Best Telescopes of 2017

It's true: Choosing the best telescope for you is the biggest decision you make as a backyard astronomer. With so much choice, it's not easy to finding the best telescope for the money you have to spend!

Never fear! This comprehensive guide to the best telescopes of 2017 will help you make the perfect choice for your needs... and budget. There are scopes on this list from as little as $200, all the way up to $3000.

Click on a telescope in the table below to read our comprehensive review, or the AMAZON PRICE button for prices and customer reviews. Our complete guide is below the table.

Best Telescope of 2017 Comparison Chart


Which is the Best Telescope in 2017 for You?

If you're not sure how to choose which is the best telescope for you, then follow these suggestions which might help you make a decision:

Aperture Rules when Choosing the Best Telescope for You

Above all else, aperture size is the consideration when buying a telescope!

All telescopes work by gathering in light, focusing it to a point and then using eyepieces with lenses to magnify the focussed image so you can see details of very, very distant objects.

The more light a telescope collects, the brighter the image and the more it can be magnified to bring out smaller details. So, whilst there are lots of different reasons for choosing different telescope types, your number one consideration should be aperture.

Dobsonian telescopes are designed to be 'light buckets'. They are the cheapest telescope per inch of aperture, so if you're happy to have a big beast of a scope with a point and shoot mount and no prospect of tracking or photography, then get a Dob!

If you're looking for a bit of refinement from pure aperture, then you'll sacrifice inches off a mirror (or lens) for other benefits, such as equatorial mounts, tracking and lens quality.

Trying to pick your first telescope but feeling overwhelmed..?

CLICK HERE for our free beginner's guide to choosing the right first telescope for your needs.

Is the Best Telescope for You a Refractor?

Refractors are the only telescope type which does not contain a mirror. They use just a primary glass lens to gather the light entering the telescope tube and focus it towards your eyepieces.

The pros of that system are that the lens is fixed in place, so there's no need to collimate, and - especially with higher quality lenses - there are fewer optical distortions, such as chromatic aberration, which makes them great for astrophotography.

On the 'cons' side for refractors are cost versus size. Refractor lenses quickly become very expensive as they get bigger, especially as the quality of the glass used to make them improves. For example, the most expensive 'best' refractor on our best telescopes of 2017 comparison chart is about 50% more expensive than the next best but... it is smaller!!

That's because the lens is a doublet (made of two pieces of glass) and apochromatic, which is significantly more expensive than standard achromatic lenses.

Refractors make great entry level scopes (where they are much cheaper) and are hard to beat at the top end of the quality scale, especially for astrophotography. However, in the mid ranges, you run the risk of having the worst of both worlds: smaller aperture and inferior quality glass.

Is the Best Telescope for You a Newtonian?

The Newtonian reflector is simply a mirror at one end of a tube which gathers light, reflects it up to a secondary mirror which , in turn, focuses it towards an eyepiece mounted on the side of the tube.

As with all scopes, as the price goes up, so does the size of the aperture and the quality of the mirror in terms of shaping and coatings to defeat and inherent optical defects.​

Newtonians are the workhorse of the telescope world. They can turn themselves to planets, deep sky, visual observing and astrophotography (with an equatorial mount), which...

Comes at a cost: they tend not to be amazing at any one thing!

They are great at the mid-price ranges where you'll get a decent aperture and a good mount, which can be motorised for computer go-to and tracking. A Newtonian is a great way into the hobby of astronomy if you've never tried it before and you're unlikely to be disappointed with your purchase.

Is the Best Telescope for You a Catadioptric?

Catadioptrics (or cat's) pull off a very clever trick:

They combine lenses and mirrors to create a long focal length in a very short tube.

For example, if you buy a Dobsonian with a focal length of 1500mm, the tube will be around 60 inches (five feet) long! The same focal length squeezed into a cat might need a body of only two feet in length.

It's obvious advantage then is it can give you as much light-gathering power (aperture) and magnification (focal length) as Dob in a much smaller, lighter and more transportable package. The downside is, inch for inch, a cat will cost you a lot more than a Dob.

 ​The added advantage of cat's is they are easy to motorise and hook up to a goto, however, Celestron's famous NexStar range - which features twice on this list - is supplied with an altazimuth mount, which makes astrophotography harder than if an equatorial.

