The best telescope for viewing planets is not necessarily what you would expect it to be.
Some telescopes are ideal for looking at ground based objects, but not so good at the sky, some telescopes are best for viewing deep sky objects, like galaxies and nebulae, so finding the best telescope for viewing planets is not so straightforward.
So which telescopes offer the best all round performance for viewing planets? The ones with the longest focal length, in the shortest tube, are designated Catadioptric telescopes, which bounce light two or three times inside the tube, giving focal lengths of 1000mm or more.
Top 3 Telescope For Viewing Planets
The following 3 Catadioptric telescope are the ones I would recommend.
Best Budget Compound: Orion 10022 StarMax 90mm TableTop Telescope
The best one for you depends on your budget, the Orion Starmax 90mm tabletop telescope is a small telescope that won’t break the average budget and has an impressive 1250mm focal length.
Two eyepieces are included, of 25mm and 10mm, and if you have a secure enough table, it’s a great item for the money, but to get the most from it, you may want to get a good quality tripod. A barlow lens would also be worth investing in. Read the Full Review
Orion 8945 SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope
Going up in price a bit, the Orion Skyquest XT8 is a massive Dobsonian telescope, with a 1200mm focal length, and a big 8″ aperture.
Dobsonian telescope feature rock-solid mounts, and will last a lifetime, but can be more difficult to move around because of their sheer size. They are easily to upgrade, and again, a Barlow lens would be worth adding to this telescope. Read the Full Review
Meade 1645-05-03 LightBridge 16-Inch Truss Tube Dobsonian Telescope
Image source: meade.com
If you can afford it, the Meade 16″ Dobsonian telescope is probably the best telescope for viewing planets that can be considered by anyone other than the very serious astronomers.
It’s a huge item, but can still be broken down to fit in the back of the average car. Read the Full Review
How To Choose
The first lesson to learn here is to ignore the advertised maximum magnification which you will often see on a telescope. Although you could theoretically magnify a planet by 500x with a fairly cheap telescope, the image would just be a blur, not worth looking at. What you want to know is the maximum practical magnification, and that is something entirely different.
As well as power not being everything, it is also not as important to get the maximum aperture size. When viewing deep space objects, the bigger the aperture, the better, as you are gathering as much light as possible.
But for viewing planets, it’s not so important, and in fact a very big aperture telescope, looking at a relatively close object like a planet, may suffer from too much atmospheric disturbance.
What is important is the focal length, and the best telescope for viewing planets will be the one with the combination of the longest focal length, and after that, the biggest aperture, all within your budget.
You also want a rock – solid tripod to hold your telescope as still as possible. Many expensive telescopes are not used to their full potential because images shake around too much, due to a flimsy tripod, or mount.
The eyepiece size is another important consideration. Many telescope come with two or three eyepieces included, usually of 20mm, 10mm, and 4mm. The 20mm eyepiece will give you a wider field of view at lower magnification; the 4mm eyepiece will give you a very small field of view at a high magnification.
Adding a Barlow lens, which some telescopes include, can double or triple magnification, and if you do not get a Barlow lens with basic kit, it is well worth investing in one.