A quality telescope allows you to get a front row seat to the mysteries of the universe. With the right set-up, you can explore the surface of the moon, count the rings of Saturn, and explore distant galaxies, all from the comfort of your own backyard.
Tracking the movements of the stars and planets is an exciting hobby as well as a worthwhile scientific endeavor. Luckily, modern sky gazers can choose from a plethora of high-quality telescopes to get close-up viewing opportunities. However, finding an appropriate telescope that won’t break the bank isn’t always an easy feat.
To make the task easier, we’ve compiled this list of what we consider the best telescope on the market today. We’ve tried to include a little something for everyone. Whether you’re a budding astrophotographer, casual backyard sky watcher, or a semi-professional astronomer, we’ve got the perfect model for you.
If you don't have time for the details, check out the list below for the best rated Telescopes:
- 1Celestron NexStar Evolution - Best All-Around Telescope
- 2Sky-Watcher Flextube 300 SynScan Dobsonian - Best Computerized Telescope
- 3Celestron Astro Fi 130 Wireless Reflecting Telescope - Best for Under $2000
- 4Sky Watcher Classic 200 - Best for Under $1000
- 5Orion SkyScanner 100mm - Best for Beginners
- 6Meade StarNavigator NG 114 - Best GoTo Telescope
- 7Orion Observer II 70mm Equatorial Refractor - Best for Viewing the Moon
- 8Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refracting - Best for Astrophotography
- 9Orion 10022 StarMax 90mm TableTop - Best Mini Telescope
- 10Celestron PowerSeeker 70AZ - Best for Under $100
Table of Contents
- How to Choose a Telescope?
- Types of Telescopes
- Best Telescope on the Market Reviews
- 1 Celestron NexStar Evolution - Best All-Around Telescope
- 2 Sky-Watcher Flextube 300 SynScan Dobsonian - Best Computerized Telescope
- 3 Celestron Astro Fi 130 Wireless Reflecting Telescope - Best for Under $2000
- 4 Sky Watcher Classic 200 - Best for Under $1000
- 5 Orion SkyScanner 100mm - Best for Beginners
- 6 Meade StarNavigator NG 114 - Best GoTo Telescope
- 7 Orion Observer II 70mm Equatorial Refractor - Best for Viewing the Moon
- 8 Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refracting - Best for Astrophotography
- 9 Orion 10022 StarMax 90mm TableTop - Best Mini Telescope
- 10 Celestron PowerSeeker 70AZ - Best for Under $100
- Final Thoughts
How to Choose a Telescope?
Purchasing a new telescope can be an intimidating experience, especially for novice astronomers. Understanding basic telescope terminology and features can help make the process a little less daunting. It will also help you zero in on exactly what you need to make the best of your sky viewing opportunities.
The aperture of a telescope is the diameter of the main lens or mirror. Light enters the optic through the aperture, so the larger the diameter, the brighter and sharper the images will be.
Aperture also affects the field of view, which is the circle of sky you can see through the eyepiece. A larger aperture will allow you to see a larger portion of the sky at one time.
Many astronomers are convinced they should purchase a telescope with the largest aperture they can afford. While this seems like a simple way to choose a telescope, in reality, finding the right telescope is a bit more complicated. Aperture is just one thing to consider. There are other features that can influence how suitable a telescope is for certain types of viewing.
For example, a large aperture usually means a bigger, heavier telescope. If you need to transport your telescope away from city lights to find darker skies, a large aperture can be more of a hindrance than a help. If this is the case, you may need to find a more compact, portable option.
Sometimes referred to as “power”, magnification determines how much closer the objects will appear when viewed through your telescope. Magnification is determined by two separate components - the telescope itself and the eyepiece that is attached to it.
To determine the power of any telescope, you divide the focal length of the telescope in millimeters by the focal length of the eyepiece in millimeters.
You can easily increase or decrease the magnification of any telescope by swapping out eyepieces. You’ll want to match the power of your eyepieces with the aperture of your telescope to achieve the best image quality.
Focal length is simply the length of the telescope’s main tube. A short focal length typically provides a wider field of view but a smaller image. As the focal length increases, the field of view narrows and the image becomes larger and more detailed.
