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How to See Mars With A Telescope?

Mars is the only planet that reveals the surface details to us while most of the other planets are either covered in clouds or very small and blurry to show much. Mars glows with a reddish color due to the presence of iron oxide in its soil.  Mars can be seen with bare eyes throughout the year. However, you will get the best view if you use a telescope to see it when it is the closest to earth. The distance between the earth and Mars varies from 56 to 400 million km. The closest position happens every two years when mars are in the opposite direction of the Sun from the earth.

What is Mars?

Mars, the fourth planet from the Sun and the seventh largest in the solar system, is known as the “Red Planet” due to its orange-red surface, caused by iron(III) oxide dust. It is a celestial body of great intrigue and wonder, with a thin atmosphere composed mainly of carbon dioxide, argon, and nitrogen, two small, irregularly shaped natural satellites named Phobos and Deimos, and a similar day length to Earth, with a Martian solar day (sol) equal to 24.5 hours. Its major surface features include the tallest volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons, and the largest canyon, Valles Marineris. Mars is half the size of Earth, with a diameter of 6,779 km (4,212 mi), and the only planet currently known to be inhabited entirely by robots, which have been sent to explore its surface and search for signs of life.

How far is Mars from planet Earth?

The average distance between Mars and Earth is 228 million kilometers (1.524 astronomical units), but this can vary greatly due to the elliptical shape of their orbits and their positions in those orbits. The closest approach between the two planets is 54.6 million kilometers (33.9 million miles), while the farthest distance is 401 million kilometers (249 million miles). The closest recorded approach of Mars and Earth occurred in 2003 when they were only 34.8 million miles (56 million km) apart. Mars and Earth are farthest apart when they are both at their farthest from the sun, on opposite sides of the star. The distance between Mars and Earth was first determined by Giovanni Cassini in 1672 using the parallax method.

Can you see Mars with a telescope?

Yes, Mars can be observed with a telescope. The best type of telescope for viewing Mars is a refractor telescope with at least a 120mm aperture and a 1,000mm focal length. The ideal aperture for viewing Mars through a telescope is around 6-8 inches or larger, and the ideal focal length would be around 500-1000mm. An equatorial mount is not necessary for viewing Mars with a telescope, but it can enhance the viewing experience by allowing for precise tracking of celestial objects. Mars is almost half the size of Earth in terms of diameter. The most prominent surface features of Mars that can be observed with a telescope include the polar ice caps, dark regions known as maria, and lighter areas called deserts. The brightness of Mars when viewed through a telescope can vary depending on various factors such as atmospheric conditions, the position of Mars in the sky, and the size and quality of the telescope being used.

Quick Guide to Observe Mars

In the middle of December of last year, Mars was at its brightest. On January 16, 2025, the same thing will take place. You can select a 150x–250x magnification eyepiece. Make sure Mars is visible in the sky by using the astronomy app, and learn more about its position and timing. When you know where and when to observe Mars, try at first to locate it in the sky using only your bare eyes. Mars is easily seen because it is red. Use an automatic finder or point your telescope toward Mars once it is aligned and ready to use. Mars will be visible as a recognizable bright red disc. A novice telescope is sufficient to locate Mars and see its shape and color, but little more. However, all the characteristics as well as the moons may be seen via telescopes with an aperture of 12 inches or greater.

Preparation: Choose a star chart.

There are several star charts available on the internet or play store that you can use to get the location of Mars. For example, Sky Map, Star Walk 2 Free, SkySafari, etc.

How to find Mars?

  1. Use astronomy apps like skymap, skysafari, stellarium, etc. These apps will help you identify Mars and its location.
  2. When you have learned the location and time to observe Mars, try to find it out in the sky with bare eyes at first. Mars is red and easy to discern.
  3. When your telescope is aligned and ready to use, aim the scope toward Mars or use an automatic finder. Mars will appear as a distinct bright red disc.

