Best Telescope For Viewing Planets 2021; Reviews

Here in this “Best Telescope For Viewing Planets” article we’ve rounded up 11 of the best telescopes of various types, specifications, and budget perfectly suited for viewing Saturn & its rings, Jupiter and other celestial objects.  Below, you’ll find in-depth reviews of each, as well as an elaborate buying guide to help you pick out the one that suits you the most.

One of the first things a new astronomer usually wants to look at through their new telescope is one of the planets.

Even a small telescope will reveal details on the giant planets. Through a medium-sized scope, you’ll see Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn change on a nightly basis. And you won’t need a dark sky to do so: Even under city lights, the planets provide easy objects to watch evolve.

One of the best parts about planetary viewing or imaging is that since the objects are so bright, you can do it just about anywhere regardless of light pollution

Combined with the fact that the planets are constantly changing, even from one night to the next, planetary astronomy is an easy way to enjoy the night sky whether you live in the middle of a bright city or countryside.

We have researched everything you need to know about buying a new telescope for viewing planets.

We have combed through the details and reviews for dozens of great models to find the best ones so you don’t have to.

We’ve also included a buying guide. If you want to learn more about telescopes before you buy, or just want to make sure you’re getting good value for your money, be sure to check it out.

best telescope for viewing planets
Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:
What Kind of Telescopes are Best For Viewing Planets?

Maksutov-Cassegrain telescopes are highly recommended for planetary viewing as they have longer focal lengths and large aperture but in a shorter tube as a result they have small secondary obstructions. They are highly portable too which means it wouldn’t be a hassle to carry them to your favorite viewing location.

Refractors should be your next best choice, although long-focal length, big-aperture makes refractors a bit more expensive and difficult to move. However, quality refractors will produce the sharpest and highest contrast views for a given aperture. 

Finally, Schmidt-Cassegrains are also excellent telescopes for viewing planets, as they are also very affordable and easy to move. Although they have shorter focal ratios than Maksutov-Cassegrain telescopes, they are still long enough to provide high magnification of the planets.

Best Telescopes For Viewing Planets 2021

With so many models with so many features available today, it can be a tedious task to find the best telescope for viewing planets.  We have analyzed the main features ( aperture, focal length, ratio, portability, affordability etc.) that make a good telescope that you can use to enjoy the night sky and fulfill your love for astronomy.

Best For Home

Celestron – AstroMaster 90AZ

The Celestron AstroMaster 90AZ altazimuth refractor is a perfect choice for a beginner who is looking to buy their first telescope to venture into astronomy and enjoy the night sky.

This  reasonably priced 90 mm aperture refractor optical system is a good way to begin your journey into the night sky, as well as exploring nature during the day. 

It provides you with detailed high-contrast views of the Moon and planets in the heavens, as well as sharp views of birds and animals across a lake or across the way.

For the astronomy enthusiast whose interests are the brighter solar system and deep space objects, the AstroMaster 90AZ has a lot to offer.

Its 3.5″ aperture has a light grasp 165 times that of the sharpest eye for nighttime use. Its large aperture and diffraction-free images make it surprisingly good for much deep space observing.

This version of the AstroMaster comes with two eyepieces (Sirius Plossl 20 mm,10 mm) that yield low and medium magnifications, and a 90° diagonal that sports an integrated erecting prism to correct images and allow the scope to be used as a conventional spotting scope for terrestrial use.

When used for astronomical viewing, the AstroMaster 90AZ yields breathtaking views of the Moon, Saturn with its ring structure, Jupiter and its belts and moons, nebulae, and star clusters.  

The telescope features all-glass optical elements as well as smooth-operating steel tripod mountings featuring manual motion controls. 

Additionally, the optics are coated for enhanced image brightness and clarity.

Upon its purchase, you can also download Celestron’s Starry Night Software and learn about the night sky, celestial objects, and plan your next stargazing session.

Pros:

  • Great optics
  • Great images of the moon and planets as well as terrestrial images
  • Perfect for beginners as their first telescope
  • Stable tripod

Cons:

  • Finderscope could be better

Best Refractor 

Orion 9024 AstroView 90mm

The Orion AstroView has exceptionally good optics. Its excellent optics, weight and size make it one of the best  refractor telescope for viewing planets with a 90mm aperture and 910mm focal length

Views of the planets and Moon through the f/10 AstroView 90 telescope are nothing short of spectacular. When aimed at the Moon, the AstroView 90 yields tack-sharp views of the rocky lunar surface with craters and mountainous regions visible in crisp, high-contrast detail. 

