Best telescopes for stargazing galaxies and nebulas in 2023

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Discover all of the best telescopes for stargazing right here at Space.com. As well as picking the very best, we’ve included telescopes to suit every level of astronomer and covered every budget. There will definitely be something here that’s perfect for what you’re looking for.

If you’re an avid bargain hunter, check out our telescope deals page, which we regularly update with the best telescope deals as we find them. Deals aside, though, if you’re seriously interested in getting the best stargazing experience, this is the guide for you as we’ve got the best models from top manufacturers, available now at reputable retailers.

The best telescopes deal available today:

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We also have brand-specific guides for Celestron, Skywatcher, Meade, and Orion deals for those loyal to their favorite brands. Like this page, we keep those updated year-round, so they’re always worth checking out. 

Before making a purchase of one of the top telescopes available, it is important to consider your desired outcome. Are you looking to observe distant star clusters, nebulas, and galaxies? If so, a reflector telescope is the best option. If you are mainly interested in seeing the moon and other planets in our own galaxy, then a refractor telescope is the best choice.

There is also the catadioptric telescope, which can work as a happy middle ground. Some models have computerized motors that make aligning and tracking targets easy, and can even capture images for you, excellent news for astrophotographers.

For anyone wanted to save some money why not check out our guide to Budget telescopes under $500, or for those new to astronomy our best beginner telescopes and best telescopes for kids guides. A pair of the best binoculars are useful skywatching devices, too and the best cameras or best cameras for astrophotography can capture the night sky excellently.

Best telescopes 2023

Best overall telescope

(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)

Exceptional image clarity and detail, with an accurate and smooth computerized motor

Specifications

Optical design: Schmidt-Cassegrain

Mount type: Computerized alt-azimuth fork arm

Aperture: 8-inches (203 mm)

Focal length: 80-inches(2032 mm)

Highest useful magnification: 480x

Lowest useful magnification: 29x

Supplied eyepieces: 25 mm

Weight: 32 lbs (14.48 kg)

Reasons to buy

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Sharpness across the entire field of view

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Good value for money

Reasons to avoid

On the heavy side

Hard to fault for the price

Best budget telescope

(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)

Satisfying images from a very lightweight and portable go-to mount scope

Specifications

Optical design: Maksutov-Cassegrain

Mount type: Computerized Alt-Azimuth Single Fork Arm

Aperture: 4.01-inches (102 mm)

Focal length: 52.16- inches (1325mm)

Highest useful magnification: Up to 100x with digital zoom

Supplied eyepieces: 25 mm and 10 mm

Weight: 6 lbs. (2.7kg)

Reasons to buy

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Go-to is great for beginners

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Highly portable

Reasons to avoid

Finish feels a little cheap

Other models better value for money

Best premium telescope

(Image credit: Celestron)

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Celestron NexStar Evolution 9.25

Though expensive, this is a value for money GoTo scope for seeing the universe in HD

Specifications

Optical design: Schmidt-Cassegrain

Mount type: Computerized alt-azimuth fork arm

Aperture: 9.25″ (235 mm)

Focal length: 92.52″ (2,350 mm)

Highest useful magnification: 555x

Lowest useful magnification: 34x

Supplied eyepieces: 13 mm, 40 mm

Weight: 62.60 lbs. (28.39 kg)

Reasons to buy

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Crisp views with no defects

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Easy to set up

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High-quality design

Reasons to avoid

Isn’t very portable

Pricey


Beginner telescopes

(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)

Satisfying images from a very lightweight and portable go-to mount scope

Specifications

Optical design: Maksutov-Cassegrain

Mount type: Computerized Alt-Azimuth Single Fork Arm

Aperture: 4.01-inches (102 mm)

Focal length: 52.16- inches (1325mm)

Highest useful magnification: Up to 100x with digital zoom

Supplied eyepieces: 25 mm and 10 mm

Weight: 6 lbs. (2.7kg)

Reasons to buy

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Go-to is great for beginners

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Highly portable

Reasons to avoid

Finish feels a little cheap

Other models better value for money

After undertaking our Celestron Astro Fi 102 telescope review we’d say this is perfect for beginners who don’t have prior knowledge of the night sky but want to start learning and enjoying it straight out of the box.

It’s not a budget scope by any means, but if you’re looking for a telescope that comes from a trusted brand that is highly portable, this one is worth a look. 

This is a good grab-and-go option when weighing in at a tiny 6lbs (2.7kg). It doesn’t have a huge footprint as some telescopes do, so you can leave it set up at home without compromising your space too much, or it’s easy enough to pack away and reassemble at will.

The final finish on the telescope feels a little toyish to the touch, and compromises such as the materials used have been made to keep the scope as lightweight as possible.

Despite the slightly lackluster final finish, the image is attractive, and you can explore the detail on the Moon’s surface, Saturn and its rings, Mars and Jupiter. You may also see nebulae and other deep sky objects in the right sky conditions. 

It’s very quick and easy to sync with Celestron’s SkyPortal app, which contains approximately 100k celestial objects to explore.


