Which refractor telescope is best?

Space has intrigued humankind ever since we looked skyward for the first time. While it is difficult to imagine what our ancestors thought of the twinkling lights, we at least have a rough idea of what is out there.

It is through clever minds like that of Galileo Galilei that we can build telescopes to bring the celestial objects into view. The Italian inventor was one of the first people to build a refractor telescope to get a closer look at the planets. Luckily, you don’t have to build your own as the Gskyer 600×90 Millimeter Astronomical Refractor Telescope is an excellent pre-assembled stargazing option.

What to know before you buy a refractor telescope

The types of telescope

There are generally three kinds of telescopes available for commercial use.

  • Refractor: These use a series of glass lenses to collect and focus the light. They are excellent for viewing the moon, or larger (or closer) planets such as Jupiter or Mars. 
  • Reflector: Using one or a series of curved mirrors, a reflector telescope projects the light to form a magnified image. These are best for looking at brighter objects.
  • Compound: By combining elements of refractor and reflector telescopes, a compound telescope uses a glass lens with a mirror to produce the visuals. They often have stubby tubes and are easy to set up. Compound telescopes are best for photography.

The best viewing spots 

You’ll be bitterly disappointed if you spend hundreds of dollars on a telescope only to find out that you can’t view your favorite planet or nebula. While the telescope’s abilities are a factor, this often comes down to location. The best place to use a telescope is where there is the least light pollution — ideally, as far outside the city as possible. If that isn’t possible, try using  it in a secluded field, on top of a high-rise or somewhere with few buildings. 

The importance of the aperture 

You might think that a telescope’s magnification is responsible for visual quality. While that is partly correct, it is only one of the pieces. The telescope’s aperture is actually the most important part, as it determines how much light is gathered. The larger the aperture, the more light is let onto the lens. This, in turn, makes whatever corner of the sky you are looking at much brighter. And of course, the brighter it is, the clearer the image will be. 

What to look for in a quality refractor telescope

Magnification

The main purpose of a telescope is to let you see the heavenly bodies in all their glory. If you have a low magnification, you will only see their glow — and not much else. A good-quality telescope has powerful magnification. Together with the telescope’s ability to let in a large amount of light, the magnification lets you see exciting things such as the rings on Saturn or the intricate colors of the Crab Nebula.

Automatic calibration and object detection

Not everybody who uses a telescope, especially for the first time, knows where all the celestial bodies are located. That can make it challenging when you need to calibrate the telescope. A good-quality refractor has a built-in GPS to automatically detect its location. Then, if you want to look at a specific constellation or nebula, the telescope will automatically orient itself for you to view it.

With time you’ll learn where all the objects are, but the auto finding is incredibly helpful if you are a beginner. 

Sturdy mount and stand

When you move slightly while using binoculars, you can quickly bring the object back into view. That’s because, relative to the size of the universe, the object is extremely close. But the further away something is, the more susceptible it is to the slightest of movements.

For that reason, it is crucial that the mount on your telescope is sturdy and the stand is firm. The tripod is of no use if it sways even a little in a breeze, so ensure that you can anchor it in a good spot.   

How much you can expect to spend on a refractor telescope

The average price depends on its functions and abilities. If you just want to peer into the darkness out of curiosity, you can buy a basic telescope for $100-$200. Something with a bit more punch can set you back $200-$400, while professional telescopes often cost more than $500.

Refractor telescope FAQ

Can you take photos through a refractor telescope?

A. Yes, and the practice is called astrophotography. You can try to hold a camera steady over the eyepiece, but that will be difficult. The best way to take photos of space objects is to get a special mount that attaches to the eyepiece.

Can you change the magnification?

A. Yes, as most telescopes are compatible with different eyepieces. The most common accessory is the Barlow lens, which attaches to the eyepiece. It is designed to double the magnification of whatever eyepiece you are using.

What’s the best refractor telescope to buy?

Top refractor telescope

Gskyer 600x90 Millimeter Astronomical Refractor Telescope

Gskyer 600×90 Millimeter Astronomical Refractor Telescope

What you need to know: The telescope is the perfect tool for beginners to start their stargazing journey. It has a 600-millimeter focal length with a 90-millimeter aperture that lets in a good amount of light.

What you’ll love: The telescope comes with three eyepieces to change the magnification among 24, 60 and 120 times. It also comes with a Barlow lens that triples the magnification of any eyepiece.  

What you should consider: You will need to know where the planets are, as this telescope doesn’t have a motor to locate objects. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top refractor telescope for the money

Celestron 70 Millimeter Portable Refractor Telescope

Celestron 70 Millimeter Portable Refractor Telescope

What you need to know: The perfect size for grab-and-go astronomers, this telescope has a 70-millimeter aperture and a 400-millimeter focal length.

What you’ll love: It comes with two eyepieces for 20 and 40 times magnification, an adjustable tripod and a storage backpack.

What you should consider: It doesn’t include a Barlow lens for high-powered magnification.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Celestron AstroMaster 90EQ Refractor Telescope

Celestron AstroMaster 90EQ Refractor Telescope

What you need to know: This telescope has a 90-millimeter primary mirror that is fully coated on the inside. That means light won’t bounce off the internal walls and will focus directly on the mirror.

What you’ll love: It comes with 20- and 10-millimeter eyepieces, a tripod and a StarPointer red-dot finderscope. The control mechanism features two slow-motion knobs to make precise movements, and you don’t need any tools to set it up.

What you should consider: Even though the mount isn’t motorized for calibration, the telescope comes with free access to PC-based astronomy software for easy object identification.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Charlie Fripp writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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