5 Best Dobsonian Telescopes: Reviews and Buyers Guide

Orion 10020 SkyQuest XT12i IntelliScope Dobsonian Telescope
Best Overall
Orion 10020 SkyQuest XT12i IntelliScope Dobsonian Telescope
9.7

FEATURES: 12” aperture, automatic object finder, 2” Crayford focuser and two Sirrius Plossl 1.25” eyepieces

BENEFITS

  • 12” pyrex parabolic mirror takes in up to 44% more light than standard 10” optics
  • Tactile rubber grips feel great and allow precision
  • Computerized object finder for easy object acquisition
Zhumell Z12 Deluxe Dobsonian Reflector Telescope
Runner Up
Zhumell Z12 Deluxe Dobsonian Reflector Telescope
9.3

FEATURES: 12” parabolic primary mirror, cooling system, 2” Crayford focuser, and two fully coated 1.25” eyepieces

BENEFITS

  • 12” parabolic primary mirror that allows ideal lighting to filter through
  • Cooling system to provide bright and crisp images
  • Right-angle finder scope that is ergonomically positioned to avoid neck strain
Orion 10014 SkyQuest XT 4.5 Classic Dobsonian Telescope
Best for Beginners
Orion 10014 SkyQuest XT 4.5 Classic Dobsonian Telescope
8.5

FEATURES: 4.5” aperture, 900mm focal length, 1.25" rack and pinion focuser, and two Sirius Plossl eyepieces (25mm and 10mm focal length)

BENEFITS

  • 4.5” aperture captures granular details of planet surfaces, bright nebulas and galaxies
  • Reflector optical is effortlessly maneuverable through a handy navigation knob
  • Compact and lightweight which makes it perfect for travelling
Apertura AD8 Reflector Dobsonian Telescope
All Rounder
Apertura AD8 Reflector Dobsonian Telescope
9.2

FEATURES: 8” aperture, 1250mm focal length, dual-speed Crayford-style focuser, and two fully multi-coated eyepieces (2” 30mm and 1.25” 9mm)

BENEFITS

  • Large 8" aperture allows for strong mid range light collection
  • Easy hand adjustable balancing mechanism for rebalancing scope with accessories
  • Roller bearings used on the azimuth axis for smooth control when slewing and hand tracking
Sky-Watcher 8” Classic 200 Dobsonian Telescope
Good Mid Range
Sky-Watcher 8” Classic 200 Dobsonian Telescope
8.9

FEATURES: 8” aperture, 1200mm focal length, 2" Crayford-style focuser with a 1.25" adapter, and two super wide-angle eyepieces (25mm and 10mm)

BENEFITS

  • 8'' aperture provides ultra-bright, high definition images of distant luminaries and planet surfaces
  • 45lbs weight allows for optimal portability
  • Patented handles allow for ideal maneuverability and handling 

Dobsonian telescopes are the ultimate tools for observing the vast scintillating unknown.

They provide you with far greater apertures than your typical telescope, giving you brighter, clearer views of deep space objects, sating your innate astral curiosities in ways that you never thought possible.

So, if that all sounds good to you, fantastic, you’re in the right place. We’ve flipped the game and put Dobsonians under the scope, rating and reviewing five of the very best you can buy at the minute.

We’ve even compiled an in-depth buyer’s guide to the galaxy and FAQ section so, though you may have burning questions about the universe, you won’t have any about your telescope.

Stars Dying as We Speak?

Don’t worry, planet peeper. The stars may be lightyears away, but our top pick is right here!

Our Best Dobsonian Telescope Reviews

Best Overall
9.7/10Our Score

FEATURES: 12” aperture, automatic object finder, 2” Crayford focuser and two Sirrius Plossl 1.25” eyepieces

BENEFITS

  • 12” pyrex parabolic mirror takes in up to 44% more light than standard 10” optics
  • Tactile rubber grips feel great and allow precision
  • Computerized object finder for easy object acquisition

Rather than have you peer into the infinite blackness of space, scribbling down coordinates only to land on more adamantine darkness, our top pick comes with a computerized object finder that plugs into the base and guides you to over 14000 astral treasures.

Imagine being able to dart from celestial to celestial with the simple press of a button or two.

A greedy 12” pyrex parabolic mirror gobbles up 44% more light than standard 10” optics and a whopping 126% more than 8” mirrors. Even those well acquainted with – dare we say…bored of – the stars, will be witnessing them as if for the first time.

The XT12i, thanks to an open ventilation aluminum mirror cell with extra mounting holes, has the facilities to take on an extra cooling system which will sharpen images to an even more impressive degree.