(Image credit: Jamie Carter)

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An affordable scope with high quality optics for backyard moon and planet gazing

Specifications

Optical design: Reflector

Mount type: Alt-azimuth

Aperture: 4.49″ (114 mm)

Focal length: 39.37″ (1,000 mm)

Highest useful magnification: 269x

Lowest useful magnification: 16x

Supplied eyepieces: 10 mm, 25 mm

Weight: 10.41 lbs. (4.72 kg)

Reasons to buy

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Simple to set up and align

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Good intro to astrophotography

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Suggests targets to observe

Reasons to avoid

Lacks computerized mount

Lacks precision

Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 114 can be enjoyed by beginner and intermediate skywatchers alike and will be especially desirable to busy users who lack the time required for lengthy set-up procedures. During our Celestron StarSense Explorer LT114 review we timed assembling this telescope — it took less than 20 minutes!

Celestron’s StarSense technology is built into this reflector, which provides an extremely easy way to align the telescope. The skywatcher needs to download the StarSense app from Google or Apple (opens in new tab) and take a smartphone image through the eyepiece, the app then works out which stars are in the telescope’s field of view to calculate which way it is facing, clever.

The app not only provides an immersive experience but also offers interesting information on each of the targets you observe, giving you a better understanding of what you’re looking at.

You can enjoy the gas giant of Jupiter (opens in new tab) by using the 10 mm eyepiece. The views are clear, but you’ll need a selection of eyepieces (check out our best eyepiece buying guide) and filters in order to pick out the coloration of the atmospheric bands. The planet’s largest moons are visible as clear, sharp points of light. Views of the moon, Venus (opens in new tab) and the Beehive Cluster (Messier 44) are also pleasing and clear.

We found that the StarSense Explorer LT 114 is built sturdily and operates smoothly when slewing from one target to another. The scope needs to be manually operated, so you don’t get the ease of tracking that computerized telescopes would offer. However, some skywatchers prefer the hands-on versus electronic approach, and what’s more, the price is lower. 

Of course, you get the usual high-quality optics that we’ve come to expect with Celestron telescopes and the aperture is a good size too. All in all, this is an excellent choice for a budget-friendly backyard telescope.

Best telescopes for enthusiasts

(Image credit: Celestron)

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Celestron NexStar Evolution 9.25

Though expensive, this is a value for money GoTo scope for seeing the universe in HD

Specifications

Optical design: Schmidt-Cassegrain

Mount type: Computerized alt-azimuth fork arm

Aperture: 9.25″ (235 mm)

Focal length: 92.52″ (2,350 mm)

Highest useful magnification: 555x

Lowest useful magnification: 34x

Supplied eyepieces: 13 mm, 40 mm

Weight: 62.60 lbs. (28.39 kg)

Reasons to buy

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Crisp views with no defects

+

Easy to set up

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High-quality design

Reasons to avoid

Isn’t very portable

Pricey

The optical system of the Celestron NexStar Evolution 9.25 ranks as one of the best we’ve ever had the pleasure of observing the night sky through. With no interference or optical defects in the field of view, this high-quality instrument offers sights of a wide selection of astronomical targets with impressive clarity and contrast. 

Although it is expensive, you get a lot of value for money with this telescope and its setup. The list of accessories you get include: an attachable camera, a red dot finderscope, an international AC adapter, hand control for a seamless AutoAlign process and 13mm and 40mm eyepieces.

The stand-out piece of equipment with the NexStar Evolution 9.25 is undoubtedly its single-fork arm. Observers can slew from one target to the next and continuously onwards at the touch of a button for up to 10 hours of continuous use, thanks to its rechargeable lithium-ion battery.  

Built into the mount is the telescope’s very own Wi-Fi network, allowing the instrument to connect and control via the Celestron SkyPortal app (downloadable for free on iOS and Android). Being motorized, the mount can track objects as they move across the sky, making the NexStar Evolution 9.25 a must-try for astrophotography.

If you’re looking for a complete high-definition tour of the universe, then we fully recommend this GoTo to seasoned skywatchers with decent budgets. The only downside is that the NexStar Evolution 9.25 is tricky to transport due to its weight, meaning that skywatchers will need to consider this before planning any trips beyond the backyard — a small trade-off given the telescope’s robust and high-quality design.


(Image credit: Celestron)

A guide to the night sky, packed with technology at a low price

Specifications

Optical design: Newtonian Reflector

Mount type: Computerized altitude-azimuth single fork

Aperture: 5.19-inches (130mm)

Focal length: 25.59-inches (650mm)

Highest useful magnification: 307x

Focal ratio: f/5.9

Supplied eyepieces: 25 mm (26x) 10mm (65x)

Weight: 18lbs/8.6kg

Reasons to buy

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Great entry-level telescope

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Vixen dovetail for mount changes

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Portable

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Finds targets at touch of button

Reasons to avoid

Eyepieces limit observations

Focuser of low quality

Battery drains quickly

Useless without app

When we reviewed the Celestron Astro Fi 130 telescope we liked it a lot and think it’s excellent value for money. While it’s not necessarily a budget telescope, it is a lot more affordable than a few of the other telescopes on this page and we think it’s excellent value for money.

If you’re new to stargazing, or even if you just don’t have a lot of experience, this telescope can give you an astronomy experience to marvel at. A 130mm aperture means that plenty of light is able to travel through the lens, making the night sky targets clearly visible. A focal length of 650mm means you’ll get a wide field of view, you also get amazing views of stars, and can track targets within our solar system with ease. 

This telescope is also sturdy but still lighter than some other scopes you might consider for the same experience, so it scores well on ease of transport. You also get a stable tripod, a red dot finder and decent eyepieces, which makes this even better value for money. 

