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Due to manufacturing variations, it's always a good idea to try binoculars in the store, so you can be sure they achieve focus and deliver a crisp, blended image. Most people naturally hold binoculars with their hands relatively close to their faces and within reach of the focusing ring.

The Binocular Sky

For better results, though, focus the binoculars, and then move your hands closer to the objective lenses while resting the rubber ocular guards against your face. You'll find that the view will be much steadier. Sitting or leaning against something sturdy are also helpful. Another surefire way to get steadier views is to use image-stabilized binoculars ISBs. These have an internal suspension system that reduces the effects of your hands' movements.

Using binoculars for astronomy

The electronics operate on installed batteries and have a button that engages the stabilization. Although these binoculars can be pricey, I have tried them, and the difference is amazing! Gary Seronik, the editor of SkyNews magazine, has written an extensive review of the best ISBs for astronomy on his website.

Here are a variety of objects you can look at using binoculars of any size this summer.

Your favorite astronomy sky-charting apps will include these objects. Simply set the app to your observing time and date, and search using the names I've provided. The app will show you where in the sky these objects are, including any nearby "signpost" stars.

The better apps, such as SkySafari 5, will also provide a wealth of information about the objects and show you high-resolution color images. SkySafari 5 allows you to display a circular field-of-view indicator for your binoculars to help you judge how large objects will appear in them and to aid in locating the objects with respect to nearby bright stars. In the Settings menu, select Display. A list of predefined fields of view will appear.

You may select one that matches your setup or customize your own. Ensure that the option to "Show even if not connected to telescope" is enabled. Exit the menu, and a blue circle should appear at the center of the display. The Big Dipper is the best-known asterism in the sky. An asterism is an obvious shape composed of a limited number of, usually, naked-eye stars. The dipper is only part of the larger, surrounding constellation, Ursa Major the Big Bear. The SkySafari 5 app allows you to highlight asterisms and their names.

In the Settings menu, select Constellations. Scroll down and enable the Show Asterisms and Show Names boxes. Now, the display will overlay the asterisms on the constellations and you can trace them out in your binoculars. While you're touring the Big Dipper, look at the star that marks the bend in the handle.

Binocular Blogs - Sky & Telescope

Just above the handle, and close beside Mizar, is a much fainter star named Alcor. Most people can see both stars with unaided eyes. Known as the Horse and Rider to the ancient Arabs, these stars were used for eye tests in that era. Viewed in binoculars, Mizar readily splits into a double star, with one slightly brighter than the other. These two stars are believed to be revolving about one another with a period of 5, years.

The Little Dipper is positioned with its smaller bowl pouring into the Big Dipper's bowl and its handle pointed the opposite direction. Other than Polaris at the handle's end and Kochab at the bowl's outer rim, the stars of the Little Dipper are difficult to see under light-polluted skies. With binoculars, however, you will have no trouble seeing all seven stars.

The Summer Triangle is another asterism. Three bright white stars mark out a large, slim triangle about 34 degrees long more than three fist diameters at arm's length and 24 degrees tall. In early summer, the feature dominates the eastern evening sky, with Deneb on the left, Altair to the lower right and Vega high between them. The Milky Way bisects the triangle, so the area is populated with a wealth of star fields, dark dust lanes and nebulas — all splendid viewing in binoculars. Use your astronomy app to zoom in on the area.

Try to find them by hopping among the prominent stars. Next, look for the Coathanger asterism, a small grouping of dim stars located almost exactly halfway between Vega and Altair. The stars combine to form a short, straight bar with a hook on the Altair side. The entire shape will fit within your binocular field of view.

Under very dark skies, you might be able to spot it with naked eyes, too! The Milky Way to the left of Deneb is also a treasure trove of binocular sights, including the North American nebula, the Messier 39 open star cluster and more. And late-night observers can hunt down the Andromeda galaxy, wide as six full moons and perfect for binoculars! Epsilon Lyrae is the designation given to a star in the constellation of Lyra the Lyre , and it poses a fun challenge for amateur skywatchers, even during full-moon periods.

The star sits about a finger's width to the lower left of Vega. To the naked eye, it looks like a single star, but if you have even weak binoculars or very sharp eyesight , you can see that it's a pair of stars. Under more magnification, such as a backyard telescope, each of the two stars divides in two, making it a "double-double," its common nickname.

Hercules contains one of my favorite objects, a globular cluster known as the Great Hercules cluster or Messier This object is a tightly packed ball of about , ancient stars. But binoculars or telescopes reveal more. The cluster is located along the western right edge of the keystone-shaped body of Hercules, about one-third of the way from the wide end.

