Are you interested in buying a telescope for yourself or your child? Taking up astronomy as a hobby doesn’t have to be expensive.
There are many entry-level telescopes available that will not break the bank. Although they might not be as powerful as the ones used in science labs, they can still enable you to be awed by the scope of the universe and the mysteries of the galaxy.
Following are the top 10 telescopes available on Amazon for under $400 for children, students, and adults.
What To Look For In a Telescope
If you want to take up amateur astronomy, it is important to know what kind of telescope to get. In this section, we’ll look at different kinds of telescopes and what to look for when buying one.
Refractor Vs Reflector
Most telescopes that you will find online will fall into either the refractor or reflector category.
A refractor telescope uses two lenses. The larger one is at the end of the viewing piece, while a smaller lens is located on the side where you gaze into.
They are usually long and slim and are a good choice if you want to view large, bright objects such as the moon, planets, and stars.
A reflector telescope uses a mirror at the end of the tube to gather light.
These telescopes are usually shorter and wider and are ideal for wide-field viewing and for gazing at deep-sky objects, such as nebulae and galaxies.
Refractor telescopes are usually more expensive than reflectors for any given aperture size.
The third type of telescope you may see is the compound or catadioptric telescope. This type of telescope uses both lenses and mirrors and comes in many different designs.
In the listings below, you will notice that each telescope has an aperture size. The diameter of the aperture (the lens or mirror that gathers light) is important.
The larger the aperture, the more finer details you will be able to see. Telescopes with larger apertures are also better for seeing faint objects.
Focal Length and Focal Ratio
The focal length is measured from where the light starts to gather (either in a mirror or lens) until where it converges to focus. The focal ratio (f/x) is achieved by dividing the focal length by the aperture size.
The higher the focal ratio, the more magnification power the telescope will have.
Keep in mind that a higher magnification power is not always better. For example, you might be able to see an object magnified closer, but it might be fainter and less bright.
A lot depends on the light-gathering capabilities of the telescope as well.
Many telescopes will come with a set of different eyepieces, each of a different size. By swapping the eyepieces, you can change the focal ratio or magnification power.
For example, if the focal length of the telescope is 250mm and you use a 25mm eyepiece, the magnification power will be 10x. If you use a 10mm eyepiece, the magnification power will be 25x.
Swap your eyepieces based on what you want to look at and how much detail you want to see.
For example, lower magnification power can be useful for viewing dimmer objects. It can also make it easier to find objects and keep them in your focus.
It’s important to make sure that your telescope comes with a good mount. While you may be able to use an existing tripod with your scope, it may not be the best option for viewing and tracking objects.
Some telescopes come with a tripod, while others are meant to be mounted on a table. In any case, there are two main kinds of mounts: Equatorial and altitude-azimuth.
Equatorial mounts must be aligned with the North Star, Polaris. Once you do that, you can easily use it to track objects as they move across the sky.
A single axis can be used to track planets, shooting stars, and other phenomena. Some equatorial mounts are motorized.
An altitude-azimuth mount will allow you to easily move the telescope up, down, left, and right. They are usually lighter than equatorial mounts.
The weight of the telescope is another thing you should consider. If you are looking for a lightweight telescope to take wherever you go, you might have to forego some other qualities and opt for a less powerful scope.
Your telescope might come with guides and other resources. For example, many of the telescopes below include a free download of the Starry Night software.
This software allows you to do things such as:
- Display a realistic night sky from any location on earth
- Display any date and time in the past or future
- Create observing plans
- Display current imagery from satellites
- Control “Go To” motorized telescopes through a serial interface cable
Ten Best Telescopes for Under $400
Following are the best affordable telescopes on Amazon for those with a budget of up to $400.
The Moonee Suncore telescope is a basic telescope with limited power. However, for its price, it provides great value.
You can give your kids a chance to explore the moon and its craters, as well as other phenomena in the sky.
The refractor telescope has a 70mm aperture lens. It comes with two eyepieces, which are interchangeable.
The 18x eyepiece offers you a wide view while the 90x eyepiece offers you a narrower range but a closer view.
Your purchase includes a free tripod. Setting up your telescope is easy and only takes a few minutes.
If you are interested in studying astronomy yourself, you might be better off investing in a higher-quality telescope. However, if you want to get something your kids can enjoy and which can help them with what they are learning in school, this is a good choice.
The Aomekie beginner telescope features fully-coated glass optical elements for clearer vision. This refractor telescope has a 70mm aperture and a 300mm focal length.
It comes with two interchangeable eyepieces. The 6mm eyepiece will give you a 15x magnification power and the 20mm eyepiece will give you a 50x magnification power.
In addition, the telescope comes with two additional lenses to increase your magnification even further. There are a 1.5x erecting eyepiece and a 3x Barlow lens.
