When I first wanted to get into stargazing and astronomy one of the first things I was curious about was how different do stars look through a telescope from what we see with just our eyes. Back then I was not able to find many resources that solved my question, so now I have decided to write this article that will hopefully help you to get a better idea of what you can expect to see.

Below you will find photos of star formations, galaxies, and star clusters with telescopes of different levels of power. There are also explanations on the things that you will want to know about a telescope before you make a purchase so you can make a more informed decision.

What can you expect to see through a telescope

Things are upside down

The first thing people will notice when using a telescope for the first time is that the image is upside down. Many people start wondering if they assembled their telescope wrong or if they got a defective one. But that’s not the case. Telescopes are upside down by design.

A telescope reflects the light that is captured by the front mirror into one or multiple lenses inside the body of the device. This flips the image just like a mirror, resulting in that upside-down effect.

Not all telescopes have this effect as it depends on their internal design, but the most common types like refractors and Newtonians do.

This effect can be fixed using a star diagonal. This accessory will invert the image vertically so you get the right orientation, but it will also flip the image horizontally.

There are A LOT more stars than the ones you expected

Modern cities and towns have many benefits, but due to light pollution, we are now accustomed to only seeing a few dozen stars in the sky at night.

The truth is there are millions of stars out there, and many of those can be seen even using just simple home telescopes from your backyard, window, or rooftop.

To be fair, how many can you expect to see is going to depend on multiple factors. Starting with your location, the weather, and how powerful the telescope is, but still, you will definitely see an exponential amount of stars compared to whatever you are used to, especially if you are capturing a wide area of the sky.

Stars come in lots of colors and sizes

When you look at the stars at night, you only see white dots for the most part. You might see some hints of color in very bright stars like the red tone of Betelgeuse in the Orion constellation.

But when you look at them through a telescope you can see some colors that were not there before. You will see lots of yellows, oranges, and blues. With the most powerful telescopes like the Hubble, as you will see in the images below, you will see even more tonalities and compound colors like pinks, purples, and browns.

The difference in sizes between stars also becomes a lot more noticeable. Sometimes this is because some stars are closer to Earth than others and sometimes because they are hundreds of times bigger than other stars.

The first image will not be the best

Telescopes are not “point and shoot” devices. They require a bit of trial and error to be able to capture the best images they are capable of. You will need to learn to use the telescope’s focuser, adjust your mount, and try different combinations of eyepieces and other accessories in order to get the most out of your viewing experience.

But don’t get discouraged, most people can pick things up very quickly and it is a really fun, end enjoyable learning experience that will also teach you a lot of cool new facts about how the universe works.

Photos of stars though a home telescope

This is a selection of a few images that show more or less what you can expect to see in a telescope when you look at the stars.

Please note that some of these photographs might have been slightly retouched or could have been taken using a large exposure which brings out even more color and contrast in the final image.

The photos were taken with a variety of telescopes of different quality and prices, but all of them are the kind of instrument that any enthusiast would have access to.

Click the images for the larger versions.

Photos of stars through professional telescopes and the Hubble

Sombrero Galaxy. Taken by the Hubble telescope
Sombrero Galaxy. Taken by the Hubble telescope
NGC2336 Galaxy. Taken by the Hubble

NGC2336 Galaxy. Taken by the Hubble
Star Clusters.
Star clusters
Messier 63
Messier 63

All these photos include galaxies, nebulas, and star clusters. With so many stars in the universe, it is really hard (and a little bit boring) to point your telescope at just a single star.

Since galaxies are groups of star systems, whenever you are looking at one, remember that you are looking at millions or even billions of stars in a single image.

The images can also be zoomed in to focus on the object the user wanted to photograph so you might see a wider area in a telescope depending on what magnification and equipment you are using.


Elena is a Canadian journalist and researcher. She has been looking at the sky for years and hopes to introduce more people to the wonderful hobby that is astronomy.