Of all the objects that you can view through a telescope, some of the most stunning to behold are the planets in our solar system, and the galaxies that lie far beyond it. But if you want to see more distant and fainter objects, you’ll need a different type of telescope. An average beginner telescope might let you see the moon and some of the brighter planets, but if you want to look further out then you’ll need a different piece of kit. Thanks to developments in technology like smart telescope features, though, this aspect of stargazing can still be open to beginners, who can use apps to assist in viewing these beautiful objects. You can also find more affordable telescopes that are capable of deep sky viewing if you look at options like light buckets, which have large apertures but not necessarily sky-high price tags.
- Buy the Explore Scientific ED127 if you want to see planets in our solar system.
Buy the Celestron 11069 NexStar 8SE if you a computerized telescope.
Buy the Sky Watcher Classic 200 Dobsonian if you want to stargaze from your back yard.
Buy the Celestron Advanced VX 8 Edge HD if you want to see deep space objects.
Buy the Unistellar eVscope 2 if you want a smart telescope.
Best telescope for seeing planets in our solar system
|Great for viewing planets and some deep space objects
When you’re looking for a telescope powerful enough to image solar system objects, plus some deep space objects, then the Explore Scientific ED127 might be just what you’re looking for. It takes crisp, attractive images thanks to its 127mm aperture, and with an optical tube length of 41.75 inches and weight of 18 lbs it’s portable enough to take out with you if you’re hoping to get set up in a quiet location. It does also have a handle to make carrying easier, but it doesn’t come with a mount so you’ll need to supply your own.
It’s great for looking at the planets, and it can handle some deep sky objects like galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae too. Enthusiasts like this telescope for its bright, well contrasted images and for its reasonable price given its abilities. If you’re hoping to get great views of the rings of Saturn or to admire the striped beauty of Jupiter than this telescope is a great choice.
Best computerized telescope
|Mount can be fiddly
|Catalogue of thousands of objects
|Easy to work with for beginners
The Celestron NexStar 8SE is a beast of a telescope that will take stunning views of not only objects within the solar system like the moon and planets, but also more distant objects like galaxies and star clusters. With its huge 203mm aperture it’s a powerful piece of kit that can capture views of even faint sky objects, and its altazimuth mount means you can adjust it to whatever direction you need — though the mount can be a little fiddly to operate.
The big advantage this telescope has for newer astronomers, and perhaps for the more experienced crowd as well, is its computerized features. It works with a huge catalogue of over 40,000 celestial objects, so you can punch in the object you want to observe and the telescope can locate and track it for you. It uses a technology called SkyAlign which requires three bright objects to be in view, from which it can align itself and find the objects you want to observe. It has a controller right on the telescope as well, rather than a smartphone app, which might be preferable for those who want an easy to use interface.
If you’re planning to do your observations from home, and weight and portability aren’t such a concern to you, then you should consider a Dobsonian telescope. This style, also known as a light bucket, does a tremendous job of capturing light from even faint objects. That means you can use it to look at deep sky objects like galaxies and great tremendous views thanks to its big aperture for a comparatively small price.
The downside of this style of telescope is its weight, and the Sky Watcher Classic 200 comes in at 45 lbs when fully assembled. That means it’s not really practical to take out and about with you, though it can fit into the trunk of a car so it is possible to take it out with you if you’re going somewhere accessible by car. The best location for this kind of telescope, however, is at home. If you enjoy a dark environment around your home then you can get exceptional views using this style of telescope. This particular version has a huge 8 inch aperture and focused with accessories like a focuser with adapter, two eyepieces, and a finderscope.
This powerful telescope, the Celestron Advanced VX 8″ Edge HD, is a favorite choice among serious astronomy enthusiasts due to its huge aperture that allows you to observe deep space objects like galaxies and nebulae. For its aperture size of 8 inches, it’s relatively light at 30 lbs, so it’s more portable than other telescopes of this power will be. However, that’s still a considerable weight to balance atop the included tripod mount, so some people might find the setup to be tricky to operate.