You’re not only getting an otherworldly visual experience with this SkyQuest beauty; it’s also one of the nicest feeling telescopes to use.

The perfectly engineered metal focusing knobs have rubber grips providing lush tactility, and an ergonomic thumb screw allows you to lock focus and tension.

With a detachable 50lbs, 4’10” optical tube, and a 30” x 26” base, this star snooper is huge but not unmanageable.

Anyone individual with reasonable, average strength should be able to man the helm with relative ease, and thanks to a built-in handle on the optics tube, transport isn’t too difficult either.

Pros

  • A huge 12” aperture captures massive amounts of light for bright, crisp imaging.
  • Automatic object finder helps you locate over 14000 celestial bodies
  • Tactile rubber grips feel great and allow precision
  • Thumbscrew lets you lock setting easily
  • Optics scope with handle uncouples from base for portability
  • Space to fit cooling system
  • Comes with 2” Crayford focuser and two Sirrius Plossl 1.25” eyepieces among other things

Cons

  • This thing is huge
  • It may be a little expensive for a lot of amateur enthusiasts
Runner Up
9.3/10Our Score

FEATURES: 12” parabolic primary mirror, cooling system, 2” Crayford focuser, and two fully coated 1.25” eyepieces

BENEFITS

  • 12” parabolic primary mirror that allows ideal lighting to filter through
  • Cooling system that provide bright and crisp images
  • Right-angle finder scope that is ergonomically positioned to avoid neck strain

Our next Dobsonian dream through which nebulae are practically your neighbors is the perfect starter scope for someone with a large budget.

Much like our champion telescope, the Z12 has a 12” parabolic primary mirror that soaks up light like a sponge, allowing you to get really up close and personal with all those twinkly little things up there at night.

Two fully coated eyepieces are included in the purchase. The 2” wide field lens is really impressive for a factory eyepiece.

The 1.25” eyepiece for greater magnifications isn’t that amazing, so if you want to get the most out of the Z12, an upgrade is definitely on the cards on that front.

What is incredible about the Z12 is that it comes with its own cooling system locked and loaded which means images are going to be really bright and crisp.

Another treat you’ll find in the box is a laser collimator which is a device used to align all the optical mechanisms in your scope. They’re not particularly expensive to buy separately, but it’s a thoughtful touch from Zhumell.

Once again, the scope uncouples from the base so you can wrestle it into your car and head for your favorite stargazing points to gawp for hours into the glittering black wash.

It also comes with a neck-friendly right-angle finder scope and the same Crawford precision focuser as our top pick

Pros

  • 12” aperture makes it more of a light shed than a light bucket
  • Comes with a cooling fan
  • Laser collimator included
  • Neck-kind right-angle finderscope
  • Comes with a fantastic Crawford focuser and two eyepieces
  • Assembly is really easy

Cons

  • Also massive. Weighs roughly 75lbs
  • This is a pricey Dob
  • Lining spotting scope crosshairs with the main image can be quite difficult at first
Best for Beginners
8.5/10Our Score

FEATURES: 4.5” aperture, 900mm focal length, 1.25" rack and pinion focuser, and two Sirius Plossl eyepieces (25mm and 10mm focal length)

BENEFITS

  • 4.5” aperture captures granular details of planet surfaces, bright nebulas and galaxies
  • Reflector optical is effortlessly maneuverable through a handy navigation knob
  • Compact and lightweight which makes it perfect for travelling

Bringing the moon to your doorstep, at our number three spot, is a much smaller Dob, perfect for those who crave breathtaking views of outer space despite their limited storage space.

With a 4.5” aperture and 900mm focal length, you’re not going to be able to peer quite as far into the abyss as with our top two picks, but thanks to the durable Teflon bearings, you still have a smooth and enjoyable ride through the cosmos.

4.5” may seem infinitesimal compared to 12”, but you can still expect to glass pretty granular detail of planet surfaces, galaxy and nebula haze, and the moons and large cloud belts of Jupiter.

That said, This is a very affordable scope, and as such, some components aren’t exactly top of the line. The one to be most concerned about is the spherical mirror. Images may suffer slightly from spherical aberration.

Assembly should take roughly 30 minutes. You have to put the base together yourself, but thanks to some very thoughtful and intuitive instructions, it’s no problem at all.

In total, you’re looking at a minuscule 22lbs assembled weight which is a featherweight in Dob terms. So, if you plan to take your telescope on many a trip, the XT 4.5 may be the back-saver you’ve been praying for. Just remember to take a fold-out chair because the eyepiece is only 3 feet from the floor.

