Large telescopes – Buying guide & Comparison
If you’re short on time and you just want to find the best large telescope, this short paragraph should help you get exactly the model you need. To compare different products in this category, we looked at product surveys, expert ratings and reviews in different sites as well as actual owner feedback. Based on our research and findings, the Celestron NexStar 6 SE is the best because of its remarkable fusion of portability and dependable performance as the brand’s first optical instrument to carry the new Schmidt-Cassegrain optical system, which ensures durability while combining the optical strengths of both mirrors and lenses and canceling out their weaknesses. This makes the high-performance altazimuth computerized telescope suitable for photography and terrestrial viewing in addition to binary star, planetary and lunar observation. Equipped with Celestron’s cutting-edge Sky tour feature called the SkyAlign alignment technology, this device comes with effortless hand control to optimize a large database of more than 40,000 celestial objects. If the Celestron NexStar 6 SE 11068 is unavailable, your second option should be the Orion SkyQuest XT8.
There’s no easy way to choose a telescope nowadays. From small and cheap ones to the behemoths that go up to the hundreds of dollars, there’s a perfect telescope for every need and budget. How can you distinguish the better quality ones from the more inferior products when looking at the large telescopes for sale?
The best place to start is the aperture
The aperture of the telescope is an indication of the power of the instrument. The aperture refers to the mirror or lens size. The mirror or lens is the primary component that focuses the light collected from distant objects. The image quality will only be as good as the scope’s aperture size. If you intend to view faint celestial targets and still obtain more detail, you want a progressively large aperture. With a large aperture, you get a wider range of viewing potential. Do not misconstrue magnification as a reflection of the telescope’s overall ability for image viewing. When considering magnification, it’s pretty much like choosing a camera. You can’t crowd that many pixels in a standard-size photo, so why be dazzled by how many megapixels the camera comes with? You’ll only get a grainy or blurred photo. In telescopes, a large magnification on an overly small device will result in a large but blurry image. In both cases, it is aperture that counts more. The best Dobsonian telescope provides a budget-friendly means of attaining a large aperture.
Consider what type you are comfortable working with
Refractors, otherwise known as dioptrics, are the most commonly bought type. They are characterized by a thin and long tube through which light is channeled in a straight path to the eyepiece at the rear from the front-located objective lens. Refractors are not only reliable and easy to use due to their simplicity in design but also require little to no maintenance while being versatile for distant terrestrial viewing aside from planetary, lunar and binary star observation. Refractors deliver images with high contrast thanks to the absence of diagonal obstruction or secondary mirrors. Refractors that carry an achromatic design offer good color correction, while apochromatic, fluorite and ED (extra-low dispersion) designs deliver excellent color correction. Air currents that degrade images are reduced thanks to the sealed optical tube assembly, which also protects the optics. The permanently mounted and aligned objective lens simplifies use.
Catoptric or reflector telescopes typically employ a concave parabolic primary mirror to gather and focus light onto a diagonal flat secondary mirror that reflects the image through an opening at the side of the primary tube and on to the eyepiece. Providing low cost per inch of aperture, a reflector telescope uses mirrors that cost less to produce compared to medium-to-large aperture lenses in refractors and catadioptrics. Reflectors offer the best design for viewing faint celestial objects including nebulae, far galaxies and star groups, while being fairly compact and portable. Reflectors are suitable for planetary and lunar viewing as well as deep sky astrophotography because of their reduced level of optical aberrations to enable viewing of incredibly bright objects. More importantly, the reflected design ensures extremely little light loss. Good Dobsonian telescopes have a reflector optical design.
Catadioptrics utilize a fusion of lenses and mirrors to manipulate the optics and produce an image. The Schmidt-Cassegrain and the Maksutov-Cassegrain are the two popular designs of catadioptrics. The light is channeled through a thin, aspheric Schmidt correcting lens. The light then hits the spherical primary mirror then gets reflected back up the optical tube. A small secondary mirror intercepts the reflected light that then bounces back out of an opening in the rear of the telescope where an image is generated on the eyepiece. Carrying the most modern design, catadioptrics are available in 3.5-inch and larger apertures and are widely popular around the world. Equipped with remarkable optics that deliver vivid images over a wide field, catadioptrics are great for planetary, lunar, binary star observing or photography as well as for terrestrial viewing or photography.
The mount matters more than you think
When viewing deep sky objects, the telescope has to be pointed in the right direction and kept steady at that. With binoculars, your hands provide the direction pointing and holding. That said, a tripod offers stable and better views in general. Mechanically the simplest mount, altitude-azimuth mounts (altazimuth or alt-az) include Dobsonian mounts that feature a basic frame, often of wooden structure.