We can only think of two things that let you down a bit with this model: the battery life drains a little quicker than you might want, and the eyepieces aren’t the best. 

You might want to consider upgrading the eyepieces for a better viewing experience, but for value for money, we highly recommend this scope


(Image credit: Russ Swan)

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It’s not for everyone, but is an inexpensive means of skywatching

Specifications

Optical design: Reflector

Mount type: Equatorial

Aperture: 5″ (127 mm)

Focal length: 39.37″ (1,000 mm)

Highest useful magnification: 300x

Lowest useful magnification: 18x

Supplied eyepieces: 4 mm, 20 mm, 3x Barlow

Weight: 22 lbs. (9.98 kg)

Reasons to buy

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Excellent value package

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Decent optics, with collimation

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Very good overall build

Reasons to avoid

Accessories not best quality

Some may require additional eyepieces

This scope, with a 127mm aperture, is competitively priced, making it a cost-effective way to observe the sky. Though not everyone’s favorite, it can be used to view our solar system and deep-sky targets without spending too much. Additionally, it can also be used for terrestrial viewing; however, its basic optics can be quite limiting.

The Celestron PowerSeeker 127 EQ ships with two eyepieces: 20 mm and 4mm, which work with the optical system to produce magnifications of 50x and 250x. There’s also a 3x Barlow lens for tripling the magnification on the eyepieces, though if the truth is told, it really isn’t needed — the maximum magnification that the telescope can achieve is 300x, so using the Barlow with the 4 mm eyepiece, for example, causes images to become blurred. 

Budget telescopes and cheaper models are often great options for people to try their hand at astronomy but don’t come with high-end optical quality, as we discovered in our Celestron PowerSeeker 127 EQ review. So you may have to bear the PowerSeeker 127 EQ’s limits in mind when looking for custom eyepieces and Barlow lenses. 

If you are comfortable using an equatorial mount and slow-motion controls, as well as have knowledge of polar aligning, then the PowerSeeker 127 EQ reflector is a reliable choice for observing the night sky. To ensure the best possible performance, collimate the mirrors regularly.


(Image credit: Jamie Carter)

A good option for lunar and solar observations

Specifications

Optical design: Refractor

Mount type: Altazimuth Mount

Aperture: 2.75-inch (70mm)

Focal length: 400mm

Highest useful magnification: Not stated

Focal ratio: f/5.7

Supplied eyepieces: K 20 mm 1.25″ (20x)

Weight: 6.5lbs

Reasons to buy

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Useful focal length for sun and moon

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Lightweight and portable

Reasons to avoid

Optical quality could be better

Aluminum tripod not the sturdiest

Encalife has teamed up with telescope makers SVBONY to deliver a lightweight, extremely affordable portable refractor telescope. The 400mm focal length is the perfect length for moon observations.

Light gathering through the telescope is reasonable using the 2.75-inch (70mm) aperture. A K20mm eyepiece that ships with the 501P provide a medium power view through the scope. 

It also ships with plenty of accessories to save you from having to buy extras which we found handy when we reviewed the Encalife SVBONY 501P 70. They include a 45-degree 1.25-inch erect image diagonal, a 5×24 finderscope, a sturdy aluminum tripod, and a bag to carry it all in. At just 6.5 lbs it’s super lightweight which means traveling with it to dark sky locations is easy, though don’t expect to zoom in to too many star clusters due to the limited focal length.

Encalife often has deals and discounts at events such as the Black Friday Sales and Amazon Prime Day where, in our experience, the prices have been known to drop a considerable amount. Keep your eyes peeled for bargains around these events.

Best Computerized or GoTo telescopes

(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)

Exceptional image clarity and detail, with an accurate and smooth computerized motor

Specifications

Optical design: Schmidt-Cassegrain

Mount type: Computerized alt-azimuth fork arm

Aperture: 8-inches (203 mm)

Focal length: 80-inches(2032 mm)

Highest useful magnification: 480x

Lowest useful magnification: 29x

Supplied eyepieces: 25 mm

Weight: 32 lbs (14.48 kg)

Reasons to buy

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Sharpness across the entire field of view

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Good value for money

Reasons to avoid

On the heavy side

Hard to fault for the price

The first of two of the NexStar telescopes on this list, and for a good reason. The Celestron NexStar 8SE is an excellent option for beginners and seasoned skywatchers alike. This telescope makes it easy for novices to view the night sky without knowing much about astronomy. At the same time, more experienced stargazers can use it to explore deeper into space or even attach a camera for impressive astrophotography.

If you pay a good chunk of money for a telescope, you can expect to receive exceptional optics with extraordinary views of a wide range of celestial objects.

The NexStar 8SE by Celestron is renowned and beloved, having earned the title of ‘The World’s most beloved telescope.’ It is also the number one bestseller on B&H Photo (opens in new tab). Featuring StarBright XLT optical coating, this telescope provides unparalleled clarity and contrast for viewing planets and the moon. Jupiter, its moons, Saturn, and its rings are breathtakingly vivid with no chromatic aberration or color fringing. Its 203.2 mm aperture lens allows for excellent views of deep-sky objects.

In our Celestron NexStar 8SE review, we walked you through what it’s like to get everything set up, and it’s very straightforward. No prior knowledge of the night sky is needed, as you can use Celestron’s SkyPortal app or any other stargazing app to help you find two stars for the alignment process.

