Many of us marvel at the idea of sailing across the deep skies, soaking in the beauty of the solar system and beyond.
However, getting into astronomy with a telescope that cannot view the planets is like eating bread without butter.
Of course, most of the planets in our solar system, namely Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, are already visible to the naked eye from the earth.
Even with a decent pair of binoculars, you can make out the rings of Saturn.
But if you’re looking to relish the complete beauty of the planets and our galaxy, you must be ready to purchase the best telescope for viewing planets.
You see, each planet provides something different and unique to observe, like the surface detail on Mars, the rings of Saturn, or the cloud bands on Jupiter.
With a telescope for viewing planets, you can easily observe planets and other deep space objects in much more fascinating detail and clarity than you would with the naked eye or with binoculars alone.
But, what magnification do you need for a telescope for planet viewing?
To help you make the right choice for your planetary viewing, we’ve combed the internet to bring you the top five models.
Our picks are based on key criteria such as focal length, aperture size, eyepiece, mount, and so much more.
Table of Contents
The Best Telescopes for Viewing Planets and Galaxies For The Money
#1 Celestron NexStar 8SE Telescope - EDITOR'S CHOICE
Some scopes have not only stood the test of time but have become genuinely iconic.
One such scope is the NexStar 8SE.
First introduced in the 1970s, this Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope packs a good sized aperture into a compact package and at an affordable price.
It has the most advanced features over and above the older versions, such as the NexStar 6SE and 4SE.
For example, it integrates a simple hand control, a large database, and a sky visit highlight.
And there’s more to this scope!
Features and Benefits
The first thing you’ll notice with the scope’s design is the short tubing.
Now, it’s easy to think the scope is meant for short-range space observation, but it’s quite the opposite.
The NexStar 8SE packs some of the most advanced optical features, which excels in both long-range and short-range viewing, but we shall get back to that later.
With dimensions of 42 by 23.7 by 13 inches the scope is quite petite, especially in comparison with the average Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes. The modest dimensions, along with a decent weight of 40 pounds, will allow you to store, carry, and haul the scope effortlessly.
We also love the sturdy build quality, which can take on a few odd knocks out in the field without you paying much of a price for it.
Optics and magnification
The design of a telescope comes first, but the main features of every scope are its aperture size and capacity.
This superb option has an 8-inch aperture with a focal power of 2,032mm. The 8SE’s optical dimensions are pretty standard at this price range. However, they’re also fantastic with their viewing capabilities.
According to the manufacturer, the 8SE gathers approximately 78% more light than the 6SE model. It’s true, because users can now make out different celestial bodies even on terrible rainy and mostly cloudy days, or even from behind tinted glass.
The scope gathers celestial light even in terrible viewing conditions and will let you spot nearly every celestial body in our solar system.
This includes Mercury and Venus’ phases, Mars’ ice caps and dust storms, Jupiter’s bands and its moons, the rings of Saturn, and even Neptune and Triton.
However, the 8SE’s viewing capabilities can only go so far as it can’t spot Pluto, or rather show the planet in detail as users would love to see. To view Pluto, you’ll require a much bigger scope and a lot of patience.
Also, for even more remote planets such as Uranus and Neptune, you might not get all the details you would wish other than a point of light, like a star but with a definite diameter.
The 8SE, with a star align feature, is a delight for beginners.
You don’t have to know about any stars because the scope helps you to find thousands of different stars and constellations without worrying about searching for them yourself.
And that’s not all!
The scope has an impressive database of more than 40,000 objects, so you’ll never run out of options on the number of celestial bodies you can view.
#2 Orion SkyQuest XT10i - Best Budget Pick
Our runner up, the Orion SkyQuest XT10i, is an advance on the Classic XT10 scope.
It’s completely different from the original model due to the fact that it has a built-in computer.
But, apart from the built-in data system, this Dobsonian scope is one of the affordable “large aperture” scopes for visual astronomy.
With a powerful 10″ primary mirror, the scope offers a ton of bang for your buck, and will let you see nearly all the planets and galaxy systems with the utmost clarity.
Features and Benefits
The Orion SkyQuest XT10i is designed with a Dobsonian framework. That’s why many users find it easy to fit the structure on any flat surface, including your table or window sill.
