Whether it’s Elon Musk’s bold promises about colonising space or the proliferation of great-looking sci-fi movies that are about exploring the stars, we’re all collectively more interested in space at the moment than ever before.
So it’s no surprise that everyone, from beginners with a spare 20 quid through to serious astronomers with big budgets and high expectations, are keen to get their hands on the best stargazing telescopes so they can see more of the universe with their own eyes.
There are plenty of budget-friendly scopes on the market, which is great news for beginners with commitment issues. But if you’re looking for a hyper-detailed journey to the very edges of the Milky Way and can only just about make out the Clavius crater on the Moon’s surface, you’re likely to be sorely disappointed.
This mean you need to make sure your expectations are aligned with the telescope you’ve set your sights on. But from aperture and focal length, through to portability and price design, there’s a hell of a lot to consider. For example, did you know there are actually three different types of telescope?
Luckily, we’ve collected together a range of telescopes, from techie devices that find the stars for you with the most super-advanced optics on the planet, through to the best wallet-friendly options and devices built with wannabe astronaut kids in mind.
But let’s not forget that telescopes aren’t just for astrophiles. There are plenty of great devices on the market for nature lovers, birdwatchers and hunting too, which you can find at the bottom of the list.
Best telescopes to buy 2017
1. Celestron NexStar 6SE Telescope
Perfect for lazy stargazers with stacks of cash
There are plenty of great astronomical telescope brands on the market, but Celestron is a firm favourite, with a huge range of telescopes created for all levels.
The NexStar 6SE is at the highest-end of the scale, with on-board GPS and Celestron’s SkyAlign tracking technology built into the scope, which means it does the hard work for you and can locate more than 40,000 objects in the sky - just point it up and away you go.
It has a huge 6-inch aperture, as well as an advanced optics coating that promises to serve up the sharpest image quality. It’s worth mentioning that Celestron also makes the same telescope but with a smaller 5-inch aperture and bigger 8-inch aperture - that’s if the 6-inch version doesn’t quite fit your needs.
The NexStar 6SE may not be the smallest telescope around, but at only 21lbs it doesn’t weigh as much as a lot of the competition and means it’s portable enough to take on trips with you - it’s not built to stay static and look pretty in your front room.
Of course there are much cheaper options that’ll give you the same view, but it gets serious points for its portability and on-board tech.
2. Levenhuk Strike 90 PLUS
An advanced telescope created with ambitious kids in mind
Tipped as a great beginner’s telescope, the Strike 90 PLUS is easy-to-use enough for both adults and kids to use. That’s because its set-up is pretty simple on an altazimuth mount, this essentially means there’s no additional alignment or calibration necessary.
As well as the idiot-proof setup, the Strike 90 also has a red dot finder on the tube of the telescope, which acts as a laser pointer and makes navigating your way through the night sky easier.
But just because the set-up and on-board navigation is relatively simple, that doesn’t mean the telescope doesn’t measure up well compared to the competition. It’s a refractor telescope with great aperture and premium optics.
It also comes with a lot of additional kit, like books and software, a zoom eyepiece, a box and a Zongo 20 Telescope Case.
If this model still feels a bit pricey, check out the Strike 80, which isn’t part of the brand’s pro range like this one, but is a bit cheaper and gives you a similar viewing experience.
3. Celestron Travelscope 70
Built for adventures
Plenty of people want an old-school-style telescope that’ll look nice in their bedroom or living room and stay put. But if you’re a fan of the great outdoors, or live in a city and can’t see great views because there’s just too much light pollution, you’re going to need a telescope that likes to travel along with you.
Luckily, Celestron has a light and portable telescope called the Travelscope 70, which is lightweight, mobile and even comes with its own backpack making it perfect for travelling, hiking and any other kind of outdoorsy adventure.
Of course packing optical tech into a smaller, lighter frame is going to mean a slightly less premium experience when it comes to the quality of the tripod and lenses, as well as magnification. But for the price, it’s ideal for beginners, travellers and even kids who you’re not sure are likely to keep their new hobby up for long.
