Binoculars for astronomy

Although there is plenty to see in the night sky with the naked eye if you want to take astronomy a step further the best thing to do is to use a pair of binoculars. What binoculars lack in magnification compared with a telescope is that they more than make up for this in the fact that they can transform a small patch of light into a fantastic jewel of sparkling stars.

Most people own at least one pair of binoculars and any can be put to good use. It is better to spend money on a good pair of binoculars than spend the same money on a flimsy toy telescope. Binoculars can be used for many other hobbies too like bird watching sport etc.

On any pair of binoculars you will see two numbers for example 10 x 50 this means 50mm objective (front) lenses and a magnification of 10. The lower the magnification the wider the field of view (amount of sky you can see) The bigger the objective the more light gathering power but as this increases they become heavier and will need a tripod to support them.

There are two types of binoculars roof prism (where the lens are straight through) and porro prism (where they are slightly offset) both can be used for astronomy although it is generally regarded that the porro prism is best.

With a pair of 10 x 50 binoculars you will be able to observe amongst other things the moons of Jupiter, the craters on the Moon, star clusters, galaxies, nebula and the densely packed stars of our milky way. They are easy to hold over long periods.

Other binoculars you may wish to consider are 7 x 50 which provide wide views and are very easy to hold more suitable for young people as older people’s aging eyes can struggle with these and they would be far better in this case to go for a 7x35 pair.

15 x 70 are true astronomical binocular with fantastic light gathering power but you will need to use a tripod with these as they are quite heavy.

Other sources of information are Philips Stargazing with Binoculars and Exploring the night sky with binoculars by Patrick Moore

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