On a clear evening, you can expect to see Jupiter’s cloud banding and all four of its major Galilean moons. 

Depending on the time of year, the Orion AstroView 90mm EQ Refractor can also provide your whole family with exquisite views of Saturn and its stunning rings, also its largest largest moon known as Titan.

The two eyepieces included are a 25mm and a 10mm one which offer a magnification power of 36x and 91x respectively. The eyepieces are of good quality and the package also contains a 90º mirror star diagonal which means you will see the images with the correct side up.

best telescope for viewing planets

Following a simple alignment procedure, you can use a 6×30 finder scope to accurately aim the AstroView 90mm refractor at objects in the sky like the Moon, bright planets, nebulae and star clusters.

The AstroView 90mm Equatorial Refractor comes with the Orion EQ-2 equatorial mount, which allows for easy manual tracking of celestial objects as they appear to move across the night sky. 

All you have to do is occasionally adjust the equatorial mount’s R.A. (Right Ascension) slow-motion cable to keep any object centered in the telescope eyepiece. 

The included aluminum tripod is lightweight and features adjustable legs and a tripod accessory tray for a hassle-free viewing session.

The entire AstroView 90 telescope, fully assembled, weighs only 24 pounds, and being a refractor it doesn’t need collimation, so you can pick it up and easily move it around in one piece or keep it fully assembled and ready to use at a moment’s notice.

Pros:

  • Great optics
  • Spectacular views of the moon and planets
  • Quality components
  • Equatorial mount that makes it easy to track object as they transit on the night sky

Cons:

  • Slight wobble at focus

Best Intermediate Telescope

Celestron – NexStar 6SE

The NexStar 6SE offers consumers the proven quality of the Celestron brand in a compact, portable, and technologically advanced telescope. 

The scope’s 6-inch aperture, portable design, fully functional computer, and extensive database, among other features, make it easy to use, easy to transport, and easy to enjoy regardless of experience level. The NexStar 6SE is quite evidently the best computerized telescope to see planets on our list.

The NexStar 6SE is a 6-inch Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope, which has an actual aperture of 150 mm and focal length of 1,500 mm, giving it a focal ratio of f/10. The OTA comes on a Vixen-style dovetail bar, which fits into the dovetail saddle on the mount.

The telescope also comes with a 1.25” prism diagonal, 25 mm Plossl eyepiece (providing 60x when used with the 6SE) and Celestron’s StarPointer, which is a zero-power red-dot-style finder.

The Celestron NexStar 6 SE is a solid and sturdy telescope, perfect for home use and astrophotogaphy.

The Celestron NexStar 6 SE is easy to align with Celestron’s SkyAlign Go-To Alignment system

On average it takes a new telescope user approximately 5 minutes to do a full sky alignment with the NexStar 6 SE. 

best beginner telescope for viewing planets

Once aligned, the telescope is incredibly easy to operate. The hand controller on the NexStar 6SE allows you to move the telescope at your discretion. If you are looking for a telescope that can help you transition from beginner to a bit advanced astronomer without much guidance then look no further than the NexStar 6SE as it is one of the best telescope for viewing planets that money can buy.

The NexStar 6SE’s hand controller offers a tour of the night sky and easily allows you to locate planets, galaxies or any of the 40,000 celestial objects in its database.

To power the 6SE you have two options, 8x AA batteries or 12v DC power supply. The 8x AA batteries would last you about 3 hours (included alignment of finderscope and general terrestrial viewing and the 40 minute observation session). 

You can download all the available upgrades from Celestron’s website. In this way, you can keep your telescope up to date, and you can even control your telescope via computer.

The 6SE makes a good choice for consumers living in areas with light-pollution who are looking for clarity and accuracy in their viewing experience. 

It is also one of the best telescopes for beginners under $1000 who are willing to invest a fair sum of money into the hobby in order to learn more about the star gazing experience. Also, the 6SE is a good choice even for more experienced star gazers who wish to have a more portable scope for easier transport and for viewing deep space objects.

