Best telescopes 2022: beginner and advanced scopes for viewing the cosmos

Man and child using telescope at night (best telescopes)
(Image credit: Getty)

The best telescopes are those that allow you to view your chosen night sky subject, whether that’s studying the craters of the moon, looking for planets, or studying the deeper cosmos. With a wide range of reflectors, refractors, cassegrains and myriad bundles with different accessories it can be tricky to know which telescope to opt for. Luckily, we’ve put together a list of our top telescopes to help you make a good choice.

Our pick of the best telescopes is designed to cover a range of telescopes that suit every budget and every skill level. So no matter if you’re looking for something to grab-and-go for the evening, or are planning a week-long venture to the darkest night sky spots for serious skywatching, we’ve something for most.

If you're looking for more stargazing equipment beyond a telescope, we've got you covered with our guide to the best binoculars for stargazing and the best astrophotography cameras too.

Celestron NexStar 8SE main image (16 by 9)

(Image credit: Future)
Known for its legendary optical performance, compact cassegrain design, and attractive orange coloring, the NexStar 8SE is a fantastic telescope

Specifications

Optical design:: Schmidt-Cassegrain
Aperture:: 203.2mm (8")
Focal length:: 2032mm (80")
Focal ratio:: f/10
Eyepiece/s: : 25mm
Total kit weight:: 24 lbs (10.88 kg)
Mount type:: Computerized Alt-azimuth

Reasons to buy

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Smooth, accurate motorized mount
+
Stunning optical quality
+
Fantastic scope for all skill levels

Reasons to avoid

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Quite expensive
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Motorized mount isn’t for everyone

Harkening back to the orange flashings of the 1980s when Celestron first made huge strides in popularity among astronomers with their line of Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes, the NexStar 8SE deserves to be at the top of the pile when searching for the best telescopes. Superbly sharp, bright thanks to the 8-inch aperture and powerful with a focal length of 80-inches, the NexStar 8SE sits atop a strong, sturdy motorized single fork arm mount.

Serious astronomers could go their whole lives with just this telescope and purchasing accessories such as image diagonals, new eyepieces and an uprated tripod will see the NexStar 8SE flourish well into the future. It’s a little more expensive than others in this list so beginners may be put off by this but at this premium price you get a premium product.


Celestron Astro Fi 102 telescope

(Image credit: Celestron)
An affordable motorized Maksutov-Cassegrain, the Astro Fi 102 is controlled via smartphone.

Specifications

Optical design:: Maksutov-Cassegrain
Aperture:: 102mm (4.02")
Focal length:: 1325mm (52.17")
Focal ratio:: f/13
Eyepiece/s: : 25mm and 10mm
Total kit weight:: 16 lbs (7.25 kg)
Mount type:: Computerized Alt-azimuth

Reasons to buy

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Crisp, sharp views
+
Fully coated optics
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Good quality motorized mount

Reasons to avoid

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Only operable via smartphone

Computerized, motorized telescopes like the Celestron Astro Fi 102 here, make it easy for astronomers to locate and find their night sky objects without having an in-depth knowledge of constellations. The Astro Fi 102 is controllable via a smart device which can be conveniently strapped to the integrated smartphone holder on the dust cap of the telescope.

A lightweight aluminum tripod comes with the bundle, as does a red dot finderscope, two eyepieces (25mm and 10mm), a star diagonal for easier viewing, and an accessory tray. The telescope is compatible with iPad, iPhone and Android devices.


Orion StarBlast II 4.5 EQ telescope

(Image credit: Orion)

Orion StarBlast II 4.5 EQ

This equatorial reflector provides clear views of the moon, planets, and galaxy clusters, and it is also reasonably priced.

Specifications

Optical design:: Reflector
Aperture:: 4.5" (114.3 mm)
Focal length:: 17.72" (450 mm)
Focal ratio:: f/4
Eyepiece/s: : 10mm, 25mm and 2x Barlow lens
Total kit weight:: 20.72 lbs. (9.4 kg)
Mount type:: Equatorial

Reasons to buy

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Great generalist telescope
+
Ships with two eyepieces and a 2x Barlow lens
+
Better mount than alt-az options

Reasons to avoid

-
Equatorial mount setup takes time
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Tripod is a little flimsy

The Orion StarBlast II 4.5 is a good quality all-round reflector housed in a compact design for any astronomer who wants to view a bit of everything while keeping costs down. Beginners may find the equatorial mount slightly more difficult to put up than a conventional alt-azimuth mount, but the results are worth it.

