Most Powerful Telescope You Can Buy (2024)

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Most Powerful Telescope You Can Buy

I went on a journey to find the most powerful telescope you can buy. I spoke to leading retailers and specialist telescope outlets to find the best models for you to buy off the shelf to use at home.

My recommendation for most people looking for the best telescope money can buy is the Celestron CPC 1100. This is a complete package and can excel for both astronomy and astrophotography.

Alternatively, if you want an advanced astrophotography telescope, I recommend the Celestron CPC Deluxe 1100 HD. This gives you all you need to get into imaging planets and deep-sky objects, but costs a bit more than the above model.

If you want the very biggest for observing (not astrophotography), then the Sky-Watcher 14-inch GOTO Dobsonian is for you. It lacks compactness but gives you the very highest aperture.

Finally, best for beginners is the easy-to-use Celestron Starsense Explorer 12″ Dobsonian. This smartphone-interactive telescope guides you to find and view objects in the night sky.

You can see other in-stock models below or read on for a more detailed analysis and explanation.

Top Pick All-Round
Astrophotography Pick
Best for Astronomy
Best for Beginners
Aperture:
11-inch
Aperture:
11-inch
Aperture:
14-inch
Aperture:
12-inch
Type:
Schmidt-Cassegrain
Type:
Schmidt-Cassegrain
Type:
Dobsonian Reflector
Type:
Dobsonian Reflector
GOTO:
Yes
GOTO:
Yes
GOTO:
Yes
GOTO:
No
Weight:
84 lbs
Weight:
94 lbs
Weight:
147 lbs
Weight:
83 lbs
Pros:
  • Large 11-inch aperture
  • Computerized GOTO auto tracking system
  • Compact SCT design
  • Great for astronomy and good for astrophotography
Pros:
  • Large 11-inch aperture
  • Optimized for astrophotography with EdgeHD OTA
  • Compact SCT design
  • Computerized GOTO auto tracking system
Pros:
  • Huge 14-inch aperture
  • Computerized GOTO auto tracking system
  • Collapsible Dobsonian design
  • Great price-to-aperture value
Pros:
  • Huge 12-inch aperture
  • Easy to use and great for beginners
  • No GOTO means no cables or power source needed
  • Great price-to-aperture value
Cons:
  • Jack-of-all-trades, rather than a specialist
Cons:
  • More expensive
Cons:
  • Bulky and heavy
  • Not great for astrophotography
Cons:
  • Bulky and heavy
  • Not great for astrophotography
Top Pick All-Round
Aperture:
11-inch
Type:
Schmidt-Cassegrain
GOTO:
Yes
Weight:
84 lbs
Pros:
  • Large 11-inch aperture
  • Computerized GOTO auto tracking system
  • Compact SCT design
  • Great for astronomy and good for astrophotography
Cons:
  • Jack-of-all-trades, rather than a specialist
Astrophotography Pick
Aperture:
11-inch
Type:
Schmidt-Cassegrain
GOTO:
Yes
Weight:
94 lbs
Pros:
  • Large 11-inch aperture
  • Optimized for astrophotography with EdgeHD OTA
  • Compact SCT design
  • Computerized GOTO auto tracking system
Cons:
  • More expensive
Best for Astronomy
Aperture:
14-inch
Type:
Dobsonian Reflector
GOTO:
Yes
Weight:
147 lbs
Pros:
  • Huge 14-inch aperture
  • Computerized GOTO auto tracking system
  • Collapsible Dobsonian design
  • Great price-to-aperture value
Cons:
  • Bulky and heavy
  • Not great for astrophotography
Best for Beginners
Aperture:
12-inch
Type:
Dobsonian Reflector
GOTO:
No
Weight:
83 lbs
Pros:
  • Huge 12-inch aperture
  • Easy to use and great for beginners
  • No GOTO means no cables or power source needed
  • Great price-to-aperture value
Cons:
  • Bulky and heavy
  • Not great for astrophotography

Most Powerful Telescopes In Stock

The best measurement of the power of a telescope is aperture. This is how wide the lens is, and this determines how much light the telescope captures and then how good the views will be. The most powerful home telescopes will have an aperture of 10 to 16 inches.