If you want to view large areas like the Milky Way, get a closer look at constellations, or study features like the Orion Nebula, a shorter focal length (around 20 inches or 500mm) will work best. If your goal is to see details of the planets or the lunar surface, choose a telescope with a longer focal length. Something in the 80-inch range should do the trick.
Types of Telescopes
Aside from aperture, magnification, and focal length, you also need to decide what type of telescope will work best for you. Some designs are better suited to certain types of viewing than others. Understanding the differences in design will help you choose the right optic for your sky-watching needs.
When people hear the word telescope, they usually think of the stereotypical long, thin tube. This type of telescope is commonly classified as refractor (or refracting) telescopes.
These optics have lenses configured in a straight line. Light enters through a large objective lens and passes straight through the housing to an eyepiece at the opposite end.
The use of this simple design is highly intuitive, although it tends to be heavy and bulky compared to other types of telescopes. Refractor telescopes are durable and require little maintenance. They provide highly magnified, high-contrast images and are ideal for viewing objects within our solar system.
The biggest drawback to refracting telescopes is that they can be prone to color fringing, which often manifests as a blurred halo around bright objects.
Instead of a traditional lens, reflector (or reflecting) telescopes use a large concave parabolic mirror to focus light on a secondary flat mirror that then reflects the light to an opening on the side of the main tube. To view the image, you peer through an eyepiece at the top or side of the housing.
There are two subtypes of reflector telescopes - the Dobsonian and Newtonian. Although there are some design differences, both types use a series of mirrors to create a viewable image.
Reflector telescopes are relatively compact and portable. They are also cheaper compared to comparable refractor telescopes. The image quality is bright and clear, making them perfect for viewing deep sky features like galaxies and star clusters. However, viewing terrestrial landscapes can be problematic with a reflector telescope.
The downside to using a reflector telescope is that the tube is often open to the air, which leaves the optical components vulnerable to dust and debris.
Catadioptric telescopes combine the best qualities of the refractor and reflector telescopes. They use a combination of mirrors and lenses to fold the optics and form a viewable image.
There are two main types of catadioptric telescopes - the Schmidt-Cassegrain and the Maksutov-Cassegrain.
The Maksutov-Cassegrain uses a thick, curved lens and a small secondary mirror. The design eliminates the color aberration common with reflector telescopes and provides excellent resolution for planetary viewing.
The Schmidt-Cassegrain uses an aspheric lens at one end, which allows light to enter. The light hits a spherical primary mirror and is then reflected back to a smaller secondary mirror. The second mirror reflects the light through an opening at the back of the telescope to an attached eyepiece.
Both types of catadioptric instruments are highly versatile. With incredible near focus capabilities, they work equally well for landscape viewing as they do for deep space observation. They are also the best option for astrophotography.
These telescopes are durable and relatively compact. However, they usually come with pretty expensive price tags.
Best Telescope on the Market Reviews
1 Celestron NexStar Evolution - Best All-Around Telescope
This Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope from industry leader Celestron is the first of its kind to include integrated Wi-Fi. Simply download the Celestron smartphone app and connect to the telescope’s built-in wireless network. The connection allows you to tap on any celestial object on your phone screen, and the telescope automatically adjusts for the perfect viewing angle. The app also lists celestial objects currently in the sky based on the time and your current location.
The NexStar Evolution is a great option for anyone interested in astrophotography. It has impressive tracking accuracy, so you can easily capture deep-space photos by simply attaching any DSLR camera. For more enhanced imaging, you can attach Celestron’s Pro HD Wedge for longer exposures.
The NexStar Evolution comes with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, a red dot StarPointer, two eyepieces (40mm and 13mm), the telescope mount and tripod, and a hand control. The battery has an extra long life that provides up to 10 solid hours of viewing on a single charge.
The Celestron NexStar Evolution is a pretty bulky set-up, which means it works best for home use. This isn’t one you’ll be lugging to remote locations.
