The 10 Best Telescopes

Updated May 15, 2018 by Daniel Imperiale

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We spent 42 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. Whether you are an amateur stargazer or a professional astronomer, we've got you covered with our selection of telescopes, including everything from the basic moon watcher up to computer controlled nebula viewers that can find and track distant celestial bodies. We've ranked them by price, ease of use, magnification capability, and image clarity. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best telescope on Amazon.

10. Orion SkyScanner 10012

The Orion SkyScanner 10012 features 100mm parabolic primary mirror optics, unlike many entry-level models that use plastic lenses instead. This means it offers better light reflection to create imagery that's much clearer than the competition.
  • has a wide-angle view
  • 40x magnification power
  • hard to fine tune the focus
Brand Orion
Model 10012
Weight 9.8 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

9. Celestron PowerSeeker 70AZ

The Celestron PowerSeeker 70AZ is the ideal choice for kids who are interested in astronomy. It won't dig too deeply into your wallet and it is lightweight enough that they can move it around without parental assistance. It cannot track objects, though.
  • suitable for terrestrial viewing too
  • illustrated setup guide
  • stand isn't very stable
Brand Celestron
Model 21036
Weight 12.3 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

8. Orion 09007 SpaceProbe 130ST

The Orion 09007 SpaceProbe 130ST features an EQ-2 equatorial mount for smooth tracking of slow-moving celestial objects. It has a 6x30 finderscope and comes with two Sirius Plossl eyepieces, as well as a useful collimation cap.
  • secondary mirror reduces light loss
  • convenient hand controls
  • tripod base wobbles a bit
Brand Orion
Model 9007
Weight 32 pounds
Rating 3.5 / 5.0

7. Celestron NexStar 127SLT

The Celestron NexStar 127SLT is recommended for hobbyists who are ready to step up from their entry level model, but can't justify getting into the four-figure price range. It features the StarPointer finderscope to make locating objects a little easier.
  • comes with skyx planetarium software
  • can show you the rings on saturn
  • active tracking performs poorly
Brand Celestron
Model 22097
Weight 30.2 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

6. Meade 16-Inch LightBridge

The Meade 16-Inch LightBridge offers clear and crisp views under any conditions, yet costs less than many top-of-the-line models. It has a laminated base, so the axis can handle smooth, subtle adjustments, and it comes with a one-year warranty.
  • quick setup and take down
  • sturdy open truss design
  • anti-reflective coatings
Brand Meade
Model 1205-05-03
Weight 118 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

5. Celestron NexStar 8

The Celestron NexStar 8 is powerful for its small size, as it weighs just 16lbs., yet it has an 8-inch aperture that makes it capable of capturing stunning detail. It combines both refraction and reflection to achieve good clarity from a compact unit.
  • easy to transport
  • quick-release fork arm mount
  • poor battery life
Brand Celestron
Model 11069
Weight 48.9 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

4. Celestron CPC 1100 StarBright

Built for serious astronomers, the Celestron CPC 1100 StarBright has a 2,800mm focal length, and a fully computerized dual fork arm that makes it easy to adjust its position. Its GPS is capable of capturing data on imagery from SkyAlign satellites.
  • nexstar control technology
  • strong light gathering power
  • has a forty thousand object database
Brand Celestron
Model 11075-XLT
Weight 143.3 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

3. Orion 8964 SkyQuest XX14g

The Orion 8964 SkyQuest XX14g has a 14-inch aperture reflector that can bring in a large amount of light to make faint celestial bodies brighter and easier to see. It can also pinpoint and track 42,000 objects in space automatically, so you don't waste any time searching.
  • shows planets in vivid detail
  • heavy-duty clutches
  • disassembles for easy portability
Brand Orion
Model 8964
Weight 235 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

2. Orion 10014 SkyQuest XT4.5

The Orion 10014 SkyQuest XT4.5 collects 260 percent more light than most entry-level models, and includes two eyepieces with different focal lengths. It also has a sturdy rolling base and a navigation knob that allows for easy maneuvering of the tube.
  • clear high-contrast views
  • durable enameled steel construction
  • weighs just 22 pounds
Brand Orion
Model 10014
Weight 30.4 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

1. Sky-Watcher ProED 120 APO

The Sky-Watcher ProED 120 APO offers a deep black background to produce more contrast and make stars or planets really stand out. It has a dual-speed focuser, so you won't miss any quick astral movements, and comes with an aluminum carrying case.
  • enhances colors and details
  • simple for inexperienced users
  • sets up very quickly
Brand Sky Watcher
Model S11130
Weight 39.4 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

Bringing Perspective A Little Closer

Humans have always been curious about the world around them. Though just the first step, this very curiosity has allowed technology to evolve along with it. By itself, curiosity does not provide all the answers, but it does encourage imagination, the desire to hone one's thoughts, the desire to grow, and to experiment with technology that will serve that curiosity. I will never say that human curiosity is fully satisfied. In fact, the more scientific breakthroughs that occur, the less inclined I'd be to believe human curiosity is ever satisfied.

