What telescope is the best for beginners?
Few things inspire the same sense of wonder and awe than gazing at the night sky. Clear, starry horizons have been mesmerizing human beings for centuries. Thankfully, telescope technology has improved to the point that even amateur astronomers can explore the galaxy from their backyard. The Celestron – NexStar 130SLT Computerized Telescope allows beginners to peer into the heavens, check out the surface of the moon and even track stars as they move across the sky.
What to consider before you buy a telescope for beginners
There are three distinct telescope types. While all three magnify distant objects, they do so in different ways with unique special features.
- Refractor telescopes place their lens at the very front of the tube. These are the types of telescope that most people are familiar with seeing. They become more expensive as the aperture size increases and tend to be heavy. These models are most suitable for viewing objects in our solar system, as opposed to those in deep space.
- Reflector telescopes have a mirror placed at the end of their tube that gathers light. They require more adjustments and maintenance than refractor models, but are better for seeing objects outside of our solar system.
Compound telescopes, sometimes referred to as catadioptric telescopes, use a series of lenses and mirrors to magnify objects. They are compact and require no maintenance.
For a satisfying experience, a telescope should be used in an area with as little light pollution as possible. Street lights, neighboring yards and passing vehicles can all detract from your ability to get a clear look at the stars. As you consider your ideal telescope, think about where to use it for optimal performance.
To enjoy your telescope, you will need patience and an understanding of how to best use your device. Keep in mind that overcast nights and cloudy weather will prevent you from using your telescope and that it will be most effective under ideal conditions. Do not expect a telescope designed for beginners to allow you to peer into deep space nebulas and galaxies, as these devices are best for observing the moon, passing comets and objects in our immediate solar system.
What to look for in a quality telescope for beginners
The diameter of a telescope’s light gathering lens is referred to as its aperture. A telescope’s aperture size is its most important feature, as it directly affects the sharpness of what you will be able to see. As a general rule, choose a model with the largest aperture you can find, as this will allow the telescope to pick up even very dim objects. Select a telescope with an aperture of at least 70 mm.
Manufacturers often advertise magnification as the most critical aspect of their telescope models. This is because most users will already be familiar with the concept of magnification and assume that a telescope with the most power will provide the largest image. While this is technically correct, the crispness of your telescope’s output depends on the aperture size. A telescope with powerful magnification but a small aperture will indeed yield a large image, but it will be disappointingly blurry. In order to achieve a large, highly detailed look at the stars, select a telescope with a large aperture as well as powerful magnification.
Your telescope will need to be mounted to allow for stationary viewing. While there are a variety of mount types, beginners should select a telescope that includes a mount that prioritizes easy, stable viewing and simple adjustment.
Some telescope models include adapters that allow you to use your smartphone as a monitor as opposed to the telescope’s eyepiece. A phone adapter will also give you the ability to easily snap photos of what your telescope is pointed at.
Many beginner telescopes include a Barlow lens. This lens allows you to triple the magnification of your telescope so you can more closely appreciate stars and celestial bodies.
Guides and charts
Some telescope models also include useful guides and star charts to help you better understand what you are looking at and assist you in locating planets or constellations. This information can be very helpful in allowing beginners to get their bearings and find specific star formations.
Many people live in areas where local light disrupts their telescope viewing. Select a model that you will find easy to move when you decide to change your location for a better experience.
How much you can expect to spend on a telescope for beginners
Depending on the telescope type and how much one wishes to invest in a beginner model, quality devices can be purchased for $100–$600 dollars.
Telescope for beginners FAQ
Can I use a beginner telescope for nature and bird watching?
A. Yes. While some telescopes are calibrated for extreme distances, most beginner models can also be used to view distant landscapes and animals.
Can I leave my telescope outdoors?
A. No. These telescope models are not meant to be left outdoors or exposed to the elements. Special care should be given to ensure that they do not become wet and are not kept in humid or dusty conditions.
How do I clean my telescope?
A. Your telescope’s exterior can be cleaned gently using a cloth. Dust can be removed from your telescope’s lens using a can of compressed air and a soft brush. Do not directly touch your telescope’s lens.
What’s the best telescope for beginners to buy?
Top telescope for beginners
What you need to know: This telescope offers incredible detail and advanced, convenient features.
What you’ll love: Using this telescope’s computerized features, you can pinpoint the celestial bodies you are looking for and automatically track them. Compatible with Celestron’s other accessories, this telescope will continue to be useful as you learn more about astronomy.
What you should consider: This model is expensive for beginners, and a few features may be more advanced than some would prefer.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top telescope for beginners for the money
What you need to know: This telescope is a great choice for anyone interested in finding one at an affordable price.
What you’ll love: Featuring a phone adapter and a 3x Barlow lens, this telescope is easy and fun to use. It includes an aluminum tripod and a padded carrying bag.
What you should consider: This telescope’s tripod is a bit flimsy and the instructions are challenging for some users to understand.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This telescope is great for beginners who are comfortable with more advanced technology.
What you’ll love: This telescope has a professional appearance and includes features designed to minimize vibration, facilitate locating star formations and provide a crystal clear image. It also features one of the largest apertures available in its price range.
What you should consider: This telescope is very large and will require a flat, level surface for placement.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Derek Walborn 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.