The Best Telescope That Can See Mars (A 2023 Buyer’s Guide)

By Joshua Davis •  Updated: 01/18/23 •  24 min read

Ah, the planet Mars.

With its dusty red surface, bright polar caps, and mysterious dark features, it has been a source of inspiration for centuries. Of all the planets in our solar system, the red planet is the most easily spotted in our night sky even by the unaided eye.

Several years ago, our family moved outside city limits where light pollution doesn’t completely wash out the stars. The first time I took a night walk around our property and saw the brilliance of a star-filled night sky, I knew I had to get myself a telescope.

I started by researching what type of telescope is best for observing Mars and planetary imaging since that’s the type of astronomy that interests me most.

While I can’t even claim amateur astronomer status by any stretch of the word, I learned a great deal about telescopes and what they can do. If it helps you in your search for the best telescope to see Mars and deep-sky objects, here’s what I found out.

Suit up, space cadet! Let’s go planet hunting!

OFHQ’s Favorites

Every telescope in this post is worth its salt; however, if you’re in a rush, here it is short and sweet:

OFHQ Favorite #1

Best Budget/Beginner Telescope
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130 EQ2 Newton Reflector Telescope
$287.07
  • This 5.1" aperture reflector telescope gathers an ample amount of light for great views of the planets and Moon, as well as brighter galaxies, nebulas, and star clusters
  • Compact optical tube design for easy portability and fast f/5 focal ratio for pleasing wide-field performance makes the SpaceProbe 130ST EQ a very versatile telescope the whole family can enjoy
  • Sturdy equatorial telescope mount and adjustable tripod allows manual slow-motion tracking of celestial objects as they appear to migrate across the night sky
  • Complete assembled telescope weighs just 28 lbs. for convenient transport
  • Includes two 1.25" Plossl eyepieces (25mm and 10mm), smartphone camera adapter, DeepMap 600, MoonMap 260, collimation cap, and more!
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02/08/2023 08:07 am GMT

OFHQ Favorite #2

Best Telescope for All Skill Levels
Celestron NexStar 8SE Schmidt-Cassegrain Computerized Telescope
$1,599.00
  • Celestron combines legendary 8" Schmidt-Cassegrian optics with updated technology and the latest features for an amazing stargazing experience for beginners and experienced observers alike.
  • Large, 8-inch primary mirror packs enough light-gathering ability to deliver spectacular views of the Moon and planets, along with deep-sky objects like the Whirlpool Galaxy and Hercules Globular Cluster
  • With a database of 40,000+ celestial objects, NexStar SE's GoTo mount locates and tracks objects for you
  • Assembling the telescope takes just a few minutes
  • Buy with confidence from Celestron, a leading telescope brand in California since 1960.
  • Purchasing from an Authorized Dealer on Amazon gives you a 2-Year US Warranty and unlimited support from our team of US-based experts.
  • Includes a free download of Starry Night Special Edition
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02/08/2023 08:17 am GMT

OFHQ Favorite #3

Stephen Hawking's Personal Pick
Celestron CPC Deluxe 1100 Edge HD Schmidt-Cassegrain Computerized Telescope
$5,099.00
  • PREMIUM OPTICAL TUBE: 11-Inch EdgeHD optical tube provides stunning views and sharp astroimages free of visual defects
  • BUILT FOR SUPERIORITY: The Celestron has a sturdy dual fork arm mount with upgraded gears and motors anchors the telescope for superior tracking and pointing accuracy
  • STARBRIGHT XLT COATING: All EdgeHD system includes the StarBright XLT coatings on all optical surfaces for brighter images and increased light transmission
  • ELIMINATES ABERRATIONS for spectacular celestial viewing and astrophotography
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02/08/2023 08:23 am GMT

The Best Telescopes to Observe Mars (and All the Planets in the Solar System)

Depending on your level of experience (or your willingness to learn), the perfect telescope for planetary observations can be found across the price spectrum.

Generally speaking, the more sophisticated and technical (and capable), the more you’re going to pay.

That said, we’ve arranged the following acclaimed telescopes in order of ascending price, the first being the less expensive ones. If you’re a beginner, we recommend looking into those before dropping thousands on the higher-end ones.

Still, to each his own. Let’s do this!

1. Orion SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector Telescope

The Good Stuff: The portability of this smaller telescope is ideal for those who want an effective telescope to take on the road, camping, or to a friend’s house. Not to mention, the 5″ aperture optics combined with an equatorial mount and stable tripod alongside other complimentary accessories (star chart, moon map, tripod, mount, eyepieces, etc.) make this deal a must-buy for its price point.

