While many think that you have to look beyond our solar system to see some magical sights, nearby planets hold a lot of mystery, too. When choosing the best telescope to see planets there are many things to consider and we look at these in our guide.
But before you can do any of that, you’re going to need the very best telescope to see planets that your budget can buy! While they all serve similar purposes, not all models are going to serve you well if planet-watching is your priority. You need a unit that’s designed to provide high magnification and good light-gathering capabilities to pull back the curtain and get a clear view of your target.
Having trouble finding a suitable telescope? We have you covered. Here are some of the best telescopes to see planets. Read our buying guide below to learn more about what makes these telescopes so special.
Best Telescope To See Planets Reviewed
This model from Sky Watcher has some high-quality features to help you get a crystal-clear view. It’s great for astrophotography enthusiasts. But, you can also attach eyepieces to look through it with the naked eye.
The unit has a wide aperture and a respectable focal length. Inside, you’re going to find pristine optics with multiple coatings. The coatings provide impressive color correction, resulting in a true-to-life image of the planets.
Secondary coatings also improve light transmission. The lenses allow more light to flow through, ensuring that the image is bright and beautiful.
- 72mm aperture
- 420mm focal length
- Multi-coated optics
- Light baffle
- Dual-speed focuser
- Compact design
From Orion, the SpaceProbe 130ST telescope is your gateway to distant planets! This model is sporting a massive aperture that lets light flood in. It collects a ton of light from your target to improve the image. Thanks to the higher focal length, this telescope works well with planets, stars, and even deeper celestial objects.
Even with its relatively affordable price, you’re getting some great features. The first is the equatorial mount. It’s easy to set up and can help you track planets throughout the night. The telescope also comes with two Plossl eyepieces for better focus and clarity.
- 5.1-inch aperture
- 650mm focal length
- Compact optical tube
- Two Plossl eyepieces
- Equatorial mount
- Astronomy software
Here’s another telescope primed for stargazing in remote locations. Tipping the scales at less than four pounds, you can easily carry this refractor to dark locations in the middle of nowhere! Even the optical tube is compact, ensuring that you’re not lugging up tons of clunky gear to get a clear view.
Once you reach your destination, you can take full advantage of the wide aperture. The 70mm objective lens allows light to flood the optical tube. The high-quality optics inside manipulate light strategically to give you a surprisingly clear view.
This kit comes with two eyepieces and a Barlow lens. With the most high-powered accessories attached, you can get 200X magnification. That’s enough to see the details of the lunar surface!
- 70mm aperture
- 400mm focal length
- Up to 200X magnification
- Refractor telescope
- Smartphone adapter and wireless remote
- Includes two eyepieces and a 3X Barlow lens
- Fully adjustable base and tripod
- Weighs less than 4 pounds
This beautifully designed telescope from Celestron is packed with plenty of power. The focal length is 1000mm, which results in a maximum magnification level of 269X! That’s more than enough to see the finer details on the surfaces of planets.
This is a simpler Newtonian reflector telescope. But, the optics inside are coated for better performance. The coatings improve light transmissions to create the best image possible.
On top of the telescope, you’ll find Celestron’s StarFinder scope. It’s a red dot finder that helps lock into your target with ease.
- 150mm aperture
- 1000mm focal length
- Equatorial mount
- Slow-motion controls
- StarFinder scope
- Two eyepieces
No matter how much experience you have staring at the sky, this telescope can help you see better and clearer. Celestron created a computerized telescope that gives you access to databases that help you find everything you see. You can look up more than 40,000 galaxies and stars. While you may want to find a star and then look it up in the database, you can also look up a feature and use the computer to locate it. The telescope will not only locate the item but will track it across the sky as it moves.
The reflector design changes the aperture to help you see things that other telescopes might miss such as the moons of other planets. You also get a free download of the manufacturer’s software to create a beautiful simulation in the sky. Despite its large size, this telescope is easy to carry. You can break the parts down to take them on your next camping trip or when you need to store the telescope.
- Free simulation software download
- Portable and easy to carry
- Large databases can identify more than 40,000 objects
- Two-inch eyepiece
If you’re on the hunt for a good entry-level telescope, this model from Gskyer may be for you. It’s great for amateur astronomers. But, the telescope is powerful enough for seasoned hobbyists, too.
