Looking for Telescopes Between $500.00-$1,000.00?

If you've spent some time observing the sky with the unaided eye and a pair of binoculars, you may be ready to move on up to getting your own telescope. Or, maybe you have a beginner-type scope and you're on the hunt for a 'step-up' scope. ​As with most things in life, you typically get what you pay for. If you are looking for a good telescope that will carry you from your nights as a beginner astronomer to an experienced intermediate stargazer, check out these instruments. They range in price from $500 to $1000.00 and are worth every penny.  

Before you buy, check with your stargazing friends who have them to see what their experiences are with these (or any) telescopes. Ask a lot of questions and do a lot of reading up so you know the terminology! It's an exciting purchase, and, once you have your new scope and a sturdy tripod to hold it, the sky's the limit!

Edited and updated by Carolyn Collins Petersen

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Meade LightBridge 12 Inch Truss-Tube Dobsonian - Standard

Meade LightBridge 12 Inch Truss-Tube Dobsonian - Standard
Meade LightBridge 12 Inch Truss-Tube Dobsonian - Standard. Meade

This looks like a BIG telescope, and at five feet long, it is. Luckily, it's built like a typical Dobsonian: lightweight (about 70 pounds) and can be transported to your favorite viewing site.

Dobsonians are also known as "light buckets" because they gather a lot of light and deliver it to your eyepiece. That's important when you're viewing dim and distant objects such as galaxies or nebulae. The better the optics, the better your "bucket" will be! Good optics are important in any telescope — which are the heart of the instrument. You need a good mirror to help get the best view of the sky. Meade is known for its quality optics and premium components, and this telescope is a good value for the money.

It also comes with its own base, so you don't need an extra tripod on which to mount it. Also included are two good quality eyepieces. 

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Sky-Watcher 12 Inch Dobsonian Telescope

Sky-Watcher 12 Inch Dobsonian Telescope
Sky-Watcher 12 Inch Dobsonian Telescope. Sky-Watcher

Astronomy is a great hobby to share, and a Sky-Watcher 12" Dobsonian telescope makes you potentially the hit of any star party. It's a collapsible telescope that is easy to store and travel with to your favorite viewing area.

This telescope and its high-quality eyepieces have been a big hit with serious amateurs who want good deep-sky penetrating resolution. What does that mean for you? Excellent views of everything from planets to dim, distant fuzzy objects. Users report back that this one is easy to use and well-made. 

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Celestron NexStar 5 SE Telescope

Celestron NexStar 5 SE Telescope
Celestron NexStar 5 SE Telescope. Celestron

Automated telescopes, also called "GOTO" telescopes are the favorites for stargazers who want to pack a lot of viewing in on their observing nights. Typically they have a computerized mount and control with software that lets you "dial in" the next object you want to see.

Some of the most popular telescopes are in the NexStar line from Celestron (a well-known name in telescopes). These combine good optics and drive systems with state-of-the-art features including a fully computerized operating system, flash upgradeable hand control, superior coatings, and other features. Note that this telescope doesn't usually come with a tripod, so figure on purchasing a good sturdy one to keep your telescope safely mounted. 

Whether you are a seasoned astronomer looking for a portable scope with advanced features, or just starting your astronomy adventure and looking for an easy way to enjoy the night sky, a NexStar SE will help you take a closer look.

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iOptron TwinStar 90mm Telescope with GOTO and GPS System

iOptron TwinStar 90mm computerized GPS telescope
The iOptron TwinStar 90mm computerized GPS telescope. amazon

Everything seems to have GPS embedded in it these days, from smartphones to cars. So, why not a telescope with a GPS? The SmartStar E-MC90 GOTO telescope system is the ideal choice for deep space viewing and astrophotography. This 90mm-diameter Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope dramatically reduces the chromatic aberration that plagues its refractor counterparts and boasts good optics, a good eyepiece, and a fully computerized control system.  This lightweight, ultra-compact scope offers a great combination of power and transportability and brings stargazing to a whole other level. You simply head out to your favorite observing spot, set the scope up on its sturdy legs, turn it on and you're ready to search the sky for any of 130,000 objects in the scope's database. 

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The Meade ETX-80AT 80mm Telescope

The Meade ETX 80
The Meade ETX 80 is a good quality telescope that works well with users at all levels. Amazon

 If you're looking for a scope that's incredibly portable but still delivers a good view of planets and some of the brighter deep-sky objects for the buck, this is one you can consider. It has good optics and comes with two high-quality eyepieces, plus controller software that have you setting up and observing in very short order. Some observers also use this telescope as a spotting scope and for such daytime hobbies as birding. 

Welcome to the Stargazing Journey!

These five telescopes represent a small, but fair sampling of what's out there in terms of telescopes in the intermediate price range. Check the pages of Sky & Telescope or Astronomy magazines for ads and insightful reviews of the latest equipment.

Take your time choosing a telescope, and if you have an astronomy club nearby, visit with its members to get their recommendations. Local planetarium and science center facilities often have star parties, and those are great opportunities to do a little "guerilla stargazing" through someone else's telescope. Don't forget to ask lots of questions; whatever you buy will be with you for a long time!