By using the Barlow lens with the 20mm eyepiece, for example, you can achieve a magnification power of 150x.
The erecting eyepiece not only increases magnification by 1.5x, but it also makes it easier for kids to focus on what they are seeing. Usually, images on such a telescope will appear in an inverted manner, but the erecting eyepiece changes this.
This telescope comes with an easy-to-setup tripod. It has aiming control and a lock handle to help you focus on what you want to see.
It also comes with a 5×24 finderscope. This finderscope makes it easy to spot targets before focusing on them through the actual telescope.
The telescope’s phone adapter lets you mount a smartphone on the telescope. You can take images and record videos of the telescope’s view to share them with family and friends.
There is also a metal moon filter, which can make it easier to look at the moon when it is full and bright.
The Aomekie telescope is a great choice for kids, students, and those who want to dabble in astronomy for the first time. It is Prime eligible currently.
The Celestron Travel Telescope is perfect for travelers and backpackers. Whether you are a student who moves around a lot or you want to gaze at the stars when you go camping, this is a good choice.
With free shipping, it is extremely affordable.
The telescope features a 70mm aperture lenses with excellent light-gathering capabilities. There are two eyepieces, 10mm and 20mm, to provide users with low- and high-powered views of the sky.
It has a focal length of 400mm and a focal ratio of f/5.71.
Lenses are fully coated to provide crystal clear images.
The Celestron Travel Scope comes with a bonus tripod, travel backpack, and Starry Night Astronomy Software that you can download on your computer.
The tripod can be taken apart and packed in the bag, or it can be assembled to its full height.
The Travel Scope weighs only 4.2 pounds, making it extremely lightweight and compact.
According to one Amazon reviewer, this telescope “makes [the moon] look like a large marble that’s placed a few inches from your eye… You can see some craters on the Moon, but you can’t see Niel Armstrong’s footprints. You can see the rings of Saturn, but you can’t count them.”
The JingleStar telescope is an affordable entry-level telescope. It is a refractor scope, with a 60mm aperture lens and 700mm focal length, giving it an f/5.7 focal ratio.
The lenses are fully coated to provide clear and crisp images. The adjustable aluminum tripod comes pre-assembled, making it easy to start gazing.
There are three eyepieces: A 20mm eyepiece, a 10mm eyepiece, and a 3x magnifying Barlow lens. These allow for four different types of magnification.
You can take videos and images of the telescope’s views with its Telescope Smartphone Adapter. Use the 5×24 finderscope to quickly pinpoint the objects you want to focus on.
This telescope has a free shipping, making it a great choice for students and beginners who are just getting into astronomy as a hobby. It is also an affordable birthday present.
This Celestron Powerseeker is a Top Seller on Amazon and comes with free shipping.
It’s an easy-to-use lightweight and compact telescope that is perfect for beginners and offers great value for your money.
It comes with a large manual German equatorial mount and a portable tripod. The mount’s slow-motion control knobs let you track objects as they move across the sky.
The telescope has an aperture lens of 127mm and a focal length of 1000mm, with a focal ratio of f/8. It uses a Newtonian reflector.
The Powerseeker comes with two eyepieces: 4mm and 20mm. It also comes with a 3X Barlow lens that triples the magnifying power of each eyepiece.
With the eyepieces and the Barlow lens, you can achieve a magnifying power of 150x up to 450x.
Customers can download the bonus Starry Night Astronomy Software Package. There are also how-to videos you can watch online to help you get started.
Altogether, its assembled weight is 21.38 pounds.
Celestron has been around since 1960. They offer free US-based technical support to their customers, and the product comes with a two-year warranty.
Although the telescope doesn’t come with a smartphone adapter by default, you can add one.
There are other versions of the Powerseeker as well:
- PowerSeeker 70EQ: Refractor, 70mm aperture, 700mm focal length, f/10, 35x-175x magnification power, 13.9 pounds
- PowerSeeker 80EQ: Refractor, 80mm aperture, 900mm focal length, f/11, 45x-225x magnification power, 16.38 pounds
- PowerSeeker 114EQ: Newtonian reflector, 114mm aperture, 900mm focal length, f/8, 45x-225x magnification power, 18.9 pounds
This Explore FirstLight reflector telescope has a wide 130mm aperture lens and a magnification power of up to 180x, allowing you to see more details of galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae.
It has a 600mm focal length, making its focal ratio f/4.6.
The telescope comes with an equatorial mount. It includes two flexible shafts for guiding your view and tracking celestial objects as they move across the sky.
To help you locate objects in the sky, the telescope comes with a 25mm Plössl eyepiece and a red dot viewfinder.
It also comes with a 2.5-pound counterweight to provide balance.
The mount and tripod come with a tray where you can place eyepieces and other tools. You can use the mobile adapter to take images and videos with your phone.
