Different telescopes are suited to viewing different targets, so it pays to know what sort of instrument you are after if you have a specific observing aim in mind.


Generally speaking, observing the planets requires a telescope with a long focal length, so you can fit your target in a smaller field of view and get a detailed close-up.

A longer focal length in a telescope usually means a higher focal ratio, which can be worked out by dividing the focal length by the aperture in mm.

Put simply, look for a high focal ratio if you want to see the planets of the Solar System. In practical astronomy, these are referred to as 'slow' telescopes.

Saturn John Chumack, Dayton, Ohio, USA, 20 August 2021 Equipment: ZWO ASI224MC camera, Celestron C11 Schmidt-Cassegrain
Saturn photographed by John Chumack, Dayton, Ohio, USA, 20 August 2021. Equipment: ZWO ASI224MC camera, Celestron C11 Schmidt-Cassegrain

We've reviewed quite a few telescopes over the years that are ideal for planetary observing, although the accompanying price tags indicate these are not beginners' telescopes, but are instead for those who are series about practical astronomy and want to take it to the next level.

Below is our pick of some of the best scopes that will have you enjoying views of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn in no time.

If you're interested in imaging the planets, read our guide to the best telescopes for astrophotography.

11 best telescopes for seeing the planets


Sky-Watcher SkyMax 180 Pro Maksutov

Sky-Watcher SkyMax 180 Pro Maksutov-Cassegrain

The SkyMax 180's long focal length is ideal for planetary and lunar viewing, but the telescope also gives good views of many deep-sky objects. We used it to observe Saturn and found the Cassini Division and several moons on show. The scope comes with a 28mm eyepiece, a star diagonal and Vixen-style mounting bar. At just 7.8kg, it is also relatively lightweight for its size.

Read our full review of the SkyMax 180 Pro here.


Celestron Astro Fi 5 Schmidt-Cassegrain Wi-Fi system

Celestron Astro Fi 5 Schmidt-Cassegrain Wi-Fi system

The Celestron Astro Fi 5 is a 5-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain on a single fork arm that also features integrated Wi-Fi.

A focal length of 1,250mm gives a focal ratio of f/10, making this a 'slow' system suited for observing the planets, as well as the Moon and bright deep-sky targets.

Indeed, we were rewarded with beautiful views of Jupiter's two main belts, polar hoods and all four of its Galilean moons.

The Wi-Fi/smartphone control of the Astro Fi 5 system is a nice touch and works well. Turn on the mount and it sets up a Wi-Fi spot you can connect to. Open up SkyPortal and you can use the app to explore a variety of targets.

Read our full Celestron Astro Fi 5 Schmidt-Cassegrain Wi-Fi review


Orion StarSeeker IV 150mm GoTo Mak-Cass Telescope

Orion StarSeeker IV 6-inch Go-To Maksutov-Cassegrain

This is a straightforward scope to set up, and comes with encoders on the axis allow you to move the mount without losing alignment. You can use the handset to slew to Jupiter, say, then manually move the mount to view Regulus in Leo, then press 'Jupiter' again and the mount will slew back to the planet. We got a great view of the gas giant with its Galilean moons. Swapping to a 10mm eyepiece we could see detail in the belts and the Great Red Spot.

Read our full review of the Orion StarSeeker IV


Explore Scientific Carbon Fibre 127mm triplet apo refractor

Explore Scientific ED127 apochromat refractor

The ED127’s air-spaced triplet lens is great for getting subtle details out of the planets and the Moon. The fact that the tube is made from carbon fibre helps to keep the weight down. This is a great, medium-resolution planetary imaging instrument.

Read our full review of the Explore Scientific 127mm


Sky-Watcher Evostar-90 AZ Pronto telescope mount

Sky-Watcher Evostar-90 AZ Pronto telescope mount review

If you want to be able to get decent views of a range of targets - including the planets - but are a beginner on a budget, the Sky-Watcher Evostar-90 is a good option. It consists of a refractor telescope and the AZ Pronto mount.

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Its focal length is 900mm, giving it a focal ratio of f/10, meaning it will provide decent views of deep-sky targets and planets.

An erect-image diagonal is supplied, as are 2 eyepieces of 25mm and 10mm, giving magnifications of 36x and 90x with this scope.

This may not be the fanciest telescope on our list, but if you're after something with a more modest price that will still give you decent views of the planets, this is one to go for.

Read our full Sky-Watcher Evostar-90 AZ Pronto telescope mount review.


Meade Series 6000 115mm apo refractor

Meade Series 6000 115mm apo refractor

This is a good all-round instrument that gives crisp, high-contrast views and is useful for visually observing both deep-sky and Solar System objects. Its air-spaced triplet lens made from extra-low dispersion glass reduces unwanted colour aberrations, and the whole thing comes in a padded case for secure transport.

Read our full review of the Meade 6000


Istar 150mm F12 with Moonlite focuser

Istar Perseus AT150-12 achromatic refractor

Built from aerospace-grade magnesium and aluminium alloys, with many parts machined from solid block, the Istar exudes quality. Views are bright and full of contrast, helped by excellent multi-coating on the lens surfaces and four knife-edge baffles. We enjoyed a crisp view of Jupiter and its moons, and would recommend the Istar Perseus as an excellent upgrade for lunar and planetary observing.

Read our full review of the Istar 150mm


Celestron Advanced VX 9.25 Schmidt-Cassegrain system

Celestron Advanced VX 9.25-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain

The C9.25’s 9.25-inch (235mm) aperture is generous, gathering a third more light than an 8-inch (200mm) reflector. Its f/10 optics put it in the slow category and it is best suited for Solar System objects. We used the scope to view a tiny Mars, and the Red Planet's colour, disc and phase were very evident. We could even see one of its polar caps and evidence of surface markings.

Read our full review of the Celestron Advanced VX 9.25


Meade LX 200 8 inch telescope

Meade LX200-ACF 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain

Accurate Go-To and crisp views make this a great starter scope for a serious beginner and, with an optional equatorial wedge, it is also useful for long-exposure astrophotography. It is suitable for use with CCD, DSLR and high frame rate planetary cameras. Despite its rather heavy weight, this is a relatively portable scope that would serve you well for planetary imaging.

Read our full review of the Meade LX 200


Celestron CPC Deluxe 1100 EdgeHD Schmidt-Cassegrain

Celestron CPC Deluxe 1100HD

The CPC Deluxe's 11 inches of aperture gathers plenty of light from nebulae and galaxies, while its focal length is long enough to get detailed views of bright Solar System objects with a modest set of eyepieces. Our view of Jupiter using the supplied 23mm eyepiece revealed a sharp disc with a clear view of the two main belts, exquisitely intertwined with fine intricate detail.

Read our full review of the Celestron CPC Delux 1100


Celestron CGX-L EQ 1100 HD Schmidt-Cassegrain

Celestron CGX-L EQ 1100 EdgeHD Schmidt-Cassegrain

The CGX-L EQ 1100 EdgeHD represents a serious investment, but this instrument delivers a sharp, flat field across a large area that should be good for both Solar System and deep-sky targets. The Moon and planets appear bright and well presented, the 11-inch aperture having sufficient resolving power to reveal intricate detail.


Read our full review of the Celestron CGX-L EQ 1100


Iain Todd BBC Sky at Night Magazine
Iain ToddScience journalist

Iain Todd is BBC Sky at Night Magazine's Content Editor. He fell in love with the night sky when he caught his first glimpse of Orion, aged 10.