Once the telescope is aligned, you can use the solid-in-the-hand, hand-held controller to direct it to any item in its massive database. This includes planets, galaxies, double stars, star clusters, and nebulae. A fantastic option for beginners and indecisive people is the ‘sky tour,’ which automatically directs the telescope to different interesting cosmic objects.

The motor runs smoothly, and the results are precise. Automatic tracking is a dream come true for astrophotographers, enabling them to take long exposures, which can then be stacked post-shoot to create beautiful images.

The Celestron NexStar 8SE comes with a hefty price tag, but it is well worth the investment for those serious about skywatching or astrophotography. Although it may be too pricey for those who are only casually interested in the solar system, it is an excellent choice for those who plan to engage in these activities for the long term.


(Image credit: Robin Scagell)

A sleek, smart, astronomical imaging device

Specifications

Optical design: Refractor

Mount type: Motorized GoTo alt-azimuth

Aperture: 3.15″ (80 mm)

Focal length: 15.75″ (400mm)

Highest useful magnification: Up to 100x with digital zoom

Supplied eyepieces: N/A

Weight: 24.69 lbs. (11.2 kg)

Reasons to buy

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Extremely portable

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Great for astrophotography

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Very easy to use

Reasons to avoid

Expensive compared to rivals

Not as appealing to traditionalists

The Vaonis Stellina telescope is unlike any other model on the market. It doesn’t even look like a telescope, a fact that may put off traditionalists. Boasting a smart design, it does away with the need for finderscopes and eyepieces, instead relying on a Sony CMOS sensor and a smartphone app to provide stunning views and take amazing color images of the night sky. This telescope is more expensive than the competition, but it does include a free download of Stellina app with 100 targets. 

While it isn’t ideal for studying planets, we discovered in our hands-on Vaonis Stellina review that it excels in producing images of bright deep-sky objects and the surface of the moon. It displays star clusters, nebulas, and galaxies in great clarity, with 6.4MP images at 3096 x 2080 resolution in JPEG and RAW format.

It is perfect for astrophotography, or group viewing as up to 10 devices can be connected at once. It also comes with a light pollution filter which is helpful in areas that suffer from skyglow, and it can handle changes in weather with ease. 

Though pricey, the Vaonis Stellina is worth the cost due to its sophisticated technology, sturdy and stylish build and reliability.


(Image credit: Sky-Watcher)

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Sky-Watcher Skymax 127 SynScan AZ GoTo

The perfect mix of great tech and brilliant optics

Specifications

Optical design: Maksutov-Cassegrain

Mount type: Motorized alt-azimuth

Aperture: 5″ (127 mm)

Focal length: 59.05″ (1500 mm)

Highest useful magnification: 150x

Lowest useful magnification: 60x

Supplied eyepieces: 10 mm, 25 mm & Barlow

Weight: 39.7 lbs. (18 kg)

Reasons to buy

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Very user friendly 

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Simple altitude-azimuth mount

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Excellent clarity and contrast

Reasons to avoid

Tripod is a little shaky

Needs extra support in windy conditions

As an introduction to the world of GoTo skywatching, the Sky-Watcher Skymax 127 SynScan AZ (opens in new tab) is a must-have for observers on a tighter budget. The SynScan AZ hand controller offers information on over 40,000 astronomical objects, which includes the most complete catalogs (Messier, NGC, IC and SAO) of deep-sky and solar system targets.

The astronomer has everything they need for a successful night under the stars: good quality star diagonal, 2x Barlow with a camera adaptor, 6×30 finderscope, a stainless steel tripod and an accessory tray.     

Assembling the instrument is easy and, given the weight of 39.7 lbs. (18 kg), the Sky-Watcher Skymax 127 SynScan AZ is light enough to carry across the backyard without a great deal of effort. Skywatchers have the choice of powering the Servo Drive with 8 AA batteries or a 12V power supply — because batteries tend to drain quickly in when it’s cold, we recommend investing in the latter for uninterrupted observations with the SynScan technology. 

Alignment is simple, using two stars to set the instrument up, but beginners may need practice in getting this just right — we recommend becoming acquainted with the Skymax 127 during daylight hours while ensuring that you read the supplied manual from cover to cover.

In terms of optical prowess, we don’t have any complaints. We can fit a waxing gibbous moon phase in the field of view and, after tweaking the focuser, the craters and lunar mare come into exquisite focus, contrast and clarity. A moon filter offered even better sights. Slewing over to the star-forming region, the Orion Nebula (Messier 42), is also picked out easily with the 5-inch (127 mm) aperture — it appears as a dusty patch of light with the Trapezium Cluster’s member stars dazzling with brilliant clarity at the nebula’s heart.

The stainless steel tripod can be a bit unstable, so we suggest supporting the setup while slewing in windy conditions.


(Image credit: Celestron)

A high quality telescope with excellent optics

Specifications

Optical design: Schmidt-Cassegrain

Mount type: Computerized alt-azimuth single fork arm

Aperture: 5.91″ (150 mm)

Focal length: 59″ (1500 mm)

Highest useful magnification: 354x

Lowest useful magnification: 21x

Supplied eyepieces: 25 mm

Weight: 30 lbs. (9.5 kg)

Reasons to buy

+

StarBright XLT multi-coated optics

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High-quality build

+

Easy to set up and align

Reasons to avoid

Limited eyepieces

Drains batteries quickly — AC power cord required

Celestron’s range of NexStar telescopes has a well-deserved reputation for excellent optics, user-friendly assembly and a plethora of features, and the telescope exemplifies all of these which we outlined when we conducted our Celestron NexStar 6SE review exemplifies all of these. 

