Technological advancements have enabled many people to enjoy stargazing and observe various planets in the skies. A telescope is necessary to get a clear view of the heavenly bodies. Many types are available for you to choose, depending on what you need to see.
As a hobby, watching the skies should be kept simple since telescopes can be quite expensive. If you are just starting, there are several telescopes for beginners under $1,000. Hence, you can enjoy exploring and viewing the galaxies even while on a budget.
It can get complicated when you want to buy your first telescope. First, there are many types of telescopes to choose from and factors to consider. As a beginner, you will only need to choose from three basic types of telescopes. They include the refracting telescope, the reflecting telescope, and a hybrid of the two known as a compound or catadioptric telescope.
What to look for in a telescope?
Aperture is the total amount of light that gets into the telescope. Thus, you should consider the diameter of the lens or mirror inside the scope since it determines the quality of the aperture. The amount of light that gets into the telescope determines how much you can see. In general, the bigger the opening, the better you can see.
The focal length is another essential aspect to consider when choosing a telescope. It determines how big the viewed images appear. It is determined by the distance between the point of focus and the mirror or lens in the telescope. The longer the focal point, the bigger the target object appears.
Magnification power also determines the type of telescope to go for depending on different needs. The magnification of a target object is affected by the focal length and the eyepiece used on the telescope. The larger the magnification number, the bigger the object appears.
Different eyepieces come with varying levels of magnification. Beginners can start with whatever magnification comes with their telescopes and then upgrade later.
In this article, we’ll bring you the five best telescopes for beginners under $1,000 that are ranked highly by most users in the current market.
Top Rated Telescopes for Beginners
Sky-Watcher 10″ Collapsible Dobsonian Telescope
Price range: $700 – $750
This telescope is high-quality and affordable for everyone, even beginners. In 1999, the Synta factory launched the “Sky-Watcher” brand. Built innovatively, passionately, and creatively, the Sky-Watcher 10″ Collapsible Dobsonian Telescope is perfect for those who want to watch and explore the Moon and planets.
The unique Dobsonian reflector design has undergone essential upgrades and improvements. This Collapsible Dobsonian comes with a Crayford focuser, which is large in aperture portability and performance. Its exquisite truss tube design was expertly engineered to integrate extreme portability, ease of use, and consistent performance in an affordable package.
You will not need to disassemble the telescope between uses. You can move it as two compact pieces that can be readily assembled and ready for use within seconds. Once it is set up, you can easily collimate it, and it holds its collimation all through the evening. Since it needs no reassembly, it is convenient even for beginners.
This telescope has buttery smooth azimuth bearings, which makes even the twelve-inch models respond to just the push of a finger. It comes with a 90-degree finderscope, which increases its field of view. The 10″ (254 mm) Dobsonian-style Newtonian, 1200 mm focal length (f/5), 2″ Crayford-style focuser with 1.25″ adaptor makes this telescope a great choice even for beginners.
For anyone who wants to move from place to place viewing the skies, the telescope is a great solution. It comes with a strong rocker-mount with Teflon bearings coupled with tension clutch makes for easy storage and transportation.
Orion 09007 SpaceProbe 130ST
Price range: $300 – $350
This telescope is ideal for the intermediate or serious beginner stargazer. It comes with everything that you will need to explore the skies. The Orion SpaceProbe 130ST reflector telescope offers excellent views of deep-sky objects through its 130-millimeter parabolic primary mirror. It comes with a strong and precise EQ-2 equatorial mount and stable tripod.
Through a simple polar-alignment procedure, the mount lets you track celestial objects as they migrate through the night skies. Thus, the dual setting circles and slow-motion hand controls allow you to observe these moving heavenly bodies in detail. The adjustable aluminum tripod is sturdy yet light, and it features a tray where you can keep flashlights, eyepieces, and other accessories close as you use your telescope.
This telescope is compact, and it measures just 27 pounds after you assemble it. Therefore, it is an excellent option if you will be moving from one location to the next observing the skies. The Orion SpaceProbe 130ST reflector telescope comes with a 5.1-inch aperture parabolic reflector that gathers enough light for excellent views of the Moon and various planets. Using this device, you can view brighter nebulas, galaxies, and star clusters.
