Astronomy is a hobby that more people should pursue. Sadly, many people think that it’s an incredibly pricy hobby. One that requires loads of money and loads of knowledge about the night sky to enjoy. The truth is that astronomy equipment doesn’t need to be expensive. You can find a variety of telescopes that work great and won’t burn a hole in your pocket. Today, we’re going to review the best telescope under 500 dollars. In this price range, you can get your hands on a pretty decent telescope. One that can produce stunningly good looking pictures of the planets and nearby celestial objects. With a bit of practice, you can even view deep space objects with some of these telescopes.
When people get into astronomy, they usually look for either of two things. Some people want a bare bones telescope that will give them a taste of star gazing. Others who are certain about their interest in astronomy look for equipment that will give them value and usability. An ideal telescope for people who go for the latter should be able to last for at least a couple of years. It should be easy to use so that you can learn the ropes of astronomy with it. However, it shouldn’t have limiting beginner level features. It should give a comfortable amount of growing space so that you can continue using the telescope as you grow as an astronomer.
The telescopes that we’re covering today are all going to keep your inner astronomer satisfied. They’ll be the perfect companion for you as you travel through the night sky from the comfort of your home. If you’re new to astronomy, let’s quickly go through a few key terms before we begin taking a look at some telescopes.
Key Terms That You Should Know
There’s a bunch of jargon that the astronomy community likes to use. This jargon makes astronomy sound way more complicated than it is. Once you learn all of these terms, you’ll feel much more confident about becoming an astronomer yourself.
The first thing that you should be aware of is that there are two types of telescopes. There are refractor telescopes and reflector telescopes. Both of these types pretty much do the same thing. They capture light, focus it onto one point and then magnify the image that this focused light forms. What makes these telescopes different is how they capture light and project an image.
Refractor telescopes make use of lenses. They have a sealed tubular body in which there are one or more lenses. These lenses capture light and focus it on a point inside of their body. You then view this point through an eyepiece. The eyepiece is situated on the other end of the telescope. It’s responsible for magnifying the image that a telescope projects. Refractor telescopes are usually easier to use and maintain. However, they are also more expensive. Lower quality refractors can sometimes produce image distortions such as chromatic aberration as well.
Reflector scopes have a much simple design than refractor scopes. Their body isn’t a sealed tube, and neither do they use lenses. Instead, they use mirrors to collect light and reflect it into their eyepiece. Reflectors are less costly than refractors. However, they require more maintenance. Their optics are exposed to the elements since their body isn’t sealed. Also, their optics need to be aligned and “collimated” frequently to produce clear images. Reflector scopes are also known as Newtonian telescopes. Another thing to keep in mind is that they usually have a blind spot in the center of their field of view. This is caused by the arrangement of their optics.
Both telescope designs have their pros and cons. Usually, the type of telescope that suits you comes down to personal preference.
Now, there are a handful of terms that are used to describe the capabilities of a telescope. Knowing what these terms mean will make it easier for you to figure out a telescope’s specs.
Aperture size is used to describe the diagonal size of a telescope’s objective lens. The objective lens/mirror is the primary lens through which a telescope captures light. A larger aperture means that a telescope can capture more light. This allows a telescope to produce clearer images. It also increases a telescope’s ability to view objects that are fainter. When it comes to aperture, the higher you go, the better it gets. However, larger aperture telescopes are expensive and bulkier as well. For a beginner or adept astronomer, an aperture size of 4 to 6 inches is more than enough.
Aperture size is important, but you shouldn’t overlook the quality of a telescope’s optics either. A telescope with high quality, precision made optics that have been coated to enhance image clarity will outdo a telescope that has a larger aperture but low-quality optics.
Focal length of a telescope describes the distance between a telescope’s lens and the point where light rays passing through the lens converge. A longer focal length means that your telescope can produce a larger image. In refractor telescopes, a longer focal length decreases the amount of chromatic aberration as well. Keep in mind that a telescope will need a longer body to have a longer focal length. This results in telescopes having to deal with a trade-off between focal length and the portability of a telescope.
Focal ratio of a telescope describes the “speed” of a telescope’s optics. It’s found by dividing the focal length of a telescope by its aperture (focal length (f) / aperture (xx)). The focal ratio of a telescope is more of an advanced factor. It usually matters more for people who are into astrophotography. For people who aren’t planning on being astrophotographers, the focal ratio isn’t a big deal. It determines how much a telescope can focus on one particular object. A higher focusing ability reduces a telescope’s field of view and vice versa. A medium focal ratio lying somewhere between f/6-f/10 should be more than enough for you.
Magnification sounds simple enough. Like we mentioned before, it’s determined by your eyepiece. Most telescopes come with at least two eyepieces that have different levels of magnification. Keep in mind that a higher magnification isn’t always good. If your magnification goes beyond your telescope’s level of image clarity, your image may become blurry.
Now that we’ve gone through all the major astronomy equipment related jargon, let’s begin reviewing telescopes.
The Best Telescope Under 500 Dollars
Gskyer Telescope 130EQ
Celestron NexStar 127SLT
Celestron Omni XLT
Meade STARNAVIGATOR NG 130mm
Orion 8945 SkyQuest XT8
Orion 10016 StarBlast 6 Astro
- This German telescope has a lot to offer. Its 130mm optics are coated to enhance its image quality. The telescope has a superb build quality as well.
