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


Refractor Astronomical Telescope Optical Prism W Tripod Phone Adapter US STOCK
Refractor Astronomical Telescope Optical Prism W Tripod Phone Adapter US STOCK

$40.99
15d 20h 5m remaining
400x70mm Refractor Astronomical Telescope With Tripod Phone Adapter for Beginner
400x70mm Refractor Astronomical Telescope With Tripod Phone Adapter for Beginner

$39.69
3d 19h 7m remaining
Portable Astronomical Bigineers Refractor Telescope Travel Scope For Kids
Portable Astronomical Bigineers Refractor Telescope Travel Scope For Kids

$16.72
6d 18h 58m remaining
Portable Astronomical Refractor Telescope Travel Scope w BagSmartphone Holder
Portable Astronomical Refractor Telescope Travel Scope w BagSmartphone Holder

$54.95
17d 20h 54m remaining
Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ Telescope w Motor Drive 31042 OP 31042 OP DS
Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ Telescope w Motor Drive 31042 OP 31042 OP DS

$164.99
5d 15h 29m remaining
Gskyer EQ 80900 Telescope German Technology Telescope Starwatcher Refractors NEW
Gskyer EQ 80900 Telescope German Technology Telescope Starwatcher Refractors NEW

$139.99
17d 13h 9m remaining
Schieber Telescopes Compact MAK 90 Maksutov Cassegrain Telescope 90mm Bundle
Schieber Telescopes Compact MAK 90 Maksutov Cassegrain Telescope 90mm Bundle

$180.00
12d 2h 44m remaining
Celestron National Park Foundation PowerSeeker 114AZ Telescope
Celestron National Park Foundation PowerSeeker 114AZ Telescope

$65.29
22d 4h 29m remaining
Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ Reflector Telescope Planetarium Software Tripod NEW
Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ Reflector Telescope Planetarium Software Tripod NEW

$157.99
20d 6h 33m 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


125FMC 68Ultra Wide Angle 6mm Relief Eyepiece for Astronomy Telescope US ship
125FMC 68Ultra Wide Angle 6mm Relief Eyepiece for Astronomy Telescope US ship

$28.99
17d 21h 43m remaining
Celestron 5mm X Cel XL 125 eyepiece FREE USA SHIPPING
Celestron 5mm X Cel XL 125 eyepiece FREE USA SHIPPING

$44.95
30d 15h 25m remaining
125 SWA 58 Degree 25mm Planetary Eyepiece For Astronomical Telescope US SHIP
125 SWA 58 Degree 25mm Planetary Eyepiece For Astronomical Telescope US SHIP

$33.72
22d 18h 32m remaining
125 HD 4 10 23mm Wide Angle 62 Aspheric Telescope Eyepieces Set For Astronomy
125 HD 4 10 23mm Wide Angle 62 Aspheric Telescope Eyepieces Set For Astronomy

$24.17
1d 4h 56m remaining
Telescope Warehouse 125 32mm Super Plossl Eyepiece High Quality Optics
Telescope Warehouse 125 32mm Super Plossl Eyepiece High Quality Optics

$34.95
20d 9h 57m remaining
Meade telescope eyepiece accessory aluminum case
Meade telescope eyepiece accessory aluminum case

$37.88
29d 13h 13m remaining
NEW 125FMC 68 Deg Ultra Wide Angle 20mm Relief Eyepiece for Astro Telescope US
NEW 125FMC 68 Deg Ultra Wide Angle 20mm Relief Eyepiece for Astro Telescope US

$18.59
25d 12h 29m remaining
965 3 Telescope Eyepiece 6mm 125mm 20mm  2x Shorty Barlow Kit NEW
965 3 Telescope Eyepiece 6mm 125mm 20mm 2x Shorty Barlow Kit NEW

$17.95
30d 7h 45m remaining
Celestron 10 pc Accessory Kit For Telescope Eyepiece Filter Case + FREE Barlow
Celestron 10 pc Accessory Kit For Telescope Eyepiece Filter Case + FREE Barlow

$57.99
20d 4h 42m 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 Skymaster Astronomy and Stargazing Binoculars 25x70
Celestron Skymaster Astronomy and Stargazing Binoculars 25x70

$69.58
12d 2h 45m remaining
Day Night 180x100 Military Army Zoom Powerful Binoculars Optics Hunting Camping
Day Night 180x100 Military Army Zoom Powerful Binoculars Optics Hunting Camping

$32.99
13d 2h 30m remaining
Bushnell PowerView 12x42mm Full Size All Purpose Binocular
Bushnell PowerView 12x42mm Full Size All Purpose Binocular

$26.99
7d 12h 18m remaining
2019 US Telescope 60x60 Military Army Ultra HD Binoculars Hunting Camping
2019 US Telescope 60x60 Military Army Ultra HD Binoculars Hunting Camping

$29.63
3d 17h 27m remaining
Day Night 60x50 Military Army Zoom Powerful Binoculars Optics Hunting Camping
Day Night 60x50 Military Army Zoom Powerful Binoculars Optics Hunting Camping

$47.99
20d 11h 31m remaining
Celestron 71008 SkyMaster 25x70 Binoculars Black NEW HOT
Celestron 71008 SkyMaster 25x70 Binoculars Black NEW HOT

$65.99
20d 13h 46m 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

$31.99
25d 10h 57m remaining
Vortex Diamondback DB 207 12x50mm Binoculars in Army Green NEW Free S
Vortex Diamondback DB 207 12x50mm Binoculars in Army Green NEW Free S

$191.39
5d 6h 29m remaining
Pentax 12x24 UCF G Compact Binoculars Birding Hiking Hunting Astronomy 12 Power
Pentax 12x24 UCF G Compact Binoculars Birding Hiking Hunting Astronomy 12 Power

$29.50
7d 8h 3m 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