10 Best Telescopes For Backyard Astronomers
Having a telescope to use at home allows you to view the planets and galaxies from your backyard. Wrapped in a blanket for a chilly night of stargazing is where it’s at! The first time you see Saturn’s rings or the Moon’s incredible details are memories that last a lifetime. It is one of the most amazing experiences.
Backyard astronomers spend a lot of time and money to see celestial objects, and it’s easy to understand why. Children, teens, and adults who love space as much as we do will want to view the planets and stars themselves.
Choosing the best telescope to use at home might feel overwhelming, but don’t worry. We’ve done the homework for you, so check out these reviews before making your final purchase.
Table of Contents
Key Takeaways: Why You Should Trust Our Reviews
You’ll find the best telescopes for backyard astronomers in our guide. We’ve researched hundreds of telescopes over the years, pouring through reviews. We’ve made decisions for our own telescope purchases after participating in countless Reddit astronomy and telescope forums.
This guide includes models for every budget. So if you’ve been stargazing for any length of time, you’ll find a telescope that fits your wallet and needs. From beginners to more advanced planet seekers, you can choose a telescope from this list and feel comfortable knowing you’re making a great selection.
I own and love the Celestron NexStar 8SE telescope, and from my personal experience, I can easily name it the best overall telescope to use at home. This telescope delivers in all the categories that count. It is excellent for more experienced space nerds who want to up their dark sky object viewing.
The easy orbital tracking and Wi-Fi connectivity let you take fantastic star and planet pictures. Keep reading to learn more about this and the other best telescopes for backyard astronomers.
At a Glance: Best Telescopes to Use At Home
Here are some of the best telescopes on the market in 2023 for space lovers. Our list includes the best overall choices as well as the best telescopes to take on stargazing field trips to dark sky areas.
- Best Overall: Celestron NexStar 8SE
- Best Beginner Planet Viewing: Gskyer Telescope 90mm
- Best Stargazing Telescope: Celestron AstroMaster 130EQ Newtonian Telescope
- Best For Children: Gskyer Telescope 70mm
- Best Portable: Celestron 70mm Travel Scope
- Best Dobsonian: Sky-Watcher Classic 250 Dobsonian
- Best Refractor Telescope: Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ
- Best Reflector Telescope: Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ
- Best Budget Telescope: ToyerBee 70mm
- Best Backyard Telescope Kit: HEXEUM 80mm
Product Picks – Best Telescopes to Use At Home
1. Best Overall: Celestron NexStar 8SE
|Focal Length||2032mm (80”)|
|Assembled Weight||33 lbs|
The best overall telescope to use at home is the Celestron NexStar 8SE. I purchased this model in June 2017 and still use this telescope regularly. With all its accessories, the 8SE represents this list’s most significant financial investment.
Its cost might eliminate this telescope for some early beginner backyard astronomers. However, those who save up for this telescope will appreciate it as an excellent investment. You won’t outgrow it anytime soon, so that is a huge plus. But there is a learning curve for using the NexStar 8SE. For me, the cost and learning curve is worth it for a telescope I’ll use for many more years.
The 8SE has a sturdy carrying case accessory option, so my telescope has traveled the United States searching for the darkest sky areas. In the region surrounding Utah’s Arches National Park, I viewed Mars, Jupiter, and Venus with the Celestron NexStar 8SE.
You must attach a camera to the telescope to get a good image. After capturing a video, I process it on my laptop to get the picture of Mars that I want. Just looking through the eyepiece doesn’t give the eye-popping images you see from Hubble, but neither do the processed images.
Have Realistic Expectations
Keep your expectations realistic with this or any telescope on this list. You will see some visible color and detail, but NASA has us all spoiled with its amazing images. Remember that they use stacked data from multiple sources to compile one fantastic photograph.
Celestron does make fantastic scopes for home viewing. Use this computerized telescope to easily locate and hone in on stars, planets, and nebulae. It is Wi-Fi enabled and works with Star Sense technology.
With its NexStar SE database of over 40,000 celestial objects, I appreciate the mount. It does the work for me with its electronic navigation for locating and tracking sky objects. Without tracking, the planet you are viewing leaves the frame within about ten seconds.
