The Best Beginner Telescopes of 2019 – Top 7
In this buyers guide I’ll talk about the best beginner telescope in 2019.
Table of Contents
- The Best Beginner Telescopes of 2019 – Top 7
- 1. Celestron NexStar 5 SE
- 2. Celestron Astro Fi 102 Wi-Fi Maksutov Wireless Reflecting
- 3. Celestron Astro Fi 90 Wi-Fi Refractor Wireless Refracting
- 4. Orion SpaceProbe II 76MM Altazimuth Reflector
- 5. Meade Instruments StarNavigator NG 102mm Achromatic Refractor
- 6. Orion 27191 StarBlast 6i IntelliScope Reflector
- 7. SkyWatcher S11610 Traditional Dobsonian 8-Inch
- Guide to choosing the best telescope for beginners
- Frequently Asked Questions
Every stargazing journey starts with a little bit of inspiration.
And for me, it was my father, taking me by the hand to Big Bend every weekend with a telescope in tow.
He would set it up and call me over to view a different object each day and explain their history and origin.
It wasn’t long before I fell in love with the various mysteries of space and I soon started out my own stargazing journey.
But even when I was a kid and a beginner, I knew how hard it was to pick the right one that fits my needs. And that is precisely why today I have brought you all stargazing enthusiasts a guide on some of my favorite models.
And, I am confident that each one of these amazing models will appeal to you as much as it appeals to me.
When you are looking for a telescope for your kid, I suggest you read this buyer’s guide.
Celestron has been one of the go-to brands of telescope manufacturers for both amateur and experienced stargazers for a very long time now. And being intimately familiar with the Celestron models myself, I won’t be lying if I said that when it comes to ease to use, not many companies can rival it.
And their NexStar 5 SE is perhaps one of the most user-friendly scopes in the line-up. Made with the beginner stargazer in mind, this one is specially tailored to orienting the curious minds into the mysteries and beauty of outer space.
- Comes with a database that contains information of over 40,000 stars, planets, galaxies and nebulae, thereby making the stargazing experience a more educational one.
- Setting it up is extremely easy as it comes with a SkyAlign feature. By just centering it on any three bright objects you can effectively align it to the night sky.
- The Schmidt-Cassegrain Optics has a 5-inch aperture which has excellent light gathering capabilities.
How was my experience?
I had the opportunity of using the NexStar 5 SE recently when the astronomy convention was being held in town. They were creating awareness of all the new science programs that the local schools were providing, along with holding seminars and demos on the latest telescopes by using them to track celestial objects in Big Bend.
Out of all the models that were on display, the NexStar 5 SE was one of the very few that immediately caught my attention. In my opinion, the SkyAlign feature and the generously stacked database are two of its most attractive features.
The SkyAlign allows the beginner to use it no matter where they are. By just aligning 3 bright objects it will be able to automatically track onto the latitude and longitude of the night sky.
However, unlike most of its competitors, the NexStar 5 SE is not suitable for astrophotography. Though it may have a built-in wedge with an adapter for connecting a DSLR, getting a high-quality picture of the viewed object may be problematic due to the Azimuth Mount.
Unlike the German Equatorial Mount, the Azimuth Mount requires both motors to run at the same time to track an object, so you will have to compromise on auto-tracking to get the perfect picture.
If you want to make stargazing a hobby but don’t have much knowledge about celestial objects, then the NexStar 5SE can be your best beginner telescope.
The Celestron Astro Fi 102 Wi-Fi Maksutov is the one that I got for my son last fall. He had outgrown his previous TwinStar refractor telescope and was in need of one which provided better magnification and image clarity.
I chose the Astro Fi 102 for him, not just because of the 102mm fully coated Maksutov-Cassegrain glass optic for superior light transmission, but for its amazing SkyPortal app as well.
Even though my son is not all that new to stargazing, he still has trouble locating certain objects in the night sky. This model helps him to conveniently find anything he wants to view as well as provide additional information about it.
