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


NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC NT114CF 114MM CARBON FIBER REFLECTOR TELESCOPE FAST SHIP
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC NT114CF 114MM CARBON FIBER REFLECTOR TELESCOPE FAST SHIP

$86.99
19d 21h 54m remaining
Gysker 130EQ Parabolic Reflector Telescope B2
Gysker 130EQ Parabolic Reflector Telescope B2

$150.00
24d 21h 21m remaining
Celestron NexStar 8 SE Schmidt Cassegrain Computerized Telescope 11069
Celestron NexStar 8 SE Schmidt Cassegrain Computerized Telescope 11069

$999.00
24d 18h 24m remaining
Gskyer Telescope Travel Scope 70mm Aperture 400mm AZ Mount Astronomical
Gskyer Telescope Travel Scope 70mm Aperture 400mm AZ Mount Astronomical

$79.99
13d 22h 35m remaining
Bausch  Lomb Criterion 4000 Telescope System 1200mm f12 534
Bausch Lomb Criterion 4000 Telescope System 1200mm f12 534

$134.99
28d 2h remaining
Orion Telescope Lenses In Case Lot
Orion Telescope Lenses In Case Lot

$59.99
6d 9h 32m remaining
Solomark Telescope 70mm Apeture Travel Scope 400mm AZ Mount
Solomark Telescope 70mm Apeture Travel Scope 400mm AZ Mount

$82.00
14d 18h 42m remaining
Questar 35 Standard Telescope With Case No signs of use
Questar 35 Standard Telescope With Case No signs of use

$1,600.00 (1 Bid)
1h 54m remaining
40070 Telescope with Tripod Phone Adapter 16X 66X Moon Watching for Beginners
40070 Telescope with Tripod Phone Adapter 16X 66X Moon Watching for Beginners

$53.90
18d 15h 27m 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


Celestron Vintage 125 25mm Ortho Telescope Eyepiece Made in Japan
Celestron Vintage 125 25mm Ortho Telescope Eyepiece Made in Japan

$35.00
30d 23h 11m remaining
Tele Vue 19mm Wide Field Telescope Eyepiece In As New Condition Made In JAPAN
Tele Vue 19mm Wide Field Telescope Eyepiece In As New Condition Made In JAPAN

$100.00
30d 23h 9m remaining
Celestron 125 Eyepiece  Filter Kit  Telescope Accessory Set Model 94303
Celestron 125 Eyepiece Filter Kit Telescope Accessory Set Model 94303

$78.00 (9 Bids)
8h 56m remaining
SVBONY SV105 125 Telescope Electronic Eyepiece 2MP Astronomy Camera+USB Cable
SVBONY SV105 125 Telescope Electronic Eyepiece 2MP Astronomy Camera+USB Cable

$40.47
21d 14h 19m remaining
Edmund Scientific RKE 28mm Eyepiece
Edmund Scientific RKE 28mm Eyepiece

$26.00 (3 Bids)
6d 3h 33m remaining
VIXEN LV9mm 125 Eyepiece for Telescope made in Japan
VIXEN LV9mm 125 Eyepiece for Telescope made in Japan

$79.99
30d 10h 33m remaining
2 inch 32mm Wide Field Super Plossl Telescope Eyepiece NEW XL lenses
2 inch 32mm Wide Field Super Plossl Telescope Eyepiece NEW XL lenses

$48.77
16d 12h 1m remaining
Meade Series 4000 8mm 24mm 125 Zoom Eyepiece  07199 2
Meade Series 4000 8mm 24mm 125 Zoom Eyepiece 07199 2

$55.00
21d 13h 42m remaining
Kellner 25mm wide eyepiece with recticles inside
Kellner 25mm wide eyepiece with recticles inside

$35.00
23d 3h 51m 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 Optics Solo R T Tactical Monocular 8x36 MRAD Range Reticle SOL 3608 RT
Vortex Optics Solo R T Tactical Monocular 8x36 MRAD Range Reticle SOL 3608 RT

$119.00
20d 2h 39m remaining
Swarovski Optik EL 10x42WB Binoculars 34010 Case Strap Lens Caps Very Good Cond
Swarovski Optik EL 10x42WB Binoculars 34010 Case Strap Lens Caps Very Good Cond

$1,395.00
27d 5h 50m remaining
Day Night 180x100 Military Zoom Powerful Binoculars Optics Hunting Camping+Case
Day Night 180x100 Military Zoom Powerful Binoculars Optics Hunting Camping+Case

$35.99
3d 21h 32m remaining
100x180 High Power Military Binoculars Day Night BAK4 Optics Hunting Camping+Bag
100x180 High Power Military Binoculars Day Night BAK4 Optics Hunting Camping+Bag

$35.99
27d 2h 9m remaining
VINTAGE CARL ZEISS JENA BINOCULARS 7X50 WITH LEATHER CASE GERMANY ANTIQUE VINT
VINTAGE CARL ZEISS JENA BINOCULARS 7X50 WITH LEATHER CASE GERMANY ANTIQUE VINT

$43.00 (14 Bids)
8h 11m 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
26d 7h 4m remaining
100X180 Binoculars with Night Vision BAK4 Prism High Power Waterproof
100X180 Binoculars with Night Vision BAK4 Prism High Power Waterproof

$35.99
3d 7h 50m remaining
10X25 Binoculars with Night Vision BAK4 Prism High Power Waterproof
10X25 Binoculars with Night Vision BAK4 Prism High Power Waterproof

$28.89
22d 7h 23m remaining
Celestron SkyMaster PRO 20 x 80 Astronomy Binoculars 72031 Used
Celestron SkyMaster PRO 20 x 80 Astronomy Binoculars 72031 Used

$189.99
21d 36m 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