top of page

Every product we recommend is handpicked by our editors. When you buy something, we may earn a commission. Why trust us?

booking ad 28.jpg
  • Writer's pictureMegan MacGregor

I Tested And Ranked The Best Telescopes For Stargazing In 2024

Get ready to spot that man on the moon! Whether you’re prepping for the next meteor shower or eager to explore the cosmos, check out my ranking of the best telescopes on Amazon.

best telescopes for stargazing

FYI, prices and ratings are accurate as of time of writing.


1. Celestron - NexStar 8SE Computerized Telescope


best telescopes for stargazing

Credit: Amazon.com


Highlight: Featuring a database of more than 40,000 celestial objects.

Helpful review: "I love this scope. Celestron has made a very good, solid telescope with super optics. I'm a big fan of the hand control and its built-in ability to help you find great stuff in the sky. It's first-rate. It's especially good for novice astronomers, in my opinion, and saves a lot of time that would otherwise be spent searching for things when you're new to the hobby. It deserves 5 stars, but I would knock one-half star off if I could for the following two reasons:
1. No power supply. You have to buy 8 AA alkaline batteries to use it at all, and they don't last more than a few nights of viewing, depending on how much you move the scope around, and how long you have it powered up. At this price, Celestron should include a power supply, whether it is a wall wart or something like a lithium power pack (good units that they do sell separately), even if doing so adds another $20-80 to the sale price. The scope moves more slowly (but not terribly slow), and the hand control backlight is dimmer, when running on the internal batteries. You'll likely be back on Amazon again soon after you take delivery, looking for something better than the internal battery setup. My advice is to avoid buying a wall wart unless you have long extension cords or AC outlets very near your intended viewing spot. Instead, spend a few more dollars on a portable lithium battery supply from Celestron or a third party, and you'll have plenty of power and mobility, too. The scope has an external power socket-- the common 5.5mm by 2.1mm bayonet, and it does not need exactly 12 volts DC. It apparently tolerates 11-14.5 volts or maybe a bit more. You can also buy a Celestron cigarette lighter plug, so it should be compatible with standard automotive battery power.
2. The "Star Pointer" spotting device included with this telescope is OK-ish, but as time passes, you may want to consider an optical finder with some small level of magnification and possibly crosshairs. I'm planning to do this in the near future after my credit card cools off. I'm not a big fan of the Star Pointer. Some people like it, others have said it's not aligning with the main scope for them. I spent more time fumbling with mine than I did with the rest of the scope. Some of the fumbles were my fault, though. There are a few YouTube videos that show possible solutions if you can't get your Star Pointer and your telescope to agree with each other. The idea is to add a small shim, like thin cardboard or even a US dime, under the back of the dovetail bracket. Just loosen the two screws and slip the shim under the back, then re-tighten the screws that hold the finder dovetail in place. It gives some extra tilt inward and downward towards the telescope body. If you can't center the image and it feels like you need to move the red dot down and to the left of the end of travel, you might try this.
If you don't mind some advice. PLEASE, if this is your first telescope, don't buy a bunch of extra eyepieces, filters or Barlows just yet. Enjoy the included 25mm eyepiece first. It has plenty of magnification without being too much--and too much is what a lot of newbies (myself included) end up with. If you buy eyepieces that give you greater magnification, you'll only be frustrated until you get to know your way around. If anything, you'll get a lot of use out of an eyepiece that even widens your field of view more (lower magnification), like a 32-40mm eyepiece, or even a focal reducer. I have the Celestron f6.3 focal reducer/corrector, and I couldn't be happier with it.
As a last thought, get one of Celestron's inexpensive, but surprisingly good 7 X 50 binoculars. At 7 times magnification, they are great for viewing the constellations and helping you decide what part of the sky to point your telescope at next! I'm happy I got both. The telescope and the binoculars each add their own level of joy to the night's experience.
Even in a suburban environment with lights all around us, I'm still blown away by how many stars I can see with the binoculars compared to my unaided eyes. And of course, the telescope just makes everything that much closer and brighter. Buy it now. You won’t regret it!" — Billie Davidson

Get it from Amazon now: $1,589.00 & FREE Returns

 

2. Gskyer - 400mm Focal Length and 70mm Aperture


best telescopes for stargazing

Credit: Amazon.com


Highlight: Comes with a high-quality full-size tripod.

