Binocular Astronomy Tips and Targets for Summer 2017

In the Oct. 21, 2016, edition of Mobile Astronomy, we examined how to use binoculars for astronomy, explained how they work and what to shop for, and suggested some night-sky objects to look at. This time, we’ll cover some tips for making binoculars work better for you, highlight a type of binoculars that helps with unsteady hands and share a variety of targets to look for this summer.

Binoculars consist simply of a matched pair of small telescopes precisely mounted together to deliver a stereo image to your two eyes. The lenses at the front are called objectives. As with any optical device, the larger the area of those lenses, the more light they collect and concentrate into your pupils.

The small lenses you look into are called eyepieces or oculars, and they do the job of magnifying what you see. In binocular specification numbers, such as 7 x 50, the second number is the diameter of the objective lenses in millimeters and the “7x” means the binoculars will magnify by seven times. [Best Astronomy Binoculars (Editors’ Choice)]

Binoculars are terrific for astronomy because they have a much wider field of view than telescopes, making it far easier to hunt for objects in the sky — plus, binoculars are easy to carry around and require no setup. Binoculars’ limited magnification, usually less than 10 times, is more than enough for many classes of astronomical objects. And the light-gathering ability of binoculars raises dim objects, like comets or nebulas, to visibility. Most people find that viewing with two eyes is less straining than single-eyed telescope viewing, too. In fact, many beginner stargazers spend months or years learning the sky with binoculars before graduating to telescopes.

Most binoculars work perfectly well for astronomy. But if you are buying with astronomy in mind, choose a pair that has large objective lenses, but which is still comfortable for you and the kids to hold for…

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