Best telescopes for beginners 2024: Great scopes for starting out

There are so many telescopes to choose from — across all price points and with different features — that it can feel a bit daunting picking your first, but you've come to the right place if you're looking for one of the best telescopes for beginners.

Our guide to the best starter telescope covers a range of products that range from conventional designs to newer electronic GoTo models and across all price ranges and ages, whether you're looking for a telescope for yourself or for all the family to use. We'd also recommend checking out our guide to the best telescopes for kids if you're looking specifically for a telescope for your little one. Indeed, the telescopes we've included in this guide differ in how advanced they are, but we feel that overall they incorporate functions that make them a good choice if you're just starting out.

Every entry in our roundup includes a summary of the main features as well as a few reasons we think the telescope is a great choice, alongside a handful of reasons you may want to consider other options. We've also pulled in the best current prices you can get to make it that much easier to choose the best telescope for you.

For a broader look at what's out there, check out our guide on the best telescopes for all experience levels — including options for more advanced users across all price points. 

The quick list


Gemma Lavender Headshot
Gemma Lavender

Gemma currently works for the European Space Agency on content, communications and outreach, and was formerly the content director of Space.com, Live Science, science and space magazines How It Works and All About Space, history magazines All About History and History of War as well as Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) kids education brand Future Genius. She is the author of several books including "Quantum Physics in Minutes", "Haynes Owners’ Workshop Manual to the Large Hadron Collider" and "Haynes Owners’ Workshop Manual to the Milky Way". She holds a degree in physical sciences, a Master’s in astrophysics and a PhD in computational astrophysics. She was elected as a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 2011.

Best telescopes for beginners 2024

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Best overall

Best overall: No astronomy experience required, this telescope automatically slews and images night sky objects

Specifications

Optical design: Reflector
Mount type: Alt-azimuth
Aperture: 4.5-inches (114mm)
Focal length: 450mm
Highest useful magnification: 50x optical, 150x digital
Lowest useful magnification: Not specified
Supplied eyepieces: Electronic Nikon eyepiece
Weight: 19.8 lbs (9kg) including tripod

Reasons to buy

+
Effortless setup
+
No previous astronomy knowledge required

Reasons to avoid

-
Very expensive
-
Not for traditionalists
Buy it if

✅ You want to invest on something that's going to last: This telescope caters to both beginners who have no prior knowledge of the night sky, and pros who have a lot of astronomy experience, so you're unlikely to outgrow it.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You don't have a big budget: Although it is worth the money, this telescope is incredibly expensive, so most beginners likely wouldn't be able to afford it.

❌ You want a 'traditional' telescope: This is very much a telescope for the tech lovers, so if you want a more traditional instrument, this may not be the one for you.

The bottom line

🔎 Unistellar eQuinox 2 A very impressive smart telescope that can do it all, it's incredibly easy to use and guides you around the night sky even if you have no prior astronomy knowledge, though the image resolution is average. ★★★★½

Unistellar has made the best telescope for beginners overall with its smart eQuinox 2 — which is a modern take on a classic design. This is really easy to use thanks to its one-button operation, and you can even connect it to the Unistellar app on your smartphone. 

Doing this lets you activate "explore mode" which uses the time and location of your telescope to automatically find celestial objects in the night sky. You can also manually adjust the telescope to direct it to an object you had in mind. This is alongside the bonus of taking astrophotos.

During our Unistellar eQuinox 2 review we were particularly impressed with the Smart Light Pollution Reduction feature, which makes the telescope more usable in densely populated areas by digitally removing city glow from the images of the night sky.

The eQuinox 2 is perfect for beginners because it gets rid of all the difficulties of setting up a regular telescope. It's all about the fun of discovering the night sky, which is what really hooks newcomers into the hobby. If you prefer a more traditional stargazing experience, you might want to choose something else. But if you can handle a smartphone, the Unistellar eQuinox 2 is incredibly easy to use, almost unmatched in simplicity.

This is, however, an expensive telescope, which may be prohibitive to some beginners. But advanced technology always comes with a higher cost. This is an extremely well-made telescope that will last for years and is just as much enjoyed by experienced users as it is by new astronomers.

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Unistellar eQuinox 2
AttributesNotes
DesignSleek, simple design.
PerformanceIncredibly easy to use, but image resolution is average.
FunctionalityBackpack needed to travel with easily.