Pros

  • Super affordable
  • Comes with two fairly decent eyepieces
  • Very small for a Dob
  • 4.5” aperture gives you great views of loads of celestial objects
  • Only weighs 22lbs
  • Easy to assemble
  • Great instructions
  • Teflon bearings keep movement incredibly smooth

Cons

  • The spherical mirror may cause aberration
  • The plastic focuser isn’t very tactile
  • The eyepiece is only around 3 feet from the ground
  • You may outgrow this pretty fast
Top Pick
9.2/10Our Score

Features:

  • Large 8" aperture allows for strong mid range light collection
  • Easy hand adjustable balancing mechanism for rebalancing scope with accessories
  • Roller bearings used on the azimuth axis for smooth control when slewing and hand tracking

We found the Apertura AD8 to be the perfect balance of both light collection and manoeuvrability not often seen at this price point.

 

*The Apertura AD8 can only be purchased from the manufacturer Highpoint Scientific, however comes with a 2 year transferable warranty*

Giving your eyes the power to see deep into the stark blackness of space, at our penultimate spot is another awesome Apertura telescope.

The 8” aperture will provide only half the resolution a 12” would, but it’s a parabolic mirror, so it’s perfectly capable of gathering enough light to see distant star clusters, Jupiter’s cloud bands, and the moon like you’ve never witnessed it before. Saturn is a little blurry but defined enough to appreciate.

The mirror cell is supported by springs that are strong enough on their own, but the springs themselves are backed up with mirror locks just in case. All in all, it’s an incredibly durable telescope, perfect for camping trips and star parties.

Though it’s a medium-sized Dob scope, at 24lbs, it’s still pretty heavy, but the quality is unmatched at this price point. The dual-speed Crayford-style focuser makes for amazing precision, and the bearings keep slewing silky smooth.

Moreover, the low profile altitude tensioning knobs can be moved along the optical tube for optimal weight distribution and ease of use.

The AD8 comes with the standard eyepieces for a Dob, a super wide-angle 30mm, and a 9mm for extra magnification.

These are very similar if not the same as the ones that come with the Z12, but with an 8” aperture, it’s not as essential to replace the 9mm. Much like its bigger sibling, the AD8 comes with a cooling system, and a laser collimator, for aligning the sights.

Pros

  • Factory eyepieces are fully coated and very clear
  • Comes with a laser collimator
  • Fairly portable
  • Dual supported mirror cell
  • The focuser is well designed and precise
  • Durable construction

Cons

  • Quite pricey for an 8” aperture Dob

Click here to read our full review of the Apertura AD8

Good Mid Range
8/10Our Score

FEATURES: 8” aperture, 1200mm focal length, 2" Crayford-style focuser with a 1.25" adapter, and two super wide-angle eyepieces (25mm and 10mm)

BENEFITS

  • 8'' aperture provides ultra-bright, high definition images of distant luminaries and planet surfaces
  • 45lbs weight allows for optimal portability
  • Patented handles allow for ideal maneuverability and handling 

Bringing that wash of stars down low enough to knock your head on, in our final spot is a scope perfect for those with smaller budgets and large curiosities.

With an 8 ” aperture, this thing eats light up, giving you ultra-bright, high definition images of those distant luminaries, and the multi-coated borosilicate mirrors sharpen things up to an astounding degree.

The proprietary Teflon bearings don’t provide as smooth azimuth movement as, say, the Zhummell, and the lock needs to be extra tight to prevent dipping, but these are small practical prices to pay for the exquisite imagery.

You’re looking at 45lbs fully assembled with the Sky-Watcher, which is perfect for portability. It’s still pretty large, but separating the scope from the base, you shouldn’t have any problem lugging it around.

Included with purchase is a 2” Crawford-like focuser with a 1 ¼ “ adapter and two wide-angle eyepieces, the smallest of which has a base with T2 threads for attaching a camera for some astrophotography.

Both of these eyepieces are proficient, but an upgrade will optimize your viewing experience.

Pros

  • A fairly large 8” aperture collects lots of light
  • Mirrors are fully coated to prevent reflection
  • Exists at an intersection between power and portability
  • Comes with a decent focuser
  • Includes two eyepieces
  • The smaller eyepiece has threads for camera attachment

Cons

  • Still quite expensive
  • Movement isn’t as smooth

There you have it, galaxy gawpers, five of the most impressive pieces of Dobsonian telescopic engineering available.

Any of these Dobs would make an epic addition to your star snooping arsenal, bringing the wonders of the galaxy down to eye level. We’re confident that at least one of our top five super telescopes will be right for you.