It doesn’t have the widest aperture or longest focal length. However, it does have the right specifications for viewing planets. Not only that, but you’re getting more accessories to increase your viewing possibilities. The unit comes with three eyepieces and a 3X Barlow lens to get up close and personal. It even comes with a smartphone mount to take photos.
- 80mm aperture
- 400mm focal length
- Three eyepieces
- 3X Barlow lens
- Smartphone mount
- Coated optics
- Prism mirror
Celestron is no stranger to high-tech telescopes. The NexStar 127SLT is one of the brand’s most sought-after models. It’s not hard to see why! The unit is sporting Celestron’s GoTo mount system.
It’s fully computerized and comes with a database of over 40,000 targets! Use the remote to find specific planets or go on a guided audio tour. Even setting the system up is a cinch. Just point the telescope at three bright objects in the night sky. The SkyAlign system will figure out where the telescope is pointed in seconds.
- 127mm aperture
- 1500mm focal length
- GoTo mount
- Red dot finderscope
- Two eyepieces
- Lightweight design
This Free Soldier telescope is another entry level telescope that I found to be worth a mention. It includes an adjustable tripod and a 360-degree rotating zenith lens for added stability and comfort. This also includes a phone adapter and a wireless remote, which is really useful for taking pictures. A wireless remote or timer function is essential for taking astro shots to avoid any kick back or wobble.
- 28X-233X Powerful Telescope
- Astronomical Telescope with Superior Optics
- Adjustable Tripod & 360° Rotating Zenith Lens
- Easy to Setup & Warranty
Here’s another great telescope in Celestron’s NexStar line. Like the previous model we went over, this one is equipped with the GoTo mount. The automated system makes finding objects in the night sky a breeze. You don’t need a ton of experience to use it, which is great for newbies.
This particular unit is very compact. It’s a Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope that manages to achieve a 1500mm focal length in a very short optical tube assembly. It weighs only 21 pounds as well, so it’s great for portability.
- 150mm aperture
- 1500mm focal length
- Computerized GoTo mount
- Red dot finderscope
- Plossl eyepiece
- Compatible with astrophotography mounts
This telescope from Sky Water isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a massive optical device that takes up a lot of space. Clearly, it’s not the most portable unit around. But, it’s surprisingly light for its size. Fully assembled, it weighs only 40 pounds. You can disassemble the optical tube from the base, so transport isn’t too bad.
Inside, the telescope has some great optics. It features multiple coatings. They help to achieve 94 percent reflective mirrors and a significant reduction in light diffraction spikes.
- 10-inch aperture
- 1200mm focal length
- Multi-coated optics
- Easy assembly
- Two eyepieces
You have a world of technology in your pocket, so why not use it? This unit from Celestron doesn’t have a computerized base. But, it does work with a proprietary smartphone app.
Available for iOS and Android devices, the app is feature-rich. You can mount your smartphone directly onto the optical tube. Using the cameras and sensors in your phone, the telescope will know where you are. From there, it can guide you in the right direction to find objects and learn more about the galaxy above.
- 114mm aperture
- 1000mm focal length
- Slow-motion altazimuth mount
- Smartphone connectivity
- Easy to use
This SOLOMARK 80EQ Refractor Professional Telescope is a fantastic product that is both simple to use and powerful. It also includes a manual German equatorial mount and is very compact and portable, making it easy to transport to your favorite campsite or dark sky observing location. This telescope is high quality for the price range, with all-glass optics that provide clear views of the moon, or objects a bit further like Saturn’s rings, and Jupiter’s Galilean moons.
- Manual German Equatorial Mount
- Compact and Portable
- Multiple Accessories:
Check out this model from Sky Watcher. It has a long focal length and a wide aperture, making it great for planetary viewing. Not only that, but the optics inside are superb, too. You’re getting lenses coated in metallic treatments. The coatings improve light transmission and color quite a bit.
This unit only comes with the optical tube assembly and a handheld of accessories. You are getting mounting rings, so you can use it with whatever tripod system you want.
