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If you’ve got a desire to peer into the stars, the best telescopes have the lens diameter and focal length to get you there. But with everything from optical design to manufacturing, it can be hard to know which piece of equipment meets your needs. So, how do you know what to look for?

We’ve reviewed dozens of models to present you with the best telescopes for any occasion. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, these are our favorite choices. Here’s what you need to know about the tools you need to explore the universe.

Best Telescopes: Side-by-Side Comparison

Celestron NexStar 130SLTGskyer AZ90600Orion SkyQuest XT8Sky Watcher EvoStar 120HEXEUM 70500
Size28.0 x 12.0 x 8.0in38.0 x 12.0 x 8.0in50.2 x 17.5 x 15.5in44.0 x 20.0 x 14.0in23.7 x 9.0 x 5.1in
Weight11.4lbs17.9lbs41.9lbs13.9lbs5.3lbs
Optical DesignNewtonianRefractingNewtonianApochromaticCatadioptric
Focal Ratiof/5.0f/6.7f/5.9f/7.5f/7.1
Mount TypeAltazimuthAltazimuthDobsonianGerman EquatorialAltazimuth
Focal Length650mm600mm1200mm900mm500mm
Lens Diameter130mm90mm200mm120mm70mm
Tripod IncludedSteelAluminumN/ANoAluminum
Price$635.99$319.99$699.99$2,490.00$249.99

One of the most prominent telescope manufacturers in the country brings astronomy enthusiasts of all levels a piece of equipment perfectly designed for viewing the universe. The Celestron NexStar 130SLT comes with a 130mm lens diameter and a 650mm focal length, giving users plenty of range to observe the details of planets and even surrounding nebulas.

Paired with simple mounting and a sturdy tripod, this is one of the best telescopes for just about any scenario. Our favorite feature has to be Celestron’s native database of celestial objects. The telescope’s SkyAlign procedure can help locate and target up to 40,000 stars, galaxies, and more.

However, if you find yourself inspired to explore astrophotography, you’ll want to check out some better-stabilizing mounts. The Altazimuth style is fine for observation but won’t keep the telescope still enough for long exposures.

Check out Celestron NexStar 130SLT on Amazon.

While our best overall brings everything you could ask for to study the stars, its price tag can seem daunting for the first-timer. If you’re wanting to dip your toes into astronomy without the significant investment, you’ll have to check out the Gskyer AZ90600.

This German-designed telescope features comparable specs at half the price. Just know that with telescopes, you get what you pay for. The AZ90600 is great for observing the solar system, although its capacity falls short in just about every category.

For the money saved, you’ll have only a 90mm lens diameter, 600mm of focal length, and a more frail tripod. The Gskyer telescope also doesn’t feature a celestial database; while it’s not required for astronomy, it’s certainly more engaging to know what you’re looking at.

Check out Gskyer AZ90600 on Amazon.

Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope Kit
$699.99
  • Simple hands-on, point-and-view navigation without complicating counterweights, gears, clutches, polar alignment, or the need to balance the tube. Easy and fun!
  • Large 8"-diameter parabolic mirror excels for deep-sky viewing of nebulas, galaxies, and star clusters, and serves up jaw-dropping views of the planets and Moon
  • Features a precision 2" Crayford focuser with 1.25" adapter, allowing use of 1.25" eyepieces or optional 2" eyepieces
  • Stable Dobsonian base provides vibration-free images even when viewing at a high powers, and features smooth motions to make manual tracking of celestial objects a breeze
  • This kit includes some excellent value-added accessories to enhance your experience: Orion Shorty 2x Barlow (for double the magnification), Orion's MoonMap 260, DeepMap 600, and Telescope Observer's...
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01/25/2023 11:56 pm GMT

Those looking for a reliable piece of equipment that can handle deep-space observation must check out the Orion SkyQuest XT8. With a classic Dobsonian base, users can take full advantage of its massive 200mm lens diameter and 1200mm focal length.

If this entices you, it’s essential to know that this telescope requires special care; it doesn’t use a traditional tripod and weighs more than twice that of our next heaviest recommendation.

