The best telescopes in 2020: start stargazing today

There's never been a better time to take up stargazing, and these are the best telescopes to get you started

Best telescopes: start stargazing with top scopes from Celestron, Orion and others
(Image credit: Lucas Pezeta from Pexels)

Travelling might be out of the question right now, but with one of the best telescopes you can still gaze at the stars. We've always been fascinated by the heavens and the secrets they contain, so here's an opportunity to get up close and personal, without stumping up hundreds of thousands for a domestic voyage nearer to those heavenly bodies courtesy of much trumpeted civilian space flights. 

In this article, we've gathered our pick of the best telescopes available to buy right now. While all telescopes will allow you to observe the heavens using the naked eye, other options enable you to take photographs – the art known as ‘digiscoping’ – or even video footage of the stars above. So if these are key considerations for you, look out for options in our list that help make this possible.

Before making your choice, figure out the budget you want to stick to, and what you want to do with your telescope. If you're using your back bedroom as your personal observatory, you probably also want to take note of size. Before you make your selection, however, make sure you're not removing any possibilities if your passing interest does turn into a lifetime hobby – you probably don't want to have to shell out for another telescope six months down the line.

With the above in mind, here we present a curated selection of the best telescopes to buy right now. Our choices range from the sophisticated and the cutting edge in tech, to the basic, most affordable budget model that will nevertheless deliver a decent return on your investment.

Best telescope: our expert pick

  • If you're on a tight budget or travel a lot, the best telescope for you will be cheaper and far more portable. If you're planning on taking your stargazing hobby more seriously, you'll need a telescope that’s sturdy, easy to set up and powerful enough to view the moon, nearby planets and deep sky objects.
  • The best telescope right now is the Celestron 22203 AstroFi 130 Wireless Reflecting Telescope. This Wi-Fi enabled scope is crammed with the latest tech – most impressively, it works in conjunction with a dedicated app to help you navigate the skies with ease.

Choosing the best telescope for you

It’s a great time to find the best telescope for you. That’s because there’s more choice, more accessories to make your new stargazing hobby more practical and fun, as well as different brands entering the market to cater for all needs. But lots of choice can make finding the right telescope confusing.

The key questions you need to ask yourself are: what do you want to be able to see? How much room do you have to keep the telescope when you’re not using it? How much do you want to spend? 

It’s also worth considering where and when you’ll use your telescope. Most telescopes will need to be used outside – you won’t get a great view if you just point one out of your window because light pollution (and even the heat from your home) will affect your view. So bear that in mind when considering portability and ease of set-up.

There are three types of telescope: refractors, reflectors and catadioptric or compound telescopes. They each have a different kind of lens set-up, which means they provide different results.

Now you have answers to those all-important questions, it’s time to read through our list of the best telescopes you can buy right now. 

The best telescopes to buy now

best telescope: Celestron 22203 AstroFi 130 Wireless Reflecting Telescope

(Image credit: Celestron)

1. Celestron 22203 AstroFi 130 Wireless Reflecting Telescope

A Wi-Fi enabled scope crammed with the latest tech

Reasons to buy
+Wi-Fi enabled+Available app+Comes with accessory tray and eyepieces

Bringing star gazing bang up-to-date is the Celestron 22203 AstroFi 130 Wireless Reflecting Telescope. This sturdy telescope with integrated Wi-Fi that works in conjunction with a free Celestron SkyPortal app for both iOS and Android devices. Aiming to provide clear views of the Moon and the planets beyond, it features a large 130mm lens and promises a wide field of view. Additionally, it helpfully comes supplied with an accessory tray for stashing your biscuits in, and more importantly two 1.25-inch eyepieces. 

