Best Telescopes for Viewing Planets and Galaxies
It goes without saying that many of us have always marveled at the idea of owning a telescope. We’ve dreamed of sailing through the deep sky, soaking in the beauty of the solar system and beyond. From watching comets, planets, constellations, nebulae, and galaxies.
Our obsession with star gazing is in-born. Since Childhood, we’ve always been delighted in stargazing. Usually, we’d gaze at the night sky out the backdoor, at the balcony, or laying on the grass. We ogled at the moon and stars for hours. We watched for shooting stars while holding on to our dear wishes.
Now that you are ready to own a telescope to explore the glamor of our solar system and the deep sky, we will help pick a budget-friendly telescope. Besides viewing star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies, you can even catch planet conjunctions. Like the Jupiter-Pluto conjunction. You will be able to view the different moons as they transit in front of planets.
In this buying guide, we’ll present you with the best telescopes in various prices ranges: from under $100 to $1000. By following our telescope reviews, you’ll be sure to get your money’s worth.
- Best Telescopes for Viewing Planets and Galaxies
- Best Telescope Under $100
- Best Telescope Under $300
- Best Telescope Under $500
- Best Telescope Under $1000
Best Telescope Under $100
Below the $100 price mark, the scopes you can grab are limited in what you can see. Still, supposing your goal is to view the moon, and you are on a tight budget, telescopes in this price range will please you.
Our first pick in this category is the Celestron 70mm travel scope with a Refractor mirror. This 70mm Travel Scope is one of the best starter telescopes for kids and amateurs.
As an entry-level telescope, you are limited to what you can see, and how clear unlike the clarity and diversity you would get with higher priced models.
While this scope cannot rival the telescopes we recommend below, it suits what it’s designed to do and is a great starter telescope for kids. It will not disappoint if your goal is to view the moon, hunting or bird watching.
With an aperture of 70mm on the objective lens (2.76”), the light gathering capability of this scope is low compared to standard models. Although a 700mm objective lens doesn’t give you rich planetary details, this scope is an upgrade from the 50mm model.
While it gathers lights up to optimal capabilities, you don’t get much detail. At that aperture size, it magnifies closer celestial objects like the moon and planets like Saturn and Jupiter. Bottom line: the image quality is decent considering how much you are spending on it.
On a clear night sky, you can view the bright craters of the moon or look at the Cassini Division along Saturn’s rings. Star clusters like the Pleiades and the Double Cluster are visible but not ultra clear. Should you point your scope at the Galaxy M51, you may get a faint smudge of it.
The Travel scope is designed with fully-coated glass to reduce chromatic aberrations. Also, you get two decent eyepieces, a 20mm glass and 10mm one. At 20x magnification with the 20mm eyepiece, you get fine clarity. When you switch to the 10mm eyepiece (40x), the view gets blurry.
Build quality and portability
Weighing at only 3.3 pounds, and designed from tough plastic housing, the Travel Scope frame is solid and lightweight. Its tube is not lengthy at 18 inches long. When assembled, the scope weighs around 4.2 pounds. Thus, you can move it from place to place with little hassle. Also, it comes with a padded backpack with enough room to fit other accessories.
Tripod and mount
The Travel Scope uses a manual Alt-Azimuth mount that rests on a 1.25” steel tripod. Although this tripod is adjustable, it is flimsy. You may want to switch to another sturdier tripod.
Assembling the Travel Scope is quite straightforward and you will have it ready for use within minutes.
A backpack, a tripod, two eye lenses (20mm and 10mm), and erect image diagonal.
Its finderscope is small, and its design is far from first-class but it works fine and as-intended.
-Lightweight and portable
-Ideal for beginners and kids
-Compatible with the “The Sky X” Astronomy software
-Comes with a padded backpack.
-Comes with two eyepieces
-Decent magnification for the price
|-Not suited for the avid stargazers who want details|
-No camera mount
Best Telescope Under $300
If you are willing to spend a little more than $300, our recommendations in the under $500 category are pleasantly just a tad above $300 and are much better value. However, If you have a strict budget, for under $300, we recommend the Orion SpaceProbe 130ST EQ model, the best starter telescope for teens.
The 130ST is our best pick under $300 for both beginner and intermediate sky watchers. This scope is an upgrade from the standard SpaceProbe 130ST.
A 5.1 inch aperture with ample lighting power, combined with a fast ratio (f/5) delivers wide-angle views. The wide field is suitable for capturing bright sky views.
Along with the telescope, you get two Sirius Plossl eyepieces (1.25 inches), a 25mm lens and 10mm one. The low magnification lens beams 26x magnification while the high-power eyepiece gives 65X. With a wide field of view (52 degrees), both eyepieces deliver high-contrast images.