Helpful review: "I am not an employee of Gskyer, I am an astronomy hobbyist. I have 3 other telescopes and a spotting scope. My review is based on this background and is a fair and honest assessment of the package both for daytime use as a spotting scope and as a night time astronomical telescope.
This is an entry level 80 mm short focal length refractor telescope/ spotting scope package. It includes the optical tube assembly (the telescope), a mount/tripod, three eyepieces and a 3X barlow. Based upon my tests, it works well during the day as a spotting scope and at night as an astronomical telescope. The simple operation and stable mount make it an good first scope. The included eyepieces and barlow give it a good range of magnifications. Its compact size would make it a good “grab and go” or travel scope for someone who has larger telescopes.
THE MOUNT:
This is a shining feature of this package. The tripod/mount of the Gskyer 80 mm is solid, stable, easy to direct and does a good job. Many entry level telescopes have flimsy and wobbly mounts/tripods making the telescope difficult to aim and resulting in a shaky image that is difficult to focus. The mount of the Gskyer 80 is an outstanding feature of this package. Note that it uses a dovetail attachment for the optical tube which means that the mount could be used with other optical tubes or other dovetail mounted accessories in the future. It also includes a standard 1/4 20 stud on top of the mounting rings which can be used to mount a camera or other accessories. The finder scope uses a standard dovetail mount so other finder scopes could be used. This is a level of flexibility you don’t typically see in a package at this price.
THE OPTICAL TUBE ASSEMBLY:
This is what you might normally think of as the telescope. The OTA works well and presents a good image. In side by side comparisons it compared well with my Meade 80 mm scope. The focuser is easy to use and includes a 45 degree correct image diagonal that presents the correct image that you would want when using this as a spotting scope during the day. This also works well at night when you are comparing the sky to a chart as things are in their correct positions in the eyepiece. The scope uses the 1.25” standard that is most commonly used for telescope eyepieces, diagonals and filters so you can easily add accessories in the future.
The included finder scope works well. The bracket is sturdy and provides ample adjustment so that you can align it with the optical tube assembly. Note that you will need to focus the finder when you first take it out of the package. This is done by turning the front black part. This is easy to do and will only need to be done once, but it is not mentioned on the assembly sheet.
You will have to align the finder with the optical tube. This is a normal procedure required on any telescope and is best done during the day. Find a target as far away as possible, but at least 500 feet away. I like to use the cross arm of a telephone or power pole. Using the 25 mm eyepiece, center the cross arm in the eyepiece of the telescope, not the finder. Now use the two black screws on the finder to move the crosshairs till the target is centered in the cross hairs. You are now aligned. This is very important for use during the day and at night. You may have to make a minor adjustment from time to time but that is normal.
EYEPIECES:
The included eyepieces present good images and are well matched to the scope. A nice touch is that they are threaded to accept standard astronomy filters which will help improve your view of the Moon, planets, nebula and other targets. The eyepieces, when combined with the included 3X barlow, provide 16X, 40X, 48X, 80X, 120X and 240X. For daytime spotting scope purposes, the 16X and 40X are good choices. If the air is very quiet the 80X works well too, but it is the atmosphere that will limit the magnification, not the scope. For night time use, typically an 80 mm scope will max out around 140X to 160X, but don’t hesitate to give 240X a try on the moon. Just remember that atmospheric transparency and turbulence will be the limiting factor rather than the scope. And, because the Gskyer 80 mm uses the popular 1.25” eyepiece size, you can add single focal length or zoom eyepieces, diagonals or filters of any brand.
WHAT CAN YOU SEE WITH THIS PACKAGE?
During the day I tested the scope by focusing on the leaves of a maple tree at about 150 feet, about half a football field. I was able to see the veins in the leaves without difficulty. I have not taken it to a shooting range but I would expect it would do well for target practice. At 800 feet I was easily able to resolve leaves on the top of a tree as well as a bird perched on a branch. Many spotting scopes use zoom eyepieces so I tested it with the included eyepieces as well as my 8-24 mm zoom eyepiece with good results.
FINAL THOUGHTS:
As an astronomy telescope, it did well compared to my other 80 mm scope. The mount is easy to direct and the focuser makes focusing easy. It worked well on Mars, Saturn and the rings,the Moon and star clusters. I expect it to work well on Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and its moons, stars, star clusters and double stars. I have enjoyed the Orion Nebula, the Pleiades and other deep sky objects with an 80mm telescope.
To a large extent what you can see with any telescope will depend on your ground and sky light pollution levels. I live in a very light polluted suburb of NYC. Even under these challenging conditions, in addition to the Moon and the bright planets, there are hundreds of star clusters, asterisms and double stars within the capability of this telescope. At a darker site, the range of what you can see greatly expands. That would include galaxies and nebula that would be challenging from a light polluted location for any telescope. Don’t expect things to look like the pictures in magazines. Those are produced with long exposure astrophotography, often have false color added, and do not represent what you will see through the eyepiece of a telescope many times larger than this one.
IN SUMMARY:
If you are looking for a compact, easy to carry, easy to use scope that can serve as a spotting scope during the day and an astronomical scope at night, the Gskyer 80 mm refractor should serve you well. And since it uses the standard 1.25” eyepiece and diagonal size it will let you add eyepieces, filters, diagonals and other accessories in the future. You can also take photos or videos through the eyepiece. You can hold the phone up to the eyepiece but there are attachments made for “digiscoping” with 1.25” eyepieces that make this a lot easier. Or add an eyepiece webcam to project the image on a screen or enter into the world of planetary imaging.
If you are looking for a scope for a tween or teen that they can use on their own, this would work. A smaller child would need help setting this up but a 10 year old can likely handle it on their own. You should have a lot of fun with this scope. Order it now... I guarantee you’d love it." — Andy J. Anderson

