When I first started to look into buying a telescope, my principal object in the night sky to observe was the moon. I was then on a mission to find the best telescope to see the moon. Now, spending many hours observing the Lunar surface, I am a lot more knowledgeable than I once was. I hope to give you all the open options and pass any of the mistakes I fell for when I purchased my first moon telescope.
So, let us get right into picking the perfect item for viewing the moon.
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What options are open to you?
For lunar viewing, you have two main options open to you. First is a pair of binoculars, and the second is a telescope.
Binoculars will be a cheaper option and a lot more portable; however, you are going to get a lot less magnification than a telescope. Magnification is what is going to allow you to get closer views of the surface of the moon.
You are able to pick up Saturn’s rings with binoculars as well, which is sometimes a surprise to some.
If binoculars sound like something you are looking for, we have put together the, to help you find the perfect pair of Astronomy Binoculars.
Telescopes are remarkable pieces of technology. Some telescopes are built with just two pieces of glass and can bring another world into sharp view. Amature telescopes can even give some incredible views of the lunar surface.
Choosing a Telescope
Telescopes come in a few different designs, and each has its benefits. I will cover each of the three main designs below.
Refractor Moon Telescope
One of the oldest designed telescopes available. One that most will recognize when they see it. The Refractor design is one of the most robust types of a telescope on the market.
A lens on the front tube sends the light down the tube to the rear, bringing the light into view. The refractor telescope can cause someone new to them a little confusion as they produce an inverted image or back to front. If this causes you problems, you can get an item called “star diagonal” to correct the image and put it in an upright position.
Refractor telescopes give you rich colored views with high contrast. By many, the refractor is the best style of telescope. However, the lenses that are used in the refractor telescope are expensive to manufacture. With this, you get smaller apertures unless you are willing to spend more money.
Our Refractor Recommendation
- Get more gear at an amazing price with this 90mm Refractor Telescope Kit
- The AstroView 90mm refractor features a 3.5" aperture and 910mm focal length for crisp views of deep-sky objects, the Moon, and planets
- Track objects across the sky with the included EQ-2 equatorial mount and its manual slow-motion controls
- Includes two Sirius Plossl 1.25" eyepieces (25mm and 10mm), 6x30 finder scope, 90-degree mirror diagonal, Starry Night astronomy software download, and more
- Kit includes Moon Filter, Four Color Planetary Filters, MoonMap 260 and Star Target planisphere
Reflector Moon Telescope
A much larger telescope like a Dobsonian use mirrors to bring the light into sharp focus. One of the most popular is the Newtonian reflector, which deploys two mirrors to bring the light into focus at the front of the telescope to one side.
For what you would pay for a refractor telescope, a reflector will be much larger and give you much greater detail of the moon’s surface.
As mentioned, Dobsonian is also a very popular telescope style, and the views are fantastic; however, their size can but a lot of people off.
The major bugbear people will have with reflector telescopes is the need to collimated. A process in that you aline the mirrors to see the moon correctly, a process that sounds scarier than it is, and I would not let this put me off a reflector telescope.
As reflector telescopes are mirrored, they are less robust and can come out of aline if knocked and will need to be collimated. Again, it’s worth pointing out that the image you see is flipped in a reflector telescope’s eyepiece.
Our Reflector Recommendation
- Item may ship in more than one box and may arrive separately
- A large aperture Classic Dobsonian reflector telescope at a very affordable price!
- 8" diameter reflector optics lets you view the Moon and planets in close up detail, and has enough light grasp to pull in pleasing views of faint nebulas, galaxies and star clusters
- A perfect Dobsonian telescope that can last a lifetime for the beginning astronomy enthusiast or whole family
- The ultra-stable Dobsonian base keeps the reflector optical tube perfectly balanced for point-and-view ease of use
Catadioptric Moon Telescope
Catadioptric refers to the compact style of telescope. When someone says compound telescope, they are referring to the same style of telescope. Maksutov-Cassegrain and Schmidt-Cassegrain are two popular catadioptric telescopes. The very popular NexStar 4SE has the Maksutov-Cassegrain. Whereas the NexStar 5SE goes with the Schmidt-Cassegrain.
The compact nature is achieved by using both mirrors and lenses to produce an image like a refractor telescope. Just like a refractor style telescope, the catadioptric focuses the image at the rear of the telescope.
A style of telescope that is robust and will give you lots of contrast. If you are looking for a compact telescope with a lot of power, a catadioptric telescope could be the answer. It would be fair to say that this telescope style can be a little more expensive than others.