- 100mm aperture
- 900mm focal length
- Metallic lens coatings
- Dual-speed focuser
- Comes with mounting rings
- Right angle correct finderscope
This may be a small telescope in terms of length. But, it’s one of the most powerful models on the market! It features a massive aperture and an ultra-long focal length. Thanks to those features, this model can achieve up to 661X magnification.
It’s good for amateur astronomy, too. It comes with a computerized mount and a sizable database of targets. Thanks to the impressive capabilities of this telescope, you can take full advantage of that database to see everything from star clusters to deep-sky targets! When it comes to viewing the planets, it is incredibly powerful.
- 279mm aperture
- 2800mm focal length
- Up to 661X magnification
- Computerized mount
- 90-degree prism
Why Buy a Planetary Viewing Telescope?
There’s no better way to learn about the planets in our solar system than through a telescope. It doesn’t matter if you’re new to the world of stargazing or you already know a lot about outer space, telescopes provide a lot of insight into the universe around us.
Sure, you could learn about the planets in a textbook. But taking a close-up look for yourself is even better!
Planetary-viewing telescopes are a bit different from your average optical device. These units feature higher magnification power and more light-gathering capabilities. Those two design elements work in tandem to provide a clearer picture that basic entry-level telescopes just can achieve.
Instead of trying to make out rough shapes in the sky, you can zoom right in to see the beauty of planets up close. You can observe fine details, such as Saturn’s rings or the rocky surface of Mars.
Telescopes have come a long way in the last few decades alone. It’s easier than ever to learn more about the celestial bodies in our galaxy. All you need is the right gear!
What Makes a Planetary Telescope Different from a Deep Space Telescope?
When you shop for telescopes, you’re going to encounter tons of models to choose from. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a deep-sky unit to appreciate the beauty of the planets above.
Deep space telescopes are geared towards celestial bodies outside of our solar system. They can hone in on far-away nebulae and even distant galaxies. Because these objects are fainter in the night sky, they’re geared towards collecting light and providing impressive magnification levels.
While telescopes for deep space objects are certainly capable of helping you view the planets, they may not be the right choice. The reason for this comes down to the field of view.
To achieve higher magnification power, telescopes have to sacrifice the field of view. They can only provide a narrow view. For more distant objects, that’s not a problem. But for closer planets, it could be a disadvantage.
You want to see as much of the planet as possible, right? Well, a wide field of view is better for achieving that. Planetary telescopes offer a good focal ratio to let you see more of the planets through the eyepiece. You can appreciate their beauty without having to go through all the trouble of dealing with focus issues and intense magnification.
Plant-Viewing Telescope Buying Guide
Finding the right telescope in today’s saturated market is no easy task! Unless you’re a skilled astronomer, understand tech specifications and optical information can be confusing.
You don’t have to have a science degree to choose the right telescope for you. The key is understanding the most important features and how they affect the viewing experience.
Types of Telescopes Available
First things first, it’s important to know the difference between telescope designs. Any of the following designs will help you see planets. The difference is how they get there.
A refracting telescope is an optical device that primarily uses lenses to achieve magnification level. It operates on the same principles as a microscope or binoculars. The light enters the objective lens, which is the outermost lens pointed up at the stars. Then, it may go through additional lenses to focus in on your target and provide magnification.
These units are great. But, you may encounter problems like chromatic aberration and image distortion on lower-quality builds.
Reflecting telescopes utilize mirrors to manipulate light rather than lenses. Generally, they use carefully engineered curved mirrors to bounce light around the optical tube and create a clear image in the focal plane. With reflectors, you don’t have to worry about things like chromatic aberration. But, collimation can be an issue due to the delicate nature of the optics.
There are a few different subcategories of reflecting telescopes. The simplest is usually referred to as a Newtonian reflector. It uses a large concave primary mirror. Then, you have the Dobsonian reflector. Dobsonians are massive and contain a similar design to Newtonians. But, they’re capable of capturing more light.
Cassegrain telescopes are more advanced optical devices. Generally, they contain a combination of convex and concave mirrors. You may also see catadioptric units, which combine both lenses and mirrors.
For example, the Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope uses a convex mirror with a corrector plate. Meanwhile, the Maksutov-Cassegrain uses a spherical lens and a lens.
What You Need in a Telescope to See Planets
Now comes the all-important optical specifications. As we mentioned earlier, not every telescope is going to be able to focus in on planets. To find one that does, pay attention to the following design elements.