The Not-So-Great: Even with the included camera phone focuser, the mount isn’t stable enough for astrophotography and the focuser and mount parts are largely plastic. Further, this beginner setup would not satisfy experienced at-home astronomers.

Orion SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector Telescope
$269.99
  • This 5.1" aperture reflector telescope gathers an ample amount of light for great views of the planets and Moon, as well as brighter galaxies, nebulas, and star clusters
  • Compact optical tube design for easy portability and fast f/5 focal ratio for pleasing wide-field performance makes the SpaceProbe 130ST EQ a very versatile telescope the whole family can enjoy
  • Sturdy equatorial telescope mount and adjustable tripod allows manual slow-motion tracking of celestial objects as they appear to migrate across the night sky
  • Complete assembled telescope weighs just 28 lbs. for convenient transport
  • Includes two 1.25" Plossl eyepieces (25mm and 10mm), smartphone camera adapter, DeepMap 600, MoonMap 260, collimation cap, and more!
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02/08/2023 06:27 am GMT

Overview: The SpaceProbe reflector telescope from Orion is undoubtedly an impressive Newtonian reflector on an equatorial mount for the price.

For aspiring amateur astronomers looking to take their observations up a notch, the Orion SpaceProbe 130ST EQ Reflector Telescope is an ideal choice.

The specifications of the SpaceProbe will allow you to dial in to satisfyingly detailed images of all the planets save Pluto (which has lost his planetary status … poor, cold, lonely little guy).

With a 130mm aperture primary mirror, this telescope is equipped with the same diffraction-limited parabolic mirror normally found in much larger and more expensive reflector telescopes.

This feature, in tandem with the equatorial mount and dovetail cradle mounting, as well as the included accessories makes this a decent beginner’s astronomical system!

2. Sky-Watcher Explorer 130 EQ2 Newton Reflector Telescope (Best Budget/Beginner Telescope)

The Good Stuff: Like the SpaceProbe, the Explorer boasts an equatorial mount to easily track objects across the sky and has plenty of aperture and good optics; PLUS, you get an included Barlow lens and an additional year of warranty coverage for the same price point.

The Not-So-Great: The equatorial mount is not as precise as on more expensive models and the manual targeting presents a significant learning curve and patience.

Best Budget/Beginner Telescope
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130 EQ2 Newton Reflector Telescope
$287.07
  • This 5.1" aperture reflector telescope gathers an ample amount of light for great views of the planets and Moon, as well as brighter galaxies, nebulas, and star clusters
  • Compact optical tube design for easy portability and fast f/5 focal ratio for pleasing wide-field performance makes the SpaceProbe 130ST EQ a very versatile telescope the whole family can enjoy
  • Sturdy equatorial telescope mount and adjustable tripod allows manual slow-motion tracking of celestial objects as they appear to migrate across the night sky
  • Complete assembled telescope weighs just 28 lbs. for convenient transport
  • Includes two 1.25" Plossl eyepieces (25mm and 10mm), smartphone camera adapter, DeepMap 600, MoonMap 260, collimation cap, and more!
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02/08/2023 08:07 am GMT

Overview: Another good start for aspiring astronomers, the Sky-Watcher Explorer 130 EQ2 telescope is a great option for beginners and intermediate users alike. This 300mm Newtonian Reflector has plenty of aperture power and excellent optics, plus the included Barlow lens will help you get the most out of your observations.

The slow-motion mount is fairly easy to manipulate when tracking objects and keeping them in view; although, it may require some patience to get the tracking accuracy you need for more advanced observations.

With its durable construction and two-year warranty, this telescope will last you for years to come. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to up your game, the Sky-Watcher Explorer 130 EQ2 is a great choice.

3. Celestron Omni XLT 102 Refractor Telescope

The Good Stuff: The Omni XLT is a solid scope that arrives with a solid mount and steel tripod that is surprising for the price (the mount alone can be purchased separately for about $300!). Optics and focal length are satisfactory for viewing planets, the moon, and stars and the whole setup breaks down fairly easily for transport.

The Not-So-Great: High-quality, in this case, also means heavier making portability more cumbersome, and chromatic aberration hinders the image quality slightly by not enabling all colors to be focused at precisely the same point. Not a deal breaker by any stretch.

