August 22, 2003

The Mars Issue: the ten best telescopes to view Mars

Skyliner-150 reflector pounds 229

A Dobsonian-style telescope, which means that the tube and mounting are very basic, but you get much more aperture for your money. The 150mm mirror gives bright views of planets and allow you to see faint nebulae and galaxies. Can't easily be used for photography or advanced observing techniques.

Warehouse Express (01603 626222; www.

Meade LX90 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope pounds 1,760

This is another 200mm telescope, but the Schmidt-Cassegrain design gives it a compact tube. Once aligned on the sky, the "GO TO"- type computerised mount will find any object in its huge database automatically. There are cheaper "GO TO" telescopes, but they mostly lack the precision needed for the job.

Sherwoods (0121-236 7211;

Orion Optics GX200 reflector pounds 795

Getting into the realms of serious telescopes, this 200mm British- made reflector is versatile and should give you superbly detailed views of the planets and deep-sky objects, such as distant galaxies. The precision Great Polaris mount by Vixen of Japan can be motorised and adapted for computer control. Add a pounds 50 webcam and take great planetary photos.

Orion Optics (01270 500089;

Meade 10in LX200GPS Schmidt-Cassegrain pounds 3,349

The LX200 range features ultra-precise GPS "GO TO" mountings that have allowed amateur astronomers to rival the professionals in automated sky patrols for supernovae and other extreme phenomena. Some dedicated souls add a CCD camera, costing as much again, to take superb digital photos.

Telescope House (020-7405 2156;

Turist-3 20x50 Terrestrial refractor pounds 39.99

For a simple daytime telescope that will also show detail on the Moon and let you glimpse the rings of Saturn, this Russian telescope is excellent. It comes without a mounting, but will screw on to any camera tripod. It magnifies 20 times and has a 50mm lens, is well built, and should last a lifetime.

Optical Vision Ltd (01359 244200;

Celestron Wide View 80mm spotting scope pounds 149

Though not a true astronomical telescope, this compact refractor is adaptable enough to be used for viewing many astronomical objects, as well as giving daytime views at magnifications of 20 or 40. It also incorporates a camera adaptor, so it becomes a 400mm f/ 5 lens. Tripod extra.


Helios Explorer-114 reflector pounds 199

One of the many Chinese-made instruments now available, a telescope of this size (114mm) has enough light-gathering power and performance to reveal considerable detail on planets, and pick up faint objects. The motorised equatorial mount means that, once aligned on the Pole Star, it will track objects through the sky.

Green Witch (01954 211288;

Sky-Watcher Infinity 76, 76mm reflector pounds 52.99

Department stores and toy shops are notorious for selling telescopes for children that have a false colour in them. Thankfully, this model is not one of those. It's a fun telescope for a youngster, but still gives bright images and magnifications of 15 and 30 from two eyepieces. Its upside-down view is common to astronomical telescopes. A bit fiddly, but excellent value.

The Widescreen Centre (020-7935 2580 and 0115-945 3459; www.telescopes-

TAL-1 114mm reflector pounds 199

The sturdiness and optical quality of this Russian telescope have made it a favourite with amateur astronomers who like their telescopes to stay firmly pointed at the object under observation, rather than jittering in the slightest breeze (which can be a problem with the lighter Far Eastern instruments). Manually driven equatorial mount, magnification up to 169.

Venturescope (01243 379322;

Celestron NexStar 8 GPS pounds 2,299

Another 200mm Schmidt-Cassegrain, but this one boasts onboard GPS that knows exactly where it is. Switch on and it will orient itself automatically on the sky, then find any object you choose. Purists say this takes the fun out of studying the sky, but others claim it allows you to get on with observing those faint, fuzzy galaxies instead.

David Hinds Ltd (01442 827768;