Stargazing through binoculars is an immensely beautiful experience. In this article, let us take a look at the reasons that make binoculars a compelling instrument to observe the night sky. When one starts his or her journey in astronomy, a common instinct is to purchase a telescope. However, this may lead to a lot of frustration. Binoculars are the best instrument for beginners in night sky observation. Moreover, they remain a wonderful complement to a telescope. Experienced amateur astronomers use binoculars for wide field observation that telescopes cannot offer. For some amateur astronomers like myself, binoculars are the preferred instrument of observation.
Owing to a higher degree of comfort, using both eyes to observe distant celestial objects is more pleasurable than observing with a single eye through a telescope. Comfort is an under appreciated aspect about night sky observation. Preserving one’s comfort while stargazing can make the experience more enjoyable.
Binoculars are easier and faster to set up than a telescope. A telescope can take more than 10 minutes to set up. If you have a busy schedule, this complexity and long time of set up can discourage you to observe when you are tired at the end of a long day of work. You can grab your pair of binoculars and start observing in no time. Even if you choose to mount your pair of binoculars on a tripod or monopod, their set up remains easier and faster than that of a telescope.
Binoculars are highly intuitive making them an ideal instrument for beginners. Children and teenagers can also familiarise themselves with the night sky with the aid of binoculars. If cared for and maintained well, a high quality pair of binoculars can last decades.
Unless you buy premium binoculars, they usually cost less than a telescope, further reinforcing the suitability of binoculars as the perfect instrument for beginners to explore the night sky. After buying a pair of binoculars, if you feel stargazing is not for you, they will remain useful for watching birds, wildlife and outdoor sporting events.
Since binoculars are less bulkier compared to telescopes, they are excellent travelling companions. Unlike a telescope, you can easily carry a pair of 10 x 50 binoculars with you on a trek or while traveling. Moreover, binoculars need less space for storage compared to a telescope when not in use. This makes binoculars suitable for those living in big cities, where storage space may be an issue. Being less cumbersome compared to a telescope, binoculars can be conveniently transported, further increasing their attractiveness.
As mentioned earlier, binoculars are also useful for terrestrial observation over long distances like watching birds, wildlife and outdoor sporting events.
I personally recommend the following three books on binocular astronomy. Phil Harrington and Stephen Tonkin are the best stewards of binocular astronomy and I draw inspiration from the work they have done in encouraging others to appreciate the beauty of observing the night sky through binoculars.