2 Sky-Watcher Flextube 300 SynScan Dobsonian - Best Computerized Telescope
The huge aperture on the Sky-Watcher Flextube 300 has incredible light-gathering capabilities. It is also made with fully multi-coated borosilicate primary and secondary mirrors. This design allows for finely-detailed deep space observation. If you’re looking for an amazing sky-viewing experience, this telescope is the ticket.
Built with an innovative, lightweight, collapsible design, the Sky-Watcher Flextube 300 is surprisingly portable. It is significantly heavy, tipping the scales at a whopping 40 pounds when fully assembled. However, when fully collapsed, it fits easily into the trunk of your car, making it a convenient option for travel.
Once you arrive at your location, the telescope sets up quickly using a steel strut system. Each strut slips into place using preset indentations, perfectly aligning the optics into the same position every time. This allows the telescope to maintain collimation during transport and provides consistent optical performance with every use.
The Sky-Watcher Flextube has GoTo capabilities and features 40,000 unique targets in its onboard database.
3 Celestron Astro Fi 130 Wireless Reflecting Telescope - Best for Under $2000
Locating celestial bodies couldn’t be easier than it is with the Celestron Astro Fi 130. Simply connect the optic to your smartphone or tablet using the free SkyPortal app, and you can control the telescope wirelessly, even when your stargazing adventures take you far outside of cell phone reception.
The telescope will automatically calculate its position when you center the eyepiece on any three bright objects in the sky. If you really want to delve into the details, the SkyPortal app will generate a virtual Sky Tour of the most observable celestial objects based on the time and your exact location.
The Astro Fi 130 is Celestron’s largest model. Its Newtonian Reflector optical design offers plenty of light gathering ability to clearly see the finer details of both our solar system and the universe. With this telescope, you can count Saturn’s rings, observe Jupiter’s cloud bands, explore the Moon’s surface, and even view objects in deep space.
The Celestron Astro Fi 130 comes with a red dot StarPointer finder scope, 2 Kellner eyepieces (10mm and 25mm), a rechargeable battery pack, and a convenient accessory tray.
4 Sky Watcher Classic 200 - Best for Under $1000
While computerized telescopes and smartphone apps can simplify night sky observation, there is something deeply satisfying about using a star chart to find objects by hand. The Sky Watcher Classic 200 is a traditional Dobsonian with a vintage design that still has plenty of practicality for modern astronomers.
The Classic 200 has a simple construction that features a dual mirror design housed in a sturdy metal tube with an uncomplicated rocker box. Don’t be fooled by its straightforward configuration. The optical quality is literally out of this world. With a large aperture and borosilicate mirrors coated with quartz, titanium and silicon dioxide, viewers can enjoy bright, vivid images of distant celestial bodies.
All Sky Watcher Dobsonian telescopes come with a unique Tension Control Handle which allows for smooth navigation all around the night sky. This design provides plenty of stability, even when utilizing larger eyepieces.
5 Orion SkyScanner 100mm - Best for Beginners
The Orion SkyScanner 100mm comes as a value-packed starter package with everything the budding astronomer needs. The ready-to-go bundle includes the optic, three eyepieces (20mm, 10mm, and a high-power 6.3mm), a tripod, an EZ Finder II red dot aiming device, and Starry Night astronomy software. This computer software allows you to control your telescope, locate celestial bodies, and provides audio descriptions of interesting objects in the night sky.
With a price tag well under $200, the Orion SkyScanner is a perfect entry-level option for amateur astronomers. It is a particularly smart choice for budget-conscious beginners.
For a reflector telescope in this price range, the image contrast and clarity are extra impressive. With primary mirror optics made of high-quality glass and a 100mm objective lens, this telescope gathers over 200 times more light than the naked human eye. While you shouldn’t expect to see the fine details of Andromeda, the SkyScanner is perfect for basic stargazing, exploring the moon’s surface, or viewing nearby planets.
This Newtonian refractor telescope from Meade features computerized GoTo technology perfect for the amateur astronomer. The electronic AudioStar handheld controller provides detailed information on over 30,000 interesting astrological features. It also provides audio tours for 500 of the sky’s brightest points, including planets, stars, and galaxies. It’s like having a professional astronomer giving you a guided tour of the universe right in your backyard.
