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Best Telescope For Viewing Planets: 4 Top Sellers

Looking for a telescope for planets? You’re probably wanting the best telescope for the money, right? The following covers telescopes for planet viewing and includes Go-To telescopes (i.e. computerized) that are worth a look.

In a hurry? Check out our recommended telescope to see planets.

Table of Contents

How Much is a Telescope for Viewing Planets?

The price can vary. For those listed in this telescope buying guide, you are looking at between $400 and $2000 for a new telescope of this type. You’ll find cheaper telescopes in this article I wrote for beginners, but not necessarily the best telescope for viewing planets and galaxies.

best planet telescope
Planets in order from Sun: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune.

4 Planet Viewing Telescopes Compared

The following quickly compares some main features of 4 planet viewing telescopes that are popular buys for the home user. You’ll find a more detailed review of each further down.

ItemImageApertureFocal RatioPrice

Nexstar 127SLT

5″ Makf/12See Details

Nexstar 6 SE

5″ SCTf/10See Details

Sky-Watcher PoED

4.7″ Refractorf/8See Details

NexStar

8″ SCTf/10See Details

What Planets Can You See With A Telescope?

If you are wondering about what planets can you see from Earth, then you should know that, all seven planets in our solar system (not including Earth) are visible from Earth.

Without Binoculars or Telescope To View Planets

Venus (AKA the evening star) is the brightest of the planets visible from Earth. The declining order of apparent brightness for the remaining planets is Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Saturn, Uranus, and lastly, Neptune.

Uranus and Neptune, the faintest planets seen from Earth, require at least a good quality set of binoculars on the brightest clear night, to observe. I wrote about the best options for stargazing binoculars. You should also check out my article on ways binoculars complement the use of telescopes.

The brightest and nearest planets to Earth can be seen with the naked eye. You can see Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn (in order of distance from the Sun) as celestial bodies in the night sky.

Timeanddate.com have this great tool for when to expect so see best views of the planets in your locality.

Of these visible planets, the increasing order of size is Mercury, Mars, Venus, Saturn, to Jupiter, the largest in the solar system.

What Planets Through A Telescope

You’ll see more through a telescope. With some skill and optimal equipment and conditions, all planets can be seen with a telescope.

What can you see with a telescope in viewing planets? The detail will depend on the telescope magnification, your skill, atmospheric conditions, among other factors. One thing though, those beautiful images you see from NASA are from high powered telescopes and not the detail you are likely to see through a home telescope. You can read the kind of telescope they use and more on this in my article on what to expect from a home telescope. You’ll also find I cover the size of telescope to see Saturn compared with a telescope to see Jupiter.

Read on to find out the best magnification and resolution to see good views of the planets in general.

The Best Telescope To See Planets

What telescope is best for viewing planets? You will get the best views of planets through telescopes with a decent aperture size and equipped to get the right magnification.

Best Telescope For Planets – Aperture Size

The resolution (how fine the detail of the image will be), first up, will affect your viewing of the planets. With this, consider the size of the aperture.

What size telescope should I get to see all the planets in our solar system?

The aperture size is a major determinant in choosing a telescope to see planets, (as is the quality of the lenses, the magnification, and focal length).

The larger the aperture the more light it can capture and the brighter the distant planet will appear. The average useful size will differ with type. In refractor telescopes used to observe planets or stars, an aperture of 3 to 5″ may do, while in a reflector telescope, it is recommended that you look for 6″ or larger.

Best Telescope To See Planets – Magnification

The focal length of the telescope and the eyepieces are features to know about that relate to magnification.

As a general rule…the maximum best attained magnification for a specific telescope is somewhere within 50× per inch (or 2x per mm) of the aperture size.

For example, an aperture of 5″ could provide the maximum useful magnification of 250x. This means you can use up to that amount of magnification before the image becomes distorted (caveat: this will depend on atmospheric conditions).

To work out the magnification you can expect with each eyepiece, simply divide the focal length (FL) of the telescope by the focal length of the eyepiece in use.