Celestron Omni XLT 102 Refractor Telescope
$757.95 $599.99
  • CELESTRON’S LEGENDARY OMNI XLT REFRACTOR OPTICAL TUBE: Celestron technicians hand select the glass for each lens in your Omni XLT refractor so only the finest grade optical glass is used.
  • STARBRIGHT XLT OPTICAL COATINGS: Every air-to-glass surface in the Omni XLT’s optical path is fully multi-coated with our proprietary StarBright XLT anti-reflective coatings for the maximum level of light transmission to the eye.
  • ULTRA-PRECISE GERMAN EQUATORIAL MOUNT: Celestron CG-4 manual EQ mount with setting circles, worm gear slow-motion controls and ball bearings on both axes.
  • ACCESSORIES INCLUDED: Everything you need to begin observing immediately—6x30 optical finderscope, sturdy full-height steel tripod with 1.75” legs, 1.25” star diagonal, and a 25mm multicoated eyepiece.
  • BONUS ASTRONOMY SOFTWARE: Learn more about the night sky with your FREE download of Starry Night, one of the top consumer rated astronomy software programs with a database of more than 36,000 celestial objects and printable sky maps.
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02/08/2023 07:22 am GMT

Overview: Celestron is arguably the most recognized telescope brand in the world and the Omni XLT refractor telescope is a great entry-level telescope. It may not have all of the bells and whistles of more expensive models but it will get you started and give you the perfect package for getting up close and personal with not only planet Mars, but all the celestial bodies of our night sky.

The bragging rights of the Omni are attributed to its high-quality coated optics (Celestron’s pride and joy) and a CG-4 Equatorial mount that, although not motorized, provides setting circles and slow-motion controls that make locating and tracking not only smooth and efficient but fun.

Top this off with the bonus inclusion of Celestron’s proprietary Starry Night software to guide you on your celestial journey, and you’ve got a telescope that’s hard to beat in terms of entry-level performance and value.

4. Celestron NexStar 127SLT Computerized Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope

The Good Stuff: It’s lightweight. It’s über-portable. It’s computerized. Seriously, plop your favorite leather recliner in the back yard and consider yourself frugally pampered.

The Not-So-Great: While the inclusion of a computerized mount is nice, we would prefer that it was equatorial; however, seeing as a computerized equatorial mount would almost triple the price of this package, we’ll take the alti-azimuth.

Also, the long focal length of this scope means your targets are limited to lunar and planetary viewing (as opposed to deep space objects); but, isn’t that why we’re here in the first place?

Celestron NexStar 127SLT Computerized Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope
$720.89
  • FULLY COMPUTERIZED GoTo telescope designed with beginner to intermediate users in mind
  • HUGE DATABASE of more than 4,000 stars, galaxies, nebulae, and more
  • AUTOMATICALLY TARGETS AND TRACKS your object with pinpoint accuracy
  • ACCESSORIES INCLUDE red dot StarPointer finderscope and 2 eyepieces (25mm and 9mm), an adjustable, full-height steel tripod with accessory tray to keep you organized in the field
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02/08/2023 07:57 am GMT

Overview: Behold! Proof that even a small telescope can get you up close and personal with other planets!

The NexStar 127SLT is the perfect telescope for beginner-to-be-amateur astronomers, who want to get acquainted with the night sky. This small yet powerful telescope comes with a computerized mount and stellarium software to help you find your way around the stars.

The computerized alti-azimuth mount ensures smooth tracking of the stars and planets as they move across the night sky. The optics are made of high-quality glass, giving you clear and precise images of various objects in space.

To top it all off, this modestly priced computerized telescope is lightweight and easily transportable so that you can take your stargazing adventures anywhere that your space boots may roam!

5. Celestron Astro Fi Wi-Fi 102 Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope

The Good Stuff: This computerized telescope is even more lightweight than the Nexstar 127SLT plus the integrated WiFi and included software allow you to execute absolute control with your Smartphone.

And if it sounds too sophisticated, think again! Even the greenest of martian newbies will find this telescope a snap to learn.

The Not-So-Great: This time around, the computerized mount is still alti-azimuth, so this unit doesn’t have tracking capabilities as precise as an equatorially mounted one; however, you can easily compensate for that with the advanced software that comes included in this package.

Lastly, the tripod isn’t as robust as it could be . . . you might have to weigh it down somehow.

