Whether you’re into stargazing, astrophotography, or studying astronomy, investing in a good telescope is crucial. Professional telescopes are expensive, but some affordable models do offer outstanding views of deep space.
To find a telescope that’s worth your while, however, you must compare lots of features and specs. If you don’t want to waste time, check our ranking for the best telescopes under $1,000 that deserve your attention.
- Best Overall: Celestron NexStar 127SLT Computerized Telescope
- Best Pocket-Friendly: DWARFLAB Dwarf II Smart Digital Telescope
- Best App-Enabled: Celestron StarSense Explorer 8” DOB Telescope
- Best for Deep Space Astrophotography: Explore Scientific ED80 Refractor Telescope
- Best Budget-Friendly: Zhumell Z130 Portable Telescope
#1 Best Overall: Celestron NexStar 127SLT Computerized Telescope
The Celestron NexStar 127SLT is one of the best telescopes under $1,000 that can suit astronomy students, hobbyists, and photographers.
Its main highlight is the computerized design that allows you to effortlessly find celestial objects. All you have to do is scour the telescope’s database and choose what you want to see from the over 40,000 planets, stars, nebulae, and galaxies stored in the computer. The telescope can find the object for you and track it automatically as it moves, so you won’t have to bother with manual tracking.
The Maksutov-Cassegrain optical design boasts a large 127mm aperture and can gather enough light to allow deep-space observations. You can also observe closer objects in great detail and shoot amazing photos of the Solar System’s planets and the moon.
Weighing only 20 pounds, the telescope is easy to transport and fast to set up. The only downside is that it doesn’t come with all needed accessories, such as USB cables to connect it to a computer or a battery pack if you want to use the telescope’s computer function in places with no access to a car’s cigarette lighter or wall outlet.
Check out the Celestron NexStar 127SLT on Amazon.
|This computerized telescope can find and track celestial objects on its own.
|The telescope doesn’t come with all accessories, such as USB cables or a battery pack.
|Its 127mm aperture captures enough light to allow for deep-space observations.
|The telescope is lightweight and easy to transport.
Best Pocket-Friendly: DWARFLAB Dwarf II Smart Digital Telescope
- Portable and ultra-light
- Packed with advanced features for astronomy parties, stargazing, birding
- For adults and kids, beginners and advanced people alike
- Deluxe kit
This all-in-one telescope is ideal for quick observation of stars, constellations, and close celestial objects such as the moon and planets. You can also use it for daytime observations, especially if you want to capture gorgeous pictures of wildlife.
As far as stargazing goes, this smart telescope is easy to focus and calibrate. Once you choose a target and set the object parameters, the device automatically aligns and tracks your target, then shoots breathtaking photographs or records time-lapse videos.
The main downside is the small lens that can’t capture objects too far away from the Earth. You can get good photos of the moon and constellations, but you won’t be able to use this telescope to see Saturn’s rings or Mars’ surface. If you care more about nice photos of the night sky than actually seeing celestial objects, then this smart telescope is an excellent choice.
Have a look at the DWARFLAB Dwarf II Smart Digital Telescope on Amazon.
|This smart digital telescope uses AI to enhance the pictures you take of the night sky.
|It has a short focal length and lens aperture, so you won’t be able to use it for proper observations.
|The telescope weighs 2.8 pounds and fits easily in a pocket.
|An app and Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity allow you to control the device from a distance.
Best App-Enabled: Celestron StarSense Explorer 8” DOB Telescope
- Smartphone app-enabled
- Works with StarSense app to help you find nebulae, planets, and more
- iPhone/Android compatible
The Celestron StarSense Explorer 8” DOB Telescope is the best choice for beginners and amateur astronomers who want to find celestial objects fast.
It isn’t computerized, but it comes with Celestron’s patented StarSense sky recognition technology. This software communicates with a smartphone app and helps the telescope analyze the star patterns overhead and calculate its position in real-time.
Based on your position, the app then generates a list of objects visible from your location, but you’ll have to find and track them manually. An object finder function does help you identify the desired object with accuracy, but tracking can get tiresome over a long night.
Despite this downside, the Dobsonian design and large 203mm aperture make this telescope easy to use and perfect for deep-space observations.
You can find the Celestron StarSense Explorer 8” DOB Telescope on Amazon.
|The large aperture makes it possible to view planets and brighter nebulae and galaxies from the city. Fainter objects are visible in locations with darker skies.
|While a target finder helps you find and track an object, you have to perform these operations manually.
|The StarSense technology helps identify the celestial objects visible from your position.
|This telescope comes with a 25mm eyepiece that is ideal for beginners.
Best for Deep Space Astrophotography: Explore Scientific ED80 Refractor Telescope
- True apochromatic Air-Spaced Triplet Refractor telescope
- Focal Ratio f/6
- Limiting Magnitude 12
- Resolution: 1.45 arcsec
- Diameter: 85mm
- Weight 5.95 lb; 2.7 kg
- Hybrid 2-in-1 finderscope base
The Explore Scientific ED80 Telescope is one of the best refractor telescopes under $1,000, ideal for students, beginners, and amateur astronomers.
