Anyone have any experience with using binoculars for star gazing? I’ve been wanting to get more into this as I’ve gotten older and I don’t want to go full on telescope - I want something more portable for when I go camping, but I want to be able to pick out decent detail in things like Saturn’s rings or Jupiter’s bands. Which also means I’m looking to avoid having to have a tripod to set them on, which seems to me to defeat the purpose. Any recommendations?
I had the same thought some years ago, and when I looked into it, I came away with the sense that a tripod is pretty much a necessity. Anything powerful enough to pull in details like Jupiter’s bands needs a firm base, and hands alone just won’t do it.
So I ended up doing nothing, which sucks. But I’m committed to getting a little telescope when I build a new deck in the spring.
Not sure where Gus Smedstadt is hanging out these days, but IIRC he had a whole astrophotography rig going. I can’t remember if it was the interesting space thread he was posting in, or another one…
Orion (telescope.com) is a decent source for a basic set of binoculars. That said, CD is correct. You’re going to want a tripod for things like Saturn’s rings and Jupiter’s bands.
A tabletop reflector may be a better option. For planetary stuff, you won’t need anything big since they’re so bright. Something along the lines of:
Note: I don’t own that scope, so have no opinion on its quality, etc… Just an example of the form factor.
I have this one.
It’s a very basic but useful device. I got it a bit cheaper, maybe ~$100, not sure.
I find myself lusting after telescopes WAY out of my price range kind of like when I was a kid looking at all the sports cars.
I don’t leave the city nearly enough to make any of these remotely useful.
I’m heavy into astronomy and while I applaud the beginning foray into binoculars, it’s a good start with minimal investment, but you will soon be yearning for more.
For binoculars, power isn’t as important as the objective size. 10 power is optimal as it’s the highest you can go without a tripod, otherwise your heartrate will actually be enough to jiggle the view. A 60mm apeture
Here is the authority on binoculars
here is a decent list of objects for binoculars
Ok, now that you have enough info to dig in for along time, I’m going to just say you are going to have a better experience & more objects available to you with a 8" dobsonian telescope. It’s entry level, super easy to set up, any eyepieces / charts you buy can be re-used if/when you decide to upgrade. Size is not bad - 48" long x 8" diameter so can be put in almost any trunk. they are lightweight.
If you have a reasonably clear and dark night sky, yeah, an average amateur’s astronomical telescope for < $1000 will be better than most binoculars. But in a typical city or built-up suburb with hazy skies illuminated by bright lights, you can’t really see most planets and nebulas well anyway. In that case binoculars (or a hand-held monocular spotting scope) will be better for the Moon and can also be used for terrestrial views and travel.
For binoculars you generally want the biggest lenses and the widest field you can afford. If you’re seduced by a high magnification number you’ll wind up with a dim, narrow view, and apart from the Moon and Venus, all you can really see are dots of light in poor lighting conditions anyway. However you have to balance the physical bigness of the binoculars with the cost and also the portability.
One of the benefits of moving to Florida, besides not shoveling snow, is the lack of light pollution. I would have never purchased a telescope in Brooklyn.
I’ve been close a few times to buying Canon 10x30 IS (image stabilizer), but could never quite convince myself that I would get enough use for the money ($469 on sale right now at B&H).
I own a pair of these and find I use them more often than any other binocular in my collection. And I’m not alone in this. One of my Sky & Telescope colleagues, Tony Flanders, also uses his a great deal. Why? Because the 10×30s are versatile, lightweight, and compact — attributes that are desirable night and day. And mine have stood the test of time despite the abuses that frequent travel inflicts
I have the Canon IS 10x30 binoculars. They are more useful than you would think for star gazing, roughly equal to a $200 telescope.
But yeah, waaaay more portable and versatile. Great for outdoor hikes, sports events, etc. The IS is really good.
I have a terrible urge to buy a large aperture dobsonian telescope to hook up to my DSLR. It would be completely stupid of me to spend all that money on something so frivolous.
Yes, so very stupid…
…but if I put it on my bucket list…perhaps I could justify it?
You’d want a tracking scope for photography if you want exposure times of more than a second or two. Dobs are great (I have one and love it), but they’re primarily a visual astronomy scope for a variety of reasons.
You won’t need a telescope for some pretty awesome pictures, though, honestly. Just put your camera on a tripod and go. If you want longer exposure times, you can get a tracking mount for the camera. Something like:
(grumble grumble silly preview showing an ad for a gift card instead of product info. grrr)
Check out the forums on cloudynights.com for all sorts of great info. I believe Gus posts there (he used to quite a lot, anyway).
You can track with dobs, but it requires an equatorial platform (I have one under my 20" dob)
(warning that site will induce aperture fever ;-)
Well my primary use for it would be photographing the moon, planets, and nebulae (maybe Andromeda and Sunspots on occasion). Would another type of telescope be more ideal? I’ve read that Schmidt–Cassegrain types are better suited to that type of stuff.
Astrophotography is all in the mount, not necessarily the telescope. Typically people go for very high tracking b/c sometimes you’re doing long exposures. German equatorial mounts were to go-to for years, but now with computer control and ccd’s where you can polar align with just zero’ng in a few stars, I’ve seen a huge variety of telescopes and mounts.
I personally don’t do astrophotography, but I do admire a lot of what others do with it!
You need a clock drive and a proper mount for photography of everything but the sun, moon, and possibly venus (for which you can’t see features anyway, but can at least get a nice crescent). Everything else requires too long an exposure to image without tracking. This includes all other planets as well as nebulae.
A year later - finally pulled the trigger. Now I need to scout out relatively dark places within reasonable driving distance.
Anyone have a favorite binocular-friendly sky atlas?
I’d recommend this book, it’s not necessarily for binoculars, but for small telescopes, which a binocular is.
I would also say don’t get the kindle edition because you’ll kill your night vision.
Two other binocular essentials IMO:
- A red flashlight. I have this one & recommend it:
- La Fuma zero gravity chair. I’ve had this for 15 years (had to replace the bungie cords last year, but otherwise super sturdy & great chair)
Have to build up a lot more spouse equity before talking about a $250 chaise lounge :)
Took the Canons out the past couple of evenings to try to find the comet, but no luck. I wasn’t able to get away from the city, and the atmosphere was getting hazy both nights. Next clear weather looks to be Sunday or more likely Monday.
Expectations are appropriately low - I know it won’t be a little mini Hale-Bopp / Hayatuke