The total SE8 telescope set-up time is about 30 minutes. I set up in the late afternoon, so the telescope has an hour or two for temperature acclimation before viewing. The SkyAlign feature has me ready to view the cosmos by centering three bright objects through the eyepiece. Then NexStar SE steps in to align the telescope to the night sky.
- Celestron’s quality
- Easy to locate and track sky objects
- Long-lasting investment
- Battery drains quickly, need to purchase an electrical adaptor
- Vibration when focusing
Here are the Celestron accessories I own that take this best overall telescope for backyard astronomers to the next level.
- Celestron 18778 AC Adapter (Black) move from battery power to electricity. Plug into a wall socket or a portable power pack.
- Celestron – 1.25” Eyepiece and Filter Accessory Kit – 14 Piece Telescope Accessory Set – Plossl Telescope Eyepiece – Barlow Lens – Colored Filters – Moon Filter – Sturdy Metal Carry Case
- Celestron – Telescope Carrying Case for NexStar Optical Tubes – Fits 4″, 5″, 6″ and 8″ Optical Tubes – NexStar SE, Evolution, Schmidt-Cassegrain, EdgeHD Compatible – Protective EVA Shell, Foam Lining
- Celestron – 34” Tripod Bag – Storage & Carrying Case for Tripod and Accessories – Configurable, Padded Internal Walls – BONUS Padded Accessory Bag
- Celestron – PowerTank 12 Telescope Battery – Rechargeable Portable 12V Power Supply for Computerized Telescopes – 84 Wh Power – Built–in 2 USB Ports, Cigarette Lighter Adapter, Built-in Flashlight
2. Best Beginner Planet Viewing: Gskyer Telescope 90mm
|Focal Length||600mm (23.6″)|
|Assembled Weight||17.41 lbs|
The Gskyer 600x90mm AZ Astronomical Refractor Telescope is a good quality entry-level telescope to use at home. This German technology scope has a great price with a high aperture for a refractor telescope. It is perfect for kids and adults.
Gskyer has made telescopes for the past thirty years, so they’ve learned something about making planet-viewing accessible to everyone. This telescope is easy to use for beginners since you don’t need to perform maintenance. It also has a low learning curve, so you’ll use it more quickly instead of scratching your head over instruction guides.
Gskyer makes an excellent telescope for beginners, but the only downside is that you may outgrow it quickly. (The next telescope on our list, a Newtonian telescope might be a better investment for a similar cost.) Although you will have a higher learning curve and annual maintenance with a Newtonian. So if a simple and carefree option sounds like the best alternative, then Gskyer is an excellent telescope.
- Great planet viewing for beginners
- Affordable starter scope
- Lightweight for camping trips
- Not as powerful as other options
- Entry-level optics you might outgrow
3. Best Stargazing Telescope: Celestron AstroMaster 130EQ Newtonian Telescope
|Optical Design||Newtonian Reflector|
|Aperture||114 mm (4.48”)|
|Focal Length||1000 mm (39.37”)|
|Assembled Weight||17 lbs|
Celestron’s AstroMaster 130EQ Newtonian Telescope is suitable for beginners who want a bit more viewing power. The fully-coated 130mm glass optics in this reflector telescope help reduce glare, and the adjustable height tripod help make it the best stargazing telescope on our list. Set the height for kids or adults to find every sky object on your list.
This telescope is powerful enough to check out distant stars but is also user-friendly. The slow-motion control knobs let you make tiny viewing adjustments for your most precise picture. You’ll view galaxies and nebulae clearly and obtain bright planet images of the Moon, Saturn, and Jupiter.
One thing we appreciate about the AstroMaster 130EQ Newtonian Telescope is the dual ability to use it during daylight hours for land-based objects. View birds and wildlife from your backyard during the day. Then later, gaze at the stars until your heart is content.
Setup for this Newtonian scope is easy and needs no tools. The tripod does a decent job of keeping the telescope stable without too much movement.
The EQ in this telescope’s name stands for an equatorial mount. This mount type allows side-to-side scope movement beyond merely pointing up or down. It makes a difference in slow-motion movement control for viewing.
