Choosing your a telescope can be difficult as there are so many choices out there. There's lots of advice out there but much of it is written for people who understand what their looking for, and it can be hard for a beginner to understand all the different choices!
It's important to choose your first telescope carefully, as choosing the wrong telescope can put you off astronomy for life. Here are the telescope models we recommend for beginners. Each has advantages and disadvantages and there is a range to suit all budgets.
This is where beginner telescopes begin. Less than this and you are mainly looking at toy store telescopes that just won't be fit for purpose.
This is quite a small and cheap refracting telescope, but it will still let you see the moon and planets. It will also show things such as star clusters and double stars. It's unlikely to be able to see many deep space objects though. Fitted with an alt-az mount it's easy to use, but you may grow out of it quickly. This is probably best as a childs first telescope.Buy from Amazon UK here
This tiny little scope is surprisingly capable, although it will need a lot of patience. Perfect for children or adults without much room this could sit on a chair or window sill easily, and would still let you see many of the wonders of the solar system. Users say they have managed to see Jupiter, Saturn and even comets through it.Buy from Amazon UK here
Amazon US don't stock this one, so here's an alternative model. It's the same size but with a more typical design of mount, although it isn't quite as stylish!Buy from Amazon US - Celestron FirstScope
If you can stretch to these they are a huge improvement on the lower budget telescopes. For a beginner telescope these will let you see the planets and moon very well, whilst still giving you the ability to see distant galaxies. They are also still portable enough to fit in a cupboard without any problems.
This 4" newtonian reflector is a popular beginners telescope. It's reasonably well made and the telescope itself performs well. The equatorial mount can only just handle the weight of the telescope so it can be a little wobbly but it does work. There is a motorised version if you want to pay a little more and want to try astrophotography, although the Skywatcher in the next category is getting very close in price by that point and is probably the better telescope. Look out for the similarly named Celestron 127EQ, which is a different design of telescope and not as good as the 130EQ.Buy from Amazon UK here
A well made 4" newtonian reflector on a dobsonian mount. The telescope is already a good size, but it has a sliding tube which means it folds down into a nice compact unit for storage. If we could only recommend one telescope it would probably be this one. Although the larger apertures in our next category add a lot of light gathering ability, this scope can hold it's own.Buy from Amazon UK here
Another one that seems to have vanished from Amazon US. This is an alternate model - you gain 1/2" of aperture but loose the sliding tube so it isn't quite as compact. This one just sneaks in under $200 at the moment.Buy from Amazon US - Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro Reflector
A larger version of the Celestron refractor telescope in the first category, with an equatorial mount. We wouldn't recommend this over the reflectors in this price category but if you really want a refractor at this budget then here it is.Buy from Amazon UK here
These beginners' telescopes are now getting into the good amateur level of quality, and could easily last you a lifetime of use. These would be very good beginner telescopes, and this is the category we would recommend you start with if you can.
A 6" newtonian reflector on a dobsonian base. This offers the perfect compromise on price and ability. The only slight issue is that the telescope and it's base are quite heavy together and take up quite a lot of room. The jump in size from the 4" telescopes above is significant, but so is the increase in the amount of light the telescope can collect. We liked this one so much we bought one ourselves!Buy from Amazon UK here
A slightly better made 6" dobsonian telescope. In the UK this is more expensive than the Skywatcher, probably too expensive to make it worth buying over it. In the US the skywatcher is hard to find. The decision really comes down to which one is available and cheaper.Buy from Amazon UK here
This scope shows the compromises you might need to make. It's only a 130mm (4") aperture, but this has a motorised equatorial mount for tracking the object you're viewing. In most cases we'd recommend buying one of the larger aperture dobsonian telescopes, but if you really want to try astrophotography this might not be a bad choice.Buy from Amazon UK here
No US link for this one again. Instead we have two options at both ends of this price range. The first is a motorised version of the Celestron Astromaster 130 from the previous category, which is just over $200. The second is the fully computerised Celestron NexStar 130 which just creeps over budget to $350 dollars. The optics are very similar, so you are paying for the mounts. Have a look at our mount guide to help you decide!Buy from Amazon US - Celestron AstroMaster 130 EQ Motorised