Get it from Amazon now: $274.72 & FREE Returns

 

3. HexEum - 600mm Focal Length and 80mm Aperture


best telescopes for stargazing

Credit: Amazon.com


Highlight: Equipped with two replaceable eyepieces (10mm and 25mm) for 24X and 60X magnification.

Helpful review: "Please take this review with a grain of salt because this is my 1st telescope and I’m still learning things. However, I did wait to give this review until I’ve worked with it on numerous occasions, for different nighttime gazing. So I’ll give you the breakdown on what I find good and bad about this particular telescope. All in all, it’s a good little telescope when you don’t want to invest a lot of money until you know you enjoy this new hobby of yours.
THE GOOD:
- I was impressed with the levels of magnification, achievable by using the multiple lens.
- The telescope is easy for on the go with a carrying case, lightweight build and sturdy stand and can be quickly set up.
- The price seemed pretty inline with the models out there with the same magnification offerings.
THE BAD:
- I wished the stand was taller because I’m trucking it into the yard for the best views and that means no chair sitting while viewing.
- Another problem area is locking in the position once I’ve located my stars. It seems to like to jiggle away and I have to reset it.
- I’ve also read where other telescopes have a measure on the dial, so you know to go to that degree angle to see certain things. This one has no markings to give you that extra help.
So again, works well enough for me in my first foray into stargazing. Experts might find this a little lacking but then again, they would be willing to pay more because they are invested more in this interest.
A FEW WORDS FROM A NEIGHBOR:
We purchased the Hexeum Telescope on Amazon and received it quickly. Initial setup time was pretty quick even at night but I’d recommend practicing once in daylight. We’ve taken it camping and used it in the backyard. Included is a convenient bag to travel with and a little padding inside. After we made adjustments and tried different combinations of the included magnification lenses we found the right one that showed the moon at a good brightness. We connected a cell phone attachment and after a few tries, it actually worked! We saw the moon up close and was surprised to see how detailed it actually looked. On another night, Saturn was supposed to be viewable as it was closest to the earth. Couldn’t believe we were actually able to see the rings, even though it was a little faint. My kids really enjoyed using this but I think me and my spouse enjoyed it even more. Good value and a nice way to bring the family together.
MY FRIEND’S REVIEW:
This was purchased as a Christmas gift for my husband. He enjoys viewing different sky occurrences. His only suggestion would be that it would be much better to allocate a specific space where you can leave it up rather than having to search for a focal point each time it is set up. He has witnessed a rocket launch, shooting stars, and a few rare moons. Overall, we are pleased with the product, and it is excellent for those who are just starting to "star gaze". The bag that is included is great for transporting and takes very little room for travel. Our grandkids are learning to enjoy looking up. They all live in cities, and our country setting provides more opportunities for them to observe and learn!" — Cindy Webster

Get it from Amazon now: $199.99 & FREE Returns

 

4. Koolpte - 900mm Focal Length and 90mm Aperture


best telescopes for stargazing

Credit: Amazon.com


Highlight: Comes with a phone adapter and a wireless remote.

