The anti-backlash compensation mechanism will be training out the intrinsic play between the gears, improving the device's go-to and tracking accuracy. The SkyAlign system enables fast and easy alignment. The small secondary mirror will be reducing obstructions and increasing the contrast.
The instructions are confusing.
The Celestron 22087 NexStar 90 SLT Mak Computerised Telescope will be able to impress not only beginners but also seasoned stargazers who are not easy to impress. The telescope will allow you to not only separate Saturn's rings and Jupiter's cloud bands but even reach outside the solar system to observe bright deep-sky objects.
90 mm / 1250 mm
Fully computerized Altazimuth mount
Eyepiece1: 9 mm, Magnification1: 139x
Eyepiece2: 25 mm, Magnification2: 50x
StarPointer™ red dot finderscope, NexStar+ Hand Control, SkyAlign technology, Powered by 8 x AA batteries (not included), Astronomy Software download, Adjustable, Full-height steel tripod
The telescope comes equipped with one of the largest mirrors in its price range, more than good enough to gather more light compared to similar models. The 25-millimetre eyepiece offers a pretty great field of view.
Not the most compact device.
The product is one hell of a package. The red dot finder will make your job a lot easier. The focal length and the optics make this model a pretty great choice for experienced individuals and beginners alike. All in all, this telescope will make observing the night sky an enjoyable and hassle-free activity.
130 mm / 900 mm
EQ2 equatorial mount
Eyepiece1: 10mm, Eyepiece2: 25mm
Magnifications (with optics supplied): x36, x72, x90, x180
Motor drive for automatic tracking, Comes with multi-speed handset aluminium tripod with accessory tray
The 1.25” steel tube legs provide a sturdy and rigid viewing platform, which is basically all you need to take great images. This dual-purpose telescope is suitable for both terrestrial and celestial viewing.
It'll be difficult for a newbie to set the telescope up.
The Celestron AstroMaster 31051 is as good of a personal telescope as they come. There isn't a whole lot it won't do for you. Using this instrument, you will be able to explore the night sky as well as the land. It isn't the most powerful option out there but it is definitely one of the more practical ones.
130 mm / 650 mm
CG-3 equatorial mount
Eyepiece1: 10mm (0.78 in) Magnification1: 33X
Eyepiece2: 20mm (0.4 in) Magnification2: 65X
Motor drive for the automatic tracking, Bonus astronomy software, Comes with a steel tripod and an accessory tray
The accessory tray allows you to store various astronomy essentials and keep them accessible within reach so that you'll be able to forget about rummaging through the bag trying to find the right item. The provided software features more than 10,000 celestial objects, with printable star charts for field use.
The tripod mounting parts are not especially reliable.
With the Meade Instruments Polaris 130EQ Reflector Telescope, you'll be able to journey into the cosmos' depth without leaving the back garden. The high aperture-focal ratio makes the telescope optically fast, whilst the variable intensity will allow you to easily hone in on the celestial objects.
130 mm / 650 mm
German Equatorial Mount
Three 1.25” eyepieces: MA25mm, MA9mm, MA6.3mm
Autostar® Suite Astronomer Edition Software on DVD, Red-Dot viewfinder, Stainless steel tripod with accessory tray, Slow motion control cables
The model is convenient, compact, and portable. it is a quality product from a well-known brand. The unit's viewing range is high. Plus, the product comes with a handy carry bag that will make transportation easy.
The tripod is somewhat unstable and needs to be reinforced.
A great telescope at a reasonable price. The manual alt-azimuth mechanism incorporates this panhandle that lets you navigate the sky with ease. The mount is attached to this 1.25-inch adjustable tripod that you can modify to the desired height.
70 mm / 400 mm
Plessl 20mm (20x) and 10mm (40x)
Multilayered anti-reflecting optics, Convenient bag, The Sky X - First Light Edition software
Celestron 22087 NexStar 90 SLT Mak
Observe the Heavens
The Celestron 22087 NexStar 90 SLT Mak Computerised Telescope is that mid-level astronomical observation platform that's portable and accurate but also accessible to beginners. To begin with, the pre-assembled, adjustable stainless steel tripods and the quick-release fork arms and tubes allow you to piece this device together within minutes. You won't need any tools at all to assemble this telescope.
Naturally, you can make an argument that the high-precision Servo motors are what's driving this device forward, with the rigid low-vibration performance keeping things nice and stable, all whilst the internal battery compartment eliminates any cord wrap issues that normally come with external battery packs. However, that's not where computerized telescopes start.
