Are you interested in getting into astronomy? More specifically, are you considering buying a telescope? If so, you are going to want to know how far into the sky they enable us to see.
So, how far can you see with a telescope? The average entry-level telescope will allow you to see the closer celestial objects, including the moon and the planets of our solar system. Higher power telescopes will allow you to explore further including the visibility of distant stars and deep-sky objects. However, external factors such as light pollution and weather will also impact what you can see.
Ultimately how far you, personally, can see will depend on the telescope you have.
That’s the main thing here and the main takeaway.
This is why, to this day, the furthest sighting with a telescope was back in 2016, when the Hubble Space Telescope detected a galaxy called GN-z11.
This galaxy is 32 billion light-years away from us on Earth.
But we are not talking about your average piece of kit here.
This is an incredibly large and high-powered telescope.
Besides it’s 13.2 meters (43.5 ft.) long and about the size of a large truck!
So, what about the average telescope found on the market?
Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
What Can You See With A Telescope?
Most telescopes will allow you to see planets the moons and certain stars. Higher powered (typically more expensive) telescopes on the other hand will allow you to see double stars, comets, asteroids, and what are known as deep-sky objects!
Let’s go through these individually, starting with the one that you may not have perhaps recognized when I named it.
As we know, planets come in all different sizes (not shapes). Some are also brighter than others.
And some are, of course, relatively close to Earth whilst others are further away.
There are eight planets in our solar system, including Earth.
So, that leaves seven to see with a telescope, all of which you can, by the way.
However, you can only see surface details on Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars.
Want to look further? No problem. Other planets outside of our Solar System are also visible to some telescopes.
The biggest and brightest object in our Solar System.
But isn’t it too bright to look at? Yes, it is to the naked eye.
It is also too bright to look at with a normal telescope.
However, with an appropriate full aperture sun filter, you can, in fact, view the Sun through your telescope.
Stars and Double Stars
We can see them with our naked eyes, but only as small illuminated dots.
With a telescope, we can see them clearer.
We can also see many more of them.
With your naked eye, if you have good vision, you’ll be able to see 10,000 stars, as long as you’re in an area where there is low light pollution.
With a telescope, you can see around 50 million stars.
Now there’s your sales pitch!
When these pass close enough to the Sun, they become visible.
So you’ve got to ensure that you’re in the right place at the right time.
In other words, be lucky.
First, you’ll spot a comet’s coma, also known as its nebulous envelope, and its nucleus, which is the bright light inside it.
As they get closer, they become visible as a bright tail of dust and gas.
These giant floating rocks can be spotted with a telescope.
Although watch out.
The biggest asteroids appear as stars, so make sure to have a closer look to see what exactly you’ve found there with your telescope.
Deep Sky Objects (DSO)
When people use this phrase, they’re not referring to a kettle or a lamp that has somehow found its way floating in the sky or space.
DSO refers to cosmic objects that are beyond our solar system.
That’s the only criteria.
Some well-known examples include galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae.
I can already hear you saying, ‘I don’t think my telescope has a high enough magnification to see that far.’
Well, don’t worry.
Being able to observe DSOs relies on the aperture of your telescope, as a lot of light is required for gathering.
Even if your telescope does possess this, it won’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to spot Deep Sky Objects.
Due to them being so far away, you need the sky to be very dark.
What Determines How Far You Can See With A Telescope?
Of course, the type of telescope you have is going to be a big factor in determining how far you can see. But there are other external factors to consider related to yourself and the environment in which you are using your telescope.
You’ve spent all that money on your dream telescope.
You set it up to take your first look.
But you’re disappointed.
You’re not getting that distant cosmic view you thought you’d paid for.
It may not necessarily be the telescope (unless you’ve gone for a cheap, inferior option or they have sold you a faulty product).
Instead, it could be anyone, or several, of the factors listed below.
There’s a stark difference between using a telescope in the countryside, where the sky can get very dark, and using one in the middle of a bustling city, where there are plenty of lights on.
It is the abundance of lights in cities that makes stargazing more difficult.
This is because light pollution causes stars to appear fainter in the sky.
In the countryside, where light pollution is lower, stars appear brighter.
So, best to take that brand new telescope out of the city to maximize its potential.
We all have differing levels of natural vision.
Some of us have perfect 20/20 vision.
Others of us don’t.
If your vision isn’t great, then you won’t be able to see as far as someone with perfect vision, even with the aid of a telescope.
A pretty self-explanatory factor this one.
Clouds, rainfall, snowstorms, and even humidity can obstruct your telescopic viewing.
Yes, I did say humidity.
Large amounts of moisture in the air form a barrier that prevents you from seeing the cosmos.
What Are The Easiest Things To See With A Telescope?
Those cosmic objects which are easiest to see are often those which are closest to Earth, like the Moon, for example. However, an object’s level of brightness is a significant factor as well.
The Moon is so close that it appears almost the same through every telescope.
More advanced telescopes will allow you to see the Moon closer up, meaning that you’ll be able to get a good eyeful of its craters, mountains, and rills.
Another easy one to see, although if your knowledge of our Solar System has served you well, then you’ll know that this isn’t the next nearest planet to Earth.
Despite this fact, Jupiter remains one of the easiest planets to spot through your telescope, simply because it is so big.
Not only is it the biggest planet in the solar system, but it is also the brightest, which makes things even easier.
This is a beautiful, mesmerizing birthplace of stars found below the belt of Orion.
If it’s visible to the naked eye during certain times of the year, then how visible do you think it will be to a telescope.
Orion’s Nebula is so bright that you can even see it from places with higher levels of light pollution.
The Andromeda Galaxy
The next closest galaxy to our own and also the most distant cosmic object to be seen by the naked eye.
So, it’s relatively easy to find with your telescope, although a star chart will help you immensely here.
Also, probably best not to try this one in an area of high light pollution.
Hercules Global Cluster
An amazing, breathtaking cluster of stars only a mere 25,000 million light-years away.
Despite this almost unbelievable distance, the cluster is relatively easy to find, even with a small telescope.
Although, the best view can be found in the Northern Hemisphere during summer.
Many of us will never get to board a spacecraft and rocket up past the Earth’s atmosphere.
We’ll never get to see what astronauts have seen in space with our own eyes.
Fortunately, humans have invented telescopes.
With the help of these ingenious technological inventions, we’re able to see much of space from our backyard.
But what make and model you decide to get will have a tremendous impact on what you can and cannot see.
That’s why I pulled this guide together, after all, 👉 Best Telescope For Viewing Planets and Galaxies [Buyers Guide].
So if you are in the market for a telescope, definitely check that resource out first.
It will walk you through what to look for, along with the best options currently available to maximize your viewing potential.
And assuming you get the right telescope, it’s like unlocking a door into another world.
Another load of worlds.
In fact, it’s more than that.
So much of the universe is available for your eyes to feast on with telescopes.
It doesn’t matter if you’re into stars, comets, galaxies, or the Moon.
You can see the whole lot with a telescope. Well…..almost the whole lot!
Other guides you may want to read:
- Can You See The ISS With A Telescope?
- Can You See Galaxies With A Telescope [What Do You Need]
- Can You See Nebula With A Telescope? [What Can You Expect]
- Can I See Mars With A Telescope? [What You Should Expect]
- Can I See Neptune With A Telescope [And What Can You Expect]
Hey, my name is Chris. I’m a passionate and seasoned astronomer who loves nothing more than observing the night sky. I also love researching, learning, and writing all things Space and the Universe. I created Astronomy Scope to share my knowledge, experience, suggestions, and recommendations of what I have learned along the way while helping anyone to get into and maximize their enjoyment of the hobby.