Best Telescope under $500 – The Ultimate Guide 2020

Finding a good telescope isn’t easy. You can spend hours and hours scrolling through all of the different brands and models and although you might learns few things, at the end of it you’ll be no closer to making a decision which is the best option for you.

Having up to $500 to purchase a telescope is a good budget, but it can be difficult to spend. It’s too much to buy a beginners scope, which you can find for just a few hundred dollars. However it’s not enough to purchase a more expensive advanced telescope, which can cost upwards of $1000.

However, it’s definitely enough to get going in astronomy. So, here are a few of the best telescopes you can find out there that cost less than $500.

Best Telescope under $500

ProductImageTelescope TypeMore Details
Celestron Nexstar 130SLTCelestron - NexStar 130SLT Computerized Telescope - Compact and Portable - Newtonian Reflector Optical Design - SkyAlign Technology - Computerized Hand Control - 130mm ApertureNewtonian ReflectorCheck Price
Celestron StarSense ExplorerCelestron – StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ Smartphone App-Enabled Telescope – Works with StarSense App to Help You Find Stars, Planets & More – 102mm Refractor – iPhone/Android CompatibleRefractorCheck Price
Orion SkyQuest XT4.5Orion 10014 SkyQuest XT4.5 Classic Dobsonian TelescopeDobsonian ReflectorCheck Price
Skywatcher S11610Sky Watcher Classic 200 Dobsonian 8-inch Aperature Telescope – Solid-Tube – Simple, Traditional Design – Easy to Use, Perfect for Beginners, White (S11610)Dobsonian ReflectorCheck Price
Celestron Nexstar 4SECelestron - NexStar 4SE Telescope - Computerized Telescope for Beginners and Advanced Users - Fully-Automated GoTo Mount - SkyAlign Technology - 40,000+ Celestial Objects - 4-Inch Primary MirrorMaksutov CassegrainCheck Price

Celestron Nexstar 130SLT

Celestron - NexStar 130SLT Computerized Telescope - Compact and Portable - Newtonian Reflector Optical Design - SkyAlign Technology - Computerized Hand Control - 130mm Aperture
  • Computerized star locating telescope: The Celestron NexStar 130SLT is a computerized telescope that offers a database of more than 40,000 stars, galaxies, nebulae, and more. The telescope locates your object with pinpoint accuracy and tracks it. Compatible with 2 inch eyepieces
  • Compact and portable: This telescope for adults and kids to be used together is ideal for weekend camping trips or excursions to dark sky sites. Its compact form factor makes it easy to transport and assemble just about anywhere.
  • Newtonian reflector optical design: The NexStar 130SLT is the largest in the SLT family. The 130mm aperture gathers enough light to see our Solar System and beyond. View Saturn’s rings, Jupiter’s cloud bands, and the Moon in brilliant detail.
  • Fast setup with skyalign: Celestron’s proprietary SkyAlign procedure has you ready to observe in minutes. Simply center any three bright objects in the eyepiece and the NexStar SLT aligns to the night sky, ready to locate thousands of objects.
  • Bonus free starry night software: The NexStar 130SLT Computerized Telescope includes a free download of one of the top consumer rated astronomy software programs for an interactive sky simulation. Compatible with starsense technology and WiFi

It’s no a secret that the Celestron Nexstar series is one of my favorites out there, and the Nexstar 130SLT is a good option for those looking for telescopes under 500 dollars. Whilst the Nexstar SE series are quite expensive, this model combines everything you need in a telescope for a much lower price.

It’s a computerized telescope, which means that it’s very easy to start finding objects in the sky. Sure, it will take a little longer to set it up and align your telescope, but it is worth the extra effort. The Star Locating Tecnology (that’s what SLT stands for) that this computerized telescope uses is easy enough to use once you get the hang of it. It also helps beginners step past a steep learning curve of actually being able to find celestial objects in the first place.

As a Newtonian reflector, the 130SLT manages to gather a large amount of light, giving you the best possible view of the sky. The telescope comes with 2 eyepieces, but I always advise people to upgrade to Kellner eyepieces when they can. However, these eyepieces will be good enough to use for a while. Anyhow, a Newtonian reflector like this will be suit those who are looking to dip their toes in astrophotography, too. The telescope has an aperture of 5 inches, with a focal length of 650mm. This gives us an overall focal ratio of f/5.0.

The only downside of this telescope in my opinion is that it comes with an Alt-az mount, and not an equatorial mount. If you’re used to using an equatorial mount, then this might be a deciding factor for you. Typically, although Alt-Az mounts are easier to use, it’s good to get used to an equatorial as this only rotates on one axis, which is better for following stars. This shouldn’t put you off this telescope however, as the Celestron Nexstar 130SLT is still a fantastic telescope to have. Plus, an Alt-Az mount is super easy to set up, especially if you compare it to a German Equatorial Mount.

Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ

Celestron – StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ Smartphone App-Enabled Telescope – Works with StarSense App to Help You Find Stars, Planets & More – 102mm Refractor – iPhone/Android Compatible
  • UNLEASH THE POWER OF YOUR SMARTPHONE: Let your iPhone or Android phone take you on a guided tour of the night sky—no telescope experience required. Just follow the arrows to locate stars, planets & more!
  • PATENT-PENDING STARSENSE SKY RECOGINITION TECHNOLOGY: This one-of-a-kind scope uses your smartphone to analyze star patterns overhead and calculate its position in real time.
  • APP GENERATES A LIST OF TONIGHT’S BEST OBJECTS TO VIEW: The app tells you what’s in the sky based on your exact time & location. View planets, brighter nebulae, galaxies, star clusters from the city PLUS fainter, deep sky objects from darker locations.
  • EASY TO SET UP AND USE: Manual altazimuth mount with smooth, dual-axis slow-motion controls makes it easy to follow the on-screen arrows to your desired target. When the bullseye turns green, it’s ready to view in the telescope’s eyepiece.
  • HIGH QUALITY 4” REFRACTOR: High transmission XLT optical coatings and large aperture give you enough light gathering ability to view all the best celestial objects.

The Celestron Starsense Explorer is a fantastic telescope not just for those that are looking to get into astronomy, but particularly for the amateur astrophotographers out there. However, you’d actually have to have two phones to really makes this work.

The intention with this telescope is that you can easily download the StarSense app which will help introduce you to astronomy. To be fair, it can be very overwhelming for a novice to purchase a telescope and have no idea how to use it – some telescopes don’t have great instructions, and often you’re left on your own to figure things out.

After you’ve set everything up, app will then generate a list of the best things that you can see in the night sky that evening. You can then follow the on screen arrows to position your telescope to see something else. But, the app is basically there instead of the finder scope which you have with most other telescopes. You can’t actually use the same phone to take photographs – this is where another phone, and an adapter, would come into play. Or, you could set this up with a DSLR too. Either way, it’s relatively easy to use this refactor telescope to get some great deep sky images.

The app really does make it very easy to get started. The only limiting factor with this telescope is that it only has a 4 inch aperture, which may not allow enough light in to see things in great detail.

Orion Skyquest XT4.5

Orion 10014 SkyQuest XT4.5 Classic Dobsonian Telescope
  • Compact and lightweight - a perfect Dobsonian reflector telescope for traveling or easy trips to the backyard at home
  • 4.5" aperture and 900mm focal length provide clear views of lunar craters and plains on the Moon, planets, bright nebulas and galaxies
  • Sturdy and portable Dobsonian base and handy navigation knob allow for effortless maneuvering of the reflector optical tube. Focal ratio - f/7.9. Resolving power - 1.02arc*sec
  • Collects a whopping 260% more light than a typical beginner-level 60mm refractor telescope - which means hundreds more objects will be visible through the Orion SkyQuest XT4.5 Classic Dobsonian
  • Includes two eyepieces (25mm and 10mm focal length Sirius Plossl), 6x30 finder scope, 1.25" rack and pinion focuser, collimation cap, eyepiece rack, Starry Night astronomy software, and more!

The Orion Skyquest is another good Orion telescope worth considering if you’re looking for an easy to use telescope that’s available at a pretty cheap price. I always like to recommend a Dobsonian telescope to those who are brand new to astronomy, so if this is you, then this is definitely a telescope worth considering. The telescope has a 4.5 inch aperture and a 900mm focal length, which gives us a focal ratio of f/7.9.

This Dobsonian reflector telescope is quite large in size, but it isn’t especially heavy so it could be used if you’re looking for something that’s portable too. The finderscope is closely attached to the optical tube, and works well for identifying new areas to explore and finding celestial objects. Whilst this telescope does lack a little bit in getting a wide field of view, it excels at high magnifications so it’s great to use with a barlow lens. You’ll be able to get a great deep sky view with this telescope.

It will take a little while to assemble, but this is typically the case with any reflector telescope. This is definitely a good option for anyone who wants a powerful reflector telescope that is easy enough to use.

Skywatcher S11610

Sky Watcher Classic 200 Dobsonian 8-inch Aperature Telescope – Solid-Tube – Simple, Traditional Design – Easy to Use, Perfect for Beginners, White (S11610)
  • LARGE APERTURE: Get a bright, bold viewing experience at a fraction of the cost of other optical designs.
  • PROPRIETARY TENSION CONTROL HANDLES: These patented handles allow for accurate movement without the need for perfect balance.
  • 94% REFLECTIVE MIRRORS: Fully multi-coated borosilicate primary and secondary mirrors deliver exceptional views.
  • TEFLON BEARINGS: Proprietary Teflon bearings ensure smooth azimuth movement.
  • COMES COMPLETE: All accessories such as, 2-inch Crayford-style focuser with 1 1/4-inch adapter, two super wide-angle eyepieces (25mm and 10mm), and 9x50 straight-through finder scope are included with purchase.

