Best telescopes for seeing planets in 2024

Having one of the best telescopes for seeing planets is critical if you want to get up close and personal with our solar system. These telescopes allow you to see beautiful views of Venus, Mars, Jupiter or Saturn and its rings, and on this list we've considered a variety of different price points and abilities. 

Even when they're part of our solar system, planets are distant objects in the night sky. However, their brightness compared to other celestial objects means they're excellent subjects to observe via a telescope. Some telescopes are better at observing planets than others, and so we've chosen models with great resolutions and a high magnification range, allowing you to see planets as clearly as possible.

Telescopes come in a vast array of price brackets, and in this guide to the best telescopes for seeing planets, you'll find everything from budget-friendly telescopes to those costing well over four figures. Whether you're brand new to astronomy or a professional, then, you should find something to suit. Everything on this list has been selected by our expert reviewers, and for many of the models, you'll find separate, in-depth reviews to give you even more information.

If you're interested in skywatching more broadly, take a look at our guide to the best telescopes, or to the best beginner telescopes if you're just starting out on your astronomy journey. The best binoculars can also be a powerful (and portable!) accessory for skywatching, especially if you intend to be on the go a lot. If you're looking for a gift for the budding astronomers in your family, then our guides to the best telescopes for kids and best binoculars for kids may be just what you're looking for.

Tom Kerss profile photo in front of aurora borealis
Tom Kerss

Tom Kerss F.R.A.S. is a London-based astronomer, astrophotographer, author and consultant. Having previously worked at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, he is the founder of Stargazing✦London, which delivers world-class online astronomy and space courses with subject experts. Tom is also the host of the Star Signs podcast, providing updates from the world of space news, as well as what to look out for in the night sky.

The quick list

See our quick list below if you want to dive right in, or scroll further down for more detailed reviews of each product.

Best telescopes for seeing planets we recommend in 2024

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Best telescope overall

Best telescope overall: A best-selling telescope for viewing the planets, stars and far beyond

Specifications

Optical design: Schmidt-Cassegrain
Mount type: Computerized Altitude-Azimuth Single Fork Arm
Aperture: 8-inch / 203.2 mm
Focal length: 2032 mm
Highest useful magnification: 180x
Supplied eyepieces: 25 mm
Weight: 32 lbs / 14.48 kg

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent value for money
+
Incredibly bright and sharp images

Reasons to avoid

-
Big financial investment
-
Needs 8 x AA  batteries or an optional power supply
Buy it if

You're looking for outstanding optics: This telescope produces incredibly bright and sharp views of the planets and moons in our solar system.

✅ You like to get hands-on with your telescope: The effective handheld remote on this telescope will suit anyone who prefers traditional telescope controls over using an app.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're a beginner exploring stargazing for the first time: This telescope is a significant investment, so unless you have a sizeable budget we'd recommend starting out with a simpler, more affordable model.
❌ You want to be able to control your telescope with an app: Some of the other models on this list, such as the Celestron Astro Fi 102, offer a more app-friendly design.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron NexStar 8SE: While an expensive investment, it will last for decades and is one of the best you can buy. Experienced astronomers will love the motorized mount and the option to add accessories. It makes a great companion for astrophotographers too. ★★★★½

Part of Celestron's successful range of NexStar telescopes, it's easy to see why this particular model is the company's star buy. It's expensive but is a seriously impressive product, as we found in our in-depth Celestron NexStar 8SE review

This telescope has a high-quality Schmidt-Cassegrain optical design, which lets it absorb a huge amount of light. That means you can not only see the planets with breathtaking amounts of detail, but you can use the NexStar 8SE to gaze into the deep sky, too.

Smaller apertures are available in the NexStar 4SE, 5SE and 6SE models, but none compare to the awe-inspiring views offered by this 8-inch aperture, which lets in a whopping 78% more light than the NexStar 6SE.

While the Celestron NexStar 8SE comes with a price tag of around $1,500, its capabilities and features make it a valuable investment for beginners to experienced astronomers. With a database of 40,000 celestial objects and a 'tour mode' guiding you through popular targets, it provides a user-friendly experience for those not well-versed with the night sky.

