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.
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 guide to choosing your first telescope.
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 (£99)
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
Celestron Omni XLT AZ 102 Refractor/basic mount (£229)
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
Bresser Messier AR-80/640 AZ NANO Telescope (£169)
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
Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refractor (£209)
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 (£199)
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
Sky-Watcher EVOSTAR-90 (AZ PRONTO) Basic scope/mount (£229)
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(£279)
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
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.