Telescopes for Viewing Deep Space Objects: Nebulae, Star Clusters, and Galaxies

The most common mistake among beginners is choosing a telescope that is suitable for bright sky objects thinking that they can also peer into deep space. In this article, we will talk about the gear you'll need in order to observe deep sky objects.

Published by Lauren Ray John on 13th Sep, 2018

Probably the most common mistake among beginners is choosing a telescope that is suitable for bright sky objects thinking that they can also peer into deep space. Today, we’re going to talk about the gear you’ll need in order to observe faint deep sky objects such as the Cat’s Eye, Ghost of Jupiter or Omega Centauri.

What Kind of Telescope Is Suitable for Deep Space Observations?

The big book of astronomy dictates that the bigger the aperture, the more light goes in. Subsequently, more light means greater details and, of course, a brighter image.

There are three types of telescopes available on the market. The so-called refractive telescope that uses a lens and an optical prism in order to create an image of the sky. Refractors are great for beginners and quite affordable. However, they’re more suitable for terrestrial observations or for bright sky objects such as the Moon or Venus than for deep sky objects. Still, with a wide enough aperture, you can feast your eyes on the lunar craters.  

On the other hand, reflector telescopes, aka those who use mirrors instead of lenses are better suited for deep sky observation since they tend to focus the incoming light. The only caveats we can think about is that reflectors aren’t quite wallet-friendly and may be harder to understand/operate compared to refractors. Don’t fret, because you’ll get the hang of it sooner or later.

Now, before we get to showcase our merch, let’s talk about what your telescope kit should contain. Since you’re interested in deep sky objects, especially those that are faint and hard to find, we wholeheartedly recommend a computerized equatorial mount.  

To put it simply, you only need to press a couple of buttons on a keypad, and the telescope will immediately slew and begin tracking the selected sky object. This comes in handy when you can’t find an object by its polar coordinates or if you can keep up with the object using a manual alt-azimuth or a German equatorial.

So, with these out of the way, let’s see which are the best telescopes for viewing deep sky objects.

Our Choices in Deep Sky Observation Scopes

1. Meade ETX 90mm Cassegrain

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Meade’s 90mm Cassegrain reflector telescope is a reliable entry-level telescope. The 90mm aperture is more than enough to view deep sky objects like the rings of Saturn, emission nebulas, galaxies, and globular clusters. You should check out your Messier catalog (computer’s database) to see the full list of deep sky objects your telescope’s capable of tracking.

The ETX 90mm is what you call a tabletop telescope, meaning that it doesn’t come with a tripod. Still, no tripod means that it can probably fit in your suitcase and that you’ll need a table in order to set it up. Don’t forget about collimation – trouble with reflectors is that they need to be calibrated from time to time.

To find out more about this telescope, we cordially invite you to check out the ETX 90 review for things like design, maintenance, and, of course, functionality. 

2. Celestron 203mm motorized Schmidt-Cassegrain

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Next, on the list, we have this bad boy – the 203mm, f/10, Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope outfitted with a computerized/motorized German equatorial mount. An outstanding telescope, suitable for both deep space objects observations and astrophotography.

As you probably figured out, the scope’s 203mm aperture (that’s 8 inches in imperial units) allows viewing very faint and distant deep sky objects. Pluto, Triton (Neptune’s moon), the Enke division (a gap in Saturn’s ring) are among the celestial objects that can be seen with this telescope, and in very great detail. More than that, with 203’s 20mm eyepieces, you’ll probably be able to distinguish ever darker sky objects like Saturn’s cloud belts or stars with a magnitude lower than +13 (that’s very faint).

Keep in mind though, that this is not the kind of telescope that can be carried around like a suitcase. You’ll definitely need a car in order to transport it to and from the location.

3. Celestron CPC 925 GPS 235mm Catadioptric Schmidt-Cassegrain with dual fork computerized alt-azimuth mount

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It’s a mouthful, we know. But CPC series is, without a doubt, the best Celestron has to offer in terms of reflectors. The CPC 235mm Cassegrain stands on top of a motorized and computerized alt-azimuth mount. Now, don’t get discouraged by this up-down-left-right mount. The computer-guided mount is more than capable of tracking deep sky objects and making corrections on the spot.

As you can imagine, the telescope’s 235mm aperture allows you to see even the faintest objects in great details. To name some of the things you will be able to see with Celestron’s CPC 235mm: Phobos and Deimos (Mars’ twin moons), Martian clouds, binary stars, a close-up of Saturn, the Bubble Nebula, and Jupiter’s belts.

Probably the telescope’s only turn-off is its price; on a good day, you can probably purchase it for $2,500, depending on the retailer. If the price seems too much, do remember that this is a professional telescope, and it will probably last you a lifetime, with regular maintenance.

Of course, the computer’s capable of aligning the scope either by tracking Polaris or by GPS. For more info about the deep sky objects, you should check the computer’s database.

4. Celestron 203mm Schmidt-Cassegrain with computerized single fork equatorial mount

Image source: Pinterest

Although not as pro as the CPC 235mm, Celestron’s 203mm is a wallet-friendly alternative. Still, don’t go thinking that just because it’s cheaper, it’s, automatically, less powerful. The scope’s 203mm aperture is more than enough to see deep sky objects such as the Enke division, Mars’ surface, Triton, double stars, very faint start (magnitude 14.5 and below).

The telescope’s biggest asset is that you don’t need to anything to track celestial objects. That’s because the computer does everything in your stead. Compared to its distant cousin, the Celestron 203mm is much more polished and lighter.

Database-wise, Celestron’s 203mm reflector can spot over 40,000 objects from the Messier catalogs. More than that, it even has 100 empty spots for objects that are not in the catalog. This telescope’s more suitable for deep sky observations or astrophotography than for viewing terrestrial objects.

Conclusion

And we’ve arrived at the end of our article about best scopes for viewing very faint and distant space objects. Remember the golden rule of stargazing – you don’t have to sell your kidneys just to take a look at the stars. What we meant to say was that there are tons of good price-performance telescopes on the market, each of them having something unique. 


Published by Lauren Ray John

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Lauren Ray John is a Senior Editor at TelescopeReviewer.com. She writes reviews for different types of telescopes. Lauren has always loved the astronomy field, so she decided to take life into her hands and follow the career she has always wanted.

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