The scope is also a striking beauty, with a shiny gray color finish giving it a unique look, which makes the scope different from others aesthetically as well.
For visual astronomy, we generally recommend the largest aperture you can afford, provided you’re comfortable with the scope’s size and portability.
A larger aperture translates to better light collection ability, making it easier to see fainter, more distant objects in the sky.
Fortunately, the SkyQuest’s large 10-inch mirror opens up the skies in a way that is simply not possible with smaller telescopes.
For example, when viewing objects within our solar system, it’s easy to see most planets’ stunning details, including amazing views of Jupiter and its moons, and the halo ring on Saturn.
Beyond the planets, this scope also makes it easy to view other stunning details of random objects in the sky, including the outer space nebulas, galaxies, stars, and the moon.
IntelliScope object locator
The Orion SkyQuest XT10i isn’t a motorized scope but it has plenty of similarities with the ‘GoTo’ scopes.
We prefer to call it a ‘Push-to-Scope’ because it’s not motorized, and instead lets you perform a two-star alignment to achieve a bearing.
You simply enter the celestial object you want to see, and the Intelliscope will guide you as you push the scope.
Though not as convenient as the ‘GoTo’ system, the object locator is impressively accurate if carefully calibrated against reference stars.
For me, though, I prefer finding objects myself because it gives me a lot of satisfaction and pleasure.
The only fault we found with the system is it doesn’t track objects, but only searches and finds any of the included 14,000 catalogs.
Easy to use “point & view” design
The Orion SkyQuest XT10i, with a smooth mounting system and sturdy base, is super intuitive and easy to use.
Plus, it features a “CorrecTension” consisting of friction pads and springs that maintain the balance’s scope until you need to acquire a new target.
The base sits right on the ground, eliminating the need for a tripod. You’ll also never need to bother with different knobs or slow-motion controls to point the scope where you want it to look.
#3 Sky-Watcher EvoStar 120 APO - Premium Pick
Third on our list of the best telescopes for viewing planets is a product by the Sky-Watcher brand.
Sky-Watchers are not as common as Celestron or Orion products, but more so than other high-performance telescopes.
The EvoStar, popularly known as the ProEd, is our premium pick and among the most expensive scopes on the market.
For me, it’s equivalent to the high-end of the Celestron range. Similar to how a Lexus is the high-end of the Toyota line.
And it’s easy to see how exquisite the scope is by its higher quality optics, a smooth Crayford focuser, and neat paint finish along with a generally high level of attention to detail.
But, is it worth the high price tag?
Features and Benefits
Part of the reason ProEd comes with a lofty price tag are the classy and truly professional design and mechanism.
Unlike many other telescopes, this option is designed of cast aluminum and coated with a glossy white and black color.
Overall, the scope is well made. It’ll even stand up to regular abuses such as occasional hits and falls without bearing the scars.
The ProEd’s design appeals to professional astronomers, though every sort of sky viewer can use it.
The ProEd has everything you need to get a detailed view of the heavens.
First, it is not a mirror telescope, but rather a refractor lens with 120mm aperture along with a 900mm focal length capacity.
Like many 120mm scopes, the ProEd gathers up to four times more light than the common 60mm design, so everything is brighter, and many previously unseen stars start to appear.
For example, it’s easy to clearly distinguish the rings of Jupiter from the actual planet itself. While details of the rings are not as clear as those published in books taken from the NASA scope, they’re still visible. It’s even easy to make out the stripes, spot, and four moons.
If watching the galaxies is your primary motivation, you’ll love ProEd’s optics as they let you see many nebulae and other deep space objects with relative ease.
And that’s not all!
You can say goodbye to the violet tint you’re accustomed to seeing on most stars in the same diameter achromat.
This is because the scope has a unique ED (Extra-low dispersion) technology double lens that offers the best color correction. It eliminates any form of chromatic aberration, allowing you to see the objects in their true forms, state, and color.
True to its premium price tag, the ProEd comes in a complete package, with everything you need to take a tour of the skies.
Our favorite accessory, though, is the dual-speed Crayford-style focuser, which makes it easy to find focus, regardless of the eyepiece or camera you’re using.
