Ever since the dawn of man, humans have been curious about the heavens above them. We’ve been observing the stars, planets, and other parts of the galaxy for many years now. For true astronomy enthusiasts or those that are interested in studying space, having a good telescope is a necessity. A quality telescope allows you to peek into the heavens and check out all that space has to offer right here from Earth.
Finding the perfect telescope for your own personal needs can be tough, though. There are tons of different models available. Some have different apertures that provide varying degrees of image quality. Telescopes also come in a number of different types – refracting, reflecting, and catadioptric. So, needless to say, there’s a lot to consider. Consumer Essentials is here to make the buying process a little easier. Below you’ll find a list of our favorite telescopes.
We’ve tested dozens of different telescopes, all with varying apertures, designs, mounts, and price points. Our team extensively tested the telescopes listed below for things like image clarity and ease of use. The list below reveals what we believe to be the five best telescopes on the market today. Read through our reviews of each one to find out which is best suited for your needs.
The Beginner’s Guide to Buying the Perfect Telescope
As we mentioned above, finding a great telescope can be tricky. First, you’ve got to consider your own skill level. If you’re an advanced astronomer, a simple device with a low-grade aperture isn’t going to cut it, but you’ll have to face the music and realize that for a high-quality telescope, you’re going to need a decent budget.
If you’re just getting started and just want to casually stargaze, however, there are plenty of affordable options. The models listed above are primarily designed to be used by amateurs. Don’t let that fool you, though, that doesn’t mean they aren’t great telescopes! Even some of the more affordable models are still powerful enough to allow you to clearly see far away planets, stars, moons, and more.
Regardless of your skill level, it’s important to do a bit of research to learn exactly how a telescope works before making any purchase. Why? Well, once you have a basic understanding of the different types of telescopes available, why a bigger aperture is always better, and how a decent mount can make a world of difference, then you can make a more educated decision when buying your first telescope.
Below we provide some general information about the things you need to look for when buying a telescope. Use these tips to figure out which telescope will be right for you.
Perhaps the single most important aspect of any telescope is the aperture. For those that don’t already know what this is, aperture is the total diameter of the lens or mirror within the telescope. Generally speaking, the bigger the aperture is, the better. A larger aperture makes images come through with better clarity, brightness, and sharpness. This is important because, well, we aren’t extraordinary beings, we’re simple humans – a lot of us even have flawed sight to begin with! So, yes, this is super important.
If you really want clear views of the night sky you’ll definitely want to get a telescope that has a decent-sized aperture. Aperture sizes are often measured in millimeters, but are sometimes provided in terms of inches, too. Below is a simple guide to finding a good one.
- Decent Aperture Sizes: 10-50 mm
- Better Aperture Sizes: 60-100 mm
- Best Aperture Sizes: 120-200 mm or larger
Smaller sizes are typically best for amateurs that just want to glance at the night sky casually. Medium sizes are better for intermediate stargazers. The largest aperture sizes are really designed for the truly dedicated astronomers or even professionals. For most people, 20 to 70 mm is more than enough to get a good look at stars, planets, and more. Telescopes with larger aperture sizes are often quite pricey.
Focal length is another biggie. The focal length of a telescope determines that clarity of images seen through the lens at higher magnifications. Now, this is hard to lend advice for because it’s a bit tricky. If you just want to see planets and stars decent from afar, you really don’t need a huge focal length. If, however, you want to view those same bodies, zoom in on them, and see their details a bit more, you may want to spring for a telescope that has a longer focal length. It really depends on what you’re planning to do with your telescope.
As we stated before, there are a few different types of telescopes. The type can actually help you figure out which telescope is best for your personal needs. One type is better suited for long-distance space viewing while another may be better for getting a glimpse of the stars, but is also capable of being used for terrestrial viewing (checking stuff out here on Earth).
There are 3 basic types of telescopes:
Refracting telescopes are usually the most common. They’re pretty simplistic, very easy to use, and work well for both terrestrial viewing and space viewing. The biggest drawback with these is that the aperture sizes are usually smaller than other telescope types. Again, though, these are still decent telescopes for beginners.
Reflecting telescopes, on the other hand, use mirrors rather than lenses for focusing light. These are typically easy to use as well, are typically pretty affordable, and are good for spotting far away stars, galaxies, and other nifty things in the heavens above. These telescopes are not good for checking out stuff here on Earth, though.
Finally, there are catadioptric telescopes. These make use of both mirrors and lenses to focus light. These telescopes are very versatile, are some of the best for viewing nearly anything in space, and are usually pretty durable. The only setback with these is that they are generally more expensive.