Another Dobsonian telescope worth recommending is the Skywatcher S11610. It has an 8 inch aperture and a 1200mm focal length, giving the telescope a fast focal ratio of f/6.0. One good thing about this telescope is that it comes with tension handles on the sides of the optical tube, which can make it much easier for you to use the telescope (this is great for kids, too).

This telescope comes with a wide range of accessories, including eyepieces, a focuser and a great finder scope. The bad things about this telescope is definitely the size – it’s way too bulky for me to want to carry this anywhere with me, so if you want something portable this isn’t a great option. However, the heavy base is quite good if you want something solidly built, until some steel tripods which are flimsy. So, although it’s heavy, it’s still a great telescope to have.

Celestron Nexstar 4SE

Celestron - NexStar 4SE Telescope - Computerized Telescope for Beginners and Advanced Users - Fully-Automated GoTo Mount - SkyAlign Technology - 40,000+ Celestial Objects - 4-Inch Primary Mirror
  • Nexstar computerized telescope: The NexStar 4SE Computerized Telescope features Celestron’s iconic orange tube design with updated technology and the latest features for amazing stargazing for beginners and experienced observers.
  • 4-Inch aperture: The four-inch primary mirror in this Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope for adults and kids to be used together packs enough light-gathering ability to observe the best that our Solar System has to offer, while retaining a compact form factor.
  • Fully-automated go to mount: Featuring a database of more than 40,000 celestial objects, the go to mount built into our telescopes for astronomy beginners automatically locates and tracks objects for you.
  • Bonus free starry night software: The NexStar 4SE Telescope includes a FREE download of one of the top consumer rated astronomy software programs for an interactive sky simulation.
  • Unbeatable warranty and customer support: Buy with confidence from the world’s #1 telescope brand, based in California since 1960. You’ll also receive a two-year warranty and unlimited access to technical support from our team of US-based experts.

Another great option from Celestron is the Nexstar 4SE, which is the little brother of the 6SE and also the 8SE. Although some people think it’s a Schmidt Cassegrain design, it’s actually a great entry level Maksutov Cassegrain telescope.

This high quality telescope allows you to gather enough light to see all the major constellations in the sky (that are visible from your location, anyway!). It isn’t a high magnification scope, but it’s definitely a great place to get started. Buying an additional barlow lens can be a great idea too, as it will allow you to use this scope to get more magnified views.

It’s also worth mentioning the altazimuth mount that this telescope uses, which is pretty much it’s selling point. it’s a fork arm Go-to mount, which means you can literally use the controller it comes with to enter thousands of different stars in the sky for it to look at. This is easier than using a standard reflector or refractor, though you’ll have to align the telescope properly first.

So if you’re looking for a good Maksutov Cassegrain telescope that you can easily program to find the stars and objects in the night sky you want to, then considering the 4SE is a wise idea.

Most Common FAQs Answered

Can I see Pluto with a telescope?

It is possible to see Pluto with a telescope at times, but it is very difficult and an amateur astronomer would not be able to do this. Pluto is over 30x further from the Sun than Earth, so it doesn’t have the same amount of illumination as other planets.

Which telescope is good for deep space viewing?

I like to use a reflector telescope (I don’t mind any but usually a Newtonian reflector) for deep space viewing, as this gathers the most light and lets us see deeper into space.

Are refractors better than reflector telescopes?

Deciding between a reflector telescope and a refractor telescope is not an easy decision to make. Generally, I like to recommend a Dobsonian telescope to absolute beginners (a Dob is a type of reflector) as this gets you used to aligning a telescope and has the most power for your money. However, refractors do have their benefits over reflectors, as refractors typically will give a better quality of image, making them the better choice for astrophotography.

What is a fast telescope?

A fast telescope just refers to the telescopes focal ratio, and a telescope with shorter exposure is called “fast”, whilst a telescope with a longer exposure is called “slow”. If a telescope has a focal ratio of f/4, then it can gather light ‘faster’ than a telescope with a focal ratio of f/8.0 – the focal ratio is just determined by the aperture and the focal length of the telescope.

What is the best telescope brand?

This is difficult to say, because there are a lot of brands out there and the best telescope brands cost a lot more than a few hundred dollars. Within our price point, it’s a safe bet to stick with Celestron or Orion, who are actually made by the same company (Skywatcher too!).

Conclusion

Overall, these are just some of the best telescopes under 500 dollars that are available right now. Each astronomer will have their own opinion, and these are just a few of my favorites. Feel free to explore the website and check out some of the other telescopes that I think are worth considering as well.

It really depends on what you are looking for. It’s all good considering the aperture, focal length & specifications of your telescope but it all comes down to what you need. So, make a decision on which telescope you need and continue on your astronomy journey! As always, please feel free to leave a comment below.

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