Best Dobsonians – Best for those that have space at home for long night time observing sessions.

  1. Sky-Watcher 14″ GOTO Collapsible Dobsonian – premium pick
  2. Celestron Starsense Explorer 12″ Dobsonian – best for beginners
  3. Sky-Watcher 12″ GOTO Collapsible Dobsonian
  4. Sky-Watcher 12″ Collapsible Dobsonian
  5. Celestron Starsense Explorer 10″ Dobsonian
  6. Sky-Watcher 10″ Collapsible Dobsonian
  7. Sky-Watcher 10″ Classic Dobsonian – budget pick

“GOTO” means it will find objects for you, “Collapsible” means it is easier to store.

Best Schmidt-Cassegrains – Best for those that want a more compact package and/or want to use for both astrophotography and astronomy.

  1. Celestron CPC 1100 – best all-rounder
  2. Celestron CGX 11
  3. Celestron CGX-L 11
  4. Celestron CPC Deluxe 1100 HD – best for astrophotography
  5. Meade 14″ LX200 ACF – actually most powerful but not recommended for beginners

For the Celestron models, “HD” indicates the telescope tube (OTA) is astrophotography-specialized.

“CPC”, “CGX”, “CGX-L” indicates the different mount type included in the package. CPC is easiest to use, but the CGX and CGX-L are better for astrophotography. The CGX-L has the higher capacity but the CGX is more than enough for the 11-inch telescope so by going for the CGX-L you would actually be buying more than you need.


Most Powerful Telescopes You Can Buy

Celestron CPC 1100

Top Pick – Best All-Round Option

This is an 11-inch aperture catadioptric GOTO telescope package from Celestron (the best telescope manufacturer in my opinion).

The Celestron CPC 1100 makes our top pick for a number of reasons:

  1. Great all around for observing and astrophotography
  2. Easy to use with the GOTO fork mount
  3. Made by Celestron – the best consumer telescope manufacturer
  4. Relatively affordable compared to other options

With this, you get a powerful 11-inch aperture telescope in an all-in-one package.

The advantage of this is that you get the big power for great views but in a relatively compact package and for a reasonable price (note though that all of these most powerful telescopes are big, and none are cheap).

It includes a GOTO (computerized) mount, which means that it finds objects for you to look at at the press of a button on the handset (or via a downloadable smartphone app).

It is easy to use and much less bulky and cumbersome than a Dobsonian or equatorial mount.

It is fairly compact in size given the large aperture and it is easy to operate and so suits someone looking for the best there is to buy straight out of the box.

It can be used for astrophotography, and the long focal length SCT design is especially good for planetary photography.

The downsides to consider for this telescope are :

  1. It has less aperture (power) than a 16-inch Dobsonian
  2. It is less tailored for astrophotography than the HD/CGX version (see below)
  3. Whilst the SCT design is compact, it is still pretty big and heavy

You can watch this video for an overview of the CPC telescope range:

Overall, this is a great option if you just want to go straight for a great all-round – but very powerful – telescope that you can use at home with little complication.

You have all you need in one package, it is simple to use, and is premium quality in terms of the Celestron telescope and mount included.

Key specifications

  • Type: Catadioptric (Schmidt-Cassegrain)
  • Aperture: 11-inch / 279 mm
  • Focal length: 110-inch / 2800 mm
  • Focal ratio: F/10
  • Mount: Celestron CPC Computerized (GoTo) Fork Mount
Our Pick
Celestron CPC 1100

Celestron CPC 1100 StarBright XLT GPS Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope with Tripod

Pros:
  • Huge 11-inch aperture for amazing views
  • All you need in one package, with telescope, mount, and tripod
  • Computerized mount finds objects for you to view at a press of a button
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Celestron CPC Deluxe 1100 HD

Best for Astrophotography

This Celestron CPC Deluxe 1100 HD is our recommendation as the most powerful home telescope if you want the best for astrophotography.