If humans had given up on curiosity, then it's possible everyone would still believe the Earth is flat. Without an awareness of what's around you and how things appear, you wouldn't begin to suspect that perhaps the Earth was round due to the observation of moon phases over time and the spherical shape of the Earth's shadow that is cast on the moon's surface. On the same parallel, with the invention of a unique tool like the telescope, our definition of what it means to think outside the box changes dramatically.

By definition, a telescope is an optical instrument with a primary purpose of making distant objects appear close and easy to see. This is accomplished through the use of either an arrangement of lenses or, as worded in the Oxford English Dictionary, an arrangement of both curved mirrors and lenses, by which rays of light are collected, focused, and the resulting image is magnified. A majority of telescopes focus on detecting electromagnetic radiation.

One of the most important aspects of a telescope is its aperture through which light will travel. The aperture determines the degree of brightness and sharpness you see through a telescope. The diameter of a telescope's aperture is directly proportional to the level of detail you see when you look through it. As an example, a telescope with a ten-inch aperture will make distant objects appear sharper than one with only a five or six-inch aperture.

A telescope's power is another important piece of the puzzle for determining the degree of mangification it will offer. This is an integral consideration for the budding astronomer who wants to see outer space and the surrounding planets as closely and as clearly as possible.

Telescopes are classified into refracting, reflecting, and catadioptric types. They all share the same purpose of collecting light and bringing it to a point of focus so that it can be magnified with an eyepiece, but each type accomplishes this in its own way.

Refracting telescopes are the most common and usually take the form of long, thin tubes that allow light to pass in a straight line from the front objective lens right to their eyepieces. The reflecting telescope leverages a large and concave parabolic mirror to collect and focus light to a flat secondary mirror. The secondary mirror then reflects the image out of the opening at the side of the main tube. Catadioptric telescopes use both lenses and mirrors to fold optics and form an image.

A Brief History Of The Telescope

The earliest known telescopes date back to the beginning of the seventeenth century and are credited to Middelburg spectacle makers Hans Lippershey, Zacharias Janssen, and Dutch instrument maker Jacob Metius of Alkmaar. By the year 1609, Galileo Galilei used and improved upon the design of the Dutch telescope.

Galileo also became the first person to use a telescope for observing celestial objects in the sky, which has become one of the most common uses for many of the cutting-edge telescopes today. In 1668, Sir Isaac Newton invented the first practical reflector telescope, also referred to as the Newtonian reflector.

Thanks to the invention of the achromatic lens, color aberrations in objective lenses were reduced, while telescopes could be made shorter and more functional in design. These began to appear by the middle of the eighteenth century.

By 1931, new telescopes that produced images using wavelengths other than visible light helped to evolve a new type of observational astronomy, thanks to Karl Jansky's discovery that the Milky Way was a source of radio emissions. This further spawned the development of wavelength-specific telescopes that included the infrared, ultra-violet, X-ray, and gamma-ray telescopes.

Building on Jansky's ideas, Grote Reber built a sophisticated radio telescope in 1937 that included a thirty-one-foot dish, which made it possible to discover unexplained radio sources in the sky. Radio astronomy interest continued to grow beyond the time of World War Two as dishes were leveraged in larger sizes. Dishes are still used today to study naturally-occurring radio light from the stars.

Finding The Best View Of The Night's Sky

One of the first things to consider when purchasing a telescope is what you plan to use it for. For a majority of people, looking to the stars and examining the world around them are definitely reasons to go for the most highly-developed optics.

Depending on where you plan to set up your telescope, definitely make sure it comes with a sturdy stand or tripod that allows for easy mobility. Some telescopes are also designed as tabletop models, which comes in particularly handy when your bedroom desk is close to a large window.

For that person who's into technology, one must find a telescope designed with built-in Global Positioning System (GPS) functionality, which can capture data from satellite imagery.

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Last updated on May 15, 2018 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.

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