Its 24-inch long ‘Short Tube’ optical tube is well-designed for easy portability and fast f/5 focal ratio. These features offer a pleasing wide-field performance that makes the telescope quite versatile for use by your entire family. The 1.25 inch Orion 25 millimeter Sirius Plossl eyepiece that comes with this telescope offers a 26-power view.
Coming with a broad view of 52° apparent field, the 25 millimeter Sirius Plossl eyepiece provides sharp images of high contrast. On the other hand, the included 10 millimeter Sirius Plossl eyepiece lets you study objects with more magnification. This eyepiece offers a robust, 65x view, allowing you to scrutinize objects more closely.
After you have aligned with the telescope, just look through the finder scope and shift the telescope until the crosshairs stand in the center of the object that you want to explore. After that, look into your telescope, and the object will be right there.
The SpaceProbe 130ST reflector telescope comes with a Special Edition of Starry Night astronomy software. This software has realistic sky simulations and multiple other features that help you plan for your observations and understand everything that you see.
Celestron – NexStar 8SE Telescope
Price range: $1,000 – $1,100
Celestron’s top-notch ‘orange tube’ telescope is perfectly designed to offer some of the best stargazing experiences for users of every level. Its fast setup design means that you are ready to observe the skies in minutes. You will just need to center any three bright objects in the eyepiece, and Celestron NexStar 8SE Telescope will align to the night sky ready to view stars and galaxies.
The Nexstar 8 SE telescope integrates excellent optics and computerized “GoTo” tracking in a light, portable, and affordable package. It also features Celestron’s easy-to-use “SkyAlign” technology.
This telescope is designed to uphold Celestron’s reputation for top-quality optics. While using the 11mm Plossl eyepiece that offers about 200x magnification, you can see the Cassini Division in Saturn’s rings. The 20mm Plossl eyepiece (about 100x magnification) works perfectly for anyone who wishes to view the galaxies and different star clusters.
Using the low power 32mm Plossl eyepiece lets you view more extensive deep space highlights, including the Orion Nebula and the Andromeda Galaxy. Additionally, Celestron’s ‘SkyAlign’ system makes this telescope quite easy to use. You will not need a star chart while using this telescope since the ‘SkyAlign’ feature identifies the stars for you.
On the other hand, the ‘Solar System Align’ feature lets you view planets and moons. Nexstar 8 SE has a simple red-dot finder scope coupled with a basic 25mm eyepiece. At just 24 pounds in total weight, this telescope is light and portable for an 8-inch telescope.
Excellent optics, easy automated GoTo tracking coupled with its lightweight, makes it perfect for beginners. It is also affordable, which means that you can use it even while on a budget. However, it is quite light for astrophotography, but you can use heavy tripods to make it firm and steady.
Celestron 127 mm Maksutov Cassegrain Compiuterized Telescope
Price range: $430 – $490
The computerized star locator telescope provides a database of over 40,000 galaxies, stars, nebulae, and much more. Celestron NexStar 127SLT finds the object that you want to view with pinpoint accuracy and tracks it precisely. This telescope serves both adults and children, which makes it perfect for weekend getaways and excursions to dark sky sites.
It has a compact form factor that makes it easy to assemble and transport anywhere you like. The MAKSUTOV-CASSEGRAIN optical design has a 127mm aperture that collects adequate light to view the Solar System and beyond. Thus, you can see different planets and the Moon in extensive detail.
Fast setup coupled with SkyAlign capabilities means that you are ready to observe the skies in minutes. The free Starry Night Software provides you with an interactive sky simulation that lets you explore and identify various celestial bodies precisely. The computerized GO TO design is perfect for the beginner and intermediate users.
The telescope comes with two eyepieces (25mm and 9mm). Also, it comes with an adjustable, full-height steel tripod with a tray that ensures you are organized while in the field.
Apertura AD8 Dobsonian Telescope
Price range: $460 – $500
The telescope lets you observe the Universe straight from the box. This Apertura AD8 Dobsonian Telescope has an 8″ of the aperture that enables you to view Saturn with its ring system, Jupiter and its moons, the Moon, and the ‘Red Planet’ Mars. The Moon appears quite close; you can even see some of the craters on its surface. Thousands of celestial bodies are visible when you use this telescope.