A rubber-lined area is designed to hold miscellaneous accessories including your smartphone or small tablet, presumably having first downloaded the app, which replaces the need for a remote control handset, thus streamlining the whole operation. The user holds their smart device up to the night sky and, upon locating an object they want to view, it's simply a case of tapping the screen, whereby the telescope automatically zeroes in on the object and the screen displays information about it. You can even generate a 'sky tour' of the best celestial objects to view, based on time and location. Clever stuff.

best telescope: Orion StarBlast II 4.5 EQ Reflector Telescope Kit

(Image credit: Orion)

2. Orion StarBlast II 4.5 EQ Reflector Telescope

The best telescope for beginners

Reasons to buy
+All-in-one kit for amateur astronomers starting out +Comes with moon map and observer's guide book

The Orion StarBlast II 4.5 EQ Reflector Telescope Kit is the best general-purpose telescope for novice star-gazers. It's a decent option for younger members of the family, or those showing a nascent interest in examining heavenly bodies who want to test the water without spending a small fortune at the outset of their hobby. Boasting a wide field of view, thereby making it easier for beginners to find objects of note in the sky, this telescope is suited to generating good views of the moon, planets and brighter 'deep sky' objects beyond. 

A 2x extension lens provided in the kit, which also includes a moon map and general observation booklet detailing more than 60 locations to explore, doubles the magnification of both the included 25mm and 10mm eyepieces, which offer a 52-degree field of view. On top of this, a mini LED light provides added illumination if/when required under starry skies. Essentially providing all you need to get started without breaking the bank, this is a sound telescope option for stargazers.

Best telescopes 2020: Svbony SV25 Refractor Telescope

(Image credit: Svbony)

3. Svbony SV25 Refractor Telescope

A small telescope that’s great for kids and beginners

Reasons to buy
+Light and portable+Super easy set-up

This quick to set-up, small telescope is perfect for beginners and children who want to try stargazing for the first time. The great thing about this telescope is because it’s small and easy to get up-and-running, it gives those new to looking at space more confidence before they graduate to a bigger telescope – without the commitment or big price tag. 

This 60mm aperture refractor telescope comes with an adjustable aluminium tripod, which can keep the scope stable as you stargaze, as well as a phone mount adapter so you can easily take photos and videos of what you spot in the sky.

Because it’s an entry-level telescope aimed mainly at kids, it’s good for looking at the Moon, closer objects and even land objects, but you’ll need a more advanced scope to be able to see other objects in the night sky in more detail.

Best telescopes 2020 - how to start stargazing: Celestron 11069 Nexstar 8SE Telescope

(Image credit: Celestron)

4. Celestron 11069 Nexstar 8SE Telescope

This hi-tech telescope does all the hard work for you

Reasons to buy
+On-board computer does the hard work+Portable in comparison to others
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive for a hobbyist

Celestron is one of the best telescope brands out there, creating a huge range of devices aimed at all levels – that’s why many of the telescopes on this list are from Celestron. The NexStar 8SE is one of Celestron’s high-end computerised devices, which means it does the hard work for you and can automatically find more than 40,000 celestial objects with the touch of a few buttons.

It has a large 8-inch aperture and good light-gathering ability, which means you’re guaranteed to get a clear view of many deep space objects with this advanced telescope. 

Of course there are much cheaper options available, which can give you a similar view, as well as smaller 6-inch and 4-inch models of this same telescope with a smaller price tag to match. However, this model ticks all of the boxes if you’re looking for a telescope that helps you easily study the bits of the cosmos you’re most interested.

Amazon is currently selling the NexStar 8SE with a bundle of other fantastic stargazing additions, including an eyepiece and filter kit with 14 accessories and a phone scope adapter. The latter enables you to easily take photos of the objects you spot in space. 

Best telescopes 2020 - how to start stargazing: Celestron 21036 Powerseeker 70AZ Telescope

(Image credit: Celestron)

5. Celestron 21036 Powerseeker 70AZ Telescope

The best telescope for kids who are really into stargazing

Reasons to buy
+A solid option for beginners+Comes with astronomy software

If you’re looking for a telescope that isn’t basic and aimed at smaller children but will still suit beginners, then the 21036 PowerSeeker 70AZ telescope from Celestron is an easy-to-use option that’s a good choice for both adults and kids who are new to astronomy. Its set-up is pretty simple thanks to its altazimuth mount, this essentially means there’s no additional alignment or calibration necessary.

As well as the simple set-up, this 70mm beginner’s telescope has a sturdy aluminium tripod and comes with two different eyepieces, as well as astronomy software to guide you on your journey into the cosmos. 

