Searching for the best beginner telescope can be intimidating, there are so many options out there. You need to find the right balance of ease of use and clear optics, and it has to fit your needs. But, you may not even know what those needs are when you are just starting out.
How do you know what to choose if you’re a beginner and you’re trying to find the best telescope you can afford?
First things first, let’s lay down some groundwork, so you know what you’re looking at before making the decision.
Types of Telescopes
Let’s start here: Imagine a clear night sky, completely devoid of all extra ambient light, where the only thing between you and the stars is your telescope.
The feeling is almost magical as you see starts you may have never seen before. It gets even better if you can get a good view of the constellation you’re zooming in on or the planet that happens to be visible to the naked eye.
Your kids are entranced, you are awed, and no one is missing that movie on Hulu that was your normal every-night plan.
How do you get that magical experience?
There are three different types of telescopes available for you to purchase, but within each of these three, there are other differences that need to be taken into account, too.
The refractor telescope is the type of telescope that uses a lens to focus the light that is being received from the end of the lens.
A reflector telescope uses mirrors to focus the incoming light and tends to work fairly well depending on the light conditions.
The final type is the catadioptric telescope. That telescope is designed using a combination of both the mirror and the lens to pull the light in for you to be able to see the stars above.
Other Things to Keep in Mind
Binoculars are also a great starting point when you decide you want to go stargazing. A good set of binoculars lets you see quite a bit, plus you can use them in other ways, too.
They’re not the same, but may be easier for small humans to use and focus on at first. When you’re ready to move to a telescope, though, there’s more you need to know.
Aperture is king when it comes to telescopes. The aperture refers to the size of the lens. A bigger lens means that you’ll see brighter and sharper images from your viewpoint.
Dobsonian-style telescopes are great choices as they usually have larger apertures and are also easy to use.
Keeping the type of mount in mind is also crucial in making your choice.
The altazimuth mount is great for smooth movements when you’re adjusting your telescope. Dobsonian mounts are similar but are better for more advanced viewing.
Equatorial mounts are different from altazimuth and Dobsonian mounts in that they have slow-motion controls to follow objects in the sky. These are best for those that are more advanced in their stargazing or if you are attempting astrophotography.
Also, keep your expectations realistic.
What that means is that you need to choose the right kind of telescope for your needs. You can’t reach for the cheapest telescope and expect incredibly bright and crisp imagery that you can take pictures of because that’s entirely unrealistic.
At the same time, that doesn’t mean you need to spend a small fortune to get a quality telescope.
5 Best Beginner Telescopes for Kids
It’s no secret that kids love the stars. These telescopes bring them close enough to feel like you could touch them!
1. The Orion FunScope Astro Dazzle 4.5” Reflector Telescope
The size of the reflector on this telescope is pretty good for a smaller telescope. It’s sturdy, too, which makes it great for small hands to use.
The Orion FunScope also uses a red-dot sight to make things easier to find in the night sky.
Although it is made to be child-friendly, it is not a toy. The mirror collects plenty of light, and the focal length allows viewers to enjoy seeing planets up close.
- A great first telescope for kids and families to test the waters of stargazing at an affordable price
- Fun Scope lets you see craters on the Moon, bright planets in our solar system, and brighter sparkling star clusters and...
- Includes the Orion Moon Map 260 which makes it fun and easy to find the names of the craters and lunar features you see...
Inside the telescope kit, you’ll also find two eyepieces at varying strengths to increase magnification anywhere from 20x to 50x. You’ll see a star map, too, that will help you and your kids get to know the night skies.
2. Meade Instruments Polaris 70mm
The Meade Polaris is a refractor telescope that is perfect for a young beginner. The telescope includes three different eyepieces rated from low to high magnification levels.
There is also a red-dot finder to help find the constellations or whatever else you’re trying to find in the sky.
- Aperture: 70mm (2.8 inch) Focal Length: 900mm. Focal Ratio: f/12.9
- Refractor optical design, Equatorial Mount
- Three 1.25 inch Eyepieces (MA 6.3mm, MA 9mm and MA 26mm), 2X Barlow, Red Dot Viewfinder
The telescope is mounted on a tripod which makes it stable and also easy to move as the skies move overhead.
As a bonus, because refractor telescopes do not require much in the way of maintenance, these are easy to care for, which is something parents will love.
3. Celestron SkyProdigy 130
This one is on the pricier side, but the reflector telescope is well worth its price thanks to all the bells and whistles you’ll find on this model.
Once you turn it on, you can use the onboard computer to align the telescope in the direction you want to turn it. Plus, there is an internal camera that can take pictures of the sky.
- Fully Automatic Alignment Procedure
- Fully Computerized Altazimuth Mount
- Quick-Release Fork Arm Mount and Optical Tube for Easy, Quick No Tool Set Up
These pictures can then be analyzed on your computer to figure out the position of the night sky relative to where you are.
Even more exciting is the way that once the telescope is fully aligned, you can target nearly four thousand different objects by simply pushing a button.
You don’t need a star chart for this telescope, and you’ll still be able to see plenty of amazing celestial bodies with out any difficulty.
4. Celestron NexStar 6SE
This backyard telescope is a smaller version of the SkyProdigy, but it costs more. Go figure.
Although the price is no small wonder considering the telescope has an onboard tracking system, and can locate up to 40,000 different celestial bodies with the touch of a button.
- NEXSTAR COMPUTERIZED TELESCOPE: The NexStar 6SE Computerized Telescope features Celestron’s iconic orange tube design...
- 6-INCH APERTURE: The six-inch primary mirror in this Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope for adults and kids to be used...