Midway between Hercules' knees, there is another, smaller globular cluster called Messier 92 that is also readily visible in binoculars. A third, fainter globular cluster designated NGC is located 6. It is a relatively close object, at 21, light-years away from Earth, making it a bright magnitude 5. If you follow the Milky Way downward to the right, beyond the summer triangle, you enter the richest part of the night sky available for mid-northern observers. The Wild Duck cluster, also known as Messier 11, is a large open star cluster with several hundred stars packed into an area of sky equivalent to the apparent diameter of the moon.

One of the cluster's early observers coined its name. See if you agree that it resembles a wedge of flying birds. Another very rich star field in binoculars is the Sagittarius star cloud, or Messier It is close to the center of Earth's Milky Way galaxy. I strongly recommend that you read this page in conjunction with Binocular Basics. What makes a Good First Binocular? Realistic Expectations and Quality 3. Roof Prism Other factors that you must consider are general optical and mechanical quality.

Back to Top of Page 2. Realistic Expectations and Quality Where binoculars are concerned, you tend to get what you pay for and, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Kunming BA8 Premium This confirms a long-held suspicion that Kunming finds it more cost effective to let the customer do the quality control on these budget offerings.

Back to Top of Page 3. The reasons for this are: It is hand-holdable by most people: It is easily portable. It has uses outside astronomy, such as birding, racing, general daytime observing, etc. There are hundreds of astronomical objects that are possible to observe in a binocular of this size, and some e. Even if you "progress" to a telescope as a main observing instrument, you will still find this binocular useful to "cast" around the sky, maybe as a sort of "pre-finder" to your main instrument.

Back to Top of Page 4. Back to Top of Page 5. Best Buys My intention in these pages is to enable you to make your own informed decisions.

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However, if you are interested in my opinion, you may find these suggestions to be useful. A very good entry-level Porro-prism binocular that has been favourably compared with the legendary Swift Audubon. Good choice for those on a budget and for whom a 10x50 is too heavy. Further details at Amazon.

About Tony Flanders

A good, tripod-mountable with L-bracket , all-rounder. It does have the unjustly maligned click here to learn why BK7 prisms, but is surprisingly good both optically and mechanically, and is much better than a lot of other stuff at a similar price. Unlike many budget binoculars, it is not internally stopped down, so you get the full 50mm aperture. It represents very good value for money. Further details at First Light Optics.

An entry-level 15x70 that is relatively inexpensive, but prone to miscollimation, so you will need to learn how to remedy this. Internally stopped to about 63mm. Details and reviews at Amazon UK. Opticron Adventurer T WP 10x Everything works as it should, the image in the sweet spot is extremely good, it has decent coatings, it is waterproof, it is lightweight and comfortable to use, the strap is good quality and comfortable, unusually for a budget binocular it is not significantly stopped down, and it will suit a wide range of faces.

Details at First Light Optics. Excellent choice for someone who needs a good entry-level lightweight binocular that is very easy to hold steadily. It is nitrogen-filled and waterproof. A very good entry-level roof prism binocular, for those who prefer a little more magnification and contrast than the 8x42 version offers. It is waterproof and nitrogen-filled. A very robust binocular. Nitrogen-filled to prevent internal fogging. Reasonably sharp, but this is at the expense of their being internally stopped to about 41mm.

Details and reviews at Strathspey. A good incarnation of the Kunming BA1 that represents good value for money.

Although it looks cosmetically identical apart from logos to the Revelation version above, these binoculars are made to a different specification, although the caveat about losing collimation if bumped still applies. There is also a 11x70 version. A lovely little binocular that gives excellent images. Very good optics, lightweight, click-stop twist-up eyecups, with easily enough eye relief to make it suitable for spectacle wearers. It has a very flat field of view. Very firm eyepiece bridge that does not rock in normal use. Pentax SP 50mm WP. Robust but light construction and nitrogen-filled to prevent internal fogging.

Does not have a traditional eyepiece bridge, so does not suffer from bridge rocking. It has a lockable focus, which is very useful for astronomy. Very flat field of view. The control of stray light is superb. Remarkably good value for money. An outstandingly good binocular for this price range. Very bright with a wide field of view. The TS-Marine is the same binocular, and may be less expensive, depending on currency conversion rates. Pentax SP 20x60 WP. Very robust construction and nitrogen-filled to prevent internal fogging.

There are also a Mounting Hardware There is much more comprehensive coverage of this at Mounting Binoculars for Astronomy opens in new tab. Sturdy tripod adaptors that will fit a variety of binoculars with a mounting bush, including roof prisms, can be obtained from Amazon UK and Amazon USA.