This is the same package in terms of the GOTO CPC mount, but with the Edge HD version of the 11-inch telescope tube that is optimized for photographing deep sky objects like galaxies.

To explain, the Celestron telescope OTAs come in three main types:

  1. Standard OTAs like that included in the CPC 1100 above. These great all-rounders for both astronomy and astrophotography
  2. EdgeHD versions like this one. More tailored for advanced astrophotography but are more expensive
  3. RASA versions. These have shorter focal lengths and are specialized for deep sky astrophotography but are note suited for observing

Therefore, if you want something that has a greater capacity for advanced astrophotography – and you have the budget – then we recommend this model.

Whilst it is also an 11-inch Celestron SCT, it differs from the CPC 1100 above in three specific ways:

  1. The telescope tube has been optimized for deep-sky astrophotography with the EdgeHD correcting for distortion (coma) that can occur around the edge of images
  2. The telescope can be adapted with the Fastar technology to massively speed up the focal ratio and better collect light for imaging

It comes at a higher price, but if you think you want to get into photographing planets, galaxies and other far-off objects then this might be for you.

This EdgeHD optics correct for field curvature and coma that occur in Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes. This makes it improved for viewing or photographing wide-field deep sky objects.

The telescope has a focal ratio of f/10 but there is the functionality to remove the secondary mirror so that a camera can be attached directly (Celestron call this Fastar technology). This dramatically increases the focal ratio to f/2 to make it better for astrophotography.

These features make it excel for astrophotography and our analysis shows it is one of the most successfully used telescopes in astrophotography competitions.

Having said that though, this is not solely a telescope for astrophotography (known as an astrograph), but also can be used for visual astronomy and observing.

The cons of this package are:

  1. It is more expensive than the non-HD package above or a big dobsonian
  2. It has less aperture (power) than a 14 or 16-inch Dobsonian
  3. Whilst the SCT design is compact, it is still a big and heavy telescope

This video from Trevor at AstroBackyard features him using this telescope for astrophotography:

Overall, this is the best option if you want the biggest home telescope that can excel for astrophotography.

Key specifications

  • Type: Catadioptric (Schmidt-Cassegrain)
  • Aperture: 11-inch / 279 mm
  • Focal length: 110-inch / 2800 mm
  • Focal ratio: F/10 as standard but F/2 when adapted with Fastar
  • Mount: Celestron CPC Computerized (GoTo) Fork Mount
Astrophotography Pick
Celestron CPC Deluxe 1100 HD

Celestron CPC 1100 EdgeHD Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope with Tripod

Pros:
  • Huge 11-inch aperture optimized for astrophotography
  • All you need in one package, with telescope, mount, and tripod
  • Computerized mount finds objects for you to view at a press of a button
  • Used by Stephen Hawking
Buy on Amazon Check All Stores

Sky-Watcher 14-inch GOTO Collapsible Dobsonian

Big on Aperture, Big on Size

Finally, if you really want the biggest power then this Sky-Watcher 14-inch Dobsonian might be for you:

This is really the highest power you can buy off the shelf and will give you AMAZING views, but there are two many caveats that I would flag for this:

  • It is physically huge and bulky – you need to make sure you have the space to use and keep it
  • It is great for astronomy – i.e. sitting out and looking at the planets and other sights – but it is not great for astrophotography. It can be done, but it is just not what it is designed for.

This is actually the most powerful telescope you can buy. 14-inch aperture is huge and the highest you will get for a consumer telescope you can buy off the shelf.

The Dobsonian design is also the best bang-for-buck in that it gives you a huge aperture at a much cheaper cost than the Schmidt-Cassegrain models recommended above.

The reason that this is third in our list rather than first is that the Dobsonian design is not suited to everyone:

  1. Firstly, it is physically huge – over six feet tall and also as heavy as a grown adult
  2. It is perfect for observing, but less so for astrophotography and most people want to dabble in imaging with their telescopes
Sky-Watcher 16-inch GOTO Collapsible Dobsonian
This telescope stands over six feet tall

The collapsible tube does mean that although it is very large, it can shrink down for easier storage, but it is still big.