Pros:

  • Easy to mount and to use
  • Good optics
  • It’s very sturdy and low maintenance
  • Motorised and automated GoTo mount
  • Portable, fits perfectly in the back of any normal car

Cons:

  • 8 AA batteries tend to drain out fairly quickly
  • User manual and instructions are not very clear
Related

Best Beginner Telescope 

Meade Instruments – Infinity 70mm

The Infinity 70mm is designed for beginners, the 70mm f/10 Alt-Azimuth Refractor Telescope from Meade is intended to introduce viewers to astronomy by giving them a complete set up for viewing the Moon, planets, and meteor showers.

It includes an altazimuth mount with a built in slow-motion control rod, for easy and quick tracking of celestial objects. This 70 mm (2.8″) Altazimuth Infinity Refractor Telescope by Meade delivers bright images and it is ideal for viewing both land and celestial objects.

The Infinity 70AZ is one of the best telescope for viewing planets as it comes with two eyepieces: A 26mm eyepiece giving 27x and a 9mm one giving 78x. Meade also supplies a 2x Barlow allowing you to achieve 52x with the 26mm eyepiece and 156x with the 9mm eyepiece.

The telescope is offered with anti-reflection fully multi-coated optics. This enhances the ruggedness of the telescope, keeping the lenses functioning optimally. Even with the coating, the lenses allow in enough light to offer bright and crisp images. With fold-down rubber eyecups, the lenses are kept secure when the telescope is not in use.

Best Telescope For Viewing Planets

The Meade Instruments Infinity 70mm AZ Refractor also includes an auto start suite astronomy planetarium DVD which operates only on Windows PC. This software is made to guide the beginners to the basics of astronomy and instruct them how to use the telescope properly.

This planetarium DVD contains 10,000 celestial bodies to view and learn. This telescope also includes an accessory tray that holds the telescope’s accessories when observing and an infinite collection software.

The Infinity 70 will show you a lot of detail on the Moon, Mercury and Venus’ phases, as well as Jupiter’s cloud bands, the Great Red Spot, and its satellites, also the Saturn’s rings and its moon.

Pros:

  • High-quality images for a beginner telescope
  • Come with rack-and-pinion focuser
  • Strong and durable stainless steel tripod
  • Fold-down rubber cups to protect lenses
  • Images are correctly positioned
  • Easy to set up

Cons:

  • Not suitable for Nebulae & Galaxies

Best Dobsonian 

Orion SkyQuest XT6 Plus

The Orion SkyQuest XT6 Plus Dobsonian Telescope has been one of the favorite Dobsonian telescopes for many beginner adult astronomy enthusiasts. It’s sleek, user-friendly with sharp, powerful optics and point-and-view simplicity.

The scope is manufactured by Orion Telescopes & Binoculars which is one of the best telescope brands in the world. They have been around since 1975 because of their quality products and great value. 

They have a great range of telescopes and accessories for telescopes that are suitable for all age ranges and experience levels. 

The beautiful, eye-catching Orion SkyQuest XT6 Plus 6” Dobsonian Telescope is a must have if you are looking for a good telescope to see planets and galaxies.

The Orion SkyQuest XT6 Plus is an upgraded version of XT6 Classic Dobsonian with performance-boosting design enhancements and additional accessories.

SkyQuest XT6 Plus has a redesigned Dobsonian base with a sleeker, more streamlined look. The scope features weight-saving cutouts in the side panels that help make the base easier to move to and from observing sites. 

Best Dobsonian For Viewing Planets

A white trim band around the round base of the XT6 Plus base enhances visibility in the dark. 

An eyepiece rack is included that can hold up to three 1.25″ eyepieces, making it easy to store and swap between different oculars to vary the magnification of your observations.

The optical tube of the XT6 Plus, which sports an attractive “twilight blue” metallic finish, houses a 150mm parabolic (5.9″) mirror with enhanced-reflectivity (94%) aluminum coating for superior light transmission compared to standard mirrors. 

These impressive optics are not just perfect for a professional astronomer but it also makes it one of the best telescopes for beginners who are looking to fulfill their love for astronomy.

Its 1200mm focal length (f/8) provides this telescope with extraordinary magnifying power. 

With the help of its included 10mm Sirius Plossl eyepiece you can easily study the Moon’s cratered surface or Jupiter’s cloud bands at 120x.

