Best telescope for beginners 2022: simple scopes for amateur astronomers

Reach for the stars without either a steep learning curve or a steep price tag, with one of the best beginner telescopes

Best telescope for beginners: Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ beginner telescope in a garden
(Image credit: Gavin Stoker)

If you're thinking of getting into astronomy, you will need to equip yourself with one of the best beginner telescopes. We've surveyed the skies, and the product listings, to select the best telescopes for beginners – the term 'beginners' of course theoretically including both kids and adults. For more advanced options, you'll want to consult our general best telescope ranking, but all of these recommendations are those products that deliver value for money and a decent specification list to boot. Additionally, first-time stargazers won't get either bored or befuddled by the set up.

Stargazing has enjoyed a bit of a surge in popularity recently. We've all spent a lot more time at home of late, so being able to reach for the stars from our back garden, or windowsill, has understandably held a great appeal. The good news is that investing in a a good starter kit needn't cost the (planet) earth – if you choose wisely, of course. Read on for some buying advice, followed by our pick of the best beginner telescopes to buy now. 

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How to choose the best beginner telescope

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When it comes to choosing the best telescopes for beginners, first decide on what you want it for. For example, are you happy to merely observe the Moon or do you actually want to delve into deep space? Next, set a budget, therefore enabling you to narrow choices and focus on the best option available at that price. Figuring out how far a telescope can see can get confusing, but generally you'd expect most beginner scopes to provide decent views of our moon, allowing you to pick out the grey 'seas' on its surface as well as, more clearly, the Tycho crater near its base, along with the geographical streaks and surface scars leading up to it. But many of the cheapest telescopes will struggle to get results far beyond that. Bear in mind, too, that the construction of beginner telescopes may well be more plastic-y in trying to hit a certain price point, than more professional models.

Apart from budget and operability, two terms that crop up often when researching the best telescopes for beginners are 'reflectors' and 'refractors'. Our types of telescope explainer goes into more detail, but in broad terms, refractor telescopes are best suited for observing planets and the Moon, while reflectors are generally believed to be more adept at seeking out deep sky objects. Something else to bear in mind when deciding whether a scope is truly the best for beginners. 

Finally, if you're flushed with cash and happy to pay a lot more for a telescope that basically does all the hard work for you, you could go for a so-called 'smart' telescope. This is a device that automatically aligns with the stars, tracks and stacks images and sends them to your smartphone, while you take it easy on the sofa. There are a few picks in our best beginner telescope ranking that fall into this category.

Head to our article on how to choose your first telescope for more in-depth advice. And once you've made your decision, our guides to how to set up a telescope for observing the night sky and what to aim your telescope at should help you with the next step.

The best beginner telescopes 2022 ranking

Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ beginner telescope in a gardenT3 Best Buy badge

(Image credit: Gavin Stoker)
The best beginners' telescope for both land and sky viewing

Specifications

Design: Refractor
Aperture: 4-inch
Focal length: 660mm
Mount: Altazimuth
Level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

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Can be used for terrestrial and astrological observation
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Large objective lens and generous focal length
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Tripod, software and manual all included

Reasons to avoid

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Weighs a hefty 6.4kg

Which little kid hasn't dreamed of growing up to become an 'AstroMaster'? With this affordable refractor scope aimed at budding astrologers – that can also be used for terrestrial viewing – now we all can live that dream. Key features include a whopping 102mm objective lens and generous 660mm maximum focal length; the kind of reach that will enable us to seek out Saturn's rings and Jupiter's moons. 

Beginner friendly features include the fact that it can be set up from scratch without the need for tools of any kind, and, like most in its price bracket, usefully includes a steel tripod, accessory tray and manual. Allowing for impromptu observations from the back garden as well as the back window, it's deemed portable enough to be picked up and transported in a jiffy. That said, at 6.4kg in weight the AstroMaster not the most lightweight option out there. Nevertheless its altazimuth mount and pan handle set up allows objects in the night sky to be quickly located and tracked. Also included are 10mm and 20mm eyepieces, a red dot finder scope and Starry Night astronomy software, making for a sound starter package. Head to our Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ review for more info.