Here’s an example: A telescope with a FL of 800 mm with an eyepiece with FL of 10 mm means a telescope magnification of 80x. Whereas, an eyepiece with a focal length of 25 mm with the same telescope would yield a magnification of 32x (800÷25).

Suggested Magnifications to See Features of Planets

For a telescope to see rings of Saturn: a magnification of 200x to 250x may give nice views on a good clear night.

While, you might need less than 200x for Jupiter, given it is a very low contrast object. Meanwhile, you can use the highest magnification to see features on the Moon and Mars.

Focal Ratio

Focal ratio (f/) is the telescope’s focal length divided by its aperture size. Telescopes with high focal ratios (f/) are best for viewing planets

These have focal ratios about 10 (f/10) or above. They are also referred to as ‘slow telescopes‘. These have a narrow-field suited to planet observation. 

Extra Eyepieces

Buying extra eyepieces (or having a Barlow lens or both) will help with magnification. The best magnification will differ among planets and the conditions at the time. I wrote more on this in my article on the best eyepieces for the job.

The smaller the eyepiece’s focal length, the greater the magnification to expect, but keep in mind the limit (max magnification).

Also, a Barlow lens can double the magnification of an eyepiece — see our information on telescope features

So, in terms of the best size telescope for viewing planets…

Size up the aperture, eye piece focal lengths, and the focal ratio.  


Using GoTo Telescopes To View Planets

The GoTo types are automated to find the planets. Many consider these as the best planetary telescopes.

They automatically go-to the celestial location of the object using coordinate data entered in the inbuilt computer.

Special Mount

They have a special mount, which is either an equatorial or alt-azimuth.

With an equatorial mount on a GoTo, the user has to align the telescope by hand using either the north or the south celestial pole.

With an alt-azimuth mount on a GoTo, the user aligns it centering the eyepiece on an ‘alignment object’.  

The thing to note with a GoTo is that being computerized, it will likely be more expensive than a standard telescope.


4 Reviews: Best Telescope to View Planets

Below are four popular telescopes that are suitable for planet viewing. Three are GoTos made by Celestron, a Californian company that has been in the optics industry for decades.  

#1. Celestron NexStar 127SLT Mak Review

Click image to see price at Amazon

A Catadioptric (Maksutov-Cassegrain)
Aperture size: 127 mm (5″)
Mount: Motorized Alt-Azimuth
FL (Telescope focal length): 1500 mm (59 in)
f/ (Focal ratio): 12
Eyepiece FL: 25 mm (0.98″)/9 mm (0.35″); – magnification: 60×/167×
Highest/lowest useful magnification: 300×/18×; limiting stellar magnitude: 13

This product is a go-to telescope. The SLT stands for star locating telescope. This computerized telescope has a corded hand controller and is attached to a motorized alt-azimuth mount that sits on top of the tripod.

The advantage of an alt-azimuth motorized mount means it can find the point from the entered object’s altitude and azimuth and quickly gather the sights for you automatically, so you don’t waste time hunting for them or having to manually align the telescope.

A mirror size of 127 mm (5″) means this catadioptric telescope is in the range considered best for viewing planets. 

A Maksutov-Cassegrain (Mak) of this size is highly recommended for lunar and planetary viewing. With this particular scope, you should see rings on Saturn, the bands on Jupiter, and the Great Red Spot on a clear night with sharp enough focus. The view of Mars through the telescope will reveal a reddish hue.

The advantage of Maks is that they don’t require collimation (alignment of the optical elements) and are fairly rugged. So, they are suited to being on the move. Maks are good for planet viewing and lunar observations. Cons: Suffer from aberration and not for deep sky objects.

A focal ratio of 12 indicates it is in the high power range for narrower field viewing, suited to viewing planets, binary stars, and small features of the moon.

Adding in an eyepiece with a 6 mm focal length will give you a magnification of 250×, which should help you gain nice views of Saturn on a good clear night. Scroll down for a recommended add-on filter and eyepiece kit. 