If you’re looking for a telescope with great light-gathering capabilities and a vast selection of astronomical objects to explore, this is an excellent choice. The 5.91-inch (150 mm) aperture provides superior performance compared to the Meade StarNavigator NG 114, while the NexStar+ hand controller contains an expansive database with over 40,000 objects. Unfortunately, extra eyepieces will need to be purchased in order to get the most out of the telescope, and even then, not all objects listed in the database can be viewed in great detail.

The NextStar 6SE offers a great way to explore the night sky with ‘tour mode’. It will guide you through different targets across the sky, or in specific constellations, so you can observe like never before. This is perfect for those who don’t know what to look for or just want to get straight to observing interesting celestial objects which have been chosen for them.

The SkyAlign technology is simple to use and gets you pointed in the right direction, fast. The motorized mount also has nine slewing speeds on top of its different tracking rates. All of this sounds brilliant, and it is, but there is a downside. The NexStar 6SE’s battery can drain very quickly, which isn’t ideal, so we recommend powering the setup with an external power source.

Astrophotographers may initially be displeased with its slow f/10 focal ratio, limiting the NexStar 6SE to being a planetary or lunar imager at best, but there is the facility for more advanced users to switch out the secondary mirror for their camera, increasing the focal ratio to an astrophotography-friendly f/2.


(Image credit: Sky-Watcher)

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Sky-Watcher Flextube 300 SynScan Dobsonian

It’s heavy, but it’s built to last.

Specifications

Optical design: Parabolic Newtonian

Mount type: Dobsonian

Aperture: 12.01″ (305 mm)

Focal length: 59.01″ (1,500 mm)

Highest useful magnification: 600x

Lowest useful magnification: 43x

Supplied eyepieces: 10 mm, 25 mm

Weight: 72 lbs. (32.66 kg)

Reasons to buy

+

Good for faint targets

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Collapsible for easier transport 

+

Built to last

Reasons to avoid

Heavy at over 32kg

Just about portable due to size and weight

The larger the aperture of your telescope, the more light it will gather, allowing you to resolve the finer details in astronomical objects, and see deeper into the universe. With a 12-inch (305 mm) objective, this collapsible Dobsonian from Sky-Watcher lives up to the tag of ‘light bucket.’ 

The Dobsonian telescope offers a simple design and its GoTo feature and motorized alt-azimuth mount, navigated with a SynScan hand controller, make it easier than ever to calibrate the telescope and get fantastic views of the night sky.

Over 40,000 targets are offered in the database and, we have to say, that seeking out faint fuzzies was our first port of call with the Sky-Watcher Flextube 300 SynScan. The Andromeda Galaxy (Messier 31) is an incredible sight, with some dust lanes visible and the bulge glowing brightly. Its satellite galaxies are also visible as points of light in the field view.   

This Dobsonian telescope has a focal ratio of f/4.9, making it suitable for photography. Those with the ability to do so can capture stunning images with this device, taking advantage of the abundance of photons it can gather.

The Sky-Watcher Flextube 300 SynScan is heavy, but its collapsible design allows it to be easily stored in the trunk of a car for when you need to go to dark-sky parks or star parties.

Despite its costly nature, the Sky-Watcher Flextube 300 SynScan is a must-have for any hobbyist, given its generous aperture, excellent imaging capabilities, and GoTo capability.

Best telescopes for observing planets

(Image credit: Amazon)

Orion Skyline 6-inch Dobsonian Reflector Telescope

Powerful and clear views of the moon and planets

Specifications

Optical design: Reflector

Mount type: Alt-azimuth

Aperture: 152mm

Focal length: 1200mm

Highest magnification: 133x

Eyepieces supplied: 9mm and 25mm

Weight: 37.5lbs

Reasons to buy

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High-quality optics

+

Powerful and clear views

+

Sturdy build

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Great choice for beginner and intermediate astronomers

Reasons to avoid

Cheaper alternatives available 

The Orion Skyline 6″ (opens in new tab) telescope is a great choice for beginner and intermediate astronomers alike due to its easy-to-use nature and high-quality optics.

This telescope offers an impressive 152mm objective lens, allowing for plenty of light to pass through and making night sky targets more visible. The multi-coated optics further enhance the viewing experience, ensuring a clear image of those targets. With a focal length of 1200mm, you can observe the finer details of celestial bodies, such as craters on the moon and features of other planets.

This powerful telescope offers up to 133x magnification, allowing you to observe celestial objects in incredible detail. With the included eyepieces, this level of magnification is perfect for viewing the moon and planets. You won’t miss out on any of the finer details.

It’s also well built and easy to use, a huge plus for those without bags of astronomy experience. However, you can get alternatives for a lower price, even if they don’t quite match the Skyline 6-inch for quality of specs. We also like the Orion AstroView 90 (opens in new tab) a lot, for which this is a suitable replacement, however, it’s hard to find it in stock online. 


