If you've ever looked curiously up at the night sky, you are not unlike Galileo, who first pointed a telescope at the skies in 1609. Astronomy can satisfy your sense of wonder, 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 clear view. Some computerized telescopes – often referred to as “go-to” models – use GPS and a motor to move your telescope. Gone are the long hours spent looking at charts trying to find your target, even if you are using a basic telescope for kids. With the best amateur telescopes, you can now spend more time seeing and less time searching for stars.
We recommend choosing a telescope with at least some computerization, if not full go-to capabilities. Go-to models are the best telescope for beginners because they flatten out the learning curve. While many seasoned astronomers argue against go-to technology because it means you 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 and most of the best home telescopes cost $250 and up. Models costing significantly more generally have a greater array of computerized features, software and accessories. 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 articles on telescopes for beginners.
The best telescopes for beginners will provide astronomy experiences that will leave you in awe. Our comparison of telescopes for beginners show there is not necessarily a perfect first telescope for everyone. We found the telescopes that will work well for most beginners.
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, it needs to provide clear 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 provide some potential for astrophotography.
Tracking & Stability
We prefer go-to features in most cases for beginner telescopes, so we looked at GPS functionality. We also paid attention to each instrument's construction. We looked for sturdy scopes that can best compensate for the Earth's movement and help you keep your target in view.
Ease of Use
Help & Support
Your first telescope should come with strong support from a reputable manufacturer. 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.
Choose a beginner telescope wisely and you will enjoy it for years to come. The best telescopes are the ones that get used, not those that end up forgotten in a closet, and having one with strong optics and plenty of user-friendly features will make you want to get the most out of it.