Best telescopes for astronomy beginners, 2022
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.
Are you interested in buying your first telescope but have no idea where to start? How is it possible to know which telescope is best for beginners?
Newcomers to astronomy face a seemingly daunting array of different types of telescope, different brands and different prce ranges.
If you're a beginner, it can be difficult to wade your way through the jargon of practical astronomy and work out which is best suited to your observing needs.
There is one simple thing to consider when buying your first telescope, and that's making sure you get an instrument you'll actually use.
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.
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.
If you think you might be interested in learning how to image the night sky, read our guide to the best telescopes for astrophotography.
If you're on the lookout for a mount to go with your new telescope, read our guide to the best telescope mounts available.
16 telescopes for astronomy beginners
Skymax-127 Virtuoso GTi tabletop telescope
Tabletop telescopes are a great option for beginners because of their light weight and easy set-up. Simply put them on a table or sturdy surface and they're ready to go.
The Sky-Watcher Skymax-127 Virtuoso GTi is a compact telescope with a Wi-Fi-controllable Go-To mount, meaning you can observe chosen targets at the touch of a button.
Its long focal length makes it ideal for observing the Moon, planets and double stars, as well as some brighter deep-sky objects.
Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ 5.1-inch
Computerised Go-To telescopes automatically located night-sky objects that a beginner might otherwise struggle to find, but they do still need to be aligned.
For beginners, this can be tricky, often involving the use of a smartphone app to navigate the night sky, so why not use the same app to align the telescope?
Celestron’s StarSense Explorer app is at the core of how this combination works.
Also included with the DX 130AZ are two 1.25-inch eyepieces, 25mm and 10mm, which give 26x and 65x power, respectively. These will serve beginners well.
When you first begin your session, the app asks you to point the telescope towards a clear patch of sky with stars and wait for the red bullseye on the screen to turn yellow.
Then you follow the directions to your target, wait for it to turn green and look through the eyepiece.
We loved the twin-knobbed, low-gear focusing control and we were able to quickly achieve sharp views of the Moon's cratered southern highlands.
The StarSense app also has lists such as ‘tonight’s best objects’, each labelled ‘City Viewable’ or ‘Dark Sky Viewable’, helping beginners manage expectations.
Sky-Watcher StarQuest 130P Newtonian reflector
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.
Acuter Voyager MAK80 telescope
The MAK80 is compact and is suited for a range of uses, including birdwatching as well as practical astronomy.
The tube is just 270mm long and the telescope's focal length is 800mm, giving a focal ratio of f/10.
This makes it well-suited for observing the planets, the Moon and double stars.
The MAK80 comes in a box with a soft carry case, an 8x 21mm finderscope and two eyepieces, 20mm and 10mm, giving magnifications of 40x and 80x.
Included is also a phase-coated 90˚ roof prism star diagonal and a smartphone holder, should you wish to photograph what you're observing and share it on social media.
Read our full Acute Voyager MAK 80 telescope review.
Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 70AZ refractor
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.
Sky-Watcher Heritage 100P Tabletop Dobsonian
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.
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Celestron Omni XLT AZ 102 Refractor/basic mount
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.
Bresser Messier AR-80/640 AZ NANO Telescope
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.
Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refractor
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
Meade Lightbridge Mini 130 Dobsonian
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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.
Sky-Watcher EVOSTAR-90 (AZ PRONTO) Basic scope/mount
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
Sky-Watcher SkyHawk 1145P SynScan altaz Go-To Newtonian
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.
Celestron 114LCM computerised telescope
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.
Sky-Watcher Heritage 150P Flextube Dobsonian
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.
Sky-Watcher Star Discovery P150i Wi-Fi telescope
The Star Discovery P150i Wi-Fi can be set up and observing the night sky in about 15 minutes. Its mount takes 8 AA batteries or a 12V power tank plugged into the power port, and 2 eyepieces are supplied, of 25mm and 10mm focal length. These give nice views of deep-sky objects and the Moon.
There's not hand controller supplied because the mount is controlled using an app that operates via an inbuilt Wi-Fi network. Once connected, this provides the ability to instantly slew to a range of celestial targets.
Starbase 80 refractor and mount package
The Starbase 80 is a quality grab and go achromatic telescope suitable for entry level. It sits on a portable easy-to-use altaz mount and benefits from good optics.
Assembly is easy: with the mount and tripod in one section, you just need to attach the tube and rings, then add the slow-motion controls and altitude clamp.
Were able to locate bright deep-sky targets like the Orion Nebula and the Pleaides, and we were also able to find the hazy central bulge of the Andromeda Galaxy and several bright double stars.
We turned the Starbase 80 to the Moon and found it crisp in both the 14mm and 6mm supplied eyepieces.
This is a great beginners' scope and mount package that will provide hours of viewing pleasure.
Iain Todd is BBC Sky at Night Magazine's Content Editor. He fell in love with the night sky when he caught his first glimpse of Orion, aged 10.