Helpful review: "What I liked about it? Let me tell you… You can see the Moon and other planets in detail, low price, nice contrast and brightness, sturdy mount with good controls that allow smooth tracking, lots of necessary accessories, digital eyepiece, long focal length allows larger images, light weight for portability, sharp stars that indicate good main objective lens, simple to use alt-azimuth mount which is a good choice for children and beginner adults.
What I didn’t like about it too much… Budget finder scope and accessories are a bit hard to use and can be frustrating, manual tracking can get tiring over a long night, image quality and overall quality are not as good as the other ones I list below. This is a generic and new brand unlike well known ones like Orion or SkyWatcher. Of course, this is not like the professional telescopes at observatories.
RECOMMENDATIONS:
This is a decent beginner refractor telescope for the planets and the Moon with a variety of budget price accessories included that work, 3.5 stars overall. Do not go any smaller than 90mm objective size for a refractor. For the same price you can get better ones; either the Orion Observer 90mm refractor or the Orion Observer 134mm reflector, both of them come with a very good EQ3 mount. Orion has good quality beginner scopes that have been iterated and refined over many years. If you want something more capable for DSOs or better detail on the planets, consider larger ones like the Orion AstroView 6 reflector or Orion StarBlast 6 reflector or a 6” or 8" Dobsonian reflector (Orion, Apertura, Celestron, SkyWatcher brands) or a 90mm apochromatic refractor. All these cost just $200 or so more but they are going to give you much more quality, capability and satisfaction along with a bigger objective lens or mirror.
I highly recommend a 10x50 and a 20x80 set of binoculars from Orion to observe, enjoy and easily learn the night sky. For even more serious viewing, check out the Orion EON 130mm apochromatic refractor or Celestron C11 SCT along with a high quality EQ Mount with GoTo functionality along with quality eyepieces and filters.
Experienced backyard astronomers recommend an 8” Dobsonian as the best telescope to buy for most people as it can be for beginners and advanced users and is highly portable. A good example is the Orion SkyLine 8”. Always remember, the best telescope for you is the one you use the most, not everyone uses the more advanced, big and heavy ones as often as the smaller ones, but some do. Part of the puzzle is realizing what you really want/need and how much time and money you are willing to spend.
UPDATE 1:
So far so good, after one night’s observation. This is my first telescope to own and set up, but I have seen and viewed through large telescopes at observatories and local astronomy clubs. I am familiar with the night sky thanks to my binoculars and the clubs, so I know my way around stars, constellations and some DSOs.
I assembled this telescope in 90 minutes, taking my time. It was not hard, but you need to be patient and watch the short YouTube video on assembling along with the instructions, especially for attaching the tube to the mount. Using the 20 mm eyepiece I was able to focus on Jupiter last night and was amazed at being able to see two bands in the middle and the 4 moons that are on the main axis. Stars are pretty well focused and appear pinpoint sharp with the 20mm eyepiece.
Using the iPhone SkyGuide app, I confirmed that I located Jupiter in the sky and then used the telescope to get it into view, but it took 15 minutes panning the scope up down, left right near the planet with the micro adjustments, which is what manually getting an object into the frame of a telescope feels like. Jupiter was bright and sharp with the 20 mm eyepiece, but with some expected chromatic aberration. It was of course magical seeing the planet and its moons from my front porch. It just gives you a new appreciation and amazement being able to observe from your home. I am yet to try the digital eyepiece. I will try to use the scope moreover the next few weeks and update here.
First impressions are that this can be a good beginner telescope but manually finding objects can be hard for beginners. I wanted to see better quality and more detailed images and felt an intermediate or advanced telescope would better suit me. I set up the finder scope this one came with, which is a budget quality one as expected at this price. Children can use the finder scope once an adult sets it up. Another option to consider as a first telescope is the Orion StarBlast II 4.5 inch or the Orion Observer 134mm, in the same price range from a trusted brand name. Orion, Skywatcher and Celestron have some good beginner ones in this price range.
UPDATE 2:
After a couple of more observation sessions I have noticed chromatic aberration getting in the way, which is expected as this is not an apochromatic lens (those cost much more and reduce the aberration to an extent). I could not use the finder scope well nor could I get it to align with the telescope easily and this is not uncommon with budget finder scopes, as it takes patience and trials. I also looked at Saturn. It was small with the 20 mm eyepiece as expected and the rings were tough to see. I will try the digital eyepiece as you need magnification to see the rings.