Astronomy isn’t the cheapest hobby in the world, but it’s certainly one of the most rewarding.

Go on, treat yourself. Get cheek to cheek with the stars and up to your knees in nebulae. Put your pupils on some planets. You won’t regret it. That’s a promise!

Happy viewing, eystronauts. Now check the suggested products against the advice in the buyer’s guide below before rounding off any queries in our extensives FAQ section to finish;

Comparison Table

Orion 10020 SkyQuest XT12i IntelliScope Dobsonian Telescope
Zhumell Z12 Deluxe Dobsonian Reflector Telescope
Orion 10014 SkyQuest XT 4.5 Classic Dobsonian Telescope
Apertura AD8 Reflector Dobsonian Telescope
Sky-Watcher 8” Classic 200 Dobsonian Telescope
Product Title
Product Title
Orion 10020 SkyQuest XT12i IntelliScope Dobsonian Telescope
Zhumell Z12 Deluxe Dobsonian Reflector Telescope
Orion 10014 SkyQuest XT 4.5 Classic Dobsonian Telescope
Apertura AD8 Reflector Dobsonian Telescope
Sky-Watcher 8” Classic 200 Dobsonian Telescope
Scope Design
Scope Design
Reflector
Newtonian Reflector
Reflector
Newtonian Reflector
Newtonian Reflector
Focal Ratio
Focal Ratio
f/4.9
f/4.9
f/7.9
f/5.9
f/5.9
Focal Length
Focal Length
1500mm
1500mm
900mm
1200mm
1200mm
Focuser
Focuser
2" Crayford
2" Crayford
1.25" Rack-and-pinion
2" Crayford
2" Crayford
Resolving Power (Rayleigh)
Resolving Power (Rayleigh)
0.38
-
1.02
0.6
0.69
Length of Optical Tube
Length of Optical Tube
58.3 in
-
35 in
46.13 in
43 in
Weight Fully Assembled
Weight Fully Assembled
83 lbs
75 lbs
17.6 lbs
52.2 lbs
45 lbs
Limiting Stellar Magnitude
Limiting Stellar Magnitude
15.1
14.9
12.9
14
14.2
Mount Type
Mount Type
Dobsonian
Dobsonian
Dobsonian
Dobsonian
Dobsonian

Buyer’s Guide

We know, we know…you’ve got some hungry eyes there just itching to get their fill of our solar system, but before you blast off into space, there are a few important things to consider.

With so many telescopes available on the market, it’s important to invest in the right kind of telescope to ensure that you are getting those high-quality deep space images.

With telescopes varying in terms of their distant limit and image quality, you want to ensure that you are investing in a product that is going to give you or the recipient many years of use with little problem.

When looking at which telescope is the best one to purchase, there are some things you need to consider before making that final decision. When researching, always think about who the telescope is for, the magnification, features, and the budget.

Considering these aspects will give you a fully rounded view of what the telescopes have to offer and see how that fits what you are looking for before making up your mind.

First of all, it’s good to have a basic understanding of the different kinds of telescopes: what they’re good at, what they’re not so good at, pricing etcetera.

The two main categories are reflector and refractor telescopes, but Dobsonian is a subset of reflectors that you should know about too, especially in case of this article so you can compare between the available options;

Reflector

Regular reflectors are known as Newtonian telescopes. They’re the most commonly available kind of scope because of their cost-effectiveness, ease of use, and quality. They use a primary and secondary mirror to reflect light and create the images.

Reflector telescopes are fantastic because they’re basically light sponges. They soak it all up and provide you with incredibly bright images even through the black depths of deep space.

It’s not all good news, though. Normally open telescopes, meaning their mirrors are somewhat exposed, reflectors require a lot more maintenance than refractors. You’ll need to clean the mirrors semi-frequently to maintain optimal image quality.

You also have to collimate reflector scopes before each star spying session. Collimation basically involves lining all the optics up into a unified central position.

Dobsonian

Dobsonian telescopes or Dobs are essentially massive reflector-style scopes that mount to a large base rather than a tripod. They’re often referred to as light buckets because they come with insanely large apertures.

Common mirror sizes include 8, 10, and 12 inches. Due to these enormous apertures, they can carry quite the price tag, but they’re actually great value for money, relatively speaking. For instance, a refractor telescope with the same aperture as a Dob would cost far more.

Refractor

Refractors or Keplerian telescopes have that classic design that normally comes to mind when you think about telescopes. They tend to provide more stable optics than reflectors, but they don’t have as impressive light soaking qualities, leading to dimmer images.