(Image credit: Celestron)

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Celestron Omni XLT 102

A robust telescope that offers great views for intermediate-level skywatchers

Specifications

Optical design: Refractor

Mount type: CG-4 equatorial

Aperture: 4.02″ (102 mm)

Focal length: 39.37″ (1000 mm)

Highest useful magnification: 283x

Lowest useful magnification: 15x

Supplied eyepieces: 25 mm

Weight: 33 lbs. (15 kg)

Reasons to buy

+

Very good quality optics

+

Sturdy design

+

Easy to accessorize 

Reasons to avoid

Average-quality focuser

Not ideal for absolute beginners

Two to four week lead time in some stores

The Celestron Omni XLT 102 is aimed at intermediate-level skywatchers, particularly those who have mastered setting circles and know how to use the right ascension and declination coordinates on the supplied high-quality CG-4 German equatorial mount.

Featuring Celestron’s StarBright XLT coating to maximize light transmission, the Omni XLT 102 boasts high-quality optics and aspheric shaping technology to reduce spherical aberration, a visual defect in which incoming light is concentrated at select points.

As such, the Omni XLT 102, with its mix of aperture and f/10 focal ratio, is able to produce excellent views of the planets, from Jupiter’s atmospheric bands and moons, to Saturn’s rings and craters on the moon, showing great contrast between areas in shadow and those bathed in daylight. While there is a slight amount of color fringing, views through the optical system are outstanding.

The refractor comes with a 25 mm eyepiece, 1.25-inch star diagonal, heavy-duty stainless steel tripod, accessory tray, spirit level, Starry Night Special Edition (opens in new tab) software and a 6×30 finderscope.


Best astrophotography telescopes

(Image credit: Michael A. Covington)

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Has a very wide aperture, so is great for photos

Specifications

Optical design: Schmidt-Cassegrain

Mount type: Motorized equatorial

Aperture: 8″ (203.2 mm)

Focal length: 80″ (2,032 mm)

Highest useful magnification: 480x

Lowest useful magnification: 29x

Supplied eyepieces: 40 mm

Weight: 61 lbs. (27.67 kg)

Reasons to buy

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Great-sized aperture

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High-quality optics for flat field

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Seamless motorized mount

Reasons to avoid

A little heavier than most

Lens cap can be fiddly

Celestron’s EdgeHD technology turns Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes into high-quality astrographs with perfectly flat fields. The way that the Schmidt-Cassegrain optics focus light usually means that the focal plane  — where the light comes to focus — is curved, but if you are imaging, your CCD camera’s sensor is flat. A curved focal plane on a flat CCD sensor results in field curvature, where stars at the edge of the field tend to blur. This is an unwanted effect for astrophotographers.  

In our Celestron Advanced VX 8 EdgeHD review, we found the EdgeHD optics negate this, creating a perfectly flat field right to the edge of the frame for pinpoint sharpness right across the image. We are impressed with the optical performance that the Celestron Advanced VX 8 EdgeHD delivers, with crisp and clear views with no optical distortion or false color.

As an added bonus, the optical tube assembly comes packaged with Celestron’s Advanced VX mount, which is tailor-made for imagers, capable of photographing across the meridian without needing to do a meridian flip. The setup also performs periodic corrections to remove errors when tracking objects and also features an auto guider port. 

The Celestron Advanced VX9.25 EdgeHD can carry a load up to 30 lbs. (13.6 kilograms) too, so the tube and all your imaging accessories are fully supported and stable. Also included are the standard NexStar+ hand controller, a 40 mm eyepiece, and access to Celestron’s SkyPortal app (opens in new tab) and Starry Night Special Edition software (opens in new tab). Check out our Celestron deals page to see if you can snap up a bargain.


(Image credit: Jamie Carter)

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A good starter telescope for budding astrophotographers

Specifications

Optical design: Refractor

Mount type: Alt-azimuth

Aperture: 3.94″ (100 mm)

Focal length: 25.98″ (660 mm)

Highest useful magnification: 241x

Lowest useful magnification: 15x

Focal ratio: f/6.5

Supplied eyepieces: 10 mm, 25 mm

Weight: 20 lbs. (9.07 kg)

Reasons to buy

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Excellent range of accessories

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Great intro to astrophotography

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Easy to assemble

Reasons to avoid

Slight false color in optics

Limited to short exposure photography

An excellent telescope for the beginner or those on a budget, the Celestron Inspire 100AZ is a great choice for those looking for a complete package that offers more in the way of accessories over most starter telescope bundles.

The Inspire 100AZ comes with a 90-degree erect image diagonal with a 1.25-inch fitting that makes the telescope suitable for terrestrial and celestial views, a pair of eyepieces (20 mm and 10 mm), red LED flashlight, accessory tray, StarPointer Pro finderscope and a smartphone adapter for basic astrophotography. Given the refractor’s focal ratio, the Inspire 100AZ is limited to short-exposure photography.

A degree of false color and blurring in the field of view was detected during our observations in our Celestron Inspire 80AZ review. The latter is easily resolved with a careful selection of eyepieces, so we recommend investing in additional eyepieces to make the most of the Inspire 100AZ’s optical system and to ensure that it does translate the quality onto your photos. False color, on the other hand, is to be expected in telescopes at this price point but it did not ruin the experience.

We were particularly impressed with the overall build of this refractor — the StarPointer is a pleasant surprise since it’s able to pick out faint stars under moderate light pollution for an accurate experience in hopping from one target to another.


