Best telescopes 2023: For stargazing galaxies, nebulas and more

The best telescopes are designed to improve astronomers' views of the universe, turning stargazing into an exciting adventure. They unveil breathtaking galaxies, nebulas, planets, and other celestial wonders with impressive clarity and depth.

Are you wondering which telescopes are the best and which one suits your needs? If so, there's no need to spend hours searching the internet because our expert panel has done the hard work for you. We test and review various different telescopes, from entry-level to advanced models, including different types like refractors, reflectors, catadioptric telescopes such as Maksutov-Cassegrains and even the latest smart telescopes.

Whether you're keen on stargazing and astrophotography using your smartphone or camera, planning to explore dark sky areas with a compact and portable telescope or wanting to dive deep into astronomy with a large Dobsonian model, we've got you covered no matter what.

There can be a lot of confusing jargon associated with telescopes, so if you're not sure what it all means, read our Telescope FAQ. At Space.com, we don't just review telescopes. We also have a full guide on the Best binoculars. And if you're looking to pair a telescope with one of the Best cameras overall or Best cameras for astrophotography, we've got you covered there too.

Celestron NexStar 8SE: was $1599

Celestron NexStar 8SE: was $1599 now $1289 at Amazon

Save $310 on the #1 best-selling telescope known as the 'world's most beloved telescope', and one of our favorites, the Celestron NexStar 8SE. With GoTo technology making it a breeze for beginners, this telescope will last for decades. We also love it for astrophotography.

Telescope FAQ answered by
Gemma Lavender Headshot
Telescope FAQ answered by
Dr Gemma Lavender

Gemma is a contributing writer to Space.com, Live Science, science and space magazines How It Works and All About Space, history magazines All About History and History of War as well as Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) kids education brand Future Genius. She is the author of several books including 'Quantum Physics in Minutes', 'Haynes Owners' Workshop Manual to the Large Hadron Collider' and 'Haynes Owners' Workshop Manual to the Milky Way'. She holds a degree in physical sciences, a Master's in astrophysics and a PhD in computational astrophysics. She was elected as a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 2011. Previously, she worked for Nature's journal, Scientific Reports, and created scientific industry reports for the Institute of Physics and the British Antarctic Survey.

The quick list


Best telescopes 2023: For stargazing galaxies, nebulas and more

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Best for beginners

Best for finding planets and other celestial objects easily with Celestron's SkyAlign technology.

Specifications

Optical design: Maksutov-Cassegrain
Mount type: Computerized Alt-Azimuth
Aperture: 4-inches / 102mm
Focal length: 1325mm
Highest useful magnification: 241x
Lowest useful magnification: 15x
Supplied eyepieces: 25mm
Weight: 23 lbs (10.44kg) fully assembled

Reasons to buy

+
Quick, uncomplicated setup
+
Celestron's high-quality build
+
SkyAlign technology

Reasons to avoid

-
Restrictive portability
-
Narrow field of view
-
Power hungry
Buy it if

✅ It's your first telescope: This scope is easy to use and set up, making it perfect for beginner astronomers. 

✅ You want GoTo technology: You can easily find and track specific celestial objects with little or no prior knowledge.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want to travel with it: This telescope isn't the most portable as the tripod doesn't quite fold down entirely.

The bottom line:

🔎 Celestron NexStar 4SE If you want to view the planets and bright objects in the sky quickly and effortlessly, the Celestron NexStar 4SE will certainly do the job. ★★★★

The Celestron NexStar 4SE is a great choice for beginner astronomers — it's very user-friendly and captures images that are both sharp and luminous, while also providing a tactile yet substantial hand controller. The field of view may be a little limited, but the SkyAlign software and GoTo makes finding objects in the night sky easy, so it won't pose a huge problem. Also, the hand controller has nine different slewing speeds, making it easy to make precise movements or quickly explore the night sky.

One thing worth keeping in mind is that the NexStar SE scopes are quite power-hungry. We'd recommend you use an external power supply, as a pack of AA batteries will not last very long and you'll need to keep repurchasing them. This does limit its portability, but it's not a deal breaker if you're willing to carry a portable power bank or power station around with you.

Overall, in our Celestron NexStar 4SE telescope review, we found it to be a great telescope for beginners. It is easy to use, produces clear and bright images and comes with a variety of features that make it a great value for the price.