It comes with two eyepieces (10mm and 25mm) and also, happily, a 2x Barlow lens to increase reach when viewing longer distance night sky objects. In the box astronomers will also discover an EZ Finder II reflex sight, tripod and a MoonMap 260 to aid first observations.


Unistellar eVscope 2 telescope

(Image credit: Unistellar)
Start imaging and viewing distant stars and galaxies with the press of a button with this beautiful and minimalist motorized telescope.

Specifications

Optical design:: Reflector
Aperture:: 4.5-inches (114 mm)
Focal length:: 17.7-inches (450 mm)
Focal ratio:: f/3.9
Eyepiece/s: : micro OLED
Total kit weight:: 19.8 lbs (9kg)
Mount type:: Alt-azimuth

Reasons to buy

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Simple and fast setup
+
Take photographs directly from telescope
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Micro OLED digital eyepiece is best-in-class
+
Smart device app user-friendly

Reasons to avoid

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Very high price point
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Only 7.7MP stills photos

This beautiful-looking telescope from Unistellar is the second in the eVscope line and comes with a boost in specifications and function. A wonderful looking telescope the eVscope 2 has a micro OLED digital eyepiece developed by Nikon and it captures 7.7MP stills photos of the cosmos with image-enhanced options available through the smart device app.

The telescope comes with its own tripod and an additional backpack (which we recommend) makes it truly simple to carry around on location. Photographers will find this telescope much more familiar than the aged designs of other, more traditional telescopes. It can automatically identify stars and constellations and the app will suggest subjects based on location and time, automatically slewing to them with the press of the screen.


Celestron Inspire 100AZ telescope

(Image credit: Celestron)

Celestron Inspire 100AZ

With the largest aperture in Celestron’s Inspire range, the Inspire 100AZ is perfect for new amateur astronomers

Specifications

Optical design:: Refractor
Aperture:: 100mm (3.94-inches)
Focal length:: 660mm (25.98-inches)
Focal ratio:: f/6.6
Eyepiece/s: : 10mm, 25mm
Total kit weight:: 20 lbs (9.07 kg)
Mount type:: Alt-azimuth

Reasons to buy

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Comes bundled with everything you need
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Simple, no-tool setup
+
Supplied tripod has panning handle with clutch

Reasons to avoid

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Subtle false color issue

We highly recommend this refractor telescope for astronomers who are just getting started because it has the widest aperture in the Inspire lineup and so will provide the brightest views possible. It is bundled with everything astronomers need to get started, including an Alt-az mount, erect image star diagonal, StarPointer pro red dot finderscope and two eyepieces (10mm and 25mm) to view a variety of objects. 

Cleverly, Celestron have even included an integrated smartphone adapter that users can make with the dust cap as well as a red LED flashlight to aid set up at night (useful if you’re one of those that forgets their headlamp). While this refractor is a budget-friendly option it does come with glass that produces slight false color issues, but that shouldn’t be an issue for beginners.


Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 114AZ telescope

(Image credit: Celestron)

Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 114AZ

An Alt-az reflector best suited to a range of skill levels with a trouble-free, quick set up time.

Specifications

Optical design:: Reflector
Aperture:: 4.49" (114 mm)
Focal length:: 39.37" (1,000 mm)
Focal ratio:: f/9
Eyepiece/s: : 10 mm, 25 mm
Total kit weight:: 10.41 lbs. (4.72 kg)
Mount type:: Alt-azimuth

Reasons to buy

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Alt-az mount suitable for beginners
+
Fast to get set up and started
+
Guided tour via smartphone

Reasons to avoid

-
No motorized mount for tracking

The StarSense Explorer LT 114 can be quickly set up and offers good views from either the 10mm or 25mm eyepieces, which is a blessing for people with busy lives who don't have time to set up, align, and go through extensive checklists to get the best views.

The telescope is also incredibly portable at just 4.72 kg (10.41 lbs). Install the StarSense app on your smartphone, then use the finderscope and one of the provided eyepieces to align the camera with the night sky. The app will discern your viewing orientation and intelligently determine what is in view. Additionally, it will provide details on the object in view, allowing newcomers to astronomy to practice using their equipment while also learning more about the night sky.


