As an amateur astronomer, your most powerful tool to unlock the mysteries of the universe is your telescope. But especially when you’re first starting out stargazing, it can be hard to know which telescope to invest in. How much should you spend? Which features should you care about? Choosing between the best stargazing telescopes for your budget is a tough decision!
To help, I’ve scoured thousands of reviews and compared all the best stargazing telescopes at each price point. Below you’ll find six great telescopes, ranging from less than $100 (great for beginners and kids) to over $1000 (perfect when you’re ready to invest in an upgrade).
Each of these top stargazing telescopes has features that make it a good option at that price, so you can compare and find the one that’s right for your stage of stargazing and your budget. Read on to learn about the best stargazing telescopes and find the one that’s right for your interest in astronomy and your budget.
This post was originally published in September 2019, and was most recently updated in June 2022.
What to Look for in a Stargazing Telescope
As you compare the telescopes below – as well as any others you’re considering – keep in mind the following:
- Price. Naturally, price is an important consideration for many people, especially when you’re just starting out in astronomy. You don’t want to spend too much for a telescope you never use, nor do you want to compromise on certain other features.
- Type. Research how different types of telescopes (reflector vs refractor, Dobsonian vs Schmidt-Cassegrain) affect your ability to see the night sky objects you’re looking for.
- Diameter. The diameter of your telescope will obviously affect how far you can peer into deep space. Again, consider how this affects your ability to see specific objects you want to observe.
- Stability. As you read reviews about different telescopes, keep a particular eye on comments about the base, mount, and tripod. These can impact your observation a ton, and it’s almost always worth it to upgrade for better stability.
- Other features. If you’re looking for computer-assisted night sky navigation, there are options on this list. If you prefer to search the sky yourself, that may help save some money for those on a tight budget.
All this said, let’s dive into the list of telescopes we recommend.
The Best Binoculars for Stargazing
Below, I’ve organized a list of the best telescopes for stargazing at every price point – from under $100 to over $1000. Before jumping into the details, it is helpful to see the full list and rough price points for each one. This will give you a sense of how telescopes vary in price, type, and quality as your budget increases.
|Under $100||Meade Instruments Infinity 50mm||Refractor||~$90||Link|
|Under $200||Gskyer Telescope 70mm||Refractor||~$130||Link|
|Under $300||Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro||Reflector||~$?*||Link|
|Under $500||Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ||Refractor||~$300||Link|
|Under $1000||Celestron Omni XLT 150||Newtonian Refractor||~$700||Link|
|Over $1000||Celestron 11069 NexStar 8SE||Schmidt-Cassegrain||~$1600||Link|
If you want to learn more about each of these telescopes to determine which one your budget can accommodate – or see alternatives I recommend on other lists of telescopes I’ve published – read on!
The Meade is not only one of the best cheap telescopes, but it’s also one of the best telescopes for young stargazers. Part of the popular Meade Infinity Series, the Meade Instruments Infinity 50mm Refractor features an Altazimuth mount, high-quality optics and comes with a wide variety of beginner accessories.
Its 50mm aperture guarantees vivid and sharp images of celestial bodies. The Altazimuth mount is simple to look through and operate, making it easier for your children to get acquainted with the telescope’s functioning.
The package also includes low (20mm), medium (12mm), and high (4mm) magnification eyepieces to choose from depending on the viewing situation. You’ll also find a 2x Barlow lens that magnifies the power of each eyepiece. Similar to other telescopes, it’s ultra-portable, weighing only 3 pounds.
It’s suitable for bird-watching, too. So, you’ll give this telescope good use!
If you’re looking for other affordable starter telescope options, check out my complete list of the best telescopes under $100.
Under $200: Gskyer Telescope 70mm Travel Telescope
As you enter the $100-$200 range, you’ll find there are a lot more options – though they’re still aimed at beginners and amateurs, of course.
The Gskyer 70mm travel telescope is an unbeatable option for stargazers with a tight budget. It includes fully-coated optics, 400mm focal length, and 70mm aperture, which provide clear and high-resolution images of celestial bodies.
As for magnification, the package includes two extra eyepieces of 25 mm and 10 mm plus one 3x Barlow lens, reaching a magnification of 120x.
The Gskyer is also one of the best options if you’re into astrophotography. The telescope includes a wireless camera and remote and a smartphone adapter to take pictures of the distant sky.
For other options, see my complete list of the best telescopes under $200 (but over $100).
Under $300: Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro
Stepping above $200, your options for telescopes begin to change. You move from cheaper refractors into a greater range of telescope configurations, including what I consider to be the best telescope in the $200-$300 range: the Orion 10015 Starblast 4.5 Astro.
Despite its design being nearly 20 years old – it just goes to show how a classic design will always work and makes this telescope a solid investment for your child or enthusiast of any age with a lifelong love of space.
This telescope is equipped with a focal length of 450mm and a 4.5-inch aperture; that’s a good combo for moon-viewing, planet-spotting, and stargazing. And at just 13 lbs, this is a tabletop reflector telescope that’s great for stargazing events whether that’s a family camping trip or a star party at your local state park.
I recommend a few other great telescopes under $300 too, if you’re looking for options.
Under $500: Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ Refractor
The Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ is an excellent option if you don’t want a bulky telescope and are willing to invest a bit more above the $300 limit of the previous category.
At 14.1lbs, the AstroMaster 102AZ’s lightweight and easy to move around a backyard or dark camping spots. So, if you’re a traveling stargazer, this is one of the best telescopes under $500 for you on the list.
The telescope is user-friendly and is easy to assemble even if you have never had to assemble one. As for optics, this Celestron features a fully-coated 102mm primary mirror and a focal length of 2.98”.
The pack also includes two extra eyepieces, 10 mm & 20 mm, for increased magnification. The panning handle is a nice addition, allowing stargazers to sweep the night sky and adjust the telescope with fine movements.
If you’re willing to spend up to $500, I have a number of other great telescopes under $500 to consider.
Under $1000: Celestron Omni XLT 150
Say hello to my little friend: the Celestron Omni XLT 150 might look small, but it packs a big punch when it comes to opening up the wonders of the night sky for under $1000.
This tripod-mounted reflector is the largest aperture in this family of telescopes; it also comes in 120mm and 102mm if you need a budget option.
It comes with a 25 mm multi-coated eyepiece and uses a CG-4 German Equatorial mount and ball bearings to give you smooth control for locating and tracking sky objects.
The tripod is also appropriately stable, with 1.75″ legs, an accessory tray, and bubble level. It’s also a no-tool setup, which makes it easier to get it and set up the same night.
If you budget stretches up to a grand, here is my complete list of the best telescopes under $1000 worth investing in.
Over $1000: Celestron 11069 NexStar 8SE
When I first shared my list of the best telescopes, I included options up to $2000; I’ve since generally limited my suggestions in the $100-$1000 ranges. This is because most STG community members are just starting out and will discover what kind of telescope they want to invest in as they reach higher price points.
However, I am including a $1000+ option on this list because this scope is so great, no list of the best stargazing telescopes would be complete without it.
As the only Schmidt-Cassegrain on the list, the Celestron 11069 NexStar 8SE offers bright, clear views of night sky objects: whether you want to see Jupiter’s bands or the cloudy swirl of Andromeda, it’s all easy and beautiful with this telescope.
At about $1600, this will be the big investment most amateur astronomers need, and mobility gets a little clunky with this large of a telescope. If you need to step down for price or mobility, other telescope owners say the NexStar 4SE is a good option at a more affordable price but with correspondingly less power.
Have any questions about the telescopes on this list and which one to choose? Let me know in the comments.