Choosing the right Telescope

When you want to buy your first telescope, there are a lot of factors you should consider:

  • Aperture: Bigger apertures are better as their light gathering capacity is higher. Although telescopes can start from 40mm, for refractors you should look for at least 70mm as a decent starting scope and for reflectors, at least 76mm.

  • Magnification: Make sure you don't just go by the magnification number on the telescope. A magnification of 400 would mean nothing if the telescope had poor optics, unsteady tripod or an inflexible mount. Although magnification determines how much detail you see, the overall quality and build of the telescope, mount, optics will determine your viewing experience. Also know that the maximum magnification of the telescope isn't necessarily the magnification you can achieve, hnece the concept of "highest practical power"

  • Refractor or Reflector: There is no right or wrong here. Each type has its own pros and cons, and you need to judge based on what works for you. Reflectors can help you achieve higher focal length and bigger apertures whereas refractors are limited in how big their aperture can be without making the scope expensive and inconvenient to use. However, refractors can be easy to get started in astronomy as they are intuitive in their use as you see along the tube and not perpendicular to it.

  • Mount Type: AZ or Alt-Az (Altitude-Azimuth) mount allows moving the scope in 2 axes - vertical and horizontal. It is simple and intuitive but requires you to move the scope in 2 directions while viewing, to keep up with the target. EQ mount has an initial setup of aligning the scope to a fixed axis along the star Polaris (polar axis) but makes the tracking while viewing very easy as you have to move the scope in just one direction in order to keep up with the object. However, for a beginner AZ is easier to use compared to EQ mount as be can be very tricky with its counter weights, multiple axes etc. Also important is the stability of the mount. A good telescope on a bad mount, is a bad telescope!

  • Slow Motion Controls - Especially for manual telescopes, it is extremely important to have slow motion controls as they help in easily tracking once the alignment is achieved (tracking: moving the telescope to the new position of the target object as the object moves in the sky) every few seconds. In the absence of slow motion levers/ controls, you would need to unscrew/ unclamp the telescope, move it to the new position, and screw/ clamp it back; In the process, you may lose the image altogether, and in another few moments again you will need to repeat the whole process.

  • Primary Usage: If your usage is mainly for DSO, larger the aperture, the better as you will need all the light gathering power you can get, for faint galaxies/ nebulae etc. For lunar and planetary, look for long focal lengths as it will determine the extent to which you can zoom in to view the details of the target.

  • Manual v/s Automatic (GoTo) - in a manual telescope you would aligning the scope to the target by yourself, and then once aligned and focused, you will also be moving/ adjusting the scope to keep up with the object as it moves out of the frame every few seconds. In an automatic telescope, you would be doing an initial setup (point the mount and scope in a particular direction like North/ South (varies by the model), key in the date, time, latitude and longitude, etc, align the scope to any 1/2/3 bright stars in the sky, and then the scope does the remaining - simply select the object from the pre-configured database and the scope will automatically align to ("Go To") that object. Once aligned, it also "keeps track" - it moves along with the object to always keep it within the field of view. Manual telescopes cost lesser and help you learn how to operate the equipment, while automatic ones let you focus more on the observation part and less on operating the scope, but can be expensive.

  • Ease of travel/ portability: Where you plan on using the scope matters here. If you are primarily going to use the scope in your backyard most of the time, you don't need to worry about the size. But, if you need to get outdoors away from the city for using the telescope, you might want to consider what size of scope will be easy for you to carry with you. If the telescope becomes too bulky you may not feel like using it often.

  • Commercially manufactured v/s Scientifically manufactured

  • Budget: Decide the amount of money you would like to invest, and then see whats the telescope with the best combination of specifications that fits in your budget.

  • Avoid too much consultation with an expert - Take this with a grain of salt. We all know that most people who are skilled at what they do, aren't necessarily good at transferring that knowledge (expert drivers cannot necessarily teach driving very well, likewise in any subject). The other caveat is, since they have been in astronomy for a long period of time, if you ask them for recommendations, they are likely to suggest the top of the range models, which may neither be in your current budget nor simple to operate for a beginner. They are not to blame, because they have used different telescopes over the years and arrived at their current scope, however, you should organically grow in this field by starting off with basic scopes, learn about astronomy/ space, learn about star hopping techniques, then upgrade to better scopes and so on. You will not appreciate a top notch telescope unless you have used other scopes as well.

