An interest in astronomy can develop into a fascinating hobby or even a career. The vastness of space and the ever changing nature of the night sky mean that there is always something new to see. The constellations, planets, nebulae, and all other astronomical bodies can keep you enthralled for a lifetime. So choosing the best telescope for kids or starters in astronomy takes a little thought but this guide is designed to make it easier.
Even small and inexpensive telescopes can reveal distant galaxies and star clusters, and the otherwise invisible clouds and rings on planets in our Solar System.
When it comes to choosing the best telescope for kids or for yourself if you’re the one starting out in this fascinating hobby, there are a number of factors to consider; price, features, ease of use, and size to name a few.
You’ll need an instrument that will be instructive and fun to use in order to maintain interest when the first rush of enthusiasm has passed. The best telescope for kids or starters may not be the cheapest or the most expensive, but the one that meets all your particular requirements.
You’ll also need to consider where the telescope is to be positioned within the house or home. Is it going to be brought out and assembled for use or can it be left in position on a semi permanent basis?
Best Telescope For Kids – Under £100
Best Telescope Starters – £100 to £200
Telmu Telescope For Kids
At just £32.99 the Telmu astronomical telescope for kids is an affordable first telescope that may lead to a lifelong interest in stargazing. As it’s a refractor telescope it means it can be used for viewing things on Earth in daylight hours. If you think it might be too small for your child then there are medium and large versions at £39.99 and £51.99 respectively.
Imagine the excitement of a child opening this as a gift on Christmas Day or a birthday. During the day they can focus on the wonders of nature. Even in an urban environment they can zoom in on trees, birds, and pets. After dusk they can start to explore the Cosmos and begin a journey of discovery that will not only spark their imagination but also help develop their knowledge of mathematics and physics.
The manual alt-azimuth mount rotates 360 degrees in the horizontal and 180 degrees in the vertical. It ships with two eyepieces and requires no tools for assembly. It can be mounted on the floor or on a table, and being small and lightweight it is portable making it ideal of holidays and camping trips.
With a little practice and after learning how to focus on objects your child will be able to see not only the Moon but most of the planets in the Solar System. More distant and fainter objects will require a powerful telescope, but these Telmu telescopes have enough magnification to keep your child’s interest for months to come, particularly since then can be used during the day for all sorts of other views.
The medium and large versions of this telescope for kids include a mount for a smartphone. This enables some basic astrophotography. Stills and short videos could then be shared with family and in social media.
Celestron AstroMaster under £100
Celestron are one of the brand leaders in the world of astronomy telescopes and they have a large range of models of available, from beginner to advanced astronomer.
The Celestron AstroMaster LT 76 AZ telescopw is a best seller on Amazon and is tagged as one of the Amazon Choices. It’s one of a series of ten AstroMaster telescopes and Celestron’s own website confirms its best seller status, along with the AstroMaster 114EQ.
The AstroMaster LT 76 AZ is a reflector telescope with a Starpointer finderscope. Used in conjunction with a star map you should be able to find and observe star clusters and planets with ease after a little practice. Jupiter’s moons and Saturn’s rings are visible through this telescope.
It’s quick and easy to set it up without any tools. The altzimuth control makes movement easy and smooth. The steel tube legs provide a stable platform – essential for minimising vibration at high magnification. With coated glass optics, convenient accessories tray, and the bundled software this telescope is ideal for beginners of any age who want to get into astronomy without buying an expensive telescope.
The package includes access to Celestron’s Starry Night software which is an in depth tutorial of the night sky. It contains a 10,000 object database, printable sky maps, and 75 high quality images. If clouds spoil your evening’s viewing then spend the time planning for clear skies while familiarising yourself with this software.
Alternatively, there are the Celestron AstroMaster LT 60 AZ or the LT 70 AZ, both refractor telescopes at under £100.
For more distant and fainter objects Celestron recommend the Newtonian reflector type. We’ll cover those in another article.
Celestron AstroMaster £100-£200
Moving into the £100 to £200 price bracket but sticking the Celestron AstroMaster series we find there are several more options with varying degrees of sophistication.
Like all telescope in the AstroMaster series each has coated, glass, erect image optics, making them ideal for terrestrial and astronomical use.
Setting them up is quick and easy and requires no tools. The tripod is pre-assembled and just needs unfolding and positioning. Again, these intermediate telescopes have a permanently mounted StarPointer finderscope.
The German Equatorial mount has setting circles which make accurately locating and tracking objects a breeze, and you can plan your target objects using the 10,00 object database, maps, and high resolution images within the Starry Night astronomy software.
The MD on the 139EQ option refers to ‘motor drive’. This 9V battery driven motor compensates for the Earth’s rotation, so instead of having to manually adjust the telescope it tracks a star’s (apparent) movement in RA (Right Ascension) through the night sky. The only occasional manual adjustments the user has to make is to the declination.
Setting this up, and polar aligning the telescope to Polaris, is all explained in the accompanying documentation, which also contains a step-by-step setup guide for the whole telescope with accompanying pictures for each stage.
