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


CELESTRON C8 ULTIMA PEC TELESCOPE STARBRIGHT 30 125  7mm LENS DEC 8 MIRROR
CELESTRON C8 ULTIMA PEC TELESCOPE STARBRIGHT 30 125 7mm LENS DEC 8 MIRROR

$345.00 (14 Bids)
1d 16h 22m remaining
Portable Astronomical Refractor Telescope Travel Scope w BagSmartphone Adapter
Portable Astronomical Refractor Telescope Travel Scope w BagSmartphone Adapter

$70.29
17d 23m remaining
Telescope tripod for 2 1 2 dia
Telescope tripod for 2 1 2 dia

$50.00 (1 Bid)
13h 22m remaining
Travel Scope Telescope Smartphone Adapter and Bluetooth Camera Remote 70x400mm
Travel Scope Telescope Smartphone Adapter and Bluetooth Camera Remote 70x400mm

$119.50
17d 1h 27m 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

$159.99
29d 18h 58m remaining
SVBONY SV20 Refractor Telescope Fully Coated Glass Optical 49 tripod+Adapter US
SVBONY SV20 Refractor Telescope Fully Coated Glass Optical 49 tripod+Adapter US

$125.99
27d 17h 39m remaining
40070 Refractor Astronomical Telescope With Tripod  Phone Adapter Kids Gift
40070 Refractor Astronomical Telescope With Tripod Phone Adapter Kids Gift

$66.50
12d 16h 41m remaining
Coulter Odyssey 8 Dobsonian Telescope W Telrad
Coulter Odyssey 8 Dobsonian Telescope W Telrad

$250.00
18d 9h 28m remaining
ioptron telescope motorgo to nova works used
ioptron telescope motorgo to nova works used

$49.00 (1 Bid)
1d 13h 57m 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


SVBONY 125 Plossl 40mm Eyepiece Green Coated FC For Astronomical Telescope US
SVBONY 125 Plossl 40mm Eyepiece Green Coated FC For Astronomical Telescope US

$16.99
1d 22h 9m remaining
Meade 125 Telescope Eyepiece Diagonal  Barlow Kit 26mm 97mm Super Plossl
Meade 125 Telescope Eyepiece Diagonal Barlow Kit 26mm 97mm Super Plossl

$39.95
13d 12h 38m remaining
Celestron X cel  Series 125in 25mm Eyepiece 93426
Celestron X cel Series 125in 25mm Eyepiece 93426

$64.95
26d 6h 38m remaining
Bresser 2 25mm Wide Angle Multi coated Telescope Eyepiece New Old Stock
Bresser 2 25mm Wide Angle Multi coated Telescope Eyepiece New Old Stock

$69.95
29d 13h 26m remaining
Edmund Scientific 12mm RKE Eyepiece
Edmund Scientific 12mm RKE Eyepiece

$65.00
22d 6h 36m remaining
University Optics telescope refractor eyepiece 125 40mm Kellner 1970s JAPAN
University Optics telescope refractor eyepiece 125 40mm Kellner 1970s JAPAN

$8.50 (8 Bids)
22h 17m remaining
SVBONY SV105 125Telescope Electronic Eyepiece 2MP Astronomy Camera US LOCAL
SVBONY SV105 125Telescope Electronic Eyepiece 2MP Astronomy Camera US LOCAL

$52.99
27d 23h 48m remaining
Meade 56mm Series 4000 Super Plossl 2 inch Eyepiece
Meade 56mm Series 4000 Super Plossl 2 inch Eyepiece

$69.99
4d 4h 45m remaining
MEADE Series 4000 DS Super PLOSSL 26mm eye piece plus extra
MEADE Series 4000 DS Super PLOSSL 26mm eye piece plus extra

$16.65
15d 2h 6m 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

$140.00
18d 3h 9m remaining
Adlerblick Carton 10x50 Astronomy and Stargazing Highly Rated Binoculars
Adlerblick Carton 10x50 Astronomy and Stargazing Highly Rated Binoculars

$149.00
18d 13h 38m 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

$32.99
28d 18h 29m remaining
Day Night prism 20 50x70 Zoom Binoculars Hunting Camping
Day Night prism 20 50x70 Zoom Binoculars Hunting Camping

$59.99
16d 17h 26m remaining
180x100 Zoom Day Night Vision Outdoor HD Binoculars Hunting Telescope +Case Much
180x100 Zoom Day Night Vision Outdoor HD Binoculars Hunting Telescope +Case Much

$32.99
14d 13h 45m remaining
40X60 Zoom Optical HD Lens Monocular Telescope+ Tripod+ Clip Day
40X60 Zoom Optical HD Lens Monocular Telescope+ Tripod+ Clip Day

$14.73
15d 10h 15m remaining
16X52 Dual Focus Optical Day Night Vision HD Monocular Telescope
16X52 Dual Focus Optical Day Night Vision HD Monocular Telescope

$9.85
4h 56m remaining
SPALDING Binoculars 20x80mm for Military Nature and Astronomy
SPALDING Binoculars 20x80mm for Military Nature and Astronomy

$69.00
11d 12h 23m remaining
40X60 Zoom Optical HD Lens Monocular Telescope+ Tripod+ Clip For Universal Phone
40X60 Zoom Optical HD Lens Monocular Telescope+ Tripod+ Clip For Universal Phone

$14.76
24d 2h 53m 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