View Full Version : Telescope For Mars

2003-Jun-05, 02:21 PM
I read somewhere that Mars will be at its closest to us in August. I haven't decided yet, but I am considering buying my first telescope for the event. What should I buy, so that I can see it clearly (power, etc)? I have seen some on the market that have software. I don't understand a lot of this, but I guess it has something to do with being able to find heavenly bodies more easily, or something like that. Are these worth the added expense? Or can the average Joe Blow find Mars without it? And in what direction should I look?

Tim Thompson
2003-Jun-05, 05:01 PM
My advice is that you are thinking about buying a telescope for the wrong reason. If all you want is to get a good look at Mars during opposition, then seek out your local amateur astronomy club or society (the Sky and Telescope Clubs & Organizations Directory (http://skyandtelescope.com/resources/organizations/) is the best place to start). They undoubtedly have plans for observing Mars, and you can certainly hook up with them and have plenty of opportunities to see Mars.

Different styles of telescopes have different characteristics, and most are better for one purpose than another would be. Most likely the best telescope for viewing Mars at opposition, for image quality, would be a high end, long focal length, large aperature (6 to 8 inches or larger) refracting telescope. But they are expensive, and require some patience (and maybe more than one person) to set up. On the other hand, a simple Dobsonian mounted Newtonian reflector, while it may not rival the refractor for image quality on Mars, is cheaper, easier to set up (or even build from scratch if you are so inclined), and in practice is larger in aperature, which makes it better for the Faint Fuzzies.

Deciding how to spend your money on a telescope does require a bit of forethought as to your plans. Are you going to try astrophotography or not? If so, will you use old fashioned film (which gives better images but means more work) or new fangled CCD's (which are easier to use but don't yet have the image quality of film). Are you going to go out with the family for a bit of quick observing, or are you going to stay with the telescope all night? Are you ready to spend lots of $$$ and really get into the astronomy biz, or do you just want to spend a few $'s? Or maybe you're the hands-on type, and you don't mind actually building your own telescope? Answering these questions is a lot easier if you can chat with the local astronomers and compare experiences face to face, than it is to get disembodied advice from the web-spirits of Bad Astronomy.

Also see the Bad Astronomer's pages: So you want to buy a telescope? (http://www.badastronomy.com/bitesize/scopefaq.html) and Join the Club! (http://www.badastronomy.com/bitesize/astroclubs.html).

2003-Jun-05, 05:41 PM
Thanks, Tim. Boy, I guess there are more things to think about. I wasn't thinking about photography. Perhaps that's an option I may want to consider. I want to use it for more than just look at Mars. I want to look at other bodies as well. Mars was just a start. I don't want to put a fortune into it, but enough to look at the objects, and hopefully the clarity will be affordable. I didn't even think about building my own, but that's another option. I didn't realize that there were so many things to consider. Thanks very much, Tim, for the info.

2003-Jun-05, 11:38 PM
Yes, take advantage of your local astronomy club!

Mars is a small planet. Even this approach, it will be about 25.something arc seconds in diameter. That is small! Most people seeing Mars in a telescope for the first time are underwhelmed after seeing all the Hubble images.

To see detail, you need some magnification. Of course, cheap little department store telescopes that advertise 500x or something rediculous don't cut it. Realistically, you can magnify about 50x per inch of aperature, so you need a good 6 inch telescope to realistically get to 300x...and that will only happend under VERY good seeing conditions that you get a couple of times a year.

So, find your local astronomy club, look through their telescopes, talk to some people and you will probably find a telescope that fits your interest and budget.


2003-Jun-06, 12:45 PM
Thanks, Tim and Rob. I will check out the clubs. Perhaps that's the best way to go right now. Hopefully, planet X won't destroy the moons before we can look at them :D (kidding)

2003-Jun-06, 01:02 PM
I concur that Phil's page on buying a 'scope was very helpful. I especially liked the page from the "Belmont Society" that he has a link to. They provide a lot of information and it's extremely well-organized. It was a big help as we were making the big decision.


David Hall
2003-Jun-08, 12:33 PM
Yesterday I was at my local camera/electronics superstore and I found a nice cheap tripod to mount my (7x50) binoculars on. I debated for a while between it and a simple monopod for about the same price, but I decided the tripod would be more useful overall. It won't win any awards for stability, but it's nice and light and telescopes to about my height. I can also use it for my digital camera and for a video camera if I ever buy one.

I'm amazed at how cheap it was. It only cost 2000 yen, plus another thousand for the adaptor to connect it to my binoculars. Only problem is, even with the adaptor, the binocs sit too low on the stand and it keeps them from folding together correctly. I can't get the lenses close enough together for my eyes. I have to mount them upside down to get it to work properly. :lol: I'll have to go back and buy an extender to use it properly.

But why does everything have to be designed for right-handers only? The mount handle is on the right and quite inconvenient for me. Oh, well. how can I complain at that price?

I can't wait to try it out on Mars. It should be pretty cool.

2003-Jun-11, 05:24 PM
...I don't want to put a fortune into it, but enough to look at the objects, and hopefully the clarity will be affordable. I didn't even think about building my own, but that's another option. I didn't realize that there were so many things to consider...

In addition to what Tim Thompson, HaleBop, and the other folks advise - when you visit your local astronomy club, ask about seeing Mars through a Barlow lens as well as various larger and smaller fields of vision via eyepiece combinations. Having direct "hands on" (or should I say "eyes on") experience will be fun and beneficial. I remember some excellent views of Mars and other planets that I've had despite the tradeoff in quality the larger the image appears, if Earth's atmosphere cooperates. Glimpsing the Mars polar caps is a thrill. :wink:

If you're thinking "affordable," Dobsonian is the way to go. Binoculars are also good in that you'll always find them useful, even after you get your telescope - (though good ones can cost just as much!) Good used binoculars can be found at garage sales or flea markets.

2003-Jun-19, 02:58 AM
Now than you have good "telescopic" advice.
Keep looking up!!!