It boasts an air-spaced triplet lens design that provides sharp, high-contrast images and better color correction than other telescopes in its class. These features allow you to enjoy better views of the night sky and particularly better views of distant objects such as star clusters and nebulae.
Like most telescopes, it comes with a viewfinder, although the piece and its mount are a little awkward. Nevertheless, the viewfinder provides help in finding celestial objects faster, and it’s a nice addition. The mount is also universal, allowing the use of a wide range of eyepieces and accessories.
This telescope has a focal length of 480mm and an aperture of 80mm. Beyond stargazing, it is a good choice for deep-space astrophotography.
Check out the Explore Scientific ED80 Telescope on Amazon.
|The telescope’s lens design reduces chromatic aberration and improves the contrast for better viewing.
|The viewfinder is not the most straightforward to use.
|A universal mount allows you to use the telescope with a wide range of eyepieces and accessories.
|This telescope is ideal for deep-space astrophotography.
Best Budget-Friendly: Zhumell Z130 Portable Telescope
- Industry standard 1.25” focuser, compatible with many different accessories
- Changing magnifications is easier than ever with included 25mm and 10mm eyepieces
- Easy to use red dot finder makes aiming the Z130 a breeze for any level of user
- Altazimuth Mount
- 1 Lithium-Ion battery required
Costing less than $400 but providing sharp views, the Zhumell Z130 Portable Telescope is the best choice for amateurs on a budget.
This reflector telescope has a 130mm aperture and a Dobsonian base that allows for smooth motions and easy tracking. Its parabolic mirror, a feature not usually found in telescopes of this size, is a nice addition that removes spherical aberration and other visual defects.
Its main downside is the tabletop design that is incompatible with tripod mounts. You can still take it with you on camping trips but would have to find a flat surface where to place it. Other than that, the model provides excellent views and comes with two eyepieces and a red dot finder for convenience.
|The parabolic mirror and 130mm aperture deliver high-quality views.
|The tabletop design could be limiting.
|Two eyepieces and a red dot finder make it easy to find and observe celestial objects.
|This is one of the best budget telescopes on the market.
How to Pick the Best Telescope Under $1,000: Step-by-Step
When buying a mid-range telescope, there are four main considerations for most buyers.
- Focal ratio
- Telescope type
Let’s see how each of these factors can affect your decision-making.
A telescope’s aperture refers to the diameter of its objective lens or the diameter of the objective mirror, depending on the type of telescope you have. It is typically expressed in millimeters and determines the telescope’s ability to gather light. The wider the aperture, the more light the telescope can gather, allowing you to see closer objects more accurately and even observe more distant or fainter objects, such as nebulae.
While the aperture of a telescope determines what objects you can see, the focal ratio determines the telescope’s power of magnification — which basically determines how close and detailed you can see the objects. Not all manufacturers write the focal ratio in the telescope’s specs, but it is easy to calculate it by dividing the model’s focal length by its aperture.
A higher focal ratio implies higher magnification, but this doesn’t mean that it’s always best. If you’re more interested in artistic astrophotography, a lower focal ratio provides wider views.
The two most common types of telescopes are reflectors and refractors.
Reflector telescopes use mirrors to gather light at the end of the tube and display the magnified view through the eyepiece. These telescopes require constant optical alignment adjustments (collimation), but they provide wider apertures at a lower price.
Refractor telescopes use a lens at the front of the tube rather than a mirror and are very low maintenance. However, they become more expensive as the aperture increases.
You must also choose whether you want a computerized telescope that can track the objects autonomously or one with manual tracking.
Another factor to decide is whether you want a tabletop telescope or one with a tripod. A tabletop stand can be a good idea if you want to observe the night sky from your backyard or balcony. You can place the telescope on any flat surface and use it.
For camping and stargazing in the wild, a tripod is a better idea. You can adjust the mount according to your needs and don’t have to worry about finding a flat surface to set up your equipment.
What to Know Before Buying a Telescope Under $1,000
Most telescopes under $1,000 are ideal for avid amateurs and students. However, they don’t deliver the same power or optical quality as a high-end telescope. Most models require manual finding and tracking of celestial objects, which can be quick if you’re experienced but tiring over long nights. Manually finding objects can also be tricky if you’re a beginner.
Computerized telescopes under $1,000 do exist, but they are harder to come by. Those that include this function may lack the necessary accessories, so you’ll end up spending more than the telescope’s price. If you don’t mind spending a bit more upfront, you might end up saving by choosing a computerized telescope that comes with everything you need to use it.
Another crucial consideration is the mount type. Most quality telescopes under $1,000 have a tabletop design and are not compatible with tripods. This factor could limit portability, especially if you like stargazing from remote locations where you can find a really flat surface for your equipment.
Using a Telescope Under $1,000: What It’s Like
A telescope under $1,000 might not allow you to see very distant objects, but it definitely feels better to use than a low-end telescope that costs less than $300. Most telescopes in this price range have wide enough apertures to allow for deep-space observations and quality lenses or mirrors that reduce chromatic and spherical aberrations.
Whether you’re a student or a passionate amateur, you can easily find a telescope under $1,000 that can suit your needs.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Allexxandar/Shutterstock.com.