I am a total novice. My daughter, likes Saturn. Since Saturn is so close I thought it was a good time to view it with her.

What are the minimum needed telescope specs?

Update: Can answer answers be put in terms of magnification? Or the specs?

  • $\begingroup$ I have a three inch refracting telescope which shows Saturn and it's rings quite clearly. A think the reflector equivalent would be six inches. $\endgroup$
    – MiguelH
    Sep 25, 2019 at 9:13

3 Answers 3


Large binoculars are already enough. If you have some at home, try them. At our recent public outreach event, we had a 20x magnification on them.

You need a relatively heavy mount though, or at least have an attachable weight to a tripod. This is needed in order to damp shaking of your mount, which can severely impact the viewing experience. It would be not unusual for the mount to be more expensive than the binoculars.
Also the connector mount-to-binoculars should be some kind of smart design, because you might want to scan around the sky, i.e. change the binoculars orientation by a few degrees every so often during gobservations.

However if you don't want to use binoculars, then telescopes with ~ x100 magnification are a safe bet for bright objects. If you want to observe faint objects, you have to think also about the telescope diameter, field of view,...
For telescopes there is also the issue that small children often cannot properly view through the one-eyed telescope pieces, or are unable to process the instructions like "keep your eyes two fingers from the viewing thingy", and then report seeing nothing. This is considerably easier for kids with regular binoculars.

  • $\begingroup$ So 18x-28.8x is not nearly enough for a telescope? $\endgroup$
    – GC_
    Sep 27, 2019 at 22:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @GC_ It's fine, you will see the rings in an 8x50 binoc, but it's gonna be super-duper tiny. You have to squint to see them. $\endgroup$ Sep 28, 2019 at 6:12

I have an old Focal refractor telescope that KMart sold back in the late 1970s. It has a 600mm focal length and a 50mm diameter. The only eyepiece it has is a 12mm.

I can see Saturn's rings with it and can see tiny spots that are the brighter moons.

I made an adapter for a webcam for this telescope, and made a picture of Saturn with the scope and camera:

enter image description here

Not very impressive, but you can see that it has rings. (Yes, the color is jacked up and it is fuzzy. It is difficult to get the focus and color correct while manually chasing a moving planet with an Alt-Azimuth mount telescope.)

A 600mm focal length scope with a 12mm focal length eyepiece is 50X power.

The 55mm diameter is a smidge over 2 inches (2 and 5/32 inches.)

You'll need 50X and 2 inch diameter refractor.

At 50X, Saturn will appear very small - like the diameter of a pencil lead seen from several inches away.

To make it look larger, you need more power but also a larger diameter lens.


I have a refractor with a focal length of 500 mm and the objective diameter is about 90 mm so I watched Saturn rings at the first time in the early morning sky. Using a 3x Barlow Lens and a Kellner Ocular with 20mm the zoom is 75x ( 3 * 25). The minimal zoom Z, which is good for the solution of the refractor 11,7''/D[cm], works at ( D [in cm] * 60 '') / 11,7 ''

D means diameter of the refractor [cm] '' means arcseconds




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