The 6 Best Beginner Telescopes of 2021

Take your affinity for stargazing to a whole new level

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The Rundown

Best for Kids: Elenco Mobile 20/30/40x Telescope at tequipment.net

"Suitable for ages 8 and up, the Elenco Telescope is relatively robust, with a sturdy ABS body, and assembly is quick and easy."

Best Budget: occer 400mm Telescope at Amazon

"Shoppers on a budget will delight in the affordable price and robust features of this occer telescope."

Most Portable: Gskyer 70mm Astronomical Refractor Telescope at Amazon

"Amateur astronomers on the go will appreciate the portability of the Gskyer telescope."

Best for Astrophotography: Sky-Watcher Virtuoso at Amazon

"This telescope boasts automatic shutter release functionality for DSLR cameras, camcorders, and smartphones. "

Best Wi-Fi Integration: Celestron Astro Fi 102mm Maksutov Cassegrain Telescope at Amazon

"Unlike with most beginner telescopes, you can control the Astro via the Wi-Fi functionality."

Best Accessories: Celestron PowerSeeker 80EQ Telescope at Amazon

"The Celestron PowerSeeker 80EQ comes with everything but the kitchen sink."

Telescopes offer amateur stargazers the chance to see the night sky in a whole new way. If you want to get up close and personal with the wonders of our solar system, a telescope is one of the best investments you can make—though you’ll need to do your research to figure out which model best fits your needs.

Telescopes come in a dizzying array of sizes and styles with varying lenses, magnification power, and other features, so it’s important to know what you want to use your telescope for before selecting the best one. For instance, do you want a telescope for the backyard or on a stargazing road trip? Do you want to look at planets or deep-space objects? What’s your budget? Do you want to do astrophotography? All of these considerations and more will help you narrow down your search.

For the backyard astronomer in your life, these are the best beginner telescopes on the market.

Best for Kids: Elenco Mobile 20/30/40x Telescope

Elenco - 30mm Mobile Telescope

Courtesy of Best Buy

What We Like
  • Includes tripod

  • Sturdy

  • Easy assembly

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Shorter than other options

For the budding young astronomer, you can’t go wrong with the Elenco Mobile Telescope, which comes outfitted with a 20x/30x/40x eyepiece, a 30-millimeter objective lens, and a diagonal mirror so kids can discover all their favorite objects in the solar system—even fairly distant objects. Crucially, the 10-inch tripod allows for stable, wobble-free placement, and the portable, lightweight design makes it easy for your child to take this telescope on the go. Suitable for ages 8 and up, the Elenco Telescope is relatively robust, with a sturdy ABS body, and assembly is quick and easy.   

Aperture: 30 millimeters | Type: Not listed | Movement: Manual | Weight: 1.05 pounds

Best Budget: occer 400mm Telescope

What We Like
  • Easy assembly

  • Suitable for various heights

  • Includes a universal phone adapter

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note tripod is hard to adjust

Shoppers on a budget will delight in the occer 400mm Telescope, which comes at an affordable price point but is still chock-full of must-have features like a 400-millimeter focal length and 70-millimeter aperture allowing for crystal-clear viewing so you can see faint objects and small details with ease. It’s easy to set up—no tools necessary—and equipped with an adjustable tripod stand, so it’s suitable for people of varying heights. And in an ultra-modern touch, this telescope has a universal phone adapter, which connects your smartphone so you can capture images and video through the eyepiece. 

Aperture: 70 millimeters | Type: Refractor | Movement : Manual | Weight: 5.11 pounds

Most Portable: Gskyer 70mm Astronomical Refractor Telescope

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Includes a travel bag

  • Comes with multiple eye pieces

What We Don't Like
  • Pricier than other options

Amateur astronomers on the go will appreciate the portability of the Gskyer Telescope—it weighs just over 7 pounds, and the body, accessories, and tripod all fit neatly in the provided travel bag. Plus, assembly only takes anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes. Aside from being one of the most portable models available, the Gsyker has a focal length of 400 millimeters and an aperture length of 70 millimeters and comes with two replaceable eyepieces, a 3x Barlow lens, and a 5x24 finderscope with a mounting bracket. In short, it’s supplied with everything that beginners need to get started on their celestial-viewing journey.   

