Binoculars - The Sky's The Limit (Part One)
Forget buying a telescope and equip yourself with a good pair of astronomy binoculars for your study of the night sky. Binoculars are not only cheaper than scopes, they allow you to see more of the sky at once, are more portable, and are easier to use. There is a wide range of prices and styles, and you should decide what features are most important to you before you begin shopping.
Consult consumer reviews and customer recommendations before you buy, although the general rule is that you get what you pay for in binoculars. Comparison shopping and ordering online makes the process easy.
Basic Tips for Choosing Astronomy Binoculars
There are two lenses in binoculars, and the ocular lens is the one closest to the eye and the objective lens is at the far end. When considering binocular sizes (e.g., 10 x 50), the former number describes the magnification of the ocular lens, which, in this case, means that objects will appear 10 times larger than seen just using the naked eye, and the latter number describes the size of the objective lenses. The larger the objective size, the more sky can be seen and consequently the binoculars themselves will be heavier and bigger.
If you are buying a pair of binoculars for multi-purposes (e.g., astronomy, bird watching, and viewing sporting events), you will probably be happy with zoom binoculars because you can easily and quickly adjust them for various distances. If your binoculars are going to be used primarily for astronomy, don't buy zoom lenses because they won't give you the sharp image that other styles will.
Lightweight binocs are less cumbersome than heavy, but even light, hand-held binoculars will start to shake and the image will blur when your arms become tired. Using binocular mounts or tripods prevents this problem and enables you to buy good binoculars without worrying about their weight.
Small binoculars have a narrow field of vision and since it is nice to be able to see a good stretch of the sky at once, don't buy too small a size. For example, 7 x 50 is good and 7 x 40 is acceptable, but don't go down to 7 x 30 or less if you are a beginner star gazer, or you will have a lot of trouble locating objects in the sky by moving from one object to another.
Avoid quick focus lenses or insta-focus because they go in and out of focus too easily, and avoid a fixed focus because you can't adjust them enough.
Author: Astronomy Today Staff