How Much Magnification Do You Need To See Planets?

There’s nothing quite like watching the sky at night to leave you with a tremendous sense of wonder. It fills you with an unshakable sense of awe, and it feels truly magical.

But, in order to really make the most of the night sky, you need to be equipped with a telescope that can really boost what you can see by eye.

The greater the magnification power of your telescope the further you can see into the distance. And similarly, for looking at something a little closer, a telescope with a greater magnification power can enable you to see slightly closer objects that much more clearly, and with better detail.

In this article, we’re going to be talking about how much magnification power you need in a telescope in order to be able to see those wondrous spinning planets out there.

What Planets Can You See With A Telescope? And At What Magnification?

Some night sky features are very easily visible. You don’t even need a telescope to be able to see the moon, but you sure do get a much better view if you have a telescope to hand.

But, trying to see a dwarf planet like Pluto, which is between 2.66 and 4.67 billion miles away from the earth at any one time, is quite another matter entirely.

The easiest planets to see through a telescope are, obviously, the ones that are nearest our beloved blue planet.

The nearest planets to Earth, in case you’ve forgotten, are Venus, Mercury and Mars. But there are some telescopes out there that will also show you Jupiter and Saturn.

What Telescope Magnification Do I Need To Be Able To See Venus?

For viewing Venus, we would recommend using a telescope with a magnification of 50x or greater. This will enable you to see Venus go through its phases. Even a small telescope with an aperture of just 60 mm will be able to show you this phenomenon.

What Telescope Magnification Do I Need To Be Able To See Mercury?

Now, Mercury is a strange one. Sometimes, due to the nature of Mercury’s orbit, it often comes closer to the Earth than Venus does. However, because it’s so much smaller than Venus, you’ll need a much higher magnification.

It’s possible to see Mercury with a telescope with a mere 50 mm aperture, but 75 mm would be a much better option because it will allow you to identify the different phases of the planet. But to see any real detail on the planet’s surface we would recommend a magnification of at least 200 to 250x.

What Telescope Magnification Do I Need To Be Able To See Mars?

One of the great things about Mars is that you can see it really well with an entry-level, 70 mm aperture telescope, so long as it has a magnification of at least 100x (greater would be preferable obvs).

You’ll be able to make out it’s shape and its color. And if it’s at least 8 inches long, you’ll even be able to make out features on its surface.

What Telescope Magnification Do I Need To Be Able To See Jupiter?

Now, Jupiter and Saturn are significantly further from the Earth than the planets we’ve been discussing so far, and they will require a much more powerful magnification.

To get a really good view of Jupiter, we would recommend that you go for a telescope with a magnification power of at least 180x, preferably more. If you have razor sharp optics and a steady, clear sky, you will be able to make out some of Jupiter’s moons.

What Telescope Magnification Do I Need To Be Able To See Saturn?

Saturn and its rings can also be seen with a 70 mm aperture telescope, provided that you have the right conditions.

But if you want to see the details of it’s ring system we would recommend using magnifications between 150 and 250x. And you have to bear in mind that Saturn’s rings will look the same color as Saturn itself, so a greater magnification can really help.

Is A 70mm Telescope Good?

We’re pleased to report then that entry level 70 mm aperture telescopes can really be pretty good, enabling you to see way into the distance to view the nearest planets in the solar system.

But you cannot take only the size of the aperture into account. You also need a good length on the telescope, since this affects its magnification power.

A 70 mm aperture diameter offers 100 times the light gathering ability of the unaided human eye.

Just to recap, with an entry level 70 mm aperture telescope, you should be able to see all of the planets that we;ve mentioned so far, including Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn.

Is A 90mm Telescope Good?

As you may imagine, if you have been paying attention, a 90 mm aperture telescope is excellent for viewing the night sky and spotting the various planets. It provides 165 times the light gathering ability of the unaided human eye.

How Can I Make My Telescope More Powerful?

It is possible to buy optical tube upgrades that fit your telescope mount if you wish. But you may not need to...

You can further improve your view through your telescope by using different eyepieces. To achieve a higher telescope magnification, all you need to do is to use a short-focal-length eyepiece.

And, we’re pleased to report, you can use just about any brand of eyepiece in your telescope so long as the barrel size of the eyepiece matches the barrel size of your focuser.

Wrap Up

So, it turns out that you can see many of the planets in our solar system with a generic 70 mm aperture telescope. But before you rush out to buy one, be sure that it has sufficient magnification power first. The better the magnification, the better your view and the more detail you will be able to pick out.

Gordon Watts