(Image credit: Encalife/SVBONY)

SVBONY SV503 80 ED OTA

A useful addition for anyone interested in deep-sky viewing or photography

Specifications

Optical design: Refractor

Mount type: UNC 1/4-20

Aperture: 3-inch (80mm)

Focal length: 560mm

Highest useful magnification: 160x

Focal ratio: f/7

Supplied eyepieces: N/A

Weight: 3.95kg

Reasons to buy

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Good optical quality

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Useful for stargazers and photography

Reasons to avoid

A little more expensive than others

No apparent eyepieces

For those who fancy kicking things up a notch, the Encalife SVBONY 503 refractor takes you close to deep-sky objects with its impressive 560mm focal length. A 3-inch (80mm) aperture drinks in the light and multiple accessories for this series of telescopes means astrophotography, including of deep-sky objects is at your fingertips.

This scope is compact compared to some other refractors, and while still huge, it is light and small enough to take out and about to find the best dark skies. This series of telescopes also offers multiple accessories to enhance your stargazing or astrophotography experience. 

Encalife created the SVBONY SV503 to last, with substantial build quality that feels robust to the touch. Not only that, it is attractively finished with a white powder coat with gold accents on the micro-focuser and at the end of the retractable dew shield.

If you’re interested in this scope, you’ll probably be wise to wait for a sale such as Amazon Prime Day or Black Friday as Encalife is renowned for substantially dropping the price of this scope.


(Image credit: Sky-Watcher)

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Sky-Watcher Skymax 150 PRO

If you have a larger budget, you can get excellent optics with this Maksutov telescope

Specifications

Optical design: Maksutov-Cassegrain

Mount type: Equatorial (EQ-5 Pro)

Aperture: 5.90″ (150 mm)

Focal length: 70.87″ (1,800 mm)

Highest useful magnification: 450x

Focal ratio: f/12

Supplied eyepieces: 28 mm

Weight: 13.23 lbs. (6 kg)

Reasons to buy

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High-quality build

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Excellent optics

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Great for a wide selection of astrophotography

Reasons to avoid

Not all models come with a tripod

Comes with only one eyepiece

Sky-Watcher (opens in new tab)‘s Skymax 150 is a great package for the price, with some models offering a high-quality equatorial mount for short-exposure astrophotography and long-exposure imaging. This well-constructed Maksutov-Cassegrain also comes with a single eyepiece with a focal length of 28 mm for a magnification of 64x.

Weighing in at 13.23 lbs. (6 kilograms), the Skymax 150 is suitable for most regular equatorial mounts — many makes and models will be able to take the load of both the telescope and extra accessories, including CCD or DSLR cameras, filter wheels and other such add-ons. For versatility in the type of mount you choose, a Vixen-style dovetail plate is supplied for a moderate price tag.

The Skymax 150’s optical prowess is outstanding, with no sign of optical distortion. The telescope is a great all-arounder, suitable for imaging everything from the planets to deep-sky galaxies and nebulas — and as you would expect for a telescope designed for giving great images. As an added bonus, the instrument is a breeze to use and accessorize.

The focuser is lovely and smooth to operate and the Skymax 150 keeps a good amount of fine focus once it’s been found — vital for those long imaging sessions.


How we test the best telescopes

To guarantee you’re getting honest, up-to-date recommendations on the best telescopes to buy here at Space.com we make sure to put every telescope through a rigorous review to fully test each instrument. Each telescope is reviewed based on many aspects, from its construction and design, to how well it functions as an optical instrument and its performance in the field.

Our expert staff and knowledgeable freelance contributors thoroughly test each telescope. This ensures honest reviewing based on the telescope’s price, category, and intended use. For example, a 10-inch Dobsonian should not be compared to a 2.76-inch refractor, even though they may be the best in their own class.

We assess the ease of setup of both computerized and motorized mounts, as well as their reliability, accuracy, and noise level. Additionally, we decipher whether a telescope comes with appropriate eyepieces and tripods. We also make suggestions for any additional kits that may be beneficial for the best experience possible.

With complete editorial independence, Space.com are here to ensure you get the best buying advice on telescopes, whether you should purchase an instrument or not, making our buying guides and reviews reliable and transparent.

Telescope buying advice

Telescope Glossary

Aperture: Diameter of the primary mirror or lens, which allows a telescope to collect light.
Field of view: Area of sky visible through the eyepiece.
Focal length: A telescope’s tube length. Short focal lengths offer a wide field of view and a small image.
Focal ratio: Also known as the telescope’s speed. Small focal ratios provide lower magnifications, wide field of view and a brighter image.
Magnification: Relationship between the telescope’s optical system and the eyepiece. 

The aperture size is one of the most important things to consider when purchasing a telescope, then you should next consider the focal length. The main thing to remember here is that bigger isn’t always better. 

It really all comes down to what subjects you want to view. Shorter focal lengths, say of about 20 inches (500 mm), will provide a field of view for you to take in large areas of the Milky Way and showpieces such as the Pleiades (Messier 45) and Orion Nebula (Messier 42). Meanwhile, high-power objects like the moon, planets or double stars need a telescope with a longer focal length of about 80 inches (2000 mm). 

If you can’t really decide, then there are plenty of compromises between aperture and focal length but you must be willing to make a few trade-offs in terms of the weight of your instrument, the field of view and its ‘power.’ Read on for what you can expect from the three major kinds of telescope: the refractor, reflector and catadioptric.