The brain here is the NexStar computer controller. Equipped with >4000 objects, including but not limited to the planets, stars, nebulae, galaxies, and even the complete Messier catalogue, the controller can also be programmed with 99 custom user-defined objects and filters, creating custom object lists. The menu-driven UI is intuitive and pretty straightforward, letting you observe the heavens switching between nine slew speeds, three tracking rates, and anti-backlash compensation. Besides that, the interface incorporates guided tours, extensive info on 200 most popular objects, and multiple assisted alignment procedures, making the controller not only accessible but also pretty much invaluable to newbies and experienced stargazers alike. The instructions are somewhat confusing though so inexperienced users will likely have to spend some time figuring things out.
The telescope is usually able to locate the object with pinpoint accuracy, automatically tracking the desired object, which's cute and all but irrelevant without the tremendous Maksutov-Cassegrain optics. With ample light gathering ability, these optics allow you to see everything, from Saturn's rings, surface details on the Moon, and Jupiter's cloud bands to bright deep-sky objects, including star clusters, galaxies, and nebulae. Equipped with a front corrector plate, the optics are using the convex meniscus lens that's able to correct not only off-axis aberrations like comas but also chromatic aberrations, producing images with authentic colour rendition.
Long story short, we are unable to visit the cosmos just yet but, with the Celestron 22087 NexStar 90 SLT Mak Computerised Telescope, you'll be able to observe the planets and even reach outside the solar system, which's more than you can say about most telescopes within this price range.
Skywatcher Explorer-130M 10713
It's All About the Imagery
The Skywatcher Explorer-130M has quite a lot going for it but what we liked in particular and the first thing we would like to talk about is its design. Though not the most important aspect of any instrument, the luxury, glossy design of the telescope makes it stand out from the rest of its competitors, and that's always a plus.
Of course, it wouldn't necessarily matter if the visual aspect was the only good thing about this product but that is far from being the case here. From a technical standpoint, this is one of the most impressive telescopes in its price range. But before we get to those technical characteristics, we would like to mention that the model comes with a multi-speed handset aluminium tripod that includes an accessory tray. Its aluminium composition makes the tripod particularly robust and the multi-speed handset will provide you with the opportunity to take some of the most outstanding images.
With that out of the way, it is time to talk about the model's performance. At the first sight, this telescope utilises your standard Newtonian reflectors. But that first impression is as misleading as it gets. These reflectors boast excellent quality and versatility. They range in aperture from a decent 130 millimetres to an incredible light-gulping 300-mm aperture.
Thanks to its aperture size and focal length, the model is suitable for astronomers of all levels. Whether your interests align with the deep sky, the moon, the surrounding planets, or a combination of all of these things, the Skywatcher Explorer telescope will fit you to a tee, with its excellent all-round diffraction-limited performance.
Now, we would not have been able to cover the performance aspect of this product without talking about its mirror. And it is a good thing since this telescope comes equipped with one of the largest mirrors in its price range. As some of you may know, a large mirror is as great of an asset as they come as far as telescopes are concerned since it allows the instrument to gather more light.
The 25-millimetre eyepiece that comes with the model may not seem particularly different from your average deal but it does offer a pretty great field of view. For the most part, you will be able to observe a sharp and clear view of the stars. Though you will get slight distortions around the edges of that field.
Aside from the aforementioned tripod and the 'scope itself, you'll receive a motor drive for automatic tracking, a couple of Barlow lenses, and a red dot finder. In conclusion, what you will get from the Skywatcher Explorer-130M telescope is one hell of a package. The red dot finder will make your job a lot easier. The focal length and the optics make this model a pretty great choice for experienced customers and beginners alike.
All in all, this instrument will make observing the night sky an enjoyable and hassle-free activity.
Celestron AstroMaster 31051
The AstroMaster 130EQ is neither particularly cheap nor is it one of the simpler options on the market. If you wouldn't be able to describe yourself as an intermediate user, there's a good chance you will have a hard time setting up the telescope. But that is the way it is supposed to be. This is a product for people that have at least some sort of an idea what to do with these things.
And if you do have some experience with telescopes, we couldn't recommend this model highly enough. Yes, it might be difficult for a beginner, but the aforementioned intermediate users will be able to get it up and running in no time at all. Using the quick release dovetail attachment, you will set this thing up quickly and easily. It does not require any tools and the tripod already comes preassembled.
