The planet Saturn has rings around it which make it more unique in our solar system. The rings are the reason for many astronomers curiosity. I am also very curious about it. So, I always search for a better way to examine the rings.
Through my research, I learned something very interesting about what power telescope to see Saturn rings. So, I’m sharing my thoughts with you right here.
How Far is Saturn from Earth
Before knowing about the power telescope that you need for viewing Saturn, let’s talk about the distance of the planet from the Earth. The distance actually varies from time to time as both planets have elliptical orbits.
So there is a minimum and a maximum distance to measure. The minimum distance between the Earth and the Saturn is 1.2 billion kilometers or 746 million miles. This is a huge distance.
For example, if you could drive a car to Saturn with a speed of 60 miles/hour, it would take you about 1,419 years to reach the planet.
And the longest distance between the Earth and the Saturn is 1.7 billion kilometers or over 1 billion miles. This is 11 times greater than the distance between the Earth and the Sun. Details from here about that.
A Few Details about the Saturn’s Rings
The total Saturn rings number is 7. Four of them are considered as the main rings, while the other three are narrower and fainter ring groups. All the ring groups have a gap in between. The gaps are called divisions.
A Saturn rings close up view by the Voyager spacecraft showed some Saturn rings pictures. From the picture, it is seen that each ring group is made of thousands of smaller rings.
The rings are extraordinarily thin with only one kilometer of thickness. But the Saturn rings diameter is 250,000 kilometers or more. Recently the Saturn rings color has been discovered by the Cassini Spacecraft. It showed some hues of grey with a bit of pink and brown colors.
Now let’s see what the Saturn rings are made of. They contain a lot of small particles that are even micrometer in size. The rings’ particles are made of mostly water ice. But they contain some rocky materials too.
What is More Important, Magnification or Light Gathering?
It’s not the magnification power of a telescope that is important to view the Saturn’s rings. Rather it is the capability of a telescope to gather light which is more important.
If you think about how a telescope works, you can see it works by gathering the rays of the lights that come from an object and focusing them in an eyepiece. The magnification power automatically increases if the light gathering capability is high.
So, to view the rings, a telescope must be able to capture the rays of the light that is coming from the surface of the rings. For this, a telescope must have a substantial light gathering capability.
Through my research, I found that a telescope that has a 4-inch aperture or higher is the best one to view Saturn’s rings. Let’s see what is so good about such telescope.
Why a 4-inch Aperture (or Higher) Telescope Is So Good?
If you increase the size of aperture or objective of a telescope, the light gathering capability of the telescope will also increase. In simple words, you can see better with a telescope if it has a higher aperture.
I have done some research on this and I have found that if you use a telescope with 4-inch (or higher) aperture, you can easily see the rings of the planet Saturn. In short, we can say:
“Higher Aperture = More Gathering of Light = Easily & Clearly Visible Ring”
The Magnification Power of a Telescope
The magnification power depends on the size of the aperture. There is a simple formula that you can use to find out the Maximum Usable Magnification (MUM factor) power of a telescope.
The formula is:
“MUM Factor = 50 x Aperture Size”
So if you have a 4-inch aperture that means you have a telescope with 4 x 50 = 200 MUM factor or magnification power.
As you know you need at least 4-inch aperture to see rings of the Saturn, so you should have a telescope with minimum 200 magnification power. The higher the magnification power the higher will be the size of the aperture.
Reflector Vs Refractor Telescope
A refractor telescope uses a few lenses in a series. There is a convex lens in the start point which is called the objective lens. This lens is coordinated with an eyepiece. By this arrangement, the main object will be amplified a lot so that you can see the details. It is used to view beaches, the moon, mountains, close planets, landscapes, etc.
On the other hand, a reflector telescope uses mirrors to amplify the object you want to see. There might be multiple or single mirrors used here and the mirrors are curved. The curve helps to get a detailed image. You can view deep space constellations, distant planets, star clusters, and nebulas by using this telescope.
So, it is clear that to see the Saturn rings you need a reflector telescope.
The Telescope That I Use
I know that the better option to view distant planets like the Saturn is to use a reflector telescope. And so I use the Celestron 31042 AstroMaster myself. The reason I use it is that it has a 4.48 aperture size which is really good for viewing the Saturn.
It also includes a red dot finder scope, two 1.25 inches eyepieces of 10 mm and 20 mm and a starry night astronomy software. They help to see every detail of the ring of the Saturn very clearly and I find it quite eye soothing.
In short, the answer to what power telescope to see Saturn rings is very simple. You need a reflector telescope with an aperture size higher than or equal to 4 inches. I hope this article was helpful to you.