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Best telescopes for astronomy beginners

Looking to buy your first telescope but don't know where to start? We've picked out some of the best beginner telescopes on the market.

Celestron Omni XLT AZ 102 Refractor/basic mount

Are you interested in buying a telescope but have no idea where to start? If your first telescope is too large and unwieldy or requires a lot of tinkering, you’ll be put off, you’ll find it difficult to transport and your scope maybe consigned to the garden shed or garage, never to be used again.

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But how can you know where to start? Good advice is to join your local astronomy society, attend a star party or find your nearest astronomy kit stockist. Speak to people who know best, and you may even get the chance to try before you buy.

Have a look at our pick of some of the best telescopes suitable for astronomy beginners. For more detailed help you can also read our guides to choosing your first telescope and how to spend your first night with a telescope.

1

Sky-Watcher StarQuest 130P Newtonian reflector

Sky-Watcher StarQuest 130P Newtonian reflector

Price £200

4.0 out of 5 star rating

The Sky-Watcher StarQuest 130P Newtonian is short, which makes it a nice, easy scope for beginners to handle. Plus, it weighs just 8kg and is easy to assemble. This means it’s a great choice for newcomers but also, for more experienced astronomers, it’s not as likely to get left in storage and remain unused.

The 130P Newtonian may not be an imaging telescope, but we did manage to attach a smartphone adaptor to the 25mm eyepiece and were able to use our iPhone to capture an image of the Moon.

The StarQuest 130P is easy to use, and it’s well-made. As a result, it’s great choice for first-time stargazers, but could also work as a grab-and-go scope for more experienced observers.

Read our full StarQuest 130P Newtonian review.

Where to buy

 

2

Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 70AZ refractor

Price £179

4.5 out of 5 star rating

The StarSense Explorer phone dock, which incorporates a smartphone holder and a mirror, turns this simple, basic manual telescope into one that can easily locate objects via a touchscreen phone and the StarSense app. This is a sturdy, reliable refractor that’s good value for those beginning their adventure in amateur astronomy.

Read our full Celestron StarSense Explorer review.

Where to buy

 

3

Sky-Watcher Heritage 100P Tabletop Dobsonian

Price £99

4.0 out of 5 star rating

This compact, lightweight scope is easy to store and convenient for bringing out at a moment’s notice once the clouds clear. You could even place it on a sturdy patio table during your observing sessions. Importantly, the scope also gives good views of a range of celestial wonders; particularly the planets. This would be an ideal first telescope for a budding young astronomer.

Read our full Sky-Watcher Heritage 100P review

Where to buy

 

4

Celestron Omni XLT AZ 102 Refractor/basic mount (£229)

Price £229

4.0 out of 5 star rating

This scope comes with a finderscope, diagonal, eyepiece and mount that boasts slow-motion controls. Setting it up is relatively quick and easy due to the mount and tripod coming pre-assembled. All you need to do is attach the telescope to the mount, add the diagonal and eyepiece and you’re ready to go. It offers pin-sharp views of stars and galaxies and, weighing just 6.2kg, can be easily moved around your viewing spot or taken on trips to dark-sky sites.

Read our full Celestron Omni XLT AZ review here

Where to buy

5

Bresser Messier AR-80/640 AZ NANO Telescope (£169)

Price £169

4.0 out of 5 star rating

This 3-inch telescope enables observations of a wide range of celestial objects and comes with an altaz mount that’s intuitive to use. The whole package is a doddle to set up. An aluminium dew shield cuts down on unwanted light and keeps dew at bay, while the supplied red dot finder makes locating bright celestial objects easy. Emphasis is on lightweight materials, making it a good ‘grab and go’ instrument to encourage beginners to leave the light pollution behind and head for a dark-sky site.

Read our full Bresser Messier AR-80/640 review

Where to buy

6

Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refractor

Price £209

4.0 out of 5 star rating

Celestron’s Inspire range of refractors are made with the beginner in mind, but the 100mm version is our pick. It offers a good aperture, a focal length of 660mm and plenty of features. The scope would appeal to younger astronomers as it’s affordable and attractively designed. It comes with a tripod, 2 eyepieces, a diagonal and a red light LED torch. One particular bonus is its smartphone adaptor: ideal for those thinking about getting started in astrophotography, or for sharing your observations on social media.

Read our full Celestron Inspire 100AZ review

Where to buy

7

Meade Lightbridge Mini 130 Dobsonian

Price £199

4.0 out of 5 star rating

Tabletop telescopes are an obvious choice for a list of beginners’ scopes, and with the Lightbridge Mini 130 you can be viewing in minutes. No tripod, mount or polar alignment required: just set it onto a steady garden table or even a rolling trolley for wheeling in and out of storage. What’s more, this scope comes with two eyepieces that offer a wide view for satisfying observations of a range of targets.

Read our full Meade Lightbridge Mini 130 review

Where to buy

 

8

Sky-Watcher EVOSTAR-90 (AZ PRONTO) Basic scope/mount

Price £229

4.0 out of 5 star rating

There’s a saying in amateur astronomy: the best kind of telescope is the one you’ll actually use. The Evostar-90 AZ is simple to assemble and, at a combined weight of 6.25kg, light enough to lift. Its AZ Pronto mount and tripod system is easy to use: locking clamps can be loosened to move it manually, and there are slow-motion controls to help you fine-tune onto targets. The tripod has an adjustable height range of 78.5-150cm, and is sturdy, helping avoid too much vibration.

Read our full Sky-Watcher EVOSTAR-90 review

Where to buy

9

Sky-Watcher SkyHawk 1145P SynScan altaz Go-To Newtonian

Price £279

4.0 out of 5 star rating

The Newtonian reflector has always been a popular choice for people starting out in astronomy – it offers the most aperture for your money of any optical design. Sky-Watcher’s SkyHawk 1145P is a reflecting telescope equipped with a parabolic primary mirror at a competitive price.

Read our full Sky-Watcher SkyHawk 1145P review

Where to buy

10

Celestron 114LCM computerised telescope

Price £349

4.0 out of 5 star rating

Celestron’s 114LCM combines reasonable optics with a computerised mount to give beginners a tantalising taste of what there is to see in the cosmos. It’s quick and straightforward to assemble as there are just three main sections: tube, base and tripod. This scope really whets the appetite, and that’s what a beginner’s telescope is all about.

Read our full Celestron 114LCM review.

Where to buy

 

11

Sky-Watcher Heritage 150P Flextube Dobsonian


Price £249

4.0 out of 5 star rating

Sky-Watcher’s Heritage telescopes are portable and uncomplicated to set up, and can be simply placed on a tabletop for instant observing of the night sky. You can be stargazing in minutes, without the hassles of a more complicated system such as an equatorial mount.

At 7.5kg, the Heritage 150P Flextube is lightweight, making it great for bringing out to catch gaps in the clouds, or whisked away easily to a dark-sky site. Collapsed down, it’s easily transported and set up quickly in a dark-sky location.

Read our full Sky-Watcher Heritage 150P review.

Where to buy

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What are your recommendations for best beginners’ telescopes? Let us know by emailing contactus@skyatnightmagazine.com or via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.