In general, there is no THE BEST scope that you can buy. Just go with what fits into your budget, gives you the best value, and is easy to use for you. Also, there are commercially manufactured telescopes (they are real telescopes but materials used are of low quality/ substandard so it can be sold for a profit) and scientifically manufactured scopes (more expensive but the parts, optics, etc are manufactured with precision and specifically for use in astronomy). Needless to say, if you are serious about astronomy go for the scientifically manufactured ones and avoid the commercially manufactured ones. Also know that if your interest in astronomy grows in future, you will want to upgrade no matter how good a scope you currently own, because there is only so much any scope can do.

Our Recommendations

Celestron Powerseeker 70 AZ and 60 AZ Telescope

  • Comes in 60mm and 70mm aperture

  • 700mm focal length

  • Comes with eyepieces and barlow

  • Comes with DVD and astronomy softwares which are very helpful for beginners to start out in astronomy

  • Build quality is much better than unbranded products in same range and hence makes a good choice for beginners

  • For casual/ occasional use this is a great option. For heavy use you may want to consider higher models as you might outgrow this range soon

  • More details, click: Celestron Powerseeker Telescope

50 mm Refractor Telescope for Kids

  • Aperture: 50mm, Focal Length: 600mm

  • Recommended for: Kids, Beginners, Gifting

  • Create interest in your child towards astronomy and space

  • Simple full size aluminium tripod with AZ movement

  • 0.97'' optics

  • Usually available in 2 brands - Dr Mady's and Celestron.

114mm Reflector with 900mm Focal Length and Alt-Az Mount

  • Aperture: 114mm, Focal Length: 900mm

  • One of our popular telescopes for beginners as it allows for a larger aperture of 114mm excellent for more light gathering and 900mm FL allows you to achieve high magnification

  • Simple Alt-Az mount can get you started in astronomy with just "point and shoot" without having to worry about axes/ directions etc.

  • Comes in 2 variants: Regular (simple eyepieces) and spl edition (heavy duty eyepieces)

  • More details: 114x900 Alt-Az Reflector Telescope

Premium 76mm Reflector - Bestseller for Beginners with maximum accessories in its price range

  • Aperture: 76mm, Focal Length: 700mm

  • Best combination of specs and accessories in its price segment

  • Simple Alt-Az mount can get you started in astronomy with just "point and shoot" without having to worry about axes/ directions etc.

  • Comes with LED Red Dot viewfinder, Barlow lens, 2 good quality Kellner eyepieces and a Moon filter!

  • More details: Premium 76AZ Reflector Telescope

Professional 150mm (6 inch) Newtonian Reflector with Dobsonian Mount

  • Aperture: 150mm, Focal Length: 1200mm

  • Usually the largest combination of aperture and focal length available in very reasonable price range

  • Mount Type: Dobsonian

  • 1.25" Super Plossl eyepieces

  • Compatible for astro-photography (manual tracking); Just buy a T-Ring and adaptor

  • 6 inch aperture has excellent light-gathering capacity for stunning views of Moon, Jupiter, Saturn and its rings, Venus, Mars, Constellations, Nebulae and Star Clusters

  • Dobsonians are the lowest priced telescopes for the specifications they offer

  • More Details: Professional 150mm (6 inch) Dobsonian Reflector Telescope

Professional 150mm (6 inch) Reflector Telescope with EQ Mount

  • Aperture: 150mm, Focal Length: 750mm

  • Excellent for upgrading from a beginner model to a more advanced model for getting that next level of detail!

  • Mount Type: Equitorial (EQ3) with extendable/ collapsible Aluminium Tripod

  • 1.25" Plossl eyepieces

  • Compatible for astro-photography (manual tracking); Just buy a T-Ring and adaptor

  • 6 inch aperture has excellent light-gathering capacity for stunning views of Moon, Jupiter, Saturn and its rings, Venus, Mars, Constellations, Nebulae and Star Clusters

  • More Details: Professional 150mm (6 inch) Newtonian Reflector Telescope

Professional 70x700 Hybrid Refractor Telescope

  • Aperture: 70mm, Focal Length: 700mm

  • Excellent for budding astronomers, stargazing enthusiasts.

  • Mount Type: Hybrid (Works in both AZ and EQ modes)

  • Full Size Telescope with extendable/ collapsible Tripod

  • Slow motion controls allow you to keep up with moving object while viewing itself, without having to un-screw the whole scope and re-align from scratch

  • Heavy duty mount with ultra smooth movement and slow motion controls

  • 1.25" inch Kellner eyepieces

  • Extra long dew shield to cut off ambient light and protect from moisture and dust

  • Compatible for astro-photography; Just buy a T-Ring and adaptor

  • Great views of Moon, Jupiter, Saturn and its rings, Mars, Constellations, Nebulae and Star Clusters

  • More Details: 70x700 Telescope with Hybrid Mount