Best telescopes for viewing planets

Best Telescopes For Viewing Planets: Ultimate Guide

If you’re reading this article, then the allure of the night sky and the planets has fascinated you for some time. Now you’re ready to take the next step and purchase a telescope to give you that “birds eye view” to the celestial heavens. If that sounds about right, we’ve got you covered! In this article we’ll be reviewing the best telescopes for viewing planets and galaxies. Before we do, we’ll educate you on some of the key terms and features you should be aware when looking at telescopes.

So what are the best telescopes for viewing planets? Buying a telescope can be somewhat challenging if you don’t know what to look for.

That’s why, today, we’ll be showing you some of the best telescopes for viewing planets. We want to make sure that you understand the bells and whistles of each telescope as well, this way you know what you’re buying. Therefore, if you’re new to this world of telescopes, you’ll find our ultimate buyer’s guide to the best telescopes for viewing planets very helpful.

There will be a lot of information in this article, which is why we’ve taken the time to break everything down into simple sections for you. This way you can skip around if you need to. Those sections that we have in store for you are as follows:

  • Our ultimate buyer’s guide to the best telescopes for viewing planets
  • The top 5 telescopes for viewing planets
  • A brief recap of everything we’ve gone over

So now that you know what we’ll be going over, let’s get right into the best telescopes for viewing planets and galaxies

Our Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

Before we throw you right into the best telescopes for viewing planets, we definitely recommend paying close attention to this section. This is due to the fact that we’ll be going over some key terms around telescopes, and show you what to look for. You don’t want to jump into a product blind, right? So let’s take a look.

How does a telescope work?

We know that some of you aren’t armatures, but do you really know how a telescope works? In very basic terms, a telescope is a tool that captures light, and once captured, it uses mirrors to focus that light. From there, the light captured will travel into the tube of your telescope and reach your eyes. Once the light has made it through the tube, the eyepiece that you have will magnify the object that you’re trying to view.

This is how you see things through a telescope. To keep things simple, in theory, this is how a telescope works.

What does “aperture” mean?

One term you’ll definitely hear us using quite often when we show you the 5 best telescopes for viewing planets is aperture. This is a term that describes how much light your telescope will be able to collect. Think about it this way, if you have a large aperture, you’ll be able to see more of the object that you’re viewing. On the other hand, if you have a smaller aperture, you won’t be able to see as much or as deep into space as you may like.

The aperture size of a telescope is essentially what determines how much light it can gather. The larger the aperture, the more light it will collect.

What about optics?

Every telescope has optics, and when we show you the best telescopes for viewing planets, you’ll definitely notice this word come up a few times. So what does it mean? The good news is that it’s actually quite simple, and this is due to the fact that optics are a component that allows you to focus the light in your telescope. Once that light is focused, well, you can finally see the object.

Also, most telescopes will have things like:

  • Rings
  • Dials and focusers
  • Magnification
  • Special eyepieces

Keep in mind that these components are all designed to help you grab a better focus or zoom on the object that you’re viewing.

What about focal length?

Something that you also need to consider is the focal length of a telescope. In our list of the best telescopes for viewing planets, this is definitely something that you may hear quite a few times. This is why we want to break this down for you in a simple way.

The focal length, in short, the length between the mirror and the lens of a telescope. This length varies greatly depending on the types of telescopes, which we’ll get into in a moment, but for now this is really all you need to know.

What is a focal ratio (f/number)?

One thing you may hear quite a bit, especially when looking at the best telescopes for viewing planets, is the focal ratio. While this may seem like a complex math problem, this is not exactly the case. Yes, it’s a bit tricky, but all it calculates is the speed of the aperture. This number tends to be made up of a division of the focal length by the aperture.

One thing you may hear quite a bit, especially when looking at the best telescopes for viewing planets, is the focal ratio. While this may seem like a complex math problem, this is not exactly the case. Yes, it’s a bit tricky, but all it calculates is the speed of the aperture. This number tends to be made up of a division of the focal length by the aperture.