What is included: Telescope, tripod, control key pad, and two Celestron eyepieces: 9 and 25 mm. Extras included: Finder scope – StarPointer; Star diagonal 1.25; Includes “The SkyX” Planetarium software

Pros

  • Ticks all the boxes, with high focal ratio and a good size aperture

Cons: 

  • The technology can be tricky to get to work correctly if unfamiliar to you
  • Not for astrophotography.

Price

Price is good (for telescopes that can see planets). You can get this go-to telescope at Amazon — See details.

Recommended Addons

Car Battery adapter

Buy an adapter that will let you power this scope from the cigarette lighter of your vehicle. An example is the Celestron car battery adapter that is compatible with Nexstar telescopes.

Car battery adapter for when you are on the go. Click image to see details at Amazon.com

Extra eyepieces For Enhanced Views

Get extra telescope eyepieces for viewing planets.

A set of eyepieces plus filters will suit the beginner. Click image to see price at Amazon.

With the Nexstar 127 mm instrument a 6 mm piece is recommended. An eyepiece + filter kit, like the Celestron 14-pc telescope accessory set has one this size, which will improve the telescope’s views of planets. The kit has 5 Plossl eyepieces (6, 8, 13, 17, & 32 mm), 2× 1¼” Barlow lens, 6 colored planetary eyepiece filters, a 1¼” moon filter, and a case. A huge saving for beginners.

But, if you’d rather invest in decent individual eyepieces, have a look at this article I wrote, covering some quality extra eyepieces.


#2. Celestron NexStar 6 SE Review

Available at Amazon — Click image to check out price.

A Catadioptric (Schmidt-Cassegrain)
Aperture size: 150 mm (6″)
Mount: Alt-Azimuth
FL (Focal length): 1500 mm (59″)
f (Focal ratio): 10
Eyepiece FL: 25 mm (1″); Eyepiece magnification: 60×
Highest/lowest useful magnification: 354×/21×; limiting stellar magnitude: 13.4

This planet viewing telescope is another automated type. It has a GoTo mount and a database of over 40 thousand night sky objects on which to automatically focus.

Simply use the built-in menu on the hand controller to select the celestial object and the telescope will automatically move and point to that object.

Being a Schmidt-Cassegrain (SCT), it shouldn’t suffer color aberration. Also, the SCTs are a jack of all trades.

The telescope comes with a sturdy steel tripod.

The optics are superb. The aperture of 6″ (150 mm) is larger than the previous NexStar 127SLT Mak and is expected to give impressive views of the planets in detail.

With this particular scope, you should see faint objects to magnitude 13.4.

A focal ratio of 10 indicates it is a slow telescope in the high power range for narrower field viewing, meaning it is best for observing planets, binary stars, and small features of the moon.

Expect to see spectacular views of Saturn through telescope use with this one, as well as Mercury, Mars, Venus, and Jupiter. You may even be able to see the outer planets, Uranus and Neptune at a dark site and under optimum viewing conditions.

An eyepiece with a 5 mm focal length would be the best eyepiece for viewing planets for this one, giving a magnification of 300× (50 × 6″).

Extras included: Sturdy steel tripod, finder scope – StarPointer; SkyAlign allows you to align on any three bright celestial objects, making for a fast and easy alignment process; Nearly 40,000 object database with 200 user-definable objects and expanded information on over 200 objects

Pros: 

  • Only one eyepiece included (magnification 60×)
  • Skyalign works well with auto 2-star alignment

Cons: 

  • Relatively short battery life of the 8 AAs used in the mount
  • The mount being an alt-azimuth is not the best for photographing the planets, but you may succeed in capturing Venus, Jupiter, and a few others, with a very high ISO  

Price

Get the latest price of this go-to telescope at Amazon — See details.