The 130ST is fitted with a parabolic mirror. With a parabolic mirror, you get a crisper image compared to a spherical mirror. That’s because a parabolic mirror alleviates spherical aberration.
When viewing planetary objects, you get sharp images with distinct contrast. For instance, you will get to see Jupiter with its gas bands and moons. Saturn’s rings and its moons are also visible. The craters, ranges and texture scarring our moon are visible in detail.
Also, you can go on an astronomy tour by viewing galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae. With this scope, you can spot the Orion nebula, the Andromeda Galaxy, and the Pleiades.
Veteran astronomers seeking richer details when observing planets and galaxies may want to invest in a more pricey telescope, however.
Design and build quality
The construction of the 130ST is solid. Compared to the standard model, the ST (Short Tube) model has a compact design. Its optical tube measures 24-inches long while the optical tube for the standard model measures 33 inches.
While this scope is heavier compared to the Travel Scope 70mm above, it is still portable. You can take it with you to any stargazing spot you like as it weighs 27 pounds when assembled.
Since it comes with a base already assembled, you won’t struggle when setting up the StarBlaster 6. You only need to spare 20-30 minutes.
Tripod and mount
The 130ST uses an EQ mount, featuring dual settings and slow-motion hand controls. An adjustable height tripod, made of aluminum, holds the EQ mount in position.
As celestial objects transit through the sky, you can track them without making continuous adjustments, thanks to the EQ mount.
Without various accessories, your stargazing experience can feel incomplete. The 130ST comes with the following accessories:
- 1.25-inch rack and pinion focuser
- Tripod accessory tray for holding items like eyepieces and flashlights
- Collimation cap
- Starry Night Astronomy Software
- 6 x 30 Finderscope to help you locate objects in the night with less hassle
|-Portable and lightweight|
-Easy to assemble and use
-StarryNight SE Astronomy software
-Fast, wide-view (f/5)
-Suitable for beginner level
|-Unsuited for seasonal astronomers|
-The 20mm eyepiece is of inferior quality
-Using the dot finder can be a challenge
Best Telescope Under $500
Good news! Some of the best value telescopes in this price range are even under $400!
Hovering below this price range, is the all-round Dobsonian 8-inch S11610 from SkyWatcher. This scope relies on a reflective mirror to gather light.
The S11610 has a large aperture of size 8-inches (203mm). It gathers enormous light capacity, delivering crispier images compared to smaller-sized apertures.
A combination of multi-coated Reflective mirrors gives you thrilling views and enhanced images. Its primary mirror alleviates spherical aberration. In contrast, the secondary mirror system reduces diffraction and light loss.
The Dobsonian 8” wide field of view combined with the large aperture reveals the scenic beauty of the moon, its craters and mountain ranges. Also, you can view Jupiter’s gas bands in sharp, well-distributed color rendition. On a clear night sky, you will be able to view star clusters, nebulas and galaxies. For instance, you may spot the Orion Nebula, the Pleiades, Galaxy M101, and galaxy M51. Messier 81 and Messier 82 galaxies in Ursa Major and M83 and M74 in Messier Catalog are visible too.
While the scope’s main optics surpasses average, you may want to invest in superior lenses for clearer views. When combined with high-capable eyepieces, the 8-inch Dobsonian visibility is unmatched at this price range and even punches above its weight.
Design and portability
The traditional Dobsonian 8” is big, with a long tube and a heavy, stable base. It has a rigid frame, which seems to be designed from plastic melamine. Its optical tube (OTA) has a length of 43 inch. Its dobsonian cradle, weighing about 25 pounds, is wooden. When assembled, this beast weighs around 45 pounds. While bulkiness is a concern, the traditional Dobsonian 8” is collapsible. You can dissemble the scope if you want to move it.
A stable Alt-Az base holds the main body of the scope. This Dobson-style base helps keep the scope in a rock-ready position with minimal vibrations. Teflon bearings and built-in tension clutch (on altitude axis) enable smooth movement. The tension control handle lets you adjust the mount’s settings with minimal vibrations.
The traditional Dobsonian 8” uses a single-speed rack and pinion focuser to achieve precise, smooth focusing. This Crayford-style focuser accepts large 2” eyepieces. Also, you get a 1.25-2” adapter to use with common eyepieces.
While setting the Dobsonian 8” is not a daunting task, it may not be straightforward for the beginner astronomer.
The traditional 8-inch Dobsonian Telescope comes equipped with the following accessories:
- Two wide-angled eyepieces (25mm and 10mm)
- 9×50 finder scope
- 1 ¼-inch adapter
- 2-inch Crayford focuser
- 2-inch and 1.25-inch ep holders
|-Large aperture.· Easy to assemble and operate|
-An affordable starter or intermediate scope
-Detailed and straightforward instructions
-Need to dissemble to move it.