In addition to its impressive stability, the SkyQuest XT8 comes with a 2-inch Crayford focuser and an adapter for two sizes of eyepieces. It also connects to a smartphone for those that might like to capture their celestial targets. Don’t know where to start? The kit comes with three manual guides to the universe.

Check out Orion SkyQuest XT8 on Amazon.

Sky-Watcher EvoStar 120 APO Doublet Refractor – Compact and Portable Optical Tube for Affordable Astrophotography and Visual Astronomy
$2,299.00
  • EXPERTLY MATCHED GLASS: The EvoStar series features a matched doublet objective including one synthetic fluorite element, providing excellent color correction for visual and photographic uses
  • OUTSTANDING COLOR CORRECTION: Using the finest quality glass and proprietary Metallic High-Transmission Coatings (MHTC), EvoStar refractors produce tack sharp images with accurate color and minimal...
  • EVOLVES WITH SKILL: No need to replace this telescope as your skill set evolves. Whether you’re a seasoned astrophotographer or a budding novice, EvoStar refractors are versatile enough to use as...
  • 10:1 DUAL-SPEED FOCUSER: No matter the eyepiece or camera, finding focus is a breeze with this 10:1 dual-speed Crayford-style focuser
  • EVERYTHING YOU NEED: The EvoStar 120 comes complete with a foam-lined aluminum hard case, 8x50 Right Angle Correct Image (RACI) Finderscope, 2” Dielectric Diagonal, 5mm and 25mm LET Eyepiece,...
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01/26/2023 12:26 am GMT

Astronomers with some experience using different types of telescopes should know that the optical method affects the image quality. The Sky-Watcher EvoStar 120 features dual-element, apochromatic glass that practically removes anomalies from observations. This along with its high-transmission coating produces sharp and vibrant images.

The EvoStar 120 has a 120mm lens diameter and a 900mm focal length. The kit comes with two mounting rings and a dovetail plate, making it perfectly adaptable to equatorial (EQ) mounts.

However, unlike our other telescope recommendations, the EvoStar 120 only comes with the optical tube. This means that you’ll have to purchase a separate EQ mount, such as the EQ6-R Mount from the same company.

Check out Sky-Watcher EvoStar 120 on Amazon.

Telescope 70mm Aperture 500mm - for Kids & Adults Astronomical refracting Portable Telescopes AZ Mount Fully Multi-Coated Optics, with Tripod Phone Adapter, Wireless Remote, Carrying Bag Black
$84.99
  • Excellent Quality Optics: Astronomical telescope features 500mm(f/7.1) focal length and 70mm aperture, provides stunning views and protects your eyes.18
  • High Magnification: Our telescope for kids and adults is quipped with two excellent-quality eyepieces (25mm and 10mm) and a 3x Barlow lens.it trebles the magnifying power of each eyepiece. Also with...
  • Portable And Convenient: Comes with a phone adapter and an adjustable aluminum tripod. Wireless remote control and carrying bag make it easier for you portable and capture amazing images.
  • Great Gift Ideas: The telescope is a perfect gift or birthday gift for kids or beginner astronomers. It helps them build interest in astronomy and science, exploring the unknown, enjoy nature and away...
  • Satisfaction Quality: lifetime maintenance. If you have any questions about the product and service, please feel free to contact us, we will do our best to help you in 24 hours!
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01/26/2023 12:41 am GMT

If you’re looking for a telescope to introduce yourself or your kids to astronomy, it might not make sense to pick up a powerful telescope. To understand how basic optics work, the HEXEUM 70500 works just fine.

It comes with a 70mm lens diameter and a 500mm focal length, which is perfect for looking at the moon and the surrounding planets, and its lightweight design makes it incredibly portable.

While the HEXEUM 70500 might fall short in features, range, and stability, it’s hard to beat the 250$ price tag. This positions it as an easy gift for young astronomers interested in exploration. And those that purchase on Amazon will find the telescope discounted 66%; this means you can own this HEXEUM model for only 85$.

Check out HEXEUM 70500 on Amazon.

How to Pick the Best Telescopes for Stargazing

When choosing the right telescope to view the night sky, there are four main considerations.

  • Lens diameter
  • Focal length
  • Mounting
  • Price

Let’s review each one in more detail.