Refractors are known for their pristine contrast and acuity, making them ideal for astrophotography with phones and cameras, but they’re much more susceptible to chromatic aberrations.

Who is it for?

Think about who will be using the telescope. Whether it is for yourself or will be a gift for someone, you need to ensure that the recipient will be able to easily use the telescope.

As you can see from our recommendations, there are some telescopes that are perfect for children and first-time users thanks to their ease of use and simple set up whereas more experienced astronomers may wish to opt for a computerized or more technologically advanced telescope that has features where they can incorporate smartphone usage as well as more intense magnification.

Beginner telescopes that allow you to see in deep space are best for children because they’re not as intense or difficult to use and can be relied upon to keep your child safe thanks to their design and structure.

Budget

Dobsonian telescopes are massive bits of star-gazing gear that can carry pretty hefty price tags. Giving yourself a budget will help to keep you grounded during your search and will lead you to the correct area of the market.

What you should expect to spend depends mostly on the size of the Dob, but the quality of components also has a huge impact on the price. For a 12” aperture Dob, we’d suggest putting aside at least $1300.

For a quality 8” scope, saving $800 to $1100 should see you through. For anything less, $300 to $800 should suffice.

Telescopes can run up to really high prices the more advanced the technology gets.

However, with the technology becoming more accessible, there are some great quality telescopes available on the market that don’t break the bank.

As you can see from our recommendations, there is a mix between high-end models as well as fantastic quality models that cater to those on a tighter budget.

The latter may not come with the bells and whistles that the more expensive models do but they are equipped with the magnification lens needed to have those initial adventures into exploring deep space and neighboring galaxies.

Whoever you are buying for and whatever their ability, there are plenty of telescopes for any budget available that will give you high-quality images whilst not compromising the safety of the user.

Telescopes retail at varying prices with some that retail within an affordable price range and others that are more expensive. The price that you pay for your telescope is going to be dependent on the budget that you have available.

While some may wish to invest in a high-end telescope, others may be on the search for a more affordable option.

If you are new to using a Telescope you may wish to opt for a cheaper model to familiarize yourself with how it works before progressing onto a more advanced option.

Size and Weight

Being that these telescopes can be dinosaurians in scale, it’s a good idea to think practically about their size and weight. It’s no good buying one you couldn’t in a million lifetimes pick up or store.

If portability is important to you, say, you want to take it out of the city to special dark sky locations, we’d recommend choosing an 8” aperture telescope, especially if you’re a solo stargazer. 8” Dobs can weigh anywhere between 40 and 60lbs when fully assembled, but split between base and scope, most should be able to handle it.

If you want the best possible Dob going, 12” apertures are the ones for you, but we recommend having a bit of help for setting up as they can run close to 90lbs.

Maksutov Cassegrain Telescopes are known for being smaller in size when compared to their larger counterparts, however, you will still find some that are smaller than others. The size and weight of the telescope are going to determine how easy it is to handle too.

Focal Ratio

Focal ratio, often printed as f/number or f/ratio, primarily refers to the relationship between aperture and focal length and has implications about magnification.

To find the focal ratio, simply divide the focal length by the aperture. Smaller ratios typically produce images with less clarity.

Focal ratio is a more holistic representation of a telescope’s overall performance. It describes the relationship between focal length and aperture. To find it, simply divide the aperture by the focal length.

Typically, larger focal ratios mean higher-performing telescopes. You can expect sharper images and greater magnification.

Aperture

Aperture is one of the most important defining factors of a telescope. It’s a measurement of the primary lens or mirror and describes how much light the telescope collects.

Generally speaking, larger apertures mean more light, leading to a brighter, crisper picture. Aperture is the most important factor to consider when buying a telescope for astronomy.

It’s far more indicative of quality than magnification power. Aperture is the length of the diameter of the primary mirror or objective lens.

The larger the aperture, the more light it collects, and the brighter and clearer images will be. We’d recommend getting the most impressive aperture you can afford.

The specification of your telescope will state the focal length and aperture of the lens which will allow you to select the best lens for your needs. Those that provide you with a selection of lenses with different focal lengths and apertures allow you to vary the types of lenses that you use.

Most telescopes have an F/12 or F/15 measurement which delivers higher magnification and a narrow field of view.

Any budding astronaut will tell you that a telescope’s aperture is perhaps the most important feature. Essentially referring to the diameter of the scope’s lens, it determines how much light it is able to gather, and therefore overall image quality.

A broader aperture is better, as this can allow you to see much further away objects in clearer detail, though that isn’t to say a more narrow telescope wouldn’t also work. Light conditions are also important when it comes to the clarity of images.

