The planets have captured our imagination for so long now. When the Greeks first identified these celestial bodies, they saw fit to give them the same names as their gods. Then the Romans came along and updated their names according to their gods. Ever since then we’ve been using the same names to refer to these celestial giants. We’ve all seen planets in pictures, but what if we want to see them in real time? This is what astronomical telescopes are for. We’re going to go through the best telescope for viewing planets.

Thanks to technology and mass production, astronomical telescopes have become quite common. Nowadays anyone can get their hands on a decent scope and begin exploring space from their backyard. With a bit of practice and understanding, you too can get up close and personal with the planets. Astronomical telescopes may look daunting at first, but once you learn the ropes, they become very simple instruments.

Now, there are a lot of telescopes out there, and not all of them are suitable for viewing planets. Some are better suited for looking at objects that are farther away. Others are made specifically for viewing Deep Space Objects (DSO). Fortunately, the planets are quite close to us (in space terms). This makes viewing them rather simple. In fact, the closer giants such as Jupiter and Saturn can be seen very clearly with mediocre telescopes as well. We’re going to be focusing on telescopes that go beyond mediocre. Telescopes that pack enough power to do justice to these celestial giants. We’ll also be sticking to beginner and intermediate level products that produce clear images. Professional astronomical telescopes are another ball game entirely.

There are a handful of things that you need to keep in mind when shopping for a telescope. These factors will basically determine your telescope’s magnification power and its image clarity. Let’s quickly go through all the major factors before we head over to the telescopes.

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Important Elements of a Telescope

The first thing that you need to know about is focal length. This is the point inside of your telescope where light converges. Telescopes work by capturing light being reflected from an object and focusing on a single point. This produces an image of the viewed object which can then be magnified and observed. The focal length of a telescope determines exactly how much a telescope will be able to magnify an object. Telescopes with longer bodies have larger focal lengths and more magnification.

Just as the focal length of a telescope determines its magnification ability, the focal ratio determines its image quality. The focal ratio is denoted by taking a telescope’s focal length (f) and dividing it with its diameter (x). A larger focal ratio means that you get better image quality. However, you have to compromise on portability. Telescopes with larger focal ratios are girthy and bulky. Most backyard astronomers prefer telescopes that are moderately powerful and portable, which means that a larger focal ratio isn’t necessarily a good thing.

The aperture of a telescope is a really important factor. The aperture is the diameter of a telescope’s main lens. The size of the lens determines a telescope’s resolving power. The resolving power of a telescope is the level of detail that it can capture. A larger lens allows more light to enter a telescope. This, in turn, allows for a clearer and more detailed image to be formed. A larger aperture is always nice, especially if you have to deal with light pollution. Keep in mind that telescopes with larger apertures are also more expensive.

So far we’ve only talked about elements of a telescope that are part of the Optical Tube Array. The Optical Tube Array (OTA) is basically what makes your telescope. However, you cannot hold the OTA in your hands or place it anywhere else to use it. You need to keep it stable and upright to use it properly. This is where the mount comes in. As its name suggests, this is what you mount your telescope onto when using it. The mount is an incredibly important part of your planet gazing setup. It makes sure that your telescope stays put as you look through it. A decent mount also makes it easier to aim your telescope in the right direction. There are two types of mounts that you should know about:

  • The alt-azimuth mount is a lot like a DSLR tripod, and it’s what we’ll recommend to most people. It’s easy to use, affordable and provides superb stability.
  • The equatorial mount is more complicated and expensive. It moves on two axes and is designed to be operated by a motor. Its axes allow the mount to move according to the Earth’s orbital movements. This, coupled with a motor allows the mount to keep a telescope focused on one object in the sky for multiple hours. This mount is usually used for taking pictures of space objects.

With these factors kept in mind, you’ll have a much better idea about a telescope’s ability. We’re going to be reviewing a few telescopes with the factors mentioned above kept in mind.

What Kind of Telescope is Suitable For Viewing Planets?

Astronomical telescopes come in two types; reflectors and refractors. Reflector telescopes make use of mirrors to capture light and direct it into your eyepiece. They have an open tube design and is more affordable as well. Refractor scopes use lenses to capture light and direct it through a closed tube. These telescopes require lesser maintenance, but they’re also more expensive. There are also casse-grain or compound telescopes. These use a combination of mirrors and lenses to project an image.

The type of telescope that you want to use comes down to personal preference. Some people like using refractors since they’re easier to use. They need lesser maintenance and are easier to set up as well. Other people like the greater tweak-ability that reflectors have to offer.

An interesting thing about planet viewing is that it isn’t that hard at all. The planets that are closer to us such as Jupiter, Mars, and Venus can be spotted with the naked eye. These planets can be viewed well enough with a mediocre telescope as well. However, to see them in all their glory, you’ll need to go beyond mediocre. With the above-mentioned factors kept in mind, let’s take a look at some awesome planet viewing telescopes.

