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


12X50 HD Monoculars Telescope BAK 4 Prism Powerful with Tripods and Phone Holder
12X50 HD Monoculars Telescope BAK 4 Prism Powerful with Tripods and Phone Holder

$19.98
18d 59m remaining
Meade StarNavigator NG 125 Maksutov Telescope 218006
Meade StarNavigator NG 125 Maksutov Telescope 218006

$379.95
22d 10h 56m remaining
Telescope Astronomy Refractor Telescope 80mm Aperture Travel Scope
Telescope Astronomy Refractor Telescope 80mm Aperture Travel Scope

$210.00
7d 22h 24m remaining
Meade ETX80 Observer Telescope
Meade ETX80 Observer Telescope

$279.99
10d 15h 49m remaining
Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Reflector Telescope 127mm 21049
Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Reflector Telescope 127mm 21049

$169.95
25d 3h 9m remaining
Astronomical Refractor Telescope Aperture AZ 70x700 Refractor Travel Scope
Astronomical Refractor Telescope Aperture AZ 70x700 Refractor Travel Scope

$139.99
19d 18h 19m remaining
meade telescope 8 Schmidt casdegrain
meade telescope 8 Schmidt casdegrain

$123.50 (5 Bids)
6d 18h 52m remaining
Takahashi EM 1 Telescope Mount  Tripod
Takahashi EM 1 Telescope Mount Tripod

$499.00
6d 19h 35m remaining
Portable Astronomical Bigineers Refractor Telescope Travel Scope Kids Gift US
Portable Astronomical Bigineers Refractor Telescope Travel Scope Kids Gift US

$18.20
23d 7h 45m 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


Tele Vue 125 DeLite Eyepiece 13mm NICE
Tele Vue 125 DeLite Eyepiece 13mm NICE

$185.00
29d 23m remaining
SV305 Electronic Eyepiece 125Astronomy Camera USB20 for Telescope+Moon filter
SV305 Electronic Eyepiece 125Astronomy Camera USB20 for Telescope+Moon filter

$131.55
11d 7h 27m remaining
Tele Vue 11mm Plossl Eyepiece 1 1 4
Tele Vue 11mm Plossl Eyepiece 1 1 4

$75.00
26d 19h 22m remaining
RARE Celestron 8 24mm Zoom Eyepiece 1 1 4 Model  93230
RARE Celestron 8 24mm Zoom Eyepiece 1 1 4 Model 93230

$26.49 (3 Bids)
1d 18m remaining
Celestron telescope eyepiece accessory aluminum case
Celestron telescope eyepiece accessory aluminum case

$37.88
21d 11h 55m remaining
Tele Vue 25mm Plossl Plssl Eyepiece Used
Tele Vue 25mm Plossl Plssl Eyepiece Used

$60.00 (6 Bids)
4d 19h 19m remaining
Celestron E Lux 40mm 125 Plossl Plssl Eyepiece Used
Celestron E Lux 40mm 125 Plossl Plssl Eyepiece Used

$10.51 (3 Bids)
4d 19h 48m remaining
Tele Vue 125 8mm Plossl Plssl Eyepiece Used
Tele Vue 125 8mm Plossl Plssl Eyepiece Used

$26.00 (4 Bids)
4d 19h 13m remaining
Celestron 10mm Luminos Series 125 Eyepiece
Celestron 10mm Luminos Series 125 Eyepiece

$89.88
23d 1h 22m 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


Gosky Titan 20x80 Astronomy Binocular Phone Mount Protective Shield Carrying Bag
Gosky Titan 20x80 Astronomy Binocular Phone Mount Protective Shield Carrying Bag

$145.00
19d 21h 1m remaining
Gosky Titan Astronomy Binocular 20x80 Smartphone Mount Tripod Adapter 4332111342
Gosky Titan Astronomy Binocular 20x80 Smartphone Mount Tripod Adapter 4332111342

$104.50
2d 20h 43m remaining
VTG Orion 11x80 Astronomy Binoculars Fully Multi Coated wide BAK4 Field 45 deg
VTG Orion 11x80 Astronomy Binoculars Fully Multi Coated wide BAK4 Field 45 deg

$57.00 (3 Bids)
2d 16h 31m remaining
Celestron SkyMaster Giant 15x70 Binoculars 71009
Celestron SkyMaster Giant 15x70 Binoculars 71009

$99.99
17d 20h 50m remaining
Vixen Ascot 10x 50 binocular Item 1563
Vixen Ascot 10x 50 binocular Item 1563

$26.00 (2 Bids)
5d 21h 18m remaining
Zeiss 15x60 Binoculars Vintage
Zeiss 15x60 Binoculars Vintage

$499.00
6d 19h 11m remaining
100x180 High Power Military Binoculars Day Night BAK4 Optics Hunting Camping+Bag
100x180 High Power Military Binoculars Day Night BAK4 Optics Hunting Camping+Bag

$35.99
15d 19h 31m remaining
orion scenix 10x50 astronomy binoculars
orion scenix 10x50 astronomy binoculars

$45.00
24d 1h 10m remaining
Day Night 180x100 Military Zoom Powerful Binoculars Optics Hunting Camping+Case
Day Night 180x100 Military Zoom Powerful Binoculars Optics Hunting Camping+Case

$35.99
23d 14h 54m 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