The very first telescopes date back to the early 1600s—when Dutch spectacle-maker Hans Lippershey built the first instrument and Italian scientist Galileo Galilei recorded the first up-close views of the moon, the sun and a couple of planets. This was a major step for astronomy, but those early refracting telescopes were kind of like your weird uncle’s stories: way too long and super awkward.

The next century brought Isaac Newton’s reflecting telescope, which relies on a series of internal, light-collecting mirrors to do its thing. This design makes it possible to increase the telescope’s power by making the primary mirror wider (and not the whole dang thing longer). That’s how NASA’s Hubble telescope works, too. Yours may not be as powerful, but it will still provide stellar views.

Versatile Magnification

This option comes with two eyepieces, plus a Barlow lens that triples each eyepiece’s power. Celestron

When selecting a reflecting telescope, it’s tempting to check out the instrument’s magnifying power—but that’s not really a very helpful number since the highest meaningful magnification is twice the diameter of the telescope’s main mirror (AKA aperture) in millimeters. You’ll need an aperture of 80 mm (3.1 inches) to see galaxies outside the Milky Way from a dark location.

Good for Beginners

This instrument includes a finderscope that helps the user locate objects and center the eyepiece. Celestron

Every reflecting telescope needs a solid mount. Many telescopes come with an altazimuth mount, which lets the astronomer move the telescope left and right as well as up and down. Some instruments use a more complicated equatorial mount, which tracks objects as they move across the sky and may include a small computer to help aim the telescope.

Advanced Tech

This package includes a separate mount for your iOS or Android device for easy viewing and sharing. Solomark

For max versatility, look for a telescope with more than one eyepiece. Higher magnification eyepieces bring finer details into focus—but lower magnification eyepieces make it easier to find objects in the sky. Some telescopes include a Barlow lens that couples with the eyepiece to enhance magnification and give you even more options.