Apertura AD8 Dobsonian Telescope comes packed with all that you need to explore the solar system and beyond. The primary mirror cooling fan enables your telescope to reach optimal temperatures efficiently and quickly. Its 2″ Crayford-style Dual Speed Micro 10:1 Focuser offers smooth movements for quick and easy focusing on the celestial objects.
Beginners, as well as experts, can use this telescope. But, unlike the computerized versions, you will need to find the objects that you want to view manually. But, its 8×50 Right Angle Correct Image Finder and Bracket makes it easy for you to find celestial objects from a comfortable position.
The 9mm Super Plossl Eyepiece – 1.25″ provides you with medium to high magnification views with fully multi coated optics. On the other hand, the telescope’s 1.25″ Adapter for Focuser lets you use the 2″ and 1.25″ eyepieces, filters, coupled with several other accessories for extra versatility.
Apertura AD8 Dobsonian Telescope has a 35mm extension tube that offers an additional 35mm of focal travel to get your scope into focus. On the other hand, its 30mm SuperView Eyepiece – 2″ operates on a 68° field of view that is enhanced by excellent light transmission.
With this telescope, you can keep all your eyepieces organized in one place on the AD8 base using its 4-slot eyepiece tray. Its laser collimator comes with a battery that lets you easily collimate the optical tube assembly to keep all your optics in alignment. The 1.25-inch moon filter is of neutral density, which enables the telescope to reduce glare and ghosting for perfect views of the Moon.
Types of the telescopes
Reflecting / Newtonian Telescopes
These telescopes are also known as Newtonians. They are the type that most beginners go for. Their simple design uses mirrors to gather and focus light.
Advantages of using a reflecting telescope
Reflecting telescopes have several advantages when compared to the refracting telescopes, especially for the beginners. First, they are made using mirrors instead of lenses. Mirrors avoid chromatic aberration, which is common in lenses. The lenses used in refracting telescopes bend light differently subject to its wavelength, like in the case of prisms.
Mirrors can produce better images since they reflect all wavelengths of light equally. The simple design of this telescope means that they are cheaper to construct, which makes them budget-friendly. An expensive telescope is not always better, mostly when you are considering your particular needs.
Beginners need a telescope that is easy to use and does the basics well. This category of telescopes enables them to keep their passion for observing alive instead of becoming frustrated by the complicated versions that they do not understand.
The reflecting telescopes’ design and their cost-effectiveness mean that it is easy to make bigger reflectors. Aperture, which is the size of your primary mirror or lens, assists in the determination of the light-gathering power of the telescope. In general, the bigger the surface area, the more light can be gathered.
Aperture is an essential factor in selecting a telescope. However, a large telescope is complex to move, set up, and even pack away. Thus, if you need to travel for clear skies, you should get a telescope that fits in the car and is ready to use in minutes.
Disadvantages of using a reflecting telescope
Although the reflectors are great, they are not perfect since they suffer from collimation, comas, and air currents. All of these factors affect the clarity of images. Coma is described as a defect that causes a focused image to appear comet-like around the edges of the field of view.
When there is a considerable difference in temperature of the mirrors and the air outside, observers may end up with fuzzy images since the mirrors cloud up.
Reflecting telescopes are constructed using two mirrors; a primary and a secondary. In that case, the primary mirror is larger, and it gathers light that is reflected in the secondary smaller mirror. The light is then reflected in the eyepiece that magnifies the image. The shortcoming arises since the secondary mirror, and its support frames also obstruct the light.
The obstruction can reduce contrast resulting in diffraction spikes, which are cross-shaped lines that radiate from the stars and many other bright light sources.
Another disadvantage associated with reflective telescopes comes from the primary and secondary mirrors, collimation or alignment of the mirrors. During transportation or handling of the telescope, these mirrors may get out of alignment. These mirrors also need regular cleaning and recoating every few years.
Hence, reflecting telescopes need the right level of maintenance. Knowing how to collimate the telescope is crucial. But, with a good telescope, it is not difficult to do it at all.
