Telescopes have been used for centuries to observe the sky and other phenomena from a distance. But, until now, those who wished to buy a telescope had to pay astronomical prices.
But now, many telescopes under $1000 offer features you would expect from a much more expensive purchase.
This article will break down the top 5 best telescopes for under $1000 and compare their features to choose which one is best for you.
Best telescope under $1000: our top recommendations
Here are the best telescopes that tick most, if not all, of the necessary features. You could never go wrong from buying any of these:
Orion 10019 Skyquest XT10I
This motorized Dobsonian telescope has an Altazimuth mount. It offers value for its money thanks to its computerized system that helps you locate various celestial objects and formations.
Moreover, it is a Newtonian telescope with helpful coordinates, though manual movement is still needed.
Because of its 254 mm aperture reflector design, you can see distant galaxies, nebulae, and even Moon and Saturn close-ups. It also has a built-in object locator, which needs a 9V battery to work.
- Mount: 96%
- Optics: 99%
- Quality: 94%
- Aperture: 254 mm (10 inches)
- Focal length: 1200mm
- Focal ratio: f/4.7
- Has a stand, 2 eyepieces, and tension adjustment knobs included
- Not a GoTo telescope, manual movement is required for a closer look at various celestial bodies
Celestron Nexstar 6SE
With its Alt-Azimuth, GoTo mount, you’ll have an enjoyable stargazing experience. It is a motorized device with an automated mount and built-in 40,000 celestial objects.
It has a 125mm aperture lens with a focal length of 1250mm, resulting in a narrow focal ratio of f/10. This implies that the optics are considerably better suited for planetary viewing, yet with a 2′′ eyepiece, spectacular views of the larger expanse of outer space will still be attainable.
The device can theoretically magnify to a very good 295x, but in practice, it’ll likely just fall within the 250x area, which is the least you should expect.
Regarding what you’ll be able to view with the scope, Jupiter and Saturn should be seen at relatively high detail levels, with nebulae, star clusters, and multiple galaxies easily accessible.
The size and weight of the 5SE are quite portable at 81.3 x 68.6 x 33 cm and 7.98 kg, respectively, so if portability is a requirement for you, the 5SE isn’t a bad telescope to go for.
However, one of its drawbacks is its difficulty in set-up. You’ll need a pair of extra hands to set it up. A more expensive version of this NexStar 6SE is the Celestron NexStar 8SE.
- Mount: 92%
- Optics: 95%
- Quality: 93%
- Aperture: 150mm
- Focal length: 1500mm
- Produces great images
- The GoTo mount is convenient and simple to use.
- The accessories included in the box are also of high quality.
- Difficult to set-up alone
- It does not include an AC Power Adapter
- Tricky or impossible to update firmware on Linux or Mac
- There is only one eyepiece of moderate quality.
- Motors deplete batteries quickly.
- Not ideal for photographing faint deep-sky things.
- Long-exposure astrophotography is prohibited.
Sky-Watcher PRO ED 80mm Doublet Apo
The Sky-Watcher ProED is known for its affordable yet high-quality refractor telescopes. In this edition, the most affordable is the 80mm, but it is a more inferior option than other models. It is a non-motorized APO refractor telescope that provides great optics even with its lightweight design.
It can be used as an astrograph for sky photography or a wide-field view of galaxies or nebulae. The 600mm focal length is used with an ED Schott glass. Hence, you have a fantastic F/7.5 telescope. However, it is not suited for (deep-sky object) DSO viewing, and collimation pieces can be difficult.
- Mount: 92%
- Optics: 90%
- Quality: 95%
- Aperture: 80mm
- Focal length: 600mm
- User-friendly for beginners
- Easy and quick to assemble
- It can be used for beginner astrophotography
- Great colors because of residual chromatic aberration elimination
- Tricky-to-use red dot finder
- It does not come with a tripod
- The primary reflector easily gets dirty
- Non-impressive performance in light-polluted locations
Meade Instruments ETX125
This is one of the feature-packed telescopes out there. It has a database of more than 30000 celestial objects. However, it is not suited for taking photos but is ideal for viewing objects in the sky. You can use this to view moon close-ups, nebulae, and galaxies.
It has a built-in speaker with an audio content of more than 4 hours. The audio system is an excellent educational add-on and can be fun for children. With a 127mm f/15 configuration, it is a motorized telescope with an Alt-Azimuth mount type.
Aside from its internal flip mirror system, it also has a Maksutov-Cassegrain Optical Tube. In portability, it can go with a smartphone or fit in a tiny erecting prism.