Celestron Astro Fi Wi-Fi 102 Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope
$762.66
  • MAKSUTOV-CASSEGRAIN with fully coated glass optics
  • INTEGRATED WIFI CONTROL using the free Celestron SkyPortal app for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices
  • QUICK AND EASY SET UP; no tools required
  • ACCESSORIES INCLUDE: two eyepieces (25mm and 10mm), star diagonal, finderscope, and a NEW integrated smartphone adapter
  • ADJUSTABLE HEIGHT TRIPOD includes an accessory tray
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02/08/2023 08:07 am GMT

Overview: The Astro Fi 102 is a Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope with an alt-azimuth mount that allows you to observe terrestrial and celestial objects wherever you are. This portability makes it the perfect companion for planetary imaging on any adventure!

This feather-light package provides stunning views of planet Mars, the Moon’s craters, Saturn’s rings, Jupiter’s iconic Great Red Spot, the Orion Nebula, the Hercules Globular Cluster, and much more of our Solar System.

Moreover, the star diagonal offers you the ability to get an upright view of your target while using it as a spotting scope during daylight hours.

With the telescope’s simple setup process, you can be stargazing in no time! Even if it is your first experience assembling a telescope, you’ll find that all its accessories and SkyPortal app are easy to install within minutes.

As a final touch, the lens cap doubles as an adapter for your smartphone, allowing you to dip your toe into some astrophotography. Far out!

6. Celestron NexStar 6 SE Schmidt-Cassegrain Computerized Telescope

The Good Stuff: No flies on this package – solid build, superb tracking, a vixen dovetail saddle allowing you to switch out your mount at will, and impeccable optics with no coma or color fringing.

Finally, the computerized GoTo mount works in tandem with the included StarSense software to target and track over 40,000 celestial objects with the touch of a button.

The Not-So-Great: All that tech quickly sucks the life out of the 8 required AA batteries – consider buying Celestron’s AC adapter and take an extension cord … or a generator. Finally, the weight makes this awkward to transport; but, not impossible.

Celestron NexStar 6 SE Schmidt-Cassegrain Computerized Telescope
$1,080.78
  • Celestron’s iconic “orange tube” design is updated with all the latest features to provide the best stargazing experience for beginners and experienced observers alike.
  • 6-inch aperture with excellent light-gathering ability provides impressive views of the Moon and planets, along with deep sky objects like the Orion Nebula, while retaining a compact form factor.
  • Fully automated GoTo mount with database of 40,000+ celestial objects automatically locates and tracks objects for you.
  • SkyAlign technology gets your telescope aligned and ready to observe in minutes. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the night sky, you can easily align your telescope on any three bright objects.
  • Unique single fork arm design and sturdy steel tripod all break down into separate components for easy transport and quick assembly.
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02/08/2023 08:12 am GMT

Overview: This versatile, well-built instrument is a Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope with an automated GoTo mount, allowing you to observe an über-generous smattering of different celestial and terrestrial objects … or you can just ask it for an automated tour of the night sky!

The NexStar 6SE is ideal for long-range viewing of planets, star clusters, and nebulae – showing you the Andromeda Galaxy or other deep sky favorites in amazing detail – it’s a true all-around scope.

From assembly to use, the NexStar 6SE caters to a beginner’s best interest; however, it is sophisticated and capable enough to satisfy an experienced observer who wants a versatile platform that can be easily accessorized and upgraded.

For most of us, this would serve as the first and last telescope we would ever buy.

7. Sky Watcher Skymax-180 PRP Maksutav-Cassegrain Telescope

The Good Stuff: Large aperture and crisp optics provide captivating, top-shelf planetary views and decent images of brighter deep sky objects.

The Not-So-Great: The price is astronomical considering that it does not come with a mount or tripod and few other accessories. Given this, it makes a nice addition to the arsenal of an experienced observer; but, it is not recommended for novices.

Also, this telescope is sensitive to warmer temps which can compromise the quality of observations. Store it in a cool place to avoid waiting through a long cool-down time

Sky Watcher Skymax-180 PRP Maksutav-Cassegrain Telescope
$320.00
  • Maksutov-Cassegrain optical design
  • Primary and secondary mirrors feature proprietary Radiant Aluminum Quartz™ (RAQ™) coatings
  • Corrector plate featuring Metallic High-Transmission Coatings (MHTC) virtually eliminates chromatic aberrations
  • 180mm aperture, 2700mm focal length
  • Aluminum tube coated with glossy, black diamond metal-flake finish
  • Included accessories: a 2-inch 28mm eyepiece, a 9x50 finderscope, and a 2-inch diagonal
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02/08/2023 08:12 am GMT

Overview: The Sky-Watcher SkyMax-180 PRO is an impressive telescope when imaging the Moon and planets, but it’s even more remarkable to witness its capabilities in observing brighter deep sky objects even with its large f/15 focal ratio. It excels at astrophotography.