Refracting telescopes use lenses in the place of mirrors.
Advantages of using a refractor telescope
This category is the best telescope for beginners since little maintenance is needed when compared to the reflectors. Not having to collimate your telescope is a significant advantage, and the low maintenance means that even the servicing costs are minimal. The lenses are fixed. Thus, they do not get misaligned during movement or transport.
The refractor telescopes come with hard designs. Therefore, shocks and bumps from transporting and handling the telescope do not affect the optics as it happens with the reflecting telescopes. They remain in better condition for longer, which translates into a majorly worthwhile investment.
Refractors telescopes have no secondary optic that obscures the light path to an eyepiece like in the reflective telescopes. Hence, the refractors offer images with better contrast compared to the reflecting telescopes.
Refractors produce sharper images since their tube is closed off from the outside. Hence, air currents and the temperature from outside does not affect the lens. These telescopes are easier to use for viewing even for children and people of smaller stature. Their eyepiece is situated at the end of the telescope’s tube, unlike the reflectors whose eyepiece is found at the tube’s top.
Disdvantages of using a refractor telescope
Refracting telescopes are expensive, especially for the beginners and part-time hobbyists. No matter how good they might be, they suffer from chromatic aberration since the different wavelengths and colours of light do not all focus at the same point. They produce a rainbow of colours that may affect the quality of the viewed image.
It is challenging to make the refractive telescopes using large apertures since the weight of the big lenses is excellent. In matters of transportation, the long objective focal lengths in the refractor telescopes make their movement cumbersome.
Compound / Catadioptric Telescopes
The compound or catadioptric telescopes are great when you are looking at various types of telescopes that you want to use for different functions. They are considered hybrids of the refracting and reflecting telescopes since they integrate the best of both worlds. They are easily portable and come in shorter length designs.
Compound telescopes are excellent in correcting the aberrations which the other two designs suffer from. They have mirrors at each end and a lens that the light must pass through before it reaches the eyepiece. They are perfect for viewing faint objects.
On one hand, they are more expensive than the reflecting telescopes and still come with the challenges that the individual (reflective and refractive) telescopes face. For instance, you will need to collimate the telescope, although not as often as in the case of a reflecting telescope. They also suffer from obstructions from the secondary mirrors.
In general, experts recommend the small and medium-sized reflector telescopes for beginners since they are affordable and easy to use and maintain. But, it all depends on individual needs, preferences, budget, and level of experience.
Many types of telescopes for beginners are available for you to choose, depending on what you need to see. As a hobby, watching the skies should be kept simple since telescopes can be quite expensive.
If you are just starting, there are several telescopes for beginners under $1,000. Hence, you can enjoy exploring and viewing the galaxies even while on a budget. It can get complicated when you want to buy your first telescope. But, with the right information and knowledge, you can get a decent telescope without having to break your bank account.
Frequently Asked Questions When Buying Telescopes for Beginners
Here are some of the frequently asked questions when buying telescopes for beginners.
What type of telescope is best for me?
If you want the best telescope for beginners, the refractor or reflector versions are the ideal choices since they are easy to use. For those who wish to buy strong telescopes that are easy to maintain, the refractor version is the perfect solution. The refractor and compound telescopes are perfect for the people who want to observe earth objects like birds. Faint objects deeper in the sky are clearer when seen using reflector and compound telescopes, which also offer the best quality images.
How much does a decent telescope cost?
The cost is determined by the type of telescope that you go for and how you intend to use it. Studies show that a decent and functional telescope may go for as low as $200 and as high as $3,000, in case of telescopes for beginners, it is advisable to go for the cheaper models and then upgrade them with time.
What can you see with a telescope?
It depends on the aperture size and magnification level of the telescope. You can see the Moon and her craters and some of the biggest planets in the solar system. Although it might not be possible to see these heavenly bodies in the greatest details, it is easy to see things like the rings of Saturn and most nebulae.
What should I consider when buying a telescope?
When buying a telescope, look at the aperture, which is the total amount of light entering the device. The bigger the aperture, the better you can see. The focal length is another crucial aspect to consider when choosing a telescope since it determines how big the viewed images appear. Also, consider the magnification power that will suit your needs.
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