Space Gear

The 6 Best Stargazing Telescopes for Every Budget (2024)

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).

Best Stargazing Telescopes Hero

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 February 2024.

What to Look for in a Stargazing Telescope

Best Stargazing Telescopes - Grand Canyon National Park via Flickr
Photo credit: Grand Canyon National Park via Flickr

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. (Note that I use “list price” rather than any sales price when pulling the data for my chart.)
  • 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.

Price
Bracket
ProductTypePriceLink
Under $100Celestron Cometron FirstScope 76 TelescopeDobsonian Reflector~$70Link
Under $200Gskyer 70mm Travel TelescopeRefractor~$130Link
Under $300Explore FirstLight 80mm Refractor TelescopeRefractor~$240Link
Under $500Orion SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial ReflectorReflector~$310Link
Under $1000Explore Scientific AR152 TelescopeRefractor~$980Link
Over $1000Celestron NexStar 6SE TelescopeCatadioptric~$1050Link

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: Celestron Cometron FirstScope 76 Telescope

New on the list this year – and taking the #1 spot for budget-friendly telescopes under $100 – the Celestron Cometron FirstScope 76 is a perfect starter scope, especially because of its tabletop Dobsonian design; it’s a great, portable option for stargazers just starting out.

I particularly love the special edition “Moon” design by Robert Reeves, as the moon is one of the best objects you can view from this small but mighty scope. At 76mm aperture, you can also unlock some of our neighboring planets (Jupiter’s colors will pop, and you can spot its Galilean moons, as well as Saturn’s rings!) and other wonders of the solar system.

This is the kind of scope that gets you hooked and makes investing in a more expensive piece later worth it!

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

The Gskyer 70mm travel telescope has danced up and down on my top telescope lists over the years, sometimes on the under-$100 list and – this year – at the top of the under-$200 list. (This means you might find it on sale for $100 if you get lucky!)

Either way, this starter scope is a great option for budget-conscious stargazers. 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/smartphone remote and a smartphone adapter to take pictures of the night sky and distant objects.

For other options, see my complete list of the best telescopes under $200 (but over $100).

Under $300: Explore FirstLight 80mm Refractor Telescope

As you move into the $200-$300 range for telescopes, you begin to get more features and more power – and the Explore FirstLight 80mm is an excellent choice from Explore Scientific. (I also found it priced well under $200 during my research, so you might get a deal if you find it similarly priced!)

At 80mm aperture, you’ll be able to dive deep into the details of the lunar surface, begin to differentiate the swirls of Jupiter’s tumultuous atmosphere, and peek deep into space for neighboring galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters.

Of particular note, this telescope has an unusual but ingenious mount (the “Twilight Nano”) that offers greater ease and range of motion as you get familiar with navigating the night sky. The FirstLight 80mm also comes with several eyepieces and accessories, making it an excellent starter telescope if that’s what you’re looking for.

I recommend a few other great telescopes under $300 too, if you’re looking for options.

Under $500: Orion SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector

I’m so glad that Orion has worked out their pandemic supply chain issues and has started to be available again; they really do make fantastic telescopes – and that’s evident in the Orion SpaceProbe 130ST taking the number one spot on my under-$500 list.

The build quality and sturdiness are the first things you’ll notice with this telescope. Unlike other telescopes, even the tripod is well-built and doesn’t wobble – a key feature you should look for when spending this much on a telescope.

The SpaceProbe features a 5.1″ parabolic primary mirror, which gathers a significant amount of light and grants excellent views of the planets and moon. It also has a wide field of view (‘fast’ f/5 focal ratio) to explore bright nebulas, galaxies, and star clusters. It’s a little heavier than its counterparts on the list at 27 lbs. However, you can still move it around if needed.

The pack also includes two 1.25-inch Sirius Plossl eyepieces (25mm and 10mm), a 6×30 finder scope, a 1.25inch rack, a pinion focuser, a tripod accessory tray, collimation cap, and Starry Night astronomy software.

If you’re willing to spend up to $500, I have a number of other great telescopes under $500 to consider.

Under $1000: Explore Scientific AR152

At the upper end of the $500-$1000 price range, the Explore Scientific AR152 snags the top spot on my under-$1000 list this year, moving up from #2 last year. Explore Scientific makes top-tier telescopes, and you can feel confident in your investment given the amount you’ll be spending.

With a 6-inch aperture, it’s the largest (and most expensive)in the AR series, providing a wide field (f/6.5) and great power versatility. From nearby planets to deep space objects, this telescope is versatile and capable – it’s also a favorite for astrophotography.

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 NexStar 6SE Telescope

  • Type: Catadioptric (Schmidt-Cassegrain)
  • Price: ~$1050

Part of the NexStar model family (which also includes the 5SE and 8SE; the former makes my list of top telescopes under $1000, too), the Celestron NexStar 6SE is a really solid catadioptrics telescope – and well worth the investment as it barely crosses the $1k price point.

With a 6-inch diameter, this telescope has good power and versatility, and comes with the NexStar computerized tech to make finding deep space objects easier.

It does require assembly on arrival and may need some collimation to work perfectly, but it’s a solid, portable, powerful telescope to invest in.

Have any questions about the telescopes on this list and which one to choose? Let me know in the comments.

Share this to help others enjoy the night sky!

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Valerie is the founder and editor of Space Tourism Guide. She grew up in Alaska, has lived across the U.S., and traveled around the world to enjoy the night sky from many different perspectives. Join her on this journey to explore space right here on earth.

8 Comments

  • Don Cogs

    I bought a 130MM Celestron and could not get my laser on the mirror, much less at the center of the mirror. I contacted Celestron and was told that user collimation was not possible, and that I must send the scope back to them for any adjustments. I disassembled the whole thing, packed it up, and returned it for a refund.

  • Charles Walker

    What accessories would you need for the celestron8SE to take long exposer photos.
    What second hand scopes with a larger appetite and cheaper would be a better price.
    Thanks

  • Gerry D.

    I’m considering moving up to the Williams Optics RedCat 71 from my Radian Raptor 61 and was wondering if you have any comments on this purchase. Thank you. Gerry D.

  • Michael

    I think it’s maybe time to update your webpage including the links to telescopes and binoculars. For example you’re over $1000 telescope now cost $695. Does that mean there’s a better one out there over $1000?

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