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Binoculars are in most cases the gateway to astronomy. It is the best on a budget way how to start with stargazing. They are definitely worth to buy if you are starting with stargazing or even if you already have a telescope. Binoculars will help you learn the night skies faster and provide close-ups of the moon craters plus they are super easily portable.
But people are skeptical, and I’m getting a lot of questions about the stargazing binoculars. Basically, you can use any binoculars to start with stargazing; you don’t need a special pair. In the beginning, it’s very easy to learn the star constellations even with a naked eye. Especially if you can find a dark place away from the light pollution.
You can see the Milky Way and many bright objects in the space with the naked eye. I always like to tell people about one interview with the NASA employee where she was talking about the trip to the dark place in the Mexican desert. When they were standing under the night sky, the Milky Way was so bright that she was casting a shadow on the ground. So this is very important to do, go stargazing on the dark site, it will be a hundred times better experience no matter whether you are using binoculars, telescope or just the naked eye.
I will start with the statement that any decent binoculars can be used for astronomy. I began with binoculars that I found in my grandmother’s attic when I was 6 years old. When you first look through the binoculars at the Moon, it is a fantastic experience. In kids world, it’s just WOW! The moon is so close, and you see details that you had no idea were there. You will also see more stars, and it can be used to see some of the brightest deep space objects (Messier objects), but it has limitations. When you’re considering buying binoculars, the most important thing is where you will be stargazing as I mentioned above. If you are in the city, you can expect to use it only for the Moon. There is just no other option in the highly polluted area. But it is an entirely different story at some dark spot away from the city, give it a try and go see for yourself.
What Are The Numbers On Binoculars?
On every binoculars, you will find numbers separated by “X”. It’s something like 10×50 or 20×70. The first number is telling you how much magnification you will see in binoculars and the second number is the aperture or in other words the diameter of the front lens. The bigger the aperture, the more light binoculars collect. Now, it depends on how you will be using it because the bigger the binoculars are, the harder it is to hold it in your hands still. And also with higher magnification, the image will be shaking, and the field of view is narrow. I strongly advise using a tripod for bigger binoculars. If you don’t want to use a tripod and you’re happy with lower magnification, I would go for 10×50 to have a good experience and a decent field of view. Also, it will be comfortable to hold it in your hands because it weights less.
You may find more numbers at the back. They can tell you how wide is the field of view you will see in degrees, feets, and meters.
What Is The Best Magnification To Use
You may think that a higher magnification is a better choice. But that’s not true for using the binoculars for stargazing. When you go for magnification 10x and higher, it is going to be a struggle to hold the binoculars in your hands still. And not only that, we want to have a wider field of view because some deep sky objects are pretty big and you want to see them whole. Another thing is the exit pupils; they are disks of light that you see when you look through the eyepiece. And the bigger the magnification is, the smaller exit pupils you see. So 5x, 7x and the maximum of 10x is a good choice. The more important than magnification is the aperture and if you want to go big, you have to buy a tripod for bigger binoculars.
Best Binoculars For Stargazing
Let me give you some recommendations of what to buy. Remember that magnification above 10x or 15x you need a tripod. It also depends on how strong your hands are.
Celestron UpClose G2 10×50 Porro Binocular
I own this pair of binoculars. They are cheap and sufficient for my needs. I also have few telescopes, so I don’t need a big powerful set of binoculars. They are portable, easy to hold in my hands and good quality from a good brand. I’m using them for everything not only for astronomy. If you are stargazing with the telescope, binoculars are a good tool to help you find the objects on the sky, better than the finderscope. And you can get nice views of the moon and some Messier objects with them on the clear night sky.
Celestron SkyMaster Giant 15×70 Binoculars with Tripod Adapter
If you don’t have the telescope and you want to use binoculars as your main stargazing instrument, the SkyMaster Giant is a perfect choice. I think this is the top limit of what you can hold steady in your hands. The optics are truly amazing for the price tag. Cristal clear image with enough magnification for long nights under the stars. It is still cheaper than a good telescope and of course more portable. Maybe they have the word “giant” in the name, but they are not. The next item I chose for you can be called “giant.”
Celestron SkyMaster 25X100 ASTRO Binoculars
The last recommendation is a real Astro instrument. With the weight of 8.75 lbs is where the tripod is a must-have thing. You can’t use them by only holding in your hands. They also have individual eyepiece focus to ensure optimal focus position. With 25x magnification and 100mm aperture for maximum image brightness, we are almost in the telescope category. The price can be also similar to what you can pay for a good telescope on the mount. But the main reason people are buying them is for the portability comparing to any telescope. Put them with a small tripod in your backpack, and you are good to go for the night.
