Which telescopes are best?
Open the night sky and see the stars like never before with a beautiful telescope. It’s an educational tool that opens up the world of astronomy for new and experienced eyes alike. A telescope allows you to observe the universe from your backyard. If you’re planning to purchase a telescope, you’ll want to consider how you’re going to use it and your unique needs.
Telescopes come in as many variants as laptops and other modern technology. You’ll want to consider the properties that will change the clarity and sharpness of the image you see through the lens. Buying a telescope has become significantly easier as newer models become more accessible. Now is a great time to explore the great unknown.
What to know before you buy a telescope
If you’re a newcomer to the world of astronomy, there are three different types of telescope designs to consider. Compound, reflector and refractor telescopes look similar but operate slightly differently.
The compound telescope has an eyepiece at the back. It has two mirrors inside the telescope — one near the eyepiece and another at the front. The front mirror is attached to a lens.
A reflector telescope extends vertically from its tube, typically from the front. It has a mirror at the front of the telescope’s tube, which gathers light and reflects it to another mirror. In turn, the image projects through the mirror into the eyepiece.
The most common style of telescope you’ll find is a refractor design. It has large lenses that sit at the front and pass light through the telescope’s tube to the mirror at the eyepiece, which sits at the back of the tube. The light reaches the back of the tube, traveling into the eyepiece at the back of the telescope.
Features to look for in a telescope
Clarity and sharpness
If you want to find the clearest cosmic image, prioritize the clarity and sharpness of the telescope. Look for a refractor telescope that has a large aperture and minimal light pollution for the best clarity.
Size and weight
Most people buy a telescope to take with them on the go and to track the stars. Depending on your needs, you’ll want to consider the size and weight of your telescope. If you’re planning to leave your telescope permanently set up, you need a size that works for your home. Reflector telescopes are the lightest option, while a refractor telescope weighs the most. A compound telescope is the bulkiest of the three options, making it harder to move around.
Ease of use
Amateur star watchers will want a telescope that’s easy to use. Refractor telescopes are among the easiest to use, as they have a fully sealed tube and require little to no maintenance. Compound telescopes require a little maintenance, and you can connect them to a computer for star tracking.
Reflector telescopes require more maintenance as they have an open tube, meaning they collect dust and you need to clear it before use. You can easily bump the telescope’s alignment out of place, messing up the optics of your image.
How much can you expect to spend on a telescope?
A telescope can cost a few hundred dollars or a few thousand. If you’re just starting, you can find a decent beginner-friendly telescope for around $100. It’s best to start with this model before upgrading to a mid-range telescope, which will set you back $200-$500. If you’re looking to commit to your stargazing as a high-end hobby, you can send several thousand dollars. Whatever your budget is, there’s a telescope out there for you.
Best telescope FAQ
How do I find a good spot to set up and use my telescope?
A. When you’re using your telescope at night, you need to move it away from any light pollution, such as cities and built-up areas. Look around for open fields that are free of cell towers, trees and telephone poles. You want to find as much open space as possible. It’s also best to stay away from things that radiate heat, such as cement parking lots.
How can I get started with using my telescope?
A. Like any new hobby, the best way to get started with a telescope is to simply start. Pick up an affordable telescope and get started. Finding a local amateur astronomy club can help you nurture your new hobby. These members can give you advice and share their experiences using telescopes. If you have a local observatory, this can also be useful for a budding amateur astronomer.
What is the best telescope to buy?
What you need to know: This telescope is packed full of professional-grade features that any stargazer will love. While it’s expensive, it’s worth every cent.
What you’ll love: It’s a high-quality and lightweight model that has top-of-the-range software, offering quality precision and controls. It’s ideal for either beginners or intermediate users. It has a sturdy tripod and features a durable design.
What you should consider: The telescope and accessories come at a high cost, making it a better choice for those who have some experience with telescopes.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top telescope for the money
What you need to know: This is a beginner-friendly travel telescope that is perfect for anyone living in the city. It has a lightweight frame and 70mm objective lens, with a custom backpack for travel.
What you’ll love: This refractor telescope has a large 70mm objective aperture lens that gives you enhanced and brighter views of the sky.
What you should consider: While it costs less than $100, this telescope has limited functionality.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This full-size tripod is lightweight and collapsible, making it easy to take your telescope on the go.
What you’ll love: It features a red-dot viewfinder that makes it easy to track and locate distant objects.
What you should consider: Some users have reported that the mount is shaky and wobbly, which can be difficult for a beginner to use.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
David Heiling writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.