Astronomy is a fascinating hobby, but finding the right telescope for your needs can be tricky. With the different names and terminology, it is important to understand the product you’re interested in before buying, to ensure you will be able to make the most of it.
If you’re a complete beginner, you are most likely to come across a refractor telescope. These are designed with a big lens at the front and they reflect the light back into the eyepiece. These are generally very simple to use and can be used for astronomy or for looking at objects on Earth, too. They are also the most affordable, which means in some cases they don’t have the clearest view, but if you’re looking for a place to start this type of telescope will help you get to grips with the basics.
Reflector telescopes are better for those purely interested in astronomy. A mirror is used to gather light which is then sent through to the eyepiece. You can’t view things on earth with this type of telescope, but it does give a much clearer image when trying to view faint objects in the sky. They require a little bit more maintenance than a refractor telescope, as the mirror can get dusty and impair the image, but other than that they are a great companion to a keen astronomer.
Compound telescopes give you the best of both worlds. Naturally, they are more expensive, but they allow you to clearly view objects both in space and on earth and are recommended to those who like astrophotography. They also require far less maintenance because they have a sealed tube which protects the mirror and lenses.
We’ve picked out the top 5 telescopes on the market to cater to all styles and budgets. So whether you are a pro who wants to get some fantastic shots of the moon, or you simply want to spy on the neighbours, check out our list below.
1. Celestron Travel Scope 70 Telescope
Open up your eyes to the world of astronomy with this basic refractor telescope
Best for: Children | Type: Refractor | Weight: 1.5kg | Aperture: 2.7in | Focal length: 400mm
If your kids have taken a liking to space, then this is the perfect gift for them. This refractor telescope is ideal for a children’s telescope as it is small and lightweight. Many customers have said how pleasantly surprised they are with the quality and clarity of the lens. For under £100, this telescope is an absolute bargain, so if you’re a beginner this telescope is the perfect place to start. Users also love how compact it is as it can easily fit in your suitcase and is also light enough for a child to handle.
2. Orion 9005 AstroView 120ST Equatorial Refractor Telescope
A slightly more advanced refractor for adults who have recently taken up stargazing
Best for: Adult beginners | Type: Refractor | Weight: 7kg | Aperture: 4.7in | Focal length: 600mm
For beginners taking their first steps into the world of astronomy, this refractor telescope makes for good quality star-gazing. You can use it for either looking into space or viewing objects on Earth, and comes with a range of parts and accessories to help you make the most of your viewing. Customers who bought this telescope were very impressed with the quality, including those who have experience and knowledge of using telescopes before. However, customers do recommend investing in some of the additional attachments you can buy for this telescope in order to get the best results from it.
3. Celestron 31145 NexStar 130 SLT Series Newtonian Reflector Telescope
Pinpoint your object quickly with this telescopes automatic go-to function
Best for: Quick focus | Type: Reflector | Weight: 14kg | Aperture: 5in | Focal length: 650mm
If you want something a little more intermediate than a refractor telescope then this reflector telescope has great reviews from customers who are both beginners and more advanced when it comes to astronomy. Users say it is a little weighty, but that it is built well and is easy to assemble. What is particularly appealing about this telescope is the “Go to” function, which quickly and easily pinpoints objects of interest which is something that would make things a lot easier for beginners when learning how to properly use a telescope. The only downside is more advanced users found the eyepiece not to be of the best quality, in which case, as your skills develop, you may find you are inclined to purchase a new eyepiece for this scope.
4. Celestron NextStar Evolution 8 Catadioptric Telescope
A Smart telescope you can control with your phone or tablet
Best for: Astrophotography | Type: Catadioptric | Weight: 18.42kg | Aperture: 8in | Focal length: 2032mm
This catadioptric, or compound telescope is a great purchase for those who see astrophotography as a keen hobby of theirs. Yes, this telescope is expensive, but it is incredibly high-tech and comes with a whole range of features. The free downloadable app will help you make the most of your telescope by allowing you to interact with a range of celestial objects and pinpoint your objects of interest quickly and easily. It is designed with users in mind, and the rechargeable battery is certainly a big selling point which makes this product seem very low maintenance for its type. The battery aims to give you up to 10 hours of uninterrupted stargazing so you can really get your geek on with this telescope.
5. Orion StarBlast 62mm Compact Travel Refractor Telescope
A compact telescope ideal for the travelling astronomer
Best for: Travelling | Type: Refractor | Weight: 4.5kg | Aperture: 2.4in | Focal length: 520mm
If stargazing around the world is your thing, then this compact refractor telescope is the perfect companion. Its slim design and handy carry case mean you can take it with you on the go and set it up wherever you wish. It may not give as clear a picture as a more advanced compound telescope does, but it could certainly serve well as a second scope in a hobbyist’s kit. Customers are impressed with the quality of the images through this telescope, and different eyepieces and filters can also be added (sold separately) to enhance your viewing experience.
Heading out for an adventure under the stars? Check out our outdoors guide to the best sleeping bags for camping here.