Speaking of the tripod, the one that this model comes equipped with is a particularly rugged component. Part of that tripod is a 1.25” steel tube legs. They may not seem that different from any other telescope foundation, but they do provide a sturdy and rigid viewing platform. And that is all you need to take great images.
All in all, the best thing about this product is that it is a dual-purpose telescope. That means that the model is suitable for both terrestrial and celestial viewing. Using this impressive instrument, you will be able to explore both land and sky.
That said, we would say that it is the telescope's celestial viewing capabilities that make it such a popular product. In other words, what makes this device so great is that it produces bright, clear images of the Moon and the nearby planets. This instrument makes it really easy to observe the moons of Jupiter and to explore the rings of Saturn and, honestly, that's more than you could ask from a personal telescope.
There's a lot to like about this model but we have particularly enjoyed the motor drive that allows for automatic tracking and the star pointer finderscope that works with the former to help you track and locate the stars and other sky objects. It is the said component, as well as the all-coated, glass, erect image optics that make this instrument so great for terrestrial and astronomical use.
Aside from its components, we would be remiss not to mention the "TheSkyX - First Light Edition". This astronomy software comes with a 10,000 object database, maps, and images, a perfect addition to the instrument itself as it will help you understand and learn everything about the sky objects that you'll encounter.
All things considered, the Celestron AstroMaster 31051 is as good of a personal telescope as they come. There isn't a whole lot it won't do for you. Using this instrument, you will be able to explore the night sky as well as the land. It isn't the most powerful option out there but it is definitely one of the more practical ones.
Meade Instruments Polaris 130EQ
Journey Into the Depths of the Universe
Have you ever wanted to journey into the cosmos' depths but without leaving the comfort that the back garden brings you? Well, with the Meade Instruments Polaris 130EQ Reflector Telescope, you'll be able to do just that. From impressive apertures to high-res optics, the device is packing enough to produce the brightest yet crisp and precise views that the night sky has to offer.
The specs make this product geared towards intermediate stargazers, which's quite impressive since the price would suggest this product has been designed to appease the newbie crowd. Sure, some trade-offs had to be made to achieve the affordable price. The red-dot finder is plastic and so are the scope's 1.25-inch rack and pinion focuser, so you'll have to exercise caution with these relatively fragile parts.
But, again, the specs are the highlight here, though the Newtonian Reflector design is no slouch too. Compared to ordinary refractors, this one features no lenses, meaning that colour fringing around especially bright objects is not something you'll be dealing with. What's more, the 130-mm aperture size relative to the 650-mm focal length makes the unit optically fast.
The three eyepieces that come with the telescope will be lending 25X, 72.2X, and 103x magnification rates. Meanwhile, the 2X Barlow lens will be able to double these magnifications, giving you not only more details but also broad observation options.
The red-dot viewfinder may be plastic and all but it is quite good at helping you aim the telescope at the objects you'd like to explore. Plus, the 'finder features variable intensity. Switching between available intensity levels, you'll be making sure the viewing performance is enough to hone in on objects with ease.
With telescopes, the package often makes the product as much as the device itself. Here, the biggest contributor is the accessory tray that lets you store astronomy essentials within reach so that you don't have to rummage through drawers/bags to find the item(s) you need. The German Equatorial mount is large and stable but, before that, the mount is equipped comes with flex arm slow motion controls. Using large knurled knobs, the arms allow you to track the celestial objects in motion with unmatched smoothness and simplicity. Plus, the Ascension and Declination indicators make sure that you will unlikely struggle to find the target objects using the known coordinates.
Bottom line, despite the more than reasonable price, the Meade Instruments Polaris 130EQ Reflector Telescope will allow you to view not only the closest planets but also deep-space objects.
Celestron Travel Scope 70 (21035)
Optical Surveillance System
The Celestron Travel Scope is based on the refractor optical viewing system. This telescope is a compact and mobile product. The unit measures 18 x 7 x 14 inches and weighs less than 3.5 pounds, so you'll have no issues with mobility and transportation. You'll be able to find enough space for this telescope in the boot and might even fit this unit inside some bags.
The lens construction makes this telescope usable in all weather conditions, despite its average size. It has a diameter of 70 millimetres, which is really good considering the model's budget price bracket. This diameter means that the refractor is able to gather ~100 times more light compared to the naked eye and more light than most budget telescopes (those usually hover around 50-60 millimetres).
