Top professional telescopes reviewed & buying guide
If you’re short on time and you just want to find the best professional telescope, this short paragraph should help you get exactly the model you need. We have collected enough information to enable us to compare various products based on actual owner feedback, ratings and reviews in expert review sites and product surveys. According to our findings/research, the Meade Instruments LX90-ACF 1210-90-03 is the best because of its superior highly technological optical design that delivers a flatter and interference-free field of view with precision imaging right to the edge of the field, easily challenging what more expensive models can give you without costing as much. Its integrated Sony GPS sensor determines the date, time and location of observation as soon as the telescope is switched on. This intelligent professional scope boasts genuine Easy Align technology that selects two stars of alignment for you and positions them at the exact spot on the viewfinder. If the Meade Instruments LX90-ACF 1210-90-03 is unavailable, your second option should be the Meade Instruments 1205-05-03.
Nothing quite works like a professional telescope when making scientific observations of the celestial objects in the night sky. The low price of a department store-bought telescope may be tempting, but in terms of craftsmanship and quality components, a premium quality model is always worth the money spent on it. What makes a product of this type the best professional telescope to buy?
The best advanced telescopes are designed with high apertures
Because telescope manufacturers make magnification a big thing, you will often see the packaging of their products highlighting this seemingly essential component. However, an informed consumer should be aware that 600x magnification and similar expressions do not reflect a telescope’s overall capacity to enable viewing of objects clearly and efficiently. Aperture, which is the dimension or size of the lens or mirror, is a primary consideration in this type of instrument. Just like a camera’s number of megapixels does not demonstrate its full capability, neither does magnification play a huge role. There are included items in the package that will enhance magnification, such as Barlow lenses or the eyepieces themselves.
In cameras, you won’t be able to crowd that many pixels in the printed image as you may end up with a blurred or grainy photo. For telescopes, the image quality will only be as good as the aperture size. A progressively large aperture is what you need for viewing faint deep sky objects with great detail. A large aperture also provides more potentials for viewing. If you have a telescope that’s too small with an extremely large magnification, you won’t see objects as clearly as you should. It is the aperture that indicates the power of the scope, not the magnification.
Moreover, while small scopes deliver clear images during perfect conditions even to a maximum of 100x per inch of aperture, you will no longer be able to see detail at 50x per inch. Large scopes that are affected by air currents may deliver a maximum useful magnification at 20x or 30x per inch. Technically, you may get a maximum magnification of 200x from a 3- or 4-inch refractor, but you will rarely have any size scope that can benefit from over twice or thrice that magnification.
Consider the products in the best professional telescope reviews that are of the type you feel comfortable working with
A dioptric or refractor telescope is the most common type of device that customers go for. Having a thin and long tube through which light travels straight from the objective lens at the front to the eyepiece at the rear, refractors are easy to use and offer dependable performance because of their simple design. They also need no maintenance and are useful both for terrestrial and celestial exploration applications. Refractor telescopes deliver high contrast images because they don’t make use of secondary mirrors, and neither do they have diagonal obstruction as an issue. For decent color correction, look for refractors with an achromatic design. Superior color correction is delivered by extra-low dispersion (ED), fluorite and apochromatic refractors. The sealed optical assembly of a refractor effectively prevents the degradation of images due to air currents. This design also ensures protection to the scope optics. Easy use is supported by the permanently aligned and mounted objective lens.
Reflector telescopes, otherwise called catoptrics, generally utilize a concave parabolic primary mirror to collect and focus light onto the secondary mirror that has a flat, diagonal design. The reflected image is relayed through an opening at the side of the primary tube then on to the eyepiece. Reflector telescopes work through mirrors that have less cost to produce than lenses with medium to large apertures in catadioptrics and refractors, thereby delivering performance at low cost per inch of aperture. Moreover, while boasting portable and compact profiles, they feature the best design that enables the examination of faint celestial objects such as star clusters, nebulae and distant galaxies. For viewing of the Moon and the planets, reflectors offer reliability. They also work well for deep sky astrophotography, which can be attributed to their ability to block optical aberrations for spectacular views of astoundingly brilliant objects. The reflected design also prevents extreme loss of light.
Employing a combination of mirrors and lenses on its optical design, a catadioptric telescope allows light through a thin, aspheric Schmidt correcting lens. The light strikes the spherical primary mirror and then bounces back up to the optical tube. Intercepted by a small secondary mirror, the reflected light then goes back out through an opening in the rear of the instrument and is generated as an image on the eyepiece. The two most common designs of this type are the Maksutov-Cassegrain and the Schmidt-Cassegrain. Catadioptric scopes have the most modern design and are popular throughout the world. You can select from 3.5-inch and larger apertures. Catadioptrics can be used for binary star, lunar and planetary observations in addition to terrestrial viewing or photography thanks to their exceptional optics that are able to provide images over wide fields.