Check out this YouTube video from Orion Telescope that does a good job explaining how to choose a telescope:

What types of telescopes are there?

Now that you’re familiar with the key aspects of a telescope, it’s time to show you the different types. Trust us on this one, you should definitely pay close attention here. We did a comprehensive article, Astronomy Telescope Types, feel free to check it out once you’re done here. To summarize, here are the main telescope types you’ll see and hear about.

Refractor

A refractor telescope is one of the most common ones that you’ll find on the market, but they tend to be a bit pricey. This is due to the fact that they utilize a large lens located at the tip of the telescope, and this lens gathers massive amounts of light. Once the light is gathered, you can view objects through the eyepiece.

Compound

A compound telescope is essentially the best of both worlds. This telescope type has grown popular since the early 20th century, and features both a mirror and a lens. To be blunt, they boast a large aperture, and tend to be quite portable as well. Also, due to their design, compound telescopes also tend to be heavily resistant to things like dust.

A common phrase you’ll hear when dealing with compound telescopes on a professional level is Schmidt-cassegrain or Maksutov-cassegrain. These are essentially compact designs of compound telescopes.

Reflector

You can find reflector telescopes for amateurs, but even professional observers utilize massive reflector telescopes. This is due to the fact that they utilize a concave based mirror to gather and focus light that’s brought in.

One of the most common versions of a reflector telescope is the newtonian reflector. This telescope features a mirror towards the bottom of the telescope, and actually has the eyepiece located on the side. Oh, and by the way, this telescope was actually created by the man himself: Issac Newton.

Also, when it comes to professional telescopes, reflector telescopes are always a good choice. This is due to the fact that mirror based light collection is excellent at what it does, and the big names like the Hubble telescope are actually reflector based as well.

Telescope mounts

If you want to utilize the best telescopes for viewing planets, you’ll need to know how mounts work as well. This is due to the fact that telescope mounts will make sure that you have a stable experience. This is why we’ve set some time aside to show you a little bit about telescope mounts. Let’s take a look.

Before we jump into the two common types, let’s take a look at what exactly these mounts are capable of. A good mount will provide you with:

  • Vibration control
  • The ability to account for the rotation of the Earth
  • Low amounts of wiggle
  • The ability to guide the telescope to new locations with absolute ease

So before jumping into any old mount, keep these things in mind.

Equatorial telescope mounts

If you’ll be viewing one object for an extended period of time, this type of mount is the one you’ll need. This is due to the fact that you’ll only really need to adjust one axis for the duration, and that axis is actually based on the rotation of the Earth. So when push comes to shove, for professional telescopes, equatorial mounts are the way to go.

Also, when it comes to viewing the planets, something you’ll need to learn is proper alignment. This is where equatorial mounts come into play, because they can help you maintain focus for quite some time.

Alt-az (az) telescope mounts

These mounts are a bit different in that they move more freely. A good az mount will be great for beginners, in that they’ll help guide you at a slow pace, but it can be hard to view things like planets with these mounts.

Therefore, when it comes to the best telescopes for viewing planets, you’ll definitely want to consider an equatorial mount for your telescope.

The 5 Best Telescopes for Viewing Planets

Now that you’re fully equipped to make an educated decision it’s time to reveal our top picks. The telescopes featured below assume you have a reasonable budget and want to buy a telescope that will last you years to come. If you’re on a small budget ($500 or less), then we recommend you check out our article, Best Kids Telescope For Viewing Planets.

Below we’ve listed what we feel are the 5 best telescopes for viewing planets and galaxies. All the telescopes listed below are readily available on Amazon at great price points.

#1. The Meade LX-200-ACF

This telescope is definitely one of the best telescopes for viewing planets. Trust us on this one, you’ll find it hard to beat this Meade telescope for the price. So let’s take a look at what makes this telescope so great at what it does.

