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



Celestron NexStar Evolution 8 Schmidt Cassegrain Wifi Telescope

$1,495.00
21d 17h 41m remaining

NEW Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ Reflector Telescope Planetarium Software Tripod

$175.95
19d 17h 38m remaining

Celestron Astro Master 102AZ Refractor Telescope with Finderscope

$189.99
9d 13h 36m remaining

Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ Reflector Telescope Planetarium Software Tripod NEW

$175.93
7d 19h 10m remaining

Celestron NexStar 6SE 60 Computerized Telescope

$777.00
21d 17h 23m remaining

Celestron Sky Watcher 8 Inch Truss Tube Dobsonian Telescope S11700

$425.00
23d 17h 14m remaining

High Times 20X50 Zoom Outdoor Travel Night Vision Infrared Waterproof Telescope

$17.95
9h 4m remaining

Celestron 21094 Omni 150 XLT Refractor Telescope Refractor Telescope

$869.95
15d 18h 14m remaining

Refractor 70mm Apeture 400mm Az Mount Telescope Travel Scope with Backpack

$79.99
26d 8h 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



Meade Ultra Wide Angle 20mm 2 Waterproof Eyepiece 07743

$109.95
20d 22h 50m remaining

Meade Series 4000 8mm 24mm Zoom Telescope Eyepiece

$67.95
28d 2h 2m remaining

Meade Ultra Wide Angle 14mm 125 Inch Waterproof Eyepiece 07742

$109.95
17h 25m remaining

Celestron X Cel LX 5mm 125 Eyepiece 93421

$69.95
26d 15h 4m remaining

Meade 07741 Ultra Wide Angle 88mm 125 Inch Waterproof Eyepiece

$99.95
10d 16h 53m remaining

Meade Series 5000 HD 60 45mm 6 Element Telescope Eyepiece 125

$69.00
21d 13h 34m remaining

NEW 65mm Meade Series 5000 HD 60 telescope eyepiece

$65.88
3d 14h 22m remaining

Meade Instruments 607018 Eyepiece 100 Degree MWA 21MM 2 Inch Black Green

$199.95
1d 20h 16m remaining

Vintage BRANDON 32mm EFL Eyepiece

$99.99
29d 58m 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 2016 Diamondback 12x50 Binocular

$229.99
22d 14h 24m remaining

Bushnell PowerView 10x50mm Realtree AP Binocular w Accessory Kit 131055

$64.99
12d 13h 38m remaining

VORTEX Diamondback 12x50mm Binocular DB 207 NEW FREE S H To USA

$247.68
9d 23h 50m remaining

Celestron 12x56 Nature DX Binocular Fogproof Waterproof Green 71336

$188.88
27d 21h 7m remaining

Vortex Diamondback 10x28 Binocular

$139.99
26d 15h 22m remaining

Vortex Optics New 2016 Diamondback 8x32 Binocular

$169.99
26d 15h 33m remaining

Day Night 60X50 Military Army Binoculars Camouflage w Pouch by Perrini 1208

$48.99
17d 19h 7m remaining

Zeiss 8x42 Terra ED Binocular 524205

$279.00
15d 17h 25m remaining

Vanguard Endeavor ED II Binocular with Premium HOYA ED Glass Lifetime Warranty

$309.99
8d 17h 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