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Celestron NexStar 4SE
AttributesNotes
DesignSolid and sturdy build, signature orange colors.
PerformanceGreat for observing the moon and planets.
FunctionalityAlignment correction can be tricky.

Best Budget Telescope

Best budget telescope for for budding skywatchers who want to get up and running quickly

Specifications

Optical design: Refractor
Mount type: Alt-azimuth
Aperture: 3.94-inches / 100mm
Focal length: 660mm
Highest useful magnification: 241x
Lowest useful magnification: 15x
Supplied eyepieces: 10mm, 25mm
Weight: 20 lbs (9.07kg)

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent range of accessories
+
Great intro to astrophotography
+
Easy to assemble

Reasons to avoid

-
Slight false color in optics
-
Limited to short exposure photography
Buy it if

✅ You're a beginner: We found it easy to set up and take down, and with it being relatively lightweight, you can easily transport it around with you.

✅ You want to take astrophotos on your smartphone: The lens cap cleverly turns into a smartphone holder so you can capture images of the night sky.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You aren't confident locating objects yourself: This telescope doesn't have GoTo technology, so you'll need to be fairly confident in being able to locate specific celestial objects yourself (or utilize the help of a stargazing app).

❌ You want detailed views of deep sky objects: While this telescope can give great views of planets and the moon, objects further away may be a little underwhelming.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron Inspire 100az Aimed at beginners and those looking to upgrade, this 4-inch refractor is at its best with the moon and planets and comes with a lens cap that converts to a clever smartphone holder for easy astrophotography. ★★★★

For beginners and anyone on a budget, the Celestron Inspire 100AZ is a great choice. It comes with various accessories, and it's sturdily built and equipped with a ton of user-friendly features, making it a breeze to use and good value for money.

The telescope itself is well-constructed and is very easy to use. Its 100mm aperture lets in a significant amount of light, allowing you to observe faint celestial objects like nebulas and galaxies. It also has a long focal length, providing substantial magnification and detailed views of planets and other nearby objects.

The Inspire 100AZ comes with a variety of accessories, including two eyepieces, a red LED flashlight (for preserving night vision), an accessory tray, a StarPointer Pro finderscope to make it easy to find your subject and a smartphone adapter for basic smartphone astrophotography.

During our Celestron Inspire 100AZ review, we found a small amount of false color (purple color fringing), and a slight blurring in the field of view was noticeable. The latter is easily resolved with a careful selection of eyepieces, so we recommend investing in one of the best eyepieces to make the most of the Inspire 100AZ's optical system. The slight amount of false color shouldn't dampen your experience unless you are particularly fussy about color accuracy being spot on.

If you're looking for an affordable telescope to get started with astronomy, the Inspire 100AZ is a great option.

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Celestron Inspire 100AZ
AttributesNotes
DesignFairly lightweight.
PerformanceExcels with lunar views.
FunctionalityEasy to set up and take down.

Best for portability

Best lightweight and portable go-to mount scope for beginner sky watchers

Specifications

Optical design: Maksutov-Cassegrain
Mount type: Computerized Alt-Azimuth Single Fork Arm
Aperture: 4.0-inches / 102mm
Focal length: 1325mm
Highest useful magnification: Up to 100x with digital zoom
Lowest useful magnification: 15x
Supplied eyepieces: 25mm and 10mm
Weight: 6 lbs (2.7kg)

Reasons to buy

+
Go-to is great for beginners
+
Highly portable

Reasons to avoid

-
The finish doesn't feel premium
-
Other models offer better value for money
Buy it if

✅ You'll be traveling with it: This scope is our top choice for portability, so it's ideal if you plan on taking it away on camping trips or visiting dark sky sites.

✅ You're a beginner: If you just want to look at the moon and some planets, this will be a great choice. 

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want good quality parts: This telescope has an element of 'you get what you pay for'. It's adequate for basic astronomy, but the tripod isn't the best quality, the optics could be better and it didn't have much of a premium feel to it. 

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron Astro Fi 102 Best suited for viewing the moon and planets, this telescope is great for beginners and anyone with no prior experience. It can be a little tricky on the initial setup, and it's not the best quality scope we've reviewed, but it'll do the job. ★★★½

If portability is your main concern, the Celestron Astro Fi 102 would make a great option. It's also an excellent choice for beginners who are eager to delve into the celestial wonders of the night sky, and it'll serve you well even if you have no prior astronomy experience.

