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Best telescopes 2022: Top picks for viewing planets, galaxies, stars and more

Best telescopes for skywatching
(Image credit: Future)

This is it, all the best telescopes available to buy in 2022. As well as being the best of the best, we've included telescopes to suit every level of astronomer and covered every budget. There will definitely be something here that's perfect for you.

If you're an avid bargain hunter, check out our telescope deals page too which we update with the best deals as we find them on telescopes across the board. Deals aside though, if you're seriously interested in getting the very best stargazing experience you can, this is the guide for you as we've got the best models from top manufacturers, only being sold from reputable retailers.

We also have brand-specific guides for Celestron, Skywatcher, Meade, and Orion deals for those that are loyal to their favorite brands. Like this page, we keep those updated year-round, so they're always worth checking out. 

It is important to consider what it is you want from your stargazing experience before buying one of the best telescopes on the market. For example, if you're wanting to view faint deep-sky objects like nebulas and galaxies then you'll want a reflector telescope. On the other hand, a refractor telescope is better suited for views within our own galaxy such as the moon and other planets. 

There is also the catadioptric telescope, which can work as a happy middle ground. Some models come have computerized systems that make tracking targets easy, and can even capture images for you, excellent news for astrophotographers.

Gemma Lavender Headshot
Gemma Lavender

Gemma is an astronomer who has been observing the night sky for 28 years, using a variety of different telescopes and binoculars from Celestron, Meade, Sky-Watcher and Orion, among others. Her favorite targets are galaxies and nebulas, of which she researched during her undergraduate studies at Cardiff University. She also enjoys observing the planets of the solar system, particularly the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter.

The best telescope deal available today:

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Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ: $219.95 now £189.99
If you want a powerful yet very affordable equatorial mount Newtonian Reflector then this great deal on the Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ is for you. It comes with 2 eyepieces (20mm and 4mm), a 3x Barlow lens and a free download for the Starry Night Astronomy Software.


Beginner telescopes

(Image credit: Orion)
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Orion GoScope 80mm Tabletop Refractor Telescope

"Out-of-the-box" views of the solar system, from your table!

Specifications

Optical design: Refractor
Mount type: Dobsonian (desktop version)
Aperture: 3.15" (80 mm)
Focal length: 13.78" (350 mm)
Highest useful magnification: 160x
Lowest useful magnification: 12x
Supplied eyepieces: 10 mm, 25 mm
Weight: 5.73 lbs. (2.6 kg) (desktop)

Reasons to buy

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Compact and easy to use
+
Sharp solar system views
+
Assembled out of the box

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks slow-motion controls

The Orion GoScope 80 tabletop refractor telescope features good quality optics and a nice-sized aperture.  It's designed to make astronomy easy and exciting for beginners, or as a grab-and-go scope for hobbyists. Despite a relatively narrow field of view, this telescope offers brilliant views of the moon and planets, as well as deep-sky targets. 

Fine-tuning and tracking can sometimes be a little bit of a hassle as it doesn't feature slow-motion controls, although you do get an EZ Finder 11 red dot finder to help you aim and point the telescope at your desired subject in the night sky. The telescope comes pre-assembled and the manual has clear and concise set-up instructions to get you stargazing as fast as possible.

The Orion SkyMax 90 employs a sturdy desktop mount, which swings along the axes of altitude and azimuth, so skywatchers will need to ensure that they use a sturdy table or surface for steady observations of the night sky. We discovered that slewing is a very smooth process with this telescope, but should you need one, Orion also offers this telescope with a tripod.

A beginner will be amazed at the breathtaking views which boast clarity and contrast. The surface of the moon and small views of Saturn are particular highlights — and no aggressive color fringing (although there is some) is evident around bright objects in the field of view. Seasoned astronomers will enjoy the 'grab and go' functionality of the scope, so as not to miss any solar events they may have forgotten about until the last minute.

The Orion GoScope 80 comes with free lifetime tech support from Orion should you need it, no need to scour the internet for answers or troubleshooting. You also get Starry Night software (which helps you choose and pinpoint night sky targets) and two three-element 10 mm and 25 mm eyepieces. The supplied accessories offer magnifications of 35x and 17x.

If the Orion GoScope 80 is out of stock you can try this great alternative instead: 


Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 114AZ - perfect for anyone interested in astro photos

(Image credit: Celestron)
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A good pick for getting started in astrophotography

Specifications

Optical design: Reflector
Mount type: Alt-azimuth
Aperture: 4.49" (114 mm)
Focal length: 39.37" (1,000 mm)
Highest useful magnification: 269x
Lowest useful magnification: 16x
Supplied eyepieces: 10 mm, 25 mm
Weight: 10.41 lbs. (4.72 kg)

Reasons to buy

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Simple to set up and align
+
Good intro to astrophotography
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Suggests targets to observe

Reasons to avoid

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Lacks computerized mount

Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 114 can be enjoyed by beginner and intermediate skywatchers alike and will be especially desirable to busy users who lack the time required for lengthy set-up procedures. Assembling this telescope takes less than 20 minutes!

Built into this reflector is Celestron's StarSense technology, which provides an easy option for aligning the telescope. It enables the onboard GoTo system to work out which direction the instrument is pointing. To use the tech, all the skywatcher needs to do is download the StarSense app and take a smartphone image through the eyepiece, the app then works out which stars are in the telescope's field of view to calculate the astronomer's orientation, clever.

You can enjoy the gas giant of Jupiter (opens in new tab) by using the 10 mm eyepiece. The views are clear, but you'll need a selection of eyepieces and filters in order to pick out the coloration of the atmospheric bands. The planet's largest moons are visible as clear, sharp points of light. Views of the moon, Venus (opens in new tab) and the Beehive Cluster (Messier 44) are also pleasing, with good clarity.

