Best telescopes 2024: For stargazing galaxies, nebulas and more

The best telescopes offer up stunning views of the night sky from your backyard. Whether you're a budding astronomer or an experienced sky watcher, a quality telescope will unlock fabulous views of galaxies, nebulas, planets and more.

It can be overwhelming to choose between the dozens of telescopes available on the market, especially with the jargon that surrounds them. Our expert reviewers have extensively tested each product in this guide, and laid out everything you need to know when looking for the perfect telescope for you.

There are various different kinds of optical systems available, as well as different levels of aperture and focal length to consider depending on what you wish to view. Whether you're a beginner just starting out, a pro looking for top-quality optics or a tech-savvy person looking for the latest smart technology, there's something on our list for everyone. If you're not sure what you need, our Telescope FAQs below may help you decide what system and specs might work best for you.

With Amazon Prime Day next month, you might find a great telescope deal and score your desired scope at a reduced price. Last year, the Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ telescope was 40% on Amazon Prime Day, meaning it was less than $300. Space.com will be covering the event and highlighting all the best deals to be had in real-time, so make sure to regularly check the website for updates. 

If you're just starting out on your sky watching journey, our guide to the best beginner telescopes contains everything you need to know. And if you want a more specialist piece of kit, try our guides to the best telescopes for deep space and the best telescopes for seeing planets. If you're keen to introduce your kids to astronomy, we have guides to the best telescopes for kids and best binoculars for kids to help spark their interest early.

The quick list

Best telescopes 2024 that we recommend

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Best for beginners

Best for finding planets and other celestial objects easily with Celestron's SkyAlign technology.

Specifications

Optical design: Maksutov-Cassegrain
Mount type: Computerized Alt-Azimuth
Aperture: 4-inches / 102mm
Focal length: 1325mm
Highest useful magnification: 241x
Lowest useful magnification: 15x
Supplied eyepieces: 25mm
Weight: 23 lbs (10.44kg) fully assembled

Reasons to buy

+
Quick, uncomplicated setup
+
Celestron's high-quality build
+
SkyAlign technology

Reasons to avoid

-
Restrictive portability
-
Narrow field of view
-
Power hungry
Buy it if

✅ It's your first telescope: This scope is easy to use and set up, making it perfect for beginner astronomers. 

✅ You want GoTo technology: You can easily find and track specific celestial objects with little or no prior knowledge.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want to travel with it: This telescope isn't the most portable as the tripod doesn't fold down entirely.

The bottom line:

🔎 Celestron NexStar 4SE: If you want to view the planets and bright objects in the sky quickly and effortlessly, the Celestron NexStar 4SE will certainly do the job. ★★★★

The Celestron NexStar 4SE is a fantastic choice for beginners thanks to its fully computerized mount. Celestron's SkyAlign technology identifies the current date, time and your location to auto-find various targets within the night sky at the push of a button, making it easy for newcomers to get to grips with stargazing.

This telescope is very sturdy in design, which is reflected in its weight. At 23 lbs (10.4 kg) the NexStar 4SE is far from the lightest on this list, nor is it the most portable, as its accompanying tripod doesn't fold down completely. 

Another thing to note about this telescope is how power-hungry it is; the mount tears through the 8xAA batteries required so quickly, we'd recommend using an external power source instead. Because of this, the NexStar 4SE is perhaps best suited for those who want to stargaze from their backyard rather than take it on the go.

This telescope has a 4-inch (102mm) aperture and a focal length of 1325mm, enough to give sharp views of the planets and other bright sky objects. The downside is that this combination results in a fairly narrow field of view of only 1.2 degrees, which means you will struggle to fit bigger deep sky objects into the view. The NexStar 4SE comes with a 25mm Plossl eyepiece, but we think you'll get better results if you purchase an additional 32mm eyepiece and Barlow lens to make the most of the 241x highest useful magnification.

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Celestron NexStar 4SE
AttributesNotes
DesignSolid and sturdy build, signature orange colors.
PerformanceGreat for observing the moon and planets.
FunctionalityAlignment correction can be tricky.

Best budget telescope

Best budget telescope for for budding skywatchers who want to get up and running quickly

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

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

Reasons to avoid

-
Slight false color in optics
-
Limited to short exposure photography
Buy it if

✅ You're a beginner: We found it easy to set up and take down, and it's relatively light weight means you can easily transport it around with you.

✅ You want to take astro shots on your smartphone: The lens cap cleverly turns into a smartphone holder so you can capture images of the night sky.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You aren't confident locating objects yourself: This telescope doesn't have GoTo technology, so you'll need to be fairly confident in being able to locate specific celestial objects yourself (or with the help of a stargazing app).

