Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products and services; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
A telescope’s purpose is to collect light. This enables you to see objects much fainter than you can see with the naked eye or as Galileo said of his telescopes, they helped him “reveal the invisible.” And while there is no one perfect telescope, if you're interested in buying one, you should look for a telescope with features that match your observing interests, lifestyle, and budget. Whether you are an amateur astronomer looking to study the night sky, aspiring astrophotographer hoping to get the perfect shot of Saturn or Neptune, or prefer to observe objects here on Earth, here is a guide to our favorite telescopes for a variety of uses, prices, and situations.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Orion SkyQuest XT10i IntelliScope
What really sets the Orion SkyQuest XT10i IntelliScope apart from other 10-inch Dobsonian mount telescopes is its ability to find over 14,000 objects, thanks to the computerized object locator. Simply punch in what you want to see, and arrows will direct you to the exact location. The 10-inch reflector is one of the largest apertures for telescopes of this price and gathers plenty of light for a deep view of the cosmos, including very faint objects like the Orion Nebula or the Andromeda Galaxy. The rings of Saturn and cloud belts of Jupiter are all easily within range. The SkyQuest XT10i comes with a two-inch focuser and two 1.25-inch Sirius Plossl telescope eyepieces — a 25mm and 10mm — not to mention a 9×50 finder scope, an eyepiece rack, and a collimation cap. You can operate the telescope manually or use the computer to find any number of objects in the night sky.
Best Budget: Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker
The affordable yet high-quality Celestron PowerSeeker telescope is a great way to open up the wonders of the universe to the aspiring astronomer. The telescope is quick and easy to set up –- no tools required. The PowerSeeker has everything you need to get started with astronomy, including a tripod, a finder scope, two eyepieces (20mm and 4mm), and a Barlow lens that triples the power of each eyepiece. The eyepieces together with the Barlow lens can magnify your object between 150x-450x.
The equatorial mount makes it easy to track objects as they appear to move across the night sky. The five-inch or 127mm aperture reflector enables you to pick out details in the moon, as well as see fainter deep sky objects such as star clusters and nebulae. When you are out looking at the stars you can use Celestron’s free SkyPortal mobile app to help locate objects in the night sky. Just center the object in the finder scope and its ready to view while you listen to the app to tell you more details about what you are looking at.
Best for Beginners: Celestron NexStar 5SE
Lightweight and compact, the Celestron NexStar telescope features a five-inch aperture that provides excellent light-gathering abilities to give you impressive views of the objects in our solar system, such as the geographic features of the moon and Saturn’s rings. It also enables you to see deep sky objects, including the Orion Nebula.
For those new to astronomy, the computerized hand control guides you through the alignment procedure then automatically generates a sky tour of all the best objects to view. You can choose from close to 40,000 celestial objects in the database, then the computerized fork arm mount accurately points the telescope, centers your object in the 25mm eyepiece, and even tracks it as it moves across the sky. If you want to take photos, the telescope enables you to attach your DSLR. The unit also includes a wedge for long exposure photography.
The telescope breaks down into several lightweight pieces so you can transport it almost anywhere like camping or in your backyard.
Best for Kids: Educational Insights GeoSafari Omega
For kids starting out in night sky viewing, the GeoSafari Omega Refractor Telescope from Educational Insights is a perfect choice. The first type of telescope invented, the refractor telescope collects light through the large 60mm objective lens and directs it through the telescope to the standard 1.25-inch eyepiece for magnification. The telescope will enable your kids to see many interesting objects in the night sky from the craters of the moon to Saturn's rings, and even deep-sky phenomena such as star clusters and nebula.
The Omega Refractor comes with three different eyepieces — a 25mm eyepiece, a 12.5mm eyepiece, and a 7mm eyepiece for varying levels of magnification. The telescope also comes with a 2x Barlow lens to double the magnification of the eyepieces from 60x to 200x.
Included in the box is a detailed manual that walks your child through every piece of the telescope along with its purpose, and the basics of observing the night sky.
Best for Travel: Celestron 21035 70mm Travel Scope
The compact and portable design of the Travel Scope 70 from Celestron makes it ideal for travel. The telescope comes with two eyepieces — a 20mm and a 10mm for 20x and 40x magnification, respectively. This refractor-style telescope features a 70mm or 2.76-inch aperture that gathers plenty of light so you can clearly see objects in our solar system, including the rings of Saturn.
The optical finder scope enables you to quickly locate the object you are interested in viewing, before focusing in for a closer look through the eyepiece. The included erect image diagonal corrects views both horizontally and laterally so that you could even use the unit for daytime viewing of wildlife.
The telescope comes with a pre-assembled aluminum photographic tripod to give it a stable platform. Both the telescope and tripod fit inside the custom backpack for easy traveling and storage. The whole package weighs less than five pounds. Download the Celestron SkyPortal mobile app to help you locate objects in the night sky.
Best for Astrophotography: Orion ED80T CF
The Orion ED80T CF is a favorite amongst astrophotography enthusiasts as it delivers clear, true-to-color images in a lightweight compact package. The 80mm or 3.1-inch aperture coupled with the extra-low dispersion (ED) glass in one of the three multi-coated lenses delivers crisp, high-resolution images straight to your camera.
Built into a carbon-fiber tube, it’s lightweight, suffers very little thermal expansion, and compact for easy transport — it even comes with its own foam-lined hard case. The integrated dovetail mounting base lets you attach a mini guide scope to get nice sharp round stars over the length of a long exposure. The dual speed two-inch focuser allows for very fine adjustment when taking photos.
Best for Solar: Coronado 40mm f/10 0.5Å H-Alpha Personal Solar Telescope
Look at the sun safely with the Coronado Personal Solar Telescope. This 40mm highly portable dedicate solar telescope features completely internal, non-removable, and safe solar filtering optics that let you see the sun’s surface in amazing detail. At the heart of the telescope is a Hydrogen Alpha Etalon system that reveals dynamic, ever-changing prominences at the edge of the sun and detail on the surface in the distinctive red color.
An internal sun spotting device lets you quickly line up the telescope for viewing via an indicator window in front of the eyepiece. An optional double stack filter will dramatically increase the amount of surface detail you can observe with the personal solar telescope.
Best for Wildlife: Celestron LandScout 12-36x60
Compact and durable enough to withstand the elements, the LandScout spotting scope from Celestron makes a great companion for wildlife viewing outdoors. Weighing just 18 ounces, the scope is easy to take along on long outdoor excursions. The 60mm objective lens lets in lots of light while fully coated lenses help to provide sharp images. The zoom eyepiece lets you zoom in from 12x up to 36x to get close to the action. Included in the package are a tabletop tripod, lens and eyepiece covers, and a soft carrying bag.