Astronomy binoculars... What are the best binoculars for astronomy?
If you're an astronomer (pro, amateur, hobbyist), chances are that you have family or friends that have asked you one of the following questions:
And if you're like us, you hesitate to give an answer because you know that it's not a "one size fits all" recommendation.
In actuality, purchasing a telescope is a process because the equipment is more akin to an investment and should be thought of in terms of lasting and rendering services for many, many years. As such, a quality instrument can be very expensive.
So what about other options? What suggestion can you give that won't cost an arm and a leg, yet still provide decent viewing results?
Well, you could use nothing and just view the night sky unassisted. In fact, you'd be able to see plenty of objects in the sky... even some planets! If you want to know how, check out our article on viewing planets with an unaided eye.
The alternative answer to the question is... Binoculars.
Relatively speaking, binoculars are an inexpensive way to get introduced and started in astronomy. Their low cost and ease of use make it a no-brainer suggestion to a newbie so that they can get familiar with the constellations and viewing the easy-to-find night sky objects. In fact, binoculars can enhance a new astronomer's viewing experience to make it that much more enjoyable.
However, purchasing a good pair of astronomy binoculars isn't as simple as a quick trip to a mall. Anything that you find at a sporting goods store or a discount store is typically meant only for casual daytime viewing. They will have a lower cost, constructed of lower grade materials and are not suited for use at night.
For viewing the stars, planets and constellations, a person can expect to pay around $80-$100 for a pair of good quality binoculars that are suitable for nighttime viewing.
From a technical perspective, the specifications for a beginning pair of astronomy binoculars should be one of 7x50, 10x50 or 15x70. The 7x50 binoculars have an objective size of 50mm and will give an exit pupil of 7mm, which is the largest most people will want to use. The 10x50 binoculars also have an objective size of 50mm, but they have a 5mm exit pupil, which is even better. The smaller the exit pupil, the brighter the image will be, but the closer your eye must also be to the eyepiece, which can make them harder for some people to use.
Here's a list ten (10) total DO's & DON'Ts when shopping for and/or considering to purchase binoculars:
So for a relatively low entry cost, the budding new astronomer can begin to view the sky above with decent binoculars that deliver good quality images. Additionally, the binoculars are capable of providing years and years of astronomical viewing even AFTER a telescope is purchased because they can be used to scan the sky above to identify areas of interest.
What Else Do You Need?
We always recommend the use of a well-constructed and stable tripod. A tripod will allow you to concentrate on viewing the objects a longer periods of time. Additionally, you'll want to consider using binocular eyecups to improve your viewing experience.
After the newbie has spent some time using the binoculars and is ready to start looking for a telescope to purchase, you can recommend to them our "Telescope 101" primer, our recommended "Buyers Guide", and our 15 DO's and DON'Ts of buying a telescope.