How To Find The Best Telescope To Discover The Universe

When I was in college, I took an astronomy class, and I thought it would be boring. However, what I found blew my mind. From equations concerning stars to using the best telescope to take pictures, I found wonder in the astronomy lab.

Being in that class helped connect me to something I hadn't felt since I was a child, namely, the wonder of discovering the universe.

If you're just beginning your astronomy journey, it can be hard to know where to start. The necessary knowledge to start and the difference in pricing between various telescopes can seem like a high bar for entry.

However, if you zoom in on why you want a telescope and what you want to learn, the study of space can be an enormously rewarding experience.

​Table of comparison

Space: The Final Frontier

person standing beneath stary sky

Image Via Pixabay

Even though humans have only explored 5 percent of the ocean, our attention has always been on the stars. With Hollywood blockbusters like "Interstellar" or "Gravity," it's clear that space provides a huge, blank canvas for the human imagination. And that means that a telescope is not an end, but a beginning!

Telescope activities

​Telescopes are not just high-powered bi​​​​n​​​​o​​​​culars — they can be windows into learning. With them, you can explore math and physics, scientific history, and even the future of the universe.

If that's not enough — and it should be — they can be great to do activities with your kids or with your friends. Like the astronomer, Carl Sagan said, "Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark." Make astronomy a little less lonely by doing it together!

If you're short on ideas, NASA regularly puts out educational resources and activity guides to give you the best telescope experience possible.

What does this thing do?

​If your confidence is a little shaky, a good way to improve it is with a little telescope knowledge. Knowing the parts of a telescope is a great start for looking for that perfect match. They include:

Lens

The lens is arguably the most important part of the telescope because it controls how light enters the telescope and how you see it. Like cameras, lens size matters a great deal. Specifically, the more light it can capture, the higher quality your images will be.

​​​​Tube

​​The tube's main function is to enhance the focal length setting.

​Finder scope

​Think of the finder scope as a tiny telescope attached to a bigger one. It's used to help find the larger object you want to look at.

​​​​​Eyepiece

​Your eyepiece is crucial because it clears up the view from the lens to the object.

​Mounting

​If you have a shaky or flimsy mount, your telescope experience may be sub-optimal. The knob is for fixing your telescope's latitude and allows the telescope to stay in balance.

The Best Telescope for You

By now, you're probably itching to know what the best telescope is for you! Ultimately, what matters most is that you find the telescope that you're most comfortable with and that best suits your needs.

Luckily for you, we have some suggestions:

SkyWatcher S11520 Maksutov-Cassegrain 127mm (Black)
  • EXPERTLY MATCHED OPTICS: The Skymax series of Maksutov-Cassegrain optical tubes features matched primary and secondary...
  • 94% REFLECTIVITY MIRROR COATINGS: Using a borosilicate primary mirror with an aluminum coating and a quartz overcoat,...
  • VIXEN-STYLE DOVETAIL: An industry standard, the Vixen-style dovetail is the most commonly used dovetail plate for...

Right off the bat, this might be a great telescope for you, especially if you like to travel. All around the globe, there are different skies to see, and the Sk​​yWatcher S111520 Maksutov-Cassegrain 127mm can help you do it.

This telescope is compact without sacrificing quality, which it accomplishes with a shorter tube. Though its portability can be hampered by its weight, really, it's still a great choice for those who may want to take their telescope places.

Who needs this?

If you're a professional, the SkyWatcher S111520 Maksutov-Cassegrain 127mm can be the best telescope if you'd prefer to leave your main one where it is. It provides a simple set up for a hobbyist and gives clear views of the moon and some planets. However, according to Telescope Reviewer, it's not great on high magnification. If that's important to you, you'll want to consider it before purchasing.

​What do customers say about it?

Customers seem to be relatively happy with it and its ability to get great views of major planets. Reviews mention the telescope's great astrograph, top-quality optics, and impressive lens quality.

Orion Observer 80ST 80mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope
  • Explore the planets and scan the heavens for bright deep-sky gems with the compact and low-cost Orion ShortTube 80mm...
  • An ideal refractor telescope package for the observer on-the-go, the compact Observer 80ST packs a lot of performance...
  • 80mm f/5.0 rich-field refractor telescope delivers sharp and bright wide-field views of the cosmos - great for exploring...

The Orion Observer 80ST is a great choice for a versatile and affordable first telescope. It's a refractor, which means it takes in light from the lens at the front of the tube. (Reflectors take in light from the bottom. And compound telescopes take in light through a more complex system of lenses and mirrors.)

The 80ST is the best telescope for backyard astronomy. It provides you with the ability to track celestial objects as well as a host of accessories to make it easier for you.

Who needs this?

​While this is a great starter telescope, anyone with abilities beyond that would probably find this telescope unsatisfactory. On the other hand, this telescope is perfect for amateurs.

