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


400x70mm Refractor Astronomical Telescope With Tripod Phone Adapter for Beginner
400x70mm Refractor Astronomical Telescope With Tripod Phone Adapter for Beginner

$45.27
17h 34m remaining
400x70mm Refractor Astronomical Telescope 6X 66X Magnification Kids Student Gift
400x70mm Refractor Astronomical Telescope 6X 66X Magnification Kids Student Gift

$44.99
4d 14h 54m remaining
40070 Refractor Astronomical Telescope With Tripod  Phone Adapter For Beginners
40070 Refractor Astronomical Telescope With Tripod Phone Adapter For Beginners

$66.50
5d 10h 7m remaining
Portable Astronomical Refractor Telescope Travel Scope w BagSmartphone Adapter
Portable Astronomical Refractor Telescope Travel Scope w BagSmartphone Adapter

$54.95
12d 19h 21m remaining
Galileo G 80095SPA 800x95 Astronomical Telescope w SMARTPHONE Photo Adapter
Galileo G 80095SPA 800x95 Astronomical Telescope w SMARTPHONE Photo Adapter

$129.99
10d 6h 2m remaining
Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ Telescope w Motor Drive 31042 OP 31042 OP DS
Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ Telescope w Motor Drive 31042 OP 31042 OP DS

$179.99
25d 13h 57m remaining
Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope
Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope

$152.92
14d 13h 27m remaining
360 50mm Refractive Astronomical Telescope Tripod Monocula Space Scope Refractor
360 50mm Refractive Astronomical Telescope Tripod Monocula Space Scope Refractor

$25.98
20d 12h 33m remaining
40070 Refractor Astronomical Telescope With Tripod  Phone Adapter For Beginners
40070 Refractor Astronomical Telescope With Tripod Phone Adapter For Beginners

$66.50
17d 18h 53m 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 Super Plossl 26mm Multi coated eyepiece
Meade Super Plossl 26mm Multi coated eyepiece

$8.00 (1 Bid)
7h 21m remaining
Celestron telescope refractor cassegrain eyepiece 125 26mm Halloween plossl
Celestron telescope refractor cassegrain eyepiece 125 26mm Halloween plossl

$5.50 (4 Bids)
4d 18h 30m remaining
SVBONY125 62Eyepiece Kit 4 10 23mm Fully Coated for Astronomic Telescope US
SVBONY125 62Eyepiece Kit 4 10 23mm Fully Coated for Astronomic Telescope US

$22.99
14d 6h 33m remaining
meade research grade 155mm 125 wide angle vintage telescope eyepiece
meade research grade 155mm 125 wide angle vintage telescope eyepiece

$147.50 (8 Bids)
2h 32m remaining
SVBONY 125 Plossl Eyepiece 40mm Green Coated FC For Astronomical Telescope US
SVBONY 125 Plossl Eyepiece 40mm Green Coated FC For Astronomical Telescope US

$15.63
27d 17h 8m remaining
Celestron X cel LX 25mm Eyepiece 125 Fully Multi coated
Celestron X cel LX 25mm Eyepiece 125 Fully Multi coated

$30.00 (5 Bids)
10h 21m remaining
NEW 18mm Meade Series 4000 Plossl telescope eyepiece
NEW 18mm Meade Series 4000 Plossl telescope eyepiece

$18.88
29d 7h 29m remaining
Celestron 125 15mm Plossl Telescope Eyepiece Multi coated Excellent Condition
Celestron 125 15mm Plossl Telescope Eyepiece Multi coated Excellent Condition

$19.99
15d 5h 28m remaining
CELESTRON X CEL 5mm 125 EYEPIECE 93421
CELESTRON X CEL 5mm 125 EYEPIECE 93421

$36.00 (2 Bids)
6d 2h 52m 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


Nikon 10x42 Prostaff 7S Binocular All Terrain Waterproof  Fogproof 16003
Nikon 10x42 Prostaff 7S Binocular All Terrain Waterproof Fogproof 16003

$179.95
25d 12m remaining
Zhumell Sport Optics Astronomy Binoculars 25x100 great condition
Zhumell Sport Optics Astronomy Binoculars 25x100 great condition

$169.99
29d 1h 41m remaining
Gosky Titan 20x80 Astronomy Binoculars with Braced in Tripod Adapter
Gosky Titan 20x80 Astronomy Binoculars with Braced in Tripod Adapter

$150.00
23h remaining
Kowa 85x44 Genesis XD44 Binocular Mint in box
Kowa 85x44 Genesis XD44 Binocular Mint in box

$650.00
24d 9h remaining
LaScala Optics 25x100 Astronomical Binocular  Foam Lined Hard Case
LaScala Optics 25x100 Astronomical Binocular Foam Lined Hard Case

$102.50 (10 Bids)
6h 5m remaining
Vixen Foresta HR 8X32 binocular item RC14511 with warranty
Vixen Foresta HR 8X32 binocular item RC14511 with warranty

$30.00 (1 Bid)
7h 21m remaining
Vixen Foresta HR 10 x42 binocular item RC14515 with warranty
Vixen Foresta HR 10 x42 binocular item RC14515 with warranty

$40.00 (5 Bids)
7h 21m remaining
Zhumell 25x100 Astronomical Binoculars  Foam Lined Hard Case
Zhumell 25x100 Astronomical Binoculars Foam Lined Hard Case

$169.01 (26 Bids)
5h 58m remaining
180 x 100 Zoom Day Night Vision Outdoor Travel Binoculars Hunting Telescope+Case
180 x 100 Zoom Day Night Vision Outdoor Travel Binoculars Hunting Telescope+Case

$24.18
1d 11h 24m 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