❌ You want detailed views of deep sky objects: While this telescope can give great views of planets and the moon, objects further away may appear a little underwhelming.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron Inspire 100az: Aimed at beginners and those looking to upgrade, this 4-inch refractor performs best with the moon and planets. It comes with a lens cap that converts to a clever smartphone holder for easy astrophotography. ★★★★

The Celestron Inspire 100AZ is a great choice for beginners. Its user-friendly features and sturdy build make it a breeze to use even for the uninitiated, and it's a relatively affordable option compared to other options in this guide. 

It features a 100mm aperture to gather a significant amount of light, allowing clear observations of faint celestial objects like nebulas and galaxies. Moreover, its long focal length provides substantial magnification for detailed views of planets and other nearby objects.

During our Celestron Inspire 100AZ review, we noticed a small amount of false color (purple color fringing), and a slight blurring in the field of view. The latter is easily resolved by carefully selecting eyepieces, so we recommend investing in one of the best eyepieces to make the most of the Inspire 100AZ's optical system. The slight amount of false color shouldn't dampen your experience unless you want completely accurate colors. 

The Inspire 100AZ telescope comes with various accessories including two eyepieces, a red LED flashlight to maintain night vision, an accessory tray and a StarPointer Pro finderscope for locating celestial objects. We loved that the lens cap turns into a smartphone adaptor so you can take astro shots with your phone.

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Celestron Inspire 100AZ
AttributesNotes
DesignFairly lightweight.
PerformanceExcels with lunar views.
FunctionalityEasy to set up and take down.

Best value for enthusiasts

The Celestron Astro Fi 130 on a white background

The Celestron Astro Fi 130's wide field of view will allow you to see large galaxies without having to reposition the telescope often. (Image credit: B&H Photo)
Best value enthusiast telescope: 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: 650mm
Highest useful magnification: 307x
Lowest useful magnification: 19x
Supplied eyepieces: 25mm and 10mm
Weight: 18 lbs (8.6kg)

Reasons to buy

+
Great portable entry-level telescope
+
Vixen dovetail for mount changes
+
Finds targets at the touch of a button

Reasons to avoid

-
Focuser is of low quality
-
Battery drains quickly
-
Useless without app
Buy it if

✅ You want a beginner-friendly, grab & go, easy-to-use telescope: We thought this was a great entry-level telescope that can find targets at the touch of a button and is great for on-the-go observations. 

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want a 'traditional' telescope: We found this telescope is completely useless without the app, so if you want a more traditional telescope without much of the newer technology, look elsewhere.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron Astro Fi 130: A good telescope at an exceptionally good price, it has everything you'd need if you're just starting out, although we would recommend upgrading some of the pieces included. It can lose charge quickly in cold conditions, though, so consider buying an additional power source. ★★★½

Celestron's Astro Fi 130 is a very capable entry-level telescope with an affordable price tag. This well-constructed telescope consists of a Newtonian reflector and a sturdy aluminum tripod, 10mm and 25mm Kellner eyepieces offering 65x and 26x magnification, and a red dot finder. 

We'd strongly recommend purchasing some mid-range Plossl eyepieces to get the very best out of this scope. During our Celestron Astro Fi 130 review, we also noted that its batteries can be quick to drain in cold weather, so you might want to consider investing in 12V rechargeable batteries.

The optics on the Astro Fi 130 allow for good views of the Moon, offering enough magnification to see the craters and rilles on the lunar surface. Venus and Mars are also easy to pick out, and we were even able to catch a glimpse of the Andromeda Galaxy.

This telescope is a great choice for beginners; it has everything they need to get started on their stargazing journey. The SkyAlign technology doesn't require prior knowledge of the night sky to get ready for viewing, and the Celestron SkyPortal app makes it easy to control the scope via your smartphone or tablet. The app can even recommend celestial objects to view and guide the computerized mount to them. 

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Celestron Astro Fi 130
AttributesNotes
DesignVery sturdy build with well constructed tube and tripod.
PerformanceMakes use of SkyAlign technology for easy alignment.
FunctionalityGreat for lunar and planetary observing, but some views are fuzzy.

Best premium

The Celestron NexStar Evolution 9.25 on a tripod on a white background

Automatically track objects as they move across the sky with this high-quality Catadioptric telescope. (Image credit: B&H Photo)

Celestron NexStar Evolution 9.25

Best GoTo scope for seeing the universe in HD, but it has a premium price point

Specifications

Optical design: Schmidt-Cassegrain
Mount type: Computerized alt-azimuth fork arm
Aperture: 9.25-inches / 235mm
Focal length: 2350mm
Highest useful magnification: 555x
Lowest useful magnification: 34x
Supplied eyepieces: 13mm, 40mm
Weight: 62.60 lbs (28.39kg)