Cat's are ideal for you if you want to look at planets and deep space objects and you're happy to let a computer find and follow your evening's targets.​ The NexStar range is hugely popular and owners generally get very excited with their purchase!


Best Telescopes Over $1000

Best refractor telescope over $1000 Skywatcher ProED 120mm

Click here for current price.

The Sky-Watcher ProED 120mm Doublet APO refractor has the best lenses of any telescope in this review.

It's the only telescope of our 16 best telescopes of 2017 that comes without a mount, and yet it is still comfortably over $1,500 (click here for the current price on Amazon) because its 120mm (4.72") objective lens is large and very, very high quality.

The 'APO' part of its name stands for apochromatic. An apochromatic lens is one specially manufactured to reduce chromatic aberration and spherical image distortions than standard (and cheaper) achromat lenses.

The lens is also a 'doublet', which means it is actually made of a pair of simpler lenses aligned with each other in a way which improves the image quality. APO lenses are more expensive to make and they become dramatically so the bigger they get. At almost 5 inches, the 120mm lens on this Sky-Watcher is around double the cost of its 20mm narrower sister model.

This is a very special telescope, combining aperture with quality to provide a refractor capable of looking at bright objects like the moon and planets in high detail but with very little in the way of aberration. To get a similar size scope of the 'triplet' variety might cost you double the price of the Sky-Watcher. As such, it presents good value for money.

Aperture

The Sky-Watcher has a 120mm aperture, which is 4.72 inches.

Focal Length

Its focal length is 900mm, giving it a focal ratio of 7.5.

Mount

Supplied with mounting rings and aluminum carry case. No mount.

Pros

  • Large, doublet lens
  • High quality, APO glass
  • Amazing for moon and planets

Cons

  • Optical tube only (no mount)
  • Long body - over 1m
  • 8x50 finder is basic
Alternative sizes:

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best newtonian over $1000 celestron advanced vx8

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At the top of our chart for Newtonians is this V8" model from Celestron.

Sure, it's not the biggest scope in terms of aperture (see the next box for that) but it does present a great package deal because it is supplied with Celestron's wonderful new VX mount.

The Advanced VX8" also comes with motorised tracking, easy star alignment and a huge database of objects to look at. However, you will need to power it as batteries won't last long!​

You can expect to pay $1100 to $1300 for this scope (click here for today's price) and its whole set-up makes it geared towards the astrophotographer.

The scope itself has an 8" primary mirror mounted in a tube with a focal length of 200mm, giving it a focal ratio of f/5. This is considered 'fast' and makes it an ideal medium-cost scope for astrophotography.

Its primary mirror is ground in a parabolic curve​ which improves the light resolving quality, particularly around the edges of the image - reducing chromatic aberration problems. It comes with a 9X50 finderscope and one 20mm eyepiece, which you will almost certainly need to upgrade for better performance.

Then there's that VX mount we mentioned above. It comes with a lot of improvements over its predecessor:

  • More rigid and less flexible
  • Better aesthetics mean viewing across the meridian without the motor housing getting in the way
  • Improved motors with better balance can cope more effectively with load imbalance
  • Period Error Correction removes tracking errors from the worm gear

All of which mean it's a great choice for the astrophotographer.

The choice you make in buying this scope is to sacrifice some aperture in favor of a complete set-up for astrophotography. And that is ok! If you're big on imaging the night sky, then the camera will do the light gathering for you, but if you're looking to use this just as for eye observing, then this is probably not the best choice for you.

Aperture

The Celestron VX8 has an 8" aperture.

Focal Length

Its focal length is 200mm, giving it a focal ratio of 5.

Mount

Celestron VX GEM, redesigned and ideal for astroimaging.

Pros

  • Parabolic 8" mirror
  • First class mount for price
  • Ideal for astrophotography

Cons

  • Not a huge aperture for price
  • You'll need additional power
  • Not the best scope for visual astronomy
Alternative sizes:

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Best dobsonian telescope over $1000 meade lightbridge 16inch

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The whole point of owning a Dobsonian telescope is to get as much light-gathering aperture as possible for the price...

This Meade LightBridge 16" is just a monster of a light collector!

It happily earns its place at the top of this list of best Dobsonian telescopes by offering you a whopping 16 inches of light-gathering power for around $2000 (click here for current price).