The motorized single fork arm mount allows you to smoothly slew to your selected object using the handheld remote. Once it's aligned, the NexStar 8SE provides crystal clear views across the entire field of view, and it's compatible with many accessories.

Although the price is high, we were impressed by its durable build, including a sturdy steel tripod that's easily portable for dark sky sites. With proper care, this telescope has the potential to last for decades. If it fits your budget, the quality justifies the investment. However, if it's a bit beyond your budget, the rest of the list offers competitive alternatives that are worth considering.

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Celestron NexStar 8SE
AttributesNotesRating
DesignSolid scope with a hands-on feel.★★★★★
PerformanceOutstanding optics and sharp views.★★★★★
FunctionalityQuick to set up and store away.★★★★

Best for planetary imaging

Celestron CPC Deluxe 1100 EdgeHD on a tripod set against a white background

Although a premium price, you'll be rewarded with outstanding high-resolution images on a scope that's built to last. (Image credit: Amazon)

Celestron CPC Deluxe 1100 EdgeHD

Best for planetary imaging: The CPC Deluxe 1100 EdgeHD has uncompromising power and clarity

Specifications

Optical design: Modified Schmidt-Cassegrain reflector
Mount type: Computerized fork mount
Aperture: 11-inch / 280 mm
Focal length: 2800 mm
Highest useful magnification: 661x
Supplied eyepieces: 23 mm (122x)
Weight: 93 lbs / 42.2 kg

Reasons to buy

+
Ultra-high resolution
+
Super sturdy mount and tripod
+
Precision GoTo and tracking

Reasons to avoid

-
Only one eyepiece supplied
-
Very heavy
-
Astronomically expensive
Buy it if

✅ You want the biggest aperture you can get: its 11-inch high-performance mirror is the biggest on our list, offering huge magnification.

✅ Planetary imaging is your primary goal: this telescope can render even the most distant planets in fine detail.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're on a budget: this telescope is astronomically expensive and there are many cheaper models out there.

❌ You don't want to be buying extra accessories: this telescope only comes with one eyepiece supplied in the box.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron CPC Deluxe 1100 EdgeHD: if your budget can stretch to it, this telescope will give you an incredible view of the surface of any planet in our solar system, with magnification to spare. ★★★★½

Taking images of planets is a captivating hobby, and luckily, you can get started with any telescope that has a tracking mount. If you're serious about capturing images of our neighboring worlds, you'll need a telescope with a large aperture.

The Celestron CPC Deluxe 1100 EdgeHD allows you to see more than just the planets: Thanks to its huge 11-inch main mirror, you can enjoy intricate details of the surfaces of distant planets. If you're viewing Venus and Jupiter, expect to see a remarkable amount of surface detail. Even casual users will be able to easily find details such as deserts and dust storms on the surface of Mars. In other words, this is an incredible bit of kit.

The downside is that the CPC Deluxe 1100 EdgeHD doesn't come cheap. It's the most expensive telescope on this guide by quite a margin, which means it's probably not going to be suitable for amateur skywatchers. But for experienced astronomers or those with a very stretchy budget, you absolutely won't be disappointed with this telescope's capabilities. 

The CPC mount is dependable and robust, offering precise tracking for extended imaging sessions. If you're interested in deep-sky astrophotography, you can convert it into an equatorial platform using a wedge. Although it has some weight, two people can easily set up and take down this telescope in the field within minutes.

Keep in mind that the package includes only one eyepiece, so you might want to budget for additional ones, especially if you're keen on planetary imaging. Fortunately, there's an upgrade option available if planetary imaging does become a significant interest.