This scope, if equipped with a high-quality mount and adequate accessories to maximize the optical system’s potential, is perfect for anyone aiming to advance their planetary imaging skills while having some extra room for deep-sky work, bringing the Andromeda Galaxy and Orion Nebula within fair reach.

That said, this Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope is not accompanied by a mount or tripod, which makes it more suitable for experienced stargazers rather than novice astronomers.

8. Celestron NexStar 8SE Schmidt-Cassegrain Computerized Telescope (Best Telescope for All Skill Levels)

The Good Stuff: Long-lasting, precise craftsmanship with superb optics provides breathtakingly brilliant images that are sharp and crisp, packing the performance of much larger telescopes into a compact profile. It earns its hefty price tag.

The Not-So-Great: The level of this telescope’s sophistication makes it more suitable for experienced amateurs; however, Celestron has gone to great lengths to make mastery of this scope within reach of anyone that has the patience and tenacity to learn.

Best Telescope for All Skill Levels
Celestron NexStar 8SE Schmidt-Cassegrain Computerized Telescope
$1,599.00
  • Celestron combines legendary 8" Schmidt-Cassegrian optics with updated technology and the latest features for an amazing stargazing experience for beginners and experienced observers alike.
  • Large, 8-inch primary mirror packs enough light-gathering ability to deliver spectacular views of the Moon and planets, along with deep-sky objects like the Whirlpool Galaxy and Hercules Globular Cluster
  • With a database of 40,000+ celestial objects, NexStar SE's GoTo mount locates and tracks objects for you
  • Assembling the telescope takes just a few minutes
  • Buy with confidence from Celestron, a leading telescope brand in California since 1960.
  • Purchasing from an Authorized Dealer on Amazon gives you a 2-Year US Warranty and unlimited support from our team of US-based experts.
  • Includes a free download of Starry Night Special Edition
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02/08/2023 08:17 am GMT

Overview: Dubbed “The world’s most beloved telescope” by Celestron, it’s hard to argue its stellar reputation. It is difficult to believe that something so light and compact could deliver such astounding celestial views with such ease!

But that’s the magic of a catadioptric Schmidt-Cassegrain built by passionate folks that know what the heck they’re doing.

The NexStar SE is a teched-out powerhouse: Take full advantage of the included SkyQ Link and control your telescope with ease on your iPhone or iPad, or add GPS functionality through the implementation of a SkySync.

Or, you can ditch the app and take full control with the integrated hand controller, select from any of the 40,000 cataloged night sky objects, and watch it go to work, targeting and tracking like something out of Tony Stark’s future-techy toy chest!

If you want to take astro-imaging to the next level, this is your scope – it’s Fastar-compatible for quick and efficient capturing of wide-field images!

For planetary imaging, you’ve got to see it to believe it. Just wow! The high magnification and generous aperture all but put you on the planet’s surface!

Finally, this telescope can grow with you – intermediate and expert astronomers will be delighted with the extended accessories available for NexStar 8SE, while deep sky astrophotographers can make use of the motorized mount’s precise tracking to capture masterful images in long exposures.

The possibilities are truly limitless!

9. Sky Watcher Evostar 120 Doublet Refractor APO Telescope

The Good Stuff: Aside from the absence of a mount and tripod, this high-performing telescope, its included accessories, and crystal-clear optics more than earn the hefty price tag. The inclusion of a dovetail mounting plate means you can fit it to any mount you wish and it is surprisingly portable for a refractor.

The Not-So-Great: Aquiring a mount and tripod worthy of this scope can potentially double the price. Plus, the level of skill required to operate and enjoy this telescope makes it more suited to advanced observers. This is not for beginners.

