There's nothing quite like gazing at a starlit sky on a clear night, scanning for planets and staring at the moon. This all-encompassing, awe-inspiring experience is made even better by using a telescope. As you look through the lens, heavenly bodies will almost seem like they are within your reach.
Owning a telescope is a great way to provide educational experiences about space and the solar system to youngsters. What's more, you can make memories with friends and family as you spend time together looking toward the sky. The numerous options can be confusing, but if you check out the information, tips, and top picks we've provided, you will soon be exploring astronomy with the telescope of your dreams.
Considerations when choosing telescopes
How do you plan to use your telescope?
Perhaps you're new to telescope use and just want something affordable that can give you a closer view of the stars. Perhaps you're looking to upgrade your current telescope to one with more features. You can find a telescope to fit your goals, whether you want something simple and inexpensive or something designed for the serious amateur astronomer.
Keep in mind that what you hope to see -- stars, planets, celestial bodies found deep in space -- will impact the type of telescope you select. Some products are geared toward stars alone, whereas others probe deeper into the sky.
Where do you plan to explore the night sky?
Some telescopes are more portable than others. If you'll be traveling to different locations throughout the countryside or far from home, you may not want a heavy, bulky instrument that's cumbersome to carry and takes up a lot of space.
Parts of a telescope
Lens: This is a crucial part of the telescope that controls light, magnification, and field of vision. Different telescopes rely on various lenses to bring objects up close and into focus.
Eyepiece: This is the unit that houses the optical lens. It's the part of the telescope that you look through to view the sky.
Finderscope: Almost like a small telescope itself, the finderscope lives up to its name by guiding users as they search for different objects.
Tube: This houses the main components of a telescope that bring planets, stars, and the moon into view, such as lenses and mirrors.
Mount: The mount is the component where the telescope is attached. It also provides support.
Tripod: This is a stand that a telescope can be attached to for steady viewing angles.
Many modern telescopes also come with software, and some have Bluetooth connectivity for pairing with a smartphone and taking images.
Types of telescopes and their purposes
Amateur astronomers and novice stargazers can choose from three popular models: the refractor telescope, the reflector telescope, and the compound telescope.
Refractor telescopes are popular among hobbyists. They are easy to use, offer excellent clarity, and come in a range of price options. The downside is that they tend to be heavier than other options and are prone to chromatic aberration.
Reflector telescopes are affordable and not as likely to produce chromatic aberration. They also tend to be lightweight and easy to transport. However, the open tube requires diligent cleaning to keep the unit free of dust and debris.
Compound telescopes include features of both refractor and reflector telescopes. While many avid astronomers prefer them, they are bulky and difficult to transport.
Telescopes range in price from as low as $26 to thousands of dollars. However, you can find a budget-friendly model in the $26 to $50 range. If you are ready to upgrade or prefer a higher-end option, expect to spend between $100 to $300.
Q. What's the best type of telescope for a novice on a budget?
A. Refractor telescopes are straightforward to use and produce clear images thanks to their built-in mirrors. They also have sealed tubes, so the cleaning and maintenance required is minimal compared to other designs. Although refractor telescopes come at various price points, affordable models are available.
Q. Can I use my new telescope to look at the sun?
A. No! Not only is it dangerous to look directly at the sun with the naked eye, using a telescope to do so can cause serious damage, including permanent blind spots.
Telescopes we recommend
Best of the best: Orion SpaceProbe Equatorial Reflector Telescope
Our take: A premium telescope that's powerful, easy to transport, and comes with features that make it perfect for anyone looking for an exceptional viewing experience.
What we like: Solid build with 5.1-inch aperture that enhances clarity. Not too heavy. Comes with user-friendly software.
What we dislike: Expensive, but it has a lot to offer.
Best bang for your buck: Celestron PowerSeeker 50 AZ Refractor Telescope
Our take: Choose this telescope if you want an easy-to-use option that's well-made and modestly priced.
What we like: Affordable and simple to use. Includes software. Impressive magnification for the low price.
What we dislike: Tripod isn't very durable.
Choice 3: Gskyer Travel Scope
Our take: A good choice for astronomy enthusiasts who want a mid-priced, portable refractor telescope.
What we like: Compact and easy to take on sky-watching journeys. Has user-friendly software and comes with a handy carrying bag.
What we dislike: The instructions are somewhat lacking, and there have been some quality control issues.
Jennifer Blair is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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