Good Magnification Power
Good magnification is a must. You don’t need extreme levels of magnification, but higher-than-normal capabilities will prove to be useful.
The magnification level of a telescope is directly impacted by the focal length. The focal length is the distance between the objective lens or primary mirror and the focal plane.
A longer focal plane means that the light is manipulated more within the optical tube. It has a longer distance to travel, resulting in higher magnification power.
Other elements, such as the eyepieces, will affect magnification, too. But, the focal length is the most important specification.
Like the lens on a camera, the aperture is the diameter of the telescope’s opening. More specifically, it’s the diameter of the objective lens or primary mirror.
This is an important specification because it affects how much light is coming in. A wide aperture lets light pour into the optical tube, which results in a brighter and more clear image.
Large diameters are always best regardless of the telescope’s intended use. But keep in mind: a wider aperture could make the unit bigger and more cumbersome to work with.
Wide Field of View
The human eye has a 180-degree field of view thanks to our peripheral vision. But when you’re looking through the eyepiece of a telescope, the field of view shrinks dramatically.
A higher field of view will limit what you can see, so it’s good to aim for a wide field of view when possible. You can determine the field of view by paying attention to the focal ratio. Also known as the F-ratio, this number is the focal length of the telescope divided by its aperture.
A higher F-ratio will provide more magnification. But, you will have a narrower field of view.
Improved Image Quality
What good is a telescope if it’s not capable of producing a clear image? There’s a lot of obstacles getting in our way when trying to observe the planets. Everything from stray light to reflections will make the final image look less-than-stellar.
Luckily, many manufacturers have some type of optical treatment to overcome those issues. Stick with telescopes that have treated optics. These treatments will improve light transmission, color, and overall clarity.
The best way to look up at the night sky is to set up camp somewhere far away from light pollution. Even in a rural backyard, there could be nearby light that will make finding your target even more difficult.
Portability is an important factor to consider. If you can easily transport your telescope, nothing is stopping you from finding a dark and serene hill to observe on! Look out for compact optical tubes, collapsing tripods, and carrying cases.
This feature is an absolute requirement, but it can make things much easier. Modern technology makes it simpler than ever to track planets. Instead of struggling to read a constellation map, you can simply use your smartphone to get the job done!
Many modern telescopes can connect to a phone for easy tracking. Others have advanced computerized mounts and full databases to take advantage of.
The basic telescope optical tube will take care of the magnification. But, there are a few other accessories you need to make your astronomy adventures a bit more enjoyable.
Reliable Mounting System
The mounting system refers to how the optical tube assembly attaches to the tripod. You need a reliable system to easily point your telescope in the right direction.
Basic altazimuth mounts work just fine. They move both horizontally and vertically to help you get into position.
Equatorial mounts are more advanced. In addition to basic movements, these units take the Earth’s rotation into account. They’re perfect for long-term observation and tracking.
Finally, there’s the aforementioned computerized mount. These come at a higher price tag, but the ease of use is well worth the investment.
Versatile Tripod or Tabletop Base
You can’t just hold the optical tube to look up at the planets! You need a sturdy base. Height-adjustable tripods are great for on-the-go gazing. You can set them up in minutes. They can support your telescope without any issues.
The same goes for tabletop mounts. You can’t use these on the ground, but they work well in dark backyards or park tables.
Everyone’s vision is different, so you can’t expect to get a crystal-clear image without some additional accessories. Multiple eyepieces let you adjust the eye relief and lengthen the focal plane a bit. You may find some telescopes with a 25mm eyepiece and a 50mm eyepiece. Use the one that’s right for you and make fine-tuned adjustments with the focuser.
You might also come across telescopes with Plossl eyepieces or Barlow lenses. Plossl eyepieces are considered the cream of the crop. They feature multiple lenses to reduce chromatic distortion. Meanwhile, the Barlow lens will push the telescope’s magnification abilities even further.
Of course, you can’t forget about the finderscope. This is the accessory you’re going to use to find your target. They feature lower magnification levels and higher fields of view. Use it to point the telescope in the general direction.
For greater control, get a telescope with a red dot finderscope. With specially treated glass, you can look at your target and use the included reticle to line things up perfectly.