My needs are that I should be able to see a few of the observable brighter DSOs and the 5 easily observable solar system planets without much hassle. With a larger lens and an apochromatic refractor telescope, even in light pollution you will be able to get nice views of stars, a few star clusters, and a very few nebulae and galaxies. So far I have not been able to do that reliably with this beginner scope, if there is no progress on these, I may not use this telescope.
UPDATE 3:
Seeing what this scope does and the other reviews, I think this is a good beginner telescope. It falls just short for me, as it is not quite detailed enough for the planets and hard for the DSOs. After a couple of weeks of trying, I could finally align the finderscope with the telescope but it was tedious to use it to find the objects I wanted.
To my disappointment, I could not find the Andromeda galaxy, which I can easily find with my Nikon 10X50 binoculars in a few seconds. I am not sure how the other reviewers found any brighter DSOs with this one. It appears like an ok choice for the Moon and the planets.
This scope does deliver on a sturdy tripod, a light weight to be able to carry around the house or to a dark site, good manual controls over alt-azimuth movements for finding and manual tracking, comes with a bunch of low quality accessories like eye pieces including a digital one that works with your phone and a Barlow for magnification.
Also, the 900 mm focal length is good to look at the Moon in detail. So you are getting a lot for under $300.
Generally, a 90mm alt-azimuth refractor is a good choice for a beginner telescope as it is easy to use and easy to move around. Another telescope most often recommended is an 8 '' Dobsonian which is a reflector scope on a turntable base that works as an Alt Azimuth mount. The larger objective size of 8” has more light gathering capability for fainter objects. Also, I highly recommend a 10X50 pair of binoculars from Orion, Nikon or Celestron (get a bak-4 Porro prism with multi coatings). I also recommend a 20X80 or a 25X100 for DSOs. Orion makes an awesome 20x80 which I like a lot and even a 25x100 pair.
I will need to spend much more for what I am looking for. Orion said their StarBlast 4.5 won't do for me and recommended checking out their Observer 134mm($210) and AstroView 6 ($550), both are equatorial reflector telescopes. The price includes some accessories and you can get auto tracking functionality with these for 60 dollars more. Orion StarBlast 6 and Orion SkyLine 6 for around 400 dollars are other great choices. These telescopes are less tedious to use due to their quality and you will have more time to enjoy the viewing.
Auto tracking functionality saves some time and effort (as the Earth rotates the object in the frame of your telescope goes out of it in a few seconds, auto tracking keeps objects in frame with tiny movements). The above mentioned scopes do not come with mounts with GoTo functionality, which will be more in the $1000 to $2000 range. Celestron currently sells a beginner one (Nextstar 130SLT GoTo reflector) and a StarSense line with partial GoTo feature. Full GoTo functionality drives the telescope automatically through its mount and software to find the object you choose from a list, but requires leveling and polar alignment set up every time you use the telescope. These are pretty easy to do in 10 minutes, once you learn. I have access to much larger telescopes with my local clubs and observatories (on observation days), it initially felt like I only needed an inexpensive one for home use, but soon realized that I am after more capable and higher quality scopes.
You can also borrow a telescope from your local club or library to get started but eventually you will want one for home use. You may end up seeing one you like a lot at an observation event, making it easier for you to choose. So far, choosing a telescope felt pretty complicated to me as I need a lighter one to move easily and have somewhat of a limited budget. The different types of scopes available along with technical details result in a longer learning curve. Also, once you are down that rabbit hole, you will want a bigger aperture and different types of telescopes. The progression maybe like this: a basic refractor to start with, then a reflector on a Dobsonian mount, then a compound one like a Mak-Cass or Schmidt Cass, including a GoTo mount and 8'' or bigger aperture, then you may want to see colors in DSOs which requires an astro-photography setup that has an achromatic triplet lens along with a field flattener, a GoTo pro mount and an astronomy camera, etc. It can get to be an expensive hobby both with your time and money, but the rewards are priceless.
UPDATE 4:
So, I have ended up with the Orion EON 115mm apochromatic refractor with triplet lens on a good EQ Mount with Goto functionality (as the 130mm was backordered). This refractor is of high quality and highly portable in the hard shell case it comes with. The EON 130mm has been in stock since the last week of October and it is what I expected so far (sold the 115 on astromart). I also got a good 10” Dobsonian (Orion Skyline version with a nice focuser and a very good RACI finder scope). I set it up on a home made teak wood custom dolly with big wheels to avoid lifting the big telescope. I just wheel it around my yard for observation and into my garage when done. Both of these high quality scopes will be useful for many years before I need anything else." — Robert Zusman

