The universe is fascinating and we are very privileged to be able to witness the many planets in our solar system right from our home. Mars is one planet which we have come to love, amazed by what it is and intrigued about what more we can find.
Yet, there is much more to Mars than being a red planet in the sky. In this article, we will be telling you how you can see Mars through a telescope as well as advising the best magnification for the best results.
- What To Know About Mars
- Do You Need To Be A Certified Astronomer To See Mars?
- When Is the Best Time To Look for Mars?
- Using a Telescope
- Can You Use Any Telescope to View Mars?
- What is The Best Telescope Magnification?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Thoughts
What To Know About Mars
After decades of exploration and research, we have discovered a lot about the planet Mars. This planet is most famous for its signature red color, this being evident from the names created based on this feature.
In Ancient China, it was labeled as ‘The Red One’ and the Ancient Romans named it after their god of war for its bloody tone. What not everyone knows, however, is that this signature red color is due to its iron rich minerals. These minerals, in turn, create rock and loose dust which covers the planet’s surface, giving it its color.
This planet is the fourth planet away from Earth, in perfect view and therefore being easier to study by both astronomers and anyone with a telescope.
In fact, this planet is so close to us that it can even sometimes be seen with the naked eye. One thing which many of us already know about Mars other than its grand red color is its climate.
Mars is extremely cold, so much so that no human will be able to survive on the planet for more than a couple of days. For survival to be possible, humans would have to be kept in a separate facility on the planet with life support systems.
On average, the temperature of Mars sits at minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It is hoped that by the 2030s, humans will finally be able to set foot on Mars.
Do You Need To Be A Certified Astronomer To See Mars?
When it comes to seeing Mars, you do not need to have any complex tools or be a professionally certified astronomer to see this red planet.
As stated above, you can indeed see Mars purely with the naked eye, but you can too use your own telescope to really see the planet for what it is.
With just the naked eye, you will be able to see that famous red glow but with a telescope there is so much more to view. We recommend a large aperture Dobsonian telescope when trying to view Mars because of their light capturing ability. More light = more power.
When Is the Best Time To Look for Mars?
Unfortunately, it is not as simple as looking for Mars any day at any time. In order to get the best results, you should be aware of when to look. In December of 2022, Mars will be the closest it has been in two years, therefore making it one of the best times to view the planet.
Due to this, we will have the ability to study its features more clearly. If you are someone who is fascinated by Mars and wants to learn more, it is best to wait until this time of the year for the best view.
It is best to avoid viewing the planet at the beginning of the year as it will be at its dimmest at this time. As the planet moves towards us, naturally it will become brighter. Make sure to keep this in mind when studying the planet.
Using a Telescope
Although it is very possible to view Mars with just the naked eye, telescopes are a great way to enhance this picture as well as study the planet in more depth.
Telescopes have been around for centuries and are the reason we know so much about the solar system today including our favorite red planet.
Yet although centuries have passed, there is still so much more to be learnt. Luckily, we are able to use telescopes right in our very homes. From child-friendly telescopes to high-functioning, there are telescopes made for everyone.
On the outside, telescopes may seem simple to use, however there is a lot to know in order to be able to use one effectively.
The first step is to level your tripod. You want your tripod to be at a sensible height as well as being sturdy and secure for your telescope. Do this by setting out the tripod’s legs accordingly until it appears level.
Aligning the Telescope
Now it is time to align your telescope. With a non-computerised alt-az mount, you will need to set your telescope down, allowing it to point in any direction.
However, you may find that you have a non-computerised equatorial mount in which case your telescope will need to be set on the ground and pointing north. You will be able to find the direction north by using a compass.
When using a telescope, it is very important to adjust the focus. Every telescope comes with a focus as everyone’s eyes are different. Make sure to adjust your telescope efficiently so that you are able to view the planet with the sharpest results.
Things to remember
- Never leave your telescope unsupervised.
- Allow your eyes to adjust to the darkness before using the telescope (we recommend around 10 minutes of waiting time).
- Do not look directly into the sun using a telescope.
- Do not use your telescope in strong winds or use it to direct an image of the sun onto a surface – this will damage your equipment.
Can You Use Any Telescope to View Mars?
If you are wanting to view Mars as a fun activity or to introduce your children to astronomy, you will be fine with most kinds of telescopes. But if you are wanting to truly take in the features of Mars and evaluate the planet, it is best to get a telescope of the highest quality.
Below, we will be highlighting everything you will be able to see based on the size of telescopes.
Aperture Size 2.3 – 2.8”
With this size, you will only be able to see some of the planets in the solar system. These, however, will not show much detail at all.
Aperture Size 3.5 – 5”
As we move further up in size, more planets will be visible including Neptune, Saturn, Mercury, Jupiter and Uranus. You will also be able to see Mars, its polar caps and its major dark surface areas.
Aperture Size 5 – 8”
At this level, the telescope will be able to show Mars’s red color as well as its dark features become much more noticeable.
Aperture Size 8 – 14”
The highest size is 8 – 14”. Here, you will be granted the highest level of detail in a variety of planets including Saturn, Jupiter, Pluto and, of course, Mars. The telescope will allow you to see Mars’ clouds, red color, and an incredible amount of surface detail.
What is The Best Telescope Magnification?
Magnification is the way a telescope enlarges its image. This is down to the telescope’s focal length and the eyepiece’s focal length.
When it comes to choosing the best magnification for viewing Mars, higher is better. As Mars is a small planet (half the size of Earth), you will need to place the magnification on a high enough level to retrieve the best picture.
It has been recommended that the magnification of 30 – 50x the aperture is best when it comes to viewing Mars, however feel free to trial and error when using your own telescope.
Frequently Asked Questions
How big is Mars?
Mars is a small planet, being the second smallest planet in the solar system before Mercury. With a radius of 3389.5km, Mars makes up half the size of Earth.
Although we are able to see this planet’s red glow with the naked eye, it is still necessary to set the magnification at its highest to see clearly through a telescope.
Can we live on Mars?
By the 2030s, NASA has hopes of sending a group of people to Mars to analyze this query. What we know so far is that survival is only possible if a man made life support system was to be made on that planet.
Without it, no human could survive. This is because the temperature is too low and the atmosphere is too thin).
Can we see Mars through binoculars?
Yes, it is very possible to see Mars through binoculars, however this will not compare to the quality produced through a telescope. With this said, it will be better than the naked eye.
After reading this guide, it is hoped that you will understand more about Mars as well as gaining knowledge of the best way to view the red planet.