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Computerized technology with a built-in database that makes it easy to find specific stars, galaxies, and other celestial bodies. Straightforward to set up. Boasts a 130mm aperture that delivers sharply detailed images.
The tripod doesn't feel very stable.
Sturdy travel case included. No-tool setup. Astronomy software with celestial object database included. Two eyepieces included. Lightweight and easily portable.
Users have complained about the sturdiness of the telescope's tripod.
Sets up in minutes and is easy to use. Lightweight build makes it simple to transport. Includes 10mm and 20mm eyepieces and offers a 102mm aperture. Appealing price point.
The tripod is flimsy and doesn't match the quality of the telescope.
It has a database of more than 40,000 celestial objects that it can locate and track for you so you can spend more time gazing and less time dialing in. It breaks down into small pieces for easy transport.
The instruction manual is outdated in some parts.
It has a phone mount so you can use the StarSense Explorer app to locate and track the celestial bodies in your local night sky. It also has a “Tonight’s Best” feature that suggests which planets and stars to gaze on.
Some found the included tripod to be too light and unsteady.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
Telescopes are the ultimate scientific hobbyist’s dream toy, and the California-based company Celestron has been making some of the best since 1964. Capable of collecting and magnifying light, a decent telescope can be a passport to visit everything from the craters of the moon and the rings of Saturn to the dim flickering of distant galaxies.
With such lofty abilities, it should come as no surprise that Celestron telescopes can also be a bit complicated and quite expensive. It’s important to know what you want a telescope to do and how much you should be paying for the features you need.
This guide will introduce you to some of the terms and features you should be concentrating on when shopping for a Celestron telescope. We will cover the various telescope price ranges you will find and what you should expect to see within those ranges. We will also point out some of our favorite Celestron telescopes — both in terms of abilities and price.
Telescopes ship in a variety of shapes and sizes, but one big consideration you will need to tackle early on is whether to buy a manual or a GoTo telescope.
As the name implies, manual telescopes are controlled by you. The telescope is manipulated through controls that you manually manipulate to scan the sky. While you can use sky charts and other sources to help you identify and observe planets and stars, you are largely on your own to find specific celestial objects. Manual telescopes can be found in Celestron’s AstroMaster and TravelScope series, which are designed for beginner astronomers.
GoTo telescopes are motorized, often depending on a database of celestial objects that the telescope will access for you. These databases range from a few thousand objects up to 40,000 or more, and once a GoTo is aligned, it will find and track these stored planets, individual stars, and even whole galaxies. These are great options for both beginners and more experienced astronomers.
Celestron offers a variety of GoTo telescopes, which are generally more expensive. The majority are battery-operated, although some have AC or even car adapter options. GoTo telescopes, such as their LCM models, are relatively inexpensive and geared towards beginners, while more expensive models such as those in the NexStar SE line, are for both beginners and more advanced users.
The majority of Celestron telescopes are easy to set up pretty much right out of the box, but actually finding something like a star that you can put a name on might be difficult. This is where a GoTo telescope can be a plus, although you will need to align a GoTo every time before using it. A manual telescope requires no alignment and should be easy enough to use for all ages.
Celestron offers a range of telescope sizes, from lightweight tabletop models to full-featured GoTo telescopes with heavy mounts and steel tripods. While large telescopes tend to show more, they can also be heavy and more difficult to set up and use out in the field. Heavier telescopes can also be sturdier, however, which will almost always improve image quality.
Celestron telescopes can weigh from 10 pounds to 50 pounds or more. Know the size and weight of a telescope before placing your order.
Aperture size, or the diameter of the telescope’s primary lens or mirror, is one of the prominent specifications that telescopes are rated on. Basically, the larger the aperture, the sharper and brighter the image will be. A larger aperture will also help you to observe fainter objects.
It will also run you more in terms of price. Celestron aperture sizes range from 3 inches up to 11 inches.
The larger the aperture, the more magnification you can achieve. And the more magnification your telescope has, the better you can observe details of distant objects, such as Saturn’s rings.
Magnification will vary by telescope, with the majority of Celestron telescopes offering from 120X to 480X.