The optional smartphone or camera adaptor lets you capture images and is worth the extra investment. Purchasing higher magnification eyepieces is beneficial as well for crisper views with more detail.
One downside for extreme beginners is the need to learn how to collimate or realign the mirrors within this reflector scope. Some amateur stargazers just want to set up and observe the sky without worrying about doing telescope maintenance, even when it isn’t very often. So if you’re prepared to learn collimation, (which isn’t that difficult) this telescope gets you deeper into astronomy than an early beginner option.
- Great for Beginners who want a deeper astronomy dive
- Software package for astronomy
- Midrange telescope that you will appreciate for years
- The learning curve for operation
- Collimation (maintenance) every 1-2 years, depending on use and movement
4. Best For Children: Gskyer Telescope 70mm
|Assembled Weight||5.72 lbs|
The 70mm aperture and 400mm focal length on the Gskyer 70mm telescope give it enough viewing power to see some details on the Moon. It is an excellent scope for its price for children and new stargazers.
Gskyer adds a carry bag, wireless remote, and phone adapter, so you have everything you need to start observing the night sky. It comes with replaceable eyepieces in case you want to increase your eyepiece strength in the future. The 3x Barlow lens triples the eyepiece magnifying power to view celestial objects at different distances.
Use the smartphone adapter with the wireless remote to explore the night sky right on your phone. Cross-hair lines help you locate and hone in on sky objects to take basic images. Expect to take time to search for specific objects using star charts and phone apps.
This telescope is best for looking at the Moon, stars, and the brightest planets. Don’t expect to see crystal-clear details, but you will see some clarity on the Moon, which is fun for kids and adults!
- Affordable around $100
- Great for kids and beginners to begin exploring the night sky
- Takes good pictures of the Moon
- The tripod is “kid-size,” so the height may be too short for adults.
- Manual searching for objects might take too long for a child’s attention span.
- You can’t see much detail.
5. Best Portable: Celestron 70mm Travel Scope
|Focal Length||400mm (16”)|
|Assembled Weight||4.2 lbs|
Celestron’s 70mm Travel Scope is a solid choice for a portable refractor telescope. The tripod, telescope, and accessories break down to fit into a small backpack and then quickly reassemble once you’ve reached your viewing site. This telescope travels to your backcountry campsite as easy as taking it on a plane to other destinations.
Like other entry-level telescopes, the tripod gets the biggest complaints. In this case, it seems more flimsy due to its necessary portability. Even daytime nature observers may want less movement than the tripod causes.
Some users suggest switching it out for a more robust camera tripod (that you already own) if you experience too much image wobble. Another option is setting the tripod at its lowest setting on a table, then viewing through it from a chair or camping stool.
Celestron’s Travel Scope has a good quality objective lens which makes up for the flimsy tripod (with suggested workarounds.) It works well for astronomers who want to take their telescope on camping or sky-viewing trips in addition to using it in their backyards.
- Very affordable
- Made for “taking with you.”
- Use for astronomy, and earth-based viewing
- The tripod is great for portability but not stability.
- Lower quality viewfinder instead of Celestron’s better StarFinder
6. Best Dobsonian: Sky-Watcher Classic 250 Dobsonian
|Assembled Weight||29.6 lbs|
In the mid-1960s, John Dobson created Newtonian telescopes with a simple design for bright and detailed observations. Home astronomers could make their own version from readily-available, inexpensive parts. Dobson taught workshops to teach fellow star gazers how to build telescopes from heavy cardboard tubes and recycled porthole glass.
Modern Dobsonians are excellent for beginning astronomers since users get high apertures for their money. The simple design is optimized for visually observing faint objects, like galaxies and star clusters. Sky-Watcher follows the traditional Dobsonian design with only two mirrors, a metal tube (instead of cardboard), and a rocker box.
Star charts are the way to find sky objects with this telescope, rather than connected smartphone apps or computerized motors. So instead of using electronics, you’ll discover planets the more traditional way. Some users will think that is a positive attribute, while others may balk at the old-fashioned component.
Sky-Watcher Dobsonian telescopes come in three sizes and prices so that you can pick the best for your viewing and budgetary needs. Select from six, eight, or ten-inch apertures with the same finely-crafted primary and secondary mirrors.