One nice feature with the Celestron StarSense series is that the app offers interesting information on each of the targets you can observe. It gives you a better understanding of what you're looking at for a more immersive experience.

We found that the StarSense Explorer LT 114 is built sturdily and operates smoothly when slewing from one target to another. The only real downside to this scope is that it's manually operated, so you don't get the ease of tracking that computerized telescopes would offer. However, some skywatchers prefer the manual approach, and what's more, the price is lower. 

Of course, you get the usual high quality optics that we've come to expect with Celestron telescopes and the aperture is a good size too. All in all, this is an excellent choice for a budget-friendly telescope.


Side profile of the Stellina

(Image credit: Robin Scagell)
The smart telescope that allows you to just get observing

Specifications

Optical design: Refractor
Mount type: Motorized GoTo alt-azimuth
Aperture: 3.15" (80 mm)
Focal length: 15.75" (400mm)
Highest useful magnification: Up to 100x with digital zoom
Supplied eyepieces: N/A
Weight: 24.69 lbs. (11.2 kg)

Reasons to buy

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Extremely portable
+
Great for astrophotography
+
Very easy to use

Reasons to avoid

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Expensive compared to rivals
-
Not as appealing to traditionalists

The Vaonis Stellina telescope is very different from most other telescopes on the market, it doesn't even look like a telescope! The Stellina's smart design means that it doesn't require the use of finderscopes and eyepieces. Instead, it makes use of a Sony CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor) sensor and navigation via a smartphone to reveal breathtaking views and take jaw-dropping images of the night sky. This telescope is undoubtedly more costly than competitor models but it does include a free download of Stellina app with a database of 100 targets to explore at the touch of a button.

Given the wide-angle sights the Stellina offers, this telescope isn't ideal for studying the planets, although views are fair. Instead, it excels in providing images of bright deep-sky targets and the surface of the moon. Star clusters, select nebulas and galaxies are within easy reach through the optical system and we are, in particular, blown away by views of the Andromeda Galaxy (Messier 31). Decent clarity can be had, while 6.4MP images with a resolution of 3096 x 2080 are produced in JPEG and RAW format — the former being a great option to share on social media in Ultra HD. 

In our in-depth review of the Stellina, we found that it is a a fabulous option for those interested in astrophotography above anything else, or for group viewing as up to 10 smart devices can be connected at once. It has a built-in light pollution filter, offers precise tracking and adapts well to changes in weather conditions. There's no hiding the fact this model is a little pricey, but that's expected of its sophisticated technology, sturdy and stylish build and importantly, reliability. 

If the Vaonis Stellina is out of stock, you can try this great alternative instead:

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Unistellar eVscope eQuinox: (opens in new tab)£2799 at Unistellar (opens in new tab)

The Unistellar eVScope eQuinox offers enhanced vision, citizen science projects, 35 hours of storage, a motorized mount and is 100 times more powerful than your standard telescope, the eQuinox is able to pick out faint deep-sky targets, from galaxies to nebulas in exquisite contrast and clarity within moments — whether you're observing from a dark-sky location or from the inner city.
 


The Celestron Astro Fi 102

(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)
Satisfying images from a very lightweight and portable go-to mount scope

Specifications

Optical design: Maksutov-Cassegrain
Mount type: Computerized Alt-Azimuth Single Fork Arm
Aperture: 4.01-inches (102 mm)
Focal length: 52.16- inches (1325mm)
Highest useful magnification: Up to 100x with digital zoom
Supplied eyepieces: 25 mm and 10 mm
Weight: 6 lbs. (2.7kg)

Reasons to buy

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Go-to is great for beginners
+
Highly portable

Reasons to avoid

-
Finish feels a little cheap
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Other models better value for money

The Celestron Astro Fi 102 telescope is perfect for beginners who don't have any prior knowledge of the night sky but want to start learning and enjoying what it offers straight out of the box.

It's not a budget scope by any means, but if you're looking for a telescope that comes from a trusted brand that is highly portable, this one is worth a look. 

This is a good grab-and-go option when weighing in at a tiny 6lbs (2.7kg). It doesn't have a huge footprint as some telescopes do, so you can leave it set up at home without compromising your space too much, or it's easy enough to pack away and reassemble.

The final finish on the telescope feels a little cheap to the touch, and compromises such as the materials used have been made to keep the scope lightweight.  

Despite the slightly lackluster finish, the image is pleasing, and you can see good views of the Moon's surface, Saturn and its rings, Mars and Jupiter. It's possible that you will see nebulae and other deep sky objects in the right conditions too. It's quick and easy to sync with Celestron's SkyPortal app, which contains approximately 100k celestial objects to explore.

Best telescopes for enthusiasts

Image shows the end of the Celestron Powerseeker 127EQ

(Image credit: Russ Swan)
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A no-frills but inexpensive telescope for beginners

Specifications

Optical design: Reflector
Mount type: Equatorial
Aperture: 5" (127 mm)
Focal length: 39.37" (1,000 mm)
Highest useful magnification: 300x
Lowest useful magnification: 18x
Supplied eyepieces: 4 mm, 20 mm, 3x Barlow
Weight: 22 lbs. (9.98 kg)

Reasons to buy

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Excellent value package
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Decent optics, with collimation
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Very good overall build

Reasons to avoid

-
Accessories not best quality
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Some may require additional eyepieces

This is a pretty good package from Celestron and we're including it here because it is cost-effective. The telescope comes with a 127mm aperture and is competitively priced, meaning you can view our solar system and deep-sky targets without breaking the bank. It can also be used as a terrestrial telescope, though it won't be for everyone as the optics are fairly basic and limiting.

