How to see planets with a telescope?

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So, how to see planets with a telescope? A telescope enables you to see more details on the planets and even some of their moons. If you have a small telescope, you can see Jupiter and its four largest moons. If you have a good telescope, you can also see the cloud belts, the Great Red Spot, and the smaller moons of Jupiter.

With a big telescope, you can see Jupiter’s moons with a diameter of about two miles. With a really big telescope, you can see the rings of Saturn. You can also look at Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.



How to see planets with a telescope: tips

In this article, I will tell you how powerful a telescope should be, what the planets look like through the telescope, how best to set up the telescope, what time it is best to observe the planets, and how to see the planets. I’ll also reply to the most common questions.

How powerful does a telescope have to be to see planets?

At their brightest, the planets Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and Venus are visible to the naked eye. With a small telescope, the four brightest moons of Jupiter are visible, as well as the bright rings of Saturn. It takes a telescope more powerful than 50x (fifty times magnification) to resolve the disk of any of these planets.

A telescope with a magnification of 50x provides an image that looks 50 times closer to the naked eye than a non-magnified image. So if you have a 1 meter (3-foot) scope, the image will be magnified to 50 times its size. If you have a 500mm (20-inch) scope, the magnification will be 50x.

As magnification increases, however, the image appears to get worse and worse. You might expect that a 10,000x scope would be able to show you very fine detail on the planet’s surface. In fact, the image is so poor that you might not even be able to tell that you were looking at the planet, instead of a star.


A telescope with a magnification of less than 25x will probably not be able to show you much detail on the surface of the Moon or planets. The Moon is much smaller and dimmer than the planets, and it is hard to see detail on the Moon without magnification.

Galaxies and nebulas can be seen in just about any telescope, but the bigger the scope, the closer and more detailed you can see them.

How do planets look through telescopes?

Below I will tell you what do planets look like through a telescope:

  • The planet Mercury looks like a small, bright point of light. It does not have a disk-like the Moon and Mars. Most people find it hard to tell the difference between Mercury and stars.
    The planet Mercury is invisible to the unaided eye but is visible through a small telescope. It appears as a small featureless object. The planet is named after the Roman messenger god who was known for his speed, and Mercury orbits the Sun the closest of all the planets, at an average distance of only fifty-eight million kilometers (thirty-six million miles).
  • The planet Venus is impossible to miss as it is the brightest celestial object in the sky (except for the Moon). It appears as a brilliant and dazzling “white” star.
    Even small telescopes will show you the phases of Venus. The planet will appear as a crescent shape or even a small “star” depending on the time of night. Be sure to check out Venus when it is in the crescent phase and appears very thin and bright.
  • As a matter of fact, Mars looks a little like the Moon. Because it is smaller and farther away than the Moon, its disks are never as big and are often too small to really see much detail on its surface. It can, however, be seen in great detail when the planets are aligned with the Earth.
    The surface of Mars is a light orange, the same color as the deserts here on Earth. Its surface is covered by orange-red dust that blows in the wind and covers the planet. Mars also has dark red spots on its surface that are called “Oases”. They are caused by minerals in the soil that make the soil darker.


  • Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system, so you can see quite a bit through a telescope. A large amateur telescope with a 10-inch (or larger) aperture will show the Great Red Spot, many Jovian moons, and cloud details. If you have a telescope larger than 10 inches, you will be able to see the Great Red Spot with more detail and observe more of the moons.
    In a small telescope, Jupiter will be quite small — just a tiny, bright disk. A larger telescope will show you more detail of Jupiter’s clouds. A small telescope on a sturdy mount will show you a lot, but a larger telescope will show you more.
  • Saturn is best seen through a telescope. When viewed through a telescope, you can see some of the most beautiful views of the night sky. When looking through a telescope, the planet almost looks like a solid orb. A tiny telescope will indicate the rings of Saturn.
  • As the telescope increases in power, you can see the Cassini division in the rings and multiple shadows on the surface of the planet. Telescopes of 400 power will show the cloud belts and the polar hood.
  • Neptune has a visual magnitude of 7.9 and an apparent diameter of 2.4 arc seconds. This means it is just barely visible to the naked eye from dark sites, and a telescope with an aperture of at least 50mm (2 inches) is required to resolve it from a star. Even then, it will appear as a small blue-green disk.

Setting Up the Scope

When buying, choose a good telescope that can see planets. To view any of the planets in the Solar System, it’s usually necessary to adjust the telescope’s magnification. The higher the power, the larger the object appears in the eyepiece.


The most common reason to adjust the magnification on a telescope is to view a planet or other celestial body. In this case, the most important thing to do is to avoid touching the eyepiece or telescope focuser. If you have to have your hand on the telescope, use a handkerchief or other cloth to minimize the risk of scratching the eyepiece.