The rocker box mount uses azimuth Teflon™bearings, so movement is smooth without having unintentional motion. In addition, beginners and experienced astronomers will appreciate the easy tension adjustment in the control handle.
While some users think the base has too much movement, others are very satisfied with it. You may think finding a movement solution is a good trade-off for the larger size aperture on a Dobsonian telescope.
- Tried and true simple design
- Great for beginners
- Larger aperture at a lower cost than some optical designs.
- You need to collimate this scope.
- Some users don’t care for the base.
7. Best Refracting Telescope: Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ
|Focal Length||900mm (35.4”)|
|Assembled Weight||9.2 lbs|
The Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ is a smartphone app-enabled telescope. Use the StarSense dock and app to find planets, stars, and galaxies with your iPhone or Android phone. The red dot finderscope gets you to your target before zooming in for details.
The second part of the model number, AZ, stands for its mount type. For example, AZ refers to altazimuth mounts, the most basic kind. AZ mounts turn on their bases and also move up and down.
This manual altazimuth mount is easy for beginning astronomers, adjusting in slow motion with a sliding control rod. Users follow on-screen directional arrows to find your sky object. The bullseye turns green when you’re ready for eyepiece viewing. The downside of altazimuth mounts is they may prove harder to track moving sky objects than EQ or equatorial mounts.
The StarSense app makes it easy for beginners to experience stargazing without spending all their time searching star maps. Like the NexStar 8SE, the Celestron technology analyzes star patterns to pinpoint your position. Then it generates a list of visible planets, stars, and galaxies from your location. Choose an object from the list, the telescope locates it, and you start gazing.
The full-size tripod makes this telescope an excellent choice for adults. You’ll have no constant bending over to peer into the eyepiece. You might need more power to see Jupiter’s Great Red Spot clearly with this telescope, but you will be able to spot its larger moons.
Galaxies may also look like faint blue smudges, but that’s still fantastic viewing for this size telescope and price range. It is suitable for older teens and adults.
- StarSense technology and app
- Full-size tripod
- Excellent learning telescope before moving up to a tracking motor.
- Some tripod vibration makes you lose focus.
- No computerized mount
8. Best Reflecting Telescope: Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ
|Optical Design||Newtonian Reflector|
|Focal Length||1000mm (39″)|
|Assembled Weight||21.38 lbs|
The Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ telescope has an erect-image eyepiece, so objects appear right side up. That means you can use it during the day for terrestrial use, i.e., birds, mountainsides, and nature.
Like other Celestrons on this list of the Best Telescopes for Backyard Astronomers, the PowerSeeker 127EQ has a star pointer finder for quick location of your desired sky object.
The fully-coated glass opticals make for more clarity with less glare. That’s one reason you see half our list contains Celestron telescopes. The high quality of their optics beats out so many competitors, even in their lower-cost scopes.
The PowerSeeker 127EQ has an equatorial mount and slow-motion cables for smooth tracking. You’ll be glad to have selected this telescope with its fuller range of motion than one with an azimuth mount.
This telescope is suitable for teens and adults who want to learn about astronomy with a telescope they won’t quickly outgrow.
- Mid-range price for backyard astronomy telescope
- You can grow and learn without needing to upgrade immediately.
- High quality optics
- Have to purchase smartphone adaptor separately
- Heavy for kids
9. Best Budget Telescope: ToyerBee 70mm
|Assembled Weight||3.91 lbs|
ToyerBee’s 70mm aperture astronomical refractor telescope has a great price and works well for astronomy beginners. Like the other entry-level scopes on our list of best telescopes to use at home, ToyerBee is easy to set up in only about fifteen minutes.
Some reviewers find aligning your smartphone to the telescope’s eyepiece tricky. Your phone’s weight also influences usage since some users find it too heavy. For example, the weight keeps the phone from staying in the right place in relation to the telescope’s eyepiece.
The finder scope helps you roughly locate a sky object before moving to the eyepiece for zeroing in to explore the night skies. ToyerBee’s refractor telescope has two eyepieces and a 3x Barlow lens to get magnification from 15x to 150x. Those magnification options do a good job on Moon and nearby planet viewing.
