Best Types of Telescopes Gift Guide

If you’re looking for the best types of telescopes to buy for star gazing, it can be a confusing process. The truth is you don’t need to spend tons of money to be able to see the rings of Saturn. These tips will point you towards a reasonably priced telescope that’s also powerful.

best types of telescopes

I took astronomy as an elective in college, and I still own the amateur astronomy telescope I used in back then. But until recently I couldn’t find a single constellation. That is until I joined a local astronomy Meetup group. Someone in the group recommended a children’s book, and it has made all the difference.

Children’s books are great for simplifying a complicated subject, and that’s exactly what I needed. The Glow In the Dark Night Sky Book has a glow in the dark feature that makes it easier for you to identify the constellations.

 The Glow in the Dark Night Sky Book Sky & Telescope Astronomy

How to Choose a Telescope

 Meade Instruments 209004 Infinity 80 AZ Refractor Telescope

Now that I’m picking up my old hobby again, I’m looking for a better amateur astronomy telescope. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

There are three basic optical varieties of telescopes—refractor, reflector, and catadioptric.

With refractor telescopes, the light enters the front, hits the lens, and travels up the tube to the where there is an elbow that brings it up to your eye. The benefits of refractor telescopes are that they deliver sharp images, and there is little maintenance because the lenses are fixed.

As a bonus, you can use them for more than astronomy. If you want to point them at the boats in the bay or watch eagles nesting on a mountain top, they’re good for that too.

Refracting Telescopes

Celestron 21061 AstroMaster 70AZ Refractor TelescopeCelestron 21035 70mm Travel ScopeCelestron 21037 PowerSeeker 70EQ Telescope

Reflecting Telescopes

 Orion 09007 SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector Telescope

Reflector telescopes use two mirrors. The light travels down the front of the telescope, bounces off the primary mirror in the back, hits the secondary mirror in the front, and then up to the eyepiece. Mirrors are inexpensive so the benefit of using reflector telescopes is that with you get better views.

This type of telescope is great for seeing deep sky objects such as nebulae, distant galaxies, and star clusters.

If you travel with it, you will likely have to align the mirrors, so there is some maintenance involved. Keep that in mind when you’re comparing features. Also, there is no daytime viewing with reflector telescopes. The image appears upside down, and there’s no way to correct it.

 Orion 09798 StarBlast 4.5 Equatorial Reflector Telescope Celestron 31042 AstroMaster 114 EQ Reflector Telescope Orion 9827 AstroView 6 Equatorial Reflector Telescope

Catadioptric Telescopes

 Celestron NexStar 102 SLT Computerized Telescope

The catadioptric telescope is to some extent a hybrid of the reflector and refractor in that it uses both mirrors and lenses to form the image.

Light comes in through a correcting lens in the front, hits the mirror in the back and bounces to the secondary mirror; but instead of coming out the eyepiece it bounces back down through a hole in the primary mirror and finally hits the eyepiece.

To focus the image, the primary mirror is moved, not the eyepiece.

The benefit of the catadioptric telescope is its small size which makes it very portable. It’s not cumbersome if you want to take it camping or travel with it. It’s also great for deep sky observation and astrophotography.

On the negative side, catadioptric telescopes may suffer from image shift due to the primary mirror being moved when focusing.

 Celestron SkyProdigy 90 Automatic Alignment Computerized Telescope Galileo G102MD 1100 x 102mm Catadioptric Telescope w/Motor Drive Celestron NexStar 127SLT Mak Computerized Telescope

Best Types of Telescopes Recap

So to recap, here’s what to keep in mind when buying the best types of telescopes:

  • You can get an excellent entry-level telescope for $250-$400.
  • There is a bit of crossover room between reflectors and refractors so keep that in mind when you’re comparing features..
  • Don’t concern yourself with astrophotography while you’re learning. Dealing with the telescope will keep your hands full.

You won’t find a perfect telescope so don’t succumb to information overload. Buy something and move on from there.


  1. Heather said:

    I have a telescope page too. Very well done.

    September 13, 2015
    • wishlistgifts said:

      I bet you enjoy it a lot. Thanks for commenting!

      September 13, 2015
  2. I’ve also enjoyed astronomy as a hobby, ever since I witnessed a total eclipse of the sun back in the early 1970’s. One of my favorite homeschool memories was teaching my two young children about astronomy. Great tips on telescope buying here, and very much appreciated.

    September 13, 2015
    • wishlistgifts said:

      Oh, wow, I wish I had seen that. Thank you for stopping by!

      September 13, 2015
      • I almost didn’t see the eclipse. It was a very cloudy day and we were at a field in Cap Chat, Quebec, with hundreds of astronomy enthusiasts with nice telescopes. Most of them saw nothing but clouds… but by good fortune, just as the eclipse happened a hole in the clouds opened for the people seeing from the angle where I was sitting. It was somewhat miraculous.

        September 13, 2015

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