With a 16" mirror in your backyard, you can expect to see objects down to magnitude 15.6, meaning Pluto at its brightest will be within your grasp!

As you can see from the picture, the Meade has an open truss design and the trusses are treated with an anti-reflective coating so they do not interfere with your images.

It has a whopping 1829 mm focal length, giving it a fast focal ratio of f/4.5. This is a beast designed for deep sky, faint object observations - you'll be the envy of everyone at your astronomy club!

To make observing easier it is simple to take down and set-up, so can be transferred to any location by one person... although it does weigh in at 142lbs, so it needs to be moved in pieces unless you also get a wheel kart.

The Dob base comes with roller bearings in azimuth and a variable break for altitude. The focuser is 2" Crayford dual speed (10:1) which is supplied with a 1.25" adapter. This Meade is also supplied with a cooling fan to further improve seeing quality.

The optics are specially treated Meade at their best but you will need to invest in a laser collimator to keep on top of their performance. Undoubtedly, this brute is worthy champion of deep space telescopes.

Aperture

The Meade has a whopping 16 inches of aperture.

Focal Length

Its focal length is 1829mm, giving it a focal ratio of 4.5.

Mount

Dob, with azimuth roller bearings and altitude break.

Pros

  • Vast aperture!
  • Meade treated optics
  • One person assembly (just)

Cons

  • Very heavy
  • Regular collimation
  • No fancy tech included

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Best catadioptric telescope over $1000 celestron cpc 800xlt

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The Celestron CPC 1100 StarBright 11" is a diffraction limited Schmidt-Cassegrain scope which carries the top spot in our Best Catadioptric telescopes list.

The dual fork arm is a required improvement on the single fork from the SE models below and gives this cat the stability it needs when it slews around the sky using the computerised altaz mount. 

At around $3000 (click here for today's price on Amazon) this is the most expensive telescope on our list, so you should be asking what it is you get for the money.

First off, you're getting a considerable 11-inch aperture. That is going to let you see objects to magnitude 15, which includes Pluto on its best day. The large mirror comes with premium coatings to improve image quality. It is housed in a relatively short tube which, thanks to the clever Schmidt-Cassegrain design, provides a focal length of 2800mm, giving a slow focal ratio of f/10.

The computer tracking system on this 11" StarBright model comes with Celestron's NexStar control technology and GPS alignment, i.e. the telescope knows where it is and what time it is, so removing any chance of user input error!

As with all the motorised Celestron models, you'll need either an additional power pack or AC adaptor to run it for any useful length of time. As an added bonus, this model's computer comes with a 'hibernate' function, which means it remembers its star alignment from one night to the next, so no need to do it every time you go outside.

Its size and weight of 65lbs make it easily transportable for set-up in the backyard or dark sky location of your choice.

With its 40,000 item database - which should all be in reach of this telescope's 11 inches - the Celestron CPC 1100 is a great choice for the backyard astronomer with a good chunk of change who wants aperture with the convenience of easy set-up and object finding / tracking. The only watch out is that mounted on an altaz tripod, it does not make a great astrophotography scope. Instead, you'll be better with the Celestron Advanced VX8" if astro imaging is your desire.

Aperture

This Celestron CPC StarBright has an 11" aperture.

Focal Length

Its focal length is a huge 2800mm, giving it a focal ratio of 10.

Mount

Motorised, goto altazimuth mount with 40,000 object database.

Pros

  • Massive mirror in short body
  • Easy set-up
  • Simple object finding/tracking

Cons

  • Needs additional power
  • Not a cheap scope
  • Not for astrophotography
Alternative sizes:

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Best Telescopes Between $500 and $1000

Best refractor telescope between $500 and $1000 celestron omni xlt 150

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Celestron's Omni XLT 150 refractor is, in our opinion, the best refractor for between $500 and $1000.

Unlike the (much) more expensive SkyWatcher ProED, the best refractor telescope for the money at this price point comes with a CG-4 German equatorial mount (GEM) and has an extra 30mm on its lens diameter, providing 6" in total.

It's worth considering for a moment why you would expect to pay around $900 for this model (you can see the current Amazon price here) compared to the $1,500 you could expect to pay for the smaller SkyWatcher without a mount.

