By in
| Astronomy Essentials on Jul 15, 2013

Binoculars are the perfect stargazing tool

Self-portrait with binoculars via gerlos
If you’re a beginning stargazer or a veteran of thousands of starlit nights, binoculars can be your best friend. Here’s how to get started.

Okay admit it.  You’ve probably got a pair of binoculars lying around your house somewhere. They may be perfect – that’s right, perfect – for beginning stargazing. Follow the links below to learn more about the best deal around for people who want to get acquainted with the night sky: a pair of ordinary binoculars.

Why buy binoculars for stargazing?

What size binoculars should I buy?

Viewing the moon with binoculars.

Viewing planets with binoculars.

Using binoculars to view inside the Milky Way.

Using binoculars to view beyond the Milky Way.

Why buy binoculars for stargazing? The fact is that most people who think they want to buy a telescope would be better off using binoculars for awhile instead.  That’s because first-time telescope users often find themselves completely confused – and ultimately put off – by the dual tasks of learning the use a complicated piece of equipment (the ‘scope) while at the same time learning to navigate an unknown realm (the night sky).

Beginning stargazers often find that an ordinary pair of binoculars – available from any discount store – can give them the experience they’re looking for.  After all, in astronomy, magnification and light-gathering power let you see more of what’s up there.  Even a moderate form of power, like those provided by a pair of 7×50 binoculars, reveals 7 times as much information as the unaided eye can see.

What size binoculars should I buy?  The video below – from ExpertVillage – does a good job summing it up. And in case you don’t want to watch the video, the answer is that 7X50 binoculars are optimum for budding astronomers.  You can see a lot, and you can hold them steadily enough that jitters don’t spoil your view of the sky.  Plus they’re very useful for daylight pursuits, like birdwatching. If 7X50s are too big for you – or if you want binoculars for a child – try 7X35s.

Viewing the moon with binoculars. Click here to understand more about the moon’s phases.  And click here to find our EarthSky Tonight page.  It will show you the current moon phase.

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