When observing the night sky, it will seem to show constantly moving celestial objects, and this is mainly because of the Earth’s rotation around its axis. An equatorial mount is aligned with the axis of our planet. The motor of an equatorial mount compensates for the rotation of the Earth on its axis. Despite that capability, an equatorial mount can be quite complicated for the beginner. An overly cheap equatorial mount should be avoided like the plague, as it will typically have flimsy gears that can be frustrating, especially for children, to use. For deep sky astrophotography however, you will want a good quality scope with an equatorial mount. GPS-geared and computerized mounts have become increasingly popular because of how they enable effortless locating of objects in the night sky while compensating automatically for the Earth’s rotation.
Top large telescope reviews in 2018
The market now has plenty of models and brands of large telescopes due to the increasing popularity of astronomical observation as a hobby for kids and the family. Let the above buying guide help you make a more informed buying decision. We have also highlighted the best products below for even more help.
Celestron NexStar 6 SE
The Celestron NexStar 6 SE is engineered to be a versatile and powerful Schmidt-Cassegrain style instrument that is highly user-friendly. It offers superb functionality for observing everything from the planets and the Moon to fascinating brilliant deep sky objects such as nebulae and galaxies.
Equipped with the exclusive StarBright XLT multi-coating system from Celestron, this model ensures higher light transmission across its full optical path outfitted with anti-reflection multicoated lenses along with superbly reflective multi-coated mirrors plus Crown optical glass elements.
The precision tracking system of the scope enables it to be an incredibly dependable astrophotography/astroimaging platform for lunar and planetary observing despite the relatively slow f/10 focal ratio. What drives this scope’s dual servo motors is the proprietary NexStar computer hand controller.
This component is loaded with more than 40,000 celestial objects, in addition to its capability to accommodate up to 200 additional user-defined destinations. The database can be updated through the Celestron website.
This 6-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope is equipped with high-transmission coatings on the precision optical system to ensure a greater light-gathering capability.
The proprietary single-fork arm is outfitted with the critical hand control design that guarantees a rigid and seamlessly-crafted configuration for the optical tube assembly for easy functionality.
The unit ships with a StarPointer finderscope that helps with the alignment and for the accurate pinpointing of target objects.
The bonus SkyX First Light Edition astronomy software employs its 10,000-object database and also comes with printable sky maps along with 75 enhanced images.
Thanks to the Star diagonal feature, this instrument guarantees a more comfortable viewing position during celestial observations.
This model runs on 8 double-A batteries and also enables you to use rechargeable fuel cells. However, the powerful features tend to guzzle a lot of power, which doesn’t allow extended viewing activities.
Once the batteries are taken out, there’s a need to reconfigure the critical components such as the date, time, and coordinates upon reinsertion of the fuel cells.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($799)
Orion SkyQuest XT8
Capable of delivering stargazing entertainment and learning on a nightly basis, the Orion 8945 SkyQuest XT8 offers a sophisticated fusion of rock-solid sturdiness, mechanical simplicity and a precision optical system.
Providing bright and clear views of the deep night sky, this model enables you to examine the planets, the Moon and various other objects in the sky at night and in fantastic detail at that.
The 203mm or 8-inch aperture offers a generous capacity for collecting a considerable amount of light from even the fainter night sky objects to provide incredible views of brilliant star groups or constellations, as well as cloud-fringed nebulas and more distant galaxies than our own.
The Dobsonian design provides point-and-view simplicity as opposed to the complicatedness of an equatorial mount with tripod.The 203mm diameter parabolic primary mirror collects 78% greater light compared to a 6-inch mirror to help you achieve greater ability to observe nebular dust lanes and also enabling good resolution of the cores of brilliant round star clusters while helping you enjoy fascinating views of the fainter structures in faraway galaxies beyond our own.
This telescope is equipped with 8-inch diameter reflector optics that enable the viewing of the moon and the planets in great detail.
The telescope comes with an ultra-stable Dobsonian base that ensures the reflector optical tube is perfectly balanced for ease of use when obtaining point-of-view setups.
The supplied 2-inch Crayford focuser accommodates 1.25-inch and 2-inch telescope eyepieces and is also supplemented with an EZ Finder II reflex sight, a 25mm Sirius Plossl eyepiece, Starry Night software, a collimation cap, and other great items for value for money.
This large-aperture Classic Dobsonian reflector telescope can last a very long time for the novice astronomy fan or the whole family without burning a large hole in the pocket.
The 8-inch aperture has enough size that allows spectacular light gathering capability for viewing cloudy nebulas, brilliant star clusters, and galaxies beyond our own Milky Way.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($379.99)
Meade Instruments 203002
Outfitted with a convenient tabletop manual mount with a 360-degree rotating base, the Meade Instruments 203002 is a lovely mini-reflector scope that ensures fast and easy setup.
This telescope can be used anywhere that is most convenient for you to observe the night sky because of its extreme portability. This instrument is geared with a large 4.5-inch parabolic objective mirror featuring a 450mm focal length to make it a grab-and-go option for the seasoned astronomer out for some casual observing, as well as the novice telescope user who wants an instrument for examining lunar and planetary bodies in incredible detail.
