Autoguiders and guide scopes are some of the most underrated and underutilized tools for backyard astronomers. Not only can they make your life much easier and more productive when viewing deep space objects, but they are also super cool and fun to use. If you are like many people out there, you might be asking yourself what is an autoguider? What is a guide scope?
IN A HURRY? HERE’S OUR TOP PICKS…
A guide scope is just what it sounds like, an extra scope that you can mount to the top of your telescope in order to help you pinpoint exactly where you are looking in the sky. Telescope apertures are big, the sky is also large and together it can be hard to find that exact, specific spot that you need to dial into to see your favorite object.
A guide scope helps by giving you a second easy to see reference point that you can adjust your telescope position off of. Simple guide scopes can be red dot sights, lasers, or basic finderscopes. Other ones can get more complicated, and more expensive.
An autoguider is a nifty device that uses a guide scope to automatically adjust your telescope during use to keep you pointed at a specific object for long periods of time. Autoguiders are often used for long exposure photography or deep observations of specific bodies.
There are many uses for autoguiders and guidescopes that can take your backyard astronomy hobby in new and exciting directions. Many are available for a reasonable price and depending on your particular telescope and your goals they can add a ton of value to your set up.
Here are our favorite picks for the best autoguiders and guide scopes available on the market today.
Best: Astromania 70mm Compact Deluxe Finder
The Astromania 70mm Compact Deluxe Finder is designed for the flexible and adaptable astronomer. The sheer range of uses you can get out of this quality finder is why it makes the cut for the best on this list. It can be easily used for astrophotography, in conjunction with any autoguider on the market, or simply used as a visual boosting aid. The adaptable design plus the stellar durability and aesthetic make this a finderscope that you simply cannot pass up.
First, it has all of the specs you require out of a great guide scope or finderscope. It has a large 70mm aperture which puts it on par with most telescopes in terms of aperture. This gives it the ability to locate and identify guide stars that can help you get your bearings or feed the information to an autoguider which will keep your telescope laser focused during use.
The long 400mm focal length means you will get sharp images and great focus. This is boosted by the inclusion of a worm-gear focuser which makes focusing and keeping focus easier than ever before. The screws are tight and work great to keep your finder locked into place. Whether it is for photography or object tracking, there are few things more important for a finderscope than the ability to resist micromovement and vibrations.
If set up properly the Astromania 70mm Compact Deluxe Finder stays locked tightly into place and will have little to no play at all which is great. You’ll notice the difference over lower quality finderscopes immediately.
This is perfect for the astrophotographer who wants to get long exposure shots of things like galaxies that require long periods of time locked into one spot in the sky. In fact, this scope was specifically designed to be used with most astrophotography cameras and devices on the market.
On top of all that, the scope looks phenomenal. With a sturdy metal body and matte black finishes, it will look at home on any of your telescopes. The inside of the scope is also coated in matte black finishes which helps to reduce excess or unwanted light within the scope during location and autoguiding activities.
The quality plus the versatility plus the design choices all come together to create a true gem. The Astromania 70mm Compact Deluxe Finder is the perfect addition to any astronomer’s toolkit. It is available for a reasonable price and only weighs 2.5lbs meaning that it can be seamlessly integrated into most telescope kits.
Once you start scanning the sky with the help of the Astromania 70mm Compact Deluxe Finder you are not going to want to go back to throw away red dot sights and other cheap knock offs. This will give you a professional look and feel that you are never going to want to give up.
Perfect for the night sky wanderer or the dabbling astrophotographer, this is one scope that needs instant consideration for anyone looking to get into autoguiders, photography, or long exposure astronomy.Check Latest Price
Best Budget: MEOPTEX Mini 50mm Guide Scope
If the Astromania scope is a little too rich for your blood you should consider stepping down to the MEOPTEX Mini 50mm Guide Scope. This handy little scope is very similar to the more expensive model but comes in at a much better price, less than half that of the Astromania. It is not as good in terms of overall quality and hardiness of design but for someone who is just getting started or is on a strict budget, it will get the job done.
The MEOPTEX Mini 50mm Guide Scope sports a 50mm aperture and short focal length which gives it a very wide angled shot. This is good for capturing a large number of potential guide stars for your autoguider but it can also remove some of the detail you might need for precise manual adjustments or focusing. For most autoguiders and cameras, it should be sufficient to ensure accurate tracking.
It has an easy attachment mechanism so fitting this scope to any of your telescopes should be easy and fast. This is due to the inclusion of a handy adjustable dovetail bracket which is made to fit most accessory slots on most optical tube arrays on the market today.
While it is small and out of the way, the diminished size and lack of documentation and quality of life features make this guide scope hard to use in some cases. Compared to the more expensive Astromania scope which has better optics and a more straightforward design, this one might be a little more obtuse to get working with some of your astrophotography equipment.
However, if you know what you are doing or have a little patience this guide scope can be an inexpensive upgrade to your autoguided telescope or astrophotography set up. For the money, there are few scopes that are better suited to the job than the MEOPTEX Mini 50mm Guide Scope.Check Latest Price
Honorable Mention: SVBONY SV106 Guide Scope 60mm
Our honorable mention pick goes to the SVBONY SV106 Guide Scope 60mm Multi-Use Finder Scope. This is a great compromise between a budget scope and the top of the line Astromania scope. This scope is also versatile and can do a lot for not a large upfront investment. Unlike the other two scopes on this list, this scope is designed to be a general purpose scope. That means it can be used for hunting, bird watching, astronomy, and pretty much anything else that would benefit from the addition of a solid scope.
SVBONY has made sure that this scope can function as a straight through finderscope as well as a powerful night sky guide scope. It comes with its own 1.25” eyepiece which you can use to make this a fully independent scope or use it as a guide scope on the back of your favorite telescope. The possibilities are vast and varied.
It is fully compatible with astrophotography cameras, autoguiders, and illuminated centering eyepieces which add illuminated reticle to the scope. If you are someone who gets joy out of using scopes for the fun of it or for the basic assistance you are going to love the options you have with this guide scope.
It looks sharp, is well built and at 60mm the aperture is a fairly powerful scope. Where it falls flat compared to our best of the best choice is that it is not fully committed to the astronomy aspect. If you are looking for the absolute best astronomy guide scope you are still going to want to roll with the Astromania. However, if you are more fluid or easy going in your approach to scopes then you are going to find that there is a lot to like with the SVBONY SV106 Guide Scope 60mm Multi-Use Finder Scope.Check Latest Price
Unfortunately, many people are not getting the great benefits that come with the use of a guide scope. I rarely see them on people’s telescopes and that is a shame. They offer a lot in terms of usability and functionality and can open you up to new avenues of stargazing.
These are some of the best scopes on the market today and I highly suggest trying them out. Even if you are not ready to invest in a full autoguiding astrophotography set up, the addition of a guide scope can help hone your manual telescope and star locating skills. They also look great and make you feel like a total pro.