Pros:

  • Affordable and budget friendly 6” telescope
  • Redesigned base with weight saving cutouts
  • Attractive “twilight blue” metallic finish
  • Easy, tool-free collimation adjustment
  • Highly visible white trim on base to work around in the dark

Cons:

  • Few main components are made of plastic
  • Not for astrophotography

Best Budget Telescope 

Celestron – AstroMaster 114EQ

The Celestron AstroMaster 114 EQ reflector telescope is a great beginner telescope for an adult or a teenager. It’s 4.5” mirror will provide clear and bright images of the Moon, the planets, and dozens of deep-sky objects like the Orion Nebula, the Andromeda Galaxy, the great star cluster in Hercules, and much more.

 It features all-glass optical elements, smooth operating steel tripod mountings with manual motion controls, and coated optics for enhanced image brightness and clarity. The quick-release, no-tool dovetail attachment makes setup a breeze. It’s all anchored by a rugged, pre-assembled tripod with 1.25-inch steel tube legs, providing a rigid and stable platform. 

Best Budget Telescope For Viewing Planets

The scope is outfitted with a 1.25 rack-and-pinion focuser and two eyepieces (20mm & 10mm) to get new users started, and an unmagnified red-dot finder to help set-up, align and navigate easier.

The Celestron AstroMaster 114 EQ reflector telescope comes with a 4.5” mirror as its light-gathering source, and with optics that large, an amateur astronomer can see millions of light years into the Universe.

With the telescope, you will also receive a wonderful piece of software with the Celestron AstroMaster 114 EQ reflector telescope. 

TheSkyX First Light Edition planetarium software can be loaded on your computer to help assist you with an observing plan. It has a 10,000 object database and enhanced images of celestial objects

Pros:

  • Easy to setup and use
  • Versatile telescope
  • Excellent optics for the price
  • Sturdy, retractable tripod
  • Portable

Cons:

  • Modest focuser
  • Not good for astrophotography

 

Best Telescope For Planet Photography

Celestron CPC 800 XLT 

The Celestron CPC 800 comes with its own SkyAlign feature by the NexStar Computer Control Technology. Simply follow the directions in the screen and wait for a few minutes while the system aligns to the chosen star or celestial body. 

This computerized telescope from Celestron comes with a solid build so you know it will last for years. The drive base and CPC tripod are constructed from sturdy materials which ensures plenty of stability no matter where you decide to set the telescope up.

The Celestron CPC 800 is state of the art fork-mounted Schmidt-Cassegrain scope. It includes the premium StarBright XLT coatings. 

It features an internal GS receiver, which downloads the date and time automatically from orbiting satellites, pinpointing its exact position on earth. 

The telescope has an 8 inch aperture. An 8 inch aperture guarantees that you will be able to view thousands of stars, planets and other deep space objects while the telescope is still portable enough for easy set-up and use.

Its SkyAlign technology allows you to align on any three bright celestial objects, making for a fast and easy alignment process and with a 9×50 optical finderscope it helps you look for your desired celestial objects.

It comes with a 1.25″ star diagonal along with a 40mm Plössl eyepiece that yields 51x magnification. The motorized dual-tine fork mount has dual-axis servo motors that provide precision movements and an integrated 16-channel GPS receiver that sends information to the hand controller and requires limited input from the user. 

The included stainless steel tripod helps reduce vibrations to ensure clear resolution during observation or imaging sessions.

The Celestron 800 XLT is one of the best telescopes for viewing and photographing planets and deep space objects because of its extraordinary optics and heavy-duty mount.

Additionally, it comes with sturdy handles that allow you to comfortably lift and move the telescope from one location to another. 

The large levers and knobs are easy to hold and use. 

It also comes with a star diagonal that provides a more comfortable viewing position when observing deep space objects.

The Goto feature works well once all objects are aligned, also the hand control is easy to use while the button layout is also easy to master. 

It’s convenient to be able to choose a variety of objects with the touch of a button. This means that even if you aren’t an expert on star names and constellations, you can still get to viewing right away. Also, needless to say, that the view from the scope is outstanding.

Pros:

  • Easy to setup and use
  • Amazing optics produce great quality images
  • Perfect for astrophotography and viewing deep space objects
  • The GoTo system is remarkable
  • Tripod and mount are both extremely steady
  • Light gathering capacity 843x greater than the human eye

Cons:

  • Bright power light
  • Doesn’t come with a power cord

Best APO Refractor

Sky-Watcher ProED

The Sky-Watcher ProED 100mm f/9 Doublet APO Refractor features a doublet apochromatic lens system with Extra-low Dispersion glass and Sky-Watcher’s proprietary photon anti-rejection Metallic High-Transmission Coatings on all air-to-glass optical surfaces

This combination of glass, lenses, and coatings virtually eliminates chromatic aberrations for clear and bright high-contrast images with true color rendition. 