At the same time, this travel scope has a focal length of 400 millimetres, so the image will appear wide and bright. The product comes with 2 Plessl eyepieces, one 20mm with 20x magnification, the other 10mm with 40x magnification. You'll be able to juggle between these eyepieces to view celestial objects with low and high power at night as well as explore terrestrial objects during the day.
View the Beauty
The Celestron Travel scope is good for both viewing the beauty of the Earth or the solar system. Again, it is portable, compact, and easy to operate. It has a solid aluminium platform which ensures a stable viewing base. Travelers and lovers of outdoor activities find this telescope extremely convenient because you can easily take this unit with you wherever you go.
The flexible altazimuth viewer ensures the owner gets blur-free views. This simple yet convenient system is perfect for beginners. It is just as good for astronomical photography which gives you clear unblurred images.
In addition to the telescope's lightweight and portable build, the people behind this product send you this custom backpack that will let you carry this unit with ease.TheSkyX - First Light Edition" software is included with the telescope.
The SkyX includes useful information about stars, celestial bodies, and has an informative, cartographical manual. Also, this telescope has an anti-reflection, multi-layered optics.
Last but not least, the aforementioned manual alt-azimuth mechanism incorporates this panhandle that lets you navigate the sky with ease. The mount is attached to this 1.25-inch adjustable tripod that you can modify to the desired height.
What Is a Telescope?
From Galileo Galilei to Albert Einstein to every other kid in your neighbourhood, stars never cease to fascinate people. Outer space is considered the future of the humanity. How many books and movies are created about mankind adventures out there! And while just setting out to such a journey is still a dream, we watch the Universe through the "eye" of our telescopes, the devices somewhat similar in construction to monoculars.
But telescopes, even the portable ones everyone can have at home, are so much more powerful. Today, this invention allows us to see not only a ship in the sea or a mountain far away but watch distant celestial bodies—by catching the light they emit and magnifying the image to fill the retina of our eyes. The science has gone far since the times of Copernicus, hasn't it?
What Features to Compare
The modern telescope market has a wide selection to suit nearly every taste. The correct lens and mirror system are vital when making your choice. There are 5 mains systems to consider when choosing - a refractor, reflector, Cassegrain, Maksutov-Cassegrain, and Schmidt-Cassegrain, thus make sure to not overlook the optical surveillance system.
Refractors are usually the most affordable, portable, and the least demanding maintenance-wise optics. Needless to say, they're also usually unable to reach deep-sky objects like galaxies and nebulae, making them an excellent choice for people testing the waters but not necessarily for seasoned stargazers. Reflectors are usually all-rounders, offering above-average apertures at affordable prices. More often than not, these optics enable both planetary and deep-sky viewing. As always, the larger the aperture, the more you'll be able to see. The downside to these reflectors is usually the bulk and weight, making them less portable than refractors. Cassegrain telescopes are optically fast and, unlike Schmidt-Cassegrain optics that incorporate parabolic mirrors, these optics use spherical primary mirrors. They're not as pricey as parabolic mirrors but spherical aberration is almost always an issue with them. Schmidt-Cassegrain and Maksutov-Cassegrain systems are usually able to pack hefty aperture into the most compact tubes, making them accurate, precise, and efficient. They're free from diffraction spikes and correct spherical aberrations that plague standard Cassegrain optics. Needless to say, they are also much more expensive than the optics we've addressed above.
Next up, attention must be paid to an eyepiece and magnification. Selecting an eyepiece is a real headache for stargazers because there are lots of diverse products varying in schemes and designs. The scheme of the eyepiece determines its maximal magnification capability.
There are three main types of adjustment (mount) systems in the world of amateur telescopes, which are azimuthal, equatorial and the Dobson system. Each type of adjustment system has its own benefits and downsides. For example, an azimuthal adjustment is not excessive, inexpensive and lightweight, but is incapable of precise astronomical photography. Equatorial adjustment is more excessive and weighs more, but is more accurate when compensating for the Earth’s rotation without computers and servo-motors.
Performance opportunities and ease of use give practical advice for easy maintenance. Also, different models offer different additions and special features that simplify handling and make it more enjoyable. As an example, some of the modern telescopes have a navigation system (GPS) which helps the user to find the defined object in a matter of minutes.
Did you know?
The night sky is fascinating and, for the very same reason, the instruments that allow you to view that night sky can also be a rather fascinating subject. It may not be the most inherently complicated instrument but we bet there's a lot you don't know about it. So buckle up and settle in for these illuminating and starry telescope facts.
