Best Telescope Under $500

If you’re a keen astronomer then you will know how expensive a good quality telescope can get.

If you’re new to this game or if you are looking for something that suits your budget, the $500 mark is usually a good place to start. This budget allows you to get a some-what affordable telescope, performs well, and looks great.

This price range allows you to not miss out on the fantastic features included in many mid-high end range telescopes. Super low-end telescopes may not have the best features to help you progress in your astronomy hobby. If you want to see the moon, you have come to the right place.

In a hurry? Here’s our top pick!

Celestron Inspire 70AZ

The Celestron Inspire 70AZ ticks all of the boxes that you need for a telescope under $500. Firstly, we have to talk about its great design. The eye-catching design will pop.

The main lens comes with a smartphone adapter which allows you to shoot photos onto your phone. You will be able to impress your friends and family with some seriously amazing photos of the stars.

This telescope is also super easy to setup. It completely folds away neatly and won’t take up a ton of space in your home.

Before use, unfold the legs, lock them into place and you’re ready for some stargazing. This is one of the best things about this telescope as you don’t have to spend hours putting it all together!

Another great feature of this telescope is that it comes with a LED flashlight. You can use this to keep your accessory tray illuminated in the dark or you can use it as a spotlight. It is easy to adjust and remove as desired too.

OUR TOP PICK

As you have seen from above, this is our favorite product on our list. This is mainly because it can be used by complete beginners to intermediate astronomers.

It is easy to put together and get started however it doesn’t lack high-quality features!

The Inspire 70AZ model includes full coated glass optics which allow you to get a clear view of the stars and planets. IT also comes with an altazimuth mount and a steel tripod.

These two features make this product long-lasting and durable. You know you’ll be buying a top-quality product when you buy this telescope!

The telescope itself is 38 X 33 X 52 inches. It is a great size which doesn’t feel too much of a beginner’s piece of equipment.

It comes with a folding accessory tray which is handy to store any of your small belongings when stargazing. The focus micrometer lets you target a specific point of interest.

Pros

  • Cool design.
  • Easy to assemble.
  • Comes with a storage tray and flashlight.

Cons

  • Instructions are on the website of the product.

EDITORS CHOICE

Our next recommendation is the Infinity 80mm from Meade Instruments. We absolutely love this product as it is a great all rounder for children or adult beginners.

It comes kitted out with some top quality accessories which will instantly boost your astronomer experience.

To start with, included in your purchase, you will receive three different lenses. All three of your lenses will suit various situations.

Magnification of low, medium and high can all be achieved with these. Whatever you plan to view with your telescope, this is an amazing option.

The telescope also comes with an Altazimuth mount like our previous recommendation. This is a great mount to keep your telescope extremely steady when in use.

A nice addition to this stand is the slow motion controls. These make it easier to track what you’re looking for whether it’s day or night!

Pros

  • Multiple lenses are included in the purchase.
  • Perfect for beginners and young astronomers.

Cons

  • The mount can be slightly fiddly to set in place.

BEST VALUE

The Gskyer Telescope is another great telescope. Like the last recommendation, it comes with some extra accessories.

Included in your purchase, you will find one 3x Barlow lens and 5x24 finder scope. These will improve the magnification of your scope majorly by allowing better definition to your viewing. 

What sets this telescope apart is the wireless remote addition. This allows you to connect your smart phone to capture photos through the telescope.

Perfect if you’re looking to capture the perfect Instagram astomer picture. You will be blown away by the quality of these photos!

This scope also comes with an easily adjustable tripod which lets you aim your telescope in many different directions.

If you plan on taking your telescope away with you on your travels, this could be exactly what you need.

The product comes with a handy storage bag which fits the tripod, telescope and accessories. You can stargaze on the go with no problems! 

Pros

  • Storage bag included in the purchase.
  • Able to connect to a smartphone to capture pictures.
  • Budget-friendly option.

Cons

  • Lenses will get condensation in more humid climates. There is a small cloth included to help overcome this problem.

RUNNER UP

The next telescope on our list is this Japanese manufactured set. This is mainly recommended for adult beginners.

The aperture of this telescope is 60mm which allows you to see objects which may be hidden away in the dark. This is perfect for viewing large groups of stars!

Also included in your purchase will be a copy of a starry sky guide book. This is a great addition for any new astronomer.

Let the guide show you the locations of all the stars you will be able to point out with your telescope!

The only thing which may be an issue is the fact that the tripod mount does not extend any higher. This means it may be a problem for a taller person. 

Pros 

  • Ideal for spotting star clusters.
  • Starry sky guide book included in the purchase.

Cons

  • Mount does not extend.

RUNNER UP

Just like many of our other telescope recommendations, this is a solid choice for anyone who is just starting out.

It comes with many useful attachments to enhance your viewing experience. There are two lenses included in your purchase which will help you see your target much more clearly. 

It also comes with a lightweight tripod mount which can be handily folded away and popped into the storage bag. This is ideal if you want to take your telescope to a certain spot!

The design of the telescope is non-offensive, plain and simple. It is quite an attractive piece saying that!

Pros

  • Two lenses included in the purchase.
  • Tripod can be folded away into a storage bag.

Cons

  • Smaller piece of equipment.

Best Telescope under 500 Buying Guide

Now that you have seen our top five recommended telescopes, we bet you’re wondering how we decided on them.

Well, that all comes down to the top things that you should be looking for when purchasing a telescope. 

To help you pick the best telescope for you and your needs, we are going to run through some of the essential features.