- The superior light transmission capabilities of the Maksutov-Cassegrain glass optic provides amazing picture quality.
- Through the SkyPortal app, you will be able to control the telescope via the wifi and locate any celestial object.
- Two eyepieces of 25mm and 10 mm allow for versatile magnification options, to view both planetary and outer space objects.
How was my experience?
The Andromeda Galaxy is one of my son’s favourite objects to view in the night sky. Every time I took him on a camping trip out to Big Bend, he would always insist on setting the telescope to view the Andromeda Galaxy and then the Crab Nebula.
And ever since he got his hands on the Astro Fi, the trips to Big Bend got more frequent. Due to the fantastic light transmission ability, it was able to bring the colors of the nebula and the clusters to life.
To my son, the images, as well as the experience was absolutely breathtaking. And for a child or even a beginner, setting it up and using it to locate objects is very easy as well.
Because of the SkyPortal app, all he has to do is hold a smart device up to the night sky and select the object he wants to view. After it aligns itself, it automatically points to what he wants to view with just the tap of a button.
However, one of the biggest disadvantages is that it can’t be detached from its stand. Hence, using it as a table top device is simply out of the question, and this I think is quite complicated to those who want to use this model from their homes, which may not have much space for a stand.
The Astro Fi is indeed one of the best scopes when it comes to making the stargazing experience both a fun and an educational one for the newcomers. If you’re not planning to get one with tabletop capabilities, this is bound to fit your needs perfectly.
Well, not many of my readers know this, but I have quite a history with Celestron and their range of beginner telescopes.
Ever since my grandfather took to astronomy, a Celestron model has always been a part of my family’s stargazing experience. Needless to say, I have been through generations of Celestron telescopes, and I am currently using the Nexstar 8 which I am incredibly fond of.
The Astro Fi 90, a lesser version of the Astro Fi 102, yet one of the more popular Celestron models is made specifically for kids and the beginner stargazer in mind. And much like the 102, it effortlessly tracks objects automatically in the night sky while at the same time displaying their information in your smart device.
- Just like the 102, you can control it through an integrated WiFi service using the SkyPortal app. The app is conveniently available for all smart device platforms.
- The Astro Fi 90 also comes with a 25mm and 10mm eyepiece along with helpful accessories like the star diagonal, the finder scope, and a smartphone adapter.
- The 90mm refractor has a fully coated lens for excellent image detail.
How was my experience?
I first encountered the Astro Fi 90 in one of the science conventions which was hosted last year in my son’s school. The main reason why this model attracted me so much, is the build and design, which reminded me a lot of the Celestron that my father used to have when he took me to Big Bend every weekend.
But leaving all nostalgia and biased opinions aside, if I look at this model a bit more objectively, then I can safely say that for a kid’s or as best telescope for beginners it truly is impressive.
Though it’s 90mm refractor may not be able to provide you with the amount of image detail that the 102 can, it’s cheaper and much more portable than the 102. And this one is more for those who are looking to get into light astronomy and don’t care much about deep space objects.
And when it comes to flaws, it closely resembles the 102 in that area as well. It cannot be removed from the stand, hence using it as a table top is not possible. However, it’s pretty portable and has a lightweight yet durable build, thereby allowing you to easily carry it on any camping trip.
I would recommend the Astro Fi 90 for the older kids, and adult starters as some of its features may be hard to grasp, especially the app. And if you’re quite enthusiastic about stargazing, even light astronomy, then this model is bound to come in handy.
One of the things that make the Orion SpaceProbe II an ideal model for starters is its brilliant Altazimuth Mount that delivers a smooth mapping of both altitude and azimuth axes of motion. It is a comfortably stable telescope that assists starters to learn the basics of handling a telescope.
It is lightweight and easy to assemble; but most importantly, it comes at a price that is entirely worth paying for.
And, for this particular beauty that made my son better at the stargazing game, I’ll forever be indebted to that one conference where I discovered the Orion SpaceProbe.