Sky-Watcher EvoStar 120 APO Doublet Refractor Telescope
$2,299.00
  • EXPERTLY MATCHED GLASS: features a matched doublet objective including one synthetic fluorite element, providing excellent color correction for visual and photographic uses
  • OUTSTANDING COLOR CORRECTION: Using the finest quality glass and proprietary Metallic High-Transmission Coatings (MHTC), it produces tack sharp images with accurate color and minimal aberrations
  • EVOLVES WITH SKILL: No need to replace this telescope as your skill set evolves. Whether you’re a seasoned astrophotographer or a budding novice, EvoStar refractors are versatile enough to use as your primary optical tube as your skill-set improves
  • 10:1 DUAL-SPEED FOCUSER: No matter the eyepiece or camera, finding focus is a breeze with this 10:1 dual-speed Crayford-style focuser
  • EVERYTHING YOU NEED: The EvoStar 120 comes complete with a foam-lined aluminum hard case, 8x50 Right Angle Correct Image (RACI) Finderscope, 2” Dielectric Diagonal, 5mm and 25mm LET Eyepiece, 1.25” Adapter, Mounting Rings and a V-Style Dovetail
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02/08/2023 07:47 am GMT

Overview: When Sky-Watcher introduced the 120 ED it was something of a seismic shock to the industry. The larger apochromatic lens is of superior quality and all but eliminates spherical and chromatic aberration … and it’s sold at the cost of a small elite refractor, making it an absolute steal.

And its optics … truly amazing! The Evostar refractor lens assembly is a special combination of lenses that produces very clear stars and rich, dark skies.

All ED glass elements are made with fluorite and their special Metallic High-Transmission Coatings™ (MHTC™). To us earthlings, that simply means they eliminate false colors in your photos and prevent stray light from compromising the performance of planetary cameras.

In folk-speak – it makes pretty, pretty pictures.

I’ll be the first to admit: this is not the scope for us average humanoids with a penchant for star-and-planet gazing; however, given that it performs as well as refractors three times its cost, it is worthy of consideration.

10. Celestron CPC 11 StarBright XLT Schmidt-Cassegrain Computerized Telescope

The Good Stuff: The monstrous 11″ aperture sucks vast quantities of light for spectacular deep sky imaging and the razor-sharp optics make planetary viewing an adrenaline-inducing experience. Its fully-computerized and software-powered brains make it accessible to anyone with a love to learn.

And it’s built like a tank.

The Not-So-Great: And it weighs like a tank. This behemoth is gargantuan and is a bit of a workout to set up – and the price tag would make the average Joe’s wallet go into conniptions.

Celestron CPC 1100 StarBright XLT Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope
$3,999.00
  • CPC 1100 COMPUTERIZED TELESCOPE: Celestron’s iconic CPC telescope combines legendary 11" Schmidt-Cassegrian optics with updated technology and the latest features for an amazing stargazing experience for beginners and experienced observers alike.
  • 11-INCH APERTURE SCHMIDT-CASSEGRAIN TELESCOPE: Massive, 11-inch diffraction limited optics pack enough light-gathering ability to deliver spectacular views of Solar System and deep sky objects alike.
  • DUAL FORK ARM GOTO MOUNT: With a database of 40,000+ celestial objects, the CPC's beefy GoTo mount locates and tracks objects for you.It's also compatible with our best accessories like StarSense AutoAlign and the SkyPortal WiFi Module.
  • EASY TO SET UP & USE: The CPC's ergonomic design allows one person to set up or move the telescope. SkyAlign technology helps you align the telescope fast. When you're done observing, the telescope breaks down for storage.
  • 9x50 FINDERSCOPE INCLUDED: Center objects perfectly in the eyepiece with a high-quality finderscope with 9x magnification.
  • BONUS FREE STARRY NIGHT SOFTWARE: Includes a free download of Starry Night Special Edition, one of the top-rated astronomy software programs. Simulate the night sky, learn about celestial objects, & plan your observing session.
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02/08/2023 07:52 am GMT

Overview: Assuming you don’t plan to have your telescope ride shotgun on road trips, then we’ll skip past discussing the size of this thing.

And if you’re looking for an astronomical optics powerhouse that won’t break your wallet in two then … just stop right here. The Celestron CPC will deliver on the optics in spades; but, it will also deliver a traumatizing pummeling to your pocketbook.

The fact is, if you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to own your own McDonald Observatory and simultaneously have deep, black-hole-esque pockets, then it’s safe to say the Celestron CPC 11″ Computerized Telescope is for you.

If you eat, sleep, and dream of astro-imaging and celestial eye candy and are committed to becoming a full-fledged backyard astronomer, then you’ll need this kind of performance and power.

But if you’re just dipping your toes into the waters of astrophotography and astronomy in general … then maybe it’s best to look for a less expensive option first before splurging on the CPC 11.

