What Telescope To Buy To See Planets
We've reviewed quite a few telescopes over the years that are ideal for planetary observing, although the accompanying price tags indicate these are not beginners' telescopes, but are instead for those who are series about practical astronomy and want to take it to the next level.
what telescope to buy to see planets
The SkyMax 180's long focal length is ideal for planetary and lunar viewing, but the telescope also gives good views of many deep-sky objects. We used it to observe Saturn and found the Cassini Division and several moons on show. The scope comes with a 28mm eyepiece, a star diagonal and Vixen-style mounting bar. At just 7.8kg, it is also relatively lightweight for its size.
If you want to be able to get decent views of a range of targets - including the planets - but are a beginner on a budget, the Sky-Watcher Evostar-90 is a good option. It consists of a refractor telescope and the AZ Pronto mount.
The CGX-L EQ 1100 EdgeHD represents a serious investment, but this instrument delivers a sharp, flat field across a large area that should be good for both Solar System and deep-sky targets. The Moon and planets appear bright and well presented, the 11-inch aperture having sufficient resolving power to reveal intricate detail.
We do have other telescope guides such as the more general best telescopes, telescopes on Amazon, Best beginner telescopes and Best telescopes for kids, but on this page specifically, we've focused on those telescopes that will give you the best views of our nearest neighbors.
Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 114AZ: was $229.99, now $214.99 on Amazon (opens in new tab)Deals are few and far between for the best telescopes for viewing planets right now, but you can make a small $15 saving on the Celestron Starsense Explorer LT114AZ, a telescope that boasts huge magnification for getting up close and personal with the moon and other planets.
Now sitting at around the $350 price point, it is a reasonable price for a good quality beginner scope. It is a simple telescope designed for seeing the moon, planets and some deep sky objects and it doesn't feature any fancy go-to motors or app integration, but it does come with the basic edition of Celestron's Starry Night software (downloadable) to help you learn about the night sky.
In our Celestron NexStar 8SE review, we found it to deliver outstanding optics, and it was easy to see why it is one of the best-selling telescopes on the market. The 8-inch aperture drinks in heaps of light, showing you spectacular views of the planets and even deep-sky objects far into the universe.
Unlike other models at a similar price point, this telescope ships with an equatorial mount. This can take a bit of getting used to, but once it is aligned with the Earth's axis, it makes it simple to track objects in the sky once you've found them as the Earth rotates.
The 4-inch F/10 achromat gives fine views, and its focal length makes it a good match for some of the best planetary eyepieces. Unfortunately, only one is supplied in the box, but with the addition of a 10mm and Barlow lens, you can achieve a magnification of 36x, 72x, 100x and 200x. At this top end, the Omni XLT 102 will show you some lovely details on our neighboring planets.
Celestron also sells a 120mm model (read our Celestron Omni XLT 120 review) and a 150mm version of the same telescope, but notably, all three come with the same CG-4 equatorial mount with the larger models pushing the mount's weight limit. As such, it feels sturdy to use and dampens any vibrations quickly.
Being an equatorial mount (where the polar axis is parallel to the Earth's rotation), it requires some practice to set up and get to grips with, but once you're used to it, and the slow-motion controls, it offers easy, one-handed tracking of the planets. For those looking to go hands-free, Celestron offers a separate dual-axis auto-tracking upgrade kit that you can install at any time.
The mount can also track the sky to counteract the rotation of the Earth, keeping your object of interest in the field of view, and it can be upgraded at any time via Sky-Watcher's Synscan GoTo handset, granting it the ability to find more than 40,000 objects in the sky for you automatically. Naturally, the planets are on that list. If you want to fast-track to the complete GoTo system and are interested in a more powerful telescope with a similarly compact design, you might want to check out the Heritage-90's big brother, the Skymax-127 Virtuoso GTI. (opens in new tab)
From our Celestron StarSense Explorer LT114AZ review, you'll see that the best thing to do with this telescope is to look at the moon and planets. It is designed to give a high magnification of bright objects.
