What Can a $500 Telescope Budget Get Me?

While telescopes are surely an expensive instrument to own, they are still much cheaper than you think!

If $500 is too much, you can consider checking out this article for telescopes in the $200 category.

Telescopes in this price range can prove to be a longer investment for beginners, or be a great upgrade. This article serves to give a general idea on what kinds of telescopes you can get for $500.


Before We Begin
More Money Equals Longer Investment

Spending a bit more means you’ll get equipment that is sturdier and more capable of a heavier load on the mount. This is a huge advantage, as even good telescopes in the $200 range can be harder to keep steady due to the lighter mounts.

You’re Getting More Light Gathering Power

AS we all know, the wider the telescope, the more light it collects, the better it resolves, and thus you can see more depth in the sky!

If you have attended a star party or have visited a public observatory, chances are you got really impressed by that expensive telescope that sets you back four figures. Believe it or not, telescopes in the $500 range can be just as capable!

Remember These Tidbits…
  • Don’t worry about the brands too much. The specs of the telescope and what it can do will always outweigh what brand you’re using. This article doesn’t endorse nor is it sponsored by the brands mentioned.
  •  Magnification rule of thumb is two times the aperture in millimeters – ex. a 150 mm telescope can go as high as 300x magnification.
  • IF you decide on a computerized telescope, while some can operate on AA batteries, it is highly recommended you purchase a portable 12 V battery pack (“power bank” as some call it). Computer telescopes eat up batteries each use, so getting a rechargeable battery saves you money in the long run.

Orion StarSeeker IV 150mm GoTo Reflector Telescope

starseekeriv

Price: $550
Aperture: 150 mm / 6 in.
Focal Length: 750 mm
Mount: Alt-Az
Motor Drive?: Go-To Computer included
Included Eyepieces: 3 Element 23mm & 10mm

Starting off the bat with a computer telescope, a 6 inch reflecting telescope of this variety is easily giving you bang for your buck! Not only does it collect a good amount of light to observe the brighter objects, but the extra light versus a 4 inch telescope means you’ll see deep sky objects much better. Having that computer drive is also a major plus!

The included eyepieces will give you a 32x and 75x view, which is not even close to the 300x limit of a 6 inch telescope. You will definitely need Barlow lenses to get higher magnification views, and to push to 300x, a 3x Barlow and 8mm eyepiece will get you to just at the limit, and you’ll see details on the Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn that you never thought possible.


Orion AstroView 6 Equatorial Reflector Telescope

astroview

Price: $450
Aperture: 150 mm / 6 in.
Focal Length: 750 mm
Mount: Equatorial
Motor Drive?: clock drive sold separately
Included Eyepieces: Sirius Plossl 25mm & 10mm

This will be a good telescope to have if you want to learn how to use an equatorial mount telescope. When you get the mount properly aligned with the celestial poles, you’ll only need to twist one knob to bring the object back into view once it leaves due to Earth’s rotation. It includes setting circles so you can also learn how to use the celestial coordinates to find objects!

This telescope includes a polar axis scope to help you get good accuracy with the polar alignment, which is a major plus.

The included eyepieces won’t get you close to the magnification limit, so just like the previous entry, you’ll want to invest in some Barlow lenses and extra eyepieces.

While not a computer telescope, you can also purchase a compatible clock drive that will do the equatorial tracking for you, which is a must if you want to spend more time observing at high magnification and less time readjusting!  Click on the following links to check them out.       $99 Single Axis Clock Drive  /  $150 Dual Axis Clock Drive


Orion SkyQuest XT8 PLUS Dobsonian Reflector Telescope

skyquest.png

Price: $530
Aperture: 203mm / 8 inches.
Focal Length: 1200mm
Mount: Alt-Az (Dobsonian)
Motor Drive?: No
Included Eyepieces: Sirius Plossl 10mm (1.25″), DeepView 28mm (2″), & 2x Shorty Barlow

If going big is your thing, then going with an 8 inch Dobsonian is the way to go! This will collect about two times more light than any 6 inch telescope, giving you even more depth in the deep sky!

Dobsonians are renowned for their ease of use, as no special alignment procedures are required to set it up.  As this particular Dobsonian is considered an upgraded version,  you can still find the “classic” XT8 for about $100 less than the XT8 Plus.

Now, the one major downside is the telescope is 100% manual as bare bones as you get! While there are computerized Dobsonian telescopes on the market, you won’t find them available on a $500 budget.


Celestron NexStar 4SE GoTo Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope

nexstar 4se

Price: $500
Aperture: 102mm / 4 inches.
Focal Length: 1325 mm
Mount: Alt-Az
Motor Drive?: Go To Computer included
Included Eyepieces: Sirius Plossl 25mm

The NexStar 4SE is a very popular telescope, due to its ease of setup and portability. Don’t let the small compact size fool you, the 4SE can pack quite a punch! While it is best for lunar and planetary views, it can still provide decent views of the brighter deep sky.

The included red dot finder can take some time getting used to, but the included software is easy to learn and you’ll be aligning to the sky and finding objects in no time.

Because it only includes a 25mm eyepiece, you will definitely want to purchase an eyepiece kit for wider and closer views. If anything, getting a 40mm eyepiece will significantly help you scan the sky due to the narrow focal length of the telescope.

Batteries not included…


NexStar 120SLT Computerized Refractor Telescope 

nexstar 102slt

Price: $500
Aperture: 102mm / 4 inches.
Focal Length: 660 mm
Mount: Alt-Az
Motor Drive?: Go To Computer included
Included Eyepieces: Sirius Plossl 1.25″ 25mm & 9mm

Refracting telescopes are difficult to really define at the $500 price range, as the prices of refracting lenses spike much faster as you increase aperture. It is possible to find refractors with specifications more to your liking in this price range if they are used or on sale from another vendor’s website.

Because of chromatic aberration, refractors that have the necessary materials to correct that issue are also much more expensive.

With that said, the shorter focal length means you’ll be able to start with much wider views than the NexStar 4SE. It also includes a 9mm eyepiece for higher magnifications while the 4SE does not, and all you’ll need is a 2x Barlow to get the same high powered views that the 4SE already has.


Remember that these are not product reviews, this article serves to give an eager buyer a general idea of what kinds of telescopes they can get in the $500 price range. Hopefully this helps!

If you are reading this, have one of the mentioned telescopes or any in within this price range, please leave a comment in the provided box below!


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