Of course this is still a rather basic telescope, so expect to see closer objects and the Moon as well, but not deeper parts of space. If you want a slightly better view, this same telescope comes with an 80mm lens or, alternatively, if you want a cheaper and more basic telescope for younger kids, check out the 50mm and 60mm versions.

Best telescopes 2020 - how to start stargazing: Meade LX90-ACF

6. Meade LX90-ACF

The best telescope for serious stargazers

Reasons to buy
+Tracking system finds objects automatically+Industry-leading optic technology

This high-end telescope has a built-in Sony GPS sensor, which determines your precise location and means it can find more than 30,000 stars, planets, nebulae, comets and galaxies for you super fast.  

Alternatively, you can select the ‘Tonight’s Best’ feature, which gives you a guided tour of the best sights based on where you are in the world and which celestial objects are visible right now.

It’s also built to download free upgrades about comets, satellites and any new discoveries, which means its smart features and role as a tour guide of the night skies are never going to go out of date.

Best telescopes 2020 - how to start stargazing: Celestron Travelscope 70

7. Celestron Travelscope 70

A rugged telescope that's built for adventures

Reasons to buy
+Ideal for those who want to stargaze on-the-move+Great value for money
Reasons to avoid
-Quality and experience is far from premium

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.

Best telescopes 2020 - how to start stargazing: Celestron 31045 AstroMaster 130EQ Reflector Telescope

8. Celestron 31045 AstroMaster 130EQ Reflector Telescope

A highly-capable telescope for taking on camping trips

Reasons to buy
+Provides fantastically clear images+A no-tool set-up process

This Celestron is a very capable reflector telescope that has a sturdy, fairly large build. But despite its solid design and stability, you don’t need tools to set it up – and, it’s easy to pack away for taking camping or to stargazing events. 

It has everything you need to get started, including a 10mm and 20mm eyepiece, a StarPointer red dot finderscope and free astronomy software to teach you the basics.

The telescope has an Equatorial Mount, which allows you to track objects smoothly as they move across the sky, providing bright, clear images of the Moon, planets, star clusters, and much, much more.

Best telescopes 2020 - how to start stargazing: Celestron 76mm Firstscope Apollo 11 Edition

(Image credit: Celestron)

9. Celestron 76mm Firstscope Apollo 11 Edition

A tabletop telescope for lunar lovers

Reasons to buy
+Tabletop design makes it easy to move and view+Amazing Apollo 11 extras

The Celestron 76mm Firstscope has long been one of our favourite telescopes for beginners, with its lightweight, tabletop design, which makes it the best choice for kids or anyone else who might struggle with a larger scope on a tripod.

This year, the Firstscope has been redesigned for the 50th anniversary of the Moon landings. Now it features a Moon design on the side, as well as commemorative coins and an astronomy book all about the Moon and how to spot the 50 most interesting things on the lunar surface.

This is a Dobsonian-style telescope with a 76mm aperture reflector optical tube attached, which makes navigating the night sky really easy, all you have to do is point the tube and take a look.

(Image credit: Meade Instruments)

10. Meade ETX 90 Observer

Best telescope for moon and planets

Reasons to buy
+Easy to align+AudioStar controller and 30,000 object database
Reasons to avoid
-Not great with deep sky objects

This latest version of a classic 3.5-inch ‘scope that’s been available for decades has everything a beginner needs. A Maksutov-Cassegrain design, the ETX 90 Observer is a Go-To telescope that can find and track specific objects across the night sky. 

It’s operated using an AudioStar controller that contains a database of 30,000 objects. When you point the ETX 90 Observer at them, the controller has a speaker to tell you all about what you’re looking at. There are a couple eyepieces (26mm and 9.7mm) supplied for both a wide-field and a close-up view, and a red-dot finder for manually pointing the telescope. 

Once aligned with either one or two stars, the ETX 90 Observer tracks stars and deep sky objects, but also gives excellent views of the planets and, of course, the moon. Attach a camera using a T-adaptor and the ETX 90 Observer can even be used for both observing and for basic astrophotography of solar system objects. It’s powered by six AA batteries.