This is a versatile optical tube assembly that is well suited for wide-field astronomical observation of prominent nebulae, star clusters and galaxies, or can be used as an astrograph for sky photography, a terrestrial spotting scope or telephoto lens.

The scope features an ED Schott glass, which is rare in many professional telescopes.

This Doublet APO Refractor Telescope comes with a 2” Crayford-style focuser which is one of the best focusers in telescopes as it is a Dual-speed one. A 1.25-inch adapter is also included along with it. 

best telescope for photographing planets

The Sky-Watcher ProED is one of the best  refractor telescopes for viewing planets in the market and it comes with several accessories to help you get observing faster and easier. First, are 2 long eye relief eyepieces that produce 30x and 120x magnification and a 90° star diagonal for more comfortable viewing. 

A large 8×50 erect-image finderscope to make finding your celestial objects faster and easier. The finderscope is fully-multicoated to ensure maximum brightness and contrast.

Additionally, Sky-Watcher provides a foam-lined aluminum carrying case to safely store and transport the OTA.

The Sky-Watcher ED-APO design assures virtual elimination of secondary, residual false color normally present in two-element achromatic lens designs using Crown and Flint glass

With ED APO Sky-Watcher refractor telescope, you’ll experience breathtaking high contrast views that have no equal to planetary and deep-space objects against pitch black skies.

The Sky-Watcher Pro Apochromatic Telescope has enough high contrast/high resolution optical performance to let you use it on an alt-azimuth or equatorial mount. 

It’s only 6.6 lbs., lightweight and doesn’t require a big and expensive mount, so it’s easy to afford and easy to take out and set up for observing on a moment’s notice. 

The Sky-Watcher ED-APO features a contrast-enhancing internal light baffles in the tube and focuser drawtube and a specially darkened tube interior providing dark sky backgrounds and high terrestrial contrast.

This apochromatic telescope comes with a dew shield which slows the formation of dew on the lens in cold weather to extend your undisturbed observing time.

Pros:

  • Best for professionals
  • Maximum magnification
  • Accurate in focus
  • 9×50 RA viewfinder
  • Two-inch dielectric diagonal

Cons:

  • Focuser slips with heavy eyepieces
  • Flimsy case

Best Portable Telescope 

Celestron – NexStar 127SLT 

The Celestron NexStar 127SLT is an entry-level GoTo telescope designed for anyone looking for a reliable telescope with which to enjoy the nighttime sky. 

The telescope features a 127mm aperture and Celestron’s SkyAlign technology, this telescope offers consumers good views. In addition, the telescope’s single fork arm and simple design make it easy to set up and use.

The scope’s focal length is 1500mm, and it has a focal ratio of f/12. As far as eyepieces are concerned, each Celestron NexStar 127 SLT telescope comes with a 25mm eyepiece and a 9mm eyepiece, having a maximum magnification of 167x with the default 9 mm eyepiece.

The Celestron NexStar 127 SLT telescope stands on top of a motorized Altazimuth mount, which can be controlled via the provided digital hand controller.

Alternatively, the mount can be hooked to a computer for increased precision. 

With preassembled, adjustable stainless steel tripods, and quick release fork arms and tubes, the NexStar 127 SLT telescope can be set up in a matter of minutes with no tools required.

The 127 SLT with its large aperture is great for viewing the surface of the moon, phases of Venus, rings of Saturn or Jupiter and its four largest moons, and other deep-space objects.

The Celestron NexStar 127SLT is also the best computerized telescope for viewing planets under $500 on our list.

The Celestron NexStar GoTo mounts are powered by eight AA user-supplied batteries, or an optional AC adapter, making them perfect as a travel telescope.

With Celestron’s SkyAlign Technology, aligning your telescope is fast and easy. Simply input the date, time and location (the CPC models have built-in GPS that does this for you) and then align the telescope to three bright stars of your choosing. 

You do not need to know the names of the stars, you can even pick the moon or bright planets. The NexStar computer system will automatically figure out which stars were chosen and then align the telescope. 