Backyard astronomers appreciate how lightweight this telescope is. However, its very lightness means the tripod isn’t super sturdy. As a result, you may lose focus on your sky object if it moves or vibrates, possibly frustrating young stargazers.
- Easy assembly and use
- Great price on a beginner astronomer telescope
- See the Moon’s craters at night and nearby wildlife during the day.
- Kid-size tripod that is very lightweight
- Hard to align (& keep in place) the smartphone to the eyepiece
10. Best Lightweight Backyard Telescope: HEXEUM 80mm
|Assembled Weight||6.24 lbs|
HEXEUM’s lightweight 80mm refractor telescope kit comes with everything you need for stargazing, whether you are viewing at home or on a camping trip.
The good news with this telescope is that you have everything you need to start observing the night skies. Similar items come with each scope in our list of the best telescopes to use at home. So let’s take a look at what’s in the kit.
- Carry Bag
- Aluminum Alloy Tripod
- Telescope Tube
- Finder Scope
- Zenith Mirror
- 2 Eyepieces (10mm, 25mm)
- Barlow Lens (3x)
- Phone Attachment and Blutooth Remote
- Accessory Tray
- User Manual
A downside of HEXEUM’s 80mm telescope is its tripod. User reviews show that it is short for adults and also rather flimsy. One reviewer switched it out for his camera tripod and immediately saw reduced movement. However, the telescope’s affordable price may allow you to look the other way on the tripod and use a tripod that you already own.
As far as sky viewing, this telescope is easy to set up and use quickly, even though its minimal instructions could use updating. In addition, this telescope lets you see the Moon’s craters and take smartphone pictures of what you’re viewing.
The HEXEUM 80mm is a good beginner telescope for children and teens. It will inspire curious imaginations to explore the skies and learn about astronomy.
- Decent scope with the ability to connect a smartphone for images.
- Complete kit to start stargazing
- Reasonably easy assembly and setup
- Low ratings for the tripod in stability and height
- Insufficient assembly and how-to-use instruction guides
What To Look For In The Best Telescopes for Backyard Astronomers
Several considerations influence your decision about the best telescope to use at home. First, think about your answers to questions about you plan to use the telescope. Then determine the lens diameter and optical components that will meet your needs.
How far light travels within its tube determines the scope’s focal length in millimeters. Light enters the telescope’s front lens, travels through the tube, and exits at the focuser, where the eyepiece resides.
The best telescopes to use at home often range from 600 to 2,000mm. The telescope’s focal length determines how wide a field of view you can observe and the image’s magnification. Longer focal lengths have narrower fields of view.
What Sky Objects Do You Want To View?
Which sky objects you want to view helps determine which telescope f-ratio to select. Simply put, the telescope’s magnification or f-ratio comes from dividing its focal length by its eyepiece focal length.
Magnification = telescope focal length/eyepiece focal length.
Generally, a lower f/number equals lower magnification, wider field, and brighter images. That makes smaller f-rations of f/4 to f/5 better for viewing:
- Deep space objects
If you want high-power views in a narrow field, then use a telescope with f-ratios from f/11 to f/15.
Telescopes with mid-range f-ratios from f/6 to f/10 work well for either viewing selection.
Where Will You Use Your Telescope?
Having a place for a stationary backyard telescope opens your options for its size. For example, my good friend lives on 10 acres in California’s dry-climate desert, where there is almost no light pollution. He laid a concrete foundation with a stationary telescope mount.
He then built a sliding cover, so the telescope stays mounted year-round but is available within a moment’s use. This fixed position (and his larger budget) offered more options for his telescope purchase.
For those backyard astronomers living in densely populated areas with light pollution (like most of us), you may need the flexibility to take your telescope to a darker night sky viewing site for a stargazing field trip. So a more portable telescope solution is your best choice.
Aperture or Lens Diameter
A bigger lens diameter or aperture collects more light, making distant sky objects appear brighter. The instant assumption is that a larger diameter is obviously better. However, if you answered that you’d take your telescope on dark sky area camping trips, a more portable option is better for your circumstances than a bulky 10-inch lens telescope.