- Features a pretty stable Altazimuth Mount and tripod that smoothly maps both altitude and azimuth axes of motion.
- Includes 25mm and 10mm Kellner eyepieces that give you 28x and 70x magnification options right away
- Comes with two 1.25” telescope eyepieces, 1.5” rack and pinion focuser, MoonMap 260, a red dot reflex sight and several other additional parts.
How was my experience?
I got to know about this telescope at a particular conference at the Big Bend. The owner of this telescope had shared his story of actually starting out with it a couple of years back and how it helped him understand the essentials of using a telescope.
When I gave this telescope a shot, I was pleasantly surprised by how uncomplicated the set-up techniques on this could be. I bought one of these for my 9 years old and, in all honesty, I think this is one of the best telescopes for beginners that you could ever buy.
It helps my son, who’s still pretty much in the locating process, to correctly map the azimuth and altitude axes. Since he already has the Celestron Astro Fi to go with, the Orion SpaceProbe II is an added advantage that helps him to learn the technicalities even faster.
The 76mm (3”) aperture reflector captures magnificent views of Moon, the rings of Saturn, Jupiter’s moons and even a few other brighter nebulae.
It is lightweight and hassle-free to set up. My son and I have made it a point to take it up to our favorite star-gazing point every once in a week to connect over our mutual love for these heavenly bodies.
One of the really admirable things about this telescope is that it comes with 25mm and 10mm Kellner eyepieces that you can use straight away. These can provide you with maximum magnifications of 28x and 70x.
It does away with the need to adjust and spend a lot of time locating the placements of the planets as these already calibrated eyepieces make the work a lot easier for you.
All in all, the Orion SpaceProbe II is one of the easiest telescopes to use. It provides all the benefits of a good standard telescope and is designed especially for newbies and students. I would absolutely recommend this for anyone looking to learn the basics of stargazing.
The winning feature of this Meade telescope is the AudioStar Controller that offers training in over 30,000 programmed celestial objects along with 4 hours of audio presentations.
This is a simply brilliant feature in a telescope meant for a beginner. It gives you an insight into the structures and movements of the celestial bodies and how to locate and read them in their zeniths.
It basically helps you locate numerous other objects apart from just the familiar, expected sights so that you learn a lot more about the entire night sky. And, one couldn’t seriously ask for more from a best telescope for beginners such as this one. It perfectly fulfills the purpose of what it’s meant to do.
- AudioStar Controller covers over 30,000 celestial objects with 4 hours of audio presentations
- Comes with a “Single Arm Mount with 12V DC Servo Drive”, a 90 degrees and 1.25 degrees erect prism diagonal along with 9mm and 26mm MA eyepieces, and metal eyepiece holders to fit the 1.25 degrees diagonal 1.25 degrees rack and pinion focuser
- Entirely adjustable full height sturdy aluminium frame with accessory tray and a robotic mount system.
How was my experience?
I got around to testing (then, buying) the StarNavigator NG on one of my friends’ recommendations who is himself a fellow stargazer at Big Bend. Even though I was pretty impressed with what he had to say about it, I honestly didn’t think that it would fare better than most standard beginners’ telescope.
I have to say that the one thing I admired about it right off the bat is its immense durability. It has an entirely adjustable full height aluminium tripod with an accessory tray that prevents any sort of potential wobble or malfunction during locating or reading. It is easy to set up and provides all the ease in mapping the alignments of the objects.
The 90 degrees 1.25 degrees erect prism diagonal along with the 9mm and 26mm MA eyepieces in the device provide beautiful views. If the night is dark enough, it could give you fantastic viewings of several DSOs.
The motorized control on this makes aligning the objects significantly easier. However, the only thing to look out for is the control cord which can be a bit tricky to manage as it could change the view if you pull it too hard on the motor mechanism.
The Red Dot Pre-Finder on it helps align the unit with its target viewing. However, it could take a while getting a clear focus with this. But that will definitely improve when you spend more time getting used to the functions and adjustment procedures.