Contrary to the popular belief, Galileo did not actually invent the telescope. Despite being often credited for it, he was "merely" the first person to turn the instrument in question skyward. Being the first scientist that used a telescope to study the night sky, he was the driving force behind humanity's discovery of Jupiter's satellites, as well as the craters on the moon. Though one of the most brilliant astronomy minds in the history of mankind, he was also the very first person to point a telescope to the sun, a not-so-smart decision that may have led to his loss of sight in his later years.
For the most part, we associate telescopes with astronomy, scientists, and some of the more curious minds with a deep passion for the former science. But that wasn't always the case. On the contrary, the main clientele of some of the earlier telescopes consisted mostly of merchants. These opportunistic gentlemen were buying telescopes like hotcakes and using these instruments to spot approaching trade ships. This way, they had the opportunity to beat their competitors as they were privy to the information that most of their fellow merchants didn't have access to.
Nothing beats having the actual instrument at your immediate disposal. Unfortunately, that's not always an option. But there are some alternatives. For example, websites like Virtual Telescope and World Wide Telescope, among others, will provide you with a very neat opportunity to observe the night sky. Since many different websites use different telescopes that are located in different places, you'll be able to view various parts of the night sky, all from the comforts of your home.
Not Just Amateurs
The convenience of commanding a robotic observatory without actually leaving the premises of your home is so alluring that even the majority of professional astronomers work this way too. While it may seem less romantic, there are very few astronomers these days that actually look through an eyepiece instead of using a computer to remotely operate the telescope.
Some of the most powerful telescopes out there have the ability to see about 13 billion light-years away. It is hard to wrap your head around these kinds of numbers, isn't it? Well, it gets even more unfathomable. Most astronomers believe the aforementioned number to be the approximate age of the universe. So, looking out that far is actually akin to looking back in time. And if that isn't spooky, we don't know what is.
Shying Away from the Camera
The Hubble Space Telescope has done a lot for us. But it hasn't been able to photograph Earth and Mercury. With the former, the problem is that the telescope is too close to the planet to take a clear picture. And Mercury' issue is that the said planet is so close to the sun that it's intense reflected light would end up damaging Hubble’s instruments.
Q: What are these f/5, f/10 numbers?
A: They are called the focal ratio or also the "speed" of the telescope. Focal ratio is calculated by dividing the focal length by the aperture and in simple words, it shows how wide and bright the image you see will be. Faster focal ratios (those with lower numbers) have wider field and lower magnification, good for those users who are into deep space observation. Slower ratios are good to watch the Moon, planets and other big or relatively close objects.
Q: Do I need a Barlow lens?
A: That is up to you to decide. Barlow lenses magnify the image of the eyepieces, so, let's say, instead of buying three additional eyepieces with double the magnification of the three you already have, you can buy a single 2x Barlow lens and use it with each. Actually, using a Barlow will offer you a better quality image with less aberration.
Q: Is more magnification always better?
A: Not always, it normally depends on what you look at. When you have higher magnification, you simultaneously lose in the field of view and in brightness. Consequently, if the object you look at is already faint, high magnification will not help. To see faint objects clearer and to make them appear brighter, you need higher aperture. Also, at the higher aperture, you can also add magnification.
Q: Do I need all these many eyepieces?
A: Different eyepieces are good to observe different objects, so if you are buying a telescope for a single particular type of objects you might not need additional eyepieces but for anyone interested in astronomy in general, the more eyepieces usually the better.
Q: Reflector vs. refractor, which should I choose?
A: Again, this is subjective to your goals. Refractors provide more contrasting pictures than reflectors but a refractor with a big aperture for observing deep space would be extremely bulky and will cost an immense amount of money so they are usually better for planetary, lunar observation, and to watch really bright binary stars and nebulae. Reflectors have bigger apertures, thus they gather more light and allow you to see farther into space clearly.
1. Lauren Cox Who Invented the Telescope? Space.com. July 13, 2013.
2. Craig Freudenrich, PhD. How Telescopes Work, HowStuffWorks.
3. Daniel Schwartz 10 Things To Prepare You For Space Travel, Flight Centre. April 20, 2015.
4. BUYING A TELESCOPE FAQ, The University of Toledo.
5. Telescope, Wikipedia.
6. Adrian R. Ashford How to Choose a Telescope, Sky & Telescope Media. April 16, 2014.
7. Christopher Witt Telescope Buying Guide, B&H Explora.
8. Ryan Wick Beginner’s Telescope Buying Guide, IFL Science.