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Apr 23

Telescopes vs Astronomy Binoculars

When you start thinking about taking up astronomy the first thought that’ll come into your mind is to simply buy the best telescope you can afford and get started with your nightly stargazing sessions. The problem with doing this is that you’re not seeing the full picture here because you’ve automatically discounted the idea of using binoculars instead of a telescope.

Wait! Did we just suggest that you might use Binoculars instead of a Telescope?

Astronomy BinocularsThe problem most people have with even considering using binoculars for astronomy is that they’ve only ever used a cheap $25 pair and were disappointed with how little they magnified anything and how narrow the field of vision was. This is why those same people can’t understand why anyone would bother using them for stargazing.

There are actually a number of benefits for using a pair of high-powered binoculars over a telescope and it’s not about price at all, although this is a pretty big factor too.

Portable

Firstly binoculars are way more portable than any type of telescope and then you can add in that the set-up time is also pretty much zero – you just take the lens cover off and you’re done. This portability means that you can take your binoculars with you on a walk or a drive and just stop and take a view of the skies wherever you like, a very different experience to dragging 40 or 50 pounds of telescope around with you. A pair of binoculars are also far more versatile because they can be used during the day or at night, and are also perfect for watching air shows, horse racing, drag racing or pretty much any other type of sporting event.

Cost

With telescopes the sky is the limit in terms of prices but a good pair of binoculars can cost as little as around $200 – don’t even dream of trying to enjoy the night skies with a pair of $50 binoculars, you’re just fooling yourself. The lower cost is also going to be attractive to parents because if little Johnny is really interested in astronomy then why not start him off with a pair of binoculars for $200, instead of that $500, 10-inch reflector he’s been bugging you to buy him for what seems like eternity?

Now you know the main advantages of using a pair of high-powered binoculars for viewing the stars and planets, are there any potential pitfalls to using binoculars instead of a telescope?

Light Grasp

Telescopes vs. Astronomy BinocularsThe aperture (how much light the lens allows in) of even the best pair of binoculars can’t compare to the amount of light even a 4-ich or 6-inch reflector telescope can gather (called light grasp) – they’re not even in the same league to be honest. So if you’re interested in having a closer look at deep-sky/Messier Objects then binoculars aren’t going to cut it here, you’re going to need a telescope with a much larger aperture to enjoy them.

Magnification

Even an entry level telescope can offer higher levels of magnification than almost any pair of binoculars, plus there’s the fact that you can increase or decrease the level of magnification on your scope by simply changing the eyepiece out. This is a direct contrast to the fixed level of magnification offered by your binoculars, which is usually around 1/5th of what a standard telescope can offer you too.

Cost

A high-quality telescope can be a lot cheaper than you might expect and there a number of Celestron and Orion reflector and compound telescopes available in the $300-ish range. So for an extra $100 or so you’re getting far high levels of magnification, massively improved light gathering abilities and a far more stable viewing platform too.

Bottom Line

In an ideal world you’d have access to a great telescope and a great set of binoculars too and in fact you’ll find that’s the simple choice most astronomers make. Why argue with yourself over which will best suit your needs when having both settles that argument instantly?

Binoculars are ideal for a quick scan of the sky if you spot something interesting or unusual, but when you want to really invest some time in stargazing then a telescope just makes a lot more sense.

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