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When it comes to purchasing a telescope, the common approach is to sift through dozens if not hundreds of telescopes until you finally decide on one. It may be a particular feature, recommendation or “gut feeling”; either way this takes a considerable amount of time and you may end up with a telescope that isn’t quite what you were looking for.
Thankfully for you, I’ve conducted countless hours of research, discussed spec with numerous fellow astronomers, and run detailed comparisons to find the best telescope for under 2000$.
Will it be as powerful as a NASA Telescope? Not quite, but at $2000 it will be considerably better than cheaper telescopes in the $100-$500 range. With your budget you are able to purchase some seriously good kit to observe the night sky.
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Finding The Best Scope
Whether you want to observe the planets and the stars, or delve deeper and explore deep space objects like nebulae, galaxies, comets and asteroids, then you are going to want to get the best scope you can for your budget.
There are a lot of things to look out for, particularly spec, functionality and features. Below I will outline some of the different types of telescopes that are available to purchase:
Refractors vs Reflectors
In a simple sense, there are two kinds of telescopes that are available to buy; Refractors and Reflectors. In many ways they work in a similar fashion; they both use an objective that collects light. However, they mainly differ in the sense that they both use a different kind of objective lens.
Refractors utilize a glass lens as their objective. If you are a beginner to astronomy, this typically does not pose a problem or limitation. However, glass proves to be an inferior material when used in larger telescopes. This is due to what is known as “lens sagging” – where the weight of glass causes it to sag and bow resulting in a distortion of the images.
Older, traditional and simple Refractor telescopes are called Galilean telescopes. These are not normally used by astronomers in the 21st Century due to their relatively distorted view and a narrow field of view. In many ways they are inconvenient for the modern day astronomer and you will rarely see them recommended or promoted.
A significant improvement in the design led to the modern-day version – the Keplerian telescope. This warrants a much wider field of view and provides greater eye relief. Additionally, they provide a much higher magnification. However this all results in their primary disadvantage – images appear inverted (upside-down and left-to-right) to the user.
Reflecting telescopes, on the other hand, utilize mirrors instead of lenses. The primary benefit of this is that is reduces/eliminates the main problems of Refractors. The Newtonian telescopes are notable and prove effective for beginners, but some are put off by the design which leads to having to observe an object in the sky from the side of the telescope. The Cassegrain design removes this problem.
Now you may thinking that any telescope that is not a Cassegrain is automatically inferior considering the factors stated above. This is not necessarily true. It is important to note that each type of telescope comes with their own pros and cons. Some are more suited to you than another would be – it ultimately comes down to preference and compromise.
Specific telescope styles may have inconveniences, but this could be in order to provide better quality images and views and a larger resolution for less cost, as an example.
Features To Consider In A Telescope
Alongside an understanding of the different types of telescopes, another thing to consider is the features and functionality. It is these very things that ensure you opt for a scope that suits your own unique needs makes sure you get the best quality you can for your budget and the price.
In order of importance:
If you are not familiar with the term Aperture; then this is perhaps the most significant spec to consider. The majority of astronomers would agree that Aperture is the central spec that dictates the power of a telescope. So, this is one of those things to check on any scope you consider.
In its simplest sense, Aperture is the terminology used to describe how wide the objective is in the scope. It is usually measures in millimeters (mm) and it is the measure of the diameter of the light-gathering objective.
Regardless of whether the objective is a mirror or a lens (Refractor/Reflector), the importance is the size of the objective – the larger it is the sharper and brighter the images provided. So, a larger Aperture means you can observe fainter and more distant objects in the night sky.
Another very important factor to consider is the Focal Length. This is essentially the distance between the objective and the point at which the light rays meet together to focus.
Simply stated, the focal length dictates the magnifying power of a telescope (how much you can “zoom”. It follows that the larger the focal length, the more magnification.
When it comes to identifying what Focal Length is best for you; you should consider what you want to look at. If you want to look at certain celestial objects, a larger focal length could be more appropriate. However, if you want to look further afield at more distant solar systems and entire galaxies, a smaller focal length will likely be more advantageous.
Now this is where it gets a little difficult. A large focal length will only be beneficial is the Aperture of the scope is high enough to start with. Consider it this way – if you was to zoom into an image with a low resolution you will not be able to identify any detail better than not zooming in at all. It just becomes more blurred. However, if you was to zoom into an image with a high resolution – you’ll be able to identify more (and benefit in the process).
To identify the magnification of a telescope, there’s a simple calculation that you can run:
2x the objective’s diameter in millimeters.
So, as an example, a 100mm telescope would have a 200x magnification (at its highest).
The larger a telescope is the better in terms of Aperture and Focal Length (providing better image quality and magnification). But having a huge telescope not only costs more, but it reduces the portability (which may or may not be an issue for you depending on your preferences).
Certain telescopes are harder to move and transport than others. Consider the fact that some telescopes will require a car to be transported. So if you want to take a telescope with you on the go, then ensure you have this access.
Having said all this, you may not want to take your telescope with you anywhere. You may be purchasing it specifically for home use, and you may even leave it in the same place year-round.
So consider where and when you will be using your scope. The more static you plan to be, a larger telescope would be advised.