Once the telescope is focused, you can use the magnification control to adjust the size of the image. If you’re using a star diagonal, turn the eyepiece clockwise for higher magnification, and counter-clockwise for a lower one. If you’re looking through a straight-through viewfinder, turn the eyepiece left for higher magnification, and right for a lower one.

The best times to observe planets

Anytime after sunset. Best watching planets when they arise or when they are high in the sky. Venus and Jupiter are best when they are high in the sky, about 45 minutes to an hour after sunset. Mars and Saturn are best about an hour to an hour and a half after sunset. Mercury is best about 30 minutes after sunrise.

If you are observing a planet that is near the Sun, be sure to avoid looking in the direction of the Sun! Also, keep in mind that the planets move relative to the background stars.


How to see Mercury

Mercury can be seen through even a small telescope, but you will have to have a very clear day and be in the right place at the right time. You will need to look for the planet when it is at its highest point in the sky, and this happens when Mercury is in the part of its orbit known as the “greatest elongation east.” This part of Mercury’s orbit is the furthest it can get from the sun, as it passes between us and the sun.

How to see Venus

You can use a telescope to look at Venus in a couple of ways. The most common is simply to look at it through the viewfinder of the telescope or eyepiece. You may notice that Venus has phases like the moon, changing from a half-moon to a crescent shape as it orbits around the sun. The phases are caused by the angle of the sunlight hitting Venus and its slightly elliptical orbit.

How to see Mars

First, it’s important to know that Mars will not be visible in the sky with the naked eye or even with a pair of binoculars or a small telescope. It will appear as a tiny pinprick of light, similar in size and brightness to a star. In order to view Mars through a telescope, you’ll need to use a special eyepiece called a planetarium. The planetarium consists of a pair of magnifying lenses that fit into the eyepiece holder of a small telescope. By using this technique, Mars will appear as a large, inverted image.


How to see Jupiter

You can use a telescope to look at the belts, rings, and moons of Jupiter. The best way to do this is to use a small telescope and a low-power eyepiece. You can also use binoculars. If you have a telescope, it is best if you set it up outside. You can also look at Jupiter through a telescope indoors. If you are looking at Jupiter through a telescope indoors, you will need a very steady tripod and a very steady hand.

How to see Saturn

To use a telescope to see Saturn, set the telescope up so it is facing South and has a clear view of the southern sky. Point the telescope at Saturn, and look into the eyepiece. You should see a bright, golden-orange disk. You may have to adjust the telescope’s focus to get a clear view. If you want, you can use a low-power eyepiece to get a close-up view of the planet.

How to see Neptune

Unfortunately, Neptune is too faint to be seen with a small telescope. It requires a telescope of at least 8-inches (20 cm) aperture to see it. It should be visible with a larger telescope if you know exactly where to look, but you probably won’t recognize it without the aid of a star chart. It has a magnitude of 8.0, which means it is around 400,000 times fainter than what the eye can see. This means your telescope will need to collect 40,000 times more light than what the eye can see before it can see Neptune. So, you necessity a telescope that can gather a lot of light.



I often hear questions about how to look at planets through a telescope, which planets are best to look at, and when. Here I summarize the most favorite ones.

What is it called when you observe planets?

Astronomy is the scientific study of everything in space. From the planets and moons in our solar system to the stars and galaxies billions of light-years away, astronomy is the study of the Universe. Astronomers use telescopes, satellites, and other equipment to search for new knowledge about the Universe.

What planets can be observed from Earth?

So, what planets can you see with a telescope? The planets can be observed from Earth and there is a chance to observe all of them except Pluto. Mercury, Venus, and Mars are the closest planets to the Earth and are visible to the naked eye. Jupiter and Saturn are visible to the naked eye but are not that bright. Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn can be observed with the help of a telescope. Uranus, Saturn, and Neptune can be observed with the help of a telescope.


When and where to see the planets in the night sky?

The planets will be visible throughout the night. The best time to see all the planets of the solar system is in the early hours before the Sun rises. That is when the planets are highest in the sky. Mercury and Venus are the two planets that are visible in the night sky all year round. Mars and Jupiter are visible from May to September. Saturn is visible from June to September. Uranus and Neptune are visible from February to April.

How to locate planets?

So, how to locate planets with a telescope? To locate a planet, center the finderscope on the object. If the object is a star, center the star in the eyepiece and then center the star in the finder. If the object is a planet, center the planet in the eyepiece and then center the planet in the finder.


Overall, a telescope allows you to see more details on planets and stars compared to the naked eye. With a telescope, you will be able to see the rings of Saturn, the moons of Jupiter, the phases of Venus, and much more.

What tips do you have for using a telescope to observe the planets? Tell me about it in the comments, I’m interested in your opinion.

About Michael Oliver Barlow

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