- Mount: 84%
- Optics: 91%
- Quality: 90%
- Aperture: 127mm
- Focal length: 1900mm
- It can be assembled quickly and easily
- It can be used for amateur astrophotography
- Not ideal for taking pictures, it lacks space between the horizontal base and the rear port.
Orion 13163 Starseeker IV 127mm
This is another Alt-Azimuth and motorized telescope. It is a GoTo telescope with a database of more than 42,000 objects. Despite its vast database, this is quite affordable.
Moreover, it is feature-packed with a built-in system and tour mode.
Hence, you can manually aim it without compromising its GoTo alignment. It runs on 8 AA batteries which are not included in the package. It is preferred just to purchase an external power source.
- Mount: 89%
- Optics: 82%
- Quality: 88%
- Aperture: 127mm
- Focal length: 1540mm
- Amateurs can use it
- Capable of astrophotography
- It can easily and quickly be assembled
- Weighs only 22.2 lbs., highly portable
- Tricky collimation piece
- Not ideal for DSO viewing
- Tricky to use the red dot finder
- The primary reflector easily gets dirty
- Batteries and AC power cable not included
Types of Telescopes
The two basic types of telescopes are refractors and reflectors. These two utilizes objectives for light collection.
This kind of telescope utilizes glass lenses as an objective. However, for big telescopes, using a glass lens is not ideal because it can sag and may cause picture distortion.
Hence, it is not ideal for everyday use. An example of this type is Galilean telescopes with narrow and distorted views. Another type of refractor telescope is the Keplerian telescope.
Contrary to the Galilean, it has a broader field of view with a higher magnification. However, the major disadvantage of the Keplerian is that it produces an inverted image (left-right to up-down).
The significant difference between this type from the refractor telescope is that it uses mirrors. This is the best option for beginners; however, viewing the target object from the side may be off-putting to some. Cassegrain telescopes resolve this issue.
Other telescopes of this type other than the Cassegrain may have disadvantages, but it is generally less expensive without compromising the view quality and resolution.
Features and specs to look for in a telescope
It is essential to know the features of a telescope to know what model will suit your needs. If you are not knowledgeable about the features, you might buy an expensive model without maximizing its features and capabilities.
In layman’s terms, an aperture is the diameter of the primary light-gathering objective. This is the first feature you should consider as this is one of the most crucial telescope specs. The bigger the objective, the brighter and sharper image it can create. Hence, it allows you to capture even faint objects.
This refers to the device’s objective distance and the point where the light rays meet to focus. It is an important spec because it dictates your device’s magnifying power.
Hence, the focal length directly relates to your telescope’s magnification. Therefore, a bigger focal length is ideal for specific target objects, while a smaller one is best for looking at whole galaxies or solar systems.
If you opt for a large focal length, you should also partner it with a high aperture rather than a low one. The idea is like zooming in on an image with a low resolution versus a high resolution. Likewise, it is like zooming in on a low-resolution photo if you settle with a low aperture for a large focal length.
Prioritizing portability is a matter of personal preference: the size and weight affect portability.
If you have a car that can transport your telescope, opt for a portable one. However, if you buy it for yard use and do not usually transfer it from one location to another, you can choose a bigger model. However, it is worth considering that opting for a telescope with a high aperture and great focal length compromises its portability. Not to mention, it can also be more expensive compared to other models.
Another aspect worth considering when it comes to portability is its weight. A heavy telescope is hard to move, especially if you need it to haul after every use. If you want a light telescope, choose ones with Alt-Az mounts rather than equatorial ones. Moreover, a shorter focal length and less magnification mean a lighter device; however, the capability might be compromised.
Mount availability, stability, and usability
The mount is attached to the tripod and serves as a platform for your device, providing not only elevation but stability as well. Before purchasing a telescope, check first if it comes with a mount. If you are a beginner and would like an easy-to-use and light mount, Alt-Azimuth mounts are the ideal choice.
However, if you are into astrophotography and want a mount that can handle heavy telescopes, you should opt for equatorial mounts. You may also score computerized equatorial mounts, which come at a hefty price.
This spec is highly dependent on the difference between the focal length of both the objective and the eyepiece lenses. However, it is easy to compute the magnification; divide the objective lens’s focal length by the eyepiece lens’s focal length.
To alter the magnification, change the focal length of the eyepiece. When it comes to knowing the maximum useful magnification, you should consider the aperture. If you go up too much, it could lead to a fuzzy image.
