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Binocular Buying Guide for Astronomy

Read our tips for finding the right observation equipment.

Check out these recommendations for buying binoculars from our Planetarium Director, Elliot Severn! Elliot does backyard astronomy and astrophotography and has a list of helpful suggestions for getting started.

If you are interested in astronomy but don't want to spend a lot of money on a telescope, binoculars can be a great alternative. Binoculars are easy to use, portable, and versatile. They can also provide stunning views of the night sky, as well as other objects like birds, wildlife, and landscapes. Here are some tips on how to choose the best binoculars for astronomy beginners.

The first thing you need to know is how binoculars are labeled. Binoculars have two numbers separated by an x, such as 10x50 or 7x35. The first number is the magnification, which tells you how much the binoculars enlarge the image. The second number is the aperture, which is the diameter of the objective lens (the lens closest to the object) in millimeters. The aperture determines how much light the binoculars can gather, and thus how bright and clear the image will be.

Generally speaking, for astronomy you want a high aperture and a moderate magnification. A high aperture will allow you to see fainter stars and nebulae, while a moderate magnification will give you a wider field of view and less image shake. A good rule of thumb is to divide the aperture by the magnification to get the exit pupil, which is the diameter of the beam of light that reaches your eye. The exit pupil should be around 5 mm or more for optimal viewing in dark conditions.

For example, a 10x50 binocular has an exit pupil of 5 mm (50/10), while a 7x35 binocular has an exit pupil of 5 mm (35/7). Both are suitable for astronomy, but the 10x50 will have more magnification and less field of view, while the 7x35 will have less magnification and more field of view. You can choose according to your personal preference and what you want to observe.

Another factor to consider is the quality of the optics and the construction of the binoculars. You want binoculars that have fully multi-coated lenses, which reduce glare and increase contrast. You also want binoculars that have a sturdy and waterproof body, with rubber armor for grip and protection. You may also want binoculars that have features like tripod adaptability, image stabilization, or zoom capability, depending on your needs and budget.

Some examples of good binoculars for astronomy beginners are:

  • Celestron SkyMaster 15x70: These binoculars have a large aperture and a high magnification, making them ideal for observing deep-sky objects like galaxies and star clusters. They are also tripod adaptable and come with a carrying case.

  • Nikon Aculon A211 10x50: These binoculars have a good balance of aperture and magnification, making them versatile for observing various celestial objects. They are also lightweight and ergonomic, with a smooth focus knob and rubber eyecups.

  • Orion Scenix 7x50: These binoculars have a wide field of view and a low magnification, making them perfect for scanning the night sky and spotting constellations. They are also durable and waterproof, with fully multi-coated lenses and Bak-4 prisms.

Binoculars can be a fun and affordable way to enjoy astronomy as a hobby. With some basic knowledge and some practice, you can discover amazing sights in the sky with your own eyes.

Happy stargazing!

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