As an astronomer just starting up in the field, it’s almost certain that you’ve already glanced at the seriously expensive and highly complex stargazing rigs available for the advanced user. Purchasing something like the Celestron NexStar 8 SE Computerised Telescope when you’re just starting off is a complete misfire, however. There are plenty of top-class telescopes that perfectly fit the bill for beginners looking to widen the opening of the ajar astronomy door, with a selection of the very best telescopes for beginners listed and briefly reviewed below.
Celestron 21061 Astromaster 70AZ Refractor Telescope
Though refractor scopes are often slated by experienced astronomers as being for beginners, Celestron’s AstroMaster 70 AZ is an ideal piece of kit for the novice. Experience astronomers may have a point – its refractor setup isn’t powerful enough to view deep-sky celestial objects. However, for beginners, this is an ideal setup, not least because it’s much easier to set up than compound or Newtonian telescopes seen at higher price ranges.
70mm (the size of the aperture on the 70 AZ) is ample for viewing objects within our solar system, and the £79.99 price tag makes this an appealing purchase.
The “M” in this telescope’s name refers to the motorised movement that makes this telescope such a step up from its cheaper competitors. The main reason one would choose this telescope over its competitors in the same price range is its mirror size: it has one of the largest mirrors available for the price, in fact, at 130mm in diameter. This results in increased gathering of light and therefore superior image quality.
This telescope’s advantage over the cheaper Travelscope 70 is that its motorised setup allows you to automatically track objects across the sky. This is just one of the many reasons that the Skywatcher Explorer 130 line was a winner of the Sky at Night Group Test award.
Sky-Watcher Heritage 76 Mini Dobsonian Telescope
The first Dobsonian telescope on this list, the Heritage 76 is a serious piece of kit for its price range. The accompanying 5x magnification finder scope will aid you in spotting objects of interest in the sky, while the alt-azimuth mount makes for solid tracking of objects.
At around £45, this model doesn’t have the bells and whistles of its more expensive counterparts, but the design of the tube itself is quite remarkable commemorating Galileo’s impact on astronomy as well as depicting his conflict with the catholic church. This model may be too basic even for some beginners, but its price makes it a fantastic stepping stone for those looking to set foot into the universe of astronomy.
Celestron Astromaster 76EQ
The Erect-Image optical capability of the Astromaster 76EQ makes it an incredibly useful image-finder in the daylight hours as well as allowing for supreme night-time performance. This model comes equipped with two eye-pieces as well as a star-pointer scope, and software designed to augment your star-finding experience right out of the box.
The 76mm aperture’s actual diameter is reduced to around 50mm when you factor in obstruction from the primary mirror, but the equatorial mount and two-year warranty makes this a fantastic sub-£100 telescope for beginners.
TS-Optics Reflector Telescope 76/700 with AZ-2 mount
An easy setup is one of the main features of this well-received TS-Optics model. One of the main improvements seen from previous models is in the tripod, which has been made sturdier so that a more stable viewing setup is maintained; the model therefore provides consistently stable images of high quality, thanks to the Newtonian reflector design and 76mm aperture with 700mm focal length. The £79.99 cost is also a big plus for this model, though its plain design may deter those looking for a better-looking telescope.
Skywatcher HERITAGE-100P Tabletop Parabolic Dobsonian Telescope
Sky-Watcher are a trusted brand in the world of telescope manufacture, and their HERITAGE-100P model is well-reviewed (given 4/5 by Sky at Night Magazine) as well as being competitively priced at around £99.
Most striking about this model – aside from its attractive colour- is its hefty 4-inch (100m) aperture, which is large considering this is a table-top telescope. Its mounting is solid, with smooth movement and knob-based tension control. It’s supplied with two lenses, 25mm and 10mm, providing 16x and 40x magnification respectively. This is still a simple telescope however, though perfect for beginners, provided you’re not expecting to explore deep space in incredibly fine detail.
SkyWatcher Explorer-130/900 EQ2 Telescope
Though this model commands a price sitting on the upper end of the budget telescope range (£140-£150 is the average asking price), this is a telescope that has had great reviews, coming with additional lenses to allow for a more accurate and varied viewing experience. The diameter of the primary mirror is 130mm, allowing for increased capturing of light and therefore images with superior detail.
Skywatcher Explorer 130P f / 650 Newton Telescope
Now we come to the most expensive item on the list, but one that’s worth every penny of the £179 asking price. Setting this model apart is the 130mm parabolic mirror, which is of size and quality seen more often in bigger-budget telescopes. The result of this hardware is the ability to capture higher-quality images without the distortion that non-parabolic mirrors can create. Moreover, the telescope is supplied with x26 and x65 optical inserts, as well as being mounted on an EQ2 equatorial mount with aluminium tripod. This is undoubtedly SkyWatcher’s finest telescope for beginners.
Celestron 21038 Travel Scope 50 Refractor Telescope
Celestron’s Travel 50 is effectively the Travel 70’s smaller sibling, sporting a 50mm objective and a 360mm f/7.2 refractor setup. The Travel 50 is, as the name suggests, a model that’s aimed at the travelling astronomer.
What isn’t mentioned in the many official marketing blurbs is that the telescope is at the lower end even the budget-telescope spectrum in terms of image quality. Though the telescope is highly portable and budget-friendly, sacrifices in quality have been made here, with many reporting the very dim appearance of images from the scope thanks to the tiny exit lens. Great for your budget and travellers, but perhaps a little dim for many. Some may be tempted to purchase this model for their children with a budding interest in astronomy, but there are even junior telescopes for kids that are superior the Travel Scope 50, such as the Orion StarBlast 70mm Altazimuth Travel Refractor Telescope (this model is well worth paying the extra money for).
Celestron Travelscope 70 Telescope Kit
Since beginners are more likely to be on a budget, the Travel Scope 70 from Celestron is highly recommended piece of kit. One of the most affordable telescopes on this list – you can pick one up for around £79.99 – the Travel Scope 70 has enough functionality to fulfil the needs of an amateur astronomer. Coated-glass optical elements ensure crisp, clear images while the stable tripod and classic altazimuth mount ensures smooth movement across the X and Y axis.
One of the most attractive features of this telescope, besides its low price, is its portability. The scope comes with its custom-shape backpack for safe and easy storage. The Travel Scope 70 setup is virtually ready to use straight from the bag, too – one would expect nothing less from Celestron.