Vaonis Stellina Observation Station Smart Telescope

(Image credit: Vaonis)

Vaonis Stellina Observation Station Smart Telescope

A non-traditional smart telescope that speeds up your opportunities for night sky observing.

Specifications

Optical design:: Refractor
Aperture:: 3.15" (80 mm)
Focal length:: 15.7" (400 mm)
Focal ratio:: f/5
Eyepiece/s: : N/A
Total kit weight:: 24.69 lbs. (11.2 kg)
Mount type:: Motorized go-to alt-azimuth

Reasons to buy

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Easy to transport
+
Create astro photos easily
+
Simple to set up and use

Reasons to avoid

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Quite an expensive device
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Traditional astronomers may want to avoid

In stark contrast to the majority of other telescopes on the market, the Vaonis Stellina telescope is coined as an observation station and smart or hybrid telescope due to its design. It requires no eyepieces or finderscopes and instead relies on a CMOS image sensor (made by Sony) to capture images via smartphone connection.

Set up and go, the Stellina images almost instantly from the minute it’s switched on which makes taking astrophotos easy thanks to its automatic tracking and night sky identification. Navigate and take photos using the smart device app using its database of 100 objects.


Celestron AstroMaster 130EQ telescope

(Image credit: Celestron)

Celestron AstroMaster 130EQ

The AstroMaster 130EQ ​​is a cost-effective Newtonian reflector, made by a well-established telescope maker.

Specifications

Optical design:: Newtonian Reflector
Aperture:: 130mm (5.11")
Focal length:: 650mm (25.6")
Focal ratio:: f/5
Eyepiece/s: : 20mm and 10mm
Total kit weight:: 26.5 lbs (12 kg) including tripod
Mount type:: Equatorial including R/A motor drive for object tracking

Reasons to buy

+
Motorized equatorial mount
+
Wide 130mm aperture
+
Sturdy steel tripod with accessory tray

Reasons to avoid

-
Beginners may struggle with mount

This Newtonian reflector is the right telescope for astronomers that desire clear views of the night sky and have used a few telescopes before. Not necessarily suited for beginners, this telescope comes with an equatorial mount which takes a little bit of getting used to. Once set up though, the motor is superb for tracking celestial objects as the earth rotates through the night. 

With a camera adapter that makes it simple to take long exposure images of the night sky. By tracking a subject with earth’s rotation, users can image a subject tens or hundreds of times to attain the dark and light frames required for astrophotographic post-processing.


Celestron NexStar Evolution 9.25 telescope

(Image credit: Celestron)

Celestron NexStar Evolution 9.25

Premium price means premium views and this Schmidt-Cassegrain from Celestron provides some of the best around.

Specifications

Optical design:: Schmidt-Cassegrain
Aperture:: 9.25" (235 mm)
Focal length:: 92.52" (2,350 mm)
Focal ratio:: f/10
Eyepiece/s: : 13 mm, 40 mm
Total kit weight:: 62.60 lbs. (28.39 kg)
Mount type:: Computerized alt-azimuth fork arm

Reasons to buy

+
Crisp, clear views
+
Telescope construction is excellent

Reasons to avoid

-
Bulkier and heavier than other models
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Not the cheapest telescope in this roundup

This Schmidt-Cassegrain is an excellent telescope for observing the night sky because it provides clear, sharp images with minimal distortions thanks in part to the StarBright XLT optical coatings. 

In the eyepieces (13mm and 40mm), celestial objects stand out with sharp clarity and striking contrast. This telescope is heavy and durable, which means it’ll remain stable even in strong wind on location but also makes it slightly more challenging to transport. A rechargeable lithium-iron (LiFePO4) gives up to 10 hours of continuous observing and is a welcome change to replacing AA batteries that feature in many other motorized telescopes.

Jason Parnell-Brookes
Freelance Contributor

Jason Parnell-Brookes is an award-winning photographer, educator and writer based in the UK. He won the Gold Prize award in the Nikon Photo Contest 2018/19 beating over 90,000 other entrants and was named Digital Photographer of the Year in 2014. Jason is a Masters graduate and has a wealth of academic and real-world experience in a variety of photographic disciplines from astrophotography and wildlife to fashion and portraiture. Now the Channel Editor for Cameras and Skywatching at Space.com he specialises in low light optics and camera systems as well as acting as a contributing writer for multiple reputed tech brands.