Best telescopes 2024: Beginner and advanced scopes for stars, galaxies and nebulas

The best telescopes reveal the wonders of the solar system and beyond, but the best ones don't come cheap. Before you delve deep into your pockets, you'll want to know what you're spending your money on.

Whether you want to see the craters of the lunar surface, spot the rings around Saturn or gaze deep into the Pinwheel galaxy, you'll need to know the strengths and weaknesses of each telescope depending on what you want to look at.

That's why we've covered a range of the very best telescopes to get you up and running with minimal set-up and fuss, from affordable, ready-to-go scopes for beginners to the most sophisticated professional-level scope that should last astronomy veterans for years to come. Our expert reviewers have thoroughly tested and reviewed the telescopes themselves so we can vouch for their quality and build.

But how do you know which telescope is right for you? Which accessories do you really need to achieve the best viewing quality? Whether you need a travel-friendly telescope, want to share a table-top model for use with the kids or fancy investing in one of the best computerized catadioptrics you can buy — we have you covered.

But you can also observe your favorite stars and galaxies with the best binoculars for stargazing and capture stunning cosmological images with one of the best cameras for astrophotography too.

The quick list

Best telescopes we recommend in 2024

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Best telescope overall

Best overall: 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 (10.88kg)
Mount type: Computerized Alt-azimuth

Reasons to buy

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

Reasons to avoid

-
Quite expensive
-
Motorized mount isn’t for everyone
Buy it if:

✅ You want a long-term investment: This is a telescope that will last you for decades.

✅ You want to see planets and deep space: While some telescopes are better for viewing either deep space or planets, this one is great for everything.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're a beginner: It's probably a little advanced for beginner astronomers at first.

❌ You want something rechargeable: It uses 8 x AA batteries to work which could get expensive — you could always invest in rechargeable batteries though.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron NexStar 8SE: Legendary astronomy performance in a neat little package, the Celestron NexStar 8SE Computerized Telescope gives ultra-bright, clear views of the universe. ★★★★½

Back in the 1980s Celestron made big waves among astronomers with their orange-tubed Schmidt-Cassegrains and, 40-something years on, this line is still fantastic value and gives superb optical performance.

Superbly sharp and bright thanks to the 8-inch aperture and powerful with a focal length of 2032mm, the NexStar 8SE sits atop a strong, sturdy motorized single fork arm mount which can be controlled via either the hand controller or through a computer by use of its ethernet connection.

This is our favorite of all telescopes due to its compact catadioptric design which combines technology from refractors and reflectors to deliver a powerful view of the cosmos at a fraction of the weight and size, as we mentioned in our Celestron NexStar 8SE review.

It's great for upgrading too, with serious astronomers able to go their whole skywatching lives with just this telescope provided they invest in some tasty accessories. Most will update certain items like image diagonals and seek out different eyepieces so a myriad of objects are easy to view and others will update the tripod, though the one that ships straight out of the box is certainly sturdy enough.

The 8SE requires a little more investment than others on this list though, so beginners may be put off but at this premium price, you get a premium product.

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AttributesNotes
DesignCompact and clutter free.
PerformanceStunning clarity thanks to excellent optical characteristics.
FunctionalityRequires 8 x AA batteries.

Best for beginners

Celestron Inspire 100AZ on a white background

The Celestron Inspire 100AZ is the best beginner refractor telescope. (Image credit: Celestron)

Celestron Inspire 100AZ

Best beginner refractor: 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 (9.07kg)
Mount type: Alt-azimuth

Reasons to buy

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

Reasons to avoid

-
Subtle false color issue
Buy it if

✅ You want to take photos on your smartphone: The lens cap turns into a smartphone holder so you can take astrophotos.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're an experienced astronomer: It's aimed more towards beginners, so it likely wouldn't be enough for more experienced users.

❌ You want to view deep-space objects: They lack the wow factor, it's better for lunar and planetary views.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron Inspire 100AZ: An ideal telescope for budding astronomers — it's easy to set up and take down, and has everything you need to get started. ★★★★

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. We were impressed with it when we reviewed the Celestron Inspire 100AZ over on our sister site.