​What do customers say about it?

Customers still praise its portability, versatility, and even their customer service. One review claimed that the company was willing to send them a new lens. The customer had complained about a loose one in the telescope they received in the mail. The company's trust impressed them because Orion didn't even require the return of the original telescope.

Among other great features of this telescope are an EQ-1B equatorial mount and adjustable-height tripod, astro-imaging capability, and a telescope kit to get you started.

Orion 09007 SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector Telescope (Black)
  • This 5.1 inch aperture reflector telescope gathers an ample amount of light for great views of the planets and Moon, as...
  • Short 24 inch long optical tube design for easy portability and fast f/5 focal ratio for pleasing wide-field performance...
  • Sturdy EQ-2 equatorial telescope mount and adjustable tripod allows manual slow-motion tracking of celestial objects as...

This Orion telescope kicks it up a notch. It features a sturdy EQ-2 equatorial mount, and a 5.1 aperture. Remember that aperture is related to the amount of light the telescope lets in, and the bigger, the better. This telescope also weighs almost double the 80ST, coming in at about 27 pounds.

Other neat features of this telescope include a 6x30 finder scope that can help you find bodies accurately. It also has a 650mm (f/5) mirror that gives you an even wider view of the stars.

Who needs this?

​This may be the best telescope for someone who wants to take their astronomy to the next level. So, if you're a beginner who's ready to up their level or a budding intermediate, this would be the best telescope for you. As you develop your chops as an astronomer, you should get yourself a telescope to keep up with your expanding skill set.

​What do customers say about it?

Its ease of use is apparently. Among other things, customers say that the optics are easy to adjust, and usage doesn't require a lot of foreknowledge. (It does require paying attention to the instructions, though.)

If you're a total beginner, however, this telescope can end up being more than you expect. So, make sure you won't get overwhelmed by springing for a little extra firepower in this one.

Celestron - AstroMaster 130EQ Newtonian Telescope - Reflector...
  • POWERFUL REFLECTOR TELESCOPE: The Celestron AstroMaster 130EQ telescope is a powerful reflector telescope for astronomy...
  • HIGH-QUALITY 130MM OPTICS: The heart of the system is a 130mm glass optic objective lens. The AstroMaster mount features...
  • QUICK SETUP & LIGHTWEIGHT FRAME: This telescope for kids and adults to be used together features a lightweight frame...

According to Celestron's website, this telescope is great for viewing the Moon, planets, star clusters, and more. And as opposed to other telescopes, this one features two slow-motion control knobs, giving you the ability to make even finer adjustments when viewing the night sky.

The telescope also comes with software that lets you download ways to plan your next viewing session and, in addition, there's a 10,000 object database.

Who needs this?

​Similar to the Orion 09007, this telescope is best for beginners or new intermediates.

​What do customers say about it?

According to customers, this telescope offers a lot of pros and a couple of cons. It's lightweight (only about 6 pounds), and it has great image quality. Among the cons are that it's not for astrophotography, and the lenses it comes with are not that powerful.

You can buy additional lenses to enhance your viewing experience, but they will cost you. This can be disappointing if you were looking for an all-in-one package.

Emarth Telescope, Travel Scope, 70mm Astronomical Refracter Telescope...
  • 【High Magnification】360mm(f/5.1) focal length and 70mm aperture, fully coated optical glass with high transmission...
  • 【No-tool Set Up】This telescope is quick and easy to set up even for the novice and will encourage kids to love...
  • 【High Quality Optics】The interchangeable eyepieces with a 3x Barlow lens increase viewing power, 5x24 finderscope...

 

This entry from Emarth is a 70mm telescope and as the name implies, it's best for on-the-go astronomers. According to Telescope Reviewer, the finder scope will allow you to locate celestial bodies in under a minute.

The learning curve for this one isn't steep, and it comes with a travel backpack and extra eyepieces.

Who needs this?

​This telescope is solidly for total beginners or children. It's easy to learn and easy to use. However, expecting high-grade quality out of it will not yield satisfying results.

​What do customers say about it?

Customers say it has a great manual, a smooth set-up, and provides crisp, close-up images of the moon and other objects.

Celestron - NexStar 4SE Telescope - Computerized Telescope for...
  • NEXSTAR COMPUTERIZED TELESCOPE: The NexStar 4SE Computerized Telescope features Celestron’s iconic orange tube design...
  • 4-INCH APERTURE: The four-inch primary mirror in this Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope for adults and kids to be used...
  • FULLY-AUTOMATED GOTO MOUNT: Featuring a database of more than 40,000 celestial objects, the GoTo mount built into our...

This telescope is a heavyweight. It comes with a database of 40,000 objects, an 8-inch aperture, and allows you to see craters and geographic features on planets. Its website claims you can clearly see the rings of Saturn and the Great Red Spot of Jupiter, as well as far beyond our own solar system.