#3. Sky-Watcher ProED 120mm Doublet APO

Click image to check out latest price at Amazon

APO Refractor with ED Schott glass
Aperture size: 120 mm (4.72″)
Mount: Not included
FL (Focal length): 900 mm (35″)
f/ (Focal ratio): 7.9
Eyepiece FL: 20 mm (0.8″)/5 mm (0.2″); magnification: 45×/180×
Highest/lowest useful magnification: 283×/17×; limiting stellar magnitude: 12.9

In contrast to the previous two, this refractor telescope is basic in that it is an optical tube — it does not come with a computerized mount (or any mount) or tripod — but you can buy these separately. It comes with attachment hardware for this reason. 

With this particular scope you should see faint stars to a 12.9 magnitude.

A focal ratio of 8 means it is at the lower end of the high power range for narrower field viewing of planets, binary stars, and small features of the moon.

The maximum magnification of around 283×, based on the size of the aperture and telescope focal length, should allow you to obtain nice view of Saturn’s rings and of Jupiter with the right eyepieces.

The eyepieces included will give you 45x and 180x, but you might need higher magnification, say ~200x to 240x, with really clear atmospheric conditions, for this. See my article on the best dark sky locations.

Other: Finder scope – 8×50 RA erect-image, Dual-speed 2″ Crayford-type focuser with 1.25″ adaptor; 20 mm and 5 mm 1.25, 2″ dielectric diagonal; Tube-ring attachment hardware; Aluminium carry case.

Pros:

  • Schott Glass, an FPL-53 ED glass element
  • Apochromatic ED doublet optics mean superb images — free of the annoying halo of unfocused violet light

Cons:

  • The tube is relatively long for free hold
  • You will need to add a mount and tripod (see below for a tripod with a computerized mount that you can add)

Price

More expensive than the previous two good telescopes for viewing planets. Get the latest price of this telescope at Amazon — See details.

Recommended Addons

If you are looking for a tripod for this scope, here are a couple of options…

Tripod with equatorial mount

A Celestron CG-4 German Equatorial Mount and adjustable height steel tripod will suit and easily maneuver this telescope to find the planets for viewing.

Available at Amazon.com – click image for details.

Tripod with programmable mount

A computerized mount and tripod will automate finding planets to view, like this Celestron Advanced VX Mount with Celestron Polar Axis Finder.

Available at Amazon.com – click image for details.

#4. Celestron NexStar 8 Inch Telescope Review

Click image for price at Amazon.com

Catadioptric (Schmidt-Cassegrain)
Aperture size: 203 mm (8″)
Mount: Single Fork Arm Alt-Azimuth
FL (Focal length): 2032 mm (80″)
f (Focal ratio): 10
Eyepiece FL: 25 mm (1″); Eyepiece magnification: 81×
Highest/lowest useful magnification: 480×/29×; limiting stellar magnitude: 14

Another, SCT, this 8-inch is in the league of the best telescope for viewing planets and galaxies. It is another fully automated type.

Like the 6-inch version, it has a GoTo mount and a database of over 40 thousand night sky objects on which to automatically focus. 

Simply use the built-in menu on the hand controller to select the celestial object and the telescope will automatically move and point to that object. 

The telescope comes with a sturdy steel tripod.

The optics are superb. The aperture of 8″ (203 mm) is larger than the previous Celestron NexStar SE and is expected to give views of deep sky objects like the Whirlpool Galaxy and Hercules Globular Cluster.

A focal ratio of 10 means this is a slow telescope. It is in the high power range for narrower field viewing, suited for observing planets, binary stars, and small features of the moon.

Expect to see spectacular views of Saturn, as well as Mercury, Mars, Venus, and Jupiter and even see the outer planets, Uranus and Neptune at a dark site and under optimum viewing conditions.

Consider buying extra eyepieces to broaden your experience. The highest useful magnification is stated as 480×. An eyepiece with a focal length of 10 or 8 mm should do the trick to give you about 200x or 250x (2030 divided by 10 or 8). 

