After releasing the Astrolab last week, I received some questions about recommended telescopes (and related hardware) to use with it:

This is a tricky question because there is no “best telescope setup.” As with cars and cuisine, there are tradeoffs, and the optimal choice depends on one’s budget and use cases.

However, for folks who are new to astronomy and do not yet know what they want or need, I believe some specific guidance can be helpful.

This post details what I recommend to a new astronomer who wishes to get started with visual astronomy and very basic astrophotography, while spending as little money as possible.

The Setup

  • Celestron NexStar 4SE Telescope ($499)
  • QHY5R-II ($99)
  • Celestron Power Tank ($65)
  • Celestron 12V Adapter ($20)
  • Astrolab ($90)

Total price: $773

Celestron NexStar 4SE

Buy it from Amazon

There are a lot of reasons why the NexStar 4SE is, in my view, the perfect beginner telescope:

  1. It’s lightweight, which makes it easy to take out and put away. When you upgrade to something bigger, you’ll have a perfect portable travelscope to keep in your car.
  2. It’s easy to use. You get the same great digital interface as the 5/6/8 NexStar series, and you never have to worry about collimation.
  3. The OTA is light enough that a basic camera won’t overburden the mount.
  4. It has a suboptimal (but functional) built-in wedge, so after you get some experience, you can experiment with polar alignment.

QHY5R-II

Buy it from High Point Scientific

The QHY5R is as basic a camera as you can get, but it’s a perfect low-budget way to get started. It’s also a highly capable autoguider camera, so when you decide to upgrade to a beefier camera, you can still make use of your QHY5R by purchasing a finderscope and using it to autoguide.

Power Tank and 12V adapter

Buy the Power Tank from Amazon

Buy the 12V Adapter from Amazon

Astrolab

Build it for $90.

That’s everything you need to remotely control a telescope!