The Best Telescope for Beginners

“Can you suggest a good telescope for a beginner”? 

That’s a question I get all the time at One-Minute Astronomer.

It’s tough to give one answer that fits everyone.  But if you’re thinking of getting your own telescope, here are some rules of thumb to keep in mind so you get the best equipment to fit your needs…

  •  Please, please don’t buy a cheap department-store telescope that advertises amazingly-high magnification (>300x), and which is mounted on a spidery tripod that causes the image of any object to shake and wobble until you feel woozy.  Just.  Stay.  Away.
  •  You can spend a few hundred dollars on a good scope, or a few thousand on a great scope.  But as a guideline, you shouldn’t buy a telescope that costs less than $300.  You’ll be disappointed with the results.  If you can’t afford that much, save a few more dollars, or stick with binoculars for now.
  •  Don’t worry about magnification.  A telescope’s most important feature is aperture… the diameter of its main light-collecting lens or mirror.  More aperture gives you a brighter image and lets you see finer detail.  It’s just the laws of physics.  I suggest your first scope should have an aperture of at least 80-90 mm.  Otherwise, the images you see will be too dim and fuzzy.
  •  Bigger aperture means higher cost and a bulkier telescope.  I’ll leave budgeting up to you.  But keep in mind the size and weight of a telescope, and how far you have to move it to your main observing site.  Some excellent beginner scopes might be 4-5 feet long, 8-9 inches wide, and have two main parts, each of which weighs 30 lbs or so.  Can you store and move all that?  If not, consider a more compact telescope.  You might give up some aperture.  But a big scope isn’t any good if you can’t use it.

You can get more tips and ideas for choosing a telescope and accessories with this series of videos by Anacortes Telescope….

And back in 2008, I wrote a couple of articles that give some options for beginner’s telescopes and accessories.

Here’s a set-up you can get for about US$500.

And here’s a set-up you can get for about US$1,500.

You don’t need to get these exact telescopes and accessories.  But these or similar scopes will serve you well over many years under the stars.

And remember… the best telescope isn’t necessarily big or expensive or complicated.  The best telescope is the one you want to use every clear night.

NOTE: Once you get a telescope, check out the guide “Secrets of the Deep Sky”, which shows the universe beyond our solar system.  Get tips on equipment selection and observing techniques, and take a tour of dozens of lovely sights in the northern and southern hemispheres.  Click here to learn more…