Telescope Basics

When it comes to telescopes, there are just two basic features. First and foremost, you will have high-quality optics and secondly, you will have the mount.

If you’re a complete novice, you may still be left wondering, what on earth are these? Let us explain further to you!

High-quality optics

Depending on what you’re looking for, you may choose a telescope that has a certain aperture. The aperture is the diameter of light that the telescope can reach.

Usually, you will be able to find the aperture setting of your telescope towards the focuser. The higher the aperture, the more you will be able to see things far away, in greater detail. 

A higher aperture will always improve your viewing, but you must always take into account your location and what the purpose of your telescope is. If you live in the suburbs or anywhere away from the city lights, a telescope of around 70mm-80mm will be ideal for you.

The darker the area that you set up your scope, the more detail you will be able to see with this level of aperture. 

Apertures higher than 80mm, will allow city dwellers to be able to use their scopes with ease from their own homes. However, these can sometimes be a tad more pricey, so maybe starting with an 80mm isn’t such a bad idea.

If you live in the city but love to travel around the country, a portable telescope with an 80mm aperture level will work just fine for you.

Steady Mount

The second basic feature of your telescope is the mount. This is often overlooked by many newcomers as it is easy to get caught up in all the technical points surrounding how the telescope works.

Before you click to buy, take a second to research the type of mount that comes with your telescope. 

Some telescopes from our recommendation list come with a mount that is designed for that particular scope. This is great and saves you from spending extra on a mount.

Mounts usually come in the form of a tripod but they are a lot more steady than a tripod you would use for photography. Do not get them confused!

Other telescopes may come with a mounting block which can easily be attached to a mount. As we’ve just mentioned, do not use a photography tripod to house your telescope. Yes, they are steady enough to take photos, however, it is a completely different story when it comes to stargazing.

If you want to look at the moon, you need your telescope to be extremely still. This can only be achieved by a mount that has been designed to situate telescopes. You don’t want to miss out, do you?

Other Key Features

Aside from the top two features, there are so many other things to look out for. Telescope lingo can be confusing at times, especially if you’re a newbie. For you to select the best product, you will need to brush up on some of the vocabularies. We can help you with this!

We understand that when you’re browsing through potential purchases, some of the descriptions don’t add up. Sometimes, you forget whether you should be looking for focal length or ratio.

After aperture and mounts, you will want to be taking note of magnification, focal length, focal ratio, and resolving power. These four features will help you get the most out of your telescope.

So, let’s kick things off!

Magnification

If you’re trying to find some extra detail in your viewing, you should maybe think of purchasing some lenses. Lenses, or eyepieces, allow you to see a lot more clearly when looking into your telescope.

The majority of telescopes will have the relevant attachments needed to install a lense. They’re pretty easy to swap around too so no need to panic.

Which magnification is right for you? It’s a good question to ask. The most useful magnification for a telescope is 50x aperture inches. This lets you get a clear and steady vision of what you’re looking at.

If you get anything larger than this magnification you risk the picture being too dark and muddled. This is something you want to avoid when stargazing. 

To ensure that you get the best out of your lens, it is important to have a solid mount which will keep your telescope very still whilst you are viewing. Remember to only buy a lens if it is compatible with your scope. It is easy to get carried away online sometimes. We have all been there!

Focal Length

It can be easy to mix up focal length and focal ratio with each other. Lucky for you, we are here to help you differentiate both features! Focal length helps you to see what you’re aiming your telescope at. It sounds simple when we say it like that, but trust us, there’s a lot more science that goes on behind that!

When light goes through a lens, it is guided by the optic to focus on a focal point somewhere in the distance. This distance between both the lens and the focal point is also known as the focal length. It is quite common among the astronomer community to associate longer telescopes with a larger focal length. 

Focal Ratio

On the other hand, focal ratio is a lot different! The basic definition of focal ratio is focal length divided by the objective diameter.

The outcome of this equation will decipher whether your viewing experience will be clearer and brighter. However, don't just think a higher focal ratio is what you need. It all comes down to what you are aiming to use your telescope for.

A long focal ratio will narrow your point of view which is ideal if you are looking to focus on the moon, a certain planet, or star. This is usually around the mark of f/10.

If you plan on using your telescope for wider points of views such as the Milky Way or groups of stars, it would be better to use a lower focal ratio. If this sounds good to you, look for a focal ratio of a maximum of f/7.

Resolving Power

Last but not least, we have the resolving power. This feature will help to define smaller details during your scoping experience. If there are two stars placed very close together, having a good resolving power will help to distinguish between them. 

If you’re looking for finer detailing of your view of the moon, this would also be a feature you may want to spend more time looking into before clicking the add to basket icon.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you see the flag on the moon with a telescope?

Unfortunately, it is quite difficult for any telescope at home to clearly outline the flag on the moon. This is because the Earth isn’t still enough to allow the telescope to focus properly on the flag.

NASA did release a photo before which you could just make out the flag pole. You would need a seriously big telescope to be able to see it for yourself from your back yard!

What magnification do I need to see the rings of Saturn?

On the 21st of September, lots of astronomers love to set up their telescopes to see the rings of Saturn. Otherwise known as the Christmas Star, this is most visible on this winter night. The good news that we have to share is that you can see it from most telescopes. 

You will need to set your magnification settings to 25 times to see its rings. This won’t be super clear but you will be able to tell it apart from the other stars and planets.

If you have a 3-inch telescope, setting to 50 times magnification will be the best bet. In this setting, you will be able to distinctly see the rings separated from the planet. Cool, right?

Gordon Watts
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