Focal Length

Focal length is the distance from the center of the aperture to the eyepiece where images are displayed. Shorter focal lengths produce wider images which are ideal for reflector telescopes such as the ones on our list.

Focal length is measured in millimeters and describes the distance from the middle of the objective lens or primary mirror to the point where the image is presented.

Generally speaking, the shorter the focal length, the squatter the image you can see. This makes shorter lengths more suited to reflectors, Dobs especially, and longer lengths better for refractors.

Referring to the length of the scope overall, this measurement divided by the aperture will provide your f/ratio.

By performing this calculation, you’ll be able to work out what level of magnification a particular scope offers. For instance, a focal length of 120mm and an aperture of 30mm provide an f ratio of f/4, for a magnification of 40x.

The focal length essentially refers to the length of the telescope and is the measurement from the main optic to the final point in which the image is formed. The focal length also refers to the depth of the view. If a telescope has a shorter focal length it is going to deliver a wide field of view with the objects appearing smaller through the lens. Likewise, a telescope with a longer focal length is going to produce a larger image with more magnification.

Magnification

Magnification is another big consideration when it comes to buying telescopes. Generally speaking, the higher the focal ratio, the more powerful the magnification of scope will be.

A quality 12” Dob may be capable of 600X magnification, which is great for close by objects like the moon, but for distant objects such as Saturn or Jupiter, a lower magnification of around 200- 250 provides better contrast and a sharper image.

Magnification isn’t as important as you might think, especially when it comes to viewing very distant objects with clarity. A lesser magnification is often able to provide a smaller but more defined image as the further you zoom in, the harder it becomes for a telescope to focus.

Ironically, what high magnification settings are good for is observing close-by objects like the moon. You can hone right in on the granular textural details of the surface.

With deep space and nebulae so far away, simple telescopes will not give you access to view anything beyond the closest stars and planets. Therefore, eyepieces are essential to your deep space exploration.

These telescopes all come with the equipment needed to start your deep-space journey and allow you to have that crystal clear image whilst also providing protection for your eyes. Computerized telescopes will automatically locate and zoom into the galaxies for you from their databases.

However, manual telescopes that look into deep space are equipped with replaceable eyepieces depending on how intense you need for the magnification.

The majority of manual telescopes in our recommendations also come with a 3X Barlow lens which gives triple the magnified intensity and clarity so you will be able to create images that are highly detailed and clear.

Stella Magnitude

You may run across this term when shopping around for telescopes. It’s actually a measure of brightness emitted by a celestial body. The lower the number, the brighter it is.

So, if a telescope gives 14 as its stellar magnitude, it means stars and other celestials of 14 and below can be observed as long as they’re within its range. To put this stellar scale in context for you, a typical full moon measures around -12.6, and the north star is a +2.

Cooling

Cooling is an oft-forgotten aspect of astronomy. Telescopes need cooling systems because light travels differently through hot and cold temperatures.

Hot air has a different refractive power that disrupts light transmission, preventing the optics from sharpening focus.

The more powerful a telescope is, the more important cooling becomes. Some, like are magnificent Zhumell scopes, come with fans built-in. Others, like our top pick, have space for them to be installed. You can pick up a quality cooling fan separately for around $40.

Finder Scope

A finder scope is a smaller telescope mounted on the side of the main scope.

It offers a wider field of view for slewing (manual aiming), helping you find astral objects quicker. Some have crosshairs that help with precision aiming, but many enthusiasts prefer a clear view.

There are two main types of finder scope, regular, and right angle. Right angle ones allow you to look straight down into the eyepiece so you can use them comfortably at any height.

Standard scopes are straight requiring you to get directly behind them to look through the eyepiece. They’re not as comfortable but the eyepiece is protected from the weather.

Essentially a smaller scope mounted on top of your bigger one, these viewfinders will enable you to find the celestial object you’re looking for much quicker. Nowadays, these usually incorporate a ‘red dot’, beamed into space for easier navigation.

All you have to do is look through the finder and move the telescope itself until the red dot (or another finding tool) is aligned with the object you’re looking at. For the purposes of a sighting, you’ll want to keep both of your eyes open!

Mirror – Parabolic Vs Spherical

There’s no question here. Parabolic mirrors perform better than spherical mirrors. The reason for this is that parabolic mirrors have a singular focal point, meaning light that travels through it converges into a single point.

Spherical mirrors transfer light into many focal points which can lead to what’s known as spherical aberration, an irritating blur.

The problem is, parabolic mirror telescopes tend to cost quite a bit more, but if you want high def deep space quality, it’s 100% worth it. Telescopes are incredibly complex bits of gear.

