Beginner's Telescopes

This telescope buying guide provides information and equipment listings for all types of refractor and reflector telescopes for all levels, from budding astronomer to the more experienced astronomer looking for a larger, more advanced 'scope.

Binoculars and telescopes and other astronomy equipment and accessories are the core of amateur astronomy. A good pair of binoculars is what introduced me to the pleasures of stargazing many moons ago and only after a couple of years scanning the skies did I graduate to a telescope. That was one of the department store 60mm telescopes we're all warned about, but my folks didn't know any better, and to a 12-year old kid, it opened up the universe.

Telescopes


40070 Refractor Astronomical Telescope With Tripod  Phone Adapter For Beginners
40070 Refractor Astronomical Telescope With Tripod Phone Adapter For Beginners

$66.50
11d 4h 37m remaining
Galileo SS 80095BG 800x95 Astronomical Telescope w SMARTPHONE Photo Adapter
Galileo SS 80095BG 800x95 Astronomical Telescope w SMARTPHONE Photo Adapter

$129.99
13d 17h 36m remaining
Brand NEW Cassini 800mm x 60mm Astronomical Telescope w Smartphone Adapter
Brand NEW Cassini 800mm x 60mm Astronomical Telescope w Smartphone Adapter

$99.99
29d 19h 58m remaining
400X70 Refractor Astronomical Telescope Optical Lens W Tripod  Phone Adapter
400X70 Refractor Astronomical Telescope Optical Lens W Tripod Phone Adapter

$66.50
7d 12h 50m remaining
Telescope Orion Skyquest XX12g GoTo Truss Tube Dobsonian
Telescope Orion Skyquest XX12g GoTo Truss Tube Dobsonian

$1,200.00
17d 4h 15m remaining
Vixen Optics Space Eye 700 70mm Refractor Telescope 32754
Vixen Optics Space Eye 700 70mm Refractor Telescope 32754

$49.00
25d 16h 43m remaining
VINTAGE QUESTAR TELESCOPE 1970S
VINTAGE QUESTAR TELESCOPE 1970S

$635.00 (3 Bids)
4d 1h 47m remaining
Telescope to View Moon and Planet Telescope 70mm Apeture 400mm AZ Mount
Telescope to View Moon and Planet Telescope 70mm Apeture 400mm AZ Mount

$103.99
20d 7h 8m remaining
Kids Beginner Astronomical Star Gazing Night Sky Planet Zoom Telescope Y
Kids Beginner Astronomical Star Gazing Night Sky Planet Zoom Telescope Y

$27.99
17d 22h 55m remaining

More telescopes here...

While cheap (in every sense of the word) telescopes are still to be found, recent years have seen the introduction of small but very affordable telescopes from manufacturers such as Meade and Celestron and, despite their small size, these telescopes have excellent optics that far outperform the cheap optics in my old 60mm scope from so long ago.

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Many of these small telescopes now come with GOTO features that allow you to select an object to view from an attached handset and the telescope will automatically slew to that feature in the sky. What the ads tend to forget to mention is that in order to use this facility, the telescope must be correctly set up and aligned beforehand.

Many scopes, unfortunately, lie gathering dust in corners and wardrobes because their owners couldn't figure out how to use the thing. It's not their fault - better, and simpler, instructions should be supplied with the telescopes. But for those who can work with such an instrument, a wealth of celestial objects are available for viewing that would be quite difficult to find otherwise.


GoTo Telescopes

Some old hands in astronomy societies have welcomed the new technology openly, others have decried its introduction as it stops newcomers from learning their way around the skies using star hopping. In some ways, they see that there must be a little pain in finding an object before you can have the pleasure of viewing it. I suppose it's a bit like the difference between being bussed to Machu Pichu or going on a five-hour hike up the mountain to see it. Which would you choose? If the hike is your cup-of-tea, then star-hopping is for you.

Personally, I think the introduction of GoTo Mounts has been a very positive development and has made the hidden beauty of the night sky accessible to many more people. If you've bought a small telescope with an integrated GOTO mount yourself, but are unsure of how to use it or the best objects to view, go along to your local astronomy society or club and ask their help. They'll be only too willing to lend a helping hand.

Read the Choosing a Telescope article if you'd like to know more about the different types of telescope that are available and what might best suit your needs.

Eyepieces


965 Complete Telescope Eyepiece Barlow Viewfinder Diagonal Kit Excellent Value
965 Complete Telescope Eyepiece Barlow Viewfinder Diagonal Kit Excellent Value

$39.95
14d 2h 57m remaining
NEW 40mm Celestron E lux 2 inch telescope eyepiece
NEW 40mm Celestron E lux 2 inch telescope eyepiece

$44.88
5d 19h 37m remaining
Orion 32mm Super Wide Angle 2 inch Telescope Eyepiece
Orion 32mm Super Wide Angle 2 inch Telescope Eyepiece

$10.00 (1 Bid)
6d 8h 29m remaining
Celestron 125 40mm Plossl Telescope Eyepiece + Star Diagonal 94115 A
Celestron 125 40mm Plossl Telescope Eyepiece + Star Diagonal 94115 A

$29.99
29d 23h 54m remaining
Orion 38mm Super Wide Angle 2 inch Telescope Eyepiece
Orion 38mm Super Wide Angle 2 inch Telescope Eyepiece

$11.50 (3 Bids)
6d 8h 24m remaining
Meade 125 Telescope Eyepiece Diagonal  Barlow Kit 26mm 97mm Super Plossl
Meade 125 Telescope Eyepiece Diagonal Barlow Kit 26mm 97mm Super Plossl

$39.95
2h 1m remaining
New SVBONY FMC 1259mm 66DegUltra Wide Angle Eyepiece for Astro Telescope US
New SVBONY FMC 1259mm 66DegUltra Wide Angle Eyepiece for Astro Telescope US

$24.17
3d 6h 20m remaining
Telescope 965 Size Three 3 Eyepiece Kit 6mm 125mm 20mm Great Value
Telescope 965 Size Three 3 Eyepiece Kit 6mm 125mm 20mm Great Value

$9.95
13d 5h 43m remaining
SVBONY SV105 125Telescope Electronic Eyepiece 2MP Astronomy Camera US LOCAL
SVBONY SV105 125Telescope Electronic Eyepiece 2MP Astronomy Camera US LOCAL

$48.59
29d 13h 16m remaining

More eyepieces here...


