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 23h 55m remaining
400x70mm Refractor Astronomical Telescope Optical Lens With Tripod
400x70mm Refractor Astronomical Telescope Optical Lens With Tripod

$59.50
8d 8h 20m remaining
CELESTRON174 PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope
CELESTRON174 PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope

$135.99
15d 6h 39m remaining
400x70 Refractor Astronomical Telescope With TripodPhone Support Holder Adapter
400x70 Refractor Astronomical Telescope With TripodPhone Support Holder Adapter

$70.00
14d 3h 35m remaining
Meade Infinity 102mm Altazimuth Refractor Telescope 209006
Meade Infinity 102mm Altazimuth Refractor Telescope 209006

$203.54
20d 14h 53m remaining
400x70mm Refractor Astronomical Telescope Optical Lens With High Tripod
400x70mm Refractor Astronomical Telescope Optical Lens With High Tripod

$70.00
12d 3h 7m remaining
300x70mm Refractor Astronomical Telescope With TripodFinderscope For Beginners
300x70mm Refractor Astronomical Telescope With TripodFinderscope For Beginners

$49.00
3d 15h 41m remaining
New Celestron NexStar 6 SE Computerized Telescope Schmidt Cassergrain 11068
New Celestron NexStar 6 SE Computerized Telescope Schmidt Cassergrain 11068

$759.00
3d 19h 47m remaining
MEADE 2045 SCHMIDT CASSEGRAIN Telescope w Metal Case Manual  Accessories 1985
MEADE 2045 SCHMIDT CASSEGRAIN Telescope w Metal Case Manual Accessories 1985

$500.00
2h 31m 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
Meade Ultra Wide Angle 20mm 2 Waterproof Eyepiece 07743

$109.95
21d 51m remaining
Meade 56mm Series 4000 Super Plossl 2 inch Eyepiece
Meade 56mm Series 4000 Super Plossl 2 inch Eyepiece

$57.95
4d 15h 54m remaining
LV9mm Lanthanum Vixen long eye relief eyepiece
LV9mm Lanthanum Vixen long eye relief eyepiece

$46.50 (4 Bids)
1h 37m remaining
Meade 0717002 64mm Series 4000 125 inch 1 1 4 in Eyepiece Super Plossl
Meade 0717002 64mm Series 4000 125 inch 1 1 4 in Eyepiece Super Plossl

$24.95
25d 17h 3m remaining
Celestron 94305 2 Eyepiece and Filter Kit
Celestron 94305 2 Eyepiece and Filter Kit

$249.95
26d 1h 21m remaining
Meade Series 5000 65mm HD 60 6 Element Eyepiece 125
Meade Series 5000 65mm HD 60 6 Element Eyepiece 125

$69.99
26d 18h 32m remaining
Celestron X cel  Series 125in 25mm Eyepiece 93426
Celestron X cel Series 125in 25mm Eyepiece 93426

$69.95
26d 17h 46m remaining
Meade Series 4000 8mm 24mm Zoom Telescope Eyepiece
Meade Series 4000 8mm 24mm Zoom Telescope Eyepiece

$67.95
28d 4h 3m remaining
Coronado CEMAX Solar Eyepiece Set with Case
Coronado CEMAX Solar Eyepiece Set with Case

$219.95
9d 23h 5m 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
Vortex 2016 Diamondback 12x50 Binocular

$229.99
22d 16h 24m remaining
Bushnell 141042 Powerview Roof Prism 10X42 Binoculars
Bushnell 141042 Powerview Roof Prism 10X42 Binoculars

$64.46
20d 17h 28m remaining
Gosky Titan 20x80 Astronomy Binoculars Giant Binocular with Braced in Tripod
Gosky Titan 20x80 Astronomy Binoculars Giant Binocular with Braced in Tripod

$191.72
23d 1h remaining
Celestron 71020 Skymaster 25 125 X 80 Astronomy Binoculars
Celestron 71020 Skymaster 25 125 X 80 Astronomy Binoculars

$169.95
8d 17h 8m remaining
VORTEX Diamondback 12x50mm Binocular DB 207 NEW  FREE S  H To USA
VORTEX Diamondback 12x50mm Binocular DB 207 NEW FREE S H To USA

$229.99
5d 22h 23m remaining
VORTEX Diamondback 10x50mm Binocular DB 206 NEW  FREE S  H
VORTEX Diamondback 10x50mm Binocular DB 206 NEW FREE S H

$219.99
5d 23h 9m remaining
SkyMaster 25x70 Binocular 71008
SkyMaster 25x70 Binocular 71008

$79.95
13d 22h 3m remaining
Fujinon Polaris 16X70 FMT SX Astronomy Binoculars
Fujinon Polaris 16X70 FMT SX Astronomy Binoculars

$455.00 (2 Bids)
1d 1h 53m remaining
Nikon 10x50 Prostaff 5 Binocular 7572
Nikon 10x50 Prostaff 5 Binocular 7572

$173.00
22d 16h 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