The best telescopes for gazing at stars and solar eclipses in 2024

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With nan 2024 full star eclipse coming to nan United States connected Monday, April 8, a batch of america are looking to nan stars.

And there's thing that will springiness you an existential situation (or make you admit your life) much than taking a gander astatine space. From stars to planets to galaxies, there's a full batch retired location beyond our small floating stone — and a telescope is nan champion measurement to position nan heavens.

Whether you're a beginner stargazer aliases a seasoned astrophotographer, location are a batch of telescopes and scope accessories connected nan market. It's easy to driblet a fewer 1000 dollars connected nan higher-tech models. To get guidance connected how telescopes work, nan different types of telescopes, and really to shop for one, we turned to nan experts.

We chatted pinch Bart Fried, nan Executive Vice President of nan Amateur Astronomers Association successful New York City, and laminitis and past president of nan Antique Telescope Society. Fried is besides a longtime personnel and erstwhile committee personnel of nan Custer Institute, arsenic good arsenic a personnel of nan Astronomical Society of Long Island, and nan Amateur Observers Society of New York, among different astronomy societies. We tapped Fried's 40 years of acquisition to study what you request to cognize earlier bringing location your ain scope for stargazing.

Plus, if you're willing successful watching nan upcoming eclipse, we've added immoderate tips connected safely viewing nan eclipse pinch telescopes.

How does a scope work?

"What a scope does, is it gathers light," Fried told us. "The diameter and nan size of nan aperture, nan opening of nan telescope, determines really overmuch ray it will gather. So, nan bigger nan scope successful aperture, nan greater nan ray gathering, and that equates to being capable to spot fainter objects and things that are farther distant arsenic well."

Fried noted that a telescope doesn't really magnify. Instead, it brings nan ray to a focal plane, which tin past beryllium looked astatine done a telescope's eyepiece. The focal magnitude of nan eyepiece determines nan magnification that you get. A longer focal magnitude will limit nan section of position but summation nan magnification, which is bully for looking astatine planets and nan moon. A shorter focal magnitude does nan other — it increases nan section of view, which is perfect for looking astatine galaxies and different ample heavy abstraction objects that are dimmer and further away.

"You tin deliberation of an eyepiece for illustration a small mini microscope, Fried said. "You're looking done nan eyepiece astatine this focal plane, and that's really you spot nan image."

The magnitude of nan scope besides affects your viewing experience. Longer telescopes pinch wider apertures will nutrient crisper images, but they'll beryllium much expensive.

What to see earlier buying a telescope

Fried gave america a fewer rules each aspiring stargazer should see earlier taking nan plunge connected a telescope:

  1. Is your scope going to beryllium moved around, aliases will it unrecorded permanently successful a room aliases protected outdoor location? Weight and portability matter erstwhile it comes to purchasing a telescope, and a scope that's excessively large aliases dense to transportation astir apt won't get utilized much, unless you're readying to parkland it successful a room, pointed retired nan model forever. For folks wanting to move their telescopes to nan backyard and different outdoor locations, buying a scope that you tin realistically assistance is essential.

  2. Consider wherever you unrecorded and wherever you're going to usage your telescope. If you unrecorded successful an municipality area pinch a batch of light pollution, you won't beryllium capable to spot arsenic overmuch arsenic you would beryllium capable to successful a much agrarian area. City dwellers person nary request for telescopes pinch very ample ray buckets, owed to nan ray contamination they're dealing with. If you unrecorded successful aliases adjacent a city, you'll mostly beryllium amended disconnected pinch a small-to-medium-size refractor. Fried stressed that picking a scope that's due for your location will guarantee you usage it more.

  3. What is your budget? Different kinds of mounts will tally you different prices, and the much high-tech nan scope is, nan pricier it will be. Planning retired a fund will thief you find if you're successful nan marketplace for a refractor scope pinch a elemental alt-azimuth mount, aliases if you're searching for high-tech telescopes pinch motored mounts and built-in GPS tracking.

  4. What kinds of things are you willing successful looking at? Different telescopes are amended for looking astatine different things successful nan sky, truthful if you want to look astatine nan planets regularly, you mightiness opt for a different scope than if you're conscionable looking astatine stars. For example, Fried asserts that bully value mini to medium-sized refractor telescopes are particularly bully astatine viewing nan planets. Larger reflectors thin to beryllium amended for viewing deep-space objects.

Reflector scope vs. refractor telescope

"Reflectors person a mirror, and nan conduit is unfastened astatine nan beforehand and it gives you much aperture for your money," Fried explained. "But they are a small spot much difficult to usage if you person a equine that tracks."

Refractors thin to beryllium agelong and skinny, pinch nan quintessential scope shape, while reflectors thin to beryllium wider and much cylindrical.

Here are nan champion features of a refractor telescope:

  • Beginner friendly

  • Generally much portable

  • Great images of planets

Refractors often require an further portion called a prima diagonal, which allows you to spot done nan eyepiece without craning your cervix upward. Star diagonals springiness you a 90-degree crook truthful that you tin look down done nan eyepiece, alternatively of looking up. Fried says that a "reasonably bully value prima diagonal is worthy investing in, moreover from nan beginning."

And these are nan champion features of a reflector telescope:

  • More aperture for your money

  • Gathers a batch of ray (which isn't ever optimal depending connected location)

  • Better connected deep-space objects

There's besides different class that is simply a benignant of operation betwixt a reflector and a refractor — Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes (also called catadioptric aliases compound telescopes). "And successful theory, they springiness you nan champion of both," said Fried.

Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes often boast high-tech features for illustration GPS, entity location, and motorized mounts. These kinds of telescopes cognize what day and clip it is, and are equipped pinch a database of heavenly objects. To look astatine a peculiar prima aliases planet, each you request to do is put it into nan database and nan scope does nan remainder for you.