It's designed to be portable and lightweight, allowing for stress-free transportation and setup. It also comes equipped with the SkyPortal app, which seamlessly locates and identifies over a whopping 100,000 celestial objects for you to explore.

The Astro Fi 102 telescope uses a Maksutov-Cassegrain design with a large aperture and a long focal length. This combination provides excellent magnification, making it perfect for observing planets. Additionally, the telescope has a wide field of view, making it well-suited for viewing star clusters and nebulas without having to constantly reposition it when you want to move on to your next target.

As we discussed in our Celestron Astro Fi 102 telescope review, it's not without its flaws. We thought the finish was a bit plasticky, and the materials used aren't the best quality. However, these flaws are outweighed by the telescope's portability, ease of use and good optics.

Overall, we think the Celestron Astro Fi 102 offers excellent value for beginners who are eager to begin their journey into stargazing. It's lightweight, portable, user-friendly and delivers good optical performance that is sure to satisfy.

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Celestron Astro Fi 102
AttributesNotes
DesignHighly transportable, but tripod needs weighing down.
PerformanceInitial setup can be tricky, but after that it's a breeze.
FunctionalityLarge database of celestial objects on SkyPortal.

Best GoTo

The Celestron NexStar Evolution 9.25 on a tripod on a white background

Automatically track objects as they move across the sky with this high-quality Catadioptric telescope. (Image credit: B&H Photo)

Celestron NexStar Evolution 9.25

Best GoTo scope for seeing the universe in HD at this premium price point

Specifications

Optical design: Schmidt-Cassegrain
Mount type: Computerized alt-azimuth fork arm
Aperture: 9.25-inches / 235mm
Focal length: 2350mm
Highest useful magnification: 555x
Lowest useful magnification: 34x
Supplied eyepieces: 13mm, 40mm
Weight: 62.60 lbs (28.39kg)

Reasons to buy

+
Crisp views with no defects
+
Easy to set up
+
High-quality design

Reasons to avoid

-
Isn't very portable — best for backyard star gazing
-
Expensive
Buy it if

✅ You're an experienced skywatcher: This telescope offers a complete tour of the universe, although its easy setup would be a dream for beginners, this scope is best suited for more advanced, passionate astronomers.

✅ You want to view a wide range of subjects: This scope has a large aperture which enables clear and detailed views of a wide range of celestial objects, including planets, deep-sky objects and nebulas.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want something portable: Portability isn't one of the Evolution 9.25's strengths, so it's best used for backyard gazing.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron NexStar Evolution 9.25 A fantastic telescope suited to experienced and passionate skywatchers, with a price tag to match. It's not the easiest to transport, but we think it's one of the best GoTo telescopes you can buy ★★★★½

If it's a GoTo that you're after, we think the Celestron NexStar Evolution 9.25 is an exceptional GoTo scope that delivers breathtaking views of the night sky. It has a Schmidt-Cassegrain optical tube with a generous aperture of 235mm and a robust single-fork arm mount to ensure stability and precision. The motorized mount includes a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, providing an impressive 10 hours of uninterrupted stargazing.

You'll get a good selection of accessories alongside the telescope itself, including a red dot finderscope, star diagonal, accessory tray, international AC adapter, hand control and two eyepieces (13mm and 40mm).

The NexStar Evolution 9.25 is the ideal choice for experienced skywatchers who are looking for a high-quality telescope that offers a complete tour of the universe. It's also a good choice for long-exposure astrophotography, as the motorized mount can track objects as they move across the sky. Built into the mount is the telescope's very own Wi-Fi network, allowing you to connect and control the scope via the Celestron SkyPortal app (downloadable for free on iOS and Android) — leave your chunky hand controller at home!

Although the NexStar Evolution 9.25 has an outstanding design, it is on the heavier side and not the most portable, so we think it's more suitable for backyard use than constant travel. However, this slight inconvenience is justified by its sturdy and top-notch qualities.

Overall, we think the Celestron NexStar Evolution 9.25 is an excellent option for experienced and dedicated stargazers who are willing to invest in a premium GoTo telescope.

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Celestron NexStar Evolution 9.25
AttributesNotes
DesignA bit bulky and tricky to transport.
PerformanceCrisp views with no defects.
FunctionalityMotorized mount a good choice for astrophotography.