The 6 Best Telescopes For Kids

Updated September 26, 2017 by Ezra Glenn

6 Best Telescopes For Kids
Best High-End
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Best Inexpensive
We spent 47 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. Got a budding astronomer in the family? Kindle your mini scientist's passions with one of these powerful, yet easy to use, telescopes for kids that will have them identifying constellations and observing the craters of the moon in no time. From tabletop models to freestanding units on tripods, there's something among our choices for everyone. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best telescope for kids on Amazon.

6. Nancy B's Science Club Moonscope

The Nancy B's Science Club Moonscope by Educational Insights is more of a toy than a scientific instrument, but if your child enjoys it, it could lead to a lifelong love of the sciences. It's not super-powerful, but it is a good low-priced model for first-timers.
  • includes 22-page activity guide
  • winner of several toy awards
  • tripod is flimsy and moves too much
Brand Educational Insights
Model 5351
Weight 2.3 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

5. Celestron Kids 50TT

The Celestron Kids 50TT comes with a sturdy case for storage or transport, so it's a good choice for the intrepid family of stargazers who want to head into the field for an astronomy expedition or pack it when going on vacation.
  • minimal assembly required
  • features large eyepiece
  • focus issues reported by some users
Brand Celestron
Model pending
Weight 7 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

4. Smithsonian NSI 22242

This Smithsonian NSI 22242 comes with a tabletop tripod, and can set up almost anywhere your youngster wants to get a view up into the heavens, or even take a closer look at the world around them. It's simple enough for all children to use.
  • good for wildlife or sporting events
  • includes 25x and 125x eyepieces
  • tends trap dust in lenses
Brand Smithsonian
Model 22242
Weight 2.1 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

3. TwinStar AstroMark 50mm Power Refractor

The TwinStar AstroMark 50mm Power Refractor is a great choice for young astronomers or even amateur adults. Don't let its budget-friendly price tag fool you; it's a powerful tool that will reveal many mysteries of the night sky.
  • includes a full-size tripod
  • 75x magnification power
  • very easy to set up
Brand Twin Star
Model 615012Z
Weight 5.5 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

2. Cometron FirstScope

The Cometron FirstScope is tabletop Dobsnian-style model that includes a spherical mirror with a generous 76 mm aperture to ensure your child sees more than they ever thought possible. Perhaps it will inspire the next generation's great astronomers.
  • lightweight and easily portable
  • includes two kellner eyepieces
  • no tools required for setup
Brand Celestron
Model 21023
Weight 6.1 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

1. Xshop Refined

The Xshop Refined is lightweight for easy setup and portability and includes three different magnification lenses, so your little ones can spend hours exploring the depths of the universe. Just screw the tripod into the body, choose an eyepiece, and it's ready to go.
  • great for observing the moon
  • adjustable focal length
  • ideal for ages 8 and up
Brand Xshop
Model pending
Weight 1.3 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

Starry Sights

Questions about the nature of the universe can have as deep an impact on children as they do on adults, possibly even more so. I once heard a philosopher posit that intelligent life exists in the universe so that the cosmos can wonder at itself, that it creates awestruck minds for the sheer joy of feeling awestruck. Human beings age and die so their energy can cycle back into the next generation, as children are more in touch with their sense of wonder than all of us jaded, world-weary adults.

If this is to be believed, then it’s your duty as a member of the universe, as a harbinger of intelligence and wonder in an otherwise empty void, to place a telescope–a veritable tool for the exacerbation of wonder–into the hands of the universe’s most ardent fanatics.

Once in their hands and aimed at some nighttime celestial body (ideally not the bodies of any neighbors), your kid’s telescope will work in one of two ways. These two major categories of visible light telescopes are refractive and reflective.

Refractive telescopes are the more common type in this category, and they work by combining a pair of convex lenses. The first of these lenses is your light-collecting element, and on either type of telescope wider tends to be better. That light enters the telescope tube and condenses toward a focal point, after which the second lens element picks it up and focuses it to your eyepiece.

Now, don’t get confused here if you see a little mirror in the eyepiece of your refracting telescope. That mirror simply reflects the light from your second lens up into an eyepiece that’s positioned for greater comfort while stargazing. It doesn’t mean your refractive telescope is also a reflector.

A reflective telescope, of which there are fewer in this category, uses a large concave mirror that collects and reflects light back up toward the central portion of the telescope. Often, manufacturers will place a much smaller mirror at this focal point to reflect the primary image up into an eyepiece.

Eyes On The Prize

You can easily tell the difference between the reflective and refractive telescopes at these price points by their body design. Even if you didn’t know that reflective telescopes often had their eyepieces toward the front end of the tube, you could tell the difference simply by identifying the refractive telescopes as longer and thinner, and the reflective telescopes as shorter and fatter.

That’s because the telescopes on our list all boast the same relative magnification capabilities. As refractive telescopes increase their magnification, they also increase their size, weight, and cost in direct proportion. At a certain point, it becomes unfeasible to use a giant, expensive refractor that does about the same job as a relatively smaller, lighter, less expensive reflector, especially in the somewhat weaker hands of a child.

All that said, each style has its benefit over the other even when adhering to this range of price and magnification. Because reflective telescopes have additional mirrors and optical devices in their tubes, they aren’t as good for viewing planets and the moon as refractors are. With a refractor, nothing stands between your lens elements, so bigger brighter objects will render with less diffraction.

Reflectors, on the other hand, are superior for deep-field viewing of star clusters, distant galaxies, and constellations. That’s because they have a wider light collecting area that is more sensitive to celestial objects that don’t shine as brightly as a planet or the moon would.

Knowing what kind of bodies your young one wants to explore will guide you toward one style of scope or another. After that, it’s only a matter of maximizing your magnification within your budget.

Historical Lenses

While most people think of Galileo Galilei whenever they think of the history of the telescope, his were not the first models to reveal celestial truths to the human eye.

Lens manufacture and glass grinding techniques attained a new level of refinement in the 1500s, and by 1608, a Dutchman by the name of Hans Lippershey applied for a patent on what we should consider the world’s first telescope.

Due in part to the simplicity of the design (Lippershey was essentially trying to patent the idea of holding two glass lenses up at a distance from one another) and to similar patent filings cropping up from the same town over the course of a few weeks, the Dutch patent office actually denied Lippershey’s claim.

The following year, Galileo got his hands on one of the Dutch models, made some refinements, and set forth to forever alter our cosmic perspective. These were all refractive telescopes, however. In 1668, Isaac Newton built the world’s first reflective telescope, reasoning that it would be less expensive to collect more light than with the large, finely ground glass lenses of the refractors.

The styles of telescope have competed over the course of the centuries, and now laser telescopes, as well as designs built to gather data from parts of the electromagnetic spectrum beyond the light that's visible to the naked eye continue to push the field forward into the 21st century.

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Last updated on September 26, 2017 by Ezra Glenn

Ezra is a writer, photographer, creative producer, designer, and record label-operator from New York City. He's traveled around the world and ended up back where he started, though he's constantly threatening to leave again.

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