Well, all of the difference is down to the lens. The Omni has a single lens (compared to the ProED doublet, and the triplets of more expensive scopes) and is made of a cheaper glass. Whilst this great in terms of aperture and budget, it does mean the quality of what you see will be affected by some chromatic aberration, but owners report this is minimal (and if you currently have a cheap, beginner's refractor, the Omni's quality will be far, far superior to what you're used to!).

For beginners (especially imaging beginners) this will not be a big issue. Six inches is a big lens by any measure, and to receive it with this quality mount too for less than $1000 is great value. However, if 'serious' astrophotography is on your radar, you'll probably want to stick with the SkyWatcher Pro.

There's no motor here for finding and tracking objects (further reason to stay away if imaging is what you want to do) but the GEM makes it easy to locate and keep planets, nebulae and galaxies in view if you're comfortable with polar alignment.

Aperture

The Celestron Omni XLT has a 150mm (5.91 inches) aperture.

Focal Length

Its focal length is 750mm, giving it a focal ratio of 5.

Mount

Supplied with CG-4 German equatorial mount.

Pros

  • Great value for 150mm lens
  • Quality CG-4 GEM included
  • Easy set up and use

Cons

  • Some chromatic aberration
  • No goto / motor system
  • You'll need better eyepieces
Alternative sizes:

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Best newtonian telescope between $500 and $1000 orion 9738 skyview pro 8inch

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Although a Newtonian will never be able to compare aperture to a Dobsonian at the same price point, this Orion SkyView Pro telescope still offers a respectable 8 inches of aperture on a decent German equatorial mount (GEM).

Eight inches just about qualifies for 'light bucket' status and will gather in 73% more light than a 6" scope can manage. Its primary mirror sits at the end of a tube with a focal length of 1000mm giving it a focal ratio of f/4.9. 

This makes it ideal for deep space objects from galaxies to open clusters and nebulae to globular clusters. All of this for around $700 (click here for the current best price on Telescope.com) makes it a strong investment for the first time and upgrading astronomer.

Unusually for a new scope, it is also supplied with decent eyepieces: 10mm and 25mm Plössl, as well as a collimation cap (although you might prefer the ease and accuracy of a laser collimator) and an okay 8x40 finder scope. 

The SkyView Pro 8" is a workhorse telescope. It's very capable for deep space and has a focal length which will present great images of the moon and planets as well. At a price sitting mid-range between $500 and $1000, this versatile scope is a good investment which is unlikely to disappoint.

Aperture

The Orion SkyView pro has an 8" aperture on its primary mirror.

Focal Length

Its focal length is a full 1000mm, giving it a focal ratio of 4.9.

Mount

A CG-4 German equatorial mount is supplied with the telescope.

Pros

  • Big, light-bucket mirror
  • Easy set-up and use
  • Versatile for planets and DSOs

Cons

  • Large and heavy, over 50lbs
  • No motor for tracking
  • 8x40 finder is quite basic
Alternative sizes:
  • None

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Best Dobsonian telescope between $500 and $1000 orion 8946 skyquest xt10

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The model we've picked as 2017's best Dobsonian telescope is the Orion 8946 SkyQuest XT10.

As its name suggests, this is a genuine 'light-bucket' of a telescope, offering 10" of aperture on its primary mirror. Through its eyepiece and in decent conditions, you'll be able to see objects as faint as magnitude 15...

That puts even Pluto within your reach! And all for around just $600 (click here to see what price it is today).

If you only have a limited budget and light gathering power is all you need to enjoy your backyard astronomy, then this is the perfect telescope for you.

Like all Dob's this has a 'point and shoot' base to find your way around the heavens. Orion has used their 'CorrectTension' technology which uses friction to keep the telescope perfectly balanced no matter which angle you have it pointing.

Astrophotography is not available to you with this telescope, but the objects you'll be able to find for yourself should be breathtaking compared to the average 6-incher at the local astronomy club. Keep in mind though that with aperture comes bulk.

The SkyQuest has a focal length of 1200mm and weighs over 50lbs, which makes it a bit of a beast to move around although it does readily separate to make transporting it easier.​

For around $600 you will not find a bigger aperture than this as new. If deep space objects are your thing and you're happy to not be taking photographs or have fancy tracking, then this is probably your perfect scope under $1000!

