Skip to content

Exploring the Planets With a Beginner Telescope

Exploring the Planets With a Beginner Telescope

Owners of telescopes can play in the entire night sky. The planets are among the most common targets for individuals. The stars that are the brightest stand out in the night sky, are simple to see with the unaided eye, and may be observed using a telescope.

While there is no "one size fits all" approach to planet-gazing, it is crucial to purchase the appropriate telescope in order to study other solar system planets. Larger amateur telescopes at higher magnification will typically display more detail than tiny telescopes (three inches or smaller) at low magnification. (The term "magnification" refers to how much larger an object will seem via a telescope.)

Setting Up the Scope

It's always a very good idea to practise setting up a new telescope indoors before using it outside. This saves the scope owner from having to search in the dark for focusers and set screws while getting to know the tool.

Many skilled amateur observers let their scopes adjust to the weather outdoors. About 30 minutes are needed for this. It's time to gather star charts and other accessories, put on some warm clothing, and wait for the equipment to cool down.

Almost all telescopes include eyepieces. These are tiny components of optics that aid in enlarging the scope's field of view. To find out which one is best for planetary viewing and for a specific telescope, it is always preferable to consult the aid manuals. Look generally

More Tips

It's crucial to do your homework on which stars will be visible at any particular moment. Monthly charts of what is visible, including the planets, are posted on the websites of magazines like Sky & Telescope and Astronomy. Software for astronomy, like Stellarium, contains a lot of the same data. Additionally, there are smartphone applications like StarMap2 that can quickly provide star charts.

We all view the planets through the atmosphere of Earth, which can frequently make the vision through the eyepiece appear less sharp. This is another important consideration. Therefore, even with high-quality equipment, the view may not always be as spectacular as people would expect. That is a benefit of stargazing, not a flaw.

Planetary Targets:

The Moon

The Moon is the celestial body that telescopes find the most straightforward to view. It is mainly visible at night, but during a portion of the month, it is also visible during the day. It's an excellent subject for photography, and nowadays, people are even utilising their smartphones' cameras to capture stunning pictures of it through a telescope eyepiece.

Almost any telescope, from the cheapest amateur model to the smallest novice equipment, will provide an excellent view of the lunar surface. You can explore the craters, mountains, valleys, and plains.


Venus is a cloud-covered planet, thus it is difficult to see much detail. It does, however, move through phases, just like the Moon. Through a telescope, those are discernible. Venus is sometimes referred to as the "Morning Star" or "Evening Star," depending on when it is up, and appears to the unaided eye as a bright, white object. Typically, observers search for it just before or after sunset.


Mars is a fascinating planet and many new telescope owners want to see details of its surface. The good news is that when it's available, it's easy to find. Small telescopes show its red color, its polar caps, and the dark regions on its surface. However, it takes stronger magnification to see anything more than bright and dark areas on the planet.

Larger telescopes with high magnification (between 100x and 250x) may allow observers to distinguish Mars's clouds. Even so, it's worthwhile to visit the red planet and experience the same views that pioneers of the 20th century, such Percival Lowell and others, initially witnessed. Then, awe at the expert planetary photographs from tools like the Mars Curiosity rover and the Hubble Space Telescope.


There is much for observers to explore on the enormous planet Jupiter. First, it is possible to reasonably easily observe its four largest moons. The planet itself also has incredible cloud characteristics. The cloud belts and zones, especially the black ones, can be seen through even the smallest telescopes (less than 6" aperture). The Great Red Spot might also be visible with a small telescope if users are fortunate (and seeing conditions are favourable on Earth). Larger telescope owners will undoubtedly be able to see the belts and zones and the Great Spot with more clarity. However, insert a low-power eyepiece for the widest view and be amazed by those moons. Magnify as much as you can to examine the small details for more information.


Saturn is a "must-see" for scope owners, much like Jupiter. That is due to the excellent set of rings it possesses. People can typically see the rings even in the tiniest telescopes, and they might be able to see a hint of the planet's cloud belts. But the best way to get a highly detailed look is to use a medium- to large-sized telescope's high-powered eyepiece. The rings then truly come into focus, and those belts and zones are easier to see.

Uranus and Neptune

Small telescopes can detect the two most distant gas giant planets, Uranus and Neptune, and some observers assert that they have found them using powerful binoculars. Few, if any, people are able to see them with their natural eyes. It's preferable to use a scope or binoculars because they are simply too faint.

A tiny disk-shaped point of light in the colour blue-green can be seen as Uranus. Additionally, Neptune is bluish-green and unmistakably a point of light. That is a result of their great distance. But finding them is not impossible with the correct scope and a good star chart.


The Larger Asteroids

Those who are fortunate enough to obtain large amateur telescopes can devote a lot of time to looking for Pluto and other large asteroids. It involves some work, a powerful setup, and a decent set of star charts with precisely noted asteroid positions. Additionally, look at websites for astronomy-related magazines like Sky & Telescope and Astronomy. For committed asteroid seekers, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has a useful widget that provides updates about asteroids to be on the lookout for.

The Mercury Challenge

The planet Mercury, on the other hand, presents a difficult object due to another factor: its close proximity to the Sun. No one would typically aim their scope directly at the Sun to put their eyes in danger of harm. And nobody should unless they are completely confident in their abilities.

Mercury is safe to view with a telescope during a portion of its orbit when it is sufficiently removed from the Sun's glare. The terms "greatest western elongation" and "greatest eastern elongation" refer to those periods. Software for astronomy can specify the precise time to look. Either just after sunset or just before sunrise, Mercury will show as a faint but clear dot of light. Even when the Sun has set, great care should be taken to protect the eyes.

Back to top