The Celestron PowerSeeker 127 EQ comes with two eyepieces: a 20 mm and 4mm, which work with the optical system to produce magnifications of 50x and 250x. There's also a 3x Barlow lens for tripling the magnification on the eyepieces, though truth be told it really isn't needed — the maximum magnification that the telescope is able to achieve is 300x, so using the Barlow with the 4 mm eyepiece, for example, causes images to become blurred. 

Budget telescopes and cheaper models are often great options for people to try their hand at astronomy but don't come with high-end optical quality, as we discovered when we reviewed this model. So you may have to bear the PowerSeeker 127 EQ's limits in mind when looking for custom eyepieces and Barlow lenses. 

Skywatchers must be comfortable using an equatorial mount, slow-motion controls, and have polar aligning know-how before considering the PowerSeeker 127 EQ. Once they are, this reflector is a reliable instrument for observing — and more so if the observer collimates the mirrors regularly. Once this is achieved, the optical system offers impressive celestial sights.


Celestron Astro Fi 130

(Image credit: Celestron)
A guide to the night sky, packed with technology at a low price

Specifications

Optical design: Newtonian Reflector
Mount type: Computerized altitude-azimuth single fork
Aperture: 5.19-inches (130mm)
Focal length: 25.59-inches (650mm)
Highest useful magnification: 307x
Focal ratio: f/5.9
Supplied eyepieces: 25 mm (26x) 10mm (65x)
Weight: 18lbs/8.6kg

Reasons to buy

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Suitable for low budgets
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Great entry-level telescope
+
Vixen dovetail for mount changes
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Portable
+
Computer recommends targets
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Finds targets at touch of button

Reasons to avoid

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Eyepieces limit observations
-
Focuser of low quality
-
Battery drains quickly
-
Useless without app

The Celestron Astro Fi 130 is a telescope we've reviewed and we like a lot. While it's not necessarily a budget telescope, it is a lot more affordable than a few of the other telescopes on this page and we think it's excellent value for money.

If you're new to stargazing, or even if you just don't have a lot of experience, this telescope can give you an astronomy experience to marvel at. A 130mm aperture means that plenty of light is able to travel through the lens, making the night sky targets clearly visible. A focal length of 650mm too means you'll get a wide field of view, you also get amazing views of stars and can track targets within our solar system with ease. 

This telescope is also sturdily but is still more lightweight than some other scopes you might consider for the same experience, so it scores well on ease-of-transport too. You also get a stable tripod, a red dot finder and decent eyepieces too which make this even better value for money. 

We can only think of two things that let you down a bit with this model and that's the battery life that drains a little quicker than you might want, and the eyepieces aren't the best. You might want to consider upgrading the eyepieces for a better viewing experience. However, we would highly recommend this scope and you wouldn't go wrong by choosing to buy one. 


Encalife svbony 501p refractor telescope

(Image credit: Encalife/SVBONY)
A good option for lunar and solar observations

Specifications

Optical design: Refractor
Mount type: Altazimuth Mount
Aperture: 2.75-inch (70mm)
Focal length: 400mm
Highest useful magnification: Not stated
Focal ratio: f/5.7
Supplied eyepieces: K 20 mm 1.25" (20x)
Weight: 6.5lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Useful focal length for sun and moon
+
Lightweight and portable

Reasons to avoid

-
Optical quality could be better
-
Aluminum tripod not the sturdiest

Encalife have teamed up with telescope makers SVBONY to deliver a lightweight, extremely affordable portable refractor telescope that suits beginners as much as those who love to observe the moon regularly. At 400mm it's the perfect focal length for this.

Light gathering through the telescope is reasonable using the 2.75-inch (70mm) aperture. A K20mm eyepiece that ships with the 501P provides a medium power view through the scope. 

It also ships with plenty of accessories as well to save you having to buy extras. They include a 45 degree 1.25-inch erect image diagonal, a 5x24 finderscope, a sturdy aluminum tripod, and a bag to carry it all in. At just 6.5lbs it's super lightweight which means travelling with it to dark sky locations is easy, though don't expect to zoom in to too many star clusters due to the limited focal length.


Celestron NexStar Evolution 9.25 telescope - if clarity matters, this is the telescope for you

(Image credit: Celestron)
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Celestron NexStar Evolution 9.25

If you can stretch your budget, this is the scope for you

Specifications

Optical design: Schmidt-Cassegrain
Mount type: Computerized alt-azimuth fork arm
Aperture: 9.25" (235 mm)
Focal length: 92.52" (2,350 mm)
Highest useful magnification: 555x
Lowest useful magnification: 34x
Supplied eyepieces: 13 mm, 40 mm
Weight: 62.60 lbs. (28.39 kg)

Reasons to buy

+
Crisp views with no defects
+
Easy to set up
+
High-quality design

Reasons to avoid

-
Isn't very portable
-
Pricey

The optical system of the Celestron NexStar Evolution 9.25 ranks as one of the best we've ever had the pleasure of observing the night sky through. With no interference or optical defects in the field of view, this high-quality instrument offers sights of a wide selection of astronomical targets with impressive clarity and contrast. 

Although it is expensive, you get a lot of value for money with this telescope and its setup. The list of accessories you get include: an attachable camera, a red dot finderscope, an international AC adapter, hand control for a seamless AutoAlign process and 13mm and 40mm eyepieces.

The stand-out piece of equipment with the NexStar Evolution 9.25 is undoubtedly its single-fork arm. Observers can slew from one target to the next and continuously onwards at the touch of a button for up to 10 hours of continuous use, thanks to its rechargeable lithium-ion battery.  