It's 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. Also included in the package is a red LED flashlight to aid set up at night and protect night vision.

Cleverly, Celestron has even included an integrated smartphone adapter that users can make with the dust cap so that astronomers can use the Celestron app to help guide them to nearby constellations and deep sky objects if they are not already familiar with the night sky.

While this refractor is a budget-friendly option, it does come with glass that produces slight false color issues, so it may not quite suffice for more advanced users, but it shouldn’t be an issue for beginners.

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AttributesNotes
DesignLightweight but not particularly compact.
PerformanceExcels with lunar views, not so much with deep sky objects.
FunctionalityEasy set-up and take-down.

Best advanced telescope

Celestron NexStar Evolution 9.25 telescope

The Celestron NexStar Evolution 9.25 is the best telescope for advanced astronomers. (Image credit: Celestron)

Celestron NexStar Evolution 9.25

Best for advanced astronomers: 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: 13mm, 40mm
Total kit weight: 62.60 lbs (28.39kg)
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
-
Not the cheapest telescope in this roundup
Buy it if

✅ You want GoTo technology: This is an outstanding GoTo telescope.

✅ You want an all-rounder: It's excellent for viewing planets, galaxies and nebulas.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want something lightweight: It's quite heavy and bulky, so not the most portable.

❌ You're a beginner: It's very advanced and likely too expensive for beginners.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron NexStar Evolution 9.25: More suited to passionate and advanced skywatchers, this impressive GoTo scope can give a comprehensive tour of the universe. ★★★★½

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

Its 9.25-inch aperture drinks in the dim, distant starlight and combined with its 2350mm focal length will make short work of even the smallest deep sky objects, provided the correct eyepiece is used. It excels at viewing various night sky objects, from planets to deep-sky nebulas and galaxies — it's a fantastic all-rounder. It's also great for long-exposure astrophotography, too.

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 that also makes it slightly more challenging to transport. 

A rechargeable lithium-ion (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.

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AttributesNotes
DesignBulkier and heavier than other models.
PerformanceCrisp, clear views.
FunctionalityRechargeable and gives 10 hours of continuous observing.

Best affordable computerized telescope

Best affordable computerized telescope: 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 (7.25kg)
Mount type: Computerized Alt-azimuth

Reasons to buy

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

Reasons to avoid

-
Only operable via smartphone
Buy it if

✅ You want something lightweight and easily portable: Weighing 16 lbs (7.25 kg), it's easy to transport to dark sky locations.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're an experienced astronomer: This telescope is more suited to beginners and enthusiasts.

You want excellent optics and build quality: We noted that the optical quality wasn't the best, and the tripod was a little flimsy.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron Astro Fi 102: A no-frills telescope best suited toward lunar and planetary observing. The motorized mount may take some time for beginners to get set up but it comes in at a reasonable price offering fair views of the night sky. ★★★½

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 an app on a smart device that can be conveniently strapped to the integrated smartphone holder on the dust cap of the telescope. We found the simple design easy to use during our Celestron Astro Fi 102 review.

Then it's just a case of tapping into the app to decide which celestial object should be viewed and the telescope will automatically slew to the target using an in-built motor in the fork arm mount.

The Astro Fi 102 comes with everything an astronomer needs to get started. 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 also compatible with iPad, iPhone and Android devices.

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AttributesNotes
DesignLightweight, but build quality isn't great.
PerformanceFair views in the center of the image circle.
FunctionalitySimple controls make it a dream to use.

Best mid-range telescope

Celestron AstroMaster 130EQ telescope

The Celestron AstroMaster 130EQ is the best mid-range telescope. (Image credit: Celestron)

Celestron AstroMaster 130EQ

Best mid-range telescope: 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 (12kg) 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
Buy it if

✅ You want to take long exposure images: The motor can track the Earth's movement to take multiple long exposure images to stack.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're a beginner: Although the price is beginner-friendly, the mount is not.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron AstroMaster 130EQ: Ideal for intermediate users, the equatorial mount enables you to take multiple long-exposure images for beautiful astrophotographs.

