What can I see with a telescope, can I see in color?

Your telescope will open up many worlds for you. Here is a quick sample of what’s possible for you to see when looking at the sky or the Earth with your scope.

The Moon:

Prepare for an awesome spectacle. The Moon's disk has a pastel-cream and gray background, streamers of material from impact craters stretch halfway across the lunar surface. River-like rills wind for hundreds of miles, numerous mountain ranges and craters are available for inspection. At low or high power the Moon is continually changing as it goes through its phases. Occasionally, you will be treated to a lunar eclipse. Imagine all the colors of all the sunrises and sunsets in the world at once–what you will see during a total lunar eclipse!

The Sun:

It is quite safe to view the Sun if you use a proper solar filter. The Sun is fascinating as you watch the ever-changing sunspot activity. Special solar filters will allow you to see details like prominences, granules and plages. If you are fortunate enough and you are willing to travel to remote locations, you may experience a solar eclipse. It is an awesome phenomenon as darkness falls from the Moon’s shadow sweeping across the Earth’s surface at 1,500 mph. Then the beautiful diamond ring gleams as the last sunlight winks out behind the Moon and the ethereal coronal halo appears.

The Planets:

Observation of planets will keep you very busy. You can see Jupiter with its Great Red Spot change hourly, study the cloud bands and watch its moons shuttle back and forth. Study spellbinding Saturn and its splendid ring structure and watch Venus and Mercury as they go through their moon-like phases. Observe Mars and see its polar cap changes or watch the dust storms and deserts bloom with life. Uranus, Neptune and Pluto can be seen easily with an 8 inch or larger telescopes.

Star Clusters:

A group of many stars that are gravitationally bound to each other are called star clusters.There are two types of star clusters: open star clusters (also called galactic clusters), which are loosely arranged groups of stars. There are also globular star clusters, which are tightly packed groups of many millions of stars. You will get hooked on the jewel boxes of open clusters and resolving globulars into individual faint stars.


These glowing clouds of gas come in two major types: planetary nebulae, which are relatively small ball-shaped clouds of expanding gases and are believed to be the remnants of stellar explosions. There are also diffuse nebulae, which are vast, irregularly-shaped clouds of gas and dust. Their unusual shapes and faintness will challenge beginning and advanced observers alike. 


These vast, remote "island universes" are composed of many billions of stars, exist in a variety of sizes with regular and irregular shapes. The shapes of elliptical galaxies are easy to see even in smaller scopes, while the arms of spiral galaxies can be discerned with larger instruments.


Magnificent comets are routinely visible through telescopes. The names of the bright ones are legendary: Halley, Hale-Bopp, McNaught. After you’ve been a sky watcher for several years, you too will be able to have your own memories of seeing a famous name comet.

Double and Binary Stars:

A double star can also be a binary star. A binary star’s components are orbiting around a common center of gravity. Double stars often have different and contrasting colors. You will always remember the first time you saw gold and blue-green Albireo through your telescope.

What you can see with your telescope is dependent on many factors. For astronomy, the most important factor is aperture. Optical quality, steadiness of your tripod and mount, seeing conditions, your location (city or rural), brightness of the object and your experience are also important. You won't be able to see the American flag on the surface of the Moon or black holes. You won't see as much color as you see in astroimages(photos of celestial objects) because these utilize long exposure times which allow light and color to build up on the film.

Most telescopes can be used to see things on the Earth (terrestrial viewing). You can use them for nature study, sports action, surveillance or landscapes. You can also easily photograph terrestrial objects since a telescope can be used as a long telephoto lens by attaching your camera. 

Astrophotography is also a rich and rewarding experience. With many telescopes it is relatively easy but takes patience and experience to produce excellent results; whether digital or on film. Taking your own astroimages is a thrill, as you can share the results; even post them on Celestron’s website.

The simple answer is yes, you can. The more truthful answer is the amount of color that can be seen from an astronomical object depends on how bright it is. 

This is important because your eye has two kinds of sensor cells, rods and cones. Rod cells are more sensitive under low light, dark-adapted conditions, but they do not provide your brain any color information. Cones, which do provide color sensitivity, only work for brighter conditions, so faint objects are seen as grayish, not as red, green or blue. 

Stars show colors even to the naked eye. Betelgeuse and Antares look red, while Sirius shows blue-white because they are among the brightest stars. Fainter stars only show as white and need a telescope’s increased light-gathering power to show colors. An 8 inch telescope will be able to show star colors for stars that are too faint to be seen with the naked eye.

In a small telescope, planets show a wealth of color, again because they are bright. Mars shows as an orange sherbet color, Jupiter is yellowish with the Great Red Spot and Saturn has yellowish and even bluish hues. Even distant Uranus and Neptune show as greenish-blue balls in an 11 inch telescope.

Open clusters show some stars as colored, while the faintest members of these stellar groupings are whitish specks. Globular clusters are balls of whitish stars.

Nebulae are almost always so faint that they show only as gray in amateur-sized scopes. The Great Nebula in Orion is one of the brightest nebular regions in the sky. Some observers using 14 inch scopes say they can see a few rosy and blue tints in the otherwise grayish cloud.

Galaxies show only as colorless spindles or spots of light in small telescopes. Cameras give us vivid color images of the cosmos because they have greater sensitivity to color and also because they can accumulate light, which the eye cannot.