It is lightweight and has a robotic mount system that makes mapping easier. Also, the Vixen-style dovetail receiver that comes with a single locking knob keeps the unit under your control during crucial calculations and reading.
But, of all the things it provides, the AudioStar Controller I mentioned right at the beginning most definitely takes the cake for me.
The Meade Instruments StarNavigator NG is a fantastic telescope not just for starters but for experienced gazers as well. It could take you to the very depths of stargazing with its educating tool.
And, I would absolutely recommend it to all ardent lovers of the galactic world. It is as interesting for casual gazing as it is for calculative ones.
When it comes to manufacturing starter telescopes, not many companies can produce digital telescopes as scientifically advanced as Orion’s.
Take their 27191 StarBlast 6i IntelliScope for example. One of the most attractive features about this model is it’s cutting edge IntelliScope technology. This completely automates the scope and allows it to help newbies pinpoint hundreds, even thousands of celestial objects with just the push of a button.
Much of this one is defined by its ease of use and its high mobility. Standing at just 6”, this refractor telescope is one of the most portable, entirely computerized models in the current market.
- 750mm focal length of the optic allows the user to view every celestial object with amazing contrast.
- One of the best tabletop and portable models in the market which permits incredible deep space stargazing.
- The IntelliScope Computerized Object Locator will help the beginner to find and track thousands of celestial objects automatically.
How was my experience?
My daughter loves having slumber parties with her friends up in the attic. And of late she has gotten a lot into stargazing; asking me every now and then to set up a view of the Orion Nebula in my scope because that is her favorite.
So, I decided to get her a telescope on her birthday. As she is still a beginner and loves using it up in the attic, I needed to find a model that would automatically track the objects she wanted to view as well as have tabletop capabilities.
The Orion 27191 StarBlast 6i IntelliScope was the one I decided on, and it turned out to be the best choice for her needs. What made this model the best starter telescope for her is the integrated IntelliScope technology.
Being able to locate thousands of Celestial objects all over the night sky, and enjoying them with her friends during sleepovers is what made her fall in love with the mysteries of outer space. As she was learning while she played, for her, the stargazing experience with this model was quite an educational one.
However, the base stand of it feels poorly made and is wobbly and unstable. I have had to use a few extra screws and wood parts to fix the base. Though the problem was fixed very easily for me, it may not be the case for many customers.
The amazing object track feature at just the push of a button is what I believe makes this one so very popular among beginner stargazers. If you don’t mind the high expense and the faulty table stand, then this model can be a fantastic buy.
The final telescope on my list today, but in no way inferior in functionality and features to the rest of the models I’ve mentioned. What makes the SkyWatcher so unique as a beginner telescope, is its out of the ordinary design and features.
Out of all its parts, the one that catches my eye the most is the “paraboloidal” primary mirror, that helps in eliminating spherical aberrations, which a lot of the other models of its class are prone to.
This model tries and makes the user experience for starters as glitch free and as convenient as possible. It has a lightweight design, with tabletop capabilities, thereby making it amazingly portable.
The Teflon bearings make it incredibly durable and a viable travel companion for all trekking and camping trips.
- 1200mm focal length is amazing at light transmission and provides excellent image clarity of every deep space object.
- The paraboloidal primary mirror keeps the image free of any distortions and glitches and keeps the view focused.
- The scopes also come with a four-arm, secondary-mirror bracket bearing fine supports to significantly reduce distraction spikes and light loss.
How was my experience?
Even though the SkyWatcher’s ease of use and easy-to-set up features makes it a model specially tailored for newbies, I would not recommend it for those who don’t have much prior knowledge of space or any of its objects.
As the SkyWatcher doesn’t have any auto track function or doesn’t collimate itself to the night sky automatically, using it can be rather difficult for many.
But what it does bring to the table is amazing image clarity and versatile ranges of magnification. And it’s all thanks to the 1200mm focal length and the primary and secondary mirrors.