Our Catadioptric Recommendation
- Nexstar computerized telescope: The NexStar 6SE Computerized Telescope features Celestron’s iconic orange tube design with updated technology and the latest features for amazing stargazing for beginners and experienced observers.
- 6-Inch aperture: The six-inch primary mirror in this Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope for adults and kids to be used together packs enough light-gathering ability to observe the best that our Solar System has to offer, while retaining a compact form factor.
- Fully-automated go to mount: Featuring a database of more than 40,000 celestial objects, the go to mount built into our telescopes for astronomy beginners automatically locates and tracks objects for you.
- Easy to assemble and break down: The single fork arm design and sturdy steel tripod all assemble and break down from separate components for easy transportation. SkyAlign technology gets your telescope aligned and ready in minutes.
- Bonus free starry night software: The NexStar 6SE Telescope includes a free download of one of the top consumer rated astronomy software programs for an interactive sky simulation.
Should I get a computerized telescope?
More and more telescope manufacturers are computerizing their telescopes. You will often see a telescope advertising Go-To technologies, but is it needed.
You will have to forgive my sitting on the fence here as it depends, and I would put it into two categories.
Just moongazing camp if you are in the category and never want to seek other objects in the night sky. You don’t need to get a Go-To telescope as you will not need it or use it. Finding the moon in the night sky is one of the most straightforward objects to pick out with a budget finder, which most telescope will come included.
Night sky explorer camp, then I would highly recommend a Go-To telescope. If you want to go beyond moongazing, then a Go-To telescope will make finding objects in the night sky so much easier. Go-To can also make a night under the sky a lot more enjoyable as you can find many more objects in the sky.
The moon moves through our night sky throughout the night. It is less visible to the naked eye; however, it can quickly move out of the eyepiece when looking through a telescope.
With a Go-To mount, you will be able to track the moon through the sky without the need to adjust the telescope yourself. With this go-to feature, you are making it ideal if you ever want to get into moon photography or astrophotography in general.
Each person would have to give it some thought into how they plan to use their telescope. Ultimately the decision if to get a Go-To telescope or not will come down to how you believe you will use it.
What views to expect with a moon telescope
When viewing the moon, nearly all telescope will give you acceptable views. However, I advise investing in a well built stable telescope.
The view of the moon through a good telescope is breathtaking. You will never forget your first sight of the moon through a telescope. You can pick out creatures, and with a high powered telescope, you can zoom right into the moon’s feature.
I have looked through a budget $100 telescope and the moon has looked ok nowhere near as breathtaking as a Zhumell Z8 Deluxe Dobsonian Reflector. The bigger the power, the more lunar features you can pick out in the eyepiece.
A pair of astronomy binoculars will also give you good views, and I would be inclined to go with binoculars over a $100 telescope.
The bigger the magnification of the instrument you choose, the better the views will be, and I always recommend going as big as you can afford. Upgrading down the line will ultimately cost you more.
Any other accessories for lunar viewing?
A telescope will give you excellent views of the moon; however, you can purchase a few extra accessories. The big question is if you should be buying them, I will break the main accessories and their uses.
All telescope comes with eyepieces that blow up the image before it is projected into your eye. Each telescope will have its maximum magnification, and this is easy to calculate the max telescope eyepiece. A simple way of looking at it is the magnification should not be twice its aperture in millimeters. Having an eyepiece that is too large will distort the image that you see.
For moongazing, two eyepieces will be a great start. Generally, a telescope comes with a low magnification telescope, which is great for wider views, and this style makes it easy to find the moon in the eyepiece. I would add an eyepiece that gives you a higher magnification so you can pick out the moon’s surface features.
If you want higher magnification, then a Barlow lens can be a good option. These are much cheaper than and eyepiece and will come in different magnification capabilities. We have a full guide on Barlow lenses if you want to learn more about them.
Filters can come cheap but offer you much more comfortable views of the moon. The most common filter is a moon filter; we have compiled the best moon filter guide.
It is perfectly safe to view the moon through a telescope; however, it can be uncomfortable on the eye. It is more uncomfortable when you are viewing a full moon. So a moon filter attached to an eyepiece will make it much more comfortable. The filter is a neutral density filter that makes the moon in the eyepiece less bright in the eyepiece.
Attaching the filter is simple in the way of screwing the filter, the barrel of the eyepiece.
Other than a neutral density moon filter, an orange filter can bring out surface features on the moon’s surface. Okay, everything seems orange; however, you will get a lot more contrast to pick out more surface features. If you are on the hunt for the Lunar 100, then an orange filter will help you in your search.
We have put together a complete guide on the best telescope eyepiece sets, which also come with filters.