Other fantastic accessories include a foam line hard aluminum case, LET eyepiece, mounting rings, adapter, and V-style dovetail.
#4 Orion 9024 AstroView 90mm Scope - Best Value Purchase
The high-quality optics, coupled with a bargain price, make the Orion AstroView one of the best value purchases for beginners looking to venture into astronomy.
Experienced astronomers, though, might have an issue with a mount that doesn’t meet their demands. But the quality optics, premium eyepiece, and affordable price tag make up for the shortcomings of the EQ-2 mount for most people.
Features and Benefits
Many budget-level telescopes cut corners with the body design, but this is not the case with Orion products.
With a solid and high-quality build, the Orion is manufactured using top-level materials.
It’s pretty sturdy and not clunky. It also feels like a premium option, and we love that it can easily weather a lot of abuse without breaking.
The compact design is also a plus to the overall product as it enhances the scope’s overall portability.
The Orion Astroview, with a 90mm aperture and a focal length of 910mm, is a great telescope for the moon, planets, and other bright targets.
However, it suffers from the limitations of any 90mm aperture, namely it’s not enough for deep-sky viewing.
However, it doesn’t mean that deep-sky objects are out of the question. However, considering the field of view and relative power of the scope, the best images you’ll view are those closer celestial objects.
It has some visible chromatic aberration, but it’s not enough to impact the sharpness of the images by a measurable amount.
I find the limited aperture a non-issue, considering this is a telescope tailored for those who are specifically interested in viewing the planets and objects closer to our solar system.
Overall, the images are indeed crisp and clear, which is exactly what you would want from a beginner telescope.
The AstroView’s equatorial mount makes it easy to track celestial objects as they transition through the night sky.
It’s an easy-to-use system since once you’ve located an object in the night sky, and it’s easy to keep it in your field of view by simply turning a knob.
Overall, the tracking is smooth and accurate.
The only limitation of the system is the aluminum tripod. We would have preferred a steel tube tripod as it’s sturdier.
However, depending on where you plant the legs of the tripod, you might find it’s sturdy enough. Plus, it also comes with an accessory tray for easily storing the accessories close at hand.
The AstroView comes packed with plenty of accessories, but one that particularly captured our attention is the viewfinder.
It makes it a lot easier to locate what you want to see.
And, contrary to many budget options with a flimsy viewfinder, the guys at Orion have done a great job providing an accessory that does its job well.
#5 Celestron SkyProdigy 130 26×345 Telescope - Smartest Option
The SkyProdigy 130 is considered one of the smartest telescopes on the market. It’s a revolutionary scope, delivering groundbreaking technology.
For example, it combines electronic motors, an intelligent on-board computer system, StarAlign, and so much more.
Yet, it’s simple to use, and beginners, including kids, will savor every moment with the scope. The operation of the SkyProdigy 130 is based on a simple push button.
Features and Benefits
The SkyProdigy 130 is the perfect pick for users who value simplicity.
It’s made for astronomers who don’t want to waste their time with manual settings, and would rather deal with something automated.
The SkyProdigy 130 offers a one-touch solution, so it’s very easy for you to become an astronomer.
This straightforward technology utilizes an integrated imaging camera and patented StarSense technology, which automatically aligns the night sky’s scope.
A beginner doesn’t have to know the sky because their coordinates are determined for them, and the scope will let you know where you’re pointing.
Using the hand controller’s database, astronomers can select any celestial body, placing the scope into the most accurate position.
And that’s just part of what the scope can do.
It will go even further to take photos of the night sky with the camera, internally store the data, and positively identify the stars displayed in the image.
Overall, it saves you a lot of the inconvenience and hassle that comes with orienting your telescope manually or even determining the stars or planets.
In terms of viewing quality, this telescope is also fantastic.
It comes with a 5.7-inch reflector aperture packed with a 26-inch focal length.
The scope has excellent light-gathering capabilities and will allow you to view even the faintest detail with greater clarity.
To give you an idea of its performance, users can easily make out the rings and the four moons of Jupiter, observe the cloud dust on Mars, and see the Halo ring on Saturn.
The images are clear and detailed, and you should have no problem identifying even Nebulae or objects away from our solar realm.