The StarsSense app allows quick and easy alignment, which takes mere seconds. This is a dream for novice users. It is a 'push to' scope, so while the mount won't turn itself to find your chosen subject, arrows on your phone screen will help you guide the telescope into position. Turn the telescope in the direction the screen instructs you to, and once you see a bullseye on your screen, your target will be in the center of your field of view. There aren't slow-motion controls, so making precise adjustments takes some practice.
The Skymax-180 PRO was purpose-built for Solar System exploration. Its high-resolution, long focal length optical system delivers performance akin to a much costlier large apochromatic refractor, providing flawless images of the planets rich in colorful details. With a 7.1-inch primary mirror, it also has enough light grasp to bring many of the Solar System's moons into view. The single 2-inch/ 28mm eyepiece won't make the most of this telescope's potential, so you'll need to invest a little extra, but even a comfortable 8mm or 10mm planetary eyepiece will be well tolerated by its formidable optics.For optimal accuracy, the Skymax-180 PRO is paired with an HEQ5 PRO equatorial mount, ideal for heavy payloads. This allows for a variety of photography uses, ranging from high-resolution planetary and lunar imaging to deep-sky imaging. If you plan to purchase another telescope in the future, it is beneficial to 'over-mount' the scope for optimal stability at higher magnifications. This combination of features is why it is beloved among visual observers and astrophotographers.
Planetary imaging is an addictive hobby, and fortunately, you can get started on any telescope with a mount that tracks the sky. But if you plan to get serious about capturing our neighboring worlds, a large aperture instrument is a must.
It provides greater resolution, allowing more details to be recorded by the imaging sensor. The CPC Deluxe 1100 EdgeHD features a huge 11-inch high-performance main mirror, capable of resolving the surfaces of the most remote planets. On more forgiving targets, such as Venus and Jupiter, it sees remarkable detail, and the skilled observer can even pick out landmarks on Mars without too much difficulty.
The CPC mount is robust and dependable, offering excellent tracking for lengthy imaging sessions. It can be easily converted to an equatorial platform with the use of a wedge for deep sky astrophotography. It is quite heavy, but two people can set up this telescope in the field and break it down quickly in just a few minutes. Of course, with just one eyepiece in the box, you'll need to budget for more, but at this size, it's the camera that sees the most benefit. If planetary imaging gets its hooks into you, at least you know there's an upgrade to aspire to.
Celestron's Astro Fi 102 (currently with a saving of 23% at Adorama (opens in new tab)) is an excellent choice for tech-savvy beginners who want to get closer to the planets. After the initial setup of the motorized mount, which can take a little time, it's a breeze to use alongside the SkyPortal app (downloadable for IOS and Android).
While to the touch this admittedly doesn't feel like a premium product, the materials used mean the telescope is lightweight and easily portable. Just be careful to protect it properly in transit to avoid damage.
When shopping on a budget, there's an argument to be made for choosing a smaller refracting telescope than a similarly priced but larger reflector, because the secondary mirrors and struts in Newtonian telescopes perturb the incoming light in a way that reduces image contrast. For many dedicated planetary observers, a large refractor is a dream, but there are downsides. Refractors are bulky, heavy, and expensive, so compound telescopes such as Maksutov-Cassegrains and Schmidt-Cassegrains make for a good compromise.
There are also other optical accessories to consider when shopping for a planet-hunting telescope. Eyepieces with greater magnifications can help get larger views of the tiny planets. Astronomers should also consider Barlow lenses to help attain high magnifications of between 120-250x (within the optical limit of the telescope). This will allow you to observe in the sweet spot on most nights when the seeing is average. Here are some of the best telescopes for seeing and capturing planets.
To guarantee you're getting honest, up-to-date recommendations on the best telescopes to buy here at Space.com we make sure to put every telescope through a rigorous review to fully test each instrument. Each telescope is reviewed based on many aspects, from its construction and design, to how well it functions as an optical instrument and its performance in the field.
We look at how easy it is to set up, whether computerized or motorized mounts are reliable and quiet, and if a telescope comes with appropriate eyepieces and tripods. We also suggest if a particular telescope would benefit from any additional kit to give you the best experience possible.
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