Ultimately this is all down to personal preference, but if you go for a telescope in between portability and size then you can hedge your bets and use it in both contexts. So if you did decide to suddenly take it with you on a trip, you can.
Not all telescopes come with a mount, but if you are paying in the $2000 range, you typically will get one as part of the package. This is something that you should investigate before any purchase.
The mount is an integral component to a telescope in the fact that it provides a platform and structure to your telescope. The mount is used to connect to a tripod which in turn provides stability and elevation. Plus, you’ll also benefit from ease of use, comfort, portability and stability.
Like all telescope components, there are different types and styles available. Alt-Azimuth mounts are some of the easiest to use, ideal for beginners and also smaller and lighter telescopes.
The Equatorial mount are best for larger and heavier telescopes. They are typically used by astronomers who partake in Astrophotography. Certain Equatorial mounts offer computerized functionality. This is a terrific, simple and effective way to identify objects in the sky, especially for beginners.
Best Telescope Under $2000
The following 5 telescopes combine fantastic Apertures, Strong Optics, Portability, Durability and Overall Quality. These are all critically acclaimed telescopes regardless of which model you choose:
Celestron Advanced VX 8″ EdgeHD
The #1 Telescope that falls just under the budget with considerable spec and a complete astroimaging package . The Celestron Advanced VX 8″ EdgeHD is a computerized telescope that helps you find and observe the most difficult to find objects and makes stargazing a phenomenal and fascinating experience. With over 40,000+ objects in the database, it will literally take you years to see them all!
You’re not just getting a premium high quality telescope with HD optics, you are getting a complete package that includes an Advanced VX mount.
With 3 different f-stop configurations and the ability to shoot at ultra-fast f2; this is a very versatile and powerful piece of kit. You can even attach a camera to the back of the VX EdgeHD if you are interested in Astrophotography.
One of the significant benefits of this scope is the combination of power and versatility. With an 8-inch optical tube and a portable Advanced VX mount, its great to take with you on the go and transport. This is not just a telescope for an astronomy beginner, but it is suitable for more experienced and advanced astroimagers.
Beyond just the telescope and mount themselves, you will also get a sturdy Tripod, 90-Degree Mirror Diagonal, 2-Year Warranty and the official Celestron Accessory Kit (includes a Night Vision Flash Light, Sky Maps, Premium Moon Filter and Optical Cleaning Kit.
All in all this is the standout winner; having everything you will ever need!
- StarBright XLT Coatings provide enhanced light gathering and transmission for HD images.
- Edge HD optical design completely corrects for coma and field curvature, delivering a truly flat field.
- NexStar+ hand control can be used in multiple languages (English, French, Italian, German, Spanish)
- Advanced Motors provide improved tracking performance & ability to overcome load imbalances.
- Two Year Warranty
- Quite difficult to set up and takes a bit of getting used to. Need to learn to adjust latitude scale and the polar knob.
- Hand controller can be difficult to observe in very dark conditions.
Meade Instruments LX90-ACF 8-Inch (f/10) Advanced Coma-Free Telescope
The Meade Instruments LX90-ACF is another brilliant scope at a slightly lower price point (within the $2000 budget). It is slightly smaller and weaker in power than the Celestron (Aperture, Focal Length and Magnification but it still has excellent optics and will provide you with scintillating views of the sky with great image brightness and contrast.
Another computerized scope, you can quickly pinpoint over 30,000 sky objects and obtain flat image fields making this a solid choice for beginners, astrophotographers and professional observatories.
It is fork mounted and incredibly easy and simple to set up and align. It comes with a GPS, unlike the Advanced VX8 discussed above.
A major benefit to this scope is the ability to align it with two stars and it will hold this alignment and track seamlessly all evening. Plus the hand controller is bright and clearly visible in dark conditions.
The LX90 comes with a heavy duty height adjustable Field Tripod, 1.25″ diagonal mirror, 26mm 5-Element Plössl eyepiece, the official Meade AutoStar Suite Software (for PC only) and an 8×50 optical viewfinder.
- Easy To Set Up and Align
- 8” (203mm) f/10 with UHTC coatings
- 8×50 optical finderscope for locating alignment stars
- AudioStar hand control with a 30,000 object database
- One Year Warranty
- No power source is included to run the GoTo/Tracking motor.
Orion 10135 SkyQuest XT10g Computerized GoTo Dobsonian
Orion Dobsonians are well regarded and considered for their brilliant optical and mechanical quality, simple ease of use, and more affordable prices. One of the downsides to Dobsonions has always been having to observe your target by moving the scope by hand. Until now…
The Orion SkyQuest XT10g is a fully motorized GoTo Mount with a database of 42,000 objects. Just like the other options above, being fully motorized you can automatically locate, center, and track any object with a simple press of a button.
It provides a whopping 254mm (10″) Aperture which enables you to gather even more light to see observe galaxies, nebulas, and star clusters as well as the ability to closely study planets like Jupter and also the Moon.
The downside is that the Focal Length and Magnification are not as powerful as other options, the latter for this scope maxes out at around 300x. So you are essentially losing some “zooming” functionality with this scope.