By improving the light gathering potential and decreasing the background distortions and glitches, the SkyWatcher makes the view of deep space objects as contrasting and as vibrant as possible.
The future-tension control handle that is equipped to hold the optical tube in place decreases the friction along the sideboards of the mount. This helps in regulating the temperature of the lenses and reduce image distortions that can occur due to alternating weather conditions.
The SkyWatcher will better fit the needs of those amateur stargazers who are much more familiar with the mysteries of deep space and all its objects. But if you’re rather new to the concept of astronomy, then I would suggest going for a more user-friendly model.
Guide to choosing the best telescope for beginners
What a lot of beginner stargazers don’t realize is that just buying any telescope will not make their stargazing experience what they want it to be. So, before investing in your best beginner telescope of choice, there are some things to consider.
The Telescope Aperture
If a telescope is not able to show you the celestial object that you want to view clearly and in great detail, then I don’t think that it’s much of a model, to begin with.
However, no singular model will be able to show you all of space with utmost clarity. While one can show you craters of the moon in incredible detail, another will make a star cluster come to life making it very vibrant and colorful.
The quality of images for every viewed object heavily depends on the aperture of the lens, which is the ‘diameter of the telescope’s main optical component’.
It’s important that you learn all you can about aperture and the light gathering ability of them. Which model will be able to show you which types of objects clearly will depend on its aperture, and the bigger the aperture, the more light will it gather.
Aperture doesn’t determine Magnification
This is something that even many veteran stargazers don’t realize – the magnification of a telescope doesn’t depend on its aperture.
The magnification of any standard telescope is technically limitless, and the clarity of image under any magnification is determined by the eyepiece which the scope uses.
However, a scope or eyepiece which supports a higher magnification will not be able to solve all your stargazing problems. As an optic lens can hold a limited amount of image detail, so the right amount of magnification is needed to not risk ruining the image by spreading out the light too much.
This is one of the reasons why many professional space observers generally employ low powered scopes to view distant deep space objects like star clusters and nebulae.
Scope Size and Power vs Scope Portability
Scopes that have a larger aperture are generally chosen by those who wish to view very dim objects like deep space star clusters and nebulae.
However, allowing it to gather as much light as possible and giving it an optic with a big aperture can make it extremely heavy and compromise on a lot of its portability.
But if you’re just content with viewing objects of the Milky Way and go on a lot of stargazing trips, then a portable model with a smaller aperture can be the way to go.
Some of the good telescopes will have a good balance between aperture and portability to make for a better experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best telescope to buy for a beginner?
The following 7 beginner telescopes are my all-time favorites (in random order):
- Celestron NexStar 5 SE
- Celestron Astro Fi 102 Wi-Fi Maksutov Wireless Reflecting
- Celestron Astro Fi 90 Wi-Fi Refractor Wireless Refracting
- Orion SpaceProbe II 76MM Altazimuth Reflector
- Meade Instruments StarNavigator NG 102mm Achromatic Refractor
- Orion 27191 StarBlast 6i IntelliScope Reflector
- SkyWatcher S11610 Traditional Dobsonian 8-Inch
What should I look for when buying my first telescope?
There are a few essential features you need to understand when purchasing a telescope for beginners:
- Optical Design – reflector, refractor, catadioptric
- Aperture – the size of the mirror/objective lens
- Focal length – native magnification
- Focal ratio – ability to gather light
- User experience – collimation, weight, mount style
The specifications above will give you a good indication of what to expect from the telescope.
How much is a decent telescope for beginners?
This is a very broad question.
However, anything between $200-500 is considered a decent starters telescope (in my eyes).
So these were some of my favorite beginner telescopes. Apart from giving you the benefits of a standard telescope, these scopes also offer a few advanced and innovative features specifically designed for the newcomers to the field, making it even more appealing, and fun to work with!
Hope this article will help you find your best beginner telescope that suits your needs and budget perfectly!