When it comes time to upgrade your telescope, there’s a lot to consider. After having a starter telescope in the $100 to $200 range, you’ve probably learned which types of telescopes you like (and know how) to use; you’ve also noticed some features you may enjoy – or perhaps absolutely hate and want different on your next telescope. In any case, upgrading your telescope is a big deal, and a good opportunity to spend a little more for a substantially better piece of equipment to unlock the wonders of the night sky.
In this post, I’ll cover the great mid-range options for telescopes under $500. This is a nice amount to budget for your next telescope as you’ll see it allows you to dramatically increase the power and capability of your telescope without breaking the bank.
Short on Time?
The best telescope under $500 is the Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ Refractor
Read on to discover the best telescopes under $500 across the range of telescope types, mounts, and capabilities. Here’s wishing you many clear nights with your new/next telescope!
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 March 2022.
This post was originally published in late 2021 and was re-ranked and updated in March 2022.
What to Look for in a Great Telescope
Before diving into the list below, I wanted to make a quick point about what to keep an eye on when choosing a telescope. You probably already have these factors in mind as you’re likely upgrading your telescope if you’re looking in the $500 range, but it never hurts to have a reminder.
- 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 $500 that I recommend.
The Best Telescopes Under $500 (Ranked)
Keeping all those aspects in mind, I pulled together the best telescopes under $500 and ranked them. To come up with this ranking, I considered price, popularity, and review scores from Amazon.com. Here’s the list I came up with, using updated data for 2022.
|1||Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ Refractor||~$330||Link|
|2||Orion SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector||~$400||Link|
|3||Orion AstroView 90mm Equatorial Refractor||~$350||Link|
|4||Orion SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian||~$430||Link|
|5||Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ||~$430||Link|
|6||Meade Instruments Polaris 127mm||~$500||Link|
|7||Celestron AstroMaster 90EQ||~$390||Link|
|8||Orion 10014 SkyQuest XT4.5||~$380||Link|
|9||Orion 9823 Apex 102MM||~$425||Link|
Read on to learn about each of these telescopes under $500 in greater detail.
1. Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ Refractor
- Type: Refractor
- Price: ~$330
The Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ is an excellent option if you don’t want a bulky telescope. At 14.1lbs, it’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.
2. Orion SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector
- Type: Reflector
- Price: ~$400
Last but certainly not least, here’s one more from Orion that makes my list of telescopes under $500.
The build quality and sturdiness is the first thing you’ll notice on the Orion SpaceProbe 130ST. Unlike other telescopes, even the tripod is well-built and doesn’t wobble as much.
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 quickly.
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.
3. Orion AstroView 90mm Equatorial Refractor
- Type: Refractor
- Price: ~$350
The Orion AstroView 90mm telescope is a fantastic option for beginner astronomers looking for telescopes under $500. You’ll find more affordable telescopes on the market in this price range, but the Orion is worth splurging if only for the features available right out of the box, but for its upgrade potential.
The Orion is a medium aperture refractor, featuring a 90mm (3.5″) aperture and 910mm focal length, granting sharp views of deep-sky objects, the Moon, and planets. It also comes with two Sirius Plossl 1.25″ eyepieces (25mm and 10mm), 6×30 finder scope, smooth-adjusting 1.25″ rack and pinion focuser, 90-degree mirror diagonal, and Starry Night astronomy software.
It’s easy and fast to put together, plus the instructions are super clear in case you’ve never used an equatorial mount before.
4. Orion 10014 SkyQuest XT4.5
- Type: Catadioptrics (Dobsonian)
- Price: ~$430
If Dobsonian is your style – or something you want to try without making a major investment, the Orion SkyQuest XT4.5 is one of the best telescopes under $300 to consider.
This fantastic telescope is user-friendly and ideal for both kids and adults. At 4.5″ (114mm) aperture, this is one of the largest telescopes on the list, giving you access to deeper space objects than others.
It does push the weight up – at roughly 22 lbs – making it less travel-friendly, but Dobsonians are all a bit like that, and this one is on the lightweight end of the spectrum.
5. Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ
- Type: Newtonian Reflector
- Price: ~$430
Finding a great telescope under $500 is hard, but the Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ is yet another option from this company in the AstroMaster family.
It’s a little heavier than other options at almost 27 lbs – so not as move-friendly as others, but still a decent option for the price.
This telescope has a manual German equatorial mount that makes it easier to navigate the night sky while stargazing. It also has a slow-motion altitude rod that enhances accuracy and clearer images. In simple terms, this telescope is a combination of power, quality, and value for money.
6. Meade Instruments Polaris 127mm
- Type: Refractor
- Price: ~$500
If you want to get as close as possible to the Moon and stars while sticking to your budget, the Polaris 127mm from Meade is your best choice.
This achromatic refractor from Meade Instruments features a beautiful design with a wide optical tube that lets light flood right in. It comes with a 127mm aperture plus three different eyepieces: a 6.3mm, 9mm, and 26mm. Within the package, you’ll also find a Barlow 2x eyepiece to observe even finer details.
To ensure you can track objects smoothly, the Meade Polaris 127 comes with a stable German equatorial mount, which has slow-motion control settings that allow the user to make smooth and steady tracking for celestial objects.
7. Celestron AstroMaster 90EQ
- Type: Refractor
- Price: ~$390
The Celestron AstroMaster 90EQ Refractor telescope is powerful, effective, and budget-friendly – making ideal for amateur astronomers.
It has high-quality 90 mm optics having a primary mirror that’s fully coated. This refractor telescope under $500 displays spectacular views of heavenly bodies thanks to its slow-motion control Knobs that allow you to make a precise adjustment when stargazing. This telescope weighs 15lbs and is quick to set up, making it easier to use regardless of whether you’re an adult or child.
8. Orion SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian
- Type: Dobsonian
- Price: ~$380
If you are on a budget, you can’t go wrong with the Orion SkyQuest XT6. This Dobsonian reflector is one of the best telescopes under $500.
It features a 6″ diameter f/8 parabolic mirror, perfect for spotting tiny details on the moon. Also, the Dobsonian base provides extra stability during stargazing sessions.
The telescope comes with EZ Finder II reflex sight, Orion Star Target planisphere, Orion MoonMap 26, and Starry Night SE astronomy software. It includes one extra 25mm Sirius Plossl eyepiece, which provides a 48-power view. So, you might want to get a few more eyepieces. I recommend 32mm, 15mm, and 8-9mm.
As for the use, it’s pretty intuitive, and it doesn’t take much more than 30 minutes to assemble.
9. Orion 9823 Apex 102MM
- Type: Catadioptrics (Maksutov-Cassegrain)
- Price: ~$425
No list of telescopes is complete without including at least a few Orion telescopes – and they have several telescopes under $300 that are worthy of this list.
The Orion Apex 102MM is lightweight (under five pounds without a tripod which must be purchased separately) and has powerful magnification despite its small size.
If you’re looking for an entry point to the Catadioptrics style telescope without spending $1,000 or more, this is a good starter!
Have any questions about these telescopes under $500? Let me know in the comments!