How to Choose a Telescope for Astronomy Beginners

So, you are getting really serious about stargazing, know about the star registry and looking to buy your first telescope? Congratulations, you’ve come to the right place because this article is all about how to choose the right optical equipment if you are a newbie. We bet you have already heard and read plenty of conflicting “rules of thumbs”, as well as comments of other newly-minted astronomers who are extremely disappointed with their investment because they expected to do astrophotography.

Well, even though modern technologies have aided the advancement of amateur astronomy significantly, the subject is still very complex and a lot depends on the observing interests and goals of a stargazer. The aim of this text is to highlight the most important elements that all beginners have to consider when shopping for their first telescope. Read on to learn what to look at to figure out the perfect match for your needs and preferences.


Just as with all other items sold out there, prices for telescopes vary dramatically, starting from under $200 and going up to $15,000 (or even higher) for models enhanced with an impressive package of extras including a camera angle adjuster that can turn the camera 360 degrees for top-notch photographs of the objects in the night sky.

However, as a beginner, you have to look for a model that can cater to your current needs and capabilities and the great news is, the majority of such options start from $400. Also, there is a possibility that you will be able to find a great scope under $250 if you are willing to spend a bit more time surfing the internet on the lookout for a bargain.


Perhaps, you have already noticed that many experts claim that the aperture is the most important factor in the whole plot while others disagree with this statement and offer a variety of arguments to support their opinions. For someone who is just at the beginning of his or her way towards the stars, such discussions can be pretty confusing.

The aperture of a telescope refers to its main lens or mirror diameter. The larger this part is the more light a telescope can collect. Therefore, a larger aperture means that you can probably see more details and even pick out fainter, faraway objects. For instance, a diameter of 4 or 5 inches will allow the viewer to view objects within the solar system such as Jupiter’s moons, the planets, and so on. However, Uranus and Neptune will be a little more difficult to view with this small aperture. Still, this is a better option for beginners as they start to learn sky gazing for the first time. A larger aperture might be very rewarding, but it does require a lot of effort. Until you’re ready to transport, set up, and maintain a larger piece of equipment, it’s better to start this practice with a small option.

Let’s make it clear once and for all with the help of people who have tons of first-hand experience. For instance, Adam from, who has been a practicing fan of astronomy for more than 30 years, has no doubts that for novice astronomers, the size of the aperture is the most significant specification. Why? Simply because it determines the light-capturing capabilities of a telescope, meaning it directly affects your ability to see into space.

Later on in your journey across the universe when you become well-versed in all its ins and outs and define your preferences, you will look for a heck of a lot of other characteristics. But for now, just remember that the bigger your scope, the more details you will be able to see. The general recommendation is to opt for the biggest optical tube you can squeeze into your budget.


While the aperture is a more important feature than magnification, the latter is the one that’s advertised the most. The magnification of a telescope is influenced by the eyepiece as well as the focal length of the device. Many telescope enthusiasts even have a whole collection of eyepieces with which they can change up their telescopes’ magnification feature.  

make sure you don’t get sucked in by the promise of a large magnification; the aperture of a telescope actually determines how much detail the telescope will show you. With a small aperture, magnification will only allow you to zoom in on something without showing you its details–the object will still remain blurry. If you’re looking for a beginner telescope, then, it’s better to save your money and not judge based on how much magnification they offer. 

If the telescope manufacturer doesn’t give you the magnification information directly, you can calculate it on your own. Simply divide the telescope’s focal length by the eye piece’s focal length. These numbers can easily be taken from the vendor or the manual the telescope comes with.

Stable Mount

This is the element that is often underestimated by beginners but they realize its importance pretty quickly, especially if their mounts are not stable and can’t really serve the purpose. Mounts come in two major variants: altazimuth and equatorial. While the first option is definitely cheaper, believe us there is a reason for a lower price. Designed to swing up and down and left to right, they are quite tricky when it comes to following the stars and planets as the earth turns.

On the other side, the equatorial type will automatically handle the up and down plane as you move it down left to right. There is no doubt that equatorial mounts are much easier and much stronger, but what’s most important, they let users enjoy the objects without annoying vibrations.

Refractors, Reflectors, Or Catadioptrics?

To make it clear from the outset, catadioptric (or compound) telescopes are the most advantageous type of all three because it offers the best of both worlds: lenses of a refractor model and mirrors of a reflector counterpart. Needless to say, it is also the most expensive option of the three but on the bright side, you get a motorized mount and access to computer databases. Speaking of refractors vs reflectors, the latter will usually give you more bang (in terms of the size of the aperture) for your bucks because lenses are far more expensive to manufacture than mirrors.

To start with the right telescope is important for newbies who make their first steps as stargazers. Fortunately, the market has no shortage of quality models for all budgets and interests, just make sure you consider these crucial elements when shopping for your perfect match.