Best telescopes 2024: For stargazing galaxies, nebulas and more

The best telescopes are essential for astronomers wishing to observe the night sky. They are powerful accessories that reveal beautiful, clear images of nebulas, planets, and other celestial objects. 

Are you on the lookout for the perfect telescope for your needs and abilities? With myriad options out there, the choice may feel overwhelming. Luckily, we've trawled the market to find the best telescopes available you can buy and extensively tested and reviewed them to help you decide. 

The options in this guide are varied, covering a range of needs, abilities, and, of course, budgets. We've included beginner-friendly and advanced models, refractors, reflectors and catadioptric telescopes, and even some smart telescopes. So whether you intend on stargazing using your smartphone, taking astro shots using your camera, skywatching with a portable telescope or a large Dobsonian model, there are options in here for you. 

The world of telescopes can be confusing, not least because the jargon associated with them is often niche and obscure. If you're still in the dark about any of these terms, read the Telescope FAQ at the bottom of this guide. 

At Space.com, we don't limit ourselves to telescopes. We've also produced buying guides rounding up the best binoculars, the best binoculars, best cameras overall and best cameras for astrophotography and more. 

Telescope FAQ answered by
Gemma Lavender Headshot
Telescope FAQ answered by
Dr Gemma Lavender

A contributing expert to Space.com, Live Science, All About Space and more, Gemma is the author of several books including 'Quantum Physics in Minutes'. She holds a degree in physical sciences, a Master's in astrophysics and a PhD in computational astrophysics and became fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 2011. Gemma is also the Communications and Outreach Office at the European Space Agency.

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 quite 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 an excellent pick for novice astronomers. It's extremely user-friendly, producing sharp and bright images. While the field of view might be a bit restricted, the SkyAlign software and GoTo feature simplify locating objects in the night sky, minimizing any inconvenience. Additionally, the hand controller feels solid and offers a tactile experience while providing nine slewing speeds, facilitating precise movements or swift exploration of the night sky.

It's worth remembering that the NexStar SE telescopes consume a significant amount of power. We suggest using an external power source instead of relying on AA batteries, as a set of AAs won't last long and can become costly to replace frequently. While this may affect portability, it's manageable by carrying a portable power bank or station with you, and it doesn't have to be a deal-breaker

Overall, in our Celestron NexStar 4SE telescope review, we found it to be a great telescope for beginners. It is easy to use, produces clear and bright images and comes with a variety of features that make it a great value for the price.

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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 with it being relatively lightweight, you can easily transport it around with you.

✅ You want to take astrophotos 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 utilize 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 be a little underwhelming.

The bottom line

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

For beginners and anyone on a budget, the Celestron Inspire 100AZ is a great choice. It comes with various accessories, and it's sturdily built and equipped with a ton of user-friendly features, making it a breeze to use and good value for money.

The telescope is sturdy and easy to use. Featuring a 100mm aperture, it gathers 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.

The Inspire 100AZ telescope comes with various accessories, including two eyepieces, a red LED flashlight to maintain night vision, an accessory tray, a StarPointer Pro finderscope for locating celestial objects and a smartphone adapter for simple astrophotography.

During our Celestron Inspire 100AZ review, we found a small amount of false color (purple color fringing), and a slight blurring in the field of view was noticeable. The latter is easily resolved with a careful selection of 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 are particularly fussy about color accuracy being spot on.

If you're looking for an affordable telescope to get started with astronomy, the Inspire 100AZ is a great option.

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