The best semi-professional telescope should be supported on a strong and stable mount
To ensure easy and convenient viewing of celestial objects, a telescope first needs to be pointed in the right direction and should stay steady. Your hands work well to do this with binoculars, which can also be supported on a tripod for greater stability and to obtain better views. Altitude azimuth (altazimuth or simply alt-az) mounts come with a basic frame. Dobsonian mounts, with their wooden construction, are examples of this type of mount.
The celestial objects under observation can seem to be in constant movement across the sky. This is due to the revolution of our planet on its axis. With a motorized equatorial mount, this movement is amply compensated. However, equatorial mounts are not easy for everybody to use, especially for beginners. Steer clear of telescopes with extremely cheap equatorial mounts because they generally have inferior gears that will greatly disappoint. If you intend to do deep sky astrophotography, you will need a scope with a top notch equatorial mount. For effortless finding of celestial objects, you may want to check out computerized and GPS-assisted mounts.
Our 2018 list: Find the right professional telescope for your needs
Today’s modern astronomer is fortunate that there are plenty of brands and models of professional telescopes on the market. While this is always a good thing, the sheer number of choices can be overwhelming but the buying guide above will hopefully help you make a sensible buying decision. We have also showcased the best products below for even more shopping assistance.
Meade Instruments LX90-ACF
Engineered with the same brilliance as the brand’s flagship LX200-ACF, the Meade Instruments LX90-ACF provides reliable value for those seeking to observe instead of just view faraway images up close.
Experienced professionals as well as beginners will find many things to like in this kit in terms of design, quality, features and craftsmanship. The UHTC multi-coatings on this instrument make it highly suitable for professional use. Setup will have to be done by two people because of the way the instrument has been designed for serious celestial studying.
This model will definitely amaze you in all optical parameters. You can even go after the faintest images and be astounded by the detail you’ll perceive. This model works best for observing in extremely dark sky situations.
Combining computerized control, stable double-fork mounting, top quality optics and a streamlined design despite the bulk, this telescope has bragging rights to a long and comprehensive list of cutting-edge features including an oversized primary mirror, a beefy tripod to support the strong mount, virtually diffraction-free optics, plus accurate and simple GPS-assisted alignment.
This model integrates all the features of the brand’s Schmidt-Cassegrain units while improving on them via its Advanced Coma-Free (ACF) optical system for a better field of view.
This model simplifies the search for images across the entire field edge-to-edge so you miss nothing, which is a quality that pricier models have except that this one comes at a budget-friendly price.
The built-in Sony GPS sensor immediately obtains the date and time as well as your precise location, which are used by the AutoAlign system for adjusting the scope to give you a tour of the fantastic sights in the heavens.
The oversized primary mirror provides a wider, more brilliant field-of-view while enabling you to collect the light for brighter images, which other telescopes simply lose.
The ultra-high transmission coatings enable the optical elements to gather as much light as possible from celestial objects for clear and detailed images.
The telescope package ships with just one eyepiece but everything in the set is of high quality.
Some buyers are disappointed that the package shipped to them had some parts broken or missing so customers need to check the box when it gets to them to prevent such issues.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($2899)
Meade Instruments 1205-05-03
The Meade Instruments 1205-05-03 carries a Dobsonian design for simplicity. It is able to collect plenty of light despite its amazingly portable profile. Built with ground-based roller bearing mounts, this Newtonian-type reflector telescope features open trusses that connect the segments carrying the reflecting mirror and focuser.
The entire system packs easily into a small car’s trunk, allowing you to drive to your favorite skywatching destinations where the skies are darkest the longest. The truly diffraction-limited optics feature aluminum coatings along with a magnesium fluoride overcoat for superb performance. The broad 2-inch focuser features a tensioning knob and lock to provide dependable controllability.
The 12-inch telescope is also exceptionally durable for many years of brightness on the go. To ensure adjustable illumination, this model features a red dot finder scope. The integrated eyepiece tray accommodates your optics essentials while keeping them within easy reach. This model also comes with a built-in primary mirror cooling fan that ensures faster attainment of thermal equilibrium.
The included AutoStar Suite Windows-compatible DVD astronomy software provides fascinating information on the various celestial objects you can examine using the scope.
Setting up and taking down this telescope are easy and this enables you to have your own huge window to the universe and to your favorite dark sky spot.
The telescope comes with an open truss tube design that ensures a lightweight build for effortless handling every time.
The components are all of high quality to ensure a dependable performance and lasting use without making you spend more than you should.
The laminated base comes with roller bearings on the azimuth axis for effortless tracking and performance when following celestial objects across the sky.
To deliver crisp, full contrast in images, the telescope comes with a 2-inch Crayford style machined focuser, a 2-inch eyepiece, and a 1.25-inch adapter.
According to one user, the package was shipped to them with some parts loose and the scope basically out of collimation. That may be a case of improper assembly or the packaging system itself so it is best for customers to check the package so such issues can be properly resolved.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($999)
Sky-Watcher ProED S11130
Equipped with a doublet apochromatic lens system, the Sky-Watcher ProED S11130 delivers an amazing celestial examination experience for those who wish only to work using the best instruments they can find.