The features

The Meade LX-200 ACF definitely packs a punch when it comes to features. You’ll have plenty of power to view whichever planet you need, and it has a very good focal ratio.

Here is a look at the features that really standout:

  • It comes with a tripod that’s great for extended usage
  • 8 inch f/10 advanced optics (2,000mm focal length)
  • Extremely high transmission coatings to make sure there are no issues when it comes to clarity
  • 8×50 viewfinder
  • Quick release bracket
  • 26mm eyepiece
  • The Autostar GOTO system (version 2)
  • AutoStar software with over 145,000 objects to view
  • A 16 channel GPS system

Please keep in mind that these are only a handful of features that you’ll find with this telescope, so we definitely recommend checking out Amazon for the rest.

The price

To be blunt, the Meade LX-200 is not a cheap telescope. If you’re someone who wants to take viewing the planets seriously, though, this price should come at a relief. This is due to the fact that it’s priced out around $2,000. If you want to check the exact price, take a look on Amazon here.

Why you should buy this telescope

The Meade LX-200 is probably the best telescope for viewing the planets. Trust us on this, the features you’ll find are second to none. Now, with that being said, here is a look at our 3 favorite features:

  • Over 145,000 objects to view
  • The quick release bracket is a phenomenal tool
  • It comes with the best optic technology on the market

#2. NexStar 8SE

We’ve shown you the NexStar 4SE and NextStar 6SE in other posts, but now it’s time to bring out the big guns. The NexStar 8SE is definitely one of the best telescopes for viewing planets, and this is due to the fact that it comes with absolutely everything you need. Think of the NexStar 8SE as the big brother of the NexStar 4SE and 6SE.

The features

We could rant about this telescope all day, but we definitely want to show you why this is one of the best telescopes for viewing planets through its vast amount of features. So, without wasting any time, here is a look at what you get right out of the box:

  • 8 inch Smidt-cassegrain telescope
  • High transmission coatings
  • Star pointer finder that will help you make easy alignments
  • Tripod comes included, and it’s very sturdy
  • Computer controlled technology
  • SkyAlign technology makes it easy to line everything up
  • Servo motors make everything very stable
  • Compatible with GPS technology
  • You can upgrade the software
  • A database full of things to view with your new telescope
  • 40,000 objects ready to go
  • 2,032 focal length

Seriously, there is so much to this telescope that we could go on all day. For the rest of the features, be sure to check out the NexStar 8SE on Amazon.

The price

This is truly one of the best telescopes for viewing planets, and this is due to the fact that you get everything you need for about $1,000. When it comes to a good deal on a professional telescope, trust us on this one, this deal is fantastic. If you want to check the current price, check it out on Amazon here.

Why you should buy this telescope

NexStar telescopes are excellent at what they do. This is why the NexStar 8SE had to be featured on our list of the best telescopes for viewing planets. Here is a look at our 3 favorite features:

  • The ability to use GPS
  • The ability to access a database with over 40,000 objects
  • It comes with its own tripod

#3. MEADE LX90-ACF

we have another Meade product for you. Now, if you haven’t noticed, Meade does a great job when it comes to telescopes. So let’s take a look at why the MEADE LX90-ACF is one of the best telescopes for viewing planets.

The features

The MEADE LX90-ACF comes packed with some really great features, and you’ll definitely want to see what we have to show you. So let’s take a look at the features that make the MEADE LX90-ACF one of the best telescopes for viewing planets:

  • 2,000mm focal length
  • AudioStar bandbox to help guide you
  • Comes with it’s own tripod
  • 26mm eyepieces (1.25 inches)
  • High transmission coatings
  • GPS compatible
  • Batteries are included
  • A database of 30,000 objects to start viewing

Keep in mind that these are only a handful of the best features that we found, so if you want to check the rest you’ll have to head on down to Amazon here.

The price

The MEADE LX90-ACF is definitely one of the best telescopes for viewing planets, and a lot of this is due to the price. It’s a bit less expensive than the other Meade telescope that we’ve shown you, which means that it’s a better choice for those of you on a budget. If you want to check the price, head on over to Amazon here.