Best for quick set up

Best for quick set up: Affordable but giving excellent views of planets, stars, galaxies, stars and nebulas

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

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

Reasons to avoid

-
Slight false color in optics
-
10mm eyepiece isn't great
Buy it if

✅ You want a hassle-free setup: Our top pick in this category, this telescope assembles and packs down very quickly and easily.

✅ You want to do basic astrophotography: There's a clever dust cap that doubles as a smartphone holder, so you can easily take photos with your phone.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want something super portable: It's not a heavy telescope by any means, but it does have a fairly large footprint. You could take it to dark sky locations in your car, but you might not want to carry it too far.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron Inspire 100AZ Aimed at beginners and users looking to upgrade, this telescope is at its best when viewing the moon and planets and comes with a lens cap that doubles as a smartphone holder for easy astrophotography. ★★★★

Celestron's Inspired series of telescopes offers a number of great options, and among them are the Celestron Inspire 70AZ (which has a focal ration of f/11) and the Inspire 80AZ (and its focal ratio of f/11.3). But our pick is the Celestron Inspire 100AZ — which has the biggest aperture and a focal ratio of f/6.6, letting more light in and offering the brightest views in this range. 

But above everything else, it's really easy to set up and a great choice for anyone starting out. It also comes packaged with various accessories so you can set it up and use it straight out of the box without too much hassle or stress figuring out how everything works — letting you see objects in the night sky much quicker.

While it is suitable for beginners, it isn't a perfect telescope. During our Celestron Inspire 100AZ review, we did detect some false color (which we'd expect at this price) and some blurring in the field of view. However, the latter is easily resolved with a careful selection of one of the best eyepieces.

The Inspire 100AZ comes with several accessories, including two eyepieces (20mm and 10mm), a red LED flashlight for low-light visibility without disrupting night vision, an accessory tray for gear storage, a StarPointer Pro finderscope for locating celestial objects and a smartphone adapter for basic astrophotography. This telescope is very versatile and suitable for various subjects in both daytime (terrestrial) and nighttime (celestial) viewing.

Unlike other beginner telescopes that have delicate optical finders limited to locating only the brightest stars, the Celestron Inspire 100AZ telescope's StarPointer Pro presents a notable advancement. With improved accuracy and dependability, it makes navigation easier for beginners. The StarPointer's impressive capability to identify faint stars, even in moderately light-polluted areas, enhances the overall stargazing experience.

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Celestron Inspire 100AZ
AttributesNotes
DesignComes with a lens cap that doubles as a phone holder.
PerformanceExcels with lunar views.
FunctionalityEasy to assemble and take down.

Best for basic astrophotography

Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130 AZ set against a white background

In our review, we were impressed with the StarSense app and the GPS locating capability, which (sometimes) prevents laborious alignment procedures. (Image credit: Celestron)
Best for basic astrophotography: This telescope is ideal for introducing budding enthusiasts to astrophotography

Specifications

Optical design: Newtonian reflector
Mount type: Alt-azimuth
Aperture: 5.11-inches (130mm)
Focal length: 650mm
Highest useful magnification: 307x
Lowest useful magnification: 19x
Supplied eyepieces: 10mm, 25mm
Weight: 18 lbs (8.16kg)

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to assemble and align
+
Suggests targets to observe
+
Good intro to astrophotography

Reasons to avoid

-
No motor drive
-
Eyepieces need updating 
Buy it if

✅ You want to do basic astrophotography: This telescope offers great views for anyone wanting an intro to basic astrophotography, but for any real long-exposure shooting it would be impossible.

✅ You want it to offer target suggestions: The StarSense app will display a simulated view of the night sky where you can select a range of options to view from the menus.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want good eyepieces: We noted that the included 10mm eyepiece, in particular, is lacking in quality, so either choose a different model or invest in better eyepieces.

❌ You're a seasoned astrophotographer: As it doesn't have an EQ mount, long exposure photography will be near impossible.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ An exquisite telescope for a beginner, fully equipped and supplied with everything the skywatcher needs for a successful observing session under the stars ★★★★

Using a smartphone has made life a lot easier when it comes to interacting with other technologies, including telescopes, and Celestron has embodied that in its StarSense telescopes. An easy-to-use design and straightforward app makes the Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ a great telescope for beginners, with GPS also making it a great option.