Eyepieces

You should have a selection of eyepieces to use with your telescope to allow close-up views or wide-field views. Planets require small diameter eyepieces to see surface detail whereas larger subjects, like the Pleiades and other large star clusters require wide-field views. Pretty much any eyepiece can be used to get a good view of the Moon or close-up views of it.

Eyepieces range from about 3mm to 40mm (i.e. the glass in them, not the diameter of the eyepiece itself!) and come in three fittings: 0.965", 1.25" and 2" (for high-end telescopes). The 0.965" fitting is seldom used these days but older telescopes may have taken eyepieces of this size. There are also different types of eyepiece: Plossl, Erfle, Kellner, Orthoscopic, wide-angle, etc. The magnification an eyepiece provides depends on the focal length of your telescope - divide the telescope focal length by the eyepiece size to get the magnification. A typical refractor has a focal length of about 900mm. A 26mm eyepiece would provide a magnification of 34x with this scope. Used with a telescope with a 2000mm focal length, the magnification is 77x.

There's another feature of eyepieces called the Field of View. Basically, this is how big an area of sky is seen through the eyepiece. The bigger the field of view, the more can be seen. How much of the sky is seen depends on the eyepiece diameter and the focal length of the telescope. Wide-angle eyepieces (82 degrees field of view, for example) tend to be quite expensive. Average eyepieces, such as Plossls, have about a 50 degree field of view.

Binoculars


Celestron 71009 SkyMaster Giant 15x70 Astronomy Binoculars with Tripod adapter
Celestron 71009 SkyMaster Giant 15x70 Astronomy Binoculars with Tripod adapter

$29.99 (1 Bid)
1d 1h 34m remaining
Binoculars Orion 20197 16X80 BCF Astronomy W Case Originally 388
Binoculars Orion 20197 16X80 BCF Astronomy W Case Originally 388

$107.50 (14 Bids)
9d 3h 28m remaining
 New Binoculars Orion 51464 20X80 Astronomy Black Compact Sturdy
New Binoculars Orion 51464 20X80 Astronomy Black Compact Sturdy

$145.90
8d 16h 3m remaining
Day Night 20 50x70 Military Zoom Powerful Binoculars Optics Hunting Camping
Day Night 20 50x70 Military Zoom Powerful Binoculars Optics Hunting Camping

$58.95
29d 5h 38m remaining
Day Night 20x60 High Quality Outdoor Bronze Binoculars Hunting Outdoor Camping
Day Night 20x60 High Quality Outdoor Bronze Binoculars Hunting Outdoor Camping

$30.95
7d 20h 56m remaining
180 x 100 Zoom Day Night Vision Outdoor Travel Binoculars Hunting Telescope+Case
180 x 100 Zoom Day Night Vision Outdoor Travel Binoculars Hunting Telescope+Case

$32.99
7h 57m remaining
New Vision Mini Binoculars 30 x 60 Zoom Outdoor Travel Folding Telescope Bag
New Vision Mini Binoculars 30 x 60 Zoom Outdoor Travel Folding Telescope Bag

$7.65
15d 14h 6m remaining
Day Night 60x50 Military Army Zoom Powerful Binoculars Optics Hunting Camping
Day Night 60x50 Military Army Zoom Powerful Binoculars Optics Hunting Camping

$35.99
15d 6h 6m remaining
Astro Optics 12x60 Wide Angle Astronomy Binoculars Use With Telescope
Astro Optics 12x60 Wide Angle Astronomy Binoculars Use With Telescope

$49.99
21d 4h 55m remaining

More astronomy binoculars here...


Astronomy Binoculars

While this discussion has centered mostly on telescopes, binoculars have a role to play in astronomy as well. A quality pair of binoculars costs less than a telescope and is a good entry point for someone familiarizing themselves with the sky. They don't offer the same magnifications as a telescope (but magnification isn't everything) but they do show a much wider field of view which makes it easier to navigate across the sky. Because of this wider field of view, you also get to see the 'big' picture. And, because you're using both eyes, there's less eyestrain.

You can get binocular viewers for telescopes and those who use them (even though they cost a few hundred dollars and you need two of every eyepiece) swear by them (rather than at them!). A typical set of binoculars will be 10x50s (front lenses 50mm across, with a 10x magnification). More powerful models are available - 20x60s are available from $150 upwards and you can get 20x80s for as little as $215.

These binoculars are quite heavy and you can tire easily pointing them skyward for any length of time. Also, because of their higher magnification, any shake in your hands will also be magnified and stars will dart around in the view. For long-duration viewing, you'd be advised to get a tripod and a binocular tripod adapter which lets you securely mount the binoculars on it.

Binoculars are also great for looking at large scale celestial objects such as comets. Looking at the Moon through 20x binoculars brings it close enough to see topography but also, you'll see it in three dimensions, something lacking when looking through the eyepiece at a telescope. You can whip out a pair of binoculars much more quickly than setting up a telescope so if you have very changeable weather where you live, they might be a better option for sky viewing. Of course, you can throw a pair of binoculars into your luggage very easily and view the sky from your holiday destination with ease.

Filed under: Astronomy News