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Selecting the Best Telescopes for Beginners - The Basics

Beginner telescopes are ideal for learning the ropes of exploring the night sky and are designed to be fun and easy to use. So, if you're looking to take your first steps into the wonderful hobby of astronomy, look no further, you've come to the right place to find your first telescope to begin your journey! There's a lot to learn, but OPT will be by your side at every step of the way. You'll find all the information you'll need, and more, in the OPT University Blog.

Before you jump into the world of astronomy, you'll need to know the basics. Below you will find an informational video on the basic types of telescopes. This short video will help you get a better idea of what type you should select for your first telescope.

When starting out in this hobby, it all can be a little daunting and confusing with terms like Alt-Az, EQ, Catadioptric, Focal Length, and much more terminology common in the industry. Thankfully, you don't need to complicate thigs and learn all these terms just yet. Your telescope goals can be easily fulfilled when you answer a couple of easy questions.

Choosing the Right Beginner Telescope for Your Needs

This is the primary decision to make when it comes to selecting your first telescope. Certainly, you can take part in both visual astronomy (looking at the planets, the moon, galaxies, and more through an eyepiece) and astrophotography (taking pictures of the aforementioned objects, nebulae, deep space objects, and more, also called imaging) with the same telescope. Be aware, taking photographs with your beginner telescope will require a few more pieces and a little more skill.

Beginner Visual Telescopes

One of the most common words you'll hear when it comes to visual astronomy is "Dobsonian." This is the classic telescope we've all probably seen at some point in our lives. It basically looks like a long tube, potentially as tall or taller than you, with a sturdy, swiveling base. These are a type of reflecting telescope, which means they function using mirrors to reflect and focus the light into the eyepiece.

Generally, Dobsonian telescopes are less expensive than refracting telescopes due to mirrors being less expensive to manufacture than lenses, which is why they are often recommended to beginners that are not ready to spend large amounts of money on their first telescope. Don't be fooled, their lower price does not mean they are lower in quality. OPT carries a wide assortment of high quality Dobsonian telescopes at affordable prices.

Dobsonians are not the only beginner-friendly telescope design. For example, Celestron's NexStar SE series of telescopes are a type called Schmidt-Cassegrain, and are a great option for beginners that want a telescope with GoTo capability, or the ability to point at, and track an object as it moves across the sky due to Earth's rotation.

No matter what beginner telescope you choose from the list above for visual astronomy, set up and use is designed to be easy for budding astronomers. Simply put the scope together, which can be a less than 10-minute process, attach your eyepiece, and take a look at the wonders above!

Beginner Astrophotography Telescopes

This is where telescope cameras and more specific details come into play. Taking pictures with your beginner telescope can still be a simple process, and our experts at OPT are happy to help guide you through the astrophotography process!

Imaging with your telescope all comes down to a few items, which are the camera, the mount, and the tripod — and the telescope itself, of course. When it comes to astrophotography, refracting telescopes are the most commonly used due to their overall visual clarity and because they are much more portable and easier to keep on target with a GoTo mount than manually pointed Dobsonians. Newtonian telescopes are also a great option for astrophotography, especially since they tend to come with a more beginner-friendly price, when compared to more expensive triplet refractor telescopes.

Imaging can be as complicated or as simple as you want it to be, and we will assist you every step of the way whether you're looking to improve image sharpness with a guide scope or to upgrade from a DSLR to a dedicated telescope camera. We encourage you to check out our guide on Astrophotography Setups for Beginners and to contact the OPTeam if you have any further questions about beginner telescopes or anything else astronomy related.


Still have questions? We have answers.

How Do Beginner Telescopes Work?

We have a great blog article detailing the three main types of telescopes and how they work, including pros and cons of each. Head to our blog post titled How To Use A Telescope For Beginners to learn more!

What Is The Best Telescope For A Beginner?

There are a variety of great beginner telescopes out there, and it depends on what your budget is and what you'd like to do with your telescope. If you're looking for something small and portable, a tabletop Dobsonian is a great choice, especially for kids. However, we usually recommend getting the largest telescope you can both carry and afford, as a telescope's aperture (front opening) is its most important feature. Full size Dobsonians provide the best bang-for-your buck in terms of aperture, so if you want all the light-gathering power you can get, go with a Dobsonian telescope.

If you'd like a telescope that assists you with finding objects in the night sky, Celestron's StarSense Explorer series uses your smartphone's technology to help you locate objects. The StarSense Explorer series is a great middle ground between manual telescopes, like most Dobsonians, and more expensive combinations of a telesacope and GoTo mount.

If you have a bit of a higher budget, the Celestron NexStar SE series can both find objects and automatically point the telescope at them too. Last but not least, if you'd like a telescope that can do it all and take great astrophotographs with the push of a button, smart telescopes are an ideal choice and can wow your friends and family with almost zero learning curve.

What Night Sky Objects Are Good For Beginners To Observe Through A Telescope?

The moon is a fantastic object to observe through any telescope, including all beginner telescopes. We recommend observing the moon around the first or third quarter phase when the moon is halfway illuminated. This is one of the best times to see details in the many craters on the moon, which is guaranteed to impress beginners of all ages. Other great objects in the solar system to observe are Jupiter, where you can usually see its four main moons, and Saturn, which you can usually see its rings. As a reminder, never look at the sun through a telescope, as it can cause permanent damage to vision.

Other great objects to observe with children are star clusters like the Double Cluster and Hercules Cluster, as well as the Orion Nebula, Lagoon Nebula, and the Andromeda Galaxy. These objects are large enough and bright enough that they can be easily found and viewed with most beginner telescopes.

What Accessories Should I Consider When Buying A Beginner Telescope?

Most beginner telescopes come with everything you need to get started, which includes the telescope, the tripod (mount), and at least one eyepiece. Other accessories to consider when buying a telescope are:

  • A quality eyepiece, which will greatly improve the view. Be sure to get an eyepiece that can fit in your telescope's focuser, which is usually the 1.25" size for beginner telescopes. If you're not sure what eyepiece is right for you, reach out to our helpful experts, they'd be happy to help you select what's best for your telescope and your needs.
  • A red dot finder, which will help you easily locate objects in the night sky. Some beginner telescopes come with a red dot finder already, but if yours doesn't, you may want to consider buying one so you can easily locate objects in the night sky. Simply align your finder with the object you want to look at, and it will appear centered in the eyepiece. A finder scope is especially important for reflector telescopes, such as Dobsonians and Newtonians. Their reflector design flips the image upside down, making pointing difficult without a finder scope, as everything moves in the opposite manner as to what you'd expect.
  • An AC power adapter or portable battery, which will allow your motorized telescope to plug into AC power or be used out in the field. Power adapters and batteries are typically not included with most telescopes and mounts, so be sure to add one to your cart to avoid a frustrating wait when you discover the need during your first use.
  • A laser collimator, which will align your reflector telescope's optics. This is essentially a must-buy if you're planning on purchasing a Dobsonian or Newtonian telescope, and is good to have if you're purchasing a Schmidt-Cassegrain. Without a collimator, your telescope may not be able to reach perfect focus, which can be incredibly frustrating.

How Do I Store A Telescope When It's Not In Use?

Protecting a telescope when not in use is important piece of maintenance that often gets overlooked. When not in use, always place the included dust covers on the front of the telescope and eyepiece so no dust can enter the optics. We recommend storing the telescope in a closet inside your home where it is away from direct sunlight and large temperature changes. Ideally, your telescope remains close to room temperature when not in use.