The SkyProdigy 130 includes astronomy software, which already has a 10,000 item strong database.
Of course, the database is underwhelming, especially compared to what we saw on our top pick, but it’s unlikely you will exhaust all the listed objects. Plus, the database is accompanied by 75 enhanced images and print-like maps.
Other worthy accessories include two additional eyepieces and an over 30-hour battery backup.
Best Telescopes for Viewing Planets and Galaxies Buying Guide
With so many options and features to consider, choosing a telescope for viewing planets and galaxies can be a hard call.
Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about the selection because we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide outlining everything you should know about selecting a telescope for your planetary viewing.
Factors to consider when selecting the best telescope for viewing planets and galaxies
The aperture is by far the most critical metric for choosing any telescope, regardless of what you’re viewing.
The aperture of the scope refers to the diameter of the primary lens or mirror.
Scopes with larger lenses allow more light to flood into the scope, consequently providing better image quality.
If you’re interested in viewing planets crisply and clearly, the best scope will have a decently large aperture of at least 80mm.
However, we recommend using a telescope with an aperture of at least 100mm or 120mm for moon viewing.
The focal length refers to the distance light has to travel from the front of the telescope to the back.
It also affects the viewing capability since longer focal lengths offer more focused and narrower images of objects, while a short focal length provides a wider field of view.
When choosing a telescope for planetary viewing, we recommend picking those with a longer focal length because it makes the planets larger while also offering much greater detail.
If you plan to observe Saturn, the moon, or any other planet, you’ll want to go with an option with a minimum focal length of at least 1,000mm.
Can you see galaxies with a home telescope?
It’s possible to see galaxies with a home telescope, but several factors must be considered.
And, of course, the atmospheric conditions have an impact when it comes to galaxy observation.
Unlike planets, galaxies are deep-sky objects, or rather DSOs, and are beyond our solar system. They’re far away and it takes a good amount of patience to observe them with a home telescope.
But don’t get frustrated just yet.
For optimal observation, there are two main features your scope needs to be high quality, namely aperture and optical quality.
Your scope should have an aperture of at least eight inches to see galaxies clearly.
Another element is the darkness of the sky. You will get better, more realistic views if your vision isn’t obstructed or affected by unnecessary light. So, always opt for a dark and clear sky.
Keep away from light-polluted areas such as cities. In some cases, light pollution filters can help with eliminating the pollution.
How big a telescope do you need to see galaxies?
Size doesn’t matter for galaxy viewing.
Instead, the aperture size, magnifying capability, and total body weight play a crucial role when deciding what telescope to go for.
For instance, as we saw earlier, the aperture size determines the amount of light a scope can gather. If you upgrade your scope to the next level, the light-gathering capabilities increase so you can see galaxies even more clearly.
What magnification telescope do I need to see planets?
It’s vital to understand that magnification alone cannot guarantee a clearer view.
Telescopes tend to magnify viewing objects, but, at the same time, atmospheric turbulence is also increased. Over-magnifying can backfire in some cases, and the light may spread more, making the images blurry and lifeless.
Magnification is significant, but before deciding the type of magnification you need to see planets, you should note some important factors that work along with magnification.
The rule of thumb is to keep the magnification range within 50 times the aperture length. This means for a six-inch scope, you should go for a maximum of 300x magnification.
As for minimum magnification, go for the 20x to 40x range.
But, what magnification do you need for specific planets?
Here’s a breakdown of some of the planets and their recommended magnification ranges.
We omitted Mercury and Venus from the list because they’re quite challenging to observe with home telescopes.
For instance, observing Mercury will require you to use a solar filter for your scope. At the same time, Venus requires a lot of patience and usually hides behind a thick cloud. Venus is also best viewed during the day.
Wrap Up: Our Choice
Our list of the best telescopes for viewing planets and galaxies is exciting and has some formidable options.
However, we feel it’s unlikely you’ll go wrong with our top pick, the Celestron NexStar 8SE Telescope.
This option is truly amazing and isn’t limited to the solar system observation but extends to deep space views.
Celestron NexStar 8SE’s optics are pretty amazing, too, and will treat you to detailed and clear images of the planets and galaxies.
Even better, the scope comes at a reasonable price, yet its performance is identical to premium picks.