Another factor of telescopes to consider is the focal length. This is the distance between the primary lens of the telescope and the point where light rays come into focus. The longer the focal length, the better the telescope generally is at viewing close-up images of planets or the moon. Celestron focal lengths can vary considerably, ranging from about 360-millimeters to 1,250-millimeters.
Think of the finderscope as a low power pre-telescope. With a finderscope, you can more easily locate the objects you want to view, then use the regular telescope to focus in on the object.
Some Celestron telescopes ship with finderscopes, but you can also buy them separately. While it is often more affordable to purchase a Celestron telescope that includes a finderscope, some of their separately sold finderscopes are fairly low-priced.
While compact and simple in design, eyepieces are a crucial element of a quality telescope. Eyepieces help to magnify the image, allowing you to realize the highest image quality. They are made in a variety of sizes, and while it may seem counterintuitive, the higher the number (in millimeters), the lower the magnification power. A large number of Celestron telescopes ship with more than one eyepiece.
A Barlow lens is a special type of eyepiece add-on that will allow you to often double (2X) or triple (3X) the magnification. While this is not standard with all telescopes, some Celestron telescopes do ship with a Barlow lens.
The mount is the device that sits between the telescope and the tripod. This determines how the telescope moves. It also provides a shake-free viewing experience.
While primarily for larger telescopes, there are a number of different kinds of mounts. Some of the more common mounts offered by Celestron include:
A staple of all ground-based telescopes, the tripod can vary telescope to telescope. Some are made of lightweight aluminum, while others are built from a more durable steel; the majority of Celestron telescopes use a steel tripod. Any tripod you go with should be long-lasting and stable enough to protect the telescope from tipping over and keep it in a fixed position for image clarity.
If you plan to travel often with your telescope — or just wish to securely store it — check whether a telescope ships with a durable storage bag capable of holding all elements of the telescope. Some Celestron telescopes will include a storage bag or case, while others require you to purchase them separately.
Celestron telescopes can range in price from under $50 to well over $2000.
At under $50, you are usually limited to PowerSeeker telescopes. In general, Celestron telescopes under $100 are lower-powered models and may be portable or tabletop based. These telescopes won’t provide you with a ton of image clarity for close-up views of the outer planets, but you will still be able to manually find stars and observe a variety of moon features, planets, and other celestial objects.
In the $100 to $500 range, you will find more powerful manual telescopes, and the apertures will increase in size. This range also offers the lower-priced computerized telescopes, in addition to a variety of lower-priced refractor telescopes.
The $500 to $2,000 range is home to some of Celestron’s most popular telescopes, including a number of GoTo telescopes that offer extensive databases and larger apertures. Finally, anything over $2,000 is generally for serious amateur astronomers. These telescopes include astrograph telescopes and larger than 8-inch-aperture GoTo telescopes.
Q. What is the difference between a reflector and a refractor telescope?A. These are the two primary types of telescopes, and they do vary quite a bit from each other. A reflector telescope uses mirrors and is usually better for viewing deep-sky objects. If you are searching for a larger telescope for less money, a reflector is your best bet.
A refractor telescope uses lenses instead of mirrors and is a better choice for viewing the moon and planets. These are maintenance-free and great for beginners, but they can be expensive if you want a larger telescope.
Q. Do these telescopes ship with software of any kind?
A. The majority of Celestron telescopes do offer some form of downloadable software (such as the Starry Night Basic Edition) or an app (SkyPortal) to use with your telescope. These can help you easily find celestial objects and learn about them. SkyPortal can also be used with your smartphone to control some telescopes.
Q. Can you take pictures with these telescopes?
A. By themselves, these telescopes rarely can take photos, but you can often purchase adapters that can be used with your DSLR camera to photograph what you are observing. While expensive, Celestron also sells a variety of astrograph telescopes that will yield better results than using a DSLR with an adapter.
This activity is popular enough to have its own name — astrophotography — and while difficult to master, it can be a rewarding element of your telescope experience. There are a number of websites dedicated to getting started in astrophotography and excelling at it.
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