This model is particularly suited to those who want to try their hand at astroimaging, as the mount can be used with a range of cameras to capture impressive views from the telescope. The two eyepieces included allow a range of focal ratios to help you pick up those tricky fainter objects. And one of the handy features is the ability to connect to the Celestron app, which has a database of thousands of objects and enables automatic alignment to help you quickly locate the objects you’re interested in.
If you’re a tech enthusiast and you’ve got the budget, then a smart telescope can be a tremendous way to enjoy astronomy. Unistellar is known for its smart telescopes, and the eVscope 2 is its top of the line offering for serious astronomers. You’re paying for not just the hardware but also the smart software in this device, which is particularly useful for handling light pollution — such as you’ll typically find in a big city. If you’re hoping to view some faint objects despite less than optimal ambient light around you, then the telescope’s Deep Dark technology can help to filter out the light you don’t want to reveal objects which might otherwise be hidden.
The telescope works with an app for iOS or Android which helps you to locate objects and automatically aligns itself. And once you’ve found what you’re looking for, the telescope includes an imager so you can easily take and share photos of what you’re seeing. That makes it well suited to beginners, as there is much less fiddly setup and in-depth knowledge required when compared to a traditional manual telescope and camera combo. Dedicated astrophotographers may wish for the more fine-grained control that a separate camera can offer, but if you’re looking for an easy to use telescope that can view faint deep space objects like galaxies and nebulae then this is a great choice that makes it simple to find the objects you’re looking for.
With the world of astronomy, most home enthusiasts start off with telescopes that are suitable for viewing the moon and some of the brighter planets in the solar system. But if you want to see the dimmer, more distant planets — or particularly if you want to look beyond the solar system and out into deep space — then you need a different kind of tool. Telescopes suited for deep space observations have to be considerably more powerful, and therefore typically more expensive, than the kinds of telescopes used for observing the moon or Mars. But if you’re determined to get a great view of stunning objects like galaxies, star clusters, or nebulae, then there are lots of telescopes out there than can do it. Just remember to consider some of the particular factors that are important for making these kinds of observations.
On a most basic level, a larger aperture generally means more power to observe faint objects. Larger aperture telescopes are typically more capable and therefore more expensive than their smaller brethren, and they tend to be heavier as well. However, getting great views of distant galaxies isn’t only a matter of sheer aperture size. You also need to consider the focal ratio of the telescope, which is the relationship between the aperture size and its focal length. Getting this right is essential to pick up the fainter light coming from these further-off objects. You’ll need a telescope with a low focal ratio, also called a fast telescope, to pick up these faint objects.
Portability and weight
Larger aperture telescopes tend to be heavy pieces of kit. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with low light pollution and frequently clear skies, then you can get great views right from your backyard. You might even consider getting a Dobsonian style telescope, or a light bucket, which is a heavier piece of kit but offers a big aperture for a smaller price. It’s not such a problem to have a large and heavy telescope if you’re only moving it from your house to your yard.
However, if you like to head out with your telescope on camping trips or hikes, then you need to be more selective. Carting around huge weights often isn’t feasible for long trips, so both size and weight should be considerations for you. You can find powerful telescopes which are more portable, but you might need to compromise on build quality, in terms of thinner and lighter materials used for the telescope.
Smart and automated features
For some, half the joy of getting into astronomy is working to slowly and methodically set up a telescope and get it pointed in just the right direction to find the object they want. A fully manual telescope can be a tactile thing of joy, and can be a connection through generations and an excuse to step away from the tech-driven lives than most of us live. For these people, there’s nothing better than a fully manual telescope. However, other people would just skip through the setup as fast as possible so they can get straight to the observations. For these people, especially those who are new and are just getting into the hobby, then a telescope with smart features or computerized automation can be ideal.
Many higher end telescopes now come with apps which allow you to use your smartphone to identify objects and breeze through setup, or have other computerized features like automatic alignment. Some even include imaging technology within the telescope to take pictures which can then be shared with family or friends or on social media.
This article is managed and created separately from the Digital Trends Editorial team.