Celestron StarSense Explorer 8" Dobsonian telescope in a gardenT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Jamie Carter / T3)
A fantastic manual telescope that even beginners can use

Specifications

Design: Dobsonian Newtonian reflector
Aperture: 8"/203mm
Focal length: 47.24"/1200mm
Mount: Manual alt-azimuth Dobsonian

Reasons to buy

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Easy to align
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Super sharp views
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Great value

Reasons to avoid

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Big and heavy

There's a lot to Celestron's StarSense Explorer 8-inch Dobsonian that should rightly scare off inexperienced stargazers, particularly its 8-inches/203 mm aperture that ought to require an intimate familiarity with the night sky, and that fact that it has to be manually operated. And then there's its price point, which is well above what most beginners might want to pay. However if you don't mind spending more than you anticipated, you'll find that this is a brilliant telescope for beginners and more experienced astronomers alike, and it all comes down to Celestron's StarSense app.

With this installed on your phone, and your phone fitted into the Explorer's smartphone mount, finding celestial bodied becomes an absolute breeze. The app studies a reflection of what the telescope can see through a small mirror, then cross-references with its database, and from there it can guide you towards whatever you want to look at. And what you'll see through its 48x eyepiece is amazing; this telescope's a total light bucket and it'll show you details of the night sky you wouldn't believe. Need to know more? Take a look at our Celestron StarSense Explorer 8" Dobsonian telescope review.

Orion SpaceProbe II telescope for beginnersT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Orion)

3. Orion SpaceProbe II

Another excellent beginner-friendly telescope

Specifications

Design: Reflector
Aperture: 3-inch
Focal length: 700mm
Mount: Equatorial
Level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

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Beginner friendly
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Affordable
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Generous 700mm focal length

Reasons to avoid

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More eyepieces would open up more options
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Red dot sight for aiming the telescope requires batteries

Aiming to deliver detail in the dark via 76mm objective lens, the beginner-friendly Orion SpaceProbe II telescope comes with the addition of a 2x Barlow lens, doubling the magnification of both included eyepieces. This provides a generous 56x magnification on the standard 25mm eyepiece rather than 28x, and a whopping 140x on the 10x eyepiece rather than 70x. 

While most starter scopes are suitable for observing the Moon and not a lot else in the sky, when the eyepieces are combined with its core 700mm focal length this one can drag bright nebulae and star clusters into its orbit, and comes with a Star Target 'planisphere', Moon Map and beginners' guide book to direct our attention accurately. A mini flashlight is also included in the kit, to save fumbling around in the dark for attachments, while the included tripod allows for steady-as-she-goes tracking of objects of interest. In short there's enough here to quickly get amateur stargazers conducting their own deep space 'probes'. Be sure to look out for the version that provides an upgraded Equatorial or 'EQ' mount, rather than the Altazimuth mount of earlier versions.

National Geographic telescope for beginnersT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: National Geographic)

4. National Geographic Refractor Telescope 60/700 AZ

The best budget telescope for beginners

Specifications

Design: Refractor
Aperture: Not given
Focal length: 700mm
Mount: Altazimuth
Level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

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Beginner friendly
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Can be set up for observation in just a few minutes
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Software, tripod and plentiful accessories included

Reasons to avoid

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Even cheaper alternatives are available
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There are sturdier scopes for more money

Offering a generous 700mm focal length and up to a whopping 525x magnification, even if 120x is at the limits of what's practically recommended, this National Geographic branded scope is, in fact, manufactured by the respected Bresser. It comes bundled with astronomy software and weighs a very manageable and beginner-friendly 3.3kg. Featuring a 60mm objective lens to let in a decent amount of light and boost the clarity of its images, the scope is bundled with all the accessories an amateur would arguably need – including a selection of 4mm, 12.5mm and 20mm eyepieces, plus three Barlow lenses to vary the magnification on offer. 

The altazimuth mount provided here allows for easy tracking of objects in the night sky, with the entire system capable of being assembled quickly and without requirement for tools. Colour accuracy comes via an achromatic lens, which refracts light without dispersing it into its constituent colours, therefore providing images with greater accuracy. While build quality might not be up there with the very best, for the price this offers plenty of opportunity to shoot for the Moon – and beyond – with a five year warranty providing enough peace of mind for a trip to Mars and back. 

See how this compares to another good beginners' scope in our Celestron 21039 PowerSeeker 50AZ vs National Geographic Refractor 60/700 AZ face-off.

Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Jamie Carter)
A manual starter scope that delivers impressive results

Specifications

Design: Newtonian Reflector
Aperture: 130mm
Focal length: 650mm
Mount: Manual alt-az
Level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

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Straightforward setup
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Easy to align
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Sharp images

Reasons to avoid

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Manual slewing
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No astrophotography
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Limited eyepieces

If you want a beginner's telescope that'll set you up for moving on to more advanced options at a later date, the Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ is one that's easy to use but will teach you useful skills and get you used to navigating the sky yourself rather than have everything done for you. Unlike many beginner options this is a completely manual scope that you'll have to aim yourself, and keep adjusting as objects move in the night sky, but it comes with a smartphone mount and a companion app that makes it relatively simple to find whatever you want to look at.

We found that setting it up from scratch takes about 15 minutes, and while the app takes a little time to get used to, it does a great job of guiding you without holding your hand too much. Beginners may initially be a little fazed by the fact that its Newtonian reflector shows you everything upside down, which can feel counterintuitive at first, but it's all worth it when you see the results, which are lovely and sharp, even through the relatively basic eyepieces. Get all the facts in our Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ review.

Vaonis Stellina smart telescopeT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Vaonis)
The best 'blow the budget' telescope for beginners

Specifications

Design: Reflector
Aperture: 3.15-inch
Focal length: 400mm
Mount: Altazimuth
Level: Beginner
Visit Site

Reasons to buy

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Beginner friendly
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Incredible views, even in light polluted areas
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Gitzo tripod included

Reasons to avoid

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Clouds can halt this telescope's auto functionality in its tracks
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Software a little on the slow side
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Weighty at around 11kg
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Requires a decent Wi-Fi signal

An expensive option for the amateur astrologer for sure, but for those who value convenience more than saving for the future, the sleek-looking, French-made Vaonis Stellina refractor telescope should have you seeing stars in no time. Running off a smartphone sized battery that lasts up to 10 hours, this scope automatically aligns with heavenly bodies using a combo of its own AI software and your smartphone's GPS to transmit a live view to your phone screen so you can observe deep space objects from the comfort of the sofa. 

At a substantial 11kg this more closely resembles an autonomous robot than the more standard beginners' telescopes here, even if its u-shaped mount does indeed hold a 3.15-inch, 80mm telescope at its centre. Thanks to a 1/1.8-inch Sony sensor it can go one better still and provide 6.4 megapixel images in both JPEG and Raw format; a boon for the Instagram-er. While hefty in price and weight however, we found the 'Stellina' seriously addictive. As long, that is, as there's a decent Wi-Fi signal to enable smartphone and device to collaborate with each other. Head to our Vaonis Stellina review to find out more.

Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ telescope

(Image credit: Jamie Carter)
The Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ isn’t the most versatile telescope around, but if you only want to study the solar system it just about does the job for a low price

Specifications

Optical design : Refractor
Aperture : 70mm
Focal length : 900mm
Focal ratio : f/13
Eyepiece focal length : 20mm (45x) and 10mm (90x)
Total kit weight: 3.44kg
Mount type : manual alt-azimuth

Reasons to buy

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Low price
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Good solar system views
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Realistic colours

Reasons to avoid

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Difficult to find targets
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Poor quality mount
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Lacks versatility

The AstroMaster 70AZ is the baby of Celestron’s comprehensive AstroMaster series, but it’s also the best selling telescope in the range, probably because it’s good for beginners. It’s an achromatic refractor telescope, so it uses a lens on the front to form an image, and it has an alt-azimuth mount. While most telescopes of this type and size are fairly small, the AstroMaster 70AZ’s tube is a whopping 35 inches/900 mm long. That gives it a focal ratio of f/13, which means it purposely lets in a lot less lighting than some of its rivals and thus avoids letting in false colour, but it does limit the telescope’s useful range to our own solar system. 

The kit tripod can be set-up at two different heights and the AstroMaster 70AZ comes with two Kellner eyepieces (20mm for wide-angle views and 10mm for close-ups) as well as a StarPointer red-dot finderscope for getting targets roughly into the telescope’s field of view. Also included is an image diagonal, which enables you to look through the telescope while standing over the eyepiece. 

It's an incredibly easy telescope to set up, but unfortunately the AstroMaster 70AZ lacks accuracy. There's nothing wrong with its tripod, but even with a bright moon in its crosshairs the AstroMaster 70AZ seems incapable of staying still. Although it does come fitted with one small hand control for fine-tuning, the way the telescope is fixed into position isn't intuitive enough, nor is it solid enough. As a result, the AstroMaster 70AZ tends to recoil when at rest, making any attempt to get a target still in the eyepiece a tricky task that needs repeating way too much.

