Top 5 Telescopes for Amateur Astronomy Under $500

Looking to buy your first telescope? This hangout will let you know the best telescopes for under $500

Looking to get started in amateur astronomy but are confused about the telescope to start off with? Our advice has always been to never spend more than $500 on your first telescope. Why? Like many hobbies that many people start, they aren’t always sure they’ll stick with it or if it will hold their interest so keeping the monetary investment to a minimum makes a lot of sense.

Plus, the lesser expensive scopes tend to have the best qualities for a beginner: ease of use, light weight and wide field of view. In fact, in my 30+ years of observing through a telescope, the one I still use the most is the one I bought first and spent only $269 on: a four-inch reflector.

Please join Tony Darnell, John Suffill, Adam Smith and Alexander Reinders for a discussion of beginning telescope and our recommendations for what you should buy.

Here are the links to the scopes we talked about:


Sky-Watcher Collapsible Dobsonian 8? (203 mm) (US) $475

8-inch (20 cm) Newtonian
Collapsable, easier to fit in your car
2? Crayford-style focuser with 1.25? adaptor
4-element Plössl 25 mm and 10 mm 1.25? eyepieces
8×50 right angle erect-image finderscope

Skywatcher Skyliner 250PX Dobsonian (UK) £429

Eyepieces Supplied (1.25″): 10mm & 25mm
Dual-Fit 1.25″/2″ Crayford-style Focuser
9×50 Finderscope
Direct SLR Camera Connection


Skywatcher SKYMAX-102 SynScan™ AZ GOTO (EU) €386

Orion StarSeeker IV 102mm GoTo Mak-Cass Telescope Kit (US) $649

4-inch (10cm) Maksutov-Cassegrain
Goto Telescope w/ database of objects
Eyepieces Supplied (1.25″): 10mm & 25mm
x2 Deluxe Barlow lens (1.25″) with camera adaptor
6×30 Finderscope
90° Star Diagonal (1.25”)
SynScan™ AZ GoTo Computerised Alt-Azimuth HD Go-To Mount

Alternative: Celestron AstroFi 102mm Wi-Fi Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope $419

Not a goto – Control your telescope via integrated WiFi using the free Celestron SkyPortal app for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices
The Astro Fi 102mm Maksutov-Cassegrain with fully coated glass optics provides outstanding views the Moon and planets, as well as bright deep space objects beyond our Solar System.
Accessory tray holds 2 x 1.25″ eyepieces, miscellaneous accessories, including a rubber-lined area for a smart phone or small tablet.
Includes a StarPointer finderscope, 2 Kellner eyepieces, and mirror star diagonal


Orion Telescope N 114/500 StarSeeker IV AZ SynScan-GoTo (EU) €493

Orion StarSeeker IV 114mm GoTo Reflector Telescope (US) $450

4.5-inch (114mm) diameter Newtonian
Goto telescope w/ 42,000 objects
Two wide-field 1.25″ eyepieces are included: 23mm & 10mm
f/4.4 wide field

Orion Dobson telescope N 100/400 SkyScanner DOB (EU) €129

Orion SkyScanner 100mm TableTop Reflector Telescope (US) $99

Very easy to use, inexpensive
Very Portable
Analogous to the Edmund Astroscan (can sit on car hood)
Includes two 1.25″ telescope eyepieces: 20mm (for 20 power magnification) and 10mm (for 40 power magnification),
EZ Finder II aiming device,
Starry Night astronomy software

Skywatcher Evostar 120 with EQ3-2 (UK) £349

Good value for refractor
GOTO Telescope
Eyepieces Supplied (1.25″): 10mm & 25mm
Direct SLR Camera Connection
9×50 Finderscope
Dual-Fit 1.25″/2″ Focuser
2″ Star Diagonal

Celestron NexStar 102 SLT Computerized Refractor Telescope (US) $499

Two Eyepieces
1.25” Star diagonal

Honorable Mention:
Orion SkyQuest XT8 PLUS Dobsonian Reflector Telescope (US) $499

8-inch reflector (20 cm)
Comes with a 2” focuser
Lots of accessories:
2″ 28mm DeepView eyepiece, 1.25″
10mm Sirius Plossl eyepiece,
Safety Film Solar Filter (!)
Shorty 2x Barlow
eyepiece rack
EZ Finder II reflex sight,
collimation cap
Thumb screw secondary makes for easy collimation


Husky Offset says:

Why, in 2017, is this video interlaced?

Jim Groth says:

If I’m ready to spend up to 1k usd on a telescope, what should I get?

I would like to be able to make long exposure photos, and I would also, if possible, have automatic finding of objects.

My current scope is a pretty crappy refractor, but it’s still amazing to watch the moon and even saturn at times. 🙂

mcmadman51canada says:

Thanks to you and your guests. Another great hangout!

Nicky Ovidiu Baiculescu says:

to be perfectly honest everything with all telescopes is a “smudge” 40:41 Only nasa can CGI afterwards to 8k images 🙂

Michael Knauer says:

Just an FYI the ones in Europe you have them listed as under $500 but i guess you forgot exchange rate? ’cause 493 euro’s is like $620

Steve Corner says:

I can afford a monkey hope to get some good advise as I’m a total novice.great show as per usual!

Joey Murillo says:

The problem with buying used online is that the shipping cost eliminates any benefit from buying used. Most people want to sell local for that reason so the options to find local are very limited depending where you live.

don cahooti says:

clicked celestron link and got a red danger warning to go back

Ross Betts says:

I’m currently looking at 2 telescopes as a replacement for my old Celestron 4inch newtonian, still in the family as I have an excellent optics set and am familiar with the goto mount. Which is the better of these, both NexStar, the 127 SLT or the 5SE? The price is nearly identical. Any advice welcomed, thanks.

Pique says:

You skipped over that tabletop Newtonian too quick. What would it be best suited for?

Signed: Someone who loves astronomy but can’t afford to drop €500 on a scope.

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