In this guide we’ll look at the best telescopes for viewing planets & galaxies.
We’ve compared image quality, portability & magnification and cost
to give you our top recommendations.

What Are The Best Telescopes for Viewing Planets and Galaxies?

IMAGE RECOMMENDED PRODUCTSPRODUCT FEATURES
  • Fully automated
  • Compact design
  • Schmidt-Cassegrain model
  • Quality optics
  • Great for astrophotography
  • Durable and low-maintenance
  • Sharing In Real-Time
  • Compact and Portable
  • Ideal for Beginners
  • Great for beginners
  • Very portable
  • Most affordable
  • Compact and Portable
  • High-Quality 20mm Eyepiece
  • Ideal for Beginners
  • Large (8”) aperture
  • Sturdy Dobsonian design
  • Variable altitude tension knobs

More Detailed Telescope Reviews

Celestron NexStar 5 SE Telescope

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  • Fully automated
  • Compact design
  • Schmidt-Cassegrain model
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Celestron NexStar 5 SE Telescope Review

The Celestron NexStar boasts a fully automated GoTo mount with a vast database (containing 40,000+ celestial objects); this scope makes it easy to locate and track whatever catches your eye. SkyAlign technology further simplifies the process of aligning your scope and getting started.

This scope has an aperture of 4.92” (125mm), a generous size that collects plenty of light to illuminate dim, faraway objects. It has a long focal length of 1250mm and a focal ratio of f/10.

As you’ll notice, this is a longer f/ratio than the other telescopes on my list. This makes the Celestron especially good for high-power observation, such as lunar and planetary viewing. However, you can also spot things like the Orion Nebula—this scope is a good all-around performer.

The Celestron is great for beginners. And, weighing in at only 27.6 pounds when fully assembled, it’s also a good choice for more experienced astronomers who want a convenient, compact, grab-and-go model. It’s portable and can be dissembled into even smaller, lighter-weight pieces.

One final thing to note: This scope is a Schmidt-Cassegrain model. Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes are catadioptric and use both mirrors and lenses to produce their images. Why choose a Schmidt-Cassegrain? Because they yield fantastic images and come in relatively compact, portable packages.

Sky-Watcher ProED 80mm Doublet APO Refractor Telescope

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FEATURES
  • Quality optics
  • Great for astrophotography
  • Durable and low-maintenance
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Sky-Watcher ProED 80mm Doublet APO Refractor Telescope Review

If you are good at putting things together, then this telescope won’t feel like mission impossible. There are brilliant instructions with easy-to-follow images and notes that will help you assemble the telescope out of the box. 

The object’s lens diameter is 90mm, with an optical tube length of 600 mm, which is ideal for viewing planets. The telescope sits on an altazimuth mount, so you won’t need to lift it up to use it. This is a great feature because the telescope weighs almost 19 pounds. 

There are three replacement eyepieces (24X, 60X,120X), and the telescope comes with a 3x Barlow lens that magnifies each lens by three. The planets that are viewable through the Gskyer telescope are clear and mesmerizing. 

The Sky-Watcher is an apochromatic (APO) refractor. This means, first of all, that it uses lenses instead of mirrors to collect and focus light. Refractor telescopes sometimes have issues with visual distortion, known as chromatic aberration. Apochromatic refractors are designed specifically to avoid these issues.

Other advantages of apochromatic refractors include: They are durable and hold up well in the elements. They tend to be relatively portable and compact. And they yield amazing images.

Weighing in at 22 pounds, the Sky-Watcher is relatively lightweight, making it easy to grab and head into the backyard.

Finally, if you’re interested in astrophotography, then this telescope makes a great choice!

TELMU Telescope for Beginners

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  • Sharing In Real-Time
  • Compact and Portable
  • Ideal for Beginners
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TELMU Telescope for Beginners Review

The TELMU telescope gathers three times more starlight than regular telescopes. You can play around with the magnification and brightness to create a crystal clear image that can even display the craters on the moon. 

Beginners will love this telescope as it has brilliant adjustability that allows for multiple observational positions. This is a wonderful feature for people new to using telescopes as it makes finding planets easier and more comfortable, reducing user frustration.

The best feature is that this telescope is compact, lightweight, and portable. Taking this telescope on nighttime adventures and trips searching for stars and planets is a joy!

The Orion is a reflector telescope, meaning that it uses mirrors to produce its images. It, therefore, requires regular adjustments (collimation) to ensure that the mirrors are in proper alignment.

Luckily, the scope has thumbscrew adjustments for the primary and secondary mirrors that allow for easy collimation—no tools necessary! If you get seriously into stargazing, I recommend picking up a laser collimator to make the process even quicker.

The base design features cutouts to reduce weight and increase portability. I recommend transporting the tube and mount separately (they weigh about 21 pounds each) if you find the whole assembly a bit heavy.