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Celestron CPC Deluxe 1100 EdgeHD
AttributesNotesRating
DesignSolid but heavy design.★★★★
PerformanceUltra-high resolution and detail.★★★★★
FunctionalityGood but only one eyepiece supplied.★★★★

Best for portability

The Sky-Watcher Heritage-90P Virtuoso set against a white background

With a tube just 28cm long, the Sky-Watcher Heritage-90P Virtuoso is a truly portable telescope. (Image credit: Sky-Watcher)

Sky-Watcher Heritage-90P Virtuoso

Best for portability: A compact, high-power tabletop astronomy with auto-tracking

Specifications

Optical design: Maksutov-Cassegrain reflector
Mount type: Dobsonian (table top tracking version)
Aperture: 3.5-inch / 90 mm
Focal length: 1250 mm
Highest useful magnification: 180x
Supplied eyepieces: 10 mm (125x) and 25 mm (50x)
Weight: 11.5 lbs / 5.1 kg

Reasons to buy

+
Ultra compact design 
+
Built-in tracking
+
Good battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
No optical finder
-
Exposed front lens
-
Red dot finder could be improved
Buy it if

✅ You want something portable: This telescope is ideal for taking with you on night-time adventures out in the field, or even taking on vacation.

✅ You're looking for great imagery: You'll get rich colors and high contrast with this telescope.

✅ You want neat and easy tracking: The built-in tracking on this telescope makes it easy to navigate the night sky.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're worried about lens damage: The lens on the front of this model is quite exposed.

❌ You want a highly effective red dot finder: We thought that red dot finder on this telescope could definitely be improved, though it was fine for basic positioning.

The bottom line

🔎 Sky-Watcher Heritage-90P Virtuoso: As the most portable option on our list, this would be a great choice for those who like to take their telescope on stargazing trips out in the field. ★★★★½

It may be small, but the SkyWatcher Heritage-90P Virtuoso is a very capable telescope. It makes use of two mirrors and a meniscus lens, meaning an impressive 1.25m focal length can be squeezed into a tube that's only 28cm long. Its size makes it one of the most portable telescopes we've included in this guide, which makes it a great choice for taking out into the field or traveling around with.

The Heritage-90P Virtuoso has a Maksutov-Cassegrain design. Similar to a refractor telescope, it's known for providing sharp and high-contrast images — and this model is no different. It's a fantastic choice for observing planetary surfaces, and it does a stand-out job of showcasing details like the bands and moons of Jupiter

The included red dot finder isn't the best, but the motorized Virtuoso mount makes it easy to point the telescope at objects in the sky. The smooth slewing controls allow you to track objects as they move across the sky, making it easier to keep them in view.

You can upgrade the mount at any time via Sky-Watcher's Synscan GoTo device, giving it the ability to find more than 40,000 objects in the night sky for you automatically. It can also track the sky to counteract the Earth's rotation, keeping your object of interest within the field of vision at all times. 

If you are interested in a more powerful telescope with a similarly compact design and want to fast-track to the complete GoTo system, you might want to check out the Heritage-90's big brother, the Skymax-127 Virtuoso GTI.

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Sky-Watcher Heritage-90P Virtuoso
AttributesNotesRating
DesignSuper compact and portable.★★★★★
PerformanceGreat colors and contrast.★★★★
FunctionalitySmooth slewing and tracking.★★★★

Best for beginners

Best for beginners: Experience fantastic views of the moon and planets and practice some basic astrophotography

Specifications

Optical design: Refractor
Mount type: Alt-Azimuth
Aperture: 3.94-inch / 70 mm
Focal length: 660 mm
Highest useful magnification: 241x
Supplied eyepieces: 20 mm (33x) and 10 mm (66x)
Weight: 20 lbs / 9.07 kg

Reasons to buy

+
Sharp views of the planets
+
Lightweight but stable tripod
+
Smartphone adaptor

Reasons to avoid

-
Some chromatic aberration
-
Not the best for deep-sky observations
-
Manual altazimuth mount
Buy it if

✅ You want a multifunctional telescope at an affordable price: the innovative smartphone mount will allow you to try your hand at some basic astrophotography along with your stargazing.

✅ You're mainly interested in viewing the planets and the moon: this telescope does a good job of bringing the planets and moon into sharp focus, but it doesn't let in enough light for deep-sky viewing.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want to view deep-space objects: though this telescope can view some more distant objects, the aperture isn't up to true deep-space observation.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron Inspire 100AZ refractor telescope: with some nice additional features like a smartphone mount and built-in red light, this telescope is a great way for beginners to start exploring the moon and planets. ★★★★

When we reviewed the Celestron Inspire 100AZ refractor telescope, we found it to be a great telescope for beginners looking to get a better view of the moon and the planets without breaking the bank. You can typically pick up this telescope between $300 and $350, which makes it one of the most affordable options on this list.