See this telescope’s Synscan GOTO functionality in action here:

Overall, if you have the space at home to use and store a telescope like this then this is a great option as you get an extremely powerful telescope for a relatively low cost.

It is most suited to those that want to have observing sessions in their backyard, taking their time to view objects in real time through the high aperture optics.

Key specifications

  • Type: Dobsonian Reflector
  • Aperture: 14-inch / 355 mm
  • Focal length: 71-inch / 1800 mm
  • Focal ratio: F/4.4
  • Mount: Synscan Computerized (GoTo) Dobsonian
Sky-Watcher 14" Flextube Dobsonian
$1,450.00 $1,199.00

350P Synscan GOTO Collapsible Dobsonian

Pros:
  • Huge 14-inch Aperture - the most powerful home telescope you can buy
  • Computerized GOTO auto tracking system finds objects for you
  • Collapsible design for storage
  • Superb value for money
Buy on Amazon Check All Stores
02/21/2024 12:29 pm GMT

Celestron StarSense Explorer 12″ Dobsonian

Newly released in 2023, this 12-inch Dobsonian is perfect for beginners who want maximum power but also in an affordable package that is easy to use.

Rather than a GOTO/computerized base, it utilizes Celestron’s Starsense Explorer technology. With this, you effectively use your smartphone as a budget computer. It scans the night sky and tells you what you can view tonight from your location:

Celestron StarSense Explorer 12" Dobsonian

Then you can select and object and it will guide you to it:

most powerful home telescope for beginners

This means you are doing it manually but it is very easy and also you don’t have to deal with cables or another power source for a GOTO mount, which can make it much more convenient.

The downsides of this telescope are, like the models above, the physical size. You can see from this image how large it stands next to Erik from Celestron:

most powerful starsense explorer telescope

Overall, this is a great option for beginners or a stargazer of any level that wants high power in a convenient package.

Key specifications

  • Type: Dobsonian Reflector
  • Aperture: 12-inch / 305 mm
  • Focal length: 59-inch / 1500 mm
  • Focal ratio: F/4.7
  • Mount: Manual Dobsonian
Celestron Starsense Explorer 12" Dobsonian

Smartphone app-Enabled Dobsonian Telescope

Pros:
  • Huge 12-inch aperture
  • Easy to use and great for beginners
  • No GOTO means no cables or power source needed
  • Great price-to-aperture value
Cons:
  • Bulky and heavy
  • Not great for astrophotography
Buy on Amazon Check All Stores

Most Powerful Home Telescope Buying Guide

With going for the most powerful telescope you can buy you really have two broad choices in terms of telescope type, each with their pros and cons:

  1. Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescopes (SCT):
    • Great all-rounders that excel for both astronomical observing (i.e. looking through) and astrophotography (taking photos).
    • Relatively compact compared to dobsonian telescope types of similar aperture and so easy to manage and store.
    • However, they are more expensive in terms of price-to-power (aperture)
  2. Dobsonian Reflectors:
    • Great value for money in that a 16-inch Dobsonian may cost a quarter of that of a 16-inch SCT
    • Great for astronomical observing (i.e. looking through), however they are not ideal for astrophotography.
    • They are extremely large and bulky – literally bigger than a grown man, and so you have to make sure you have the space to store and use it

Within these categories you then have a number of other choices like:

  • GOTO or manual – Most would prefer GOTO auto tracking but a manual Dobsonian just for observing can be a great way of getting big power at a low price
  • Mount type – Equatorial mounts are better for astrophotography but are more cumbersome and heavy than fork mounts
  • OTA type – the telescope tubes can come in different versions with some more optimized for astrophotography than others

SCTs – The Most Powerful Celestron Telescopes

most powerful celestron telescope

SCTs the best option if you want something that you can easily setup up at home and get running quickly.

They are a type of catadioptric (or compound) telescope. This refers to a category of telescope which is essentially a mix of the two main telescope types – reflectors and refractors.

All you really need to know as a buyer is that this makes them much smaller and less bulky, whilst retaining the power and viewing capabilities. The downside is that they are more expensive.

