Astronomy is a fascinating hobby that allows you to explore the universe from the comfort of your own backyard. On any given night, you can potentially see hundreds of stars, and while you might think you’d need a telescope to see farther, the truth is that binoculars are more than able to get you started on your journey of discovery across the cosmos.
Rather than taking the plunge and purchasing a telescope, investing in binoculars affords beginners the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the night sky and the treasures it has to offer. By first learning the stars and constellations with only your eyes, you can then take a closer look with binoculars. All you have to do is hold them up to the stars; there’s no setup required and they can be taken and used anywhere by almost anyone!
Since binoculars are such a useful tool for stargazing, they’re a popular choice for both experienced observers and beginners, and can also be a great way to introduce kids to the night sky.
Our top overall pick for the best binoculars for stargazing is the SkyGenius 10x50 Powerful Binoculars. The best choice for experienced observers, the powerful 10x magnification is perfectly complemented by the 50mm objective lenses. These two features combined allow observers to enjoy close-up views of bright targets, such as the Moon, multiple stars, and large star clusters, while also allowing you to track down and detect fainter targets, such as smaller star clusters, globulars, nebulae, and even galaxies.
If you’re new to astronomy, it’s a good idea to stay with the brighter, easier-to-find objects until you’re more familiar with the night sky - but don’t worry, there are still hundreds of sights just waiting to be discovered.
The SkyGenius 10x25 Compact Binoculars feature the same powerful 10x magnification as the 10x50 binoculars, but since the objective lenses are half the diameter, these binoculars only weigh half a pound. This, combined with the high-quality BaK-4 prisms and fully multi-coated lenses, make them a great choice for anyone looking for crisp, steady views of the Moon, multiple stars, and star clusters or anyone who simply wants to scan the sky to see what’s out there.
Nothing’s better than sharing the night sky with your family, especially children with an insatiable curiosity about the universe. That’s why we recommend the SkyGenius 8x21 Compact Kids Binoculars for the aspiring astronomer in your family. These easy-to-use mini binoculars are ideal for younger kids with small hands and large imaginations. The 8x magnification is enough to put the wow factor into views of the Moon and allows your child to share your exploration of the cosmos and to discover planet wonders for themselves.
While familiarizing yourself with the night sky using binoculars is a good idea, you might also be considering a telescope, but what’s the difference? Is one better than the other?
The truth is that there are pros and cons to either one and which one is best for you really depends on a number of factors. For example, your level of experience, your budget, and what you intend to observe.
Can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars
Very easy to use
Some can be confusing for a beginner
Lightweight - can be taken anywhere
Typically needs to be transported in a vehicle
Can be used during the day
Most can only be used at night
Magnification limited to about 50x
Can magnify by 200x or 300x
Great for wide-angle views of the sky
Best for the planets and small, faint targets
Perfect for learning your way around the sky
Great for diving deeper into the hobby
When it comes to buying binoculars for stargazing, there are a number of important features you should always take into consideration: magnification, the diameter of the objective lenses, the field of view, and the binocular’s size and weight.
The magnification tells you how much larger an object will be in comparison to using only your eyes. The SkyGenius Powerful 10x50 Binoculars have a magnification of 10x and will enlarge any object by a factor of ten, allowing you to see far greater detail than you would with just your eyes alone.
The second feature, the objective lens diameter, is a key factor in determining how much light the binoculars are able to gather.
This is important as it will allow you to see fainter, more distant objects and to see greater detail on your target.
A binocular’s magnification and objective lens diameter go hand-in-hand, as binoculars with higher magnifications won’t necessarily show you more, but will only magnify the view instead.
For example, let’s imagine you own a set of 20x50 binoculars and a set of 10x50 binoculars and you used them both to observe the Pleiades star cluster. The 20x50 binoculars would show the same number of stars as the 10x50 binoculars but would show the cluster as twice the size.
Something to bear in mind is that the greater the magnification, the smaller the area of sky you’ll be able to see through the eyepieces. If you’re new to astronomy and not familiar with the night sky or how to find certain targets, this can be quite disorienting and potentially make observing a frustrating experience.
(Binoculars with greater magnifications will also magnify any shaking that might be caused by the observer holding the binoculars.)
A binocular’s field of view gives you an idea of how much you’re able to see when using the binoculars. It’s typically specified in two ways: the linear field of view and the angular field of view.
The linear field of view tells you how much of a scene or target you can see through the binoculars. It’s specified as either a measurement of how many meters you can see from 1,000 meters (one kilometer) or the number of feet you can see from 1,000 yards.
For example, the SkyGenius 10x25 Binoculars have a linear field of view measuring 112m at 1,000m. In other words, if you’re looking at a building from 1,000 meters, then you’ll see 112 meters of that building in your field of view.
The angular field of view tells you how much of the sky you can see. The SkyGenius 10x25 Binoculars have an angular field of view of 6.2 degrees, so you’ll see an area of sky 6.2 degrees across when you use the binoculars for stargazing. (For reference, the full Moon appears slightly more than half a degree wide in the sky. You’d therefore be able to fit 12 full Moons into the field of view of the SkyGenius 10x25 Binoculars.)
Lastly, it’s also important to know that the larger the objective lenses, the larger and heavier the binoculars will be. Heavier binoculars can be difficult to use for stargazing as they can produce arm fatigue and, consequently, often require a tripod for prolonged use.
Binoculars come in two different configurations: Porro Prism or Roof Prism. Porro Prism binoculars, such as the SkyGenius 10x50 binoculars, are the traditional style of Porro Prism binocular. There are two barrels that are offset from the eyepieces so that they almost form a W shape.
The more modern Roof Prism binoculars have two straight barrels that give the binoculars an H shape. Roof Prism binoculars tend to be more compact and lightweight than the Porro Prism binoculars, whereas Porro Prism binoculars have less light loss, resulting in a slightly clearer image.
To some extent, it depends on how large the objective lenses are, as the larger the lenses, the fainter the object you’ll be able to see. The Moon will always be stunning, while many binoculars are also capable of showing the phases of Venus, the four largest moons of Jupiter, and brighter comets. Beyond our solar system, binoculars can do a fine job of showing you multiple stars (such as Mizar and Alcor in the Big Dipper), larger star clusters (such as the Pleiades, Hyades, or Beehive clusters), and brighter nebulae (such as the Orion Nebula and Lagoon Nebula.) More than this, they can also help you to track down and identify smaller star clusters and fainter nebulae, globular star clusters, and even galaxies.
Most binoculars don’t require a tripod as they’re light enough to be used without causing any discomfort. For example, the SkyGenius 10x25 Compact Binoculars weigh just half a pound. As a result, they produce a clear image that’s free of the shaking you might otherwise experience with larger and heavier binoculars. The SkyGenius Powerful 10x50 Binoculars are also light enough to be hand-held.
Generally speaking, you can focus binoculars for astronomy the same way you would focus them for daytime use.
First, close your right eye and use the center focus wheel until the view through the left eyepiece is clear and sharp.
Next, close your left eye and then turn the right eyepiece until the view is also clear and sharp.
Lastly, with both eyes open, turn the center focus wheel again to balance the view produced by the two eyepieces.
As an additional tip, when observing a hazy target (such as a comet, nebula, globular cluster, or galaxy) focus on a star that appears within the same field of view as your target.
Nothing beats being able to step outside at a moment and get a closer look at the stars. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced observer, binoculars can open the door to the universe in your backyard - and you only have to step through!