I really want to know why I can’t see detail on planets.

This summer my Dad and I went on a trip to Utah I went outside to look at the planets and couldn’t see detail on Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter. Saturn's rings were visible but very faint and Jupiter was a white ball and then it’s four moons, this was all out in the middle of nowhere with 0 light pollution at 6000ft.

We then went into Bryce Canyon at 9100ft and still the same outcome the only difference was a very very faint strip on Jupiter, and it’s so dry in Utah and at an altitude of 9100ft where the atmosphere is not as heavy.

Is there still dew? Is my telescope not powerful enough I have an Astromaster 130 reflector and a 60az explorerscope refractor. I’m very confused

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Only thing I can think of is your mirrors aren't adjusted properly: stars should appear as bright single points of light, not as fuzzy balls. If they do appear as fuzzy balls, adjust your telescope. $\endgroup$
    – user21
    Commented Aug 6, 2018 at 17:32
  • $\begingroup$ Telescopes are fun for seeing the moons of planets, that's pretty cool, and craters from the moon, and nebulae, and all my fascination from astronomy was from following some lectures about the different types of cosmic objects and electromagnetic spectrum and distances and current debated theories and so forth. The photos of space online are so much more interesting than what's visible in telescopes, but telescopes make for awesome missions to see what they can see. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 6, 2018 at 19:47

2 Answers 2


Planets are really small! (when seen from Earth)

Deepskywatch has an example of what can been seen with a 150mm reflector and a magnification of x180 (ie slightly more than your Astromaster which has a 130mm main mirror, and comes with a x65 eyepiece)

enter image description here

You should be able to see the 4 moons, and one or two bands on Jupiter. This assumes good "seeing" (the amount of turbulence in the air, not the same as the clarity of the air), and a properly collimated and aligned telescope lens.

There are lots of other good deep-sky targets that benefit more from a dark sky than the planets.

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    $\begingroup$ "Planets are really small" might be better phrased as e.g. "planets are a very long way away and very small in comparison to those distances". $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 6, 2018 at 19:44

I live in a very light polluted city in Canada, and I focused in on Saturn pretty good with a 60 mm/700mm refractor, but I used a 3x Barlow lens with with an eyepiece that was 12 times magnification. I'm not too sure what that isn't total, but I saw the rings of Saturn, but I couldn't make out Jupiter just a white ball like you had mentioned.

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    – Glorfindel
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 7:56

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