The 127SLT’s diagonal is a prism, and a nice one at that – unlike the cheap diagonals supplied with many entry-level scopes which are cheap mirrors that aren’t very flat, which tend to offer dim and fuzzier images.

Pros:

  • Super optical construction
  • Very easy to operate with
  • Compact and portable design
  • Included needed additional accessories
  • Suitable for lunar/planetary astrophotography

Cons:

  • 8 AA batteries required but not included
  • Tripod can be more stable

Best Grab and Go Option

Orion 10149 StarBlast 62mm

The highly portable Orion StarBlast APO refractor telescope can be used for almost any type of observing. 

During the day, you can insert the included 45° correct-image diagonal into the telescope to make it a perfect deck telescope for scanning the scenic horizon or wildlife. It’s great for catching sharp, detailed views of birds too. 

At night, the advanced 4-element, high resolution, fully multi coated optical design of the StarBlast 62 refractor will let you enjoy great views of the Moon and brighter planets like Jupiter and Saturn. 

Its substantial f/8.4 focal ratio provides sharp views of our planet’s celestial neighbors in the night sky.

The telescope features a 2.5-inch, four-element crown and flint glass objective, a focal length of 520mm, along with an extendable dew shield.

The StarBlast 62 comes with two Long Perng “Sterling” Plossl eyepieces, with 20mm and 4mm focal lengths providing 26x and 130x respectively

The metal lens cap is flock-lined and fits snugly, while plastic dust caps are provided for the drawtube, diagonal and all eyepieces.

Also included are a Crayford focuser, a Vixen-style dovetail mounting block and a high quality aluminum foam-lined case that does a great job protecting the scope and any accessories

The metal lens cap is flock-lined and fits snugly, while plastic dust caps are provided for the drawtube, diagonal and all eyepieces.

best telescope for photographing planets

Its compact size and a total weight of 3.1 lbs.makes it one of the best grab and go travel telescopes for viewing planets.

This 2.5-inch refractor telescope is ideally suited to bright objects such as the Moon, the planets, galaxies and nearby star clusters, but under good and dark conditions it’s also possible to see some fainter deep-sky targets.

The Orion StarBlast uses a long-focus achromatic (non-ED) objective lens in conjunction with a focal reducer/field flattener. The result is that the StarBlast 62 has very little chromatic aberration and basically no field curvature, making it extremely sharp at both low and high magnifications as well as being suitable for astrophotography. 

This high end instrument is also one of the best refractor telescope to see planets as its four-element lens design delivers exceptional contrast and resolution, within a smart-looking tube only 30 centimetres (12-inches) in length (with dew cap retracted).

To facilitate imaging, the package is rounded off with a T-threaded extension tube.

This can be screwed onto a T-ring adaptor to suit a DSLR camera, or into a dedicated astronomy camera.

The focuser is designed to fit standard 1.25-inch eyepieces and accessories, but also has a 42mm external thread, which means a number of other accessories can be attached.

Pros:

  • Wide field of view
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Easy to use
  • Compatible with high-quality accessories
  • Suitable for astrophotography
  • Perfect for beginners and families with children
  • Comes with a high end foam-lined travel case

Cons:

  • No finderscope
  • Doesn’t come with a tripod

Best Maksutov Cassegrain For Planets

Celestron – NexStar 4SE 

Celestron’s NexStar 4SE 125mm f/13 Maksutov-Cassegrain GoTo Telescope is a powerful, versatile, and user-friendly catadioptric-style scope that can be used for observing everything from the Moon and planets to bright deep-sky objects like stars, galaxies, and nebulae.

The 4SE also has an integrated “flip mirror” at the back, which means that there is a built-in star diagonal which can be retracted to allow light directly out of the back of the telescope and into a camera adapter, usually for a DSLR or mirrorless camera. 

Celestron’s NexStar 4SE’s big selling point for this model is the GoTo computer.

You can select from a database of 40,000 night sky objects. When you’ve picked a target, the motorized mount will slew the telescope around to point at the object you’ve chosen. 

Once in your eyepiece, the motor will track it as it moves across the sky so you don’t lose sight of it.

Theoretically, this is a great solution for the more casual backyard astronomer who is more interested in spending time outside seeing objects than finding them.