-Steep learning curve to master
-Not suitable for Astrophotography
Another best-value telescope within this price range is the Orion 6-inch Newtonian reflector. If you are hunting for a scope to take with you, away from the city, this one is a winner. It is best suited for the beginner or intermediate astronomer. At an aperture of F/5, it’s hard finding a decent Reflector or a Catadioptric telescope going for this price.
The StarBlast 6 telescope uses a parabolic mirror with an aperture size of 6 inches (150mm). At 6”-aperture, it has adequate light gathering, rendering great detail to celestial objects viewed. Boasting a fast focal ratio of f/5.9, you get a wide-field (up to 50 degrees) to observe the wonderful gems in the deep sky – star clusters, galaxies, and nebulas.
To bring the deep sky objects into view, the scope comes equipped with two Sirius Plossl 1.25” eyepieces – 25mm and 10mm. With the 25mm eyepiece, you get a 30x magnification while the 10mm eyepiece gives 75x magnification.
Both eyepieces produce spectacular images of the moon. Using either of the eyepieces, you’ll see the craters of the moon in fine detail. The landmarks and craters are as near as they can get with impressive clarity. The 25mm eyepiece brings out gorgeous views of the Double Cluster in Perseus, along with Orion Nebula’s glowing cloud.
Although you don’t get to see great planetary details, you will get a glimpse of how the planets look like. For instance, when viewing Jupiter using the 25mm eyepiece, its moons are visible but, that’s as much detail you will get.
Switching to the high-power lens gives brighter details. At least, you get to see the equatorial zone and belts around Jupiter and Saturn rings, too. The image details you get are far from Nasa’s shots but they are usable.
Build quality and portability
Featuring a classy, elegant design, the StarBlast 6” Reflector is a go-to telescope. The optical tube (designed from steel), and the wooden base have a stiff construction. Its optical tube length adds up to 28 inches while the base has a diameter of 17 inches. Still, it is not that gigantic. While it’s not a compact scope, it is a Grab-and Go on the move telescope. You can take it to the mountains or out in the backyard. When assembled, it weighs only 25 pounds.
A functional navigation knob fitted on the optical tube allows re-positioning and slewing the scope from target to target.
The StarBlast 6 Reflector uses a table-top Dobsonian base (Alt-Azimuth) without a tripod. If you are tall, you may have to place it on a table top or on top of a car trunk to track celestial objects. Its base uses an adjustable altitude tension and Teflon bearings, enhancing smooth maneuvering. Also, it has two handle grooves near the base, to make it easy to lift or move.
Setting up the scope
Assembling the scope is a one-man job, and it’s quite straightforward.
Accessories that come with this scope include:
- EZ Finder 11: Follow and track objects in the night sky
- Two Plossl eyepieces
- 3-eyepiece rack
- 1.25” rank and pinion focuser
- Starry Night software
|-Lightweight and Portable|
-Easy and quick to assemble
-Crisp planetary details
-Suited for both beginner and intermediate astronomers
-No spherical/chromatic aberrations
-Wide field of view (F/5.9)
-Red dot finder
-Enjoy a breathtaking experience stargazing at a great price
|-Requires careful and constant collimation|
-Uses a simple alt-az mount base
-Focal length not suitable for magnification beyond 75x
-Short optical tube
-Doesn’t come with a mount/tripod
-Lacks GPS and WIFI
Best Telescope Under $1000
They say the best telescope is the one you get to play with often. Some of the best models are under $1,000.
The SkyWatcher 100 APO is among the best telescopes you can have for under $1000. For a 100mm apochromatic scope, it’s a sweet deal.
The ProED 100 features a 100mm primary mirror, which is equal to an aperture size of 4-inches.
With a focal length of 900mm, and a focal ratio of f/9, the plain field of view is wide enough to track objects in the sky. The 100 APO Refractor telescope delivers high-contrast images and spectacular views of the night sky. Observed images have striking color rendition.
You will get to see clear, bright views, free from chromatic aberration. Thanks to a combination of lens systems, glass layers, and multiple coatings. It uses a doublet apochromatic lens system, Extra-layer Dispersion (ED) glass, plus Metallic High-Transmission Coatings (MCH).
While the ProED 80 gets praised for fast delivery of images, the ProED 100 shines in planetary visuals, moon views, and even DSO images.
When you buy it, you get two superior quality 1.25″ eyepieces Plssol (200mm vs. 5mm). Given the wide field on the eyepieces, they project the tiniest details of the moon. Also, the stars appear brilliant and the planets blink with detail.
It is hard to find a true APO that delivers superb imaging and distinct planetary detail for this price.
Build quality and portability
Like other astronomy gear from SkyWatcher, the 100 APO has rugged build quality. In length, the optical tube measures 41 inches.
When assembled, the scope weighs 14 pounds. Being a doublet, it is lighter compared to 120mm lens systems (triplets). If you wish to move it, it is flexible. Also, it comes with a sturdy, padded carrying case with aluminum coating.