Built into the mount is the telescope's very own Wi-Fi network, allowing the instrument to connect and control via the Celestron SkyPortal app (downloadable for free on iOS and Android). Being motorized, the mount can track objects as they move across the sky, making the NexStar Evolution 9.25 a must-try for astrophotography.

If you're looking for a complete high-definition tour of the universe, then we fully recommend this GoTo to seasoned skywatchers with decent budgets. The only downside is that the NexStar Evolution 9.25 is tricky to transport due to its weight, meaning that skywatchers will need to consider this before planning any trips beyond the backyard — a small trade-off given the telescope's robust and high-quality design.

It looks like the Celestron NexStar Evolution 9.25 is currently out of stock in the U.S. Look at the NexStar Evolution 8 as an alternative.

Best Computerized or GoTo telescopes

Celestron NexStar 8SE review photo

(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)
Brilliant image clarity and detail, with an accurate and smooth computerized motor

Specifications

Optical design: Schmidt-Cassegrain
Mount type: Computerized alt-azimuth fork arm
Aperture: 8-inches (203 mm)
Focal length: 80-inches(2032 mm)
Highest useful magnification: 480x
Lowest useful magnification: 29x
Supplied eyepieces: 25 mm
Weight: 32 lbs (14.48 kg)

Reasons to buy

+
Sharpness across the entire field of view
+
Good value for money

Reasons to avoid

-
On the heavy side
-
Hard to fault for the price

The first of two of the NexStar telescopes on this list, and for a good reason. The Celestron NexStar 8SE can offer beginners a simple way to view the night sky without needing prior knowledge while offering intermediate and advanced sky watchers enough power to delve deeper into space or even pair it with a camera to produce awe-inspiring astro imagery.

When you pay big money for telescopes, you're usually guaranteed to get exceptionally high-quality optics that provide incredible views of a variety of astronomical targets. 

Celestron's NexStar 8SE certainly fits into this category, earning itself the title of 'the World's most beloved telescope'. Featuring a StarBright XLT (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab) optical coating, spectacular views of the planets and moon can be had and with excellent contrast and clarity: Jupiter and its moons along with Saturn and its rings are particularly breathtaking through the optical system. No chromatic aberration — or color fringing — can be seen around bright targets and, what's more, very good views of the deep-sky objects are within reach of the eight-inch (203.2 mm) aperture.

In our Celestron NexStar 8SE review, we walked you through what it's like to get everything set up, it's straightforward. No prior knowledge of the night sky is needed as you can use Celestron's SkyPortal app or any other stargazing app to help you find two stars for the alignment process.

Once aligned, you can 'ask' the telescope, using the hand-held controller, to slew automatically to any other object in its vast database including planets, galaxies, double stars, star clusters, nebula and so on. There is even a 'sky tour' mode that does exactly that, it automatically slews to different objects in the sky for you to enjoy, another fantastic feature for beginners or simply those who can't decide where to look.

The motor is smooth, and the results are accurate. Automatic tracking is a dream for astrophotographers who can take steady long exposures for post-shoot stacking to take stunning images.

The only real downside to the Celestron NexStar 8SE is the price, it's a significant purchase if you are merely 'interested' in the solar system, but it is excellent value for money if you're invested in skywatching or astrophotography for the long haul. It's built to last.


Sky-Watcher Skymax 127 SynScan GoTo

(Image credit: Sky-Watcher)
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Sky-Watcher Skymax 127 SynScan AZ GoTo

An exquisite combination of great tech and clear optics

Specifications

Optical design: Maksutov-Cassegrain
Mount type: Motorized alt-azimuth
Aperture: 5" (127 mm)
Focal length: 59.05" (1500 mm)
Highest useful magnification: 150x
Lowest useful magnification: 60x
Supplied eyepieces: 10 mm, 25 mm & Barlow
Weight: 39.7 lbs. (18 kg)

Reasons to buy

+
Very user friendly 
+
Simple altitude-azimuth mount
+
Excellent clarity and contrast

Reasons to avoid

-
Tripod is a little shaky
-
Needs extra support in windy conditions

As an introduction to the world of GoTo skywatching, the Sky-Watcher Skymax 127 SynScan AZ (opens in new tab) is a must-have for observers on a limited budget. The SynScan AZ hand controller offers information on over 40,000 astronomical objects, which includes the most complete catalogs (Messier, NGC, IC and SAO) of deep-sky and solar system targets, while the astronomer is supplied with everything they need for a successful night: reasonable quality star diagonal, 2x Barlow with a camera adaptor, 6x30 finderscope, stainless steel tripod and accessory tray.     

Assembling the instrument is easy and, given the weight of 39.7 lbs. (18 kg), the Sky-Watcher Skymax 127 SynScan AZ is light enough to carry across the backyard without a great deal of effort. Skywatchers have the choice of powering the Servo Drive with 8 AA batteries or a 12V power supply — with batteries having a tendency to drain quickly in cold conditions, we recommend investing in the latter for uninterrupted observations with the SynScan technology. Alignment is a breeze, making use of two stars to set the instrument up, but beginners may need practice in getting this just right — we recommend becoming acquainted with the Skymax 127 during daylight hours while ensuring that you read the supplied manual from cover to cover.

In terms of optical prowess, we don't have any complaints — especially given what's offered in the telescope's package. We can fit a waxing gibbous moon phase in the field of view and, after tweaking the focuser, the craters and lunar mare are brought into exquisite focus, contrast and clarity. A moon filter offered even better sights. Slewing over to the star-forming region, the Orion Nebula (Messier 42), is also picked out easily with the 5-inch (127 mm) aperture — it appears as a dusty patch of light with the Trapezium Cluster's member stars dazzling with brilliant clarity at the nebula's heart.

