It is often thought that a telescope is essential for observing. Certainly, anything that enhances human vision is extremely useful to the astronomer. But a simple pair of binoculars is an excellent tool for exploring the night sky.

Besides being far cheaper than a telescope, they are less cumbersome and are easy to use, especially if sturdily mounted on a tripod.

The following table, taken from Harrington (1990), summarises the pros and cons of various binocular configurations.

Popular binocular sizes
Size Pros & Cons
7×35 Easily hand-held; excellent wide-field views of Milky Way and deep-sky objects. Smaller exit pupil restricts dark sky effectiveness.
7×50 Easily hand-held; light-gathering ability sufficient for hundreds of objects; best choice. Larger aperture may cause sky-glow problems in urban and suburban areas.
10×50 Good choice for urban and suburban users who want higher magnification. May require a tripod.
10×70 Excellent for clusters, nebulae and ¬†galaxies. Heavy; tripod usually needed.
11×80 Excellent for faint objects. Tripod needed; heavy.


  1. Harrington, P. (1990) Touring the Universe Through Binoculars. Wiley Science Editions.

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