We've compiled a comprehensive guide to the best telescopes for beginners, from small and portable to powerful and sophisticated models.
Choosing the right telescope can be difficult, especially with so many models, manufacturers, and retailers to choose from. We've created this guide to help you get started on your search, with a selection of the best entry-level telescopes for beginners. Whether you're looking for a gift or a treat for yourself, we've got you covered.
If you want a broader look at the best telescopes for all levels of experience, check out our guides to the Best telescopes. There we've got makes and models to suit all budgets and experience levels. For kid-friendly models, take a look at the Best telescopes for kids as an excellent starting point for young astronomers.
The telescopes we've selected for this guide are designed to meet the needs of different astronomers, depending on what they hope to achieve from their skywatching experience. Read the descriptions below to learn more about each telescope and what it's best suited for.
Best telescopes for beginners 2023
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The best telescopes for beginners 2023 ranked
The Unistellar eQuinox 2 is the second iteration of this line of smart telescopes (Unistellar also produces the much more expensive eVscope 2) and is a modern take on a traditional telescope. The smart telescope features just one button and is controlled by the Unistellar smartphone app, which allows you to manually slew the scope and automatically go-to celestial objects using 'explore mode' which detects the time and location of the telescope to determine objects currently visible in the night sky and allows users to take astrophotographs.
During our Unistellar eVscope 2 review we were impressed by the Smart Light Pollution Reduction feature that digitally removes city glow from night sky images making it a more accessible telescope for use in built-up towns and cities.
This telescope is excellent for beginners because it removes all the 'chores' of setting up a traditional telescope and gives users all the joy of exploring the night sky. It requires little to no collimation alignment procedures (or at least, very infrequently) and there's no finderscope or complex star alignment process to go through, just set it up with the smooth-operating Unistellar app on a smart device and get observing.
- Read our full Unistellar eQuinox 2 review
The Celestron Inspire 100AZ (which features the largest aperture in the Inspire family) is a top, top choice of telescope for beginners and, we think, the best beginner telescope for astrophotography. Also in the Inspire range is the Inspire 80AZ with a focal ratio of f/11.3 and the Celestron Inspire 70AZ with a focal ratio of f/11. However, the 100AZ's focal ratio is f/6.6 which lets in more light and so we'd recommend this model for brighter nighttime observations.
With its ease of setup and use, the 100AZ is a great choice for beginners who want to get started in astronomy without the hassle of a complicated telescope. It comes with a far greater selection of accessories than most other starter telescope bundles, making it a complete and affordable package for those who want to try their hand at astronomy.
While it's 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 blurring in the field of view. The latter is easily resolved with a careful selection of one of the best eyepieces.
The Inspire 100AZ comes with a 90-degree erect image diagonal with a 1.25-inch fitting that makes the telescope suitable for terrestrial (on land, daytime) and celestial views, a pair of eyepieces (20 mm and 10 mm), a red LED flashlight for preserving night vision, accessory tray, StarPointer Pro finderscope and a smartphone adapter for basic astrophotography.
Many beginner telescopes come with flimsy optical finders that can only be used to locate the brightest stars in the sky. This can make it difficult for beginners to find their way around the night sky. However, the Celestron Inspire 100AZ telescope StarPointer Pro is much more accurate and reliable. The StarPointer is able to pick out faint stars even under moderate light pollution, making it much easier for beginners to find their way around the night sky.
- Read our full Celestron Inspire 100AZ review
The development of the smartphone has revolutionized how we interact with technology, and Celestron's StarSense series of beginner telescopes take full advantage of that fact. In our Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ review, we found it owes its ingenious design and ease of use to the Starsense app, combined with the magic of GPS. It's no wonder it is a B&H Photo best seller.
Ordinarily, a GoTo telescope user would have to align their telescope on one or two bright stars for the onboard computer to figure out what direction it's pointing. While a relatively easy process, this could be a bit daunting for newcomers to the hobby who just want to start observing amazing celestial wonders without getting bogged down in the setting up. Here, Celestron's StarSense technology does all of the calibrations and aligning for you in a matter of minutes — wonderful.