Other: Sturdy steel tripod, Finderscope – StarPointer; SkyAlign allows you to align on any three bright celestial objects, making for a fast and easy alignment process; Nearly 40,000 object database with 200 user-definable objects and expanded information on over 200 objects

Pros: 

  • Large aperture
  • High useful magnification
  • 2-year warranty
  • Includes a finder scope

Cons:

  • Fairly short battery life of the 8 AAs used in the mount
  • The mount being an alt-azimuth is not the best for photographing the planets, but you may succeed in capturing Venus, Jupiter, and a few others, with a very high ISO

Price

Get the latest price for this go-to telescope at Amazon — See details.


Tips on How to Get the Best View of Planets

Even with the best telescope to see planets, you’ll want a location that’s dark, dry, and possibly elevated for the best experience.

You may need to travel to avoid light pollution. See my article on some of the best places to stargaze, which has a link to a tool showing designation dark sky sites.

No matter what telescopes you use, you will get the best views of planets when they are closest to Earth. When a planet rises at sunset, it is in a position for the best views a few hours after sunset.

Mars will be seen better when it is close to Earth. For Mars, find and study some Martian maps.

Filters

Filters will improve what you can see. Red/orange filters should help you view the polar caps and major landmarks like Syrtis Major and Hellas on Mars. This will depend on what side of Mars is facing the Earth.

Getting hold of a good selection of color filters and having an understanding of the landmarks will also help. As will having the best eyepieces for viewing planets.

Eyepieces

The best outdoor gift to yourself is to get some extra eyepieces. Which are the best eyepieces for viewing planets? I cover the features and metrics to consider in my article of what to look for in telescope eyepieces.

Collimation

Also, collimation might be needed. This is especially important if you are using high magnification – likely for planet viewing.

This is about aligning the optics. In some it is simply a three step process. First, align the main mirror roughly. Second, position the secondary mirror. Third, fine-tune the alignment of the main mirror. 

Still, check the specifics for your individual telescope which are often on the website.


What to Expect to See with a Good Planetary Telescope

As mentioned above, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are visible to the naked eye – as bright stars mostly – while Uranus and Neptune require at least using a set of binoculars to detect.  Using a telescope for viewing planets will give you more detail and a clearer view of the planets.

With Mars, you’ll see its polar caps and major dark surface features.

With Jupiter, color and detail and the Great Red Spot can be seen. With Saturn, its six moons are faintly observable at varying times. The moons of the distant planets, Uranus and Neptune, are more challenging to find but are observable once located and with a higher aperture size.

With an 8 inch aperture or higher you should expect better views again. You should see Neptune’s moon Triton and Jupiter in more detail, being able to make out its clouds and belts. The impressive ring around Saturn should be more defined. Pluto may be visible as a faint star.

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3 thoughts on “Best Telescope For Viewing Planets: 4 Top Sellers”

  1. Hi, thanks for the awesome info!! I’ve been reading about telescope pros and cons would you mind giving me an advise about Meade LX70 M6 6″ f/12 Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope with German Equatorial Mount and 2-Stage Adjustable Steel Tripod, 1800mm Focal Length? I quite like this scope, would you be able to tell me the complete guide and eye pieces to get to use the scope to its maximum potential… much appreciated and thank you very much.

    Robbie

    • Hi Robbie, Thanks for your query. Meade discontinued the entire LX70 range over a year ago. So, I assume that you own a Meade LX70, rather than looking to buy one. I can’t give you exact guidance but rather refer you to the Meade LX70 manual that is fairly comprehensive – here is the link, where you can download the manual from Meade. You’ll find a section on choosing eyepieces on page 11.
      If you are not happy with the eyepieces that came with the telescope…I can’t say for sure, but some users have found 1.25″ 15mm and 20mm eyepieces that give a 68 degree apparent field of view work perfect for this telescope — Much wider FOV being a waste. If you are looking for a fairly inexpensive additional eyepiece, the GSO Superview line is available at Amazon.com – See details. Cheers

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