Reasons to buy

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

Reasons to avoid

-
Isn't very portable — best for backyard star gazing
-
Expensive
Buy it if

✅ You're an experienced skywatcher: Although its easy setup is a dream for beginners, this scope is best suited for more advanced, passionate astronomers who want a full view of the universe.
✅ You want to view a wide range of subjects: This scope has a large aperture which enables clear and detailed views of a wide range of celestial objects, including planets, deep-sky objects and nebulas.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want something portable: Portability isn't one of the Evolution 9.25's strengths, so it's best used for backyard gazing.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron NexStar Evolution 9.25: A fantastic telescope best suited to experienced skywatchers, with a price tag to match its premium features. It's not the easiest to transport, but we think it's one of the best GoTo telescopes you can buy ★★★★½

The Celestron NexStar Evolution 9.25 is an outstanding GoTo scope that provides breath-taking views of the night sky. Its Schmidt-Cassegrain optical tube boasts a generous aperture of 235mm and a sturdy single-fork arm mount for stability and precision. The motorized mount features a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that allows for an impressive 10 hours of uninterrupted stargazing.

The NexStar Evolution 9.25 comes with a good selection of accessories including a red dot finderscope, star diagonal, accessory tray, international AC adapter, hand control and two eyepieces (13mm and 40mm).

While it boasts an impressive design, this telescope is on the heavier side. As such, it's definitely not the most portable option, and we think it's best suited for backyard stargazing. Nevertheless, its robust construction and excellent features more than make up for this if you're not looking for a telescope to take on the go. 

Unlike the previous option in this list, the NexStar Evolution 9.25 is a great pick for more experienced skywatchers looking for a top-of-the-range telescope. It's an investment, sure, but it's impressively designed and boasts quality features.  

Astrophotographers may also find this telescope and its motorized mount to their liking as it can track the movement of celestial objects. You can easily control the NexStar Evolution 9.25 through the free Celestron SkyPortal app, which removes the need for a controller and frees up your hands during shoots. 

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Celestron NexStar Evolution 9.25
AttributesNotes
DesignA bit bulky and tricky to transport.
PerformanceCrisp views with no defects.
FunctionalityMotorized mount a good choice for astrophotography.

Best for planets

Best motorized scope: Ideal for astrophotography and deep space observing, giving excellent image clarity and detail

Specifications

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

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
Buy it if

✅ You're looking for a long-term telescope: There's no question that this telescope is pricey, but it's one that will last you for decades — it's not called 'The World's Most Beloved Telescope' for nothing.

✅ You want to use it for astrophotography: Thanks to the smooth and accurate tracking, this scope is a great option for taking stunning astro images of deep sky objects. 

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're on a budget: Although this is definitely worth the money and we'd recommend it if your budget can stretch to it, it is very pricey. If you're on a budget or you're new to the medium, there are plenty of cheaper alternatives that will be more than good enough.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron NexStar 8SE: An outstanding telescope with incredible optics that would suit a beginner, intermediate or advanced astronomer. It's great for astrophotography and gives beautifully bright and detailed views. Our only fault with it is that it can price out beginners. ★★★★½

The Celestron NexStar 8SE is a rare gem in that it will suit both beginners and more experienced skywatchers alike. You don't need any prior knowledge of the night sky or telescopes as you can use Celestron's SkyPortal app or any other stargazing app to help you find two stars for the alignment process, but it's also powerful enough for deep space exploration and astrophotography. 

The Celestron NexStar 8SE has an exceptional reputation, earning the title of 'The World's most beloved telescope' and ranking as the top bestseller on B&H Photo. It comes with StarBright XLT optical coating and delivers unmatched clarity and contrast for observing planets and the moon. Through its 203.2mm aperture lens, you can witness Jupiter's moons, Saturn's rings and other deep-sky objects in breathtaking detail. We found the image free of chromatic aberration and color fringing, resulting in stunning views of the night sky.

In our Celestron NexStar 8SE review, we found the telescope's motor operates smoothly and accurately. For astrophotographers, the automatic tracking feature is a dream, enabling you to capture long-exposure shots which can be later stacked and edited to create beautiful images of the cosmos.

Once you've set up and aligned the telescope, you simply need to use the handheld controller and point it toward various celestial objects in the NexStar 8SE's extensive database, which includes planets, galaxies, double stars, star clusters and nebulas. For beginners or those uncertain about what to observe, there's a convenient 'sky tour' option that automatically guides the telescope to different objects.

The Celestron NexStar 8SE is a high-end telescope which comes with a matching high price tag. Nevertheless, we think it's a worthwhile investment for those serious about skywatching or astrophotography. While it might be beyond the budget of casual astronomy enthusiasts, it is an excellent choice for those planning to keep up the habby for the long run.

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Celestron NexStar 8SE
AttributesNotes
DesignCan be transported as a fully-assembled setup.
PerformanceOutstanding optics, slightly tricky to align if you're not used to it.
FunctionalityEasy to assemble and disassemble.

Best for portability