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2013 Telescope Awards

Telescope of the Year Awards

Welcome to our second annual Telescope of the Year Awards! We're lucky enough to spend all our time with telescopes, and we decided it's only fair to share the best of our experiences. Every year, we explore the year's updates, new sizes, specifications, series expansions, and brand-new products from the top manufacturers in the world to find our favorites. These awards are the result - we present the best of the best, some new inventions, and the right telescopes for you and your hobby. Whether you're on an astronomical or terrestrial budget, there's something new this year that'll open your eyes.

To pick the winners, we work with the makers to put each telescope through a series of tests. We tinker around in our building and take them out to star parties. We look at their construction and features closely and look through them very far. Our experts rate their performance in a variety of situations with our customers in mind. We've defined 11 categories of telescope that our viewers vie for and awarded the best of each. It's certainly been a good year … read on to find out why!

See the 2012 winners

Telescope of the Year

Celestron NexStar SE Series Telescopes

Back-to-Back Winner! We talked last year about the allure of the orange tube … and it hasn't lost its luster. We happily announce, for the second year running, the Celestron NexStar SE Series Telescopes as the telescopes.com Telescope of the Year for 2013. Astronomers of all skill and experience levels keep getting their hands on these excellent-yet-accessible telescopes, anchored by a recognizable Maksutov-Cassegrain optical system and easy alignment technology. Each NexStar scope, in sizes from 4 to 8 inches, boasts quality glass from Celestron with proprietary StarBright XLT coatings for bright, clear, consistent, and accurate images.

What really sets this series apart, however, is the incredible and easy integration of technology. On a custom mount, each SE uses SkyAlign technology to quickly and easily align using any 3 objects in the sky. Once set, NexStar is ready to take the user on a fully automated tour of the night sky, with over 40,000 objects pre-programmed. You can take control and send your scope pointing at any available object, or let NexStar take the reins and get a full tour based on the best objects in your location. Add your own objects, mark sightings as favorites to return later, and make your telescope experience your own. With easy hand controls, seeing the night sky through a Celestron SE can be like opening your eyes for the first time.

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Most Innovative Telescope

Meade LX850 Telescopes with StarLock

Redesigned for 2013, Meade LX850 series telescopes really blew the doors off of astroimaging this year. Our Innovation of the Year can be set up, aligned, and start taking excellent pictures in under 30 minutes. The 10-, 12-, and 14-inch models are all equipped with fast f/8 ACF optics that create wide, flat fields great for large image sensors and wide eyepieces and an internal Crayford-style primary mirror with dual-speed 7:1 focus control for super-fast focusing. But the centerpiece here is Meade StarLock. This built-in two-camera sensor array provides full-time automatic guide star selection and auto-guiding, super-precise pointing (within one arc-minute), real-time drift alignment assistance, and true Lightswitch alignment. If you're serious about taking pictures, picture these telescopes in your arsenal.

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Best Telescope for Beginners

Celestron AstroMaster 114 EQ Reflector Telescope

Back-to-Back Winner! The Celestron AstroMaster 114 EQ goes 2-for-2 in 2013, and it really wasn't close. This perennial best-seller is responsible for more new astronomy enthusiasts every year than any other on the market. The simple design introduces users to the principles of alignment, tracking objects, and making adjustments to see what they've always dreamed of through their telescope. With a complete package (telescope, tripod, mount, and accessories) available under $200, we recommend the AstroMaster as a gift for kids or adults who've expressed interest in looking skyward.

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Best GPS Telescope

Celestron CPC Series Telescopes

We've never met an astronomer that doesn't like to go new places and try new things, and we've never met a series of GPS telescopes that we like more than the Celestron CPCs. These fork-mounted telescopes are some the most portable around and pack GPS that calculates the date, time, longitude, and latitude of your current location so you can start locating objects wherever you land. Celestron's SkyAlign technology kicks in and aligns your scope flawlessly based on GPS data and any three objects in the sky … and you're ready to go! Of course, they haven't skimped on the viewing experience, either, using Schmidt-Cassegrain design, premium glass with StarBright coatings, and tons of extras ideal for mobile astrophotography.