Aperture

The Orion SkyQuest XT10 has an 8-inch aperture.

Focal Length

Its focal length is some 1200mm, giving it a focal ratio of 4.7.

Mount

Standard Dobsonian base and set up - simple but bulky.

Pros

  • Huge 10" mirror for DSOs
  • Easy to use 'point and shoot'
  • Fantastic price point for size

Cons

  • Large - tight fit in car trunk
  • Weighs over 50lbs
  • No astrophotography
Alternative sizes:

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Best catadioptric telescope between $500 and $1000 celestron nexstar 6se

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Celestron's NexStar range of catadioptric telescopes is perhaps the most popular one on the planet, and the Celestron NexStar 6SE is the best selling of all the models.

Whilst they knocked their own 8SE off the top spot (read our detailed NexStar 8SE review) with the bigger CPC 1100, the 6"model from the NexStar range takes the best catadioptric telescope of 2017 slot in the $500 to $1000 group. 

Mounted on a single arm, motor-driven altazimuth mount, the NexStar is packaged with a database of 40,000 night sky objects. When you tell the telescope whereabouts in the country you are and align it to two or three stars visible overhead, it can point itself directly at any one of those 40,000 objects using the hand controller.

You should expect to pay around $700 or $800 (click here for today's best price on Amazon) for what is a great starter telescope.

If spending your time looking at objects is a priority over learning to find them yourself, then the NexStar's SkyAlign technology is perfect for you. As with any altaz-mounted telescope, though, keep in mind that this is not a great choice for astrophotography (although it is possible) and - like all Celestron guided scopes - you'll need to invest in additional power, either a powerpack or an AC adaptor.

Aperture

The Celestron NexStar 6SE comes with a 6" primary mirror.

Focal Length

Its focal length is 1500mm, giving it a focal ratio of 10.

Mount

Supplied with an altazimuth mount with motor drive.

Pros

  • Great package for the money
  • Easy finding and tracking
  • Simple to move and setup

Cons

  • You will need more power
  • Sacrifice aperture for motors
  • You'll want new eyepieces
Alternative sizes:

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Best Telescopes Between $300 and $500

Best refractor telescope between $300 and $500 celestron 21088 omni xlt 102

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The best refractor telescope between $300 and $500 is the Celestron 21088 Omni XLT 102.

The 'XLT' part of its name comes from the optical coatings used on the 102mm (4") objective lens. This makes it the same size as the Meade Infinity (winner of the best refractor below $300) but, at around $450 (click here for today's price on Amazon.com), 50% more expensive.

So, what's the difference between the two?

Well, you're probably not seeing much difference in cost for the telescopes themselves, but with the Celestron XLT, you are getting a significantly better mount. The XLT is supplied with a CG-4 German equatorial mount, compared to the more basic altaz mount with the Meade.

If you don't currently have a telescope, then getting a mount like this with your telescope is a smart investment. It has slow motion controls, which make it easier to track objects as they move through your eyepiece, ball bearings in both axis for smooth movement and it's really simple to setup.

The scope itself is a very competent intermediate telescope. Lenses are good quality, although you should expect some chromatic aberration at this price point (but reviewers say it does not disturb the viewing) and if you've never looked at planets through a scope before - you will be blown away when you see them through this.

The Celestron has a 1000mm (39 inch) focal length giving a focal ratio of f/9.8. This makes it a long scope but gives it the skills needed to make great work of planet watching. The decision you need to make is whether you need to spend 50% more on this scope than you would for the very similar Meade... and your answer mostly depends on the quality of mount you need.

Aperture

The XLT Omni from Celestron has a 102mm (4.02") aperture.

Focal Length

Its focal length is 1000mm, giving it a focal ratio of 9.8.

Mount

The price includes a high quality CG-4 German equatorial mount.

Pros

  • Great focal length for planets
  • High standard GEM mount
  • Simple to set up and use

Cons

  • Long, 35" body
  • A lot of the cost is the mount
  • Only one eyepiece supplied
Alternative sizes:

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Best Newtonian telescope between $300 and $500 orion 9827 astroview 6

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The Orion 9827 AstroView 6 Newtonian is out choice for the best Newtonian telescope between $300 and $500.