Why you should buy this telescope

There is a lot to like about this telescope, but here are 3 things that make it one of the best telescopes for viewing planets:

  • It’s not as expensive as some the other Meade telescope we’ve shown you
  • It has some of the best optics technology on the market
  • It comes with a full one year warranty

#4. Zhumell Z12 Deluxe Dobsonian 

The Zhumell reflector telescope is truly one that will knock your socks off at a good price. We definitely believe that this is one of the best telescopes for viewing planets, and the features will truly speak for themselves. So let’s get right down to it.

The features

The Zhumell Z12 has a lot to like about it, and that’s due to its portable size and great viewing capabilities. Now, with that being said, let’s take a look at some of the features that make the Zhumell Z12 telescope one of the best telescopes for viewing planets:

  • Dual speed Crayford focuser
  • Adjustable balancing
  • Very portable
  • A laser collimator to make sure that your telescope is perfectly aligned
  • A finderscope
  • Cooling fan
  • 30mm 2 inch eyepiece and a 1.25 inch 9mm eyepiece
  • A moon filter
  • 12 inch mirror for excellent might capturing capabilities

The price

The main reason that the Zhumell Z12 is one of the best telescopes for viewing planets is due to the price point. You can get everything you need for under $1,000. If you want to check the current price, please feel free to check it out on Amazon here.

Why you should buy this telescope

The Zhumell Z12 is truly one of the best telescopes for viewing planets. You’ll find so many great features, but here are our favorites:

  • The cooling can
  • A moon filter in case you want to turn your sights onto the moon
  • The 12 inch mirror truly gobbles up light

#5. Sky Watcher ProED 80mm (Refractor)

If you’re someone who is looking to view the planets on a budget, trust us on this one, this telescope is definitely a great choice. This is why we consider the Sky Watcher ProED 80mm as one of the best telescopes for viewing planets, because it comes with everything you need at a bargain price.

The features

Simply talking about this telescope is great, but we also want to go over some of the features as well. So let’s take a look at some of the features that make the Sky Watcher ProED 80mm one of the best telescopes for viewing the planets on a budget:

  • 600mm focal length
  • 1.25 inch eyepieces (20mm and 5mm)
  • 2 inch Crayford focuser
  • Tube based attachment hardware (ring)
  • Optimal light through-put approaching 99.5%

Please keep in mind that these are only a handful of the features that you’ll find, so you’ll have to head on over to Amazon to check the rest.

The price

As we mentioned earlier, this telescope truly has everything you need on a budget. This is due to the fact that this telescope is usually priced around $650, but if you want to check the exact price, you can find the Sky Watcher on Amazon here.

Why you should buy this telescope

The Sky Watcher ProED 80mm may not be the most expensive telescope, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not one of the best telescopes for viewing planets. So here is a look at our 3 favorite features:

  • Perfect for astro-photography
  • 2 choices when it comes to eyepieces
  • It’s very affordable

So as you can see, when it comes to the best telescopes for viewing planets, it really comes down to the features you’re looking for and your preference. We hope we’ve made it a bit easier.

Best Telescope for Viewing Planets – Recap

We know that we really chewed your ear off in this one, but we just want to make sure that you have the tools you need to succeed. Sure, it’s one thing to show you the best telescopes for viewing planets, but it’s also important that you know what the astronomy jargon means as well.

Now, with that being said, please feel free to use this guide as a point of reference. We know that it’s a lot to handle, so if you ever need to come back again please be sure to do so.

The best telescopes for viewing planets, the ones that we’ve shown you at least, are all excellent telescopes. When push comes to shove, what really matters is your preference. So please take the time to consider the type of telescope you need for your viewing habits.

Now that you’ve seen the 5 best telescopes for viewing planets, which one will you use to explore the universe? Let us know!

Some additional reading…

We’ve compiled a short-list below of more articles you may find interesting:

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