A minor niggle is the shaky stainless steel tripod, so we recommend supporting the setup by hand while slewing and in windy conditions. 


Celestron NexStar 6SE - has great tech, but also some brilliant optics to match

(Image credit: Celestron)
A well made telescope with superb optics

Specifications

Optical design: Schmidt-Cassegrain
Mount type: Computerized alt-azimuth single fork arm
Aperture: 5.91" (150 mm)
Focal length: 59" (1500 mm)
Highest useful magnification: 354x
Lowest useful magnification: 21x
Supplied eyepieces: 25 mm
Weight: 30 lbs. (9.5 kg)

Reasons to buy

+
StarBright XLT multi-coated optics
+
High-quality build
+
Easy to set up and align

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited eyepieces
-
Drains batteries quickly — AC power cord required

Celestron's range of NexStar telescopes has a well-deserved reputation for excellent optics, user-friendly assembly and a plethora of features, and the Celestron NexStar 6SE (opens in new tab) exemplifies all of these. 

The 5.91-inch (150 mm) aperture is a step up from the Meade StarNavigator NG 114  in light-gathering prowess, while the more than 40,000 astronomical objects in the NexStar+ hand controller's database mean you'll never run out of new targets to seek. However, skywatchers should be mindful that extra eyepieces will need to be added to capture them, and even then, the aperture won't show all targets listed in the database in great detail. 

You can use 'tour mode', where the NextStar 6SE carefully guides you through different night sky targets, either in a specific constellation or right across the sky. It's a brilliant feature for people who can't decide what to observe or just want to explore the night sky like they never have before. 

The SkyAlign technology is simple to use and gets you pointed in the right direction, fast. The motorized mount also has nine slewing speeds on top of its different tracking rates. All of this sounds brilliant, and it is, but there is a downside. The NexStar 6SE's battery can drain very quickly, which isn't ideal, so we recommend powering the setup with an external power source.

Imagers may initially be displeased with its slow f/10 focal ratio, limiting the NexStar 6SE to being a planetary or lunar imager at best, but there is the facility for more advanced users to switch out the secondary mirror for their camera, with the smaller light path increasing the focal ratio to an astrophotography-friendly f/2.


Sky-Watcher 12-inch collapsible Dobsonian GoTo telescope - portable but weighty

(Image credit: Sky-Watcher)
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Sky-Watcher Flextube 300 SynScan Dobsonian

A good telescope to transport, although it is quite heavy

Specifications

Optical design: Parabolic Newtonian
Mount type: Dobsonian
Aperture: 12.01" (305 mm)
Focal length: 59.01" (1,500 mm)
Highest useful magnification: 600x
Lowest useful magnification: 43x
Supplied eyepieces: 10 mm, 25 mm
Weight: 72 lbs. (32.66 kg)

Reasons to buy

+
Good for faint targets
+
Collapsible for easier transport 
+
Built to last

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavy at over 32kg
-
Just about portable due to size and weight

The larger the aperture of your telescope, the more light it will gather, allowing you to resolve the finer details in astronomical objects, and see deeper into the universe. With a 12-inch (305 mm) objective, this collapsible Dobsonian from Sky-Watcher lives up to the tag of 'light bucket'. 

Dobsonians are designed for their simplicity and, with its GoTo capability plus motorized rocker alt-azimuth mount navigated by a SynScan hand controller, getting great views of the night sky and calibrating the telescope has never been easier. 

Over 40,000 targets are offered in the database and, we have to say, that seeking out faint fuzzies was our first port of call with the Sky-Watcher Flextube 300 SynScan. The Andromeda Galaxy (Messier 31) is an incredible sight, with some dust lanes visible and the bulge glowing brightly. Its satellite galaxies are also visible as points of light in the field view.   

With a focal ratio of f/4.9, this Dobsonian is fast enough for imagers to make use of all the photons that it will collect. With a little skill, you'll be able to take some amazing images through this telescope. 

Although the Sky-Watcher Flextube 300 SynScan is heavy, its collapsible design makes it easier for you to fit in the trunk of your car whenever the need arises to seek out dark-sky parks or attend star parties. 

It has a hefty price tag, but given the aperture, imaging prowess and GoTo capability of the Sky-Watcher Flextube 300 SynScan, it's a must-buy for hobbyists.

The Sky-Watcher Flextube 300 Synscan Dobsonian is currently low on stock, you can try these great alternatives as well:

Best telescopes for observing planets

Orion Skyline 6" Dobsonian Reflector Telescope

(Image credit: Amazon)

Orion Skyline 6-inch Dobsonian Reflector Telescope

Powerful and clear views of the moon and planets

Specifications

Optical design: Reflector
Mount type: Alt-azimuth
Aperture: 152mm
Focal length: 1200mm
Highest magnification: 133x
Eyepieces supplied: 9mm and 25mm
Weight: 37.5lbs

Reasons to buy

+
High-quality optics
+
Powerful and clear views
+
Sturdy build
+
Great choice for beginner and intermediate astronomers

Reasons to avoid

-
Cheaper alternatives available 

The Orion Skyline 6" (opens in new tab) telescope is a great choice for both beginner and intermediate astronomers due to its easy-to-use nature and high-quality optics.

In terms of those optics, you get an objective lens of 152mm meaning plenty of light will pass through, making night sky targets more visible. The telescope also comes with multi-coated optics, so those night sky targets can be seen with absolute clarity. The focal length is also a huge plus, 1200mm means you can see the finer details of your targets like craters in the moon and other planets. 