Aperture: 70 millimeters | Type: Refractor | Movement: Manual | Weight: 4.94 pounds

Best for Astrophotography: Sky-Watcher Virtuoso

What We Like
  • Has an automatic shutter option

  • Comes with multiple eye pieces

  • Has a multi-function motorized alt-azimuth mount

What We Don't Like
  • Pricier than other options

For those who want to snap high-quality pictures of the night sky, look no further than the Sky-Watcher Virtuoso, which boasts automatic shutter release functionality for DSLR cameras, camcorders, and smartphones. With excellent, crisp optics, well-placed buttons, and a multi-function, motorized alt-azimuth mount, the Sky-Watcher offers a great introduction to astrophotography. It also comes with 10-millimeter and 20-millimeter, 1.25-inch eyepieces. 

Aperture: 90 millimeters | Type: Compound | Movement: Computerized | Weight: 17 pounds

Best Wi-Fi Integration: Celestron Astro Fi 102mm Maksutov Cassegrain Telescope

What We Like
  • Controlled by app

  • Comes with multiple eye pieces

  • Includes a tripod

What We Don't Like
  • Pricier than other options

Kickstart your stargazing hobby with the hi-tech Celestron Astro Fi 102. Unlike with many other beginner telescopes, you can control the Astro Fi 102 via the integrated Wi-Fi functionality using the (free) Celestron SkyPortal app for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. Thanks to the 102-millimeter Maksutov Cassegrain optical design, you’ll be able to see the planets and moon with stunning clarity. This telescope also comes with two eyepieces, a star diagonal, a finderscope, and an integrated smartphone adapter. Plus, the adjustable-height tripod is decked out with an accessory tray for your convenience. 

Aperture: 102 millimeters | Type: Compound | Movement: Computerized | Weight: 16 pounds

Best Accessories: Celestron PowerSeeker 80EQ Telescope

What We Like
  • Comes with multiple eye pieces

  • Lightweight

  • Easy to point

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note the tripod is wobbly

The Celestron PowerSeeker 80EQ comes with everything but the kitchen sink—two eyepieces (a 20-millimeter one and a 4-millimeter one), a finderscope, an erect image diagonal, and even a 3x Barlow lens to triple the power of each of these. This compact, fully portable telescope is surprisingly powerful considering it’s designed for beginners, with an awesome capacity to collect light, so you’ll be able to see all the dimmest, far-away objects in the sky. It’s also easy to use, with a manual German Equatorial mount with a slow-motion altitude rod that allows for smooth, accurate pointing. 

Aperture: 80 millimeters | Type: Refractor | Movement: Manual | Weight: 19 pounds

What to Look for in a Beginner Telescope

Size

Sure, a heavy-duty telescope may have a bigger capacity to collect light, which allows you to see those extremely dim, far-off objects in the night sky but with greater light-collecting area comes greater size—meaning, the telescopes that are more powerful are generally much heavier and bigger. If you’re solely using your telescope in the backyard, this is likely fine, but if you want to bring your telescope with you on stargazing adventures, a more portable (and generally less powerful) model might be best. 

Aperture

The aperture refers to the diameter of the primary lens (or mirror), which determines the telescope’s light-gathering ability (how bright the image is) and its resolving power (how detailed the image looks). Larger apertures obviously gather more light, and this means that you’ll be able to see dimmer objects or smaller features with much more clarity.   

Features

Having a good, adjustable, and sturdy mount for your telescope is crucial. If your mount wobbles at all, it’ll be super-difficult to see distant objects. Your telescope should also come with at least one eyepiece, though most (especially higher-dollar ones) come with two or three. A 25-millimeter eyepiece is perfectly fine for true beginners.

Price

Even if you’re shopping on a budget and can’t afford to drop $500 on an amateur telescope, that doesn’t mean you should go for the lowest-price model. The lowest-tier telescopes usually aren’t worth the money at all since they typically provide such a low-quality viewing experience. Remember that when you’re searching for the perfect telescope, the old saying “You get what you pay for” has never been truer.

Why Trust TripSavvy?

Justine Harrington spent hours researching the best telescopes for this article, sifting through dozens of products and talking to amateur astronomy nerds to curate the best easy-to-set-up, easy-to-use entry-level models for people who want to take their stargazing habit to the next level.

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