Be sure to check out our full review of the Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ.

Celestron 70mm travel scope for beginnersT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Celestron)

8. Celestron 70mm Travel Scope

The best portable telescope for beginners

Specifications

Design: Refractor
Aperture: 2.76-inch
Focal length: 400mm
Mount: Altazimuth
Level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

+
Fully coated glass optics 
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Lightweight frame and provide backpack increases portability
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Full height tripod included
+
Good value for money

Reasons to avoid

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Bulky
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Plastic-y looks

When it comes to telescopes aimed at consumers, Celestron is one of the biggest players in the market, so it's unsurprising that it has an option squarely aimed at beginners – and by that we mean one suitable for both children and adults. This get-up-and-go, travel friendly device features a decent spec too, including 400mm focal length plus fully-coated 70mm objective lens to allow plenty of light in, a lightweight frame at a total weight of 1.5kg, plus a backpack to transport it, while set up is as quick and easy as expected. Two 10mm and 20mm eyepieces are supplied, offering either 20x or 40x magnification, and providing crisp and clear low or high-powered views of celestial objects at night, or, alternately, terrestrial ones during the day. The Celestron Travel Scope comes with free software and a two-year warranty for additional peace of mind, while assembly once again doesn't require any tools.

Celestron 22203 AstroFi 130 Wireless Reflecting TelescopeT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Celestron)

9. Celestron 22203 AstroFi 130 Wireless

The best tech-packed beginner telescope

Specifications

Design: Newtonian Reflector
Aperture: 5"/130mm
Focal length: 25.5"/650mm
Mount: Alt-Azimuth
Level: beginner

Reasons to buy

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Wi-Fi enabled with app available
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Lots of clever tech
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Accessory tray and eyepieces included

Reasons to avoid

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Can't take scope off the tripod
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On-board Wi-Fi can be unreliable
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Build is plastic-y in places

The Celestron 22203 AstroFi 130 is a sturdy reflecting telescope that comes with integrated Wi-Fi. This techy option is designed to work with Celestron's free SkyPortal app, which removes the need for a remote control handset and makes it easy for beginners to seek out, and learn about, heavenly bodies via their smartphone. Hold your phone up to the night sky, pick an object you want to view, then tap the screen and the telescope will automatically zero in on it, as well as bringing up relevant information on your phone screen. A large 130mm lens and wide field of view provide clear views of the Moon and the planets beyond. 

We have two small annoyances: this telescope cannot be removed from tripod for use on a desktop device, and the on-board Wi-Fi can be temperamental. But overall, a great pick for beginners who need a little guidance navigating the night skies for the first time. You can even generate a 'sky tour' of the best celestial objects to view, based on time and location.

Bresser Taurus 90 NG telescopeT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Bresser)

10. Bresser Taurus 90 NG telescope

A versatile telescope for hobbyists and beginners

Specifications

Design: Achromatic refractor
Aperture: 90mm
Focal length: 90mm
Mount: multi purpose; allows for both terrestrial and astronomical use
Level: beginner

Reasons to buy

+
Generous focal length
+
Large, bright lens
+
Aluminium build is lightweight but strong
+
Smartphone mount for picture taking

Reasons to avoid

-
Pretty heavy (7.5kg combined)

The Bresser Taurus 90 NG is an aluminium telescope that delivers impressive performance at a great price point. The 900mm focal length and 90mm objective lens mean it's ideal for getting a close look at the Moon and planets, and there's a full aperture solar filter you can use to explore the surface of the Sun in impressive detail too. The versatility doesn't end there: the set up can be used in altazimuth mode for terrestrial observations, and then in equatorial mode for astrological viewing. 

A 20mm and 4mm eyepiece are included, but there's also a Barlow lens that'll triple the magnification of each, upping the equivalent maximum magnification to a whopping 675x. The supplied tripod is sturdy and comes with a smartphone mount for taking photos, although note that with a combined weight of 7.5kg, this isn't exactly a lightweight option. Still, a great telescope for beginners and hobbyists alike.

Gavin Stoker has been writing about photography and technology for the past 20 years. He currently edits the trade magazine British Photographic Industry News - BPI News for short - which is a member of TIPA, the international Technical Imaging Press Association.