Which binoculars are best for astronomy? Nearly everyone who starts out in skywatching believes that they must have a telescope. However, humble binoculars are best for astronomy and incredibly useful for observing and can often prove more effective for viewing some targets such as star clusters, sweeping the surface of the moon and catching a pass of the International Space Station.
Easy to use and require very little maintenance, binoculars are ideal for beginners and young astronomers looking for a simple way to skywatch without making a large investment.
Here at Space.com, we’ve tried and tested a wide selection of binoculars and rounded up the very best for terrestrial and astronomical views. Whether you’ve got a low, medium or high budget, our top pick will guarantee great observations and the very best deals on high-quality optics.
Astronomy binoculars are a great alternative to telescopes. They serve the same purpose but provide you with a unique viewing experience. Many seasoned stargazers have a pair of binoculars at their disposal to accompany their primary viewing equipment.
These tools let you find celestial objects comfortably without having to lug bulky gear around.
Tone of Great Astronomical Binoculars on the Market.
There are a ton of great binoculars on the market. However, standard equipment that’s designed for wildlife just won’t do. Taking a closer look at the cosmos requires specialized gear that collects light adequately and provides optimal levels of magnification. The best astronomy binoculars can do that and more.
The Basics of Choosing Astronomical Binoculars
Most hand-held binoculars are designed for birding, not astronomy. Mostly a good birding binocular makes a good astronomy binocular as well, but in some cases the requirements do differ.
For example, many birding binoculars are waterproof, but this isn’t exactly necessary for astronomy (although if you accidentally leave them on the lawn overnight, it might be)! A good birding binocular needs quick focusing, but this isn’t essential for astronomy either.
Then again, for daytime use you rarely need objectives bigger than 30-40mm: any more is just wasted because of your pupil contracts and effectively masks off (‘vignettes’) a larger objective. For astronomy, though, your pupil is bigger in the dark, so you can benefit from the extra light gathered by bigger objectives. So what characteristics should you look for in binoculars for astronomy?
Astronomy Binoculars Features
Like every set of binoculars, astronomy binoculars will have two main features: magnification and the objective lens size. So for example, if the binoculars are 10×50 it means they have 10x magnification and 50mm objective lenses.
The secret to choosing the perfect night-time binoculars is getting the right balance between magnification and lens size that will result in a clear, bright and stable image.
Anyone with an interest in Astronomy should own a good pair of binoculars. Even avid amateurs with a houseful of telescopes will have at least one pair of binoculars at the ready.
It was during my training into becoming a field guide (safari guide) that I learnt in any detail some of the southern hemisphere’s star constellations, it was also the first time that I had ever really looked at the stars through binoculars. Even though I was only using my compact Steiner 10.5×28 Wildlife Pro’s which are far more suited to looking at wildlife than the stars, I was amazed at just how many more stars you can see through binoculars than you can with the naked eye, so much so that it became difficult to pick out the constellations because of all the “new” stars that I could now see.
If your main interest in astronomy is exploring the fine details on planets or showing a structure in distant galaxies, you will probably also eventually want to get a telescope as binoculars just don’t have enough magnification. However, binoculars have their advantages over telescopes for astronomy and a wide field of view is one of them.
If are new to astronomy or if you thrive on large open star clusters and big, extended nebulae, binoculars can actually work better for you than a telescope. It is often said that binoculars are the best “first telescopes” you can buy and even an experienced astronomer usually keeps one with them at all times.
binoculars suitable for Astronomy and observational use. We have a huge range with demonstration models available to try in store too.
Night Skies Binoculars for Astronomy
Whilst all binoculars can be used for viewing the night skies, those with larger objective lenses will have a distinct advantage when it comes to observing fainter objects such as galaxies and nebulae.
Simply put, the larger the objective lens the more light you can gather, and the more light you can gather you more you will be able to see in the night sky. This however has to be balanced from a practicality point of view as larger binoculars become difficult to hand hold making use with a tripod essential.
We consider objective lens sizes ranging from 50mm to 100mm to be suitable for Astronomy and as a general rule of thumb 70mm tends to be the size where most people can handhold for a short period of time before needing a tripod. You should try before you buy though as this can vary from person to person, and the magnification is also a factor.
In addition to the size of the objective you need to consider the magnification. Choices typically range from 7x through to around 20x with higher powers available in the larger specialised setups.
Lower power gives you a wider field of view and is easier to handhold, high power will tend to need a tripod to avoid amplifying the effect of hand shake. Be wary that high power sometimes comes at the cost of sharpness particularly at the lower price points.
The most popular size we sell is 10×50 as these can most commonly be handheld and also used as a general-purpose daytime binocular. They are great for sweeping across the sky. 15×70 are also very popular and are often tripod mounted to make the most of the additional magnification and larger 20×80 and above are almost exclusively used on tripods.