Astronomy Binoculars Can Be A Great Alternative
So you’ve finally gotten the bug to get a telescope and
really start seeing what is up there in the night sky. I know the feeling. But now you’ve got to decide what kind of telescope
you want and what you can afford as well.
Of course, a good quality telescope is the best choice for the serious
amateur astronomer, but it is a big investment and maybe you aren’t quite
sure. There are so many options to
choose from, each option adding to the price tag. Perhaps you might consider using a good
quality pair of astronomy binoculars, rather than an entry level telescope
instead to start your hobby.
Usually we think of binoculars as only to be used for bird
watching or for hunting or for trying to see your favorite rock star at a
concert when you are in the nose bleed section, but these are not binoculars
designed mainly for astronomical viewing.
If you are just starting out, do your research and evaluate your
options, I believe that you will see that a good quality astronomy binocular
beats out a telescope of similar optical quality every time. The following are a few advantages and
disadvantages of buying an astronomy binocular.
– You can usually buy a pair of good quality astronomy binoculars for around
$250. To buy a telescope of similar
optic quality you would need to spend around $500. To buy a good quality telescope your
investment will most likely be in the thousands. You may decide at a later date that you
desire more observing power, but you can get a great start with astronomy binoculars.
– Unless you live in the Boonies, you will probably have to transport your
telescope to a more remote area where there is less human light (city lights,
street lights, etc). Anyone who owns a
quality telescope knows what a pain it can be to transport, and if not done
correctly, the alignment can be off and your viewing disrupted. Binoculars on the other hand can be
transported easily and gives you more viewing time without set up and tear
Curve – To operate a telescope takes some trial and error. You have to learn how to set it up correctly,
tune it for optimum viewing and how to diagnose problems and fix them when they
happen. All of this takes away from your
stargazing time while with a pair of astronomy binoculars; you just put them up
to your eyes and start looking.
– Binoculars are lightweight and easy to use for almost anything. Although they are designed for use in
stargazing, they can be used for most any activity where you want to see images
closer up – even Bon Jovi.
– Of course, a telescope will have a much greater ability to magnify objects
than will the binoculars. Astronomy
binoculars tend to have a static magnification of around 20X, while telescopes
can usually magnify up to 100X or more depending on your options. This will limit the detail that you will be
able to see.
Gathering – A telescope will have much better light gathering abilities
than will the binoculars and that is due to the aperture size. A larger aperture will allow more light to
enter your instrument. Binoculars, even
those designed for astronomy usually have an aperture of around 10 cm while
telescopes can go up to 30 cm and more – but you will pay dearly for that
Technology – Many telescopes these days come with standard GPS technology
that will help you to know exactly what heavenly objects will be in your
viewing range. It will also let you
program exactly where to move the telescope to see certain objects. Obviously, the astronomy binoculars will lack
this feature, but again, it all depends on budget.
– Since your objective lens will generally be smaller with binoculars, you may
not be able to orient yourself to what you are seeing as easily as you would
with a telescope, meaning that you may spend more time consulting your star
chart at first than actually viewing objects.
So let’s say you’ve decided that maybe a pair of astronomy
binoculars is in your future. How do you
know what to look for to get a good pair?
Here are a few tips to get you started.
Binoculars always are rated with 2 numbers. You’ll see things like 10X20 (pronounced 10
“by” 20) in their product descriptions.
The first number refers to the ocular lens closest to your eye which
will tell you how much magnification you will get – in this example – 10X. The second number represents the diameter of
the objective lens in millimeters at the far end of the binocular – in this
case 20 mm. The larger the objective
lens, the more light that will be gathered and the better the viewing, but this
will also determine the physical size and weight of your binoculars. There are tripods available for larger
astronomy binoculars though, so don’t let size be the only deciding
As with any purchase, you will have to take all factors into
consideration before making your purchase.
If you are not sure how serious you will be with this hobby, or are
starting out on a shoestring budget, astronomy binoculars can be a great
alternative to an entry level telescope for you.