This Newtonian reflector is the right telescope for astronomers who desire clear views of the night sky and have used a few telescopes before. 

This reflector ships with a more accurate equatorial mount which utilizes counterweights for steadier and more precise views. Because of this, it's not necessarily suitable for beginners, though those with the tenacity will enjoy it once mastered. Once set up though, the motor is superb for tracking celestial objects as the earth rotates through the night. 

With a camera adapter, this makes it easy to take long exposure images of the night sky. By tracking a subject with the 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.

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AttributesNotes
DesignSturdy steel tripod with accessory tray.
PerformanceMotor is superb for tracking celestial objects.
FunctionalityWide 130mm aperture.

Best premium smart telescope

Best premium smart telescope: 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

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

Reasons to avoid

-
Very high price point
-
Only 7.7MP stills photos
Buy it if

✅ You want simplicity: With a sleek, premium design, easy to use app and just a single button to press on the scope itself, you can't go wrong.

✅ You like tech: Smart telescopes are full of impressive tech to play around with.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You don't have a big budget: It's particularly expensive, even for a smart telescope.

You're more traditional: Purists may miss using an eyepiece, changing mounts or adding a Barlow lens.

The bottom line

🔎 Unistellar eVscope 2: Unistellar has clearly gone over each tiny aspect of the eVscope 2’s design and every inch feels and looks premium.  ★★★★½

This beautiful-looking telescope from Unistellar is the second in the eVscope line and comes with a boost in specifications and function. A futuristic telescope for the digital age — this is a smart telescope. Everything on it is automatic, from set-up to imaging and anyone can use it because it requires no prior knowledge of the constellations or any part of the night sky. We were incredibly impressed with it during our Unistellar eVscope 2 review.

Most smart telescopes have a drawback for traditional astronomers who prefer using an eyepiece because they don't have one, instead, the telescope is viewed through a smartphone or tablet via an app. However, this wonderful-looking telescope 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) making 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.

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AttributesNotes
DesignUnique, minimalist design good for all astronomers.
PerformanceManual telescope control via the app is speedy.
FunctionalityEasy to set up and carry.

Best for intermediates

Orion StarBlast II 4.5 EQ on a white background

The Orion StarBlast II 4.5 EQ is the best intermediate reflector telescope. (Image credit: Orion)

Orion StarBlast II 4.5 EQ

Best intermediate reflector: 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" (114.3mm)
Focal length: 17.72" (450mm)
Focal ratio: f/4
Eyepiece/s: 10mm, 25mm and 2x Barlow lens
Total kit weight: 20.72 lbs (9.4kg)
Mount type: Equatorial

Reasons to buy

+
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
-
Tripod is a little flimsy
Buy it if

✅ You want a good all-rounder: It produces good views of the moon, planets and galaxy clusters.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're a beginner: Beginners may struggle with the mount if they aren't familiar with EQ mounts.

The bottom line

🔎 Orion StarBlast II 4.5 EQ: For generalist observations at an affordable price, this is a good option to go for. It's not perfect, but it produces decent views of the moon, planets and galaxy clusters. ★★★★

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 when you persevere.

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. 

That said, it's worth bearing in mind the highest maximum magnification capabilities of this telescope to avoid being disappointed by poor views. 

Inside the box, astronomers will also discover an EZ Finder II reflex sight, a tripod and a MoonMap 260 to aid you through your first observations.

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AttributesNotes
DesignTripod is a little flimsy.
PerformanceGood for generalist observations.
FunctionalityBeginners may struggle with the EQ mount.

Best budget smart telescope

Best budget smart telescope: Scoring an impressive 5 out of 5 stars from us, the Vaonis Vespera II is an incredible smart telescope for a budget-friendly price.

Specifications

Optical design: Refractor
Aperture: 2-inches (50mm)
Focal length: 250mm
Focal ratio: f/5
Eyepiece/s: N/A
Total kit weight: 12.96 lbs (5.87kg)
Mount type: Computerized GoTo altazimuth