If you’re completely new to optics, the confusion is inevitable, but stick with this buyer’s guide and we’ll have all the basics covered in no time.

Base

Unless you settle on a Dobsonian, there are a couple of different bases to consider. The most common stand for a telescope, especially refractors and most small reflectors, is a tripod.

Tripods are awesome bases because they’re lightweight, stable, portable, and can be adjusted to stand on uneven ground.

You may also come across tabletop bases. These are great for providing very smooth movement, but they rely on the stability of the table, are less portable, and need a completely flat surface.

Hyperbolic Vs Parabolic Vs Spherical

These are all different shapes of mirrors used in a reflector telescope. Hyperbolic is the best for directing light towards the eyepiece, but reflectors with this kind of mirror are rare and expensive.

Parabolic mirrors are amazing, more readily available, and direct light into a single focal point.

Spherical mirrors are the cheapest and easiest to produce. They file the light into multiple points which leads to dimmer images with a greater chance of distortion.

Eyepieces and Focusers

Most telescopes will come with two eyepieces and a focuser, but the quality of these factory components isn’t always top-notch, often not able to keep up with the abilities of the scopes themselves.

If you want to make separate purchases to improve scope, we recommend that you start with these components.

Features

For those who love to incorporate technology into their everyday lives, telescopes are great because there are so many that have wireless technology features such as remote controls that can magnify and detail certain aspects of the view according to your process.

Others can also connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth so you can print out your findings.

Once a simple instrument, telescopes have become more advanced since their inception and now have even more capabilities to allow you to explore the world around you. Other features that are important to look for are the simpler aspects such as the maneuvering rod and how easy that is to move.

That is important for beginners and children as you want to ensure that the telescope isn’t too difficult to use, especially if it is the first telescope.

Many brands provide you with additional accessories so that you are equipped with all that you require to begin using your telescope. This also helps to reduce your costs as you don’t need to make these purchases individually.

These accessories often include a selection of eyepieces, a tripod or mount, an erect image diagonal, and a carry case for safe storage and convenient transportation in between locations.

Tripod

Unless you’re sticking to handheld models only, you’re going to want to get a telescope with a dependable tripod. For those planning on intrepid exploration to get the best views, one that can stand up to the uneven ground is even better.

Don’t just trust the manufacturer when they tell you their tripod is solid or sturdy. Of course, they’re going to say that! Instead, consult the reviews from fellow customers in order to find out the true nature of its quality.

Portability

Again, those planning to stick to their backyards when stargazing don’t need to worry too much about this. It’s also worth mentioning that catadioptric scopes are also more lightweight by nature, as they consist of fewer parts and mechanisms.

However, you don’t want a telescope that’s impossible to transport, given that you may one day change your mind.

Particularly for beginners, try to stick to a model that’s easily carried from A to B, and if it comes with its own travel bag, even better!

The size of your telescope is going to affect how portable it is. If you are a keen astronomer your adventures may likely take you to different locations and for this reason, it is important to select a conveniently sized telescope that is easy to transport.

Many brands provide you with a carry case or storage bag which not only allows you to store your equipment safely but also ensures that it can be transported with ease in between locations.

The Build Quality

Your telescope should be constructed from high-quality materials that ensure that it is going to see you through many uses. If your telescope is made using poor quality materials it is likely to deteriorate at a more immediate pace.

Not only should it be constructed to withstand frequent use and regular handling, but it should also be made to withstand any harsh impact should it come into unexpected contact with the floor, etc.

The Optics

The optics refer to the mirrors and lenses inside the telescope. The optics can determine the quality of the image and the distance in which you can view different objects.

They also work to collect and focus the light through reflection to produce images with clear detail. The specifications of your telescope will state the quality of the optics.

Your Experience

Before selecting your telescope you will need to consider the experience and knowledge that you have of using a product of this kind. If you are a beginner, you will need to ensure that your chosen telescope suits your capabilities and isn’t too complex.

Some telescopes will be intended for use by children and adults and so they will conform to a simple design that allows you to use the telescope with ease. Others may be equipped with features that are a little more advanced.

If you select a telescope that is too complex for your knowledge you are likely to experience difficulties in using it.

Once you have familiarized yourself with using a telescope you may then wish to progress onto a more advanced option.

The Warranty

We would advise you to opt for a telescope that is covered by a warranty. This will ensure that you are covered if you are dissatisfied with the product that you receive or if you experience any issues regarding the functionality.

The length of the warranty is likely to differ between the brands and you will find some that offer longer warranties than others. Some brands also provide you with access to customer service support.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Dobsonian telescope good?

