Top 5 Telescopes to Buy In 2023

written by Zane Landers
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If you’re looking for a telescope, you may be overwhelmed by the number of options available on Amazon and from retailers. Many low-level models which are in fact complete garbage come with glowing reviews from newbie astronomers who don’t have much experience using telescopes. While these telescopes can help them see a few craters on the moon and Jupiter’s moons, they likely don’t realize that even a basic pair of astronomy binoculars costing less than $100 can do the same thing, and that a frustrating experience such as taking a half hour just to get on target is neither acceptable nor worth paying hundreds of dollars for. To make sure you purchase the best telescope for your needs, it helps to trust in experts like us. We provide all the information necessary to buy a high-quality product confidently—even if it costs more than other models.

All of the telescopes recommended here are Dobsonian telescopes which sit on the ground or atop a table or other steady surface. Cheap tripod-mounted telescopes suffer from many deficiencies; many have flawed optics due to attempts to cut costs or fit into a smaller shipping box, while accessories can be sub-par and equatorial mounts are often undersized, overly complicated, or too heavy, if one is even provided – many cheap scopes’ simple pan-tilt tripods are nearly unusable for astronomy, especially at high magnifications. 

A good tripod suitable for holding a telescope steadily at high magnifications eats out of the budget and storage space that could just accommodate a bigger and more powerful telescope, and many tripod mounts are also complicated to aim with their clutches, gimbals, gears and/or entirely motorized movements. A Dobsonian telescope, by contrast, is easy to aim with no clutches, gears, locks, or wiggly tripod legs to worry about. It simply swivels around and can be pushed around the sky, stays put where you’ve aimed it, and is easily adjusted to track at high magnifications with a light pull or push. Most have good optics and at least acceptable accessories, too. Dobsonians use the optics of a Newtonian reflecting telescope, and are thus free of chromatic aberration, which refracting telescopes suffer from, and are fairly cheap to make as well, giving you the most bang for your buck.

The larger the telescope, the more you can see – telescopes are usually measured by their aperture, or the diameter of the main lens or mirror, with at least a 4” diameter objective lens or mirror being required for sufficient performance when viewing most objects. Magnification is pretty much irrelevant and any telescope purporting to be “powerful” on this basis should be ignored; the Earth’s atmosphere limits magnifications with most telescopes on most nights to under 300x, and low magnifications are preferred when viewing nebulae, galaxies, and extended objects where high magnification merely dims the image. Most telescopes accept 1.25” and/or 2” interchangeable eyepieces for different magnifications and field of view, and you generally will have to buy at least one or two eyepieces to complement the provided kit with a telescope. A 6” or bigger Dobsonian telescope is generally recommended to beginners – 8” or 10” is best  – but tabletop scopes as small as 4” can put up good views if you are on a budget or lack storage space. Getting to dark skies away from light pollution makes a huge difference as to what you can see with a telescope, though Solar System objects like the Moon and planets, along with stuff like double stars, remain unaffected.

#5. Orion SkyScanner 100mm Dobsonian - Best Under $175, Cheapest

The Orion SkyScanner 100mm is the perfect entry-level telescope for any beginner. Not to be confused with the inferior SkyScanner BL102, this telescope comes equipped with a parabolic primary mirror that generates truly sharp images – in sharp contrast to the shoddy spherical mirrors found in many cheap telescopes – and a tabletop Dobsonian mount that makes it easy to use with smooth motions without the jiggly and jerky movements of a cheap tripod-mounted instrument.

Weighing only five pounds, the SkyScanner 100mm is easily portable and can even be carried in one hand or a backpack. The 20mm eyepiece allows for 20x magnification while the 10mm eyepiece provides 40x magnification – allowing you to view the Moon and planets in detail – and the SkyScanner 100mm can handle as high as 140x magnification if you purchase additional eyepieces. With 100mm of aperture, you can also observe the brightest deep-sky objects, and the 400mm focal length of the SkyScanner provides a wide field of view that’s forgiving when it comes to learning to navigate the sky. With all of these features and an affordable price point, the Orion SkyScanner 100mm is your number one choice for portability and convenience.

The Zhumell Z100 duplicates the SkyScanner in almost every way should you not be able to find the SkyScanner in stock, while the larger Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro and Zhumell Z114 are also great picks with just a bit more capability, albeit at a higher price tag.