We have added a table below that shows the rise and set times for Mars. The time is almost the same from any location in the northern hemisphere.


What is the best time to observe Mars?

Here we have enlisted the dates and locations when Mars will be at the closest position to earth.

DatesLocationMars’ distance from Earth
8 December 2022Taurus0.5492 AU
16 January 2025Gemini0.6435 AU
19 February 2027Leo0.6780 AU

When Is Mars at its Brightest in the sky?

This year, Mars will come within 51 million miles of Earth. At the beginning of the year 2022, Mars was at its highest magnitude and dimmest in luminosity. The brightness increased steadily till August 1. After that, the rate of increment in brightness was dramatic as Mars is moving toward us. Mars will reach its brightest view in the middle of December when it will be as bright as magnitude -1.7 to -1.9.

How to find Mars with your phone?

Install the stargazing app to find Mars. Hold your phone standstill and open the app. The app will update your screen in real-time and indicate what is there in front of you.

Tip to observe Mars in the best way.

  • Use colorful planetary filters to improve your view. A blue filter on the eyepiece makes the views of the icecaps sharp. A red filter increases lighten the desert regions and darken the other views. A green filter will increase the overall contrast. These tricks are called Galileo’s Tips & Tricks.

What can you see on Mars with a telescope?

Photo: Polar ice caps of Mars

On Mars you can see:

  • The phases of Mars
  • Polar Ice Caps: The polar ice caps appear during the northern and southern winters. You can see it even with a 4-6 inch telescope. The best view is seen when Mars is the closest to Earth from the southern hemisphere during winter.
  • Valles Marineris, the valley that is deeper than the Gran Canyon of Earth. You need at least a telescope with an aperture of 8-10 inches to see them.
  • Olympus Mons, the tallest volcano in the solar system. You need at least a telescope with an aperture of 8-10 inches to see them.
  • The moons of Mars, Deimos, and Phobos can be seen only through telescopes with large apertures like 14-16 inches or more.
  • Syrtis Major and Mare Acidalium, the dark seas on Mars. They can be seen even with a small aperture beginner telescope.
  • Martian dust storms are unpredictable but visible as they are massive and almost the whole planet becomes enshrouded in the sand. It happens every five years on average. You can see it with entry-level telescopes.

What telescope to see Mars?

Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ Refractor, Sky-Watcher Classic 6-inch Dobsonian, Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ Newtonian Reflector, and Celestron Omni XLT 102mm Refractor are great telescopes to see Mercury. A list of telescopes to see the planet Mars has more telescope options that can see Mars very clearly.

What size telescope to see Mars?

A beginner telescope is enough to find Mars and visualize its shape and color of it, not more than that. If you want more details and Martian features, you have to use a telescope with larger aperture telescopes with high magnification power. Telescopes with more than 6-inches are fair enough to reveal surface details. But telescopes with 12 inches or more aperture can reveal all the features as well as the moons.

What magnification is required to see Mars?

The phases of Mars can be seen in telescopes at 50x magnification. To see the details, you should use a telescope with at least 100 mm aperture at a magnification of 200-250x. If you want to see the moons of Mars, you have to use at least a 12-inch aperture telescope with 500-1000x magnification power.

What filters can be used to see Mars?

  • 56 Light Green – Makes the views of dust storms and icecaps clear.
  • 23A Light Red – If you want to buy only one filter, you should buy this. It highlights the surface and sharpens the views of ice caps.
  • 21 Orange – Highlights the darker surface.
  • 82A Light Blue – Darkens the red color disk and highlights the icecaps.

Enjoying Mars? Here are other things to see with a telescope.

The red planet Mars is amazing through a telescope. However, your telescope can reveal more wonders of the night sky. You can see the other planets of the solar system including the Sun and our moon. Viewing Galaxies Through A Telescope can guide you to find many galaxies in the night sky. Moreover, you can go through the ‘List of things to see with a telescope’ to learn about other objects that you can observe and enjoy.

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