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 January 2023.
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||Gskyer Telescope 70mm||Refractor||~$70||Link|
|Under $200||Celestron Astromaster 70AZ||Refractor||~$125||Link|
|Under $300||Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro||Reflector||~$230||Link|
|Under $500||Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ||Refractor||~$320||Link|
|Under $1000||Celestron Omni XLT 150||Newtonian Refractor||~$750||Link|
|Over $1000||Sky-Watcher EvoStar 80 ProED||Refractor||~$1100||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!
Under $100: Gskyer Telescope 70mm Travel Telescope
Sitting toward the lower end of the scale, 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.
If you’re looking for other affordable starter telescope options, check out my complete list of the best telescopes under $100.
Under $200: Celestron Astromaster 70AZ
Built with an intuitive setup system, the Celestron Astromaster 70AZ is the best telescope under $200 on the market, taking our #1 spot this year.
While it’s not the highest-powered telescope, the Celestron Astromaster comes with an aperture of 70mm and magnification of 45x to 90x. At this magnification level, stargazers will be able to get a spectacularly good view of the Moon, see Mars close enough to distinguish some color, witness the magic of the Galilean moons, and appreciate Saturn’s rings clearly defined.
Despite its low price, this telescope is quite sturdy and well made, with durable, professional, high-quality components and materials. Last but not least, the Celestron Astromaster is super lightweight and portable, weighing just 11 lbs.
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: Sky-Watcher EvoStar 80 ProED
The last refractor to make our list of the best telescopes under $1000 comes from Skywatcher: the EvoStar 80 ProED. It’s similar in specs to the Orion mentioned above, and equally capable.
With an 80mm aperture and f/7.5 focal ratio, this telescope is versatile without becoming cumbersome. The Apochromatic (APO) glass gives crystal clear images, especially of nearer objects – but it’s entirely possible to view and capture photos of deeper space objects with this one too.
Have any questions about the telescopes on this list and which one to choose? Let me know in the comments.