Best stargazing telescopes
15 January 2024 | Admin
Whether youíre taking your first steps in astronomy or ready to see deeper into the cosmos, you likely have one question: whatís the best telescope?
The answer, of course, lies in knowing what you want it for, which could be anything from moon viewing to photographing distant galaxies. Not surprisingly, there are telescopes for both purposes and many in between.
From classic refractors that use lenses to bend and magnify light to reflectors that have mirrors to capture celestial wonders via different mounts and an array of shapes and sizes, here are some of the best telescopes:
Celestron StarSense Explorer 8" Dobsonian Telescope
When youíre unfamiliar with the night sky and wonder how anyone can know which star is which, itís tempting to go straight for a motorised GoTo telescope. Or you could get a manual telescope and do it all yourself, learning the night sky gradually as you go. If you opt for slow knowledge over instant gratification, go for a Dobsonian. Theyíre large and cumbersome Newtonian reflectors, but they come on a simple mount reminiscent of an 18th-century canon. Theyíre beautifully easy to handle and have massive apertures that reward your patience and efforts. This 203mm/8 inch aperture model is the entry-level size for a serious Dobsonian. They also come in 254mm/10 inch and 304mm/12 inch sizes in the Celestron StarSense Explorer range, all of which use a smartphone app that guides you to any object you choose.
Sky Watcher Explorer 130 Telescope
This 130mm/5.1 inch aperture Newtonian reflector is, on the face of it, like a lot of other telescopes aimed at beginners. However, it comes with something more commonly found on mid-range telescopes Ė an equatorial mount. With one axis aligned to Polaris, the North Star, the mount allows fluidity when moving the tube and keeps it aligned with the passage of objects through the sky. Itís not motorised, but once set up, moving the telescope just slightly to keep an object in the field of view is effortless. The EQ mount comes with counterweights and takes a while to get to grips with, so itís not for everyone, but it helps make the Sky Watcher Explorer 130 a great value and popular product for amateur astronomers looking for an upgrade. Itís then relatively simple to make it into a rig suitable for deep-sky astrophotography.
Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ Refractor Telescope
Another product in the popular Celestron StarSense Explorer range, this 102mm/4 inch refractor uses lenses, not mirrors, to bring beginner-grade views of the bright deep sky objects, planets and the moon. However, it does use the reflection of stars in a tiny mirror Ė positioned behind a smartphone in a holder Ė to help align it to the night sky. With that done, itís easy to find distant objects across the night sky using the Celestron StarSense Explorer app. It has an erect star diagonal, so you can stand behind the telescope tube and look down into the eyepiece without staring into unnatural positions.
National Geographic 76/350 Newtonian Reflector Telescope
Thereís never been a better time to observe the sun. With our star reaching its most potent for a decade in 2024/2025, solar observers commonly see sunspots on its surface. You can join their ranks with this 76mm/3 inch Newtonian reflector with a solar filter and a smartphone adaptor for taking incredible images. That could be useful for partial solar eclipses, which will be seen in the UK every year from 2025 to 2030. With the filter off it can be used to study the moon, planets and brighter star clusters, galaxies, and nebula.
Celestron Royal Observatory Greenwich Travel Scope 70 Telescope
If youíre most likely to spend time with the night sky when youíre on holiday, then buying a telescope thatís easy to travel with makes sense. Cue this 70mm//2.8 inch refractor, designed with the Royal Observatory Greenwich in London. Itís a basic telescope at a low price and designed primarily for views of the moon and planets, but in a portable package.
Celestron NexStar 4SE Computerised Telescope
A GoTo telescope will automatically slew to any object you select on its handheld remote. This Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope Ė an iconic product thatís been around for many years Ė has a 203mm/8 inch aperture that impresses with pin-sharp views of the solar system and the brighter deep sky objects. Itís easy to use and relatively easy to align with bright stars thanks to Celestronís SkyAlign tech, though its motor uses many AA batteries. Itís also available in smaller sizes as the Celestron NexStar 5SE, Celestron NexStar 6SE, and Celestron NexStar 8SE.