and starter bundles with telescopes. But you want at least a good telescope in the bundle. A good way to check to see if you are getting tricked is to compare the individual prices of the accessories together, and if they account for more than 70% of the entire cost of the kit/bundle, then the telescope is more than likely trash. The accessories as a group should never cost more than the telescope itself. You don’t want a good experience to be ruined by getting a telescope that is blurry and underpowered.
Warranties are always important, but in the case of telescopes read the fine print- avoid warranties that only cover the base telescope and none of the parts that come with it. If a product is defective, then covering just a part of it is not going to do the consumer any good. It is a pretty sneaky tactic, but thankfully only the lowest of the low companies do it. Sticking to the brands that are on this list will help in getting in that situation as well as similar situations when dealing with a new telescope purchase.
Stay away from telescopes that have bad tripods and mounts. A bad tripod especially can ruin the experience and make it almost impossible to stargaze or comet chase. A good tripod is stead even on an uneven surface, and can support the weight of the telescope as well as the accessories in the tray. It can take a bump or two and remain steady, but doesn’t add any unnecessary weight. It is a good combination of strength and durability and if you get a cheap tripod, it completely invalidates the entire purchase. A cheap tripod will only serve to get in your way of what you really want to do with your telescope. And if you make the mistake of buying a telescope with a weak tripod that is proprietary, then you’ll be stuck with the same bad hardware for the remainder of the purchase.
Telescopes are going to continue to evolve like they always have, and create some really wonderful products for both the consumer and professional community. In order to get to the forefront of the change, purchasing a telescope now and getting on the bandwagon will go a long way in teaching you the basics about them. The move to electronically powered options and even Wi-Fi enabled products will make it difficult for a beginner to directly jump in if they have never handled a telescope before. Having at least a little bit of know how will ease the transition for a lot of people and not be such a shellshock to them once they unwrap their product.
Also important for new users is finding groups before purchasing a telescope. While groups aren’t particularly choosy about what you bring, they may provide some insight into a better purchase that will change your overall feelings. This type of free insight is invaluable, and it is why you should seek out a stargazing group in your community while you are also looking at telescopes. Some may even offer to shop with you as they are in the market for a telescope. And in the lucky instance someone in the group is giving away a telescope due to an upgrade, you don’t want to miss out on that too!
There are a lot of benefits to joining a group early, so don’t think that you have to have a telescope first before you can start enjoying the friendly benefits of being part of the stargazing community.
There are a lot of great options to choose from on this list of telescope reviews when picking out the best telescope. Make sure to stay within compatible upgrade options as that will save you money down the line. If you play your cards correctly you will save more money with this hobby than all of your other hobbies combined.