Although it does not have a mount or a tripod, it comes with a Vixen-style dovetail saddle that holds either an alt-az or equatorial mount.
Since it is an Optical Tube Assembly (OTA) scope, it can serve versatile purposes. Apart from observing wide-field use, you can use it as a terrestrial spotting scope or as a telephoto lens. Also, you can use it as an astrograph for Sky Photography. If you’re looking for a telescope for astrophotography without shelling out big bucks, this is it.
While it is not a scope you can start using straight-out-of the box because of the built-design, assembling it is a quick job.
For an exciting experience, the scope comes with various accessories. Apart from the two eyepieces with a decent magnification, you also get:
- A large, 8 x 50 RA Viewfinder: The Crayford-style focuser (dual speed 2-inches), lets you perform precise, fine-focusing with less hassle. The focuser comes with a 1.25-inch adapter for mounting eyepieces and other accessories
- A 90-degree star diagonal (2-inch) with dielectric coatings. The dielectric diagonal only corrects images vertically
- Piggy-back camera mount (1/4-inches-20) for wide-field Astrophotography
- Two 1.25” eyepieces
- Padded carrying case
- Tube ring attachments (cast-aluminum)
|-100mm Apochromatic refractor|
-Superior build quality
-No Chromatic aberrations or color fringes
-Comes with all accessories
-Suitable for planetary viewing
-Comes with a padded, rigid casing
|-Does not come with a mount or tripod|
Second on our picks of telescopes under $1000 is the Schmidt-Cassegrain computerized scope (125mm). This beast boasts a 5-inch aperture and an optical tube with a 1250mm focal length (f/10).
For a 5-inch aperture, the primary mirror on this scope packs enough lighting to explore the deep sky. A 5-inch aperture, combined with long focal ratio 1250mm (focal ratio f/10) provides a narrow field of view. This focal length is best suited to observe the moon, planets, and double cluster stars. Also, it is neat when viewing deep sky objects.
StarBright XLT anti-reflective multi-coatings enhance light transmission for brighter views and images. Unlike most scopes, the 5SE comes with a single 1.25-inch Plossl eyepiece (25mm).
You may want to go for high-power lenses as the 25mm eyepiece projects a 50x magnification.
Even with 25mm eyepiece, you get to view Jupiter at up close range. You can even see its moons and the gas bands using the same eyepiece. Also, you get to see the dazzling craters of the moon, the rings around Saturn, and the Hercules Globular Cluster. Also visible are the Orion Nebula, the Whirlpool galaxy and the Andromeda galaxy.
Build quality and portability
The design quality of the NexStar 5SE is premium and user-friendly. It has a sturdy frame and mount, an elegant look, and it comes with the necessary accessories.
Its optical tube is not lengthy and by design, it is a lightweight telescope. In length, the optical tube has dimensions of 13”. As for bulkiness, this optical tube weighs 10 pounds without the tripod. Once assembled, the total weight adds up to 17.6 pounds.
While it is a big telescope, it is possible to move it when you dissemble it. Also, you get a well-built carrying case. Packing it for an outdoor trip should not give you a hard time.
Tripod & Mount
The 5SE optical tube combines with an Alt-Azimuth Mount (Single-Fork Motorized). This mount uses AA batteries (eight), which get depleted in no time. A better alternative is to use a 12-volt power supply when possible.
Thanks to the motorized go-to mount, you can use the Celestron SkyPortal App to automatically track celestial objects. All you have to do is align the scope and point to heavenly bodies to begin tracking objects.
Also, the 5SE has a built in equatorial wedge to transform the Alt-az base for long-exposure shots. Nonetheless, this wedge does not deliver fine adjustments. Also, you cannot adjust it in azimuth.
The 5SE comes with a well-built, adjustable tripod with stainless steel legs.
NexStar+ computer hand controller
This specific model uses a computerized hand-controller (NexStar+). The computerized hand controller helps to align and reposition the telescope during observation.
The Computer Controller includes a backlit, LCD display and red LED buttons (red). With this hardware, you can align your telescope with various objects in the sky. The computerized hand controller has a huge catalogue of celestial objects.
There is so much to experiment with the 5SE given the variety of accessories it comes with:
- A single 1.25” Plossl eyepiece (25mm)
- Star diagonal mirror (90 degrees)
- StarPoint Finder. Align and locate objects in the sky
- Accessory tray: It holds 2 x 1.25” eyepieces
- SkyPortal app: Track and find celestial objects using Wireless functionality
|-StarBright XLT optical coatings|
-Adjustable tripod height
-Decent size for portability
-Easy to set up
-Wireless control using SkyPortal App
|-Batteries drain quickly|
-Set up of time and date with every reboot
-Not suitable for deep space astrophotography