With its massive 11” aperture, this telescope is capable of providing stunning views of distant galaxies and nebula, and the sleek computerization makes it easy for anyone to operate. Plus, its dual-fork mount ensures a stable platform for your viewing and imaging needs.

It’s an expensive investment, but if you’re serious about astronomy and astrophotography – or just want to have the largest telescope in town – then this is your best bet. Plus, it’ll be sure to keep you enchanted with its epic views for years to come.

Lift with your legs, not your back.

11. Celestron CPC Deluxe 1100 Edge HD Schmidt-Cassegrain Computerized Telescope (Stephen Hawking’s Personal Pick)

The Good Stuff: The CPC Deluxe defines the upper-crust of home telescopes, capable of planetary and deep sky imaging at a level that its competitors only dream of. The fact that even a beginner can learn to use it and can simultaneously satisfy the demands of a seasoned astronomer … well, let’s just say the CPC Deluxe is one of a kind.

The Not-So-Great: I’m saving that money for my kid’s first car. And this is a LARGE telescope … not ideal for totin’ around.

Stephen Hawking's Personal Pick
Celestron CPC Deluxe 1100 Edge HD Schmidt-Cassegrain Computerized Telescope
$5,099.00
  • PREMIUM OPTICAL TUBE: 11-Inch EdgeHD optical tube provides stunning views and sharp astroimages free of visual defects
  • BUILT FOR SUPERIORITY: The Celestron has a sturdy dual fork arm mount with upgraded gears and motors anchors the telescope for superior tracking and pointing accuracy
  • STARBRIGHT XLT COATING: All EdgeHD system includes the StarBright XLT coatings on all optical surfaces for brighter images and increased light transmission
  • ELIMINATES ABERRATIONS for spectacular celestial viewing and astrophotography
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02/08/2023 08:23 am GMT

Overview: So, what does it have that its non-deluxe little bro does not?

For one, this was Stephen Hawking’s telescope; so, there’s that.

Otherwise, this gets more technical than I am qualified to get into but; in an abridged form, the marked difference lies in the optical tube assembly which eradicates any imperfections that hinder other telescopes’ ability to deliver, well, perfect views of our galactic neighborhood.

In layman’s terms: this telescope will dazzle your peepers with the wonders of the night sky like no other can. You’ll enjoy views of the universe with zero distortions. Period.

This thing even checks for errors in its own alignment (which it does for you at the push of a button on a remote that gives you Captain James T. Kirk-like delusions of grandeur) and makes periodic corrections.

Introducing the valedictorian of home telescopes.

Qualities of a Good Telescope for Planetary Viewing

If you’re like me, then, if you’re going to do something, REALLY DO IT!

I don’t want to just view Mars; so, don’t give me a cheap telescope that only delivers a blurry view of a dull red smudge.

No, I want to observe the red planet, to see it all: Olympus Mons, the martian polar caps, impact craters like Hellas Basin and canyons like Valles Marineris, the major dark surface areas like Syrtis Major, the rolling dust storms . . . every one of its fascinating surface features. And then, I want to see the best views of Cassini’s divisions of Saturn’s rings, the massive bands of Jupiter, and every celestial object between here and Pluto!

And deep sky objects like galaxies and nebulae? Yes, please!

For this level of planetary imaging (and beyond), you’ll need to consider the following qualities in a telescope:

Type of Telescope

Essentially, there are only 3 basic types of telescopes. While you may hear of other types, by any other name, they will still be a variant of one of these three:

Without getting too much into the weeds, if your priority is procuring a telescope for viewing the planets specifically, consider this

Although large refractor telescopes may be the dream of many dedicated planetary observers, their bulky and expensive nature can be disillusioning.

A superb alternative that is lighter in weight and wallet-friendly are the catadioptric Maksutov-Cassegrains or Schmidt-Cassegrains compound telescopes. 

Aperture Size

Aperture will determine how much light your scope can take in and consequently impacts the clarity of what you observe through its eyepiece.

The larger the aperture, the higher the level of detail you will be able to enjoy (and the higher the price tag . . . typically).

That said, anything with an aperture below 4″ is just disappointing when basking in the glory of the planetary bodies.

An aperture from 4″-5″ (101-130 mm) will allow you to see Mar’s polar caps and major dark surface areas, as well as Jupiter’s bands and moon shadows, the divisions in Saturn’s rings, all the phases of Mercury, and even the distant discs of Uranus and Neptune. Not bad!

