This appropriately named tool is an essential addition to your astronomy arsenal. A Telescope finder scope is purpose-built to help you locate and track your intended target. Instead of second-guessing, you can line up your optics perfectly to get the view you’re after.
What is a Telescope Finder Scope and Why Use One?
Finder scopes are smaller optical devices that you usually see mounted on the side of larger telescopes. Typically, the scope attaches to the telescope’s optical tube so that it’s automatically pointed in the same direction.
Inside, the scope operates much like a standard achromatic refractor telescope. It uses a series of lenses to magnify the image. The difference, however, is that finder scopes have low-powered magnification. You might see anywhere from 6X magnification up to 12X magnification.
The lower magnification helps to provide a wider field of view. Most also have great light-gathering capabilities as well to make spotting faint objects a breeze.
There are some other designs out there that can achieve different results. But most finder scopes work to serve the same purpose
Telescope finder scopes are more important than most people think. Have you ever tried to look through your telescope to line it up? Even half an inch of movement in either direction could be millions of miles between targets. It doesn’t take much to misalign the optics and get way off. You could end up sitting there for hours just trying to find that tiny bright dot in the night sky!
Because the finder scope runs parallel to the telescope, you can use it to point the gear in the correct general direction. The low-powered optics provide a larger view of the night sky. This helps you find your bearings and map the cosmos more efficiently.
The Best Telescope Finder Scopes Reviewed
The right telescope finder scope can make a bit impact on your stargazing experience. It’s the difference between struggling for hours to find your target and sitting back to enjoy the view.
To make things easier for you, we’ve rounded up a selection of some of the best finder scopes on the market. We also included some mounts for easy installation. Check them out below!
Take your stargazing endeavors to a whole new level! This finderscope from Orion replaces the stock scope on any telescope. It also works well with astrophotography cameras. No matter how you use it, this scope will give you impressive results.
The wide objective lens is comparable to full-sized telescopes. Not only that, but it sports coated lenses that improve light transmission. The scope is just as good as entry-level telescopes, making it easy to find your target and lock everything in. While it doesn’t come with too many accessories, this scope is compatible with a lot of gear to help you customize your setup.
- 70mm objective lens
- Coated lens
- Versatile use
- Compatible with many accessories
- Simple mounting dovetail
Great for deep-space objects and low-light conditions, this Celestron finder scope has all the features you need for efficient stargazing. Inside, small LED lights illuminate the reticle. They’re powered by a single lithium-ion battery. The light illuminates the double reticle but doesn’t ruin the image.
Overall, the scope is built quite well. The wide aperture lets light pour into the optical tube. Meanwhile, the moderate focal length provides just enough magnification power without sacrificing the field of view.
- Illuminated finder scope
- Double reticle
- 50mm aperture
- 9X magnification
- Double-ring bracket
Need a simple finder scope without a ton of bells and whistles? Check out this unit from Orion. It’s relatively simple in design. But, it serves its purpose well.
The straight-through scope is sporting an aluminum bracket. It has a dovetail foot for good compatibility with most mounts. The thing we like most about the bracket system is the alignment screws. The screws allow you to make fine-tune adjustments along the X and Y-axis. While not as robust as some other scopes, it doesn’t take long to get this scope lined up perfectly with your telescope.
- 30mm aperture
- Straight-through finder scope
- Dovetail food
- Aluminum bracket
- Simple alignment screws
Astromania 10×60 Finder Scope + Guide Scope 45° Angled with Illuminated Reticle Eyepiece – Used as a high-end Finderscope, Guide Telescope, Spotting Scope, or Small Travel Companion Astro-Telescope
This Astromania right angle finder scope has it all! It’s a versatile scope that’s designed with precision, comfort, and capability in mind. The first thing you’ll notice is the ultra-wide aperture. At 60mm it’s wider than most scopes on the market. However, this design allows you to view very faint objects in the night sky without any issues.
This particular scope is also great for astrophotography. It has a precise focusing system, a 45-degree prism eyepiece, as well as adjustable reticle illumination.
- Wide 60mm aperture
- Illuminated finder scope
- 45-degree prism
- Sliding focuser
- Dual-ring bracket
The StarPointer from Celestron is a unique finder scope. It’s sporting a distinct shape and a large viewing window. This unit is like a red dot finder. Thus, it doesn’t have any magnification.