We reviewed the StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ last year and thought it was an outstanding instrument for a beginner interested in astronomy or astrophotography using one of the best cameras for astrophotography.
Once you have downloaded the StarSense app to your Android or iPhone device, it will display a simulated view of the night sky. You can select objects (such as planets or galaxies) to observe from the menus. Once you have chosen your target, the app will display arrows on the screen, directing you to manually nudge the telescope in the direction of your chosen object. When the object is in your telescope's field of view, the app will issue an alert. All you have to do is look through the eyepiece to see it. You can use the telescope without the app, but the app adds a significant level of enjoyment and education to the experience.
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 out of the two.
The Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ comes with two eyepieces, 25mm and 10mm, which will provide magnifications of 26x and 65x, but as with all mass-produced budget telescopes, we recommend purchasing additional bespoke accessories to make the most of this instrument's optical system. The 10mm eyepiece is particularly lacking optically so it's worth considering upgrading.
- Read our full Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ
The Celestron NexStar 4SE is featured in this guide as it is very straightforward to set up so you can get straight to observing without any complex setup. This is just one of the reasons we gave it four out of five stars in our Celestron NextStar 4SE review.
Once you've set up Celestron's SkyAlign technology (a simple process that involves pointing the telescope at three bright objects in the sky, including the moon and bright planets), it will help you find anything you want to observe automatically and electronically slew (move) to put your desired object in the center of the field of view. Unlike the aforementioned Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ, it ships with a chunky hand controller rather than relying on an app.
You will be treated to bright and sharp images, especially for the price, which fluctuates around the $550 mark. Deep sky viewing is tricky because of the small field of view, but for lunar and planetary viewing, you won't be disappointed.
This isn't the most portable beginner telescope; it weighs about 8kg (without tripod etc) but its sleek design keeps accessories close to the tube which does mean you're unlikely to knock anything off during transport. As with the other Celestron NexStar models, we'd also suggest plugging it into a power source rather than relying on AA batteries, as it is very power-hungry.
- Read our full Celestron NexStar 4SE review
The Sky-Watcher Skyliner 200P is a great choice to maximize observing power on location. Dobsonian scopes are considered by astronomers to be observing powerhouses — huge tubes on simple alt-azimuth rocker mounts that don't require the need for a tripod — but they can often be bulky and cumbersome for travel. Sky-Watcher's line of Skyliner Dobsonians solves portability problems by manufacturing the tube so that it splits in two, allowing it to extend along a truss or collapse into a more compact form.
Because of their design, Dobsonian mounts can comfortably hold larger aperture scopes, usually at far less of a cost than the equivalent tripod-mounted reflecting or refracting telescopes. The Skyliner 200P, with its 7.87-inch (200 mm) diameter aperture, is a bargain for the price — especially given the superb views it offers thanks to its light-gulping ability. If you've ever wanted to see some of the furthest galaxies and nebulas up close, then this is the telescope for you.
There is a problem with the Skyliner 200P though and it's that the telescope needs frequent collimation — the process of aligning the primary and secondary mirrors, using tiny screws that hold them in place. Even a few small jolts can knock the mirrors out of alignment, but this may be an enjoyable process for those that love to tinker.
The aperture size presents another issue: Although the truss-tube design makes the setup more compact and portable, the tube and mount still weigh over 50 lbs. (22.7 kg) together. It's not quite a grab-and-go telescope, so we advise being mindful of this before traveling to dark-sky sites.
The Skyliner 200P comes with a 10mm (120x) eyepiece, suitable for presenting wide fields of view that can encompass entire galaxies or the full moon, and a 25mm (48x) one for more detailed work on, say, a close-up of the rugged lunar surface or the planets.
- Read our best eyepieces for telescopes guide to further your skywatching experience
The Orion StarBlast II 4.5 is a great all-rounder for those hunting for an all-inclusive piece of kit that is good value for money. The equatorial mount isn't the norm for beginner telescopes and can take a bit of getting used to compared to the simpler alt-azimuth mount. However, if you're willing to overcome this learning curve you'll be rewarded with much better tracking when using it.