- It has three eyepieces that let you choose between 5mm, 10mm, and 25mm magnification. It also includes a Barlow lens that further increases magnification by 3 times.
- The telescope’s included red dot sight makes using it simple and easy. It’s also pretty stable.
- This telescope is a great choice for someone who wants a telescope that will last. It even has DSLR and SLR camera support, which means that you can use it for photography without having to buy a separate adapter.
- Uses multiple lenses to avoid image distortion and enhance image quality.
- Is rich with features and functionality that make the telescope great to have.
- Has a very satisfying build quality.
- The provided instruction manual isn’t helpful.
- A classic Dobsonian telescope that is great for looking at the planets. Its large aperture makes it usable for viewing far off objects as well.
- It comes with two eyepieces (10mm and 25mm) along with a finder scope as well. The finderscope makes aiming the telescope in the right direction easier.
- The 1200mm long Optical Tube Assembly (OTA) is set on a stable Dobsonian mount. The mount has a stable and smooth feeling to it while it’s being used.
- This telescope is a favorite amongst many beginner and adept astronomers.
- Great image quality thanks to its large aperture. You can even view deep space objects with this telescope.
- Has a wide field of view that lets you enjoy looking at star clusters and nebulae.
- The provided mount is very stable and feels good to use.
- This telescope is hard to carry around since it is pretty big.
- The Celestron NexStar 127SLT is a computerized telescope that features a hybrid (reflector and refractor) design. This allows the telescope to have a longer focal length without having a bulky body.
- The telescope’s computerized controls make using it fast and free of any technicalities. It comes with software as well that identifies objects in the night sky for tracking.
- The telescope has two eyepieces (9mm and 25mm) and a slow f/12 focal ratio. Its focal ratio and tracking ability make the telescope great for astrophotography.
- Great for astrophotography.
- Its computerized system makes using this telescope feel like a breeze.
- The provided astronomy software includes around 4,000 celestial objects.
- Its mount and stand are quite bulky.
- The stand and mount vibrate a lot when the telescope is moving around.
- A bang for your buck kind of telescope that offers an amazing first-time astronomy experience.
- Its wide field of view lets you view larger scenes through the telescope. The two eyepieces that are provided with the telescope (10mm and 25mm) let you view greater amounts of details.
- The telescope has a superb balance between portability and performance. It’s quite portable. The EQ mount that comes with it is stable and great for making finer adjustments.
- The telescope comes with astronomy software and some accessories as well.
- Comes with an amazing EQ mount that is very stable and also well-built.
- Features slow-motion hand controls.
- Includes some useful accessories and an astronomy software.
- The telescope gives you a lot at a very affordable price point.
- The provided instructions are vague and unhelpful.
- A refractor scope that offers portability, sturdiness, and performance. The entire telescope is made with high-quality materials.
- It has a 1000mm focal length and a medium speed focal ratio that lets you locate an object in the sky easily. The telescope’s focal length, ratio, and its aperture size are all calibrated to maximize its viewing power. Its lenses have a StarBright XLT coating that further enhances image clarity.
- The telescope comes with two eyepieces (20mm and 25mm) and a great stand. The stand features a bubble level as well.
- Features a high-quality OTA with anti-reflective lenses.
- Includes slow-motion controls and setting circles as well.
- The assembly process is simple, and so is the telescope’s usage.
- The telescope is bulky and heavy.
- Its finderscope isn’t the best.
- A versatile reflector telescope that offers a superb stargazing experience. Its high quality, multi-coated optics minimize image distortion. The telescope packs enough power to view deep space objects as well.
- It comes with two eyepieces (9mm and 26mm) and an aluminum tripod as well. The telescope’s mount is motorized.
- The telescope is versatile and has loads of quality features to offer.
- It doesn’t cost too much. In fact, it offers some of the best features at its price point.
- Finding spare parts for this scope can be difficult.
- Another Dobsonian telescope that is popular amongst many astronomers. It offers a large aperture at a decent price point. You can get some great shots of the local planets with this telescope.
- Its 1200mm focal length makes the telescope bulky but also lets you see more in better quality.
- Its Dobsonian stand is quite stable.
- Features above average optics that, combined with its large focal length, make the telescope quite capable.
- It has good build quality and is also quite stable.
- Great for viewing nearby celestial objects.
- Its provided red dot finder isn’t as functional.
- The telescope produces a certain amount of image distortion.
- It’s heavy and also bulky.
- Another powerful telescope from Orion. This reflector model is designed to offer a balance between power and portability. It has an aperture of 127mm that lets you capture details.
- Its EZ finder provides a great solution to setting up and using the telescope. This makes this telescope particularly beginner friendly. It also comes with two eyepieces (10mm and 25mm).
- Its tabletop mount makes the telescope ideal for use at home. However, you can take it out with you if you want.
- It’s a very portable telescope that has decent viewing power as well.
- The setup and usage of this telescope is really easy.
- The tabletop stand design limits the usability of the telescope. You’ll have a harder time trying to stabilize the telescope outdoors.
These are some of the best telescopes that you can find under 500 dollars. All of these telescopes are designed to provide mid-range specs at a reasonable price point. They also come with features that make using them simpler. This makes them ideal for people who are new to astronomy and are still learning the ropes.
Picking the right telescope seems like a daunting task. However, once you’ve figured the specs and what they mean, you’ll have an easier time finding the right kind of telescope.