The best options here come from two main brands – Celestron and Meade Instruments – which are both leading telescope manufacturers.

We have picked out two of the best available models above. There are larger and more powerful models on the market but they are rarely available.

The largest Celestron telescopes are 14-inch SCTs. These can be bought as part of packages with the CGX-L mounts:

The alternative option is to buy a standalone telescope – known as an Optical Tube Assembly (OTA) – and then build your own package with a separate mount:

You can then buy the Celestron CGX-L mount separately or you could explore alternative mounts – see our guide to the best mounts for astrophotography.

The advantage of buying standalone OTA is that with careful shopping around and patience you may be able to save money by buying different parts separately and cheaper over time.

The downside is that you won’t have an all-in-one package you can just open up at home, and it requires a fair bit more research in buying all the component parts you need and making them work together.

The other 14-inch Celestron OTA is the 36cm Rowe-Ackermann Schmidt Astrograph (RASA).

Meade Instruments SCTs

Meade Instruments SCTs

Alternatively, the largest SCTs actually come from Meade Instruments, which offers four different packages with 14 and 16-inch aperture telescopes:

  1. LX200 14-inch f/10
  2. LX600 16-inch f/8
  3. LX600 14-inch f/8
  4. LX850 14-inch f/8

These are all Advanced Coma Free (ACF) Schmidt-Cassegrain catadioptric telescope packages with GOTO fork mounts, but there are differences in focal ratio of the telescope and the mount, as well as the aperture.

These can also be bought as standalone OTAs:

  1. LX850 16-inch f/8 OTA
  2. LX200 14-inch f/10 OTA
  3. LX850 14-inch f/8 OTA
  4. LX200 16-inch f/10 OTA

This video from Meade gives some insight into these:

Dobsonian Telescopes

Finally, dobsonians offer the best bang-for-buck in terms of power to price and can be substantially cheaper than the compound telescope packages covered above.

However, they are huge and bulky (sometimes perhaps 6ft tall), therefore requiring a suitable space to store and use them, which might not work for everyone.

They are also harder to learn and master how to use and so are more for the most enthusiastic astronomers.

Sky-Watcher offers the most popular Dobsonian models. See the table above for what is available now.


The Very Biggest Telescopes You Can Buy

In addition, to these “regular” telescopes above that can be bought off-the-shelf, there are even bigger telescopes from specialist manufacturers for advanced users.

25-inch: Obsession Classic Dobsonian

obsession telecsope

We now move on to the specialist telescope manufacturers.

The first that we come across is the 25-inch aperture Classic Dobsonian from the manufacturer Obsession. These are custom-built for buyers and will set you back in the region of $19,995.

These large Dobsonian telescopes start to get pretty massive in terms of height and bulk. Some of them require the use of ladders to look through the eyepiece.

32-inch: Webster C32 f/3.6

webster telescopes C32

Even bigger is this 32-inch aperture telescope from Webster. It stands 118-inches (299cm) tall, although Webster boasts that it can be easily moved about by one person.

It is on wheels and, when tilted, it can slide through doorways, thereby suiting storage in a garage.

We spoke to Webster and they say that in recent years they have built 53-inch and 40-inch aperture telescopes for customers and that they can build anything up to 60-inches.

They also informed me that they once heard about a 73-inch aperture telescope being built in New Mexico but don’t know if it was ever finished!

Here’s a picture of a 28-inch Webster telescope:

webster telescopes C32

40-inch: Planewave 1 Meter Observatory Telescope

PlaneWave 1 Meter Observatory Telescope

Next up is this 40-inch (1-meter) aperture telescope from Planewave.

This is a bit different as it is designed for use in an observatory and not for home use.

In the video below you can see the documented process of installing one of these telescopes in an observatory in Chile:

50-inch: New Moon Big Guy

We now get to the 50-inch “Big Guy” telescope from New Moon.

Again, these are huge constructions and one of these will set you back a cool $155k.