There is a downside to that, however. At this price point, you don't get a fancy motorized mount: Instead, the Inspire 100AZ has a simple altazimuth mount which requires manual movement via a panhandle. More traditional stargazers may prefer this approach, however, and we think it's a fair trade-off given the price point of this telescope. Pair it with a stargazing app if you want to make the process a little easier to get used to.

This telescope offers a neat feature for astrophotography enthusiasts — the lens cap also functions as a smartphone mount, allowing you to capture stunning photos of planets and the night sky with your phone. It's a lightweight telescope that we found easy to set up and take down, however, it's worth noting that the optical tube is 26 inches (660mm) long, so it does require a bit of space.

Although the 4-inch aperture may not gather sufficient light for distant celestial objects, this telescope offers a decent view of the planets, particularly with the 20mm eyepiece. We observed detailed moon craters and even caught a glimpse of Andromeda (M31) along with some of the brighter star clusters.

It may not be the best telescope out there, but we think it's a solid choice for beginners and offers good value for the money, with some fun extra features.

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Celestron Inspire 100AZ
AttributesNotesRating
DesignEasy to set up and take down.★★★★
PerformanceGood for viewing the moon and planets.★★★
FunctionalityHandy additional features.★★★★

Best combination package

The Celestron Omni XLT 102 placed against a white background

The telescope/mount combination of Celestron's Omni XLT 102 telescope doesn't require any tools, making it friendly to newer and younger observers. (Image credit: Celestron)

Celestron Omni XLT 102

Best combination package: A solid refractor with a sturdy mount and tripod

Specifications

Optical design: Doublet refractor
Mount type: Equatorial
Aperture: 4-inch / 102 mm
Focal length: 1000 mm
Highest useful magnification: 204x
Supplied eyepieces: 25 mm (36x)
Weight: 43 lbs / 19.5 kg

Reasons to buy

+
Solid optics and mechanics
+
Sturdy equatorial mount
+
Optical finder

Reasons to avoid

-
Only one eyepiece supplied
-
Not great for deep space objects
-
Can be upgraded with an auto-tracking kit
Buy it if

✅ You want something sturdy: the mount on this telescope is well matched to its weight and feels solid and substantial.

✅ You're looking for an equatorial mount: this telescope package comes with an effective equatorial mount that can even be operated one-handed. 

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're particularly interested in deep-space objects: this telescope gives detailed views of the planets, but isn't quite up to viewing deep-space objects.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron Omni XLT 102: this telescope offers a nice combination package that feels sturdy and robust. It includes an equatorial mount and can give you a detailed view of the planets. ★★★★

The Celestron Omni XLT 102 is a unique package featuring a high-quality telescope and mount combination. It's easy to set up and doesn't require any tools, making it an excellent choice for both beginners and experienced astronomers.

The 4-inch F/10 achromat gives fine views, and its focal length makes it a good match for some of the best planetary eyepieces. Unfortunately, only one eyepiece is supplied in the box, but with the addition of a 10mm and Barlow lens (take a look at our best eyepieces guide), you can achieve a magnification of 36x, 72x, 100x and 200x. At this top end, the Omni XLT 102 will provide you with some lovely details of our neighboring planets.

There's also a 150mm and 120mm model of this telescope (you can read our Celestron Omni XLT 120 review to find out more). All three models use the same CG-4 equatorial mount, but we've found the larger telescopes to come close to the weight limit of the mount, so that's something to bear in mind.

It may take some time to get used to the equatorial mount on this Omni XLT 102, particularly if you've not used one before. On equatorial mounts, the polar axis is parallel to the Earth's rotation, but once you've adjusted to using it, you'll likely find that tracking planets is manageable with just one hand. If a completely hands-free experience is something you'd like, there's the option to upgrade to a dual-axis auto-tracking kit which can be installed on this telescope.

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Celestron Omni XLT 102
AttributesNotesRating
DesignSturdy equatorial mount.★★★★
PerformanceHigh magnification of planets.★★★★
FunctionalityCan be improved with added accessories.★★★