If you're thinking of getting into amateur astronomy, you'll 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 boom 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 telescope to turn amateur astrologer needn't cost the (planet) earth – if choosing wisely, of course. Read on for some buying advice, followed by our pick of the best beginner telescopes to buy now.
How to choose the best beginner telescope
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.