Magnification also goes up to 133x which means it's a powerful telescope, you won't miss out on the finer details of celestial objects. So if you want to view objects like the moon and planets, this level of magnification, especially with the eyepieces supplied, is really helpful. 

It's also well built and easy to use, a huge plus for those without bags of astronomy experience. However, you can get alternatives for a lower price, even if they don't quite match the Skyline 6" for quality of specs. We also like the Orion AstroView 90 (opens in new tab) a lot, for which this is a suitable replacement, however, it's hard to find it in stock online. 


Celestron Omni XLT 120 tube - this telescope has superb optics

(Image credit: Celestron)
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Celestron Omni XLT 102

A sturdy telescope that offers great views for intermediate-level skywatchers

Specifications

Optical design: Refractor
Mount type: CG-4 equatorial
Aperture: 4.02" (102 mm)
Focal length: 39.37" (1000 mm)
Highest useful magnification: 283x
Lowest useful magnification: 15x
Supplied eyepieces: 25 mm
Weight: 33 lbs. (15 kg)

Reasons to buy

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Very good quality optics
+
Sturdy design
+
Easy to accessorize 

Reasons to avoid

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Average-quality focuser
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Not ideal for absolute beginners

The Celestron Omni XLT 102 is aimed at intermediate-level skywatchers, particularly those who have mastered setting circles and know how to use the right ascension and declination coordinates on the supplied high-quality CG-4 German equatorial mount.

The Omni XLT 102 features high-quality optics, painted with Celestron's StarBright XLT coating to maximize light transmission. The optical system also makes use of aspheric shaping technology to minimize spherical aberration, a visual defect where incoming light is focused at different points.  

As such, the Omni XLT 102, with its mix of aperture and f/10 focal ratio, is able to produce excellent views of the planets, from Jupiter's atmospheric bands and moons, to Saturn's rings and craters on the moon, showing great contrast between areas in shadow and those bathed in daylight. While there is a slight amount of color fringing, views through the optical system are outstanding.

The refractor comes with a 25 mm eyepiece, 1.25-inch star diagonal, heavy-duty stainless steel tripod, accessory tray, spirit level, Starry Night Special Edition (opens in new tab) software and a 6x30 finderscope.

The Celestron Omni XLT 102 is a great telescope but you can also check out these great alternatives as well


Best astrophotography telescopes

Celestron Inspire 100AZ refractor - a good telescope for starting in astro

(Image credit: Celestron )
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A good starter telescope for budding astrophotographers

Specifications

Optical design: Refractor
Mount type: Alt-azimuth
Aperture: 3.94" (100 mm)
Focal length: 25.98" (660 mm)
Highest useful magnification: 241x
Lowest useful magnification: 15x
Focal ratio: f/6.5
Supplied eyepieces: 10 mm, 25 mm
Weight: 20 lbs. (9.07 kg)

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent range of accessories
+
Great intro to astrophotography
+
Easy to assemble

Reasons to avoid

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Slight false color in optics
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Limited to short exposure photography

An excellent telescope for the beginner or those on a budget, the Celestron Inspire 100AZ is a great choice for those looking for a complete package that offers more in the way of accessories over most starter telescope bundles.

The Inspire 100AZ comes with a 90-degree erect image diagonal with a 1.25-inch fitting that makes the telescope suitable for terrestrial and celestial views, a pair of eyepieces (20 mm and 10 mm), red LED flashlight, accessory tray, StarPointer Pro finderscope and a smartphone adapter for basic astrophotography. Given the refractor's focal ratio, the Inspire 100AZ is limited to short exposure photography.

A degree of false color and blurring in the field of view was detected during our observations. The latter is easily resolved with a careful selection of eyepieces, so we recommend investing in further eyepieces to make the most of the Inspire 100AZ's optical system and to ensure that it does translate to your photos. False color, on the other hand, is to be expected in telescopes at this price point but it did not ruin the experience.

We are particularly impressed with the overall build of this refractor — the StarPointer is a pleasant surprise since it's able to pick out faint stars under moderate light pollution for an accurate experience in hopping from one target to another.

Related: Celestron Inspire 80AZ (opens in new tab): Full review


Encalife svbony refractor ente503 telescope

(Image credit: Encalife/SVBONY)

SVBONY SV503 80 ED OTA

A useful addition for anyone interested in deep-sky viewing or photography

Specifications

Optical design: Refractor
Mount type: UNC 1/4-20
Aperture: 3-inch (80mm)
Focal length: 560mm
Highest useful magnification: 160x
Focal ratio: f/7
Supplied eyepieces: N/A
Weight: 3.95kg

Reasons to buy

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Good optical quality
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Useful for stargazers and photography

Reasons to avoid

-
A little more expensive than others
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No apparent eyepieces

For those who fancy kicking things up a notch, the Encalife SVBONY 503 refractor takes you close in to deep-sky objects with its impressive 560mm focal length. A 3-inch (80mm) aperture drinks in the light and multiple accessories for this series of telescope means astrophotography is at your fingertips.

To aid deep-sky photography astronomers can use the SV193 reducer which increases the field of view and helps to flatten the image. The finder can be slipped on easily enough using the dovetail mount and a rack and pinion focuser makes it simple to get sharp views of the night sky. The 501P ships with a reducer and a guide scope as mentioned but lacks any eyepieces, relying on astronomers to use their own which is to be expected at this price range.