How To Focus Binoculars
Focusing the binoculars is an easy task. You will find the focusing ring in the middle of every binocular. This is the main focus that is moving both eyepieces in and out. Firstly, close your right eye and look through the left eyepiece with the left eye, move the middle focusing ring until the image is in perfect focus. Then do the opposite with your right eyepiece but instead of using the focusing ring use the diopter adjustment ring that is on all binoculars on the right eyepiece until you achieve focus for the right side. Now is your binocular calibrated for both eyes. We have to do this because our eyes are not the same and need a different focus for each eyepiece.
Image Stabilization Binoculars
The solution for image shaking when observing some object are image-stabilized binoculars. They have similar technology inside as video cameras. When you are watching something and push the button on the top, the image will stabilize and stay steady. It’s innovative technology which is really helping during stargazing when you are holding the binoculars only with hands and trying to get a still view. However, it comes with the higher price tag compared to standard binoculars. It also requires batteries to work. On the other hand, if you have the budget, it will vastly improve your stargazing.
Canon 10×30 Image Stabilization II Binoculars
The entry level to image stabilization binoculars can be Canon 10×30. The magnification is sufficient for astronomy and with the help of electronics to stabilize the view it can be a pleasure to use compared to standard Celestron 10×50 mentioned above as well as long eye relief (14.5mm/0.57 in.) which helps to ensure comfort while using, especially for those of you with glasses. And it’s worth to mention that thanks to the doublet field-flattener the 10×30 IS II can display a sharp, focused, corner to corner image. If you are thinking of buying one you can’t go wrong with these.
And here are some tips when you stay with standard binoculars, and you want to improve the experience. Learn how to hold the binoculars steadily:
- Use low magnification, preferably 10x and below.
- Try to lean on something when you are standing. (wall, tree, car, etc.)
- When sitting try to support your elbows with something, use a table or put your legs on the bench and lean the elbows on your knees.
- Invest $20 in a simple tripod. (AmazonBasics 60-Inch Lightweight Tripod with Bag)
Are Binoculars Better Than a Telescope?
The short answer is NO. But let’s talk about that a little bit. Most telescopes are definitely better than binoculars, but the advantage of binoculars is the size and portability. When you are going camping, and the stargazing is not your main activity on the trip, the binoculars are an excellent choice to have something for observing the night skies. But you are not going to see as many objects as with a telescope. And telescopes provide a more steady image with the mount which can also be motorized with auto guiding. Binoculars are however a good addition to your telescope gear, and that’s why I own one.
Can You See Planets and Galaxies With Binoculars?
Some Planets can be seen with the naked eye as very bright stars on the night sky. So with binoculars, it must be much better. Sadly, I don’t want to disappoint you with this but to see planets more as just a bright star you need high magnifications. Planets are tiny on the sky, and usually, the planet through binoculars looks just like a slightly bigger star. I think the most beautiful planet to observe with the telescope is Saturn; it’s breathtaking to see the rings separated from the planet.
To see this, you need at least 25x magnification which is pretty high for binoculars. From binoculars that I recommended above only Celestron SkyMaster 25X100 can show you the rings. The biggest planet in our solar system is Jupiter and to see it with any details you need a minimum magnification of 100x and above, so binoculars will show you only a small dot. Anyway, to see the Moon, the binoculars are more than enough, and on the dark side under the clear skies, it is possible to enjoy few deep space objects like star clusters and nebulas.
Buying any binoculars is not a mistake in any way. They have so many advantages. You can use them everywhere, during the night and also during the day. They are a great addition to the telescope gear and even an excellent starting point for astronomy beginners on a low budget.
Now, I will give you my last suggestion. If you are planning to buy binoculars and you know that you will use them mostly from your balcony, backyard or on small trips near your home, I suggest you think about a small telescope instead. I know, it’s shady from me, I just told you binoculars are great, and they are, but I still think the telescope is a slightly better investment for the future (and for astronomy) if you’re going to use it as mentioned above.
So, if you agree with me on this, I recommend something such as a Newtonian reflector on Dobsonian mount like Orion 10015 StarBlast 4.5 Astro. This telescope is an amazing piece of equipment. Very portable, lightweight and it will show you much more celestial objects than regular binoculars. Think about that because I personally would rather go for this small scope than binoculars if you are interested in astronomy and considering to buy your first optical instrument for stargazing.
Here are some of my favorite gear
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful as you learn more about telescopes. Here are some of the gear I use and recommend.
Beginner telescope: This is by far the best beginner telescope you can buy. The Orion SkyQuest XT6 is the perfect telescope to start with. The aperture is big enough to see almost every object in the night sky and on the other hand, the price is so low for what this telescope can do.
My astrophotography telescope: I use only a newtonian telescope to do astrophotography. I use an 8" newtonian astrograph telescope.
If you want more recommendations please check my recommended gear section.