This awesome product comes with a doublet with Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass along with the proprietary photon anti-rejection Metallic High-Transmission Coatings (MHC) from Sky Watcher on all the air-to-glass optical surfaces.
Thanks to this ingenious combination of lenses, glass, and coatings, chromatic aberrations are virtually removed to ensure only clear and bright high-contrast images boasting realistic color rendition. Inside the scope is a versatile optical tube assembly (OTA) that is perfectly geared for wide-field astronomical observation of bright galaxies, nebulae and star clusters.
This scope can also support sky photography as it can serve as an astrograph. It has a large 120mm aperture that ensures greater image brightness compared to smaller aperture models. The large aperture also enhances image contrast and resolution.
Made with top-quality, durable components, this APO refractor telescope features an extra-low dispersion (ED) Schott glass that collects as much light as possible from sky objects for clear images.
The refractor design ensures that the scope delivers images with superb contrast and high definition against a tar-black sky as the background, for spectacular viewing every time.
The scope comes with a tube-ring attachment hardware to facilitate the attachment to your choice of a tripod so the instrument can be held steady.
The dual-speed 2-inch Crayford-style focuser with a 1.25-inch adapter simplifies getting a fix on celestial objects moving across the sky.
The aluminum carry case provides a solid, safe, and efficient means of transporting and carrying the scope someplace else or to another area in the yard for a better vantage point.
The focuser seems to be the weakest part of the scope but some buyers have been able to make improvements on the component for a better performance.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($1679)
Use it to examine the Moon and the planets as well as brilliant deep-sky objects such as nebulae and galaxies. Employing the exclusive StarBright XLT multi-coating system from Celestron, this telescope increases light transmission throughout its entire optical channel thanks to the anti-reflective multi-coated lenses as well as the highly-reflective multi-coated mirrors and the Crown optical glass elements, for durability and reliable performance.
Although its focal ratio is comparatively slow at f/10, this instrument is equipped with a precision tracking system that enables use as a dependable platform to accommodate astro imaging and astrophotography applications for the planets and the Moon.
The mount is driven by the dual servo motors that are in turn activated through the NexStar computer hand controller. This component comes loaded with more than 40,000 celestial objects and can accommodate up to 200 more user-defined destinations while being updateable on the Celestron website.
This 6-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope offers a superb fusion of the brand’s original orange tube telescopes and the company’s offering of the latest state-of-the-art features.
The exclusive StarBright XLT high-transmission coatings ensure superior light-gathering capability from the celestial objects so the scope can deliver brilliant images and great detail.
The StarPointer finderscope enables the user to get a proper alignment and enjoy accuracy when searching for favorite celestial objects.
Thanks to the SkyAlign feature, the scope enables you to line up any three brilliant celestial objects to facilitate a fast and effortless alignment process.
The instrument comes with a massive database comprising 40,000 objects along with 200 user-identifiable ones and more information on more than 200 objects.
Although this telescope runs on 8 double-A batteries, they can’t be enough for an extended period of celestial observation and study.
The scope also has to be reconfigured when the batteries are taken out, starting with the date, time, and location to ensure accurate observation.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($699)
Celestron 22150 Omni XLT
Equipped with proprietary XLT Anti-Reflection Fully Coated Optics from Celestron, the 22150 Omni XLT boasts observatory-grade performance at more affordable costs.
This amazing product comes with a 1.25″ Focuser and 25mm Eyepiece, enabling you to use it for viewing and examination of bright celestial objects as well as the less bright ones in the sky.
This revolutionary scope enables comfortable viewing and observation thanks to the 90° Erect-Image Diagonal. In addition, the StarPointer Pro Red-Dot Finderscope makes it easy to locate celestial objects after the scope has been properly positioned first. The Omni Alt-Az Manual Single-Arm Fork Mount and
Dual Slow Motion Cables work well together to ensure sufficient stability and support. The height-adjustable aluminum tripod optimizes the worm gears on the altazimuth mount to enable hassle-free tracking of both terrestrial and celestial observation targets while the slip catches ensure fast and effortless pointing. This scope delivers wide fields of view to accommodate your viewing needs.
The telescope is equipped with a manual, slow-motion altazimuth mount that employs worm gears for seamless and effortless tracking of both terrestrial and celestial objects.
The mount also comes with slip clutches that help with the easy and rapid pointing to help you make the most of every astronomy adventure.
This scope has quality optical components that are fully coated with the brand’s exclusive XLT coatings, which are the same ones used on observatory-grade telescopes.
The large 102mm aperture works well with the wide fields of view to facilitate both celestial and terrestrial viewing without compromising on image quality.
Repositioning the single arm of the mount can be done to have it point near the zenith for celestial observations, or to point downward for making terrestrial observations from a window or deck.
The included mount will need to be checked fairly regularly to ensure that it doesn’t loosen up and give a wobbly observation platform.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($259.95)