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


Portable Astronomical Bigineers Refractor Telescope Travel Scope For Kids
Portable Astronomical Bigineers Refractor Telescope Travel Scope For Kids

$17.39
25d 10h 50m remaining
40070 Refractor Astronomical Telescope With Tripod  Phone Adapter For Beginners
40070 Refractor Astronomical Telescope With Tripod Phone Adapter For Beginners

$59.42
7d 19h 27m remaining
Portable Astronomical Refractor Telescope Travel Scope w BagSmartphone Holder
Portable Astronomical Refractor Telescope Travel Scope w BagSmartphone Holder

$59.41
27d 19h 37m remaining
Gskyer EQ 80900 Telescope German Technology Telescope Starwatcher Refractors NEW
Gskyer EQ 80900 Telescope German Technology Telescope Starwatcher Refractors NEW

$139.99
27d 11h 51m remaining
1957 Questar 35 Standard Telescope Beautiful Condition 60 year old Collectible
1957 Questar 35 Standard Telescope Beautiful Condition 60 year old Collectible

$3,249.99
30d 11h 52m remaining
Celestron 114LCM Computerized Telescope 31150
Celestron 114LCM Computerized Telescope 31150

$302.33
8d 18h 58m remaining
Gskyer Telescope 130EQ Professional Astronomical Reflector Telescope German Scop
Gskyer Telescope 130EQ Professional Astronomical Reflector Telescope German Scop

$199.95
8d 10h 38m remaining
Astronomical Reflector Telescope Logic Drive Tripod Newtonian Star Finder Space
Astronomical Reflector Telescope Logic Drive Tripod Newtonian Star Finder Space

$274.99
24d 19h remaining
Gskyer Telescope 80mm AZ Space Astronomical Refractor Telescope German Tech
Gskyer Telescope 80mm AZ Space Astronomical Refractor Telescope German Tech

$279.00
16d 11h 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


Telescope 965 Three Eyepiece Kit 6mm 125mm 20mm  90 Degree Star Diagonal
Telescope 965 Three Eyepiece Kit 6mm 125mm 20mm 90 Degree Star Diagonal

$14.95
20d 10h 7m remaining
Tele Vue 8mm Radian eyepiece 125
Tele Vue 8mm Radian eyepiece 125

$140.00
30d 11h 4m remaining
Celestron 25mm Plossl Eyepiece
Celestron 25mm Plossl Eyepiece

$19.50
6d 6h 23m remaining
SVBONY 12568Ultra Wide Angle Eyepiece Kit 6 9 15 20mm FMC For Astro Telescope
SVBONY 12568Ultra Wide Angle Eyepiece Kit 6 9 15 20mm FMC For Astro Telescope

$88.31
3d 12h 25m remaining
Vintage Meade 40mm EWF Extra Wide Field 125 telescope eyepiece
Vintage Meade 40mm EWF Extra Wide Field 125 telescope eyepiece

$32.00 (7 Bids)
1d 8h 7m remaining
Explore Scientific 68 Degree Series 16mm Argon Purged Waterproof Eyepiece
Explore Scientific 68 Degree Series 16mm Argon Purged Waterproof Eyepiece

$104.85
30d 22h 21m remaining
125 Astronomical Telescope Eyepieces Kit Set Eye Lens 66 Ultra Wide Angle US
125 Astronomical Telescope Eyepieces Kit Set Eye Lens 66 Ultra Wide Angle US

$72.79
8d 15h 48m remaining
ZHUMELL 125 EYEPIECE and FILTER KIT
ZHUMELL 125 EYEPIECE and FILTER KIT

$9.99
6d 8h 35m remaining
Rini 26mm Eyepiece for Telescope 20
Rini 26mm Eyepiece for Telescope 20

$15.99 (1 Bid)
1d 6h 7m 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 with Braced in Tripod Adapter
Gosky Titan 20x80 Astronomy Binoculars with Braced in Tripod Adapter

$139.00
20d 15h 32m remaining
Nikon Travelite III Compact Binoculars 9x25 56 Birding Hunting Astronomy
Nikon Travelite III Compact Binoculars 9x25 56 Birding Hunting Astronomy

$30.00
30d 11h 44m remaining
Binoculars Zoom Day Night prism 20 50x70 Binocular Hunting Camping optics
Binoculars Zoom Day Night prism 20 50x70 Binocular Hunting Camping optics

$59.99
5d 12h 40m remaining
Day Night 180x100 Military Zoom Powerful Binoculars Optics Hunting Camping+Case
Day Night 180x100 Military Zoom Powerful Binoculars Optics Hunting Camping+Case

$27.79
14d 10h 45m remaining
10X25 Binoculars with Night Vision BAK4 Prism High Power Waterproof
10X25 Binoculars with Night Vision BAK4 Prism High Power Waterproof

$28.89
10d 11h 5m 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
30d 10h 13m remaining
10x25 High Power Military Binoculars Day Night BAK4 Optics Hunting Camping + Bag
10x25 High Power Military Binoculars Day Night BAK4 Optics Hunting Camping + Bag

$28.77
15d 5h 50m remaining
10x25 High Power Military Binoculars Day Night BAK4 Optics Hunting Camping+Bag
10x25 High Power Military Binoculars Day Night BAK4 Optics Hunting Camping+Bag

$28.99
14d 11h 49m remaining
ESSLNB Astronomy Binoculars for Adults 12x50 100 Waterproof Binoculars BAK4
ESSLNB Astronomy Binoculars for Adults 12x50 100 Waterproof Binoculars BAK4

$74.00
25d 22h 57m 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