It even allows viewing of more spectacular deep-sky objects including galaxies, nebulae and binary stars. Easy device control is provided via the manual tabletop altazimuth mount that enables you to track slow moving celestial targets such as nebulae, as well as fast-moving ones like the Moon.
The Vixen-style dovetail plate and saddle enable easy assembly, setup, disassembly, storage and transport for genuine grab-and-go simplicity.
This Parabolic Newtonian Reflector is engineered with a large 114mm aperture that enables you to view star clusters, the planets, and nebulae.
This is a lightweight and compact instrument with a removable 450mm optical tube that ensures portability.
To provide both low and high magnifications, the instrument ships with a 26mm eyepiece for 17x magnification, and a 9mm eyepiece for 50x magnification.
The vixen-style mount not only supports the mini-telescope but also gives it an aesthetically pleasing look as well as easy operations.
Make the most of this telescope that comes with a red-dot viewfinder for effortless aiming plus the exclusive Autostar Suite Astronomy planetarium DVD where you can learn about more than 10,000 objects in the night sky.
It can be tricky to employ the fine focus functionality at higher magnifications and tracking the objects at higher powers can also be challenging.
This is a starter mini-telescope for young children and is not marketed as a professional instrument.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($149)
Orion 11043 SpaceProbe 3
Enabling you and your entire family to enjoy all-around celestial observation, the Orion 11043 SpaceProbe 3 is just the right portable size and cost for novice astronomers looking to share their fascination for the deep night sky with their loved ones.
Lightweight at just 16 pounds, this telescope offers viewing capabilities typically associated with higher-priced models but without the hefty price tag. The 700mm focal length allows examination of the Moon’s crater-filled surface.
You can also view the brightest moons of gigantic Jupiter as well as the awe-inspiring rings of Saturn. The 3-inch diameter optics of this telescope collects adequate light from objects to enable easy viewing and examination. It even enables you to glimpse the faint glows from faraway deep-space star clusters and nebulae.
This Newtonian reflector telescope is equipped with a 1.25-inch rack-and-pinion focuser that adjusts smoothly for precise focusing and clear views using the two supplied Kellner eyepieces.
Lightweight and easy to setup, this amazing telescope makes a terrific beginner instrument for children without necessitating a large investment.
Despite its lightweight design, this telescope is still large enough to deliver amazing views of the Moon, the distinguishing features of the planets, along with brilliant nebulae.
The altazimuth mount works nicely with the tripod to provide a stable support along with a smooth motion both in the vertical and horizontal axes for problem-free control.
The telescope comes with an EZ Finder II reflex sight that facilitates the search for celestial objects, making the task quick and easy.
This telescope comes as a complete package with two 1.25-inch eyepieces, a smooth rack-and-pinion focuser, Starry Night astronomy software, and a reflector collimation cap to give families the opportunity to share astronomy adventures together.
The legs of the tripod have to be extended and planted on the ground to ensure a stable structure.
The rather small azimuth knob is tucked into the yoke so in order to find it, the user has to rely on feel alone.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($109.99)
Meade Instruments Infinity 209006
Perfect for novice astronomers, the Meade Instruments Infinity 209006 offers a complete setup for planetary, lunar and binary star viewing. This amazing telescope allows you to examine fascinating bright deep-sky objects and even spectacular meteor showers that will take your breath away with their brilliance.
The manual altazimuth mount features an altitude lock for stability, plus slow-motion controls to enable easy height adjustment for remarkable deep-sky viewing. The three supplied eyepieces deliver a range of magnifications from a high of 95x to 66.5x and 23x and when each paired with the included 2x Barlow lens, will deliver double the magnification to support a wider-range of observation functionalities.
Providing a stable platform is the stainless steel tripod with adjustable height. The 90-degree erect-image diagonal provides comfortable viewing especially when the scope needs to be aimed toward the zenith.
Horizontal and vertical image correction is carried out via the prism of the diagonal to enable terrestrial viewing. The built-in dew shield helps keep off condensation on the objective lens aside from preventing excess light from messing up celestial viewing.
This altazimuth refractor telescope has a lightweight design weighing in at a fully-assembled 5.5 kilograms for easy carrying and portability around the yard.
The aluminum altazimuth mount offers adjustability for the precision tracking of celestial objects moving across the night sky and comes with slow-motion controls along with an adjustable tray to hold sky-viewing essentials.
The Red Dot Viewfinder enables the easy pointing of the instrument at target objects in the sky for easy study.
The supplied low, medium, and high magnification pieces provide a range of viewing opportunities while the 2X Barlow lens amplifies the magnification of each eyepiece in the package.
This telescope package ships with everything you need to get started on an astronomy adventure in the comfort of the home, as it includes an instructional DVD and astronomy software along with the Autostar Suite Astronomy planetarium DVD describing over 10,000 celestial objects for Windows PC use.
The 90-degree elbow joint that serves as an erect-image prism connecting the eyepieces to the instrument is not a high-quality component.
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