Its 6-inch aperture primary mirror sits at one end of an optical tube with a focal length of 750mm giving it a focal length of f5, which is quite 'fast' for a telescope and lends it to astrophotography.

It has a good, wide field of view, making it useful for deep sky objects like galaxies, and a 6" aperture means you're collecting a decent amount of light, so theoretically you can see objects down to magnitude 14 with great seeing.

However, 6" of aperture is best used for brighter objects like planets, the moon and brighter Messier objects. If deep space, fainter objects are you're thing - and astrophotography is not - then you'll be better rewarded by going for the SkyWatcher 8" Dob, which is reviewed next. 

You'll be helped out as the Orion package also includes a the AstroView EQ-3 German equatorial mount which is not quite as robust as the CG-4, above, but does mean you're budget will stretch to a bigger scope.

You should expect to pay around $450 for this scope (click here for today's price) and you can upgrade the mount to house electronic guidance at some point in the future.

Like all Newtonians, this six-incher from Orion is a decent 'workhorse'. It can be upgraded with a go-to motor, it will take a camera for photography and the mount is decent, if not great (i.e. expect some vibration). The downside of being a great generalist is you're not brilliant at anything. So, this is recommended if you want to get a feel for astronomy on a medium budget, but if you know what you want to 'specialise' in with your observing, then there are probably better choices.

Aperture

This Orion AstroView has an aperture of 6 inches.

Focal Length

Its focal length is 750mm, giving it a focal ratio of 5.

Mount

You'll get an AstroView EQ-3 German EQ mount supplied.

Pros

  • Solid 'jack of all trades' scope
  • Ideal for starting out
  • Can upgrade later

Cons

  • Not a specialist at anything
  • OK, but not great, mount
  • Short lifespan if you get hooked
Alternative sizes:
  • None

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Best Dobsonian telescope between $300 and $500 skywatcher 8 collapsible dobsonian

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The best Dobsonian telescope between $300 and $500 is this collapsible model from Sky-Watcher which delivers no less than 8" of aperture for your viewing dollars!

Compared to a six-inch aperture, 8 inches gathers 77% more light and so lets you see those fainter, deeper sky objects like nebulae, cluster and galaxies.

And that is the secret to success with this scope: it works best for you if what you need in your observing is light-gathering prowess.

You can expect to pay around $450 for this Dob (click here for the current price) and for that, you'll open the night sky up to objects below magnitude 14.

The Sky-Watcher's party trick is that it collapses for easier transportation and storage. In its 'built' state, it has a focal length of some 1200mm, giving it a focal ratio of f/6. The tube rests on a rocker-mount base with Teflon bearings and a tension clutch for simple 'point-and-shoot' guidance.

Keep in mind that this Sky-Watcher weighs about 70lbs, but it is simple to collapse and rebuild as needed - just three separate knobs release/fix the scope as needed.

This is a great scope if you're tied to a budget but still want some amazing deep sky viewing. Grab yourself 8 inches of aperture for less than $500 and you won't be disappointed! Keep in mind that you won't get go-to tracking, slow motion controls or be able to do astrophotography with this scope. Instead, this is all about the pure thrill of finding and seeing elusive deep sky objects.

Aperture

The Sky-Watcher has an amazing 8 inches of aperture.

Focal Length

Its focal length is 1200mm, giving it a focal ratio of 6.

Mount

Collapsible Dobsonian mount with Teflon bearings.

Pros

  • Huge mirror for price
  • Easy set-up and take down
  • Simple to use

Cons

  • Heavy old beast - 70lbs
  • No astroimaging / goto
  • Frequent collimation needed

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Best catadioptric telescope between $300 and $500 celestron nexstar 4se

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This is the baby in Celestron's NexStar telescope range - the 4SE. Coming in at 4 inches of aperture, it is the smallest 'proper' Maksutov-Cassegrain, which is why we're calling it the best Catadioptric telescope between $300 and$500.

This is the kind of telescope which is ideal for the beginner backyard astronomer who wants the convenience and speed of a 'goto' database and guiding motor.

A word of warning, though - although the database has some 40,000 objects stored in it, the 4-inch scope is limited in what it will actually show you because it is just too small to see fainter objects. Your budget of $500 - and you can expect to spend all of it on this model (check current price by clicking here) - will buy you a scope with seeing down to magnitude 13 at best.