In theory, this sounds for illustration a amended action for beginners, but Fried warns that these kinds of telescopes tin beryllium difficult to usage and return a batch of learning erstwhile compared to manual telescopes.

How to position nan 2024 full star eclipse pinch a telescope

On Monday, April 8, 2024, a historical star eclipse will travel to nan skies supra nan United States. The way of totality will walk from Texas to Maine, giving galore group nan first eclipse acquisition of their lifetimes. (Head to nan Nasa Eclipse Explorer to spot a representation of nan eclipse's path.) Even if you aren't successful 1 of these states, residents of each 48 contiguous states will beryllium capable to position a partial eclipse connected April 8 arsenic well.

However, beryllium warned: You can't constituent a scope astatine nan sun and position nan eclipse without causing superior harm to your eyes. In bid to safely observe nan sun, sun spots, and partial and full eclipses pinch a telescope, you'll request a typical star select that meets nan ISO 12312-2:2015 modular for nonstop star study (NASA has further tips for safely viewing nan eclipse).

When buying a star filter, you'll first request to make judge it's compatible pinch your telescope. We've included 1 star select for telescopes successful this guide, but your scope will apt require a different size aliases type of filter. You tin find a wide scope of star filters astatine B&H Photo Video. As an alternative, you tin besides buy star binoculars alternatively of telescopes.

What benignant of scope eyepieces do you need?

If you want to get a higher power, you could technically opt for a longer scope each time, but that's beautiful impractical. Instead, to set your telescope's power, you tin switch retired your existent eyepiece for eyepieces pinch different focal lengths.

Any scope you get will apt travel pinch immoderate starter eyepieces, and those will decidedly get you started astatine looking astatine nan cosmos. If you're a much precocious stargazer, Fried says that upgrading your eyepiece will springiness you a wider section of position for nan aforesaid magnification, arsenic good arsenic connection sharper images pinch higher contrast.

Fried recommends that beginners prevention room successful their budgets for a fewer other eyepieces, but particularly recommends a mid-tier value Zoom eyepiece. "Zoom eyepieces person a rotating barrel," Fried said "And it will alteration nan focal magnitude of nan eyepiece." These types of eyepieces are fundamentally for illustration getting 4 aliases 5 different eyepieces successful one, since they're adjustable.

Fried says these types of eyepieces are particularly bully for looking astatine double stars, among different things. "When I look astatine adjacent double stars nether debased power, they look for illustration azygous stars," he mentioned. "As I'm observing, I'll slow commencement to rotate nan tube of my zoom, and it pulls you successful person and closer, because you're expanding nan magnification. And each of a abrupt that azygous prima splits. Nothing's cooler than that."

Decent zoom eyepieces tin scope from $50 to hundreds of dollars, but Fried recommends nan mid-range options.

What type of scope equine should I get?

There are a fistful of different scope equine types, but nan 3 we'll beryllium talking astir are nan Alt-azimuth, Dobsonian, and equatorial. Here's nan lowdown connected each type:

  • Alt-azimuth mounts are nan simplest type of mount. These types of mounts tin move your scope up and down, near and right, and are very easy to usage manually. Alt-azimuth mounts don't way stars aliases planets, and are champion erstwhile utilized pinch debased to medium-power telescopes. They're reasonably inexpensive.

  • Dobsonian mounts are a specialized type of alt-azimuth mount. These mounts are highly lightweight because they're almost ever made of plywood. They're decently inexpensive, stable, portable, and easy to use. The bottommost of a Dobsonian equine is fundamentally a lazy Susan, and is typically utilized pinch reflector telescopes.

  • For somewhat much superior observing, an equatorial equine is simply a bully choice. Equatorial mounts statement up pinch nan rod prima and tin way nan mobility of immoderate you're looking at. These mounts aren't needfully bad for beginners, but they do return a small spot of believe to master. Non-motorized equatorial mounts characteristic a slow-motion grip that keeps immoderate you're looking astatine centered successful nan section of position — which helps erstwhile utilized nether precocious power. If you walk a spot much money, you tin besides get a motorized equatorial mount, which tracks immoderate you're looking astatine automatically.

Advice for caller stargazers

"Every beginner should subordinate an astronomy club, because you tin effort different people's telescopes for free," Fried urged. "You tin effort everybody's telescope, determine which 1 you like, and study a small spot astir [astronomy]."

Astronomy tin beryllium an costly hobby to get into, truthful doing your investigation via a nine tin thief you make a smarter purchase.

In position of scope type recommendations, Fried recommends a six aliases eight-inch reflector aliases a 4 aliases six-inch refractor. Of course, these recommendations whitethorn alteration depending connected your location, nan desired portability, and your desired budget.

When asked for marque recommendations, Fried fto america cognize that buying from a retailer who will work your scope if you tally into immoderate problems is much important than immoderate circumstantial brand. "I powerfully judge that a opening astronomer should bargain from a reasonably section dealer," he said.

If you person an rumor pinch your scope arsenic a beginner, Fried explained that you're overmuch much apt to instrumentality pinch astronomy if you tin return it to your section trader for immoderate repairs. If nan trader you bought it from is acold distant and you request to battalion up nan scope and vessel it backmost to get it returned, you mightiness get discouraged and springiness up connected nan scope altogether. Before buying, look for a scope that has a bully warranty, and effort to bargain from a retailer that has locations successful your area successful lawsuit you request your scope serviced.

Now that you person nan knowledge of nan different types of telescopes, present are immoderate recommendations for reflector telescopes, refractor telescopes, eclipse telescopes, and more:

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