Your first telescope is arguably the most important because if the views do not amaze and delight, your interest in astronomy will crash and burn on the runway!
All the telescopes in this section are affordable yet have enough magnification, resolution and light gathering ability to view details on the lunar surface, the rings of Saturn and cloud belts on Jupiter. A number of deep-sky targets can also be observed including the famous globular cluster in Hercules (M13) and the Great Nebula in Orion (M42).
Too many choices? They all perform well but, if asked, our favourites are:
The Celestron FirstScope is our most affordable telescope but don't be put off by it's low price. It is made by one of the biggest names in the business and was awarded 'Official Product of International Year of Astronomy 2009’. The 76mm (3") diameter Newtonian optics provide views that are brighter and clearer than the 60mm 'toy' telescopes available in department stores. Introduce your kids to stargazing for only a little more than the cost of a video game!
Kids love the Astromaster 70EQ because it 'looks' like a telescope (a long tube with a lens at the front, an eyepiece at the rear, mounted on three legs). Considering it’s low price, it is also remarkably well made. The tube is metal, the optics are coated, the long focal-ratio reduces aberrations and the GEQ mount enables you to track the target as it moves across the sky. Observe Jupiter and a number of it's moons, Saturn and it's rings and the Moon's deep craters and dark flat plains. An excellent introduction to astronomy.
The Heritage 100p is essentially a larger version of the Celestron FirstScope and arguably the BEST <£100 telescope available. Low maintenance and easy to use so suitable for kids and the compact size makes it an excellent choice for taking on holiday. Don't let the low price put you off, it will easily outperform similarly-priced models found at department stores and camera shops. Like the FirstScope 76, it requires a sturdy garden table to stand on but has a 3/8" thread in the base so can be fitted to a suitable photo tripod.
How can anyone not like the Celestron Astromaster 90EQ, it is the quintessential beginner telescope! It is also a popular choice with kids because it looks and behaves how they expect a telescope to look and behave. The coated glass optics and long focal-ratio provide very nice views and an optional RA motor is available for easy tracking of targets, even at high magnifications. Not as compact as the Heritage 100p but the GEQ mount is more advanced and the tripod legs don't require a garden table, it can literally stand on it's own three feet.
The Explorer 130p's 5-inch (130mm) parabolic Newtonian mirror will comfortably reveal a number of Jupiter's weather bands and moons. Saturn's rings will also be clearly visible, as will a number of its moons. Mars will appear as an orange disk with subtle shading. The lunar surface will show a wealth of detail and, at times, it will feel like you can reach out and scratch the surface! The GEQ mount is a little more complicated than some but will accept an RA motor (optional) which will automatically track targets as they move across the sky.
The Skyliner 200p is our bestselling telescope and is the UK's most popular Dobsonian. At £285 it might be a little expensive for a beginner telescope but by crikey it's good!
"Turning to Saturn, the view really took our breath away: we saw five moons, a clear-cut Cassini Division and a colour difference between the A and B rings. Not only that, but Saturn also displayed a prominent belt - with this scope planetary detail is certainly not compromised... The Skyliner was a joy to use."BBC Sky @ Night magazine.
Hmm, so what else will I need?
Useful accessories include a 0.9x 1.25" Moon filter, a Planisphere, a good book and a red light torch. The telescopes are supplied with two eyepieces but at some point you will want more. Most astronomers own three or four eyepieces. We suggest you become familiar with what you have before buying additional eyepieces but are happy to advise if you are in a hurry. You will also need a warm coat, thick socks, and a hat!
Housing the same Parabolic Primary Mirror-set as the highly-acclaimed Explorer-130P, this telescope is an excellent introduction to astronomy that will provide wonderful views of the Moon, planets and the brighter Deep-Sky Objects.
“I was most impressed by the views revealed by the ‘scope during tests…Despite a phase of nearly 96 percent, the waxing gibbous Moon revealed a seemingly inexhaustible amount of fine detail…The mechanical and optical specification delivered at this price break puts it into an essentially peerless position. Highly recommended!”
"Turning to Saturn, the view really took our breath away: we saw five moons, a clear-cut Cassini Division and a colour difference between the A and B rings. Not only that, but Saturn also displayed a prominent belt – with this scope planetary detail is certainly not compromised ...The Skyliner was a joy to use.”