Get it from Amazon now: $409.99 & FREE Returns

 

5. ToyerBee - 300mm Focal Length and 70mm Aperture


best telescopes for stargazing

Credit: Amazon.com


Highlight: FREE 3-year unlimited technical support.

Helpful review: "I’m an adult interested in astronomy, but had not previously used a telescope. The most I had used before this for star gazing had been Cometron binoculars. This was definitely a step up in terms of magnification and let me start viewing things from a greater distance, including better detail of the moon and its craters and Jupiter along with its moons. It’s not going to provide a high definition view of planets, such as differentiating the different shades of jupiter.
The higher Barlow objectives provide more zoom, but it’s very difficult to focus. It will take time and patience to get used to moving the telescope at such magnifications. At the lowest magnifications, the focus is very crisp. I additionally used a solar filter (purchased separately) to look at the sun in more detail, letting me appreciate solar flares.
Overall, this is a great beginner telescope for learning how to locate planets, use the finder, and getting used to shifting around. It’s well worth the cost for beginners (both adults and kids, I think). Super easy and intuitive to assemble without too many parts to worry about. It’s great that it comes with a tripod, which is not always included with telescopes.
I highly recommend this to beginners starting out before considering a more expensive telescope for high quality images. As long as you tailor your expectations for this telescope to not expect NASA-like clarity, you’ll get a lot out of this. I’m very satisfied with the purchase and look forward to using it more.
A FEW WORDS FROM A NEIGHBOR:
This telescope has impressive optics, with a generous aperture size that captures a lot of light. The images it provides are clear and crisp, making it great for observing celestial objects. The mount is sturdy and keeps the telescope steady during use. Setting it up is straightforward, and aligning it with celestial objects is relatively easy, even for beginners. One notable feature is the range of adjustable magnification eyepieces included, allowing for versatile exploration of the night sky. Whether you're interested in observing the moon, planets, or deep-sky objects, this telescope offers a lot of flexibility. The build quality is commendable, with durable materials that should last for years. It's a telescope that caters to both casual stargazers and more serious astronomers, providing excellent value for the price. I definitely recommend the telescope to anyone who admires the outer world!
MY FRIEND’S REVIEW:
I bought this after returning another that cost more and had dust (!) inside the lens. This one is clear, the 70mm lens is about as good as you get at this price, and it is assembled to be clean inside. It’s sturdy and doesn’t feel cheap which makes it good for gifting. You can observe the bright planets, they’re always hard to track with manual telescopes. There are also some great phone apps to help you find them that I wish I had as a kid, a few bucks spent on one of these makes it a lot easier to use. The phone adapter is pretty good, though it is dependent on your camera. With an IPhone (while using night mode and 3-10 second exposures) pictures come out very good and it makes it easy to share what your kids found with their friends. With a cheap Android phone like many kids probably have, including mine, the phone kept trying to focus on the equipment and not the lens and getting a pic to come out requires a lot of patience. There probably is an adjustment in the phone for this, but with a new-ish iPhone everything just worked. No other issues. I shopped around for several of these and found that I need to spend about twice this much to go up in clarity and at least four times as much to increase magnification and clarity." — Jeff & Chrissie Kraus

Get it from Amazon now: $99.99 & FREE Returns

bottom of page