When you just start out as a stargazer, there’s a literal universe to discover. And initially, you can make many discoveries by just using your own two eyes and finding a good stargazing spot with dark skies. But as your interest in astronomy increases, you might want to increase your viewing power and invest in some equipments to unlock the deeper secrets of the solar system and beyond.
That’s where telescopes (and binoculars) come in. With a decent telescope, you can see loads more than what’s available to view with the unaided eye – think Saturn’s rings, Jupiter’s Galilean moons, the Orion nebula, and even other galaxies like Andromeda and Triangulum. Seriously, a telescope is a must-have… but what if you don’t want to break the bank or invest a ton before you know what you’re doing?
That’s where beginner telescopes come in. Many of these telescopes are budget-friendly, and there are even some telescopes under $100 that will help you get started without spending a lot. While they obviously won’t be as powerful or even as high-quality as more expensive telescopes (which can range from $200 to $2000!), they’ll get you oriented to how telescopes work, and foster your enthusiasm for stargazing even more – which justifies a future investment in an even better ‘scope.
In this post, I’ll cover 10 of the best astronomy telescopes under $100 which are perfect for beginners, families, and those who want to start stargazing without breaking their piggy bank. Read on to discover your options and different telescope styles.
What to Look for in a Starter 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 under $100 that I recommend.
1. Celestron 70mm Portable Refractor Travel Scope
The Celestron 70mm travel scope is one of the best telescopes under $100. It’s an excellent option for stargazers who are always on the move and need a lightweight telescope; it only weighs 3.3 pounds!
The telescope features fully-coated glass optics and a 70mm aperture, which provides brighter views of the cosmos. The set also comes with two high-quality eyepieces (20mm and 10mm) that provide low and high-power views of celestial objects at night and terrestrial objects during the day. There’s also an erect image star diagonal, a finder scope, a lovely traveling backpack, and an adjustable tripod.
Thanks to its refractors design, the Celestron is also one of the best beginner telescopes for children or amateurs, making it easy to set up and use. The only drawback of the Celestron is the tripod. Although it’s portable, it isn’t very stable.
2. Celestron PowerSeeker 70AZ Telescope
If you’re a novice with a tight budget, the Celestron PowerSeeker 70AZ Telescope is one of the best low-budget telescopes in the market.
Stargazers love it because it features a perfect combination of quality, price, functions, and power. A refractor telescope, the Celestron features a yoke mount with a slow-motion altitude rod to ensure a smooth and accurate pointing.
It also includes an erect image diagonal, two extra eyepieces (4mm and 20mm), plus a 3x Barlow lens to triple the power of each eyepiece. It also comes with a 5×24 finderscope to help you center objects. At 5.85 pounds, the telescope it’s still highly portable. The good news is that despite being lightweight, its materials are sturdy and durable.
3. Gskyer Telescope 70mm Travel Telescope
Another of the best telescopes under $100, 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.
4. MaxUSee 70mm Refractor Telescope
Priced at around $70, the MaxUSee is one of the most affordable telescopes on the list. It’s a popular option among families wanting to introduce their children to dark sky viewing. The MaxUSee comes with excellent features that will guarantee you have an unforgettable stargazing session.
The telescope has a 70mm large-aperture objective lens plus four extra 1.25″ eyepieces, H6mm, H12.5mm, H20mm, and K25mm. You also get a 3x Barlow lens and 1.5X Erecting eyepiece.
This telescope also features a smartphone adapter. Its moon mirror is one of the highlights, helping amateurs in their lunar viewing. The package does come with a tripod, although it’s very unstable and very short.
5. Meade Instruments Infinity 50mm Refractor Telescope
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!
6. Orion FunScope 76mm Tabletop Reflector Telescope
As the name suggests, the Orion FunScope is an excellent option for families who want to dabble into stargazing with their children.
A powerful tabletop telescope, the Orion FunScope is perfect for showing your little ones how telescopes work and, of course, the moon and some planets from the comfort of your home. At a low price (around $75), it comes with 76mm-diameter optics, which collect 60% more light than most beginner telescopes.
Additionally, The Orion FunScope features two Kellner eyepieces plus a 2x Barlow lens. It’s incredibly easy to use. Young kids will be able to adjust the pointing and focus with minimum supervision, while older ones will get the hang of it in a minute. The Orion FunScope is also lightweight (4 pounds), so your little ones won’t have trouble moving it around the house.
7. Orion GoScope III 70mm Refractor Travel Telescope
The Orion GoScope is arguably one of the, if not the, best telescopes under $100. It fulfills all the characteristics that a beginner telescope needs: it’s versatile and affordable, comes fully equipped, and has high-quality optics.
At around $90, the Orion GoScope III features a 70mm achromatic lens system. As for the accessories, it includes two anti-reflection coated 1.25″ Kellner eyepieces (20mm and 9mm), a finder scope, an Altazimuth mount, an aluminum tripod, and a star diagonal.
Thanks to its refractor design, the telescope is easy to use and set up. Its ultra-light body also makes it perfect for carrying around when traveling. The biggest drawback is the tripod, which is terribly unstable and sensitive to even the slightest touch.
8. Orion Observer 70mm II AZ Refractor
The Orion Observer 70mm II AZ Refractor is one of the best sub-$100 telescopes for beginners.
With a 70mm achromatic glass objective lens and 700mm focal length, the Orion Observer will bring the distant sky closer to you than ever before. The pack comes with plenty of accessories, including two 25mm and 10mm 1.25″ Kellner eyepieces, a red-dot sight, 1.25″ rack and pinion focuser, 90-degree star diagonal, and the Orion MoonMap 260. The Orion Observer is powerful enough to let you see Jupiter’s streaks, Venus, and the Moon.
To enhance your stargazing experience, you can consider adding Barlow lenses, moon filters, and other accessories. Like most beginner telescopes, the Orion Observer’s setup is quick and easy.
9. Orion SpaceProbe II 76mm Altazimuth Reflector Telescope
Yes, another telescope from the Orion family. The Orion SpaceProbe II is another fantastic beginner telescope. Thanks to its 3″ aperture and 700mm focal length, the Orion collects plenty of light from the night sky, allowing stargazers to enjoy sharp views of the Moon, Saturn rings, moons orbiting Jupiter, and even some brighter nebulae.
The package comes with two Kellner eyepieces (25mm and 10mm), so you’ll have more options when it comes to magnification. The telescope also has a red-dot reflex sight, 1.25″ rack-and-pinion focuser, and Orion’s MoonMap 260. While the telescope itself has a sturdy and durable build, it’s not the same case for the tripod. As you must have noticed, most beginner telescopes come with wobbly tripods, and the Orion SpaceProbe isn’t an exception.
10. Zhumell Z100 Portable Altazimuth Reflector Telescope
If you don’t want to deal with shaky tripods, then the Zhumell Z100 is the way to go.
A tabletop reflecting telescope, the Zhumell comes on a Dobsonian-style mount, so you can be sure it won’t move during your stargazing session. It’s one of the most powerful telescopes on the list, with a 100 mm parabolic glass objective lens, a highly unusual feature in telescopes of this size. Parabolic mirrors provide sharper views because it removes visual defects like spherical aberration.
The package also includes two interchangeable eyepieces, 17 mm and 10mm, so you can change magnification depending on the viewing situation. It also comes with a 1.25” focuser and a red dot finder. It weighs 5.25 pounds, so it’s a little bit heavier than most telescopes I’ve mentioned here. Still, it’s super lightweight and easy to carry.
There you have it – the best telescopes under $100 for beginners or budget-conscious stargazers. Have any questions or know about other great cheap telescopes? Let me know in the comments.