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



NEW Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ Reflector Telescope Planetarium Software Tripod

$161.95
22d 10h 52m remaining

Celestron NexStar Evolution 8 Schmidt Cassegrain Wifi Telescope

$1,495.00
24d 10h 54m remaining

Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ Reflector Telescope Planetarium Software Tripod NEW

$167.99
10d 12h 23m remaining

Celestron NexStar Evolution 6 Wifi Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope Kit

$1,095.00
22d 13h 16m remaining

Meade 1205 05 03 LightBridge 12 3048mm Reflector Telescope

$999.00
1d 19h 10m remaining

Celestron NexStar 6SE 60 Computerized Telescope

$749.00
24d 10h 36m remaining

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

$79.99
29d 1h 46m remaining

Celestron 21090 Omni XLT 120 Telescope W 283x Maximum Magnification

$593.51
6d 3h 24m remaining

New Blue 45 Reflector Telescope F 44 with Camera

$253.99
1d 10h 21m 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 56mm Series 4000 Super Plossl 2 inch Eyepiece

$57.95
7d 7h 6m remaining

Meade 07740 Ultra Wide Angle 55mm 125 Inch Waterproof Eyepiece

$109.95
7d 18h 2m remaining

NEW 45mm Meade Series 5000 HD 60 telescope eyepiece

$64.88
4d 6h 28m remaining

Meade 126 2x 125 inch 1 1 4 in Eyepiece Short Focus Barlow

$24.95
14d 7h 37m remaining

Celestron 94182 Collimation Eyepiece 125 NEW

$29.95
24d 7h 46m remaining

NEW 25mm Meade Series 5000 HD 60 telescope eyepiece

$65.88
4d 6h 28m remaining

NEW 9mm Meade Series 5000 HD 60 telescope eyepiece

$65.88
2d 10h 27m remaining

Explore Scientific 2 30mm 82 Degree Eyepiece

$265.00
5d 14h 27m remaining

New Explore Scientific EP10020 100 Degree 20mm 2 Eyepiece N2 Purged

$295.00
23d 13h 37m 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



Bushnell PowerView 10x50mm Realtree AP Binocular w Accessory Kit 131055

$64.99
15d 6h 51m remaining

SWAROVSKI OPTIK ATS 80 HD SPOTTING SCOPE KIT W 20 60x EYEPIECE 86614

$2,289.00
27d 3h 45m remaining

FLIR Scout TK Compact Monocular Green 431 0012 21 00S

$549.00
18d 5h 46m remaining

Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 10x25mm Roof Prism Binocular 190125

$129.99
18d 12h 21m remaining

Vortex Optics New 2016 Diamondback 8x32 Binocular

$169.99
29d 8h 46m remaining

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

$309.99
11d 11h 8m remaining

Bushnell ImageView 8 x 30mm Camera Binoculars with HD Video Recorder 118328

$161.87
11d 15h 9m remaining

Bushnell NatureView 20 60x 65mm Waterproof Fogproof Spotting Scope w 786065

$204.84
4d 8h 47m remaining

NEW Vortex Razor HD 8x42 Binoculars Made in Japan

$949.99
4d 20h 48m 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