Great telescopes for beginner visual observing and deep sky imaging
Refractors are what you imagine when you think of a telescope. Galileo invented this style of telescope and used it to discover the moons of Jupiter, the Rings of Saturn, and to develop his heliocentric model of the solar system. Here at All Star Telescope we love Refracting telescopes. If you’re interested in astrophotography, particularly deep sky astrophotography, refractors are the best beginner telescope. They’re also great for terrestrial viewing of landscapes, birds, whales, etc. Refractors are excellent for their portability, ease-of-use, and familiarity — refractors are very similar to camera lenses, which is a big plus for budding astrophotographers.
One of the terms you’ll come across when reading about refractors is APO, or apochromatic. This designation is reserved for high-quality refractors that are free from false color or chromatic aberration. Because of the great things they have going for them, quality refractors like apochromatic triplets and doublets are some of the most expensive telescopes for sale, per inch of aperture, or diameter of the telescope.
For that reason, a Dobsonian telescope will usually outperform a refractor of the same price range visually, and a Schmidt-Cassegrain will outperform a refractor of the same price range for planetary viewing and imaging. That said, refractors are some of the easiest and most versatile telescopes to use, and we highly recommend them especially for those looking to begin deep sky astrophotography.
The most versatile telescope type when paired with the right mount and accessories
Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescopes (SCTs) are wildly popular telescopes for sale among both beginner and advanced amateurs thanks to their versatility. Offering some of the longest focal lengths available in telescopes, SCTs are a fantastic choice for those looking to view — and especially to image — solar system objects like planets and the moon. The long focal length is a double-edged sword, though, as it can make locating objects in the night sky like trying to look at space through a straw. Many beginner SCTs come packaged with a motorized go-to mount that can automatically point and track objects after a simple alignment process, which is basically a requirement to make sure you don't get lost in space looking for an object.
SCTs are also arguably the most versatile telescope for sale today. Though their native focal length is very long, a variety of focal reducers made for SCTs can allow them to be used at medium and ultra-short focal lengths, which transform them into excellent performers for deep sky astrophotography. These focal reducers add a significant extra cost to SCTs, though, and will need to be paired with a go-to equatorial mount for best imaging results.
These light buckets deliver great views at great prices
A Dobsonian telescope is a Newtonian telescope, or reflecting telescope on a simple altazimuth mount. They were popularized in the 1960's by John Dobson. Dobsonians vastly improved the aperture/dollar ratio and made large aperture (relatively) inexpensive for amateur astronomers. Dobsonian mounts are economical, and allow you to manually find and track celestial objects. They're a great way to learn how to star-hop and find your way between constellations, asterisms and other things to see in the sky. Dobsonians can visually outperform other telescopes for sale in the same price range because of their large aperture, which gathers more light. The human eye is capable of seeing 10,000 stars. A 10 inch Dobsonian telescope can show you 50,000,000! These are great tools for exploring the universe.
Although the telescope itself is technically a Newtonian and the term Dobsonian refers to the swivel-style mount, most amateur astronomers still know and refer to these telescopes as Dobsonians, or Dobs for short. These telescopes are an excellent choice for visually observing all kinds of celestial objects, but because of their large aperture, viewing faint deep sky objects is where Dobs really shine.
Although Dobsonians are great visual performers, their simple altitude-azimuth mounts make them a poor choice for deep sky astrophotography. Since they are technically Newtonian telescopes, Dobs will require frequent collimation, which is regular but easy maintenance similar to tuning an instrument before you play it. All things considered, if you're strictly looking to do visual observing and don't mind a heavy telescope, a Dobsonian gets our first pick.
Magnification on a telescope is a pretty basic math formula. You take the focal length of the telescope and divide it by the focal length of the eyepiece. For example, a Celestron NexStar 8 with 2,000mm of focal length using a 10mm eyepiece will give 200x magnification. This means that a telescope changes it's magnification when you change the eyepiece. One telescope can give low magnification views of large objects like star clusters or the moon, and high magnification views of the planets or double stars.
More magnification isn't always better. For most telescopes we like to use 150x to 200x magnification on the planets, and less for most other observing.
What You'll See With the Telescopes we Offer
All the telescopes we sell, even the lowest-cost models, can reveal incredible details on the Moon’s cratered surface. All telescopes for beginners can show the four large moons of Jupiter and the dark cloud belts in the Jovian atmosphere. And, yes, you can see the rings of Saturn, even under city skies!
Under darker, rural skies you can hunt down glittering clusters of stars, and subtle clouds of gas, called nebulas where stars are forming. The distant Andromeda Galaxy is also well within reach. Regardless of your budget, all of our telescopes are great quality (we have a no junk rule) and we're happy to answer any questions you have.