The 4SE’s 102mm aperture isn’t huge, but the portability of this rig far outweighs any size limitation. And Celestron’s nicely coated optics make the most of every photon fetched.

If you want to get your feet wet with astrophotography, the 4SE has a camera control option. It helps you take a series of long duration exposures with your DSLR camera. 

Just don’t try to hang a very heavy camera body on this little telescope; an oddly weighted mount won’t track well enough for sharp images.

Because it is a compound telescope, you are going to get picture-perfect images and a wide field of view. Of course, the StarBright XLT coating on the Celestron 4 SE helps, as does the inclusion of a 25 millimeter Plossl eyepiece that delivers 53 times magnification, as well as a 12.5 millimeter eyepiece that can be added to give you 100 times magnification. 

As a result, this one of the best telescope under 500 dollars will be powerful enough to capture impressive details of many objects in our solar system, including the Moon, Jupiter, Mars and other planets. 

Deep-sky objects, however, will appear less impressive than with a bigger aperture telescope.

The 4SE is so small and light, and the tripod folds so easily, you can quickly jump into almost any vehicle and drive to find dark skies. 

And someday, if you grow into a larger telescope, you’ll probably want to keep this one as a “grab-and-go” scope. It’s great for chasing solar eclipses in faraway locations where you can’t lug a lot of luggage.

Pros:

  • Very sharp optics
  • Quality mount with acceptable gearing
  • Acceptable aperture
  • Very stable
  • Good included low-power eyepiece
  • No collimation required

Cons:

  • Small aperture for the price

Best Telescope For Viewing Planets: Buying Guide

Buying a good telescope is an important step towards a new level of appreciation for the night sky, and the celestial bodies found within it.

Best Telescope For Viewing Planets

Before you buy your telescope for planetary viewing, you must determine what’s important to you. What do you most want to look at? How dark is your sky? What is your experience level as an astronomer? How much do you want to spend on your telescope? Where do you want to store your telescope and how much weight do you want to carry?

So before making a final decision, answer these key questions, familiarize yourself with what’s on the market, and you’ll be well on your way to choosing a telescope that will satisfy you for many years to come.

Features To Consider When Choosing A Telescope For Planetary Viewing

Aperture

The most important aspect of any telescope is its aperture, the diameter of its main optical component. A scope’s aperture determines both its light-gathering ability and its resolving power.

The aperture of a telescope is the diameter of the light collecting region, assuming that the light collecting region has a circular geometry . For an optical instrument, the aperture is the diameter of the objective lens (refracting telescope) or the primary mirror (reflecting telescope).

The larger the aperture, the more light the telescope can gather, and the fainter the limiting magnitude of the instrument. The field of view of the telescope decreases as the aperture increases, but the resolving power increases.

Focal Ratio

Focal ratio or the f/number, which describes the relationship between the focal length and the aperture.

You can work it out by dividing the focal length by the aperture; both of these figures should be in millimetres.

Let’s say you have a 130mm aperture instrument with a focal length of 900mm – its focal ratio will be ‘f/6.92’.

Like focal length, focal ratio can tell you a lot about a telescope: larger f/numbers imply higher magnification with a given eyepiece and a narrower field of view, smaller f/numbers the opposite.

Focal Length

The focal length is simply the effective distance from the lens or mirror to the focal point, where an eyepiece or camera would go.

Focal length is useful for two reasons: it’s the major determinant of useful magnification (which we’ll get onto in a moment) and it gives you a rough idea of what sort of field of view you can expect.

Smaller focal lengths deliver wider fields, so lean towards being better suited to observing large swathes of the night sky and for star hopping, while longer focal lengths offer narrower fields – perfect for planetary disc close-ups – and tend to allow you to use eyepieces with longer eye relief.

Magnification

Magnification of a telescope is actually a relationship between two independent optical systems: the telescope itself and the eyepiece you are using. To determine power, divide the focal length of the telescope (in mm) by the focal length of the eyepiece (in mm). By exchanging an eyepiece of one focal length for another, you can increase or decrease the power of the telescope.

Eyepieces

The eyepiece determines the magnification of the view through your telescope. Divide the focal length of your telescope by the focal length of the eyepiece to find the magnification. Eyepieces come in focal lengths ranging from 2mm to 56mm.

The highest useful magnification for a telescope is about twice the aperture size in mm. For example a telescope with a 150mm aperture is limited to a 300x magnification before the view will become too blurry. But this also depends on your atmospheric conditions while observing and on the quality of your optics.

