The Astronomical Society of Long Island loves to help people new to the hobby. We are often asked for help with buying a first telescope.


Your first telescope may not be a telescope at all, but binoculars. In fact you may own suitable binoculars that you use for sports, bird watching or outdoor activities. All you have to do is turn them skyward. If you don’t own binoculars there are a wide range of choices starting at $25 and going to over $700. Obviously the more you spend, the better the quality, but as a first instrument for astronomy there are a lot of good choices under $100. The power we recommend ranges from – 7 X 35 to 10 X 50 for handheld use.


Below are a number of suggestions for first scopes that span a budget of $200 to $700. These, or similar telescopes, are available from astronomy oriented stores, such as Camera Concepts in Stony Brook. They are also available from many online retailers.

The first three telescopes are considered “Grab and Go Scopes” – light enough for most adults to pick up and carry in one hand and manageable by many preteens. Next, while not quite as easily portable, the larger apeture will reach deeper and allow you to see more.

Lastly, those that are Tech/Computer Savvy might consider one of the last two entries utilizing either a Smartphone or onboard computer for locating objects. If you are not good with computers and spend more time fighting with the apps on your home computer and your smart phone, these are not a good choice for a first scope and would be better served with one of the first three entries.
The OneSky Reflector is a 5.25” aperture mirror table top telescope that has a well earned reputation. Its unique slide down design allow it to fold down to a compact package that is easy to carry and store in your vehicle. It comes with all you need to get started and accepts standard 1.25” eyepieces and accessories.
The Meade StarPro AZ 90 refractor includes a folding tripod and two piece design making it convenient to store and take on vacation. The 3.5” aperture lens performs well in viewing brighter objects. The StarPro comes with everything you need to get started and accepts standard 1.25” eyepieces and accessories. It also includes a smart phone holder that will let you take pictures through the eyepiece.
The Orion SkyQuest XT6 is an excellent choice for so many reasons. It is a Dobsonian mount design. This floor standing telescope is extremely simple to use and very stable. This combination of a low cost and stable mount combined with the larger 6” aperture mirror makes this, and other Dobsonian style scopes extremely popular with first time telescope buyers and experienced people alike. Note that the total weight is about 35 pounds, but it comes apart in two pieces and that makes it easier to handle.

The Celestron StarSense Explorer 102mm refractor offers an aperture that will provide good views of celestial objects like star clusters and brighter galaxies. The big difference with this telescope is that Celestron has integrated a frame that will hold your smartphone and created an app for most smartphones that will help guide you to the targets you want to view. Its folding tripod and two piece design make it easy to store away small and take on vacation. It includes all you need to get started.

The Meade ETX 125 Observer is a 5”/127 mm Maksutov-Cassegrain optical tube mounted on a dedicated GoTo mount.
Their compact size and easy to use handset make them a favorite for first scopes. The ETX 125 comes with a very strong/stable mount, red dot finder and eyepieces. The handset includes a database of 30,000 objects and hours of audio files that will tell you about the Moon, planets and deep sky objects.