There is a good chance many of our readers have a pair of binoculars or know someone with them. Even a lowly pair of binoculars are a valuable instrument for bringing you closer to the night sky.
There is a good chance many of our readers have a pair of binoculars or know someone with them.
Even a lowly pair of binoculars are a valuable instrument for bringing you closer to the night sky.
Before we go further, remember that there is no need to have even a pair of binoculars to appreciate the stars above. Telescope and binoculars companies of course won’t appreciate that, but it remains true. The vista of the universe is spread out before everyone with eyes to see, and like our forefathers, we can pause to reflect and be inspired just looking up with eyes alone.
Here’s some examples of what you can enjoy with eyes alone:
• Meteor showers
• Displays of Northern Lights
• Passage of Earth satellites (our forefathers didn’t see these!)
• Moon phases and alignments with planets
• Milky Way Band
The first three are best WITHOUT any optical aid. Binoculars, however, can help in spotting fainter stars or if light pollution invades.
Binoculars, such as the common 7x35 or 10x50 variety, increases what you can see exponentially. You will see many thousands of dim stars you couldn’t see with eyes unattended; you can begin to see craters on the moon and satellites of Jupiter; numerous star clusters, double stars and dim, fuzzy targets that are distant cosmic nebulae and a few galaxies.
You can keep busy all night long exploring the heavens with a pair of binoculars, a star atlas and a flashlight covered with red paper (to protect your night vision). Basic star atlases are available that show detailed charts of areas of the sky on each page. These show the brighter stars of the constellations and a host of dimmer stars within reach of binoculars. Plotted here and there are star clusters, nebulae and galaxies, as well as double stars and variable stars (that change in brightness), all of which you can track down.
Telescope users also make use of more in-depth star atlases that take the observer deeper into the cosmos.
For the unaided eyes, use a basic star chart, or planisphere that gives you a map of the sky for any time of night and date. It is important to first learn the constellations, before probing further to locate targets with binoculars or telescopes.
If all you have is binoculars, and no star atlas, by all means just go out and use them. Sweep across the Milky Way Band or anywhere else in the night sky, and marvel at the celestial treasures. Look for colored stars and the amazing ways stars seem to line up.
New moon is on Sept. 8. After that date, look for the crescent moon in the west after dark; a marvelous sight with just your eyes, but seen with much more clarity with even simple binoculars. Check out the brilliant planet Venus low in the west-southwest. Much fainter and reddish, Mars can be spotted the upper right of Venus- binoculars are recommended given the glow of twilight. In mid-evening, look east for brilliant planet Jupiter, rising.
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Keep looking up!