4. Orion SkyQuest XT4.5 Dobsonian Moon Kit
The ideal telescope for lunar lovers
As you can probably tell, the SkyQuest XT4.5 has a slightly different look to your usual telescope, which Orion believes makes it even easier to use. It’s known in the telescoping world as a Dobsonian design, which means it’s a Newtonian telescope based on the design of amateur astronomer John Dobson.
Created with beginner to intermediate level astronomers in mind, it’s particularly geared up for moon-gazing rather than venturing deep into the universe, allowing you to spot all of the greatest lunar features. It also comes with a moon map, to help you better understand the lunar surface too.
5. Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker
The best bang for your buck
There are much cheaper telescopes available - and many that are better quality. But with the 127EQ you’re really getting the very best your money can buy - assuming you’re willing to part with £169 to see your own slice of space.
This telescope boasts great image quality and premium-grade optics that’d likely give you a similar experience to other scopes that are nearly double the price. Like many of Celestron’s other telescopes, its premium experience is coupled with a fairly easy-to-get-your-head-around set-up that’s straight-forward for adults and most kids too.
Because the 127EQ is a reflector telescope, you can also use it to see things here on boring ol’ Earth if you get sick of venturing into the heavens. Because once you’ve seen one celestial body, you’ve really seen them all, right?
6. Orion SkyQuest XT10i IntelliScope Dobsonian Telescope
The best (and biggest) you’ll get, without going pro
We all know that size isn’t everything, but when it comes to telescopes, well, it often is. Combining a 10-inch aperture with two 1.25-inch Sirius Plossl eyepieces, the telescope will drag in a whole load of light to bring you a spectacular view of the night sky, from local objects through to deep-sky sights only seasoned pros will have even heard of.
Although way more pricey and advanced than Orion’s SkyQuest XT4.5, which we introduced you to earlier, like this model it’s also a Dobsonian-style scope. What this means is that even though it’s an advanced device, and really big, it’s still relatively easy to use - think of it like a point-and-shoot, but for space sights. Although that’s not all, like the Celestron NexStar SE6, this telescope has an on-board computer with an Object Locator tool - just tell it what you want to see and it’ll take you there!
Unless you have a couple of grand to throw at your next telescope and you take astronomy really seriously, this is one of the best scopes you can get for under £1000. You just might need to build an extension to fit it into your house - so factor that into your budgeting.
7. Geertop 90X Telescope
For fickle kids and bird-watchers
We all know kids can be pretty damn fickle with shiny new things, so if your little one has expressed an interest in space, but you’re really wary about forking out hundreds for a decent telescope, this is a good place to start.
The telescope has a 2-inch aperture, as well as a selection of eyepieces to choose from. The instructions and setup are simple and you’ll be able to see a fair bit of detail when it comes to local objects, particularly the moon.
Let’s face it, you’re not going to get anywhere near the performance you would from other models on the list for less than the price of a night out. But for beginners, children, a gift and just a way to tell whether you’re really as interested in the stars as you say you are, it’s great to test the waters.
8. Bushnell Legend Ultra HD Spotting Scope
Best for Bear Grylls wannabes and outdoors-y types
When you’re buying a telescope to watch birds or animals, as opposed to planets and comets, you’ll generally need to opt for a refracting type. Although plenty of astronomical telescopes are refracting and can be used for both, it’s important to remember that nature lovers, hunters and bird-watchers will have loads of other needs to think about too.
For example, most scopes built for astronomy look great and stay in one place - a telescope for the wilderness will need to have a completely different design that’s more rugged, more waterproof and way more portable.
This Bushnell spotting scope offers excellent viewing quality, even in low light, and the lenses are protected by a rainguard coating, which is necessary for when bad weather hits, there’s too much condensation or even if your own breath steams up your vision.
Of course you could just choose a nice pair of binoculars, they’re much more practical, but telescopes offer higher magnification and are the best option for more detailed, long-range viewing.