65-inch: Optiques Fullum

Lastly, the biggest telescope we could find was this 65-inch aperture model from the Canadian manufacturer Optiques Fullum.

Here’s a video showing the installation of one of their 50-inch models:


How to assess telescope power? It’s all about aperture

The best indicator of the power of a telescope is its aperture.

Aperture is the measure of how wide the lens of the telescope is.

The wider (larger) the aperture, the more light it gathers, and the better images you will see (and photograph, if you wish).

Beginner’s telescopes might have apertures between 2 and 8 inches (60 – 200 mm).

These can work well for casual viewing and will allow you to see the planets of the solar system, other objects in the night sky, and but deep-sky objects like galaxies and nebulae may remain faint and hard to see.

Advanced telescopes from leading retail telescope manufacturers (Celestron, Meade Instruments, etc.) will then range from 10 to 20-inch (250 – 500mm). These will give much-improved viewing and brighter, clearer images. You can see examples of these in the list below.

The general rule though is that the higher the aperture, the higher the cost of the telescope.

There are other factors that influence this though, and you will see from reading on that you can get higher aperture telescopes for less money if you are able to handle something that is less user-friendly and extremely large in size.

After this, there are specialist telescope brands and retailers who sell giant and customized telescopes with apertures in the range of 50-60 inches. These can be huge and powerful and are generally more for the advanced telescope user.

See below for profiles of giant telescopes from companies like Obsession, Webster and New Moon. These are big beasts! There are some videos included in this article that you can watch to get a good idea of their size.

Limiting magnitude

There is another, more complicated measure of a telescope’s power, known as its limiting magnitude. This is a measure of the farthest object that you will be able to see with a telescope.

See here for a calculator that enables you to work out this figure for any telescope. For the sake of simplicity, we stick to aperture as the best measure of power in this article.


Conclusion: The Most Powerful Telescope You Can Buy

We went on a quest to find the most powerful telescope you can buy.

What we found is that these range from very powerful but regular-sized telescopes, to the ridiculously large bigger-than-a-person model.

If you are looking for the most powerful telescope you can buy off the shelf to use at home, then it’ll be a 10 to 16-inch SCT or Dobsonian.

This is more or less the biggest size you’ll get from the major telescope retailers before you start getting into models suitable only for observatories.

Overall, we recommend:

  1. If you want a good all-rounder in a reasonable price bracket go for the Celestron CPC 1100
  2. If you want to prioritize astrophotography and have the money then go for the Celestron CPC 1100 EdgeHD
  3. If you have the space and will prioritize observing then go the Sky-Watcher 16-inch Dobsonian

None of the telescopes in this article are what any normal person would regard as “cheap”. In fact, they can range from the price of a vehicle to the price of a house. If you want to see some cheaper options, then check out the best telescopes for beginners and for intermediate users.

If you still can’t decide then my tips are:

  1. If you’ve got the money and want the best of the best, then you should go for a Celestron or Meade SCT with as large aperture as you can afford. If you want to be doing astrophotography then consider an option with an equatorial mount and an optimized OTA like the Celestron EdgeHD or Meade Advanced-Coma Free (ACF) models
  2. If you don’t have the budget for this but want maximum power, then a Dobsonian would be the right choice for you.

Just remember to consider the weight and size of the telescope to make sure that you have the space to enjoy it. With the Dobsonians, you will need a garage or somewhere similar to store them as they are man-sized and these will not suit the casual user.

If you really want a huge specialist telescope, then do some good research into the size and portability and think about how you will use it. It’ll probably be worth it – some of these telescopes cost as much as a house, so obviously be sure about what you are doing.

About the Author

Anthony Robinson is the founder and owner of Skies & Scopes, a publication and community focused on amateur astronomy and astrophotography. His work has been featured in publications such as Amateur Astrophotography, Forbes, the Guardian, DIY Photography, PetaPixel, and Digital Camera World - read more.

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2 thoughts on “Most Powerful Telescope You Can Buy (2024)”

  1. Very good article! Gives great information that is normally hard to find, in one place, on the internet. Guess who I will be following. Thank you so much Anthony!

    Reply

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