Who needs this?

​This telescope is solidly for more advanced users. It can be for beginners, but the features and capabilities may go unused or unappreciated by less experienced stargazers.

​What do customers say about it?

Customers say that it's a great general purpose scope, providing clarity without needing to adjust the mirror.

Orion 9827 AstroView 6 Equatorial Reflector Telescope
  • Versatile 6" reflector telescope and sturdy equatorial (EQ) mount and tripod excels at all-around night-sky performance
  • 6" (150mm) aperture and 750mm focal length Newtonian reflector optics provides pleasing views of a rich variety of...
  • Includes sturdy adjustable-height aluminum tripod and equatorial mount for precise slow-motion manual tracking of...

​Versatile and affordable, the Orion 9827 AstroView 6 Equatorial Reflector Telescope offers great all-around performance. This telescope features a 6-inch aperture and 150mm lens and allows you to track objects in the night sky smoothly. When fully assembled, it weighs 37 pounds, which makes it easy to carry around.

Who needs this?

​This may be the best telescope for beginner to intermediate users.

​What do customers say about it?

On the whole, consumers report a good experience with it, including top quality optics and good, sharp views of the moon. Among complaints about this one are a flimsy tripod and a confusing manual.

Celestron - NexStar 8SE Telescope - Computerized Telescope for...
  • NEXSTAR COMPUTERIZED TELESCOPE: The NexStar 8SE Computerized Telescope features Celestron’s iconic orange tube design...
  • 8-INCH APERTURE: The eight-inch primary mirror in this Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope for adults and kids to be used...
  • FULLY-AUTOMATED GOTO MOUNT: Featuring a database of more than 40,000 celestial objects, the GoTo mount built into our...

Just like the NexStar 8, this telescope shares the immediately recognizable "orange tube." As the name implies, the aperture is about half that of the NexStar 8, and about half the cost.

However, it still comes with Celestron's database of 40,000 objects, as well as SkyAlign technology, which helps you align your telescope quickly, even if you're unfamiliar with the night sky.

Who needs this?

​This may be the best telescope for beginners and intermediate. Its features are great but simple enough to learn quickly, so don't be afraid to check it out!

​What do customers say about it?

Though it takes excellent photos, some reviews say that you'll need a good computer to translate those into stunning images.

While many consumers were in love with the product, some were not so in love with Celestron's customer service. Likewise, more than one customer has complained about problems with the telescope's motor.

However, one customer claimed that they use the telescope to gather excellent photos, even in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas, with heavy light pollution. In general, the consensus on this product is that it is worth the purchase.

DoubleSun Telescope with Equatorial Mount-Refractor Scope 70mm...
  • Excellent Optical Performance-Fully coated glass optical components with high transmission coatings enhance brightness...
  • No-Tool-Setup-Our telescope is quick and easy to set up even for the novice and will encourage kids to love learning...
  • Equatorial Mount Type-The mount comes with two slow motion control cables that allow you make fine pointing adjustments...

​This telescope provides a no-tool setup and a 70mm aperture. Its equatorial mount allows you to tilt the axis of rotation. This will let you track objects easily as they move.

Who needs this?

​This may be the best telescope for children and novices. It can also be an excellent choice for teachers of astronomy and parents who want to foster an interest in the hobby.

​What do customers say about it?

According to one buyer review, this telescope is simple enough for a child to use. Accordingly, it's an inexpensive way to foster interest in astronomy!

Telescope 70EQ Refractor Telescope Scope - 70mm Aperture and 700mm...
  • Fully coated glass optical components with high transmission coatings for enhanced image brightness and clarity
  • Surprisingly good optics - Erect image optics - Ideal for terrestrial and astronomical use
  • High and low power eyepieces, with a Cellphone eyepiece mount adapter for Photography

This telescope features a Smartphone Eyepiece Adapter, which allows you to take photos. It also has a 60mm aperture and a preassembled aluminum tripod. There's no point sugarcoating it — this is not a telescope any adult would be happy with. However, that doesn't mean it's not a great gift for a kid to get them interested in astronomy.

Who needs this?

​This telescope is exclusively for children.

​What do customers say about it?

The consensus of reviews about this children's' model is that it works as expected.

​​What You'll Gain from Astronomy

two person standing under stary sky using the best telescope

Image Via Pexels

Whether you are a 6-year-old child, a seasoned astronomer, or somewhere in-between, you can always find the best telescope to fit your needs. And what you'll gain from astronomy isn't just about looking through a scope — it's about a lot more than that.

Through astronomy, you can develop a more grounded sense of the universe's beginnings, its machinations, and the science behind it all. You can share this knowledge with your classmates, friends, and family. And if you're lucky, you may just discover a passion among the stars.

Tell us about your favorite telescope in the comments!

Featured image: CC0 by Lucas Pezeta via Pexels