The StarNavigator NG 114 is easy to assemble, has a lightweight, portable robotic mount, and comes with a fully adjustable aluminum tripod. The whole device weighs less than 20 pounds, making this one of the best options for camping on our list.
Sky watchers have the option of powering the telescope’s 12V Servo Drive with eight AA batteries or via an external power source. Regular batteries tend to drain quickly, especially in cold weather. For best results, we recommend plugging it in to an electrical outlet or using an auto adapter.
7 Orion Observer II 70mm Equatorial Refractor - Best for Viewing the Moon
Described by users as a “planetary power performer,” the Orion Observer II comes with everything you need for nighttime viewing. The package includes a 25mm and a 10mm eyepiece, a reflex sight, a tripod, equatorial mount, and an Orion Moon Map. The equatorial mount has dual slow-motion controls for simplified star tracking.
This refractor telescope features a 70mm-aperture achromatic objective lens. This lens provides excellent light transmission for breathtaking views of the lunar surface. If you want to see beyond the moon, this high-quality telescope also lets you clearly see Saturn’s rings, Jupiter’s moons, and the clouds of the Orion Nebula. It is also clear enough to see closer features, including the landscape of Mars.
This is definitely an entry-level telescope. However, it has impressive quality for an optic at this price point. If you want crisper detail or desire to see deeper into the universe, you may need to upgrade your viewing experience with some aftermarket accessories.
8 Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refracting - Best for Astrophotography
Perfect for the beginner astrophotographer, the Celestron Inspire 100AZ has a built-in smartphone adapter right on the main lens cap. The mount has a slightly asymmetrical design that is both lightweight and surprisingly stable. The telescope is best suited for short exposure photography, but it helps photographers take bright, clear images of the night sky.
The Inspire 100AZ features a right angle erect image, which makes this optic ideal for both landscape and celestial observation. The telescope comes with several handy accessories, including two eyepieces (20 mm and 10 mm), a red LED flashlight, an accessory tray, a StarPointer Pro finder scope, and the smartphone adapter.
Some astronomers have experienced some blurring and color aberration with this model, which is to be expected from a telescope in this price range. To prevent this from affecting your photos, we recommend investing in some higher quality eyepieces.
9 Orion 10022 StarMax 90mm TableTop - Best Mini Telescope
This small, lightweight compound telescope from Orion is perfectly portable. It weighs just 6 ½ pounds when fully assembled and includes a handy tabletop mount (although the telescope is threaded if you prefer to mount it to a separate tripod).
Don’t be fooled by this compact telescope’s size. It gathers plenty of light to clearly view bright, deep space points, including distant galaxies, nebula, and globular clusters.
The magnification is modest compared to many other models on our list. However, with a price tag well under $500, the 10022 StarMax TableTop telescope offers plenty of value for the money. If you’re a casual astronomer on a shoestring budget, or you’re looking for a fun nighttime optic for kids, this telescope is one of the best value options on our list.
10 Celestron PowerSeeker 70AZ - Best for Under $100
While you shouldn’t expect miraculous viewing through a budget telescope like the Celestron PowerSeeker 70AZ, this model is an easy-to-use option for those interested in basic observation. You won’t be discovering new galaxies in the furthest edges of the universe, but the PowerSeeker 70AZ is perfect for observing the full moon or getting a closer look at major constellations.
Thanks to its basic altazimuth mount, the PowerSeeker 70AZ is simple to set up and adjust. There is no complex alignment or calibration necessary. You can just mount the optic and you’re good to go.
The telescope comes with a sturdy aluminum tripod and an 80mm lens. If you’re new to astronomy, you may want to download a stargazing app or purchase some basic astronomy software to help you find your way around.
Although modern telescopes are often paired with electronic tracking, digital imaging, and high-tech Wi-Fi capabilities, their basic purpose hasn’t changed all that much since Galileo pointed the first one skyward in 1609.
Although modern technology can certainly enhance the viewing experience and help you maneuver through the night sky, there is something grounding and fulfilling about using a simple refracting telescope and a paper star chart.
Whether you decide to go with something basic and traditional or something with built-in star-finding technology, viewing the wonders of the night sky with the best telescope is a deeply satisfying experience.