If you’ve been dreaming of seeing the Orion Nebula for yourself, you’ll finally have your chance. This telescope will really bring the night sky to life…Some areas might look like plain velvety black expanses to the naked eye, but with the Orion 8974 SkyQuest, you’ll see all the stars that are out there.

Dobsonian telescopes like this one provide excellent value—lots of aperture at a relatively affordable price. The 8” aperture is a huge asset when it comes to deep-space viewing. And this telescope is also very effective at viewing brighter, more distinct objects such as the Moon and planets.

Celestron 22065 Astro Master 102AZ Refractor Telescope

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  • Great for beginners
  • Very portable
  • Most affordable
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Celestron 22065 Astro Master 102AZ Refractor Telescope Review

Another Celestron model, the 22065 Astro Master provides excellent value at a reasonable cost. Its aperture measures 4” (102mm), while its focal length is 660mm and focal ratio is f/6.5.

This scope has an easy-to-use altazimuth mount and adjustable tripod. It’s user-friendly, with no tools needed for initial set-up. It comes with an erect image diagonal, which allows for terrestrial in addition to astronomical use.

As a refractor, this telescope has a sealed tube and is thus more durable than a reflector, requiring no collimation. You’ll be able to see brighter celestial objects such as the Moon, planets, Orion Nebula, and Andromeda Galaxy.

Finally, this telescope is extremely portable, weighing only 14 pounds when fully assembled. It’s the perfect grab-and-go telescope that will get you outside observing with minimal fuss.

Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope

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  • Compact and Portable
  • High-Quality 20mm Eyepiece
  • Ideal for Beginners
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Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope Review

Although this telescope looks simple, it is very powerful and extremely precise. Its optical lens is multi-coated for enhanced viewing pleasure, and it displays vivid images during the day and night. 

You can use this telescope for daytime viewings, such as bird watching and other wildlife. If you want to use this telescope for simple planet exploration and wildlife viewing, it has all of the features necessary. 

The telescope has all of the tools you need to assemble it out of the box. You won’t have trouble assembling the telescope, thanks to the very clear instruction manual.

Orion 8974 SkyQuest XT8 PLUS Dobsonian Reflector Telescope

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  • Large (8”) aperture
  • Sturdy Dobsonian design
  • Variable altitude tension knobs
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Orion 8974 SkyQuest XT8 PLUS Dobsonian Reflector Telescope Review

When you purchase the Orion 8974 SkyQuest XT8 telescope, you not only get a brilliant telescope, you also get high-quality accessories that heighten your viewing pleasure. The upgrade of the popular XT8 Classic Dobsonian includes numerous key feature improvements and additional accessories

The equatorial mount tripod makes for comfortable star and planet gazing. If you are looking for a good value-for-money telescope kit, this certainly is a great one to choose from. 

Telescope for Planets & Galaxies Buying Guide

There are a number of different features that are important to consider when buying a telescope. These include:

  • Aperture
  • Focal length and ratio
  • Magnification
  • Electric control
  • Portability

Aperture

Aperture is one of the most important features of any telescope.

It is a measurement of the scope’s light-collecting area. For a refractor, this denotes the size of the telescope’s objective lens; for a reflector, this is the size of the scope’s primary mirror.

Essentially, a larger aperture allows your telescope to collect more light. This is extremely important, especially for viewing dim, faraway objects like galaxies.

Of course, a larger aperture generally also means a larger (and bulkier) telescope with a higher price tag. I’ve chosen the above telescopes because they strike a good balance.

My list includes telescopes with apertures ranging from 3.15” (80mm) to 8” (slightly over 200mm). This is an ideal range for people who want a good light collection—enough to enjoy views of galaxies—without sacrificing portability, convenience, and value.

If your primary aim is to view very dim and distant objects like galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters, then I suggest choosing a telescope toward the upper end of that aperture range. For example, the Orion 8974 SkyQuest XT8 with its 8” aperture.

Focal length and ratio

A telescope’s focal length denotes the distance that the collected light travels as it is brought to focus on a plane. You’ll also often hear about focal ratio, which equals the focal length divided by aperture.

For example, you might have a telescope with a focal length of 1000mm and aperture of 200mm—this yields a focal ratio of f/5.

Why is focal ratio important? There are a few things to keep in mind:

Longer focal length usually means a longer telescope—so if you want a more compact or portable scope, look for a shorter focal length.

With all other factors (like aperture) being equal, a telescope with a longer focal length usually performs better at high magnification.

Large aperture, long focal length telescopes are excellent for viewing bright, distinct lunar and planetary objects in crisp detail.

However, this kind of high-power telescope tends to have a more restricted field of view, so it’s less ideal for viewing more disperse objects such as the Milky Way.

