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We are thinking about buying a telescope for viewing planets, stars, the moon, and aircraft! What is the absolute minimum zoom and/or size to achieve getting a good glimpse of an aircraft at its cruising altitude?

Does anyone have experience doing this that they could share to help us out?

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I'm pretty sure you can watch aircraft if you can watch planets, as you get a pretty good glimpse with the naked eye or with a pair of binoculars :) (cruise altitude is ~30k ft) The bigger problem will probably be keeping it in sight (moving at ~ 400kts), and actually seeing the whole aircraft rather than the fly splattered on the fuselage... –  falstro Apr 9 at 16:33
    
I agree with @falstro, I think you may have a max zoom above which it is impossible to keep it in sight. –  fooot Apr 9 at 16:48
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I'm with @falstro, a telescope that's good for astronomy is going to be a bit strong for aircraft. Perhaps a good pair of binoculars would be better? Especially with how much a plane can move... –  Jay Carr Apr 9 at 16:51
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do keep in mind you'll see planes upside down when using an astronomical telescope. –  shortstheory Apr 9 at 16:57
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You might want to use the term "magnification" rather than "zoom" (which means something different in photography at least) –  RedGrittyBrick Apr 9 at 17:38

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I would not recommend a telescope for viewing aircraft.
As others have pointed out, a telescope that is suitable for astronomy would be incredibly overpowered for viewing aircraft - the aircraft would move out of the viewing frame very quickly, and you would have a difficult time tracking them.

I would suggest picking up a spotting scope (the kind of thing bird watchers and hunters use - good ones can be had in the 50 to 100 dollar price range, and excellent ones abound from about $100 up), or a pair of good binoculars for your plane watching. The zoom factor is far better suited to plane spotting, and either option would be substantially more portable than a full telescope rig.

As for advice on a telescope, there is an Astronomy stack exchange site, and while the entire network generally doesn't do "product recommendations" the Astronomy site's chat might be a good place to ask for advice on picking a telescope. (I'm not sure how active their chat room is, but it's worth a shot!)

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While Astronomy doesn't do product recommendations we do cover "how to find the right telescope for your requirements". We just don't allow posts which only recommend a specific product without more information. –  called2voyage Apr 9 at 17:50

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