Beginners will definitely value the telescope's ability to let you stargaze without needing much high-level configuration. While using most GoTo telescopes means pointing the telescope toward a few bright stars so the computer can determine where it is, Celestron automatically takes care of the calibrations and alignments within minutes — making it much easier on you. This lets you explore the starry night sky without much hassle; it's an ideal feature for newcomers. 

When you download the StarSense app, you'll see a simulated night sky where you can pick various celestial objects you want to explore further. The app will then show arrows on the screen, indicating which way to move the telescope to see your chosen objects. Once the object is in view, the app will notify you, prompting you to peer through the telescope's eyepiece for a closer look.

You don't need to use the Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ with the app — you can operate it without for a more traditional experience — but with it, it offers an easy way for beginners to get to know the night sky. It's a fun and pleasurable way to do things, too, taking out all of the stress of scanning the night sky without really knowing what you're looking at.

Celestron's StarSense Explorer range also includes a 4.5-inch aperture Newtonian and a 4-inch refractor — be sure to check out our Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ review. But because the DX 130AZ boasts an aperture of 5.11 inches, we feel this is the superior instrument.

The Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ comes with two eyepieces: a 25mm and a 10mm, providing magnifications of 26x and 65x. However, as is common with many budget telescopes, it's advisable to consider additional accessories to unleash the telescope's optical capabilities fully. We noticed that the 10mm eyepiece, in particular, was a bit underwhelming, so we'd recommend upgrading it to enhance your observing experience.

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Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ
AttributesNotes
DesignGood quality optical tube and mount.
PerformanceViews are good — clear, crisp and contrasty.
FunctionalityEasy to use for navigation.

Best Maksutov-Cassegrain

Best Maksutov-Cassegrain: Fantastic beginners' value maksutov-cassegrain telescope

Specifications

Optical design: Maksutov-Cassegrain
Mount type: Computerized Alt-Azimuth Single Fork Arm
Aperture: 4.02-inches (102mm)
Focal length: 1325mm
Highest useful magnification: 241x
Lowest useful magnification: 15x
Supplied eyepieces: 25mm
Weight: 23 lbs (10.4kg) fully assembled

Reasons to buy

+
Celestron's SkyAlign Technology
+
Excellent build quality
+
Quick to set up

Reasons to avoid

-
Power supply advisable  
-
Narrow field of view
Buy it if

✅ You want a stress-free setup: There's basically no setup required with this telescope, so you can get to observing straight away.

✅ You want to view deep-sky objects: The narrow FOV makes deep-sky viewing tricky, so this is a telescope best suited to lunar and planetary viewing.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want portability: While it's certainly doable, it's not the most lightweight option, so if you plan on traveling a lot with it we'd suggest a more suited option.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron NexStar 4SE Aside from some questionable design choices, the NexStar 4SE is a good buy for the beginner astronomer for its ease of use and sharp, bright optics. ★★★★

The Celestron NexStar 4SE earns its place on this list because it lets you get started on your quest to observe the night sky as soon as possible. The set-up process is really easy and the telescope lets you find objects in the night sky automatically. This makes it a great option, earning four stars in our Celestron NextStar 4SE review.

The NexStar 4SE makes use of Celestron's SkyAlign technology, which aims to make stargazing as simple as possible. It will automatically pinpoint and center any celestial object you want to observe. The set-up process couldn't be easier, either: Simply point the telescope at three bright objects in the sky, perhaps the moon and two prominent planets. The scope will then adjust itself and place your selected object at the center of the field of view.

In a sense, it's like the StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ we listed above. However, with this telescope, you don't need an app; it includes a large hand controller that can manage everything.

Considering the price tends to fluctuate around the $550 - $600 mark, you'll be treated to surprisingly bright and sharp images. It's tricky to do deep-sky viewing with this model due to its small field of view (for that you'll want to check out our guide to the best telescopes for deep space), but if you're only going to be looking at the moon and planets, you won't be disappointed.

This entry-level telescope, weighing about 8kg (not including the tripod, etc.), has a sleek design that securely holds accessories on the tube, lowering the chances of accidental damage while moving it around. Similar to other Celestron NexStar models, it's recommended to use a power source instead of relying solely on AA batteries, as the telescope can use up a lot of power.

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Celestron NexStar 4SE
AttributesNotes
DesignSolid and sturdy build, but drains batteries fast.
PerformanceCrisp, detailed views of the moon and planets.
FunctionalityCelestron's Skyalign and GoTo system automates most of the viewing work.