Lens Diameter

Arguably the most critical aspect to consider when looking at the best telescopes for stargazing is the diameter of the lens. This number represents the measurement across the center of the lens and determines the amount of light your optical tube can collect.

This correlates with sharper and more detailed images. If you have an object in mind that you want to observe, first determine if the lens diameter is large enough to view it.

Focal Length

The next aspect to look at for observing objects in deep space is the focal length. This number represents the distance between the telescope’s primary mirror and the focal point. Generally, the focal length correlates with magnification; the telescopes with larger focal lengths can view farther objects.

Of course, this number should pair well with the lens diameter. If you’re trying to view the extent of your optical tube without enough light, your objects won’t come out defined. 

Mounting

Those that plan on viewing and exploring the universe past our solar system or want to venture into astrophotography will want to understand how mounting affects their images. While a simple Altazimuth mount with a tripod is acceptable for observing the moon or surrounding planets, a simple shake can set telescopes off trajectory for objects further off. When you need a mounting system that you can rely on, consider Dobsonian or Equatorial designs.

Price

Because of their intricate nature, you’re hard-pressed to find a telescope worth buying for under $200. Manufacturers can reduce costs using aluminum materials and reflective lenses.

It’s important to know that with the best telescopes, the price directly relates to quality. That means for a solid, Newtonian telescope, prepare to spend no less than $600.

What to Know Before Buying a Telescope

If you’ve taken a look at these products and you’re ready to get started, you’ll want to consider that no telescope can overcome inclement weather. Whether you settle for a $200 starter tube or a $2,000 apochromatic viewfinder, an overcast sky means you’re not looking at anything.

So before you even start looking at telescopes, you should investigate regional weather patterns. If you live in a typically cloudy location, you should either find a better place to observe or look for a different hobby.

The same goes for light pollution; a clear sky has little value if your target objects are washed out. Unfortunately, light pollution doesn’t go away overnight, so if astronomy is something you’re interested in pursuing, you’ll want to find a darker location. To find one around you, a dark map can help determine the best places to see stars, meteors, and other celestial objects around you.

Using the Best Telescopes: What It’s Like

When testing the best telescopes for any level astronomer, users focused on object clarity first. As expected, the optical tubes with the shortest lens diameter revealed fewer details than those with larger ones. Users were particularly impressed with the Orion SkyQuest XT8, which could pinpoint specific craters on the surface of the moon along with Saturn’s rings and the Orion Nebula.

Those with less experience using telescopes also preferred the models with automatic tracking. The Celestron NexStar 130SLT shined with its massive database of 40,000 objects, which allowed aspiring astronomers the opportunity to identify celestial bodies they wouldn’t have known otherwise. 

The defining aspect that separated the models’ ease of use was the mounting design. The telescopes with Altazimuth mounts, such as the Celestron and the Gskyer, were simple to set up and led to quick star gazing.

The other Dobsonian stand threw some users through a loop, making its point of entry higher than others. And the Sky-Watcher EvoStar 120, with its separate Equatorial mount, required an additional purchase, making it more of an exclusive choice.

The Best Telescopes of 2023: Further Reading

Whether you’re just starting to find inspiration in the night sky or you’re trying to expand your horizon, the best telescopes will help in your exploration. As powerful as they are, these pieces of equipment only make up a small portion of our study of the universe. For more on space and exploration, check out the articles below.

Best Telescopes of 2023 FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the best telescope to see everything?

For the largest range in studying the universe, you want a telescope with a large lens diameter and focal length. For seeing everything in the sky, we recommend using the Orion SkyQuest XT8.

How powerful of a telescope do you need to see Saturn’s rings?

Telescopes with a lens diameter of 100mm to 350mm are ideal for seeing the rings around Saturn. For an affordable optical tube that you can view the rings with, we recommend the Celestron NexStar 130SLT.

Can I see the flag on the moon with a telescope?

The moon is so massive that no ordinary telescope can see the flag. Studies show that in order to see it, the equipment would need an optical lens of 200 meters.

What’s better refractor or reflector telescopes?

According to the Virginia Military Institute, refractors offer a superior image due to the quality of lenses compared to mirrors and the lack of aberrations.

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