The motor drive has a Speed Rate Regulator knob which enables adjustment of the speed of the movement. This is necessary since closer astronomical objects like the Moon and the planets seemingly move much faster across the sky than distant deep space objects.
The AstroMaster range comes with a reassuring two year warranty.
There are all kinds of accessories you can buy to add to these Celestron Newtonion Reflector Telescopes. If anyone’s looking for a more affordable present then these accessories are ideal. For example, there are eyepiece kits, lenses, filters, and a smartphone adapter.
First Telescope Buyer’s Guide
The best telescope for kids or for those new to astronomy will depend on your needs and ambitions. Like all technology, it’s only effective if it’s used to its full effect. You can learn more about the night sky by stargazing each night with a cheap pair of binoculars than you can with an expensive telescope that sits unused in the cupboard under the stairs.
Start by reading the product descriptions above and elsewhere so that you familiarise yourself with the terminology. There are many variables in the telescopes themselves as well as all kinds of accessories. To get you started we’ve included some basic descriptions below.
Refractor telescopes are the ones with which most people are familiar. These types have a lens at the front which refracts light onto a mirror at the back. They are simple and sturdy to use but won’t pick out faint objects. The can also be used for viewing objects on the Earth’s surface.
Reflector telescopes have a mirror at the front of the tube which reflects light onto another mirror which passes it onto the eyepiece. These telescopes can pick out much fainter objects but they can’t be used for viewing anything on the Earth’s surface. They are more valuable than refractor telescopes but do require some maintenance as they are prone to collecting dust (especially if rarely used!).
Compound telescopes are, as the name suggests, a combination of both refracting and reflecting telescopes. They are also known as Schmidt-Cassegrain or catadioptric telescopes. They have lens in the middle of the tube and mirror each end. They enable the viewing of faint objects in space but they can also be used to view objects on Earth. These telescope types are widely used for astrophotography but the added complexity of the design is reflected in the increased prices for this type.
The aperture of the telescope is the diameter of its mirror or lens. The more light the telescope can collect the better the picture so buy the telescope with the biggest aperture you can afford.
Focal length is the distance between the mirror or lens and the focal point. It’s not as important as aperture but again, go for the longest you can afford.
Magnification is a measurement of the size of the image seen in your eyepiece. All telescopes ship with a default eyepiece but you can buy upgrades for greater magnification.
If you still have questions and need a quick answer then our FAQ page may contain an answer for you.
Positions and Storage
Think about where your telescope is going to be stored or if it will be permanently in position. For example if you have a conservatory with double doors it could erected there with a view of the night sky through the open doors. On the other hand if space is limited and then it may need to be a smaller type for mounting on a desk or table next to an open window.
Ideally though you should use your telescope in the open country or at least in your garden, away from the heat sources of walls and patios. Buildings and paved areas cool at night and the heat they release can have a detrimental effect on the telescope’s images.
The main reason to take your telescope outside and into the countryside is to escape the light pollution of urban areas. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that increasing amounts of the night sky are denied to use due to the overuse of artificial light.
The late Sir Patrick Moore, the world famous astronomer and presenter of the TV series ‘The Sky At Night’ lived in Selsey in West Sussex. His garden observatory benefited from the comparatively low light pollution of the village and the fact that his garden faced out onto the English Channel.
Learn Astronomy Basics
If there is one nearby, join or visit the local astronomy club to ask advice and to view and examine the telescopes they have available.
Learn the basics of astronomy so that you can quickly identify the most visible objects in the night sky. This is very easy to do with books and charts, or with one of the many freely available apps like Sky Guide. Install this app on your mobile phone or tablet, point the device at the night sky and it will identify the constellations and other astronomical bodies for you.
Another way to introduce yourself or your children to astronomy is to go on an astronomy holiday or short break that includes access to telescopes, observatories in dark sky areas, away from the light pollution to which we are so accustomed.
Decide whether or not you have the patience to find targets for observation by using your knowledge of the night sky or if you want the easier option of the GoTo function. This will increase the price of the telescope but it has the added benefit of saving you time when searching for new targets.
Finally, there is the all important budget. How much do you want to spend? Choose your budget wisely and stick to it. If you buy a telescope and learn all its uses then you may find it serves you well for many years and if well maintained it will still be a saleable asset when you’re ready to upgrade.
In conclusion, if you’re still unsure of the best telescope for kids or beginners in astronomy then rest assured that probably don’t need to spend more than £50 at most for a device that will be fun for them to use while they get to know the basics.
Consider combining the gift with an astronomy book to read during the day, or a star projector for the bedroom, and they will have plenty to keep them entertained.
If you’re buying for a teenager or adult, or perhaps for yourself, and if that person is new to astronomy then there several excellent models from reputable brands in the £50 – £200 price range The ones we’ve listed above are the best sellers with the highest ratings on Amazon.
You may also want to add an introduction to astronomy book or some other tutorial for stargazing. You could also add some accessories to complete the package and we’ll cover those in another section.
Last update on 2020-07-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API