Refractor telescopes

(Image credit: Celestron)

As their name suggests, refractors bend (or refract) the light that they gather to give you a view of your astronomical target. As telescopes go, they have a fairly straightforward assembly and consist of a main objective lens at one end that focuses light through to the other. 

Intuitive to use, the refractor is often a popular choice of instrument for novice astronomers since they require little maintenance and are usually affixed to the simple alt-azimuth mount, which allows the skywatcher to slew from left to right and up and down in order to locate the desired target. Being easy to use means that these telescopes are also simple to manufacture, making them cheaper to buy with price points increasing with aperture size.

Refractors are particularly good at giving highly magnified and high contrast images and, because of this, are ideal instruments to use when looking at solar system targets such as the moon and the planets. The best refractors usually have an aperture of two inches (60 mm) or more and will provide reasonable views of astronomical objects. If you’re looking for a larger aperture, then a three- or four-inch (80 mm to 90 mm) will suit you best. 

The drawback of a refractor is that they can suffer from chromatic aberration, also known as color fringing. When a single lens doesn’t focus all of the colors emitted from a target object at the same point, bright objects such as the moon, Venus or Jupiter usually have a colored halo around them. Many refractors are manufactured as achromatic or apochromatic (also known as Extra Dispersion (ED) telescopes) to reduce this problem.

The achromatic refractor is cheaper than the apochromatic refractor and, combined with its efficiency, is often the type of telescope that novice astronomers go for. Even if you decide to go for the more expensive achromat, you’re still likely to get a stubborn degree of purple fringing around some targets. 

Unless you’re a seasoned skywatcher and you can afford to go for the more expensive apochromat — which corrects for such an effect by using exotic glass for the lenses — this degree of color fringing will not ruin your observing experience to any great extent. If you decide to go for the expensive option, you will be stunned by the views you will get through these excellent telescopes. 

Be warned though: you might find that some apochromats come without a tripod, something that you’ll have to buy separately along with any accessories — so be sure to choose wisely.

Reflector telescopes

(Image credit: Orion)

There are two common types of reflector telescope — the Newtonian and the Dobsonian. However, the way these instruments operate is exactly the same — they both use mirrors to reflect light to create an image of the object you’re looking at. 

The Newtonian telescope comprises a curved-light collecting mirror, which can be found at the tube’s base. The light that hits this mirror is reflected back to the front of the tube, where a smaller flat mirror — orientated at 45° — brings light to the observer who can see their chosen object.

The Newtonian can be found on alt-azimuth mounts, but you shouldn’t be too surprised to find this type of reflector is more popularly affixed to an equatorial mount, allowing the telescope to follow the rotation of the sky while being aligned with your hemisphere’s celestial pole. This reflector is a favorite in the amateur astronomy community due to its versatility by observing a wide selection of astronomical targets and allowing for astrophotography. With Newtonians, you can also buy a large aperture for less money — for instance, an eight-inch (203.2 mm) reflector would cost you less than a refractor with the same aperture, allowing you to get much more value for your money. 

On the downside, the Newtonian doesn’t come hassle-free, especially regarding maintenance. You might find yourself having to have optical mirrors realigned as well as the mirror’s surfaces repainted since they can eventually become tarnished. If you choose to go for a reflector of this sort, you should always choose one with mirrors with a protective coating — these will last longer.

Some beginners to the hobby of astronomy might find setting up and using an equatorial mount tricky and that’s where the Dobsonian comes in. These telescopes give the capabilities of a reflector without the complexities an equatorial mount will bring since it employs an alt-azimuth mount. Dobsonians are very simple to use and can easily be pulled into orientation when looking at astronomical objects. If you’re not confident in navigating your telescope though, then GoTo or computerized Dobsonians and Newtonians are on the market — but at a higher cost. 

Whatever reflector you choose, these telescopes are excellent for low-magnification targets such as galaxies and many types of nebulas.  

Maksutov-Cassegrain and Schmidt-Cassegrain (catadioptric telescopes)

(Image credit: Meade Instruments)

To get the best of both reflectors and refractors, manufacturers developed the Schmidt-Cassegrain and the Maksutov-Cassegrain telescopes. These catadioptric telescopes generally correct issues found in refractors and reflectors.

The Maksutov-Cassegrain corrects the problem that the reflector experiences — an aberration effect called ‘coma’, which can make objects look distorted and appear like they have a tail. This effect is reduced or banished with the combined efforts of a mirror and a corrector lens. The Maksutov is ideal for beginners or for those who don’t have the time (or money!) to complete any extensive maintenance on their instrument since the tube’s optics are sealed off. 

This catadioptric is very robust and is also the ideal family telescope. Packed into its short optical tube is a system that allows you to target higher magnification objects such as the planets, moon and double stars. You’ll be able to pick up a Maksutov for a very good price and, if you struggle to find objects and your way around the night sky, then both this type of catadioptric telescope and the Schmidt-Cassegrain can be found in abundance and equipped with a GoTo system.

What you get with a Schmidt-Cassegrain is very similar to the capabilities of the Maksutov. It will allow you to make general observations of planetary targets and stars. It is also possible to expand the telescope’s field of view with the help of corrector lenses, allowing you to view a wide selection of astronomical targets.  

The catadioptric telescope is also suitable if you want to try astrophotography, but combine this with their marked improvement on your standard telescope and you should expect a substantial rise in cost compared to standard reflect and refractors.