The best telescope for viewing planets may not be the best telescope for viewing galaxies. Luckily, you can view both with just one telescope.

The telescopes listed above have focal ratios ranging from f/5 (Orion 9005 AstroView) to f/10 (Celestron NexStar).

My top pick, the Orion 8974 SkyQuest has an f/5.9 focal ratio. Telescopes within the f/5 to 5/10 range are solid choices for all-around viewing.

Overall, I’ve selected telescopes that are capable of providing a stellar view of both planets and galaxies. These options are excellent, versatile telescopes that will suit the varied viewing needs of most hobbyist astronomers.

Look!: Here is my detailed guide to astronomy if you want to know the basics and the best stargazing locations.

Astrophotography is even more amazing!  The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Astrophotography and these two equipment guides will help you get started:

Magnification

My main advice about magnification: Don’t be fooled. Magnification is not the most important feature to consider when buying a telescope. High magnification is pointless if the image is blurry.

There’s a quick and easy way to calculate how much magnification your telescope can handle: Multiply the telescope’s aperture (in inches) by 50. This will give you the highest possible magnification that you can expect under good viewing conditions (minimal light pollution).

Multiply aperture by 25 to determine the highest useful magnification under less ideal conditions (lots of light pollution).

The 8” aperture of the Orion 8974 SkyQuest should be capable of around 400x magnification under ideal conditions. Under bad viewing conditions, it may only be capable of 200x magnification (still quite a lot!).

Portability

Do you plan to load your telescope into your car frequently or take it on camping trips? Do you want your kids to be able to handle the telescope easily?

If so, take a close look at the Celestron 22065 Astro Master, which weighs only about 14 pounds once fully assembled.

Other great, very portable options on this list include the Sky-Watcher ProED (22 pounds) and the Celestron NexStar (27.6 pounds).

Electric control

Many astronomers love the ease and convenience of electric control! If you’re curious about trying an automated telescope, consider the Celestron NexStar, a fully automated scope with GoTo technology. Its enormous database can locate and track 40,000+ objects.

Once you’ve got the hang of operating an automated telescope, the vast night sky will become that much more within your reach.

Best Places to View Planets Through a Telescope

Not every location is going to be enjoyable to view planets through a telescope. Things like light pollution and highrise buildings really affect your visibility. Of course, using a high-quality telescope makes it easier to view planets; minimizing the disturbing factors is in your best interests. Here are a few great locations for viewing planets through a telescope. 

1.In the Desert  

If you need a road trip and want to enjoy the beauty of the solar system and view some galaxies and nebulae through your telescope, then isolated locations like the desert are the best place to go. 

You will be amazed at the things you will see through your telescope in the desert. Stars, planets, the moon, and much more are visible through most types of telescopes in these locations. Take a look at this post if you want to learn what you can see through a telescope. 

2. Grand Canyon 

The main reason why the grand canyon is a brilliant stargazing location is because of its exceptionally dark night skies. As you have probably gathered from this article’s information, the less artificial light pollution in a stargazing location, the better.  

3. Death Valley National Park 

You won’t even need a telescope to view stars and planets in Death Valley as the sky is so clear and brightly lit with stars and galaxies. Many stargazing hobbyists have reported spotting the edges of our galaxy, the Milky Way, on their telescoping road trips. 

4. High City Locations 

You won’t be able to hit the road and travel searching for clear skies every night, so knowing how to see planets and stars through a telescope in the city is important. The best telescoping locations in cities are as high up as possible. 

This could mean that you need to drive to a high area of the city and stargaze in your car, or if you live in a highrise building, you can do so in the comfort of your own home. Get creative and explore. Stargazing is still possible in the city; you just need to look for appropriate locations in your area. 

Telescope FAQ:

Take a look at the following frequently asked question section if you want to learn more about telescopes for viewing planets and galaxies. Enjoy! 

Q: What is the best telescope for viewing planets?

A: Take a look at the list of telescopes in the above review to make it easier for you. See which one fits your needs and give it a try!

Q: What is better, a red dot finder or a telescope?

A: A telescope is far better than a red dot finder otherwise known as a finderscope as it has more magnification.

Q: Can you see stars with a telescope?

A: Yes, you can see stars, nebula, and galaxies through a telescope. 

Q: How much do telescopes cost?

A: Telescopes vary in price from $100 to upwards of $800. 

Q: Can you see Saturn rings with binoculars?

A: Yes, sometimes. It is better to look at the Saturn rings through a telescope and not through binoculars. 

Q: What size telescope do I need for viewing planets?

A: A telescope with a four-by-five-inch diameter is ideal for viewing planets. 

Q: Can I view planets through a telescope in the day?

A: Viewing planets through a telescope during daylight is very difficult and almost impossible using an amateur telescope. 

 

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