The Explore FirstLight series comes in a number of other options as well.
There are refractor telescopes with apertures between 70mm-152mm, Maksutov-Cassegrains (a type of compound scope) from 100mm to 152mm, and Newtonian Reflectors (as in this model) from 114mm to 203mm.
This model currently has a free shipping.
The Gskyer AZ Space Telescope has an 80mm aperture and a 400mm focal length. It uses coated optical glass to protect your eyes and enhance image brightness.
There are three interchangeable eyepieces that offer different magnification enhancing experiences.
There are 16x, 40x, and 80x eyepieces. There is also a 3x Barlow lens.
The 60×3 finderscope makes it easy to focus on your target, and it comes with a mounting bracket. The telescope’s erect-image diagonal makes using the telescope easier on your eyes.
The full-size tripod is easy to set up and is adjustable to allow for many viewing positions. The full possible height of the tripod, including the telescope mounted on it, is 56.7 inches.
When buying the product, you will have access to customer service within a 24-hour time frame. The product comes with a one-year warranty for a full refund or replacement.
With free shipping, it is a solid option that won’t drain your bank account.
Dobsonian telescopes have the same optics as Newtonian telescopes. However, instead of an equatorial mount, a Dobsonian telescope uses a certain style of the altazimuth mount.
This kind of mount was popularized by John Dobson in the 1960s. The mount is a lot easier to use – it has a two-axis system that makes moving it to the left or right easy.
This Orion telescope has a 6-inch aperture (around 150mm). While that might not seem like a lot, it is still a good option for beginners who want to start out with a Dobsonian scope.
The focal length of the scope is f/8.
The Dobsonian telescope has stability and provides vibration-free images even when gazing at higher powers.
It comes with a 1.25-inch rack-and-pinion focuser, EZ Finder aiming device, and 25mm Sirius Plossl eyepiece.
Altogether, the assembled telescope weighs just over 20 pounds.
It is a good choice if you are looking for a telescope to set up in your home or school instead of one that you can take around with you.
With free shipping, this telescope is a great option.
There are other versions of the Orion SkyQuest as well. For example, if you want a little more power, you can upgrade to the SkyQuest XT8.
The Orion Astroview Telescope, comes with free shipping, gives you more than just a telescope.
The Astroview refractor telescope itself has a 90mm aperture and a 910mm focal length, with a focal ratio of f/10.
The EQ-2 equatorial mount has manual slow-motion controls to help you track objects as they move across the sky.
It comes with two Sirius Plossl 1.25-inch eyepieces: 25mm and 10mm. There is a 6×30 finderscope to help you locate target objects.
There is a 90-degree mirror diagonal to make objects appear erect.
Customers of the Orion AstroView can also download the Starry Night Astronomy Software.
Here are some other items included in the kit:
- A moon filter to help you gaze at the moon at times of the month when it is bright
- Four color planetary filters
- The MoonMap 260
- The Star Target Planisphere
According to the description, the telescope “yields tack-sharp views of the rocky lunar surface with craters and mountainous regions visible in crisp, high-contrast detail… On a reasonably clear evening, Jupiter’s cloud banding becomes starkly visible, as do all four of its major Galilean moons. Depending on the time of year, the [telescope] can also provide… views of Saturn and its stunning rings, not to mention glimpses of Saturn’s largest moon Titan.”
The Orion Starblast 6 is a telescope that is fun and easy to use. It comes with a tabletop mount and can easily be pointed in any direction you want to gaze at.
It has a six-inch aperture (around 150mm), which allows you to see not only details of the moon but also galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters.
It has a focal ratio of f/5 and a maximum magnification power of up to 300x.
At just 23.5 pounds, the Orion StarBlast also offers portability. You can pick it up and move it from one table to another, which is made easier by the two handle cutouts in its base.
The reflector base comes pre-assembled in the box, making it easy to start gazing. The mount has non-stick bearings and adjustable altitude tension on the base for smooth maneuvering.
There are a 25mm and a 10mm Sirius Plossl 1.25-inch telescope eyepieces. An EZ Finder aiming device and a three-hole eyepiece rack to keep the Sirius Plossl eyepieces in are also included.
Customers can also download the Starry Night software.
This telescope is designed similarly to the Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro Beginner Telescope, but it is much more powerful.
The StarBlast 6, for example, has 73 percent more light-gathering capabilities than the Starblast 4.5.
With free shipping, this telescope will allow you to see a lot for a good price.
Wrapping It Up
Astronomy is something that anyone can do, either as a hobby or as a course of study. The 10 telescopes mentioned above are affordable and great for beginners.THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.
Benjamin Levin is a digital marketing professional with 4+ years of experience with inbound and outbound marketing. He helps small businesses reach their content creation, social media marketing, email marketing, and paid advertising goals. His hobbies include reading and traveling.