Yes, thanks to their large apertures Dobsonian telescopes are awesome for viewing objects in deep space.

They’re also great value for money as other kinds of telescopes with Dobsonian level apertures would cost far more than Dobs do.

What can you see with a 10” Dobsonian?

In good conditions with very dark skies, you should be able to see, well…everything. Most of the important celestial objects in our solar system will be visible to you.

You can see the planets, star clusters, nebulae, the moon (obviously), galaxies, asteroids, comets…if it’s up there, you’ll be able to see it.

What size telescope do you need to see Saturn’s rings?

You really don’t need much power to see Saturn’s rings. Even a relatively small scope set to 25X is powerful enough to see them, but for better viewing quality, we recommend a minimum 3” aperture and 50X magnification.

What should I look for when buying a telescope?

No matter what kind of telescope you’re looking at, the most important feature and the biggest indicator of quality is the aperture. For reflecting telescopes, the next most important thing is the mirror shape.

For both reflectors and refractors, you should then work out the focal ratio. After that comes magnification, portability, and special features.

What is the best telescope to buy for a beginner?

First and foremost, you’ll want to opt for a telescope with a decent amount, as even the most powerful models will fail to function if they’re wobbly and unstable. This is especially true for beginners, who have less experience in positioning and locating.

Additionally, picking out a scope that comes with a decent finder will help you to navigate the wonders of space more easily. Those equipped with a red dot sight are especially helpful for pinpointing even the blurriest of clusters and nebulae.

Be careful not to spend too much money straight away. As a novice, many of the technological features that higher-end telescopes come with will be useless to you, as you won’t be able to make use of them. A good quality, the average scope is best.

A cheap one will be best as you don’t know if they’re going to enjoy the experience.

It should be as easy to use as possible, perhaps augmented with computerized guidance systems or apps, and most of all, be loads of fun to use. Our fourth pick is one of the best entry-level scopes around.

What is the difference between Maksutov Cassegrain and Schmidt Cassegrain telescopes?

Whilst they work in the same way primarily, the main difference between Maksutov and Schmidt telescopes is the size of their corrector lens. This key piece, which is found in front of the secondary mirror, prevents the formation of aberrations.

In a Maksutov, you’ll typically see a thicker, spherical corrector lens, paired with an aluminum disc rather than a secondary mirror. Schmidt scopes tend to have thinner, more complexly designed corrector lenses, used with the mirror as standard.

Likewise, Schmidt-style telescopes will normally have a larger aperture (diameter of lens), whereas the Maksutov scopes employ a smaller, narrower design. Both, however, follow the same Cassegrain, catadioptric principles.

Which is best, reflecting or refracting telescopes?

The answer to this question depends on who you ask! When it comes to seeking out the deeper, darker reaches of space, it’s best to pick out a reflector, as these are better for checking out planets or closely examining the moon.

For picking up larger targets or multiple stars at once, say, a refractor is better, as they offer a much wider field of view in spite of their smaller apertures. Therefore, the best scope for you will depend on what you plan on looking at most frequently!

What size telescope do I need to see the flag on the moon?

A big one, like…a really, really big one. The flag is only 4 feet tall. To make that out, you’d need an optical wavelength telescope with a 200-meter diameter, which would be ludicrous.

Why can’t you see Neptune or Pluto without a telescope?

Neptune is further away than any of the other planets and thus appears quite dim, requiring a telescope and dark sky for location. Even Uranus can be hard to spot as its incandescence is similar to that of a normal star.

Pluto is even further away from us, and its surface area is only fractionally larger than Russia, so it’s impossible to see without a powerful telescope.

Can I see a nebula with a telescope?

To answer this simply: yes. As mentioned in the Buyers Guide above, it is all about the magnification lens that will enable you to be able to see neighboring Nebulae through your telescope.

The majority of our recommendations come with a 3X Barlow lens which is placed in front of your magnification lens meaning the intensity is tripled and clarified even more to give you those crystal clear images that you need whilst also ensuring the safety of your eyes.

Can I see other galaxies with a telescope?

Just like viewing Nebulae, you can also see neighboring galaxies for the exact same reasons as above.

It may seem tricky to get used to the intensity of the images at first but once you have used your telescope a couple of times, you’ll be used to the magnification and know how intense the lens should be when exploring other galaxies.

Why can’t you see color through a telescope?

You may be wondering why images through telescopes are showing as black and white. The simple answer is that the objects seen through telescopes aren’t bright enough to trigger cones meaning that light is only perceived by the rods hence the colorless view.

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