For many, the idea of stargazing is appealing but where or how to start is often overwhelming. Here’s a primer for those of you who would like to get the most out of stargazing, particularly if you are contemplating purchasing binoculars or a telescope.
Grab A Quality Pair of Binoculars for Stargazing
Before you go out and buy a telescope, try using a pair of good binoculars. Some might think that binoculars aren’t as clear or advanced as a telescope, but in reality, for certain aspects of sky watching, they are the best instrument of all to use. A pair of 7-power binoculars is lightweight and portable. And a quality pair of binoculars can far outrank a poor quality small telescope and is an instrument that should last you a lifetime.
Which Binoculars Should I Choose?
Binoculars come in a variety of sizes. Most observers prefer the so-called 7 x 50 “night glasses.” The 7 refers to the magnification, while the 50 refers to the diameter of the two objective lenses measured in millimeters. Any good pair of 7-power binoculars when held steadily will give you a glimpse of the craters of the Moon, the crescent of Venus, and the moons of Jupiter. Should a bright comet come along, there is no better instrument to give you a great overall view of both the head and tail. And by just sweeping along the Milky Way, you’ll be treated to a myriad of stars.
Remember, a dark night sky, free of light pollution, gives you the best visibility!
Joe Rao is an astronomer and contributes regularly to the Farmers' Almanac.