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


Coleman AT50 AstroWatch 50mm Refractor Telescope with Aluminum Tripod
Coleman AT50 AstroWatch 50mm Refractor Telescope with Aluminum Tripod

$49.99
18d 20h 37m remaining
Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ Reflector Telescope Planetarium Software Tripod NEW
Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ Reflector Telescope Planetarium Software Tripod NEW

$159.75
27d 7h 42m remaining
Celestron 21048 PowerSeeker 80EQ Telescope W 189x Magnification
Celestron 21048 PowerSeeker 80EQ Telescope W 189x Magnification

$134.99
4d 19h 13m remaining
Gskyer EQ 80900 Telescope German Technology TelescopeStarwatcher Refractors
Gskyer EQ 80900 Telescope German Technology TelescopeStarwatcher Refractors

$185.95
21d 22h 59m remaining
CELESTRON C90 1000mm F 11 TELESCOPE SPOTTING SCOPE
CELESTRON C90 1000mm F 11 TELESCOPE SPOTTING SCOPE

$117.95
28d 23h 5m remaining
Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ Reflector Telescope Planetarium Software Tripod NEW
Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ Reflector Telescope Planetarium Software Tripod NEW

$159.97
1d 10h 31m remaining
TELE VUE GENESIS TELESCOPE Rare 500mm f 5 FLUORITE
TELE VUE GENESIS TELESCOPE Rare 500mm f 5 FLUORITE

$1,201.00
8d 4h 30m remaining
Orion 120mm EQ Refractor Telescope With EQ Mount OTA With GEM
Orion 120mm EQ Refractor Telescope With EQ Mount OTA With GEM

$500.00
29d 45m remaining
Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker Telescope
Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker Telescope

$127.03
25d 15h 16m 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.

[ReviewAZON asin="0521598893" display="inlinepost"]

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


Meade Series 4000 8mm 24mm Zoom Telescope Eyepiece
Meade Series 4000 8mm 24mm Zoom Telescope Eyepiece

$69.95
2d 5h 21m remaining
Parks 50mm Widefield Plossl Eyepiece 2 inch New NOS
Parks 50mm Widefield Plossl Eyepiece 2 inch New NOS

$80.00
22d 5h 4m remaining
CELESTRON 66 DEGREES ULTRAWIDE 9mm MULTICOATED TELESCOPE EYEPIECE
CELESTRON 66 DEGREES ULTRAWIDE 9mm MULTICOATED TELESCOPE EYEPIECE

$29.95
7d 4h 8m remaining
125 Plossl 40mm Eyepiece FullyMulti Green Coated For Astronomy Telescope US
125 Plossl 40mm Eyepiece FullyMulti Green Coated For Astronomy Telescope US

$15.01
6d 10h 35m remaining
Meade telescope eyepiece accessory aluminum case
Meade telescope eyepiece accessory aluminum case

$35.88
4d 18h 4m remaining
Meade Instruments Series 5000 14mm UWA Ultra Wide Angle 125 Eyepiece
Meade Instruments Series 5000 14mm UWA Ultra Wide Angle 125 Eyepiece

$95.00
15d 21h 40m remaining
Orion 8885 5mm Edge On Planetary Eyepiece
Orion 8885 5mm Edge On Planetary Eyepiece

$89.47
27d 4h 53m remaining
NEW Celestron 2x telescope eyepiece barlow lens
NEW Celestron 2x telescope eyepiece barlow lens

$33.88
6d 22h 53m remaining
NEW 6mm Celestron Plossl telescope eyepiece
NEW 6mm Celestron Plossl telescope eyepiece

$16.88
5d 23h 51m 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 Binoculars Giant Binocular with Braced in Tripod
Gosky Titan 20x80 Astronomy Binoculars Giant Binocular with Braced in Tripod

$167.76
27d 2h 18m remaining
Vortex Diamondback 10x42mm Binoculars DB 205 NEW ITEM FREE S
Vortex Diamondback 10x42mm Binoculars DB 205 NEW ITEM FREE S

$184.99
9d 15h 56m remaining
Vortex Diamondback 10x42mm Binoculars with Case  Lanyard NIB DB 205
Vortex Diamondback 10x42mm Binoculars with Case Lanyard NIB DB 205

$175.99
27d 22h 3m remaining
MAKE OFFER Orion GiantView 25x100 Astronomy Binoculars Padded Carry Case
MAKE OFFER Orion GiantView 25x100 Astronomy Binoculars Padded Carry Case

$259.89
7d 7h 47m remaining
Celestron Skymaster15x70 astronomy binoculars w vortek adapter and tripod
Celestron Skymaster15x70 astronomy binoculars w vortek adapter and tripod

$50.75 (8 Bids)
1d 2h 55m 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
5d 3h 25m remaining
Day And Binoculars  Scopes Night Vision 16x52 Optical Monocular Hunting Camping
Day And Binoculars Scopes Night Vision 16x52 Optical Monocular Hunting Camping

$16.39
1d 17h 22m remaining
Gosky Titan 20x80 Astronomy Binoculars Giant Binocular with Braced in Tripod Ad
Gosky Titan 20x80 Astronomy Binoculars Giant Binocular with Braced in Tripod Ad

$69.00
16h 12m remaining
Vortex Optics Diamondback 10x42 Roof Prism Binoculars DB 205 NEW
Vortex Optics Diamondback 10x42 Roof Prism Binoculars DB 205 NEW

$229.99
13d 18h 10m 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