Eyepieces come in 2 sizes: 1.25 inches and 2 inches. A 2″ eyepiece requires a 2″ focuser but a 1.25″ eyepiece is more versatile. It’s usually the higher end eyepieces that come in the 2″ size and they tend to be heavier and more expensive.

Types Of Mounts

There are two major types of mounts for astronomical telescopes: Altazimuth and Equatorial.

Altazimuth Mount

Altazimuth (sometimes called alt-az) is the simplest type of mount with two motions, altitude (vertical) and azimuth (horizontal): thus the name Altazimuth. Good Altazimuth mounts have slow-motion knobs for making precise adjustments, aiding smooth tracking across the sky. These type mounts are generally good for terrestrial observing and for scanning the sky at lower power but not for deep sky photography. Some Altazimuth mounts are now computer driven and allow a telescope to track the sky more accurately. This is generally good for visual use but can lose tracking on longer exposure astrophotography.

In addition to a standard Altazimuth, mounted on the top of a tripod, there is also the Dobsonian Mount.

Dobsonian Mount

The Dobsonian mount is a newer, modified version of the Altazimuth mount. Dobsonian mounts are mounted on the ground by a heavy platform, and designed to support massively sized Newtonian Reflectors, while keeping a steady image. It is common for Dobsonian telescopes to have very large apertures – anywhere between 6 and 20+ inches.

Equatorial Mount

Equatorial mounts are superior to non-computerized Altazimuth mounts for astronomical observation over long periods of time and absolutely necessary for astrophotography. As the earth rotates around its axis, the stationary stars appear to move across the sky. If you are observing them using an Altazimuth mount, they will quickly float out of view in both axes. A telescope on a properly aligned equatorial mount can be aimed at a celestial object and easily guided either by either manual slow-motion controls or by an electric motor.

Fork Mount

Most Catadioptric and other shorter optical tubes use this style mount, which is generally more convenient to use than the German mount, especially for astrophotography. A computer controls the telescope using an internal, digital equatorial drive to calculate the Altazimuth setting for the mount. This is the style of mount most commonly used in modern research telescopes.

Types Of Telescopes

There are 3 main types of telescopes:

Refractor Telescopes:

This is the classic design that most people picture when they think of a telescope. Light enters through a lens at the top of the telescope before bouncing off a diagonal mirror at the bottom to the eyepiece. Smaller aperture refractors can be found for a low price, but larger aperture designs quickly become very expensive.

Reflector Telescopes:

A reflector telescope contains a large concave mirror at the bottom of a tube which bounces light toward a secondary mirror at the top and then to the eyepiece. Larger reflectors may use an open truss design instead of a tube to save weight. A reflector is one of the most cost-effective designs that allows you to get the most aperture for your money. This is especially true if used with a dobsonian base.

Compound Telescopes:

A compound (or catadioptric) telescope is made with a combination of mirrors and lenses. It is the most complex type, but this usually results in a more compact and lightweight design compared to the others.

Conclusion

Our top pick for the best home telescope for viewing planets is the Celestron – AstroMaster 90AZ. It is a powerful, high-quality refractor telescope at an amazing low price. The telescope features 90mm (3.5″) aperture and 1000mm focal length for crisp views of deep-sky objects, the Moon, and planets.

The Celestron AstroMaster 90AZ Refractor telescope is a powerful and user-friendly refractor telescope. It features fully-coated glass optics, a sturdy and lightweight frame, two eyepieces, a StarPointer red dot finderscope and an adjustable tripod.

Orion 9024 AstroView is another pick for Best Refractor Telescope For Viewing Planets. A powerful, high-quality refractor telescope at an amazing low price. The telescope has a 90mm (3.5″) aperture and 910mm focal length for crisp views of deep-sky objects, the Moon, and planets

Includes an EQ-2 adjustable tripod and equatorial mount for manual slow-motion celestial tracking.

Our next Best Computerized Telescope For Viewing Planets is the Celestron – NexStar 6SE Telescope. Its 6-inch aperture with excellent light-gathering ability provides impressive views of the Moon and planets, along with deep sky objects like the Orion Nebula, while retaining a compact form factor.

Also, the fully automated GoTo mount with a database of 40,000+ celestial objects automatically locates and tracks objects for you.