The year was 1609. Galileo Galilei turned a newfangled contraption called a spyglass—which made far away things appear close—toward the sky. He saw craters and mountains on the moon’s surface, moons near Jupiter, sunspots and the phases of Venus—all culminating with his mind-blowing assertion that the planets orbit the sun (and not vice versa). That thoroughly factual claim got Galileo dragged before the Inquisition and also formed the basis of all modern astronomy. From stars to planets to galaxies, here’s what to look for when choosing a solid, heresy-free telescope of your very own.

Great for Newbies

This option is ideal for users who want a high quality, entry-level instrument. Plus, it’s lightweight and easy to take with you wherever you go. Celestron

The most important feature of a telescope is its aperture. That’s the diameter of the light-gathering lens or mirror inside the instrument—and bigger is better when it comes to seeing faint objects in finer detail. If you venture to a dark location with a telescope with an 80 mm aperture, you can easily view galaxies outside the Milky Way. Experts consider a 70 mm aperture the minimum for a quality beginner telescope.

Smart Tech

This instrument uses a massive database and cybernated mount for user-friendly pointing and tracking. Celestron

The trickiest part of using a telescope is setting it up and finding what you want to see. A manual mount requires the user to point the instrument by hand and adjust it continually to view moving objects. Computerized telescopes take out the guesswork since they use an internal database of celestial objects to pinpoint and track those objects for easy viewing.

Youth Friendly

This instrument includes accessories that make it easy to share and record the view with an iOS or Android device. ToyerBee

Some telescopes take the tech to the next level with advanced options for viewing and sharing. For example, a smartphone adapter and wireless camera remote make it possible to share what you see in real time (which is particularly useful for young astronomers who may not love waiting for a turn in the dark) and record it for sharing later.