Nonetheless, the 10″ primary mirror is center-marked to make precise alignment of the optics (collimation) easier to achieve and you will also benefit from enhanced reflectivity and bright high clarity images due to the aluminum mirror coatings.
You’ll also receive an EZ Finder II reflex sight, eyepiece rack for one 2″ and three 1.25″ eyepieces, hand controller bracket, quick collimation cap and a digital download insert for Starry Night SE astronomy software.
- 10″ Aperture; higher light gathering ability than alternatives on this list.
- Outstandsing value for money; great combination and ratio of Price/Quality.
- 12V power supply required for motorized operation sold separately.
- Not suitable for Astrophotography.
Celestron NexStar 8SE Telescope
The infamous Orange Tube, the Celestron NexStar range is perhaps one of the most commonly used and desired for amateur astronomers and experienced observers. The NexStar 8SE is the premium model in this range; a computerized 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain that packs a lot of power and features for an outstanding stargazing experience.
With the completely automated GoTo mount (and database of 40,000+ celestial objects) plus the innovative SkyAlign technology will get you aligned and observing in minutes. Regardless of your experience observing the night sky, you can easily and easily isolate a new target of your choice.
The specs of this telescope are quite frankly incredible considering the price (it comes in at the bottom of the $2000 budget). It has a focal length of 2032mm (8″) and a max magnification of 480x.
The 8SE is able to reveal details of even the most faint celestial objects due to its high light-gathering ability. Users report success of being able to see Cassini’s Division in Saturn’s rings, the cloud bands on Jupiter, and the Great Red Spot. Outside of the solar system, the 8SE can show you hundreds of pinpoint stars in the Hercules Globular Cluster, the spiral arms of the Whirlpool Galaxy, and far more.
However despite its incredible power, it does come with some minor downsides.
This is not the easiest telescope to set up and not the most user friendly right out of the box. Unless you know someone with an 8SE already, you’re going to need to spend some time learning how to use it.
In summary, this is a great affordable telescope with terrific specs and innovative technology for a very low price.
- The NexStar SE is compatible with many high-tech accessories.
- You can control your telescope using your iPhone or iPad with the SkyQ Link, or add GPS functionality with SkySync.
- Fully automated, GoTo mount with database of 40,000+ celestial objects automatically locates and tracks objects for you.
- SkyAlign technology aligns the scope quickly (in a couple of minutes). Great for beginners without a knowledge of the night sky.
- Difficult to set up initially; takes some time initially to learn.
Orion Sirius ED80 EQ-G Computerized GoTo Refractor Telescope
If you are looking at getting a telescope purely for Astrophotography, this is the scope for you. This was built for that entirely. The Orion ED80 refractor’s short focal length and advanced apochromatic optics make this an excellent choice.
Added to the fact that the Equatorial Mount is made up of robust steel that gives you extra stability and precise control that is required to to capture fascinating deep-sky images.
The ED80 is an brilliant GoTo telescope that not only has a database of over 42,000 celestial objects, but also dual-axis stepper motors that move the telescope at speeds of up to 3.4° per second to locate your target object, tracking it while you observe or photograph it.
This great scope comes with a f/7.5 configuration.
This is a relatively portable telescope that has a draw-tube tensioning knob for securing your camera position, but of course, you can use it to observe planets, nebula and galaxies too.
This telescope does not provide the best power or magnification, so if you are looking purely at observing the night sky, this isn’t the scope for you. For example, whilst views of the planets are fantastic, views of Deep sky objects are rather limited.
But if you are looking to take pictures, the ED80 is a great choice.
- Ideal for Astrophotography; no noticeable star bloating or chromatic aberration appear photos,
- Well Designed and Stable – constructed with durable Steel.
- Sirius EQ-G is an excellent mount for the cost; many Astronomers retain the mount if they decide to upgrade.
- Very portable and travel friendly.
- 12-volt DC battery/ AC-to-DC adapter required for to operate the Mount is sold separately.
- Set-up and operation can be a little complex for a beginner; roughly 2 hours to for first time users.
- Views of Deep Sky Objects are limited.
Hopefully this buyers guide has helped you to make a decision on what will be the right scope for you, at the very least, it would have helped you to compare spec and functionality.
At this kind of price range, every model is going to have excellent optics and provide you with extraordinary views of the sky. But, there are always going to be slight differences and individual preferences that dictate what will be best for you. Without being able to test each model, you will not be able to understand the subtle differences between them.
If you’re struggling to make a decision, consider what you are looking to see (galaxies and clusters or stars and planets) and how you are going to use your scope. Do you want it to be more versatile or more powerful? Or something in between?
Another piece of advice is to ensure that you consider the overall package and what you are getting with the telescope. Sure you can find cheaper models, but they typically do not come with all the additional accessories that you need. you will likely end up having to buy them separately and I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up costing you more. So even if a bundle does seem more expensive always trey to weight it up.
All the telescopes in this list come with the essentials and more; typically tripods, eyepieces, viewfinders, mounts and other additional gear.
I hope you enjoyed this guide and I wish you all the best. If you have any questions on the models or astronomy in general, be sure to drop a comment below!