Instead, it’s meant to help you use your naked eye to line things up. The 40mm optical window is spacious enough to keep an eye on many celestial objects at once. Meanwhile, the circular reticles allow you to line the telescope up without blocking your target.
The window is illuminated with a bright LED. It improves visibility without affecting the final image you see in the telescope.
- Dual-circle reticle
- Large optical window
- Dovetail connection
After you attach this scope to your telescope tube, you can use its low-level magnification to track whatever you’re looking for. The unit looks like your average straight-through scope. But, it’s equipped with some advanced features.
The first is the red LED light. It illuminated the reticles and is less obtrusive than pure white LED lights. It’s also dimmable, which is a nice touch.
At the end of the scope, there’s a lens lock ring. With a turn of the ring, you can easily focus on the image. It provides fine-tune adjustments by rotating the objective lens directly.
- Lens lock ring
- Red LED light
- Simple adjustment screws
- Straight-through scope
Next up, we have this optical finder from Celestron. This particular unit is built to work with other Celestron telescopes and equatorial mounts. At its core, it operates as a polar finder. Once attaching it to your optical device, you can find targets in the night sky for easy alignment.
The unit is sleek and simple. It’s a straight-through scope with a focuser built right into the eyepiece. This scope isn’t meant for continual use after alignment. But, it’s capable enough to help you get set up.
- Compatible with other Celestron gear
- Adjustable eyepiece
- Visible reticles
- Straight-through design
Check out this optical finder from Explore Scientific. It’s a feature-rich device that’s geared towards serious hobbyists. The scope is sporting a wide aperture for plenty of illumination. It also manages to achieve a wider 6-degree field of view!
Inside, there’s an LED light. It’s red and helps to shine more light on the scaled reticle. The reticle on this scope is a bit more helpful than standard units. It has scale markings to help you gauge distance and field of view.
- 6-degree field of view
- Red LED illumination
- Scaled reticle
- Double-ring bracket
- Straight-through scope
Finder Scope Bracket
The Astromania mount is designed to be compatible with any many telescopes and scopes as possible. The two attachment holes work with telescopes from Celestron, Meade, Orion, and more. Thanks to the dovetail design, it also works well with most scope brackets. You can even use it with reflex sight brackets or laser pointers.
The mount is made out of high-strength aluminum. Once you install it, you can rest assured that it’ll last! There are a couple of thumbscrews to hold any brackets you use. Other than that, the mount is low-profile and discrete.
- Fits factory holes on many telescopes
- Universal compatibility
- Available in a few configurations
Here’s one of the simpler mount accessories on the market. This unit comes with the bracket base and the mount itself. You can use it for your primary finder scope. Or, add it to your setup to have multiple finding devices!
The mount is cambered on the bottom so that it sits flush against the optical tube. It has the dovetail receiver, so you can easily use it with compatible brackets. Alternatively, you can utilize the included bracket base. It’s engineered to fit the mount perfectly.
- Fits most telescopes
- All-metal design
- Comes with mount and bracket base
If you’re serious about tracking your target, this mount is the one for you! It’s a dual-mount system that can accommodate two different optical devices. The mount is perfect if you want to use a traditional finder scope and a red dot scope.
Both devices sit at the same height and angle. The bases are curved away from another, which ensures that they don’t touch. The design also implements the curve of the optical tube for proper alignment.
- Fits two optical devices
- Doesn’t require drilling
- Large thumbscrews
- Strong metal construction
What to Look For in a Telescope Finder Scope
Finder scopes can be just as varied in design and power as full-blown telescopes. This is an accessory you’re going to rely on every time you gaze up at the night sky. So, it’s important to choose one that will serve your needs. Here are some factors to consider before you make the jump.
Like standard telescopes, you must consider the aperture and focal length. The specifications of a finder scope look the same as telescopes. You might see a finder scope rated as 8X50. The “50” would represent the aperture.
The aperture is the diameter of the objective lens. It’s going to determine how much light gets in. Typically, finder scopes have anywhere between 30mm and 80mm apertures.
Wider objective lenses are always preferred. They improve the light-gathering capabilities of the scope, allowing you to see faint objects in the sky.