In reality, 4" does not gather much light at all and so you'll need to think long and hard before using your cash to buy this model.

What's great about this scope is its lightweight and easy-to-transport set-up. Point it in the direction of bright objects like the moon and planets and, honestly, you will not be disappointed as a new astronomer. If you're thinking of introducing kids to the hobby, then the NexStar 4SE is a great model to begin with as they can easily put into the controller what they want to look at.

The entire NexStar range comes with a warning about needing extra power - batteries will give up with less than an evening's use - so invest in a powerpack or adaptor.

This is one of the most popular telescopes there is, and with good reason - it is a versatile little scope. The NexStar 4SE is an easy way to get into astronomy without having loads of disappointing evenings not finding the object you're looking for. However... be warned that 4 inches is a minimum entry-level reflecting aperture and so you will be limited by what this scope can physically see.

Aperture

The NexStar 4SE from Celestron has a 4-inch primary mirror.

Focal Length

Is focal length is 1325 mm (52 inches), giving a focal ratio of 13.

Mount

Single arm, motorised altazimuth tripod mount.

Pros

  • Easy and light to move/store
  • Great 'first' scope
  • Moon and planets look great

Cons

  • 4" aperture is entry level
  • Additional power needed
  • $/aperture is expensive
Alternative sizes:

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Best Telescopes Under $300

Meade Infinity 102mm AZ

Best refractor telescope below $300 meade-infinity-102mm-az

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Our best refractor telescope under $300 is Meade Instrument's Infinity 102AZ.

The scope itself has the same aperture as the Celestron Omni above, but can be bought for less than half the price! In fact, you should expect to pay just $200 (click here for today's price), which is a significant saving on the Celestron.

The obvious question, then, is: why is the Meade so much cheaper than the Celestron?

Thankfully, especially if you are very budget conscious, it's not the telescope itself that is different, but the mount.

With an aperture of 102mm (4 inches), the Infinity matches the Celestron but it has a shorter focal length of 600mm, giving it a focal ratio of f/5.9, compared to the Celestron's f/9.8. What that means is you'll have a lower magnification with the same eyepiece in the Meade than you will in the Celestron.

As an example, the using a 20mm eyepiece in the Meade Infinity 102 AZ gives you a magnification of 600mm/20mm = 30x, whereas the same eyepiece in the Celestron gives 1000mm / 20mm = 50x. Because of this, you'll also get a wider field of view (you'll see more of the sky) in your eyepiece through the Meade than the Celestron.

This makes a difference if you want to explore deeper space objects, then wider fields of view and lower magnification are better. If most of your observing time will be spent with the moon and planets, they have enough light and detail that they work well with higher magnification and smaller fields of view.

As a beginner, the difference between the two is probably not enough to justify the huge price difference. The mount might be, though​...

With the Meade, you'll get a much simpler altazimuth mount, which means you move the telescope up, down, left and right to 'track' objects. The Celestron's GEM mount follows Earth's rotation and so only needs to be moved in one plane to keep an object in sight.

The other big difference between the two mounts is you upgrade the altaz mount with a sky tracking computer at a later date if you though that might be useful to you for go-to functionality or astrophotography.

In the end, we think the Meade is the much better option for the novice backyard astronomer wanting to dip their toe in the water and see how they enjoy it. The Celestron's higher price tag can wait for those who have decided which parts of night sky watching bring them the most joy.​

Aperture

The Meade Infinity has a four-inch aperture objective lens.

Focal Length

Its focal length is 600mm, giving it a focal ratio of 5.9.

Mount

The Infinity comes with an altazimuth mount.

Pros

  • Large primary lens for the price
  • Very simple to get started
  • Wider field of view

Cons

  • Altazimuth mount
  • You'll want better eyepieces
  • Lower quality to save costs

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Best Newtonian telescope under $300 celestron 127eq powerseeker

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The best telescope under $300 in the reflector category is the Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker scope.

This is a five-inch aperture Newtonian telescope mounted on an equatorial mount and is a very, very popular telescope for beginners.

Expect to pay around $170-$200 for this reflector (click here for the current price), which is a great price for the aperture and the potential of this scope.

Whilst five inches is a little less than we recommend starting with (6 inches opens up a wider world if you can afford it) there are still a huge number of objects you'll be able to see and enjoy with this scope. As with any smaller scope, brighter objects work best, so the moon, planets and brighter Messier objects are the ones you'll have most success with.