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Best Intermediate Telescope

Celestron Advanced VX Series Telescopes

Sometimes it can seem like there's a big rift between beginner telescopes and the big boys. Celestron Advanced VX Series Telescopes have changed that for us, so we've named them our favorite intermediate telescope of the year. The VXs bring professional Schmidt-Cassegrain optical design and reliable GoTo mounts down a notch in price, making them accessible to those interested in trying astrophotography or simply upgrading their kit. Each has All-Star polar alignment, an upgradable NexStar hand controller, and tons of other high-level features.

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Best Telescope Value

Zhumell Dobsonian Telescopes

Buck, meet bang. Once again, the Zhumell Dobsonian Telescopes are our biggest bargain. These economical Dobsonian designs bring the incredible light-gathering power to the people, with big barrels and 8-, 10-, and 12-inch objective lenses. They've been simplified and streamlined to be easy to use - viewers get a quick, simple setup, a smooth adjustable azimuth bearing system, and all the accessories they need to get started. Starting at under $500, the Z series includes two eyepieces, a Crayford focuser, and an easy clutch mount. The views are bright and clear, the learning curve is short, and the fact that size does matter has never been more obvious.

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Best Go-To Telescope

Meade LS LightSwitch Telescopes

The Meade LS LightSwitch Series is truly lust-worthy. Beloved by professionals and educators for their ease and precision, these telescopes feature technology that's simultaneously the most advanced and the simplest to use in the industry. Set up your telescope and flip the switch - LightSwitch will use built-in GPS, optical sensors, and automation to align itself perfectly with the sky above. You can immediately begin taking in the sights with available Schmidt-Cassegrain or ACF optics. All of the other things you expect to find with a high-level scope are here, too - an easy hand controller, integrated mount, adjustable tripod, and all the latest electronics. We'd say "happy hunting," but - frankly - you'll just be happy.

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Hottest Accessory of 2013

Celestron StarSense Accessory for Automatic Alignment

The hottest accessory of 2013 is, without question, Celestron StarSense. This little gadget transforms almost every Celestron computerized telescope into an automatically-aligning genius. In 3 minutes or less, StarSense and your telescope gather your location, scan the sky for reference starts, and precisely align themselves. Just like that, you're ready to get down to business. It's a little digital camera that attaches to your telescope's optical tube, attached to a hand controller. For those who already own a Celestron, this is a great way to expand your bag of tricks.

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Best Telescope for Kids

Tasco 402x60 Refractor Telescope with Microscope

Some people think astronomy is kids' stuff, and they're darn right. We recommend getting kids interested in exploring beyond eye level with our favorite kids' telescope of 2013, the Tasco 402x60 Refractor and 1200X Microscope. Simple and affordable, they're great as gifts for a favorite kid or as accessories in a classroom. The telescope comes with a 2X Barlow lens to make objects easier to make out, a real finderscope, an adjustable tripod, and a 35X terrestrial eyepiece for daytime viewing. The microscope boasts 1200X magnification that's more than enough to see something unexpected and a complete kit of 19 dyes, slide covers, and other viewing essentials. Kids are naturally curious, and now's the best time to open their eyes.

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Best Eyepieces

TeleVue ETHOS Telescope Eyepieces

The field of view of TeleVue ETHOS Eyepieces is in a field all by itself. Our top picks for 2013 provide 100 degrees of sharp, high-contrast views through your telescope, at least 50% more than standard eyepieces. Designed and produced in-house by the legendary Nagler team and Paul Dellechaie, ETHOS sets a new widely recognized high bar for performance. Each is optimized for sharpness, contrast, ultra-low reflectance, control of astigmatism, field curvature, lateral color, angular magnification distortion correction, and low pupil sensitivity. Think you love astronomy now? Look through this.

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Innovation of the Year

Celestron SkyQ Link WiFi Adapter for Celestron Telescopes

For all we know, the deep space objects we love to find are a thing of the past, but that doesn't mean we can't locate them with the technology of the future. Our favorite astrological innovation of 2013 is the Celestron SkyQ Link WiFi Adapter, the simplest and coolest way to link your telescope to your smartphone or tablet. Your device, equipped with the Celestron SkyQ app, can now be used to wirelessly control every aspect of your telescope, including alignment. The app acts like a planetarium interface - just tap any object on the screen, and your telescope will point you there. It's simple, it's easy, and it works with all current Apple mobile products and Celestron computerized telescopes. Are you ready to be the coolest person at the star party?

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