The telescope’s aperture determines how much light the scope can gather. Its size also determines visible detail. A suitable aperture for a beginner telescope to use at home ranges from 70mm-100mm. Telescopes in this range are usually easy to use and lightweight.
On the other hand, you can increase galaxy and nebulae viewing with a larger lens diameter, so your usage and experience truly determine the best telescope for your needs.
Final Verdict: The Best Telescope to Use At Home
Choose the Celestron NexStar 8SE with its higher 203.2mm aperture; if you want a telescope you won’t quickly outgrow. With a mid-range focal ratio of f/10, the 8SE shows you deep-space objects as well as nearby planets or moon details.
NexStar has enough power for astrophotography, especially with image post-editing. The telescope’s computerized tracking ability keeps your sky object within the viewing and photographing lens.
The NexStar 8SE is light enough to take camping on a dark-sky stargazing field trip. But it also functions well in your backyard, where you can power it with electricity from the house. This telescope is perfect for someone with experience in entry-level telescopes and is ready to up their game.
What Is the Most Powerful Telescope for Home Use?
Determining the most powerful telescope for home use depends on what you’re trying to observe. Backyard astronomers can not hope to capture Hubble-like images. It’s just not possible.
You can, however, choose a powerful telescope like one of the Celestron NexStar Telescopes and learn to create excellent images with post-editing on a laptop or PC.
Homemade Dobsonian-style telescopes offer options for some of the most powerful telescopes for home use at lower costs. However, this option isn’t for everyone. We recommend buying a beginner telescope first to determine your stargazing interest level before diving into workshops to build your own scope.
But Dobsonians offer home astronomers the opportunity to own a larger telescope with excellent deep space viewing properties at a lower cost than other optical styles. Of course, buying the Sky-Watcher Classic 250 Dobsonian is the easiest option.
What Type of Telescope Is Best for Viewing Planets?
Planet-viewing requires a higher-power view within a narrow field. Planets are bright but small night sky objects, so choose a telescope with excellent optical resolution. The higher the magnification, the better for planet viewing. The best telescope to use at home for viewing planets is one with an f-ratio from f/11 to f/15.
Check for the planets visible near you with this easy guide. Input your home city for details on your best time for viewing celestial objects. Many space books and star charts are available to teach you how to get the best out of your new telescope. So you’ll be on your way to viewing planets from your backyard.
What Telescope Do You Need To See Saturn’s Rings?
You need a telescope with a minimum aperture of 50mm and at least 25x magnification to see Saturn’s rings and its bright moon, Titan. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll see much, if any, fine detail.
For a great view of Saturn’s rings, you need more light-gathering ability with longer focal lengths and higher magnification (150x or higher.) A larger lens or aperture means the telescope gathers more light for higher resolution and brighter images.
A good telescope to see Saturn’s rings has a 101.6mm (4”) aperture. You might even see some of Saturn’s red cloud bands, although the details will still appear blurry.
The best option for backyard astronomers to see Saturn’s rings comes from a larger telescope with a 203.2mm (8”) aperture.
The image below compares views of Saturn from four-inch and eight-inch aperture telescopes. While both pictures are exciting to see from a telescope at home, they are realistic representations of what beginner telescopes produce.
So, think again if you expect to see a version of Saturn like NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope image below. It captures such finite detail as the rings’ grooves. Instead, set your home telescope expectations more realistically, and you will experience amazing planetary, Moon, and galaxy viewings.
The best telescopes to use at home come in various prices and options. From the most basic children’s telescopes to elaborate designs that track a sky object’s movement for you.
You may have noticed there are five Celestron telescopes in this top ten list. You might also notice the same kind of groupings in other “best of telescopes” lists. That’s because Celestron has such great optics. You won’t go wrong with any of these telescopes, so don’t think we’re stuck on one brand.
However, Celestron knows its market and makes telescopes to fit every backyard astronomer market. While some of the other brands only make entry-level or super high-level telescopes, Celestron aims to inspire astronomers of all ages and skill levels, so that’s why you see them within each telescope category.
With a bit of homework and a couple of days waiting for shipping, you’ll be observing the mysteries of the universe from your own backyard in no time. So choose from one of these excellent telescopes to begin your space odyssey.