The PowerSeeker has a 1000mm focal length, giving it a focal ratio of f/7.87. This is a decent mid-range focal length and matches the main characteristic of the equatorially mounted Newtonian, it is a good allrounder scope for beginners.

This PowerSeeker is ideal to get your first look at the moons of Jupiter, craters on the moon and the rings of Saturn. It doesn't have a huge aperture, so deep space objects won't be at their best but you will see famous nebulae like that in Orion and brighter star clusters, such as the Pleiades. Make sure to save some money back for better lenses than those supplied - it will make all the difference to your first astronomy experiences!

Aperture

The PowerSeeker has a 5" diameter primary mirror.

Focal Length

Its focal length is 1000mm, giving it a focal ratio of 7.9.

Mount

The Celestron is mounted on an equatorial tripod.

Pros

  • Amazing starter price
  • Great for moon and planets
  • Good entry-point to astronomy

Cons

  • Smaller than ideal first mirror
  • Eyepieces will need replacing
  • Stand does vibrate

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Best Dobsonian telescope under $300 orion 8944 skyquest xt6

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We'll be honest - the Orion 8944 SkyQuest XT6 only just sneaks into the category of best Dobsonian under $300... but, since it does qualify, it has to be our winner!

Grabbing a full six-inch aperture mirror for less than $300 is a great deal and shouldn't be overlooked for the beginner taking their first steps into backyard astronomy.

You should expect to pay $300 (click here for today's price on Telescope.com) but even if it is a fraction more, you may decide that it's worth the cost to get that extra light-gathering power.

Like most Dob's, this one has a long focal length of 1200mm giving it a focal ratio of f/8. It will be great for the moon and planets and, with a 6" aperture, you'll be able to collect a decent amount of fainter, deep sky objects.

With any Dob telescope, the payoff is always light gathering power against control. The SkyQuest is a 'point and shoot' scope. There's no fancy equatorial mount and no prospect of tracking objects and using the telescope for astrophotography. However, if you have a limited budget and just want the best view of the night sky possible for the price, then this is the scope for you!

Aperture

This SkyQuest telescope has a 6-inch primary mirror.

Focal Length

Its focal length is a big 1200mm, giving it a focal ratio of 8.

Mount

Standard 'point and shoot' Dobsonian base.

Pros

  • Biggest aperture for the price
  • Simple 'point and shoot' mount
  • Easy to use with no experience

Cons

  • Long and bulky to move
  • Will need collimation
  • No tracking/go-to options

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Best catadioptric telescope under $300

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If you read the review of the NexStar 4SE above, you'll have recognised that catadioptric telescopes are the most expensive per inch of aperture.

That means that,by the time your budget drops below $300, there just aren't any 'proper' cat's available to buy.

Since we do want to provide an option at each price point, we've chosen the Orion StarMax 90mm Maksutov-Cassegrain as our best catadioptric telescope under $300.

In reality, this is a travel scope, rather than a fully-fledged backyard scope. As such, it comes with a table top stand, instead of a mount, and weighs just 6.5lbs.

The big drawback is the aperture, which is just 90mm or a little over 3.5".

It pulls off a wonderful trick of hiding a focal length of 1250mm within its tiny body (more than the Dob, above) which gives it focal ratio of f/13.8 and means it can magnify well. However, without much light gathering ability, being able to command large magnification is not much use.

You can expect to pay around $230 for this telescope (click here for the price now) and it would make an ok 'grab and go' second scope.

Ultimately, our view is that if you're buying this to get into astronomy, your better options are to bay a few dollars more for the XT6 Dob, above. If you really have to have a catadioptric, save up a bit more for all the benefits of the NexStar 4SE which will bring you much better enjoyment for a longer period of time.

Aperture

The StarMax has a 90mm aperture, which is approx 3.5".

Focal Length

Its focal length is 1250mm, giving it a focal ratio of 13.8.

Mount

This is a travel/table top telescope and comes without a mount.

Pros

  • Small and transportable
  • Huge focal length for size
  • Simple to use

Cons

  • Small aperture
  • No mount
  • Poor first scope
Alternative sizes:
  • None

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Product images sourced from Amazon.com​