The telescope is simple to assemble, we'd go as far as saying intuitive, but a manual is supplied for those who'd prefer step-by-step instructions. Included with the mount, tripod and optical tube assembly, the Orion StarBlast II 4.5 is supplied with two eyepieces — a 10 mm and 25 mm, which offer magnifications of 18x and 45x — a 2x Barlow lens, Orion's Star Target Planisphere and Telescope Observer's Guide for planning your observations, a moon map, a red LED light to preserve your night vision and a red-dot finder. This all-inclusive reflector is a very good starter telescope at an unbeatable price.
While we've yet to upload a full review, we have observed with this telescope. During our stargazing trip, Jupiter was visible in the southeast, dazzling at a magnitude of -2.7. Conditions were fair, allowing us to pick out the gas giant's atmospheric belts and largest moons. We did detect a small amount of coma, causing our images to appear as if they were 'falling inwards' near the edge of the field of view. However, with this telescope in particular, we had to look hard for distortion. It didn't affect our views or enjoyment of the night sky.
Given the telescope is better suited to wide-angle subjects, we turned the tube to the Pleiades (Messier 45), which dazzled in the field of view. The major member stars were pin-sharp, like white jewels. Around them, and using our peripheral vision, we were also able to pick out the Merope Nebula, a reflection nebula surrounding the 4th-magnitude star, Merope.
This is a top choice telescope for beginners, even if it takes a little getting used to. The Orion StarBlast II 4.5 benefits from a selection of accessories with the stand-out being the supplied eyepieces to maximize the magnifications. With those, it's the complete package and a great choice for novices until they're ready to upgrade.
- Read our best telescopes for stargazing galaxies and nebulas guide
The Celestron's Astro Fi is an excellent value-for-money telescope. It's a telescope with cutting-edge technology and superb support for anyone trying their hand at skywatching, especially those who are already tech-savvy.
Supplied with everything a beginner needs for great tours of the night sky, including 10mm and 25mm eyepieces (for magnifications of 132x and 53x), a smartphone adapter to dabble in astrophotography for beginners, and a red dot finder, the Astro Fi is an excellent piece of kit for a good price. There have been some compromises on quality to keep the scope lightweight and affordable, namely the external plastic casing, but assuming you won't be taking this outside in inclement weather and respect the delicate optics, this shouldn't cause you any problems.
During our Celestron Astro Fi 102 review, we confirmed that the optics provide good moon views and can easily pick out the planets. Pleasing views of Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are possible through the four-inch aperture and the breathtaking sights of our moon's rugged, chalky terrain. The Andromeda Galaxy (Messier 31) is also a pleasing sight, with its disk coming into view when playing with the magnification. Beginners and the whole family will be delighted with what the Astro Fi 102 can reveal.
The attractive characteristic of the Astro Fi 102 is the SkyAlign technology for simple alignment. Aligning your instrument is essential before you begin your observations as it reveals your orientation relative to the night sky. With this information, the Astro Fi 102 can slew to your desired target electronically at the touch of a button.
A smartphone is the said 'button' that takes users through the alignment process. Download the Celestron SkyPortal app from the Apple App Store or Google Play to get started.
- Read our full Celestron AstroFi 102 review
The Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ is a simple, classic refractor telescope that is perfect for beginners. It is easy to use and assemble and does not require the use of any technology. This makes it the perfect choice for those who want to learn their way around the night sky without any screen time distractions.
It's the longer version of the Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ and in the same way, as we found in our Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ review, it doesn't produce any false color. The telescope is attached to a single-arm alt-azimuth mount and features a slow-motion control for fine movements — from left to right as well as up and down — during navigation. Sweeping the night sky, we found that locking onto a target is simple with the Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ using the panning handle. There is no slippage over time and our chosen object remained in the center of the field of view.