Sky-Watcher SkyMax 150 telescope

(Image credit: Sky-Watcher)
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Sky-Watcher Skymax 150 PRO

For a bigger budget, this Maksutov offers excellent optics

Specifications

Optical design: Maksutov-Cassegrain
Mount type: Equatorial (EQ-5 Pro)
Aperture: 5.90" (150 mm)
Focal length: 70.87" (1,800 mm)
Highest useful magnification: 450x
Focal ratio: f/12
Supplied eyepieces: 28 mm
Weight: 13.23 lbs. (6 kg)

Reasons to buy

+
High-quality build
+
Excellent optics
+
Great for a wide selection of astrophotography

Reasons to avoid

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Not all models come with a tripod
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Comes with only one eyepiece

Sky-Watcher (opens in new tab)'s Skymax 150 is a great package for the price, with some models offering a high-quality equatorial mount for short-exposure astrophotography and long-exposure imaging. This well-constructed Maksutov-Cassegrain also comes with a single eyepiece with a focal length of 28 mm for a magnification of 64x.

Weighing in at 13.23 lbs. (6 kilograms), the Skymax 150 is suitable for most regular equatorial mounts — many makes and models will be able to take the load of both the telescope and extra accessories, including CCD or DSLR cameras, filter wheels and other such add-ons. For versatility in the type of mount you choose, a Vixen-style dovetail plate is supplied for a moderate price tag.

The Skymax 150's optical prowess is outstanding, with no sign of optical distortion. The telescope is a great all-arounder, suitable for imaging everything from the planets to deep-sky galaxies and nebulas — and as you would expect for a telescope designed for giving great images. As an added bonus, the instrument is a breeze to use and accessorize.

The focuser is a dream to operate being lovely and smooth. The Skymax 150 keeps a good amount of fine focus once it's been found — vital for those long imaging sessions.


A Celestron advanced vx 8-inch edge hd telescope in front of a brick wall

(Image credit: Michael Covington)
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Has a very wide aperture, so is great for photos

Specifications

Optical design: Schmidt-Cassegrain
Mount type: Motorized equatorial
Aperture: 8" (203.2 mm)
Focal length: 80" (2,032 mm)
Highest useful magnification: 480x
Lowest useful magnification: 29x
Supplied eyepieces: 40 mm
Weight: 61 lbs. (27.67 kg)

Reasons to buy

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Great-sized aperture
+
High-quality optics for flat field
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Seamless motorized mount

Reasons to avoid

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A little heavier than most
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Lens cap can be fiddly

Celestron’s EdgeHD technology turns Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes into high-quality astrographs with perfectly flat fields. The way that the Schmidt-Cassegrain optics focus light usually means that the focal plane  — where the light comes to focus — is curved, but if you are imaging, your CCD camera's sensor is flat. A curved focal plane on a flat CCD sensor results in field curvature, where stars at the edge of the field become blurry. An undesirable effect for astrophotographers.  

In our Celestron Advanced VX 8 EdgeHD review, we found the EdgeHD optics negate this, creating a perfectly flat field right to the edge of the frame for pinpoint sharpness right across the image. We are impressed with the optical performance that the Celestron Advanced VX 8 EdgeHD delivers, with crisp and clear views with no optical distortion or false color.

As an added bonus, the optical tube assembly comes packaged with Celestron’s Advanced VX mount, which is tailor-made for imagers, capable of photographing across the meridian without needing to do a meridian flip. The setup also performs periodic corrections to remove errors when tracking objects and also comes with an autoguider port. 

The Celestron Advanced VX9.25 EdgeHD can carry a load of 30 lbs. (13.6 kilograms) too, so the tube and all your imaging accessories are fully supported. Also included is the standard NexStar+ hand controller, a 40 mm eyepiece, and access to Celestron’s SkyPortal app (opens in new tab) and Starry Night Special Edition software (opens in new tab).

It looks like the Celestron Advanced VX 8 EdgeHD is out of stock in the U.K. Try this great alternative instead:

How we test the best telescopes

To guarantee you're getting honest, up-to-date recommendations on the best telescopes to buy here at Space.com we make sure to put every telescope through a rigorous review to fully test each instrument. Each telescope is reviewed based on many aspects, from its construction and design, to how well it functions as an optical instrument and its performance in the field.

Each telescope is carefully tested by either our expert staff or knowledgeable freelance contributors who know their subject areas in depth. This ensures fair reviewing is backed by personal, hands-on experience with each telescope and is judged based on its price point, class and destined use. For example, comparing a 10-inch Dobsonian to a 2.76-inch refractor wouldn't be appropriate though each telescope might be the best pick in their own class.

We look at how easy it is to set up, whether computerized or motorized mounts are reliable, accurate and quiet. If a telescope comes with appropriate eyepieces and tripods, we also suggest if a particular telescope would benefit from any additional kit to give you the best experience possible.

With complete editorial independence, Space.com are here to ensure you get the best buying advice on telescopes, whether you should purchase an instrument or not, making our buying guides and reviews reliable and transparent.

Telescope buying advice

Telescope Glossary

Aperture: Diameter of the primary mirror or lens, which allows a telescope to collect light.
Field of view: Area of sky visible through the eyepiece.
Focal length: A telescope's tube length. Short focal lengths offer a wide field of view and a small image.
Focal ratio: Also known as the telescope's speed. Small focal ratios provide lower magnifications, wide field of view and a brighter image.
Magnification: Relationship between the telescope's optical system and the eyepiece. 

The aperture is one of the most important things to consider when purchasing a telescope, then you should next consider the focal length. The main thing to remember here is that bigger isn't always better. 

It really all comes down to the targets you are wanting to view. Shorter focal lengths, say of about 20 inches (500 mm), will provide a field of view for you to take in large areas of the Milky Way and showpieces such as the Pleiades (Messier 45) and Orion Nebula (Messier 42). Meanwhile, high-power objects like the moon, planets or double stars need a telescope with a longer focal length of about 80 inches (2000 mm). 