The rule of thumb is that a magnification of up to two times the aperture will not create too much blurry output.
Calculating the magnifying power
Simply double the diameter of the objective in millimeters. For instance, a 100 mm telescope has a 200x practical magnification limit.
The Barlow lens cuts the focal length in half, allowing you to double the magnification of any eyepiece attached to your device. This minimizes the need to buy different eyepieces. With this, it is one of the telescope’s must-have accessories. You can purchase it for 100 dollars if it is not included in your device, which is usually the case for budget-friendly telescopes.
By inputting your location, the time, and date, along with the device’s initial coordinate, this adjusts the view for you. It uses a built-in computer and an equatorial mount. This feature is extremely helpful if you are unfamiliar with the object’s location or it is too dark to see where the target objects are located.
Finders allow you to quickly locate the object you are looking for by providing a wider view. Ideally, the aperture should at least be 25 mm or 1 inch. It is an eyepiece accessory placed on top of your device’s barrel. Upon lining up the target object in the finder’s crosshairs, you can see it in the eyepiece.
If you are an amateur device user, other features, specs, and capabilities you should look for are:
- Focus assistance
- Multiple eyepieces
Frequently asked questions
How much should I spend on a decent telescope?
The answer to this depends on your budget. However, for 500 to 1000 dollars, you can get a reasonably decent one, good enough to use in observing celestial objects. However, telescopes in this price range do not have the best viewing experience and quality. Another consideration for the price is its features such as mount and lenses.
What is the ideal telescope focal length?
There is no fixed focal length. What you should remember is that it depends on your device’s aperture. So if you are just a beginner in microscopes, opt for a low focal length as it allows you to have a wide field of view.
Can the telescope’s focal length be increased?
By using the Barlow lens, a telescope’s focal length can be increased. In addition, the Barlow Lens acts as a view magnifier, providing you with a bigger focal length. For higher magnification, you can use both an eyepiece and a Barlow.
What kind of telescopes are used by astronomers?
Professional astronomers commonly use a reflector telescope such as the Hubble space telescope. This kind of telescope allows for the optimum possible space view. On the other hand, Maksutov Cassegrain Newtonian telescopes are what are usually used by amateur astronomers.
A telescope can see what deep sky objects (DSO)?
Aside from stars, some deep-sky objects seen by the telescope are the Orion’s Nebula. It is the easiest to see, located just south of the Orion constellation. Moreover, it is very bright and can even be seen by the naked eye from November to February. Aside from Orion’s Nebula, another deep sky object that can be seen is the Whirlpool galaxy near the Big Dipper.
How do the telescope’s features/specs affect the viewing conditions?
Aperture is an important feature to consider for excellent viewing conditions of various deep sky objects such as clusters, nebulae, and planets. The bigger the aperture, the more the faint objects can be seen because they become brighter due to more light entering the scope.
Aside from the aperture, consider the type of telescope—reflector or refractor. Contrary to refractors which provide bright yet halo-like images of initially faint objects, reflector scopes reduce light gathering capabilities.
Another thing you should consider is atmospheric stability or instability. In this case, having larger scopes may not give you an ROI.
What does a $500 to $1000 telescope offer?
There is a quality difference from a $500 to $1000 scope similar to the $1000 to $400. Similarly, this is a huge difference from the same price tube-only and complete telescope package, for instance, a $1000 one.
With a 500 to 1000 dollar telescope, you get quality and mechanically-better parts with less practice. However, when it comes to GoTo systems, you get Precise ones with higher optical components, coatings, and better tracking ability.
However, paying more doesn’t mean you’ll get a better quality. You should also know and understand specs and features and do your research beforehand.
What can I expect from a $1000 telescope?
With a $1000 telescope, you’ll enjoy better resolution, color, optical, and mount quality compared to a cheaper model. However, a higher price does not mean better visibility in every aspect. Instead, the price indicates a device’s optical, mount, and aperture size.
Some telescopes are created for specific purposes. In terms of the specific objects you can see, it depends on the device’s specs. For example, suppose it is made for planetary observation. In that case, you’ll be able to see details and features of a planet, with the downside of a narrow field of view making it incapable of viewing huge deep sky objects (DSOs).
Each telescope is made for specific purposes. If you buy one, better opt for a versatile model or one that does not serve a similar function to what you already have. It is important to check if the device you are planning to buy comes with a tripod, AC adaptor, stand, and other additional gears. Most importantly, examine your priorities. Do you like a portable one? Or do you like looking at galaxies, planets, stars, or clusters?
Last update on 2022-06-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API