Best Telescopes & Gear For:

Planetary Viewing

Planetary Viewing

One of the first things a new astronomer usually wants to look at through their new telescope is one of the planets.  Each planet offers something unique and different to observe: the cloud bands on Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, or the surface detail on Mars are just a few of the more popular planetary features to enjoy with your telescope.

Both aperture and focal length play a role in your planetary observing.  Larger aperture increases the maximum resolution of your telescope, while increased focal length increases the magnification of your telescope with a given eyepiece. There are practical limitations to both of these figures. For example, just because your telescope has a focal length of 2800mm, doesn’t necessarily mean it can support magnifying a target 700x.  The general rule of thumb is 50x of useful magnification per inch of aperture (or 2x per millimeter).  For example if you have a 10-inch aperture telescope, you will be able to magnify around 500x before your image will degrade due to atmospheric scintillation, or “seeing.”

Keeping these things in mind, if planetary viewing is what you desire most, we recommend one of our Maksutov-Cassegrain telescopes. They produce very sharp images like refractors (as they have small secondary central-obstructions) and tend to have longer focal lengths and tend to be significantly cheaper than a refractor. These will give you large apertures and long focal lengths for the least amount of money and the fewest transportation headaches. Refractors are also a good choice, although long-focal length, big-aperture refractors can be 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. They typically have shorter focal ratios than Maksutov-Cassegrain telescopes, but most are still long enough to provide high magnification of the planets.

Our Telescope Recommendations:

Celestron Omni 102mm Refractor (beginner)
Explore Scientific AR102mm Refractor (beginner)
Sky-Watcher USA Evostar 100mm Refractor (beginner)
Any of our Sky-Watcher USA Maksutov-Cassegrains (intermediate)
Any of the Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrains (intermediate/advanced)
TEC APO140ED Refractor (intermediate/advanced)

In addition to a great planetary telescope, you'll want some short focal length, high-magnification eyepieces. To calculate magnification, divide the focal length of the telescope by the focal length of the eyepiece. Remember when shopping for planetary telescope gear that you typically don't want to exceed much more than around 50x magnification for each inch of aperture of your telescope. So, if you have the Sky-Watcher 100mm Evostar refractor above (which is 4" diameter), you really don't want to go much above 4x50 = 200 power when magnifying your image. The focal length of the telescope is 900mm, so to achieve the maximum useful magnification, then a 4.5mm eyepiece would be ideal.

Our Planetary Eyepiece Recommendations:

Celestron 6mm Omni Plossl
Explore Scientific 4.7mm 82-degree eyepiece
Takahashi LE Series 5mm
Takahashi 6mm Abbe
TeleVue 3-6mm Nagler Zoom
TeleVue 5mm Nagler

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 when you live in the middle of a bright city.  It is hard to beat the planetary view produced by a long Maksutov under beautifully steady skies.  At Cloud Break Optics, we can help you find the best planetary telescope to enjoy these fascinating celestial targets.

OUR RECOMMENDATIONS FOR Planetary Viewing

  • 1.25" Barlows
    Tele Vue
    Regular price
    $128
    Sale price
    save $-128
    Unit price
    per 
  • 1.25" Omni Series Plössl Eyepieces (32, 40)
    Celestron
    Regular price
    $57.95
    Sale price
    save $-57.95
    Unit price
    per 
  • 1.25" Omni Series Plössl Eyepieces (4, 6, 9, 12, 15)
    Celestron
    Regular price
    $33.95
    Sale price
    save $-33.95
    Unit price
    per 
  • 1.25" Powermates
    Tele Vue
    Regular price
    $218
    Sale price
    save $-218
    Unit price
    per 
  • 2" Powermates
    Tele Vue
    Regular price
    $327
    Sale price
    save $-327
    Unit price
    per 
  • 82º Series Eyepiece 4.7mm 1.25" (Ar-Purged) (EPWP8247-01)
    Explore Scientific
    Regular price
    $199.99
    Sale price
    save $-199.99
    Unit price
    per 
  • Advanced VX 6 Refractor Telescope (22020)
    Celestron
    Regular price
    $1,439
    Sale price
    save $-1,439
    Unit price
    per 
  • Advanced VX 9.25 Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope (12046)
    Celestron
    Regular price
    $2,249
    Sale price
    save $-2,249
    Unit price
    per 
  • APO 140FL F/7 with Rings, Mounting Plate, and Case
    Telescope Engineering Company
    Regular price
    $8,345
    Sale price
    save $-8,345
    Unit price
    per 
  • CPC 1100 GPS Computerized Telescope (11075-XLT)
    Celestron
    Regular price
    $2,999
    Sale price
    save $-2,999
    Unit price
    per 
  • Ethos 8mm 100° Eyepiece
    Tele Vue
    Regular price
    $590
    Sale price
    save $-590
    Unit price
    per 
  • Evostar 120mm Doublet APO Refractor (S11130)
    Sky-Watcher USA
    Regular price
    $1,925
    Sale price
    save $-1,925
    Unit price
    per 
  • EvoView 80mm EvoStar Doublet APO Refractor on AllView Mount (S20160)
    Sky-Watcher USA
    Regular price
    $1,275
    Sale price
    save $-1,275
    Unit price
    per 
  • Nagler 3-6mm Planetary Zoom Eyepiece
    Tele Vue
    Regular price
    $410
    Sale price
    save $-410
    Unit price
    per 
  • Nagler Type 6 82° Eyepiece | 5mm
    Tele Vue
    Regular price
    $321
    Sale price
    save $-321
    Unit price
    per 
  • NexStar 6SE Computerized Telescope (11068)
    Celestron
    Regular price
    $799
    Sale price
    save $-799
    Unit price
    per 
  • Nexstar Evolution 8" EdgeHD with StarSense AutoAlign (12096)
    Celestron
    Regular price
    $2,349
    Sale price
    save $-2,349
    Unit price
    per 
  • Skymax Maksutov-Cassegrain 127mm (S11520)
    Sky-Watcher USA
    Regular price
    $435
    Sale price
    save $-435
    Unit price
    per 
  • Skymax Maksutov-Cassegrain 180mm (S11540)
    Sky-Watcher USA
    Regular price
    $1,200
    Sale price
    save $-1,200
    Unit price
    per 
  • Virtuoso (S11750)
    Sky-Watcher USA
    Regular price
    $280
    Sale price
    save $-280
    Unit price
    per