If you can't really decide, then there are plenty of compromises between aperture and focal length but you must be willing to make a few trade-offs in terms of the weight of your instrument, the field of view and its "power". Read on for what you can expect from the three major kinds of telescope: the refractor, reflector and catadioptric.

Refractor telescopes

Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ

(Image credit: Celestron)

As their name suggests, refractors bend (or refract) the light that they gather to give you a view of your astronomical target. As telescopes go, they have a fairly straightforward assembly and consist of a main objective lens at one end that focuses light through to the other. 

Intuitive to use, the refractor is often a popular choice of instrument for novice astronomers since they require little maintenance and are usually affixed to the simple alt-azimuth mount, which allows the skywatcher to slew from left to right and up and down in order to locate the desired target. Being easy to use means that these telescopes are also simple to manufacture, making them cheaper to buy with price points increasing with aperture size.

Refractors are particularly good at giving highly magnified and high contrast images and, because of this, are ideal instruments to use when looking at solar system targets such as the moon and the planets. The best refractors usually have an aperture of two inches (60 mm) or more and will provide reasonable views of astronomical objects. If you're looking for a larger aperture, then a three- or four-inch (80 mm to 90 mm) will suit you best. 

The drawback of a refractor is that they can suffer from chromatic aberration, also known as color fringing. When a single lens doesn't focus all of the colors emitted from a target object at the same point, bright objects such as the moon, Venus or Jupiter usually have a colored halo around them. Many refractors are manufactured as achromatic or apochromatic (also known as Extra Dispersion (ED) telescopes) to reduce this problem.

The achromatic refractor is cheaper than the apochromatic refractor and, combined with its efficiency, is often the type of telescope that novice astronomers go for. Even if you decide to go for the more expensive achromat, you're still likely to get a stubborn degree of purple fringing around some targets. 

Unless you're a seasoned skywatcher and you can afford to go for the more expensive apochromat — which corrects for such an effect by using exotic glass for the lenses — this degree of color fringing will not ruin your observing experience to any great extent. If you decide to go for the expensive option, you will be stunned by the views you will get through these excellent telescopes. 

Be warned though: you might find that some apochromats come without a tripod, something that you'll have to buy separately along with any accessories — so be sure to choose wisely.

Reflector telescopes

Orion StarBlast telescope

(Image credit: Orion)

There are two common types of reflector telescope — the Newtonian and the Dobsonian. However, the way these instruments operate is exactly the same — they both use mirrors to reflect light to create an image of the object you're looking at. 

The Newtonian telescope comprises a curved-light collecting mirror, which can be found at the tube's base. The light that hits this mirror is reflected back to the front of the tube, where a smaller flat mirror — orientated at 45° — brings light to the observer who can see their chosen object.

The Newtonian can be found on alt-azimuth mounts, but you shouldn't be too surprised to find this type of reflector is more popularly affixed to an equatorial mount, allowing the telescope to follow the rotation of the sky while being aligned with your hemisphere's celestial pole. This reflector is a favorite in the amateur astronomy community due to its versatility by observing a wide selection of astronomical targets and allowing for astrophotography. With Newtonians, you can also buy a large aperture for less money — for instance, an eight-inch (203.2 mm) reflector would cost you less than a refractor with the same aperture, allowing you to get much more value for your money. 

On the downside, the Newtonian doesn't come hassle-free, especially regarding maintenance. You might find yourself having to have optical mirrors realigned as well as the mirror's surfaces repainted since they can eventually become tarnished. If you choose to go for a reflector of this sort, you should always choose one with mirrors with a protective coating — these will last longer.

Some beginners to the hobby of astronomy might find setting up and using an equatorial mount tricky and that's where the Dobsonian comes in. These telescopes give the capabilities of a reflector without the complexities an equatorial mount will bring since it employs an alt-azimuth mount. Dobsonians are very simple to use and can easily be pulled into orientation when looking at astronomical objects. If you're not confident in navigating your telescope though, then GoTo or computerized Dobsonians and Newtonians are on the market — but at a higher cost. 

Whatever reflector you choose, these telescopes are excellent for low-magnification targets such as galaxies and many types of nebulas.  

Maksutov-Cassegrain and Schmidt-Cassegrain (catadioptric telescopes)

Meade Instruments LX65 GoTo

(Image credit: Meade Instruments)

To get the best of both reflectors and refractors, manufacturers developed the Schmidt-Cassegrain and the Maksutov-Cassegrain telescopes. These catadioptric telescopes generally correct issues found in refractors and reflectors.

The Maksutov-Cassegrain corrects the problem that the reflector experiences — an aberration effect called "coma", which can make objects look distorted and appear like they have a tail. This effect is reduced or banished with the combined efforts of a mirror and a corrector lens. The Maksutov is ideal for beginners or for those who don't have the time (or funds!) to complete any extensive maintenance on their instrument since the tube’s optics are sealed off. 

This catadioptric is very robust and is also the ideal family telescope. Packed into its short optical tube is a system that allows you to target higher magnification objects such as the planets, moon and double stars. You'll be able to pick up a Maksutov for a very good price and, if you struggle to find objects and your way around the night sky, then both this type of catadioptric telescope and the Schmidt-Cassegrain can be found in abundance and equipped with a GoTo system.

What you get with a Schmidt-Cassegrain is very similar to the capabilities of the Maksutov. It will allow you to make general observations of planetary targets and stars. It is also possible to expand the telescope's field of view with the help of corrector lenses, allowing you to view a wide selection of astronomical targets.  

The catadioptric telescope is also suitable if you want to try your hand at astrophotography but combine this with their marked improvement on your standard telescope and you should expect a substantial rise in cost compared to standard reflectors and refractors. 

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