Best Telescopes For Viewing Planets

​Name

​Aperture

​Focal Length

​Focal Ratio

​Magnification (lowest)

​Weight

​C​elestron NexStar 6SE

​5.91’’

​59’’

​f/10

​60x

​30 Lbs.

​Orion 10016 StarBlast 6 Astro Reflector

​5.91’’

​29.52’’

​f/5

​21x

​23.59 Lbs.

​Celestron NexStar 130SLT Computerized Telescope

​5.12’’

​26’’

​f/5

​26x

​18 Lbs.

​Orion 10014 SkyQuest XT4.5 Classic Dobsonian Telescope

​3.93’’

​35.4’’

​f/7.9

​17x

​22 Lbs.

​Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker Telescope

​5’’

​39.37’’

​f/7.87

​50x

​17 Lbs.

C​elestron NexStar 6SE

celestron nexstar 6se telescope

Features

  • A superb option for people who are new to astronomy or still learning the basics. It comes with a couple of awesome accessories that make navigating the night sky easier.
  • The overall quality of the telescope is quite satisfactory. It’s sturdy yet light enough to be carried around easily.
  • Has a casse-grain body, meaning that it combines the workings of reflector and refractor telescopes.
  • The telescope comes with an equatorial mount as well.

Pros

  • Despite being made of plastic, it’s quite sturdy.
  • The telescope is quite portable. It’s compact and lightweight.
  • It offers great functionality at an affordable price point.
  • It features high-quality optics.

Cons

  • The telescope’s mount isn’t the most stable. It’s lightweight, and hence it can lose its balance rather easily.

Orion 10016 StarBlast 6 Astro Reflector

best telescope for viewing planets

​Features

  • A simple to use reflector telescope that’s popular amongst many astronomers. It features an impressively large aperture of around 6 inches.
  • The telescope is designed to be set on top of a table and then used.
  • The telescope comes with a number of accessories. You get two eyepieces and a rack to hold them. An aiming device and Starry Night software is also included.

Pros

  • The pre-assembled base is very stable and sturdy. It allows you to make minute adjustments easily. At the same time, it stays immobile while you’re looking through the eyepiece.
  • You get two eyepieces with the scope: a 25mm one and a 10mm one.
  • Its compact body is easy to move around and can be placed in the back of a car as well.
  • It uses a parabolic mirror that eliminates the chances of you having to deal with spherical aberrations.

Cons

  • While it does have a compact body, the telescope’s form makes it rather hard to hold when you’re moving it around.
  • The telescope has a short focal length. Its magnification isn’t the best without having to use additional equipment.

Celestron NexStar 130SLT Computerized Telescope

celestron nexstar 130 slt computerized telescope

Features

  • This scope features an automated alt-azimuth mount that makes its usage really simple. All you have to do is enter a few details, and it will find the planet that you want to view.
  • You can align the scope with ease with the help of its SkyAlign gadget.
  • This scope features plenty of beginner-friendly elements. However, it packs enough power to interest intermediate users as well.

Pros

  • A great scope for anyone who wants to get into astronomy.
  • Includes two eyepieces and has high-quality optics.
  • Has great build quality.

Cons

  • The provided tripod is flimsy and lacks stability.
  • The eyepieces that you get with the scope lack quality.

Orion 10014 SkyQuest XT4.5 Classic Dobsonian Telescope

​Features

  • Portable, easy to set up, and easy to use. This telescope is great for people who want to learn how to use astronomy telescopes properly.
  • The telescope is great for viewing planets as well as objects that are farther away. You can get great close-ups of star clusters and nebulae.
  • Its main mirror is designed to capture 260% more light than a refractor lens.

Pros

  • It’s easy to use and quite powerful.
  • Is very reasonably priced.
  • The telescope’s optics are of great quality.
  • Its mount is very stable.

Cons

  • The instructions that you get with the telescope are vague and confusing.

Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker Telescope

celestron 127eq powerseeker telescope review


Features

  • A powerful reflector that features a 5-inch aperture size and superb light gathering ability.
  • It has a tool-free setup, which is great for people who like to take their telescopes outdoors.

Pros

  • Has a slow-motion adjustment system which lets you aim the telescope with great accuracy.
  • The provided mount is sturdy and offers suitable stability for planet viewing.
  • You get a finderscope along with the telescope.

Cons

  • It’s a bit tricky to use.
  • The OTA is fragile.

These are some superb telescopes for planet viewing. We’ve stuck to scopes that aren’t too advanced or too pricey. All of these scopes are great options for people who are looking to get into astronomy. However, this doesn’t mean that adept astronomers won’t find anything worth their time here. All of the scopes mentioned above pack powerful features. This makes them great for more hardcore astronomy as well.

Planet viewing is a great way to get into astronomy. Keep in mind that once you get addicted to the act of spotting celestial bodies, you’ll find yourself chasing celestial objects in the sky quite often.

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