A waning gibbous moon was visible using our observations. While the cratered surface could be seen in exquisite clarity and contrast, there is a small amount of blue-purple fringing around the lunar limb. The same could be said when observing planets like Jupiter and Saturn; however, with the stunning views of the atmospheric bands and the Cassini Division in Saturn's rings, this minor (and expected) flaw in this portable refractor's optics is soon forgotten.
Like most beginner telescopes, the AstroMaster 102AZ is fully equipped for a successful night under the stars. As well as a good quality mount, skywatchers are given a StarPointer red dot finder for easy star hopping, an erect image star diagonal for comfortable viewing, Starry Night software, and a 10 mm and 20 mm eyepiece. The duo will offer magnifications of 66x and 33x, which is ample for observing the solar system and a selection of bright deep-sky targets.
The Celestron AstroMaster is also available in apertures of 2.76 inches (70 mm), 2.99 inches (76 mm), 3.15 inches (80 mm), 3.14 inches (90 mm) 4.48 inches (114 mm) and 5.11 inches (130 mm), but for a budget-friendly telescope that's able to observe a wider variety of targets, we'd highly recommend the AstroMaster 102AZ.
- Read our best telescopes for deep space for alternative deep space friendly models
The SVBONY 501P 70 is amazingly simple yet clever. It's a lightweight 70 mm refractor telescope that is easy to travel with, making it a good choice for first-time or experienced stargazers looking to keep things simple. The telescope includes the optical tube, a basic 5x24 finderscope, and a 45-degree image diagonal to avoid neck strain while viewing the night sky. A backpack is also supplied to aid in easy transportation.
It comes with a single 20mm eyepiece that attaches to the 400mm refractor and so it makes this ideal for lunar viewing but not that much else. The tripod (which reaches 41.5-inch / 105cm, or 50-inch / 127cm with the central column extended) is a little on the flimsy side so that may be an item worth upgrading in the future.
Overall, after our Encalife SVBONY 501P 70 review our verdict was that, for the money, it's a good entry-level telescope for looking at the moon. As with most Encalife products, prices can fluctuate drastically so keep an eye out around events like Bank Holiday Sales, Prime Day and Black Friday.
- Read our full Encalife SVBONY 501P 70 review
How we test the best telescopes for beginners
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 its own class.
We look at how easy it is to set up, whether computerized or motorized mounts are reliable and quiet and 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.
If you're curious to see what the best telescopes are, we've got a guide for that. Similarly, if you already know what brand of telescope you want to purchase, we've got you covered there too. Be sure to check out our brand-specific guides for Celestron, Meade Instruments, Orion and Sky-Watcher.
Best telescopes for beginners: FAQ
When deciding on the best beginner telescope for yourself or the budding astronomer you're buying for, you'll need to consider what to look for if you want to achieve the best stargazing or skywatching experience.
It's important to take into account the various features and capabilities of the different telescope models, as well as any budget constraints you have when making your decision — set a budget and stick to it so you don't overspend.
You also need to consider the portability of the scope if you plan on using your scope in different locations, not all of them are simple to transport.
Aperture: The diameter of the primary mirror or lens that allows the 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, a wide field of view, and a brighter image.
Magnification: Relationship between the telescope's optical system and the eyepiece.
There are three main types of telescopes: reflector, refractor and catadioptric, all more or less suitable depending on the desired night sky subjects. Typically, reflectors are better for viewing faint, deep-sky objects like nebulae and galaxies, whereas refractors are popular for observing objects like planets or moons. Catadioptric telescopes can give you the best of both worlds and can be a happy middle ground.
As the name suggests, refractors bend the light and typically work similarly to camera lenses, whereby light passes through a series of glass elements before resolving toward the eyepiece.
Reflectors use a primary mirror to capture light from the telescope tube, then a secondary mirror to reflect the light into the eyepiece. These types of telescopes are often less expensive to build since they require the creation of a single large mirror instead of the multiple glass elements you'd find in refractors.
Catadioptrics combine refractive and reflective technology, allowing for long focal lengths and wide apertures in smaller telescope bodies.