Binoculars

Learn more about using binoculars for stargazing.

Recommended Binoculars

To start I’ve listed three models of handheld binoculars which are well suited for stargazing.

Celestron SkyMaster 15x70mm Center Focus Binoculars Celestron SkyMaster 15x70  
  This is a great pair of binoculars for the money. They have a very large aperture size and magnification for a pair of hand held binoculars. Most other brands with similar specifications will run you twice the amount. They are sized 15x70 which is very ideal for stargazing but not much else, so if you want to use your binoculars for other day time uses look into a smaller pair.
Olympus Trooper 10x50 DPS  
  For an all around good quality set of binoculars, at an affordable price look no further than these. They are ideal for stargazing as well as for other day time uses such as sight seeing and baseball games. I use these regularly and can attest to the quality of the optics, which I haven't seen in any other model with this low of a price.
Orion UltraView 10x50 Wide-Angle Binoculars Orion UltraView 10x50 Wide-Angle  
  These are basically a higher quality version of the Olympus pair mentioned above. They are equipped with BAK-4 prisms and have a noticeably clearer image, which is apparent to the seasoned eye. They also have a larger more comfortable eye relief which makes them usable for those with glasses. If you want a more serious pair of binoculars than the ones mentioned above, spring for the Orion UltraView.

There are several binocular brands out there to choose from, but some companies have better selections of products that are more suited for stargazing purposes than others. The following brands are recommended:

Celestron, Orion, and Vixen

These companies are recommended because they specalize in making binoculars for astronomy purposes, as they are telescope manufactures as well. Vixen is known for providing large binoculars with huge objective lenses and magnifications, that require a tripod for use.

As well as:

Nikon,  Fujinon

These companies are recommended because they are large camera companies which make a large variety of optical products and have developed and are capable of producing the best quality optics around. Their models tend to be pricier, but you are getting what you pay for. If you’re looking for the best of the best in binocular quality check these two brands first.

About Using Binoculars for Stargazing

Binoculars are a great way to get started in stargazing and amateur astronomy, and are an often overlooked instrument for people looking to buy stargazing equipment. They are a cheaper alternative to telescopes for buyers who aren’t sure if they want to commit to a telescope, and actually offer a few important advantages over telescopes. In fact most stargazers who own telescopes also will bring along a pair of binoculars along as well. If you’ve never looked at the stars with even a basic pair of binoculars you’ll be amazed at how many more stars you can see. Regardless of magnification binoculars help you see much more in the night sky by allowing more light to enter your pupils.

The main advantage of binoculars is that the are much more light-weight and easy to manage than a telescope. With binoculars it is easy to jump from constellation to constellation very quickly. They require practically no set up and are easily brought along with you when traveling.

Binoculars don’t have as much magnification as telescopes, which is a downside when trying to see an individual object as large as possible, but is a plus when trying to see a larger area of sky than a telescope. Binoculars are a middle ground between looking at the sky with the naked eye and using a telescope. They allow a good amount of magnification while still allowing the observer to be able to have a sense of the stars formations in the sky. Some star clusters and nebulae are actually very large and best seen through binoculars.

Telescopes are definitely a worthwhile purchase for anyone interested in stargazing and astronomy, especially if one wants to see any fine detail of the planets or far away galaxies, but ask any amateur astronomer and most of them will tell you that if you are new to astronomy and/or observing clusters and nebulae interests you, a good pair of binoculars are a must have.

A Few Things to Know When Selecting Binoculars:

The first important thing to look for deciding on a pair of binoculars are the two numbers in the name of the binoculars. An example of a common arrangement of binoculars is 7×50 (pronounced seven by fifty). This will tell you three things; the magnification of the binoculars, the size of the objective lenses, and the exit pupil.

Magnification- The first number, in the case of our example here the seven, represents the magnification. This simply put is how many times larger an object will appear when seen through the binoculars. The temptation is to assume that more magnification is always better, but remember that when magnification goes up, the field of view visible decreases.

Objective lens size- The second number is the size of the objective lenses in millimeters (so in our case 50mm). The objective lenses are the larger ones facing towards the target, opposed to the eyepieces that you look through. The larger the objective lens size the more light that enters the binoculars and ultimately your eyes. This is important because the more light from a star or galaxy the binoculars can gather the brighter they will appear to you, making dim objects easier to see, and revealing many that simply aren’t visible at all with the naked eye. Larger lenses mean larger, heavier, and bulkier binoculars.

Exit pupil- The exit pupil is the ratio of the objective lens size to the magnification and affects how much light will ultimately enter your eyes. It is found by dividing the objective lens by the magnification size, so in the case of the 7X50 binoculars the exit pupil is about 7. The higher the number the more light that makes it through to your eyes.

Tips for Choosing Binoculars for Stargazing

Because one of the important functions of astronomy binoculars is making dim stars and galaxies brighter, the objective lens size is important. In general you want the largest size that you feel you would be comfortable holding. Most people shouldn’t have any trouble holding up binoculars with 50mm objective lenses except perhaps smaller children. Larger sizes are more ideal for those who don’t mind the extra bulk, in fact there are binoculars available that are large enough where using them without the help of a tripod is simply not practical.

As for magnification,  7x is a suggested minimum. Lower than that and the benefits simply aren’t profound enough. Magnifications of 7x, 10x and 15x are common for handheld use. Once they begin reach 15x and above the target of observation can be difficult to keep steady in the field of view, and a steadying tripod is recommended.

The exit pupil should be a minimum of 5. Anything lower that that is really only practical for daytime use. In other words don’t buy binoculars with too high a magnification unless they have large enough objective lenses to support it, otherwise too little light will be seen through them.

Two of the most commonly recommended sizes are 7×50 and 10×50 for those just beginning to get involved with astronomy, as they provide a good deal of magnification with out becoming too large. These sizes are also great for general purposes use would be great for several other daytime activities as well if that is something that is important to you. Many amateur astronomers opt for optical benefits of larger sizes of binoculars as they become more and more like a quick and easy aligning small telescope. The only downside to this is that for these models astronomy will really be their only practical purpose, and will most likely require a tripod, robbing them of some of their mobility and ease of transport.

A common feature often offered by binoculars is waterproofing. Since you most likely won’t be using these on a boat or in rough rainy conditions, like those who need binoculars for sailing or military purposes, its best not to spend extra money on water proofing. Some light dew or rain is probably the worst you’ll encounter and your standard set of binoculars should be water resistant enough to handle this.

You may notice that some binoculars with the same magnification and objective lens size are vastly different in price. Check the product descriptions to see if there are different features that one product has over another, and decide if those extra features are worth your money. Usually though the price difference is a matter of the quality of the optics in the binoculars (the lenses, the prisms, etc.). Binoculars with better quality optics and fewer defects produce clearer, crisper, truer images. Look for binoculars made with high quality BAK-4 glass which are either multi-coated or fully multi-coated if you’re interested in high quality optics. If you’re buying a pair that you will want to keep for a long time and take good care of than it may be worth it to invest in a set of binoculars with better optics.

Comments are closed.