Telescopes for viewing Mars

Get ready for viewing Mars this summer during its closest approach for 15 years


You may wish to circle Friday, 27 July on your calendar. On that morning planet Mars reaches opposition in the constellation of Capricornus, lies almost opposite the Sun and may be found highest in the southern sky around 1am local time for observers in Western Europe. Furthermore, on the evening of 27 July – in a rare bonus for observers in the UK – the planet rises in the southeast around 10pm BST, less than 6 degrees south of a totally eclipsed Moon.
While one may logically assume that 27 July is also the date that Mars is nearest the Earth, this is not the case. Owing to the eccentricity of the Red Planet’s orbit and that of our own, the least distance between Mars and Earth doesn’t occur until 8:45am BST on Tuesday, 31 July. Only the opposition of 2003 saw Mars get closer – 0.373 astronomical units, or 55.8 million kilometres (34.6 million miles) on 27 August of that year.

In 2018, the distance between the centres of Earth and Mars will shrink to 0.385 astronomical units, or 35.8 million miles (57.6 million kilometres) on 31 July. The Red Planet will then reach a maximum angular size of 24.3 arcseconds when a telescope magnifying just 80x will enlarge it to the same size as the full Moon appears to the unaided eye.

For more info including a fantastic Mars Mapper tool click here to go to our friends at Astronomy Now and read the full article.

The Best Telescopes for viewing Mars

The best planetary telescopes feature a good focal length, and as always aperture is helpful.  That always has to be balanced with cost, and of course practicality from a size and weight point of view. With this in mind we have set out below a selection of just some of our best choices covering a few price points and practical situations.  This list is far from being exhaustive though, and we are always happy to give you friendly impartial advice, so please don't be afraid to call, email, or better still pay us a visit in the shop so you can see some of these amazing telescopes for yourselves in the flesh.

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