- FULLY-AUTOMATED GOTO MOUNT: Featuring a database of more than 40,000 celestial objects, the GoTo mount built into our...
If your child is a little more serious about star gazing, this is an amazing telescope to use as it also works well in doing astrophotography when connected to a compatible camera.
5. Orion SkyQuest XT8 Dobsonian Telescope
Dobsonian telescopes could be considered the gold standard in telescope design. Orion is also known for its quality telescopes, so this one is a great bet for you and your children.
- Item may ship in more than one box and may arrive separately
- A large aperture Classic Dobsonian reflector telescope at a very affordable price!
- 8" diameter reflector optics lets you view the Moon and planets in close up detail, and has enough light grasp to pull...
The design is much more simplistic than the Celestrons mentioned above, but the image that is produced at the viewer is bright and sharp.
With the telescope, you’ll get three eyepieces and a different lens to allow you to explore the skies at varying strengths and magnifications from 70x to 240x.
There is also an EZ Finder II on board to make aiming at your focal point easy to do.
5 Best Beginner Telescopes for Adults
Adults have different expectations from kids, and while the child-friendly telescopes are nifty in their own right, there are some fantastic options for adults, too.
1. Celestron NexStar 127 SLT
The 127 SLT is more expensive than most other beginner telescopes, but you’ll love what you get for the money.
It is a computerized telescope, much like its smaller counterparts mentioned previously, but are capable of finding more items in the night sky.
- COMPUTERIZED STAR LOCATING TELESCOPE: The Celestron NexStar 130SLT is a computerized telescope that offers a database of...
- COMPACT AND PORTABLE: This telescope for adults and kids to be used together is ideal for weekend camping trips or...
- NEWTONIAN REFLECTOR OPTICAL DESIGN: The NexStar 130SLT is the largest in the SLT family. The 130mm aperture gathers...
One of the best reasons to start out with a computerized telescope is because by taking advantage of the onboard tracking system, you’ll be well on your way to finding things without the frustration that typically accompanies a beginner telescope experience.
2. Celestron 127 EQ PowerSeeker
Yes, it’s another Celestron telescope, but this one is not computerized. It might not be as powerful as its more complex counterparts, but it’s still a great telescope.
- PERFECT ENTRY-LEVEL TELESCOPE: The Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ is an easy-to-use and powerful telescope. The PowerSeeker...
- MANUAL GERMAN EQUATORIAL MOUNT: Navigate the sky with our Newtonian Reflector telescope. It features a German Equatorial...
- COMPACT AND PORTABLE: This telescope for adults and kids to be used together is compact, lightweight, and portable. Take...
Set up is simple, too, and you can still zoom into planets and other things up to 300x magnification.
You’ll also get a couple of eyepieces and TheSkyX software package to get you on your way to tracking the stars.
3. Orion 10014 SkyQuest XT 4.5 Classic
This telescope is a solid Dobsonian telescope, and you won’t be disappointed when it arrives at your doorstep.
The eyepiece does stand fairly high off the ground compared to others, but it’s the perfect height for most adults. If you intend to let children view, too, you’ll probably need a step stool.
- Compact and lightweight - a perfect Dobsonian reflector telescope for traveling or easy trips to the backyard at home
- 4.5" aperture and 900mm focal length provide clear views of lunar craters and plains on the Moon, planets, bright...
- Sturdy and portable Dobsonian base and handy navigation knob allow for effortless maneuvering of the reflector optical...
Longer than some of the other telescopes you’ll find, the reflector inside of this telescope will give you bright and sharp images of whatever you choose to focus on as it collects lots of light.
Combine your use with TheSkyX software package, and you’re set for all sorts of stargazing.
4. Celestron 70mm Travel Scope
If you are a traveler and want to be able to enjoy the night skies during your journeys, this telescope is a wonderful beginner telescope to take with you.
- SUPERIOR OPTICS: The Celestron 70mm Travel Scope features high-quality, fully-coated glass optics, a potent 70mm...
- POWERFUL EYEPIECES FOR UP-CLOSE VIEWING: Our telescope for astronomy beginners is equipped with two high-quality...
- LARGE 70MM OBJECTIVE LENS: Our refractor telescope is equipped with a large 70mm aperture objective lens that provides...
Inexpensive and convenient, this mobile telescope makes it easy to see open skies in unusual locations when you just can’t drag your giant Dobsonian telescope with you.
It comes with a tripod and a carry bag.
5. Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro Reflector
You’ve likely noticed the Orion name several times on this list, but there’s a good reason for it. Orion telescopes are solidly built, and you know quality goes hand-in-hand with their reputation. Their best beginner telescope models and some midlevel are on our list.
- A great compact grab-and-go telescope designed for entry-level and intermediate astronomy enthusiasts; Focal length:...
- Substantial 4.5 inch aperture and fast f/4 focal ratio provides bright, detailed views of solar system targets like the...
- Ships pre-assembled so you can go from the box to your backyard in minutes. Glass material : Low thermal expansion...
Complete with a 4.5” aperture, two extra eye pieces, and the Starry Night software, beginners can learn how to navigate the stars with ease.
It is easily portable if you want to set it outside on your porch or on your deck, but if you want to go out into a field, it might prove to be difficult since there aren’t any wheels on this model.
Choosing Your Telescope
Selecting the best beginner telescope for all ages can seem daunting when you’re not familiar with the different telescopes that are out there. Just remember that the cheapest is not always best and neither is the most expensive.
You can even find places that host star parties to find stargazing aficionados that will help you along your astronomical journey. These people are professionals, advanced hobbyists, and novices like yourself, so you’ll be in good company.
You’ve done your research, any of these is a great call for you, now all that’s left is staring into the universe!