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


Meade ETX 125 Maksutov Cassegrain Observer Telescope Kit
Meade ETX 125 Maksutov Cassegrain Observer Telescope Kit

$649.00
19d 22h 52m remaining
Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ Reflector Telescope Planetarium Software Tripod NEW
Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ Reflector Telescope Planetarium Software Tripod NEW

$164.95
23d 5h 21m remaining
Celestron 21049 Powerseeker 127EQ Newtonian Reflector Telescope with Barlow Lens
Celestron 21049 Powerseeker 127EQ Newtonian Reflector Telescope with Barlow Lens

$189.95
17d 15h remaining
360 50mm Refractive Astronomical Telescope Tripod Monocula Space Scope Refractor
360 50mm Refractive Astronomical Telescope Tripod Monocula Space Scope Refractor

$22.89
25d 3h 40m remaining
Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ Reflector Telescope Planetarium Software Tripod NEW
Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ Reflector Telescope Planetarium Software Tripod NEW

$163.99
7d 20h 8m remaining
Celestron Vintage Ultima 2000 C8 Telescope Prototype model
Celestron Vintage Ultima 2000 C8 Telescope Prototype model

$425.00
1d 5h 6m remaining
Meade ETX 60 Refracting Telescope Multi Coated Optics
Meade ETX 60 Refracting Telescope Multi Coated Optics

$69.97
6d 6h 59m remaining
Aomekie AO2001 300x70mm Terrestrial Astronomical Refractor Telescope with
Aomekie AO2001 300x70mm Terrestrial Astronomical Refractor Telescope with

$61.33
22d 18h 43m remaining
Orion 10024 SkyQuest XX14i IntelliScope Truss Dobsonian Telescope
Orion 10024 SkyQuest XX14i IntelliScope Truss Dobsonian Telescope

$1,800.00
27d 2h 2m 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


125 Plossl 40mm Eyepiece FullyMulti Green Coated For Astronomy Telescope US
125 Plossl 40mm Eyepiece FullyMulti Green Coated For Astronomy Telescope US

$16.99
2d 8h 15m remaining
Celestron PowerSeeker Telescope Accessory Kit with 2 eyepieces  3 filters
Celestron PowerSeeker Telescope Accessory Kit with 2 eyepieces 3 filters

$59.95
8d 21h 38m remaining
Meade DS 26MM Series 4000 125 Super Plossl Telescope Eyepiece Multicoated NEW
Meade DS 26MM Series 4000 125 Super Plossl Telescope Eyepiece Multicoated NEW

$17.95
6d 19h 56m remaining
125 Plossl Telescope Eyepiece Set 4 10 25mm+2X Barlow Lens Kit for AstronomyYS
125 Plossl Telescope Eyepiece Set 4 10 25mm+2X Barlow Lens Kit for AstronomyYS

$36.99
17d 3h 21m remaining
125 6mm 9mm Ultra Wide Telescope Eyepiece Set Fully Multi Coated Astronomy US
125 6mm 9mm Ultra Wide Telescope Eyepiece Set Fully Multi Coated Astronomy US

$44.36
11d 2h 8m remaining
2 inch 80mm Super Plossl XL Telescope Eyepiece NEW ITEM
2 inch 80mm Super Plossl XL Telescope Eyepiece NEW ITEM

$79.77
24d 20h 51m remaining
Meade 126 2x 125 inch 1 1 4 in Eyepiece Short Focus Barlow
Meade 126 2x 125 inch 1 1 4 in Eyepiece Short Focus Barlow

$24.95
11d 15h 22m remaining
Meade 07741 Ultra Wide Angle 88mm 125 Inch Waterproof Eyepiece
Meade 07741 Ultra Wide Angle 88mm 125 Inch Waterproof Eyepiece

$99.95
19d 15h 46m remaining
10mm 12 Konig telescope eyepiece 125 size
10mm 12 Konig telescope eyepiece 125 size

$5.50
5d 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


Vortex Optics New 2016 Diamondback 10x42 Roof Prism Binoculars
Vortex Optics New 2016 Diamondback 10x42 Roof Prism Binoculars

$199.00
1d 21h 15m remaining
Vortex Optics Diamondback 8x42 Roof Prism Binoculars
Vortex Optics Diamondback 8x42 Roof Prism Binoculars

$169.99
26d 16h 11m remaining
Nikon 8x21 Aculon T01 Binocular Red Brand New Sealed Free Shipping
Nikon 8x21 Aculon T01 Binocular Red Brand New Sealed Free Shipping

$30.00
22d 18h 58m remaining
Optics New 2016 Diamondback 10x42 Roof Prism Binoculars NEW
Optics New 2016 Diamondback 10x42 Roof Prism Binoculars NEW

$109.99
24d 7h 40m remaining
Gosky Titan 20x80 Astronomy Binoculars Giant Binocular with Braced in Tripod
Gosky Titan 20x80 Astronomy Binoculars Giant Binocular with Braced in Tripod

$171.70
22d 23h 57m remaining
Anti Reflective Weather Resistant Astronomy Binocular Humvee Jumbo 20x80 Black
Anti Reflective Weather Resistant Astronomy Binocular Humvee Jumbo 20x80 Black

$69.00
21d 20h 25m remaining
Nikon 8x21 Aculon T01 Binocular Red Brand New Sealed Free Shipping
Nikon 8x21 Aculon T01 Binocular Red Brand New Sealed Free Shipping

$29.69
22d 8h 13m remaining
Day Night 30x50 Military Army Zoom Powerful Binoculars Optics Hunting Camping
Day Night 30x50 Military Army Zoom Powerful Binoculars Optics Hunting Camping

$37.99
24d 2h 53m remaining
Hayward 7x50 binoculars
Hayward 7x50 binoculars

$37.00 (4 Bids)
8d 1h 59m 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