Anything above 5″ is going to compound and sharpen the image, rewarding you with a much greater experience and return on your investment.

In this post, we don’t recommend anything below 4″ and highly recommend telescopes with an aperture of 8″-14.”

Focal Length

The focal length of your telescope indicates the distance light travels from its entry point (aperture) to its exit point (focuser where an eyepiece or DSLR camera can be attached for prime focus imaging).

The longer the focal length, the larger the image.

Generally, a longer telescope tube means a longer focal length, notable exceptions being Schmidt-Cassegrain and Maksutov-Cassegrain telescopes that, with the use of internal mirrors, pack a LOT of focal length into surprisingly compact tubes.

For viewing Mars (or any planet), the longer the focal length, the better. If you’re looking to capture galaxies, nebulas, and other deep-space objects in your astrophotography, then a shorter focal length is ideal. This will give you greater coverage of the night sky so that faint targets are easier to find and photograph.

Magnification

Magnification refers to the apparent size of the object as viewed through the eyepiece relative to the size of the object when viewed with the naked eye. Increasing magnification narrows the field of view, bringing the viewed object “closer” to the eye.

BUT, maximum magnification does not necessarily mean maximum image quality. As magnification increases, your image can become more susceptible to interference making it shaky and fuzzy.

For planetary viewing, a telescope with a magnification range of 30x to 300x is recommended.

While larger celestial objects like the rings of Saturn and Jupiter are seen best at 50-150x, smaller objects like Mars and the Moon require a maximum magnification of 100x – 250x.

Learning to control and adjust the magnification on your scope will help you zoom in on the planet or deep-sky object of your choice and enjoy a clear image.

Eyepieces

When you purchase a telescope, the eyepieces that come with it may not provide all magnifications or be of high quality. Most of the telescopes in this post come with one or two, typically a 10mm or 25 mm eyepiece. The best way to get the most out of your investment: consider investing in one or two quality extra eyepieces for optimal results.

Furthermore, consider picking up a Barlow lens. This enables you to double the magnification of your eyepiece with ease.

Optics

Make sure your telescope has top-notch optical components, including the main lens (primary objective), secondary mirror, and focusing parts. Opt for telescopes from reliable manufacturers such as Celestron, Orion, or SkyWatcher to guarantee superior quality.

Steer clear of obscure, off-name brands from unestablished sources that promise a premium telescope at a dirt-cheap price. Telescopes are fine-tuned astronomical instruments – you get what you pay for.

Mount

The only thing more frustrating than a low-quality telescope is an unstable (shaky) mount that doesn’t stay put or one that is difficult to adjust.

The mount that your telescope sits on will determine its stability and tracking accuracy. If a mount is poorly designed or made from inferior material, then you won’t get the best view of your intended target.

Look for mounts that are sturdy and have a good balance between weight (for portability) and stability. There are three main types of telescope mounts: Alt-azimuth, Dobsonian, and Equatorial. Depending on what type of imaging you plan to do, one may be more beneficial than the other.

Without overcomplicating things, suffice it to say, for the best experience and ease of use for planetary imaging, an equatorial or alti-azimuth (as most Celestron’s come with) mount is highly recommended.

Cosmic Tips: A Guide to Observing Mars

In the words of Neil deGrasse Tyson, “The greatest tool for a stargazer is patience!”

That sagacious advice aside, I would love to include a guide for observing the red planet that would rival the competition and send you on your way to stargazing success.

However, being a novice myself, I’ll defer to the expertise of others. I’ve benefited greatly from perusing the articles of Brian Ventrudo of Cosmic Pursuits and recommend you visit his site. He can guide you to the best time to view Mars at its closest point (Mars Opposition) to earth, bringing its polar ice caps, surface detail, and dark spots into sharp contrast.

You can also keep up with the latest in space news to plan your star-gazing by visiting websites such as NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency.

Here’s to Dark Skies, Bright Planets, and Brilliant Stars

I genuinely hope this post has been helpful and informative, and that you’re now a few steps closer to taking advantage of the wonders of the night sky.

As always, remember to be patient with yourself as you learn the ropes and keep your eyes open for new opportunities to explore – happy telescoping!

Now, get out there!

Joshua Davis

Being outdoors is freedom! Being outdoors with my wife and two boys is LIVING! Whether in my backyard or getting lost in a National Park, there’s nothing I’d rather do than explore, discover, and experience the paradise that surrounds us. Give me my family, a backpack, and a trail and my life is full!