There’s no more significant investment than a good set of binoculars if you’re learning the constellations and want to investigate the nebulae, star clusters, and planets hiding inside them. Stargazing with binoculars, which may give you a close-up view of deep-sky objects that are undetectable to the naked eye and frequently impossible to appreciate even via the most excellent telescopes, can be cost-effective but always expansive, instantaneously revealing a new dimension to your perspective of the vast beyond.
Here are some pointers for gaining the most out of using binoculars for astronomy and stargazing, including how to see hundreds of thousands of galaxies, stars, and star clusters.
Begin With a Small, Easy-to-use Size
To start, don’t invest in a large set of binoculars. They’ll shake unless you place them on a tripod, making your view of the skies wobbly as well. Binoculars with a magnification of 750 are ideal for aspiring astronomers. You can see a lot and keep them steady enough that jitters don’t interfere with your view of the sky.
They’re also great for outdoor activities like birding. If 7x50s are too huge for you, or if you need binoculars for a youngster, 7x35s are an excellent alternative.
What to Look Through Your Binoculars
The Pleiades (M45), the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), Hyades open cluster in the Taurus constellation, and the Orion Nebula (M42), the double stars Alcor and Mizar in the Big Dipper, and, of course, the moon all seem particularly lovely with binoculars. You may also use your binoculars to see Jupiter’s four enormous Galilean moons, as well as the gas giant itself (Callisto, Europa, Ganymede, and Io).
When learning to traverse the universe by drawing out the constellations of the brilliant stars, a fantastic way to approach stargazing with binoculars is to use them to help you uncover what’s in the “second layer” of the evening sky. You’ll be amazed at what you can see if you sweep your binoculars through constellations near the Milky Way, such as the Summer Triangle asterism in the summer and Perseus and Cassiopeia in the winter.
When to Use Binoculars to View the Moon
The moon is nearly always the first thing beginners gaze at through their new binoculars. They’re ideal for tracking the phases of the moon as it orbits Earth every month. A crescent moon will be seen in the western sky a little after sunset, a few nights after the new moon.
The thin curve of light is spectacular through binoculars, but look to the darkening limb, too, and you’ll see ‘earthshine,’ which is reflected light from the home planet beaming back on the moon.
As the month progresses, look for shadows that show massive craters (Plato, Tycho, and Copernicus, to name a few), lunar oceans like the Sea of Showers, Ocean of Storms, and Sea of Tranquility, and mountain ranges like the Montes Apenninus. The moon appears flat and almost too bright to see with binoculars when it’s full, so catch it during moonrise around dusk for a spectacular picture of our natural satellite in orbit.
Getting Your Binoculars Into Focus
There’s a little more to binocular stargazing than just turning the top focusing knob. A diopter ring from around the right eyepiece of many binoculars helps you adjust for variances between your two eyes.
In daylight, place a lens cover over the right barrel using the central focusing knob to generate a sharp picture for your left eye for something in the center of the field to adapt your binoculars for your eyes. Then, on the left barrel, put a lens cap on it and use the diopter ring to modify the focus for your right eye.
Keeping Your Binoculars in Place
Is everything a little jiggly? That’s because you’re human, and you’re constantly moving, even when you think you’re not. You’re also fighting gravity if you’re looking straight ahead at something near the horizon.
Hold the binoculars at the end of the tubes, not near to the eyepiece, keep your elbows in towards your chest, and either sit in a chair or lean against a wall when stargazing with binoculars. It’s also essential to note that if you stare straight up (the darkest region of the sky) and lay your binoculars on your face, you won’t fight gravity and obtain a more solid image.
Using Binoculars to Locate Objects
Decide what you’re going to gaze at using a star chart and perhaps an outstanding mobile astronomy application for your phone. Even if you’re stargazing with binoculars for the first time, you’re going to have some difficulty aiming, even if it’s something brilliant like the Moon or Jupiter.
Finding the location of the thing you wish to observe with your naked eyes and then putting the binoculars in front of your eyes is the best approach to aim. Should you need to search the area, go around it in a circle.
When Binoculars Aren’t Necessary
Those new to astronomy tend to think “get the telescope and binoculars” when they hear the phrase “meteor shower.” While binoculars are great for stargazing, they aren’t the best choice for seeing all-sky celestial phenomena.
This includes meteor showers, which necessitate having a wide-eyed view of the night sky. The aurora borealis, or the northern lights, always look best when seen with the naked eye.
If the Sun is visible in the sky, you should avoid using binoculars for stargazing or planet-spotting. Solar eclipses are no exception; however, it’s safe to look through binoculars at the Sun’s corona, mostly during brief minutes of totality. There isn’t a more stunning sight on Earth than looking through binoculars at the Sun’s corona!
When used properly, a simple set of binoculars can provide a lifetime of enjoyment from astronomy without the need for a large, complicated telescope.