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.
Short on Time?
The best telescope under $100 is the Meade Infinity 50mm Telescope
In this post, I’ll cover five 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.
Note: Lens and telescope prices have been very volatile in the past two years due to supply chain issues. Note that prices might vary widely from the prices I reported when this post was last updated in February 2022.
This post was originally published in late 2021, and was re-ranked and updated in February 2022.
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.
Best Telescopes Under $100 (Ranked)
Keeping all those aspects in mind, I pulled together the best telescopes under $100 and ranked them. To come up with this ranking, I considered price, popularity, and review scores from Amazon.com. Here’s the list, using updated data for 2022.
|1||Meade Instruments Infinity 50mm Refractor Telescope||~$90||Link|
|2||Orion FunScope 76mm Tabletop Reflector Telescope||~$75||Link|
|3||Orion GoScope III 70mm Refractor Travel Telescope||~$90||Link|
|4||Orion SpaceProbe II 76mm Altazimuth Reflector Telescope||~$100||Link|
|5||MaxUSee 70mm Refractor Telescope||~$80||Link|
Read on to learn about each of these telescopes under $100 in greater detail.
1. Meade Instruments Infinity 50mm Refractor Telescope
- Type: Refractor
- Price: ~$90
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!
2. Orion FunScope 76mm Tabletop Reflector Telescope
- Type: Reflector
- Price: ~$75
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.
3. Orion GoScope III 70mm Refractor Travel Telescope
- Type: Refractor
- Price: ~$90
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.
4. Orion SpaceProbe II 76mm Altazimuth Reflector Telescope
- Type: Reflector
- Price: ~$100
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.
5. MaxUSee 70mm Refractor Telescope
- Type: Refractor
- Price: ~$80
Priced at around $80, 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.
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.