If you've ever looked up at the night sky with both appreciation and curiosity, you are not unlike Galileo, who first pointed a telescope at the skies in 1609. Astronomy can bring a sense of wonder into your life, and newer technologies make the hobby more welcoming than ever to newcomers. The newest telescopes for beginners can find objects in the sky for you as well as offer a great view of them. Some computerized telescopes – often referred to as “go-to” models – use GPS technology and a motor to move your telescope into viewing position. Gone are the long hours spent looking at charts trying to find your target. You can now spend more time seeing and less time searching for stars, and enjoy your telescope earlier and more fully.
We recommend choosing a telescope with at least some computerization, if not full go-to capabilities. Go-to models are the best choice for telescope beginners because they flatten out the learning curve. While many seasoned astronomers argue against go-to technology because it means new users are less involved in learning how to find celestial targets, we think a computerized scope can still help you learn the sky at your own pace.
Computerization does come at a cost. While you can spend less than $100 for a telescope aimed at adults, our computerized choices cost about $240 and up. Models costing significantly more ($450 to $600) generally have a greater array of computerized features, software and accessories. You can easily spend more—into the thousands—for a telescope, but we think the price range we’ve targeted offers a fine “sweet spot” between price and capabilities for beginning astronomers. Our favorite telescopes for beginners are the Celestron NexStar 130 SLT, Celestron NexStar 4SE and the Orion Starseeker.
For more information, be sure to take a look at our Learning Center articles related to telescopes for beginners.
Telescopes for Beginners: What to Look For
The best telescopes for beginners will provide astronomy experiences that will leave viewers in awe and eager for more experiences in the future. Our telescopes for beginners comparison will be most useful to those who have done some homework already. Before buying a telescope, you want to have gone to a few star parties with your local astronomy club and gotten at least a little experience. The wrong telescopes for beginners can lead to frustration and a very expensive coat rack. There is not necessarily a perfect first telescope for every type of user. We found the ones that we think will most likely work well for most beginning users.
One of the most important features of any telescope is the quality of the optics. Even if a telescope is easy to assemble and use, you will not want to use it if it cannot provide you with great views of the universe. At the beginner level, we expect telescopes to offer lovely views of the moon, planets, sun and some deep-sky objects. We looked for high-quality optics that will provide the best detail of those targets. We also like scopes that have some versatility, offer terrestrial views in addition to celestial and providing some potential for astrophotography.
Tracking & Stability
We prefer go-to features in most cases for beginner telescopes, and we paid attention to each instrument's construction. We looked for sturdy scopes that will be best able to compensate for the earth's movement and help you keep your target in view.
Ease of Use
The best telescopes for beginners will go from the box to a backyard viewing frenzy within a small window of time. They assemble with few or no tools and are small enough to transport with relative ease. They reliably point you toward the things you want to see in the sky.
Your first telescope should come with great back up from a reputable manufacturer, not a toy store. If there are problems as you try to assemble or use your instrument, you will want easy access to those who know how to resolve any issues. Budding astronomers should be able to find expert help online or over the phone with ease.
Choose wisely and you will enjoy your first telescope for years to come. The best telescopes for beginners are the ones that get used, not those that end up forgotten in a closet.