#4. Sky-Watcher Heritage 130P Tabletop Dobsonian - Best Under $300, Most Portable

The Sky-Watcher Heritage 130P is an ideal telescope for those who want a portable instrument but with a larger aperture than the typical 100mm or 114mm tabletop telescope. The collapsible tube keeps it as compact as possible when not in use while its tabletop Dobsonian mounting is incredibly smooth and easy to pan around the sky, as well as rock-steady when set atop a suitable surface.

It comes with two 1.25” eyepieces—25mm and 10mm “Super” Konigs for 25x and 65x magnification respectively, to get you started. You may also want to add a 6mm “goldline” eyepiece, which would boost your magnification up to 108x and allow you to view planets and small targets like globular star clusters more clearly. On a good night with this scope, you can just barely resolve globular clusters into stars, or see dust lanes and other structures in the brightest galaxies under skies with little to no light pollution. On a steady night, you’re also able to make out dark markings on Mars as well as shadows of Jupiter’s moons during their transits with the 130P, which smaller telescopes may have a hard time showing you.

For a bit more money, the upscaled Heritage 150P, also from Sky-Watcher, is a great choice and duplicates the 130P’s features with just a bit more aperture and thus greater performance.

#3. Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 150P Tabletop Dobsonian - Best Under $500, Best Computerized

The Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 150P is an upgraded variant of the Heritage 150P and comes with a GoTo system that can be used wirelessly and manually without affecting its computerized operations. With a 6″ diameter primary mirror, you can clearly resolve globular star clusters, spiral arms in galaxies, Neptune’s moon Triton, and view thousands of exciting deep-sky objects and double stars. The Virtuoso GTi 150P has motorized tracking and pointing accuracy controlled by your smartphone, but you can aim it manually and it works just like any other standard Dobsonian telescope in that capacity. Two 1.25″ Super eyepieces (25mm/10mm providing 30x and 75x respectively) come with it, along with a red dot finder for pointing manually and aligning the GoTo system. The GTi 150P is designed for tabletop use but can be used on a heavy-duty photographic or surveyor tripod with a ” mounting stud too, and a 130mm variant (the Virtuoso GTi 130P) is also available and similarly excellent quality.

#2. Apertura AD8 Dobsonian - Best $500-$900, Best Value

The Apertura AD8 8” f/6 Dobsonian telescope offers double the light gathering power and 33% more resolution than a standard 6” Dobsonian. Furthermore, the AD8 offers superb value for its price as it comes with a variety of accessories and features, including a quality dual-speed 2” Crayford focuser, 9×50 right-angle finderscope, cooling fan, and included laser collimator. You also get two eyepieces: a 2” 30mm SuperView (40x) and a 1.25” 9mm Plossl (133x). In order to get the best planetary views, we recommend investing in an additional “goldline” 6mm eyepiece as well. All things considered, we would highly recommend the Apertura AD8 – it’s our top overall pick for beginners and is unquestionably the best 8” Dobsonian available in its price range!

The Zhumell Z8 and Orion Skyline 8 are identical to the Apertura AD8, should you be unable to locate one. Other 8” Dobsonians can offer similar performance but lack as many accessories for the price of the AD8.

#1. Apertura AD10 Dobsonian - Best $900+, Best Performance

The Apertura AD10’s large 10” aperture allows it to capture up to 56% more light and 25% more resolution than an 8” telescope. You can easily observe faint Solar System targets like Uranus’ moons, resolve Saturn’s Encke Gap in its rings or view surface details on Ganymede under good seeing conditions, and the AD10, like its smaller counterpart, includes two high-quality eyepieces, an excellent finder scope, and features like a built-in cooling fan, dual-speed focuser, and a laser collimator to get you quickly set up for a night of stargazing. In addition to its resolving power, the light collecting area of a 10” telescope also enables views of spiral arms in galaxies like M51 and M33, along with most Messier catalog objects being easy to spot. With access to dark skies, you’ll have no shortage of interesting things to explore with an Apertura AD10.

The Zhumell Z10 and Orion SkyLine 10 are identical to the AD10 but usually more expensive, and almost any 10” Dobsonian will offer similar excellent performance but may not include the same accouterments – the AD10 is simply the best deal there is, period. A 12” Dobsonian, including the models from Apertura/Zhumell/Orion, can also be an excellent choice if you have a sufficient storage space and budget.

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