Binoculars Info

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• FAQ • Telescope Buying Tips • Binoculars Info •


Checkout the Binocular Astronomy Resource Page

Scan The Skies With Both Eyes

Binoculars may be the best way for beginners to canvas the cosmos They are an easy and affordable way to start cruising the cosmos. Many experts recommend using binoculars before -- or instead of -- buying a telescope.

Consider these guidelines when choosing binoculars:

Size.  Binoculars come in all sorts of sizes, from pocket-size 10-by-20s to large 25-by-100s. The first number refers to magnification. For astronomy purposes, get at least 7 power. Remember, the larger the number, the smaller your field of view (because of the enlargement). Binoculars with more than 12 power are too hard to hold steady, unless a tripod is used. The second number refers to the diameter of the lens opening. The larger the opening, the better the light-gathering ability. A good all-purpose pair of binoculars is 7-by-50 or 7-by-60.

Mount.  A way to hold binoculars steady is a must. Tripods are available with special adapters for binoculars; a good one is $50-$60. Or try using a sack of flour -- or anything firm but moldable -- to set on your car roof or other surface and rest the binoculars on it. Leaning your elbows on a hard surface and holding the binoculars won't be stable enough.

Portability. A 7-by-50 or 7-by-60 pair of binoculars is easily transportable and can be used for purposes other than astronomy, such as sporting events or hiking. If you get too large a pair, they might be too big and heavy to lug around.

Price. You can buy good quality binoculars for $100-$150. Avoid cheap off brands; many well-known camera manufacturers also make binoculars.

Practice. It may take a few tries to get the hang of finding things in the sky. Start by fixing your eyes on the moon, then raise the binoculars to the fixed position of your gaze.

Get Informed. Find out more with a book that focuses on binocular astronomy, or look through astronomy magazines or Web sites.

Sources: John Sohl, Ott Planetarium at Weber State University; Patrick Wiggins: NASA Solar System Ambassador

Revised: October 13, 2007.

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