Appropriate Focal Length
The focal length of the scope is the distance between the objective lens and the focal plane. It impacts magnification capabilities. Some manufacturers provide this exact measurement in millimeters. Others provide it as a magnification power. Either way, a longer focal length is going to provide more magnification.
There’s a fine balance between getting a finder scope with too much and too little magnification. You don’t want high-powered magnification, as that would make the field of view narrower.
Generally, somewhere between 6X and 12X magnification is ideal.
No one’s eyes are the same. So you’ll need to have a finder scope with some kind of focuser built in. Usually, focusers are more rudimentary than those on the larger telescope. You might see a simple focus wheel. In some cases, you’ll have to make manual adjustments to the eyepiece. Either way, having a focuser is a must.
The reticles are the small crosshairs you see when looking through the finder scope. Not all scopes are going to have reticles on the lenses. But, they can be beneficial.
Reticles make lining up your target easier. Plus, some provide degree markers so that you can get a better idea of how far away nearby celestial objects are.
The more advanced units might have a reticle illuminator. They use LED lights to brighten up the reticle pattern against the night sky.
Next, you’ll want to think about how you attach the finder scope to your telescope. There are a few different schools of thought here. Sometimes, entry-level telescopes feature a permanently mounted scope. While great for security, it doesn’t offer much in terms of versatility. There’s no way to upgrade a scope you can’t remove.
Luckily, most telescopes work with a mounting bracket and base. The bracket is the circular-shaped tube that holds the scope in place.
You can find brackets with multiple spring-loaded screws or brackets with basic manual screws. The former is considered the better option, as it provides more protection against accidental bumps. But, either bracket will hold the scope in place.
Finally, there’s the mount base. This is what attaches the bracket to the optical tube of your telescope. Standard dovetail bases are very common. However, you can also find more secure alternatives. For example, there’s the Vixen or Synta mount. It looks like a shallower dovetail. Then, there’s the inverted “T” mount, which offers a bit more security and stability. Finally, there’s the flattened “U” mount. It’s not as secure but is great for quick release units.
Types of Telescope Finder Scopes
While these tools all serve the same purpose, there are a few different core designs available.
The first is the straight-through finder scope. The simplest available, these scopes look like miniature telescopes. You look straight through the eyepiece and down the optical axis to achieve magnification. Straight-through models are best for refractors or Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes.
Next is the right-angle or right-angle correct-image scope. Best for larger Newtonian units and Dobsonian telescopes, right-angle scopes incorporate a small diagonal prism. Rather than looking straight through, you’re looking down into the scope and through a mirror. These units offer more flexibility and comfort.
The last type of finder scope you will encounter is the red dot finder. These work a bit differently. Most don’t provide any magnification whatsoever. Instead, these scopes have treated glass that improves light transmission. It filters the image, allowing you to look through atmospheric issues to line the optical gear up. You might also come across Telrad scopes. They’re slightly angled, acting like a heads-up display for easy alignment.
What Makes a Finder Scope Different From a Guide Scope?
You might see the terms “guide scope” and “finder scope” used interchangeably. In reality, these are two totally different pieces of equipment.
As we mentioned earlier, finder scopes are smaller optical devices that help you line up the telescope. The scope is used by the human eye for manual adjustment.
Guide scopes are automated units. They rely on a camera and computer to adjust the mount of your telescope. Guide scopes are capable of tracking performance in real-time.
How to Use a Telescope Finder Scope
Using a telescope finder scope is pretty straight-forward. But, you must align it to your main scope first. Once you’ve attached it to the optical tube, find a bright target in the night sky. Many amateur astronomers use the North Star for easy reference.
Position the North Star in the center of your view through the main telescope. Now, look through the scope. It should be in the center of the reticle. If not, use the screws on the finder scope to make adjustments.
After all is said and done, you should be able to use the finder scope for primary positioning. Use the wide-angle view to find your target. Then, take advantage of the power of your main telescope for an up-close-and-personal view.
No telescope is complete without a solid finder scope. These aiming devices make positioning your optical gear a breeze. We recommend utilizing a standard magnifying scope as your main alignment tool. But if you want to get even more precise, you can add a red dot finder or a Telrad finder. Check out some of our top picks and experiment a bit to see what works for you.