logo
g Text Version
Beauty & Self
Books & Music
Career
Computers
Education
Family
Food & Wine
Health & Fitness
Hobbies & Crafts
Home & Garden
Money
News & Politics
Relationships
Religion & Spirituality
Sports
Travel & Culture
TV & Movies

dailyclick
Bored? Games!
Nutrition
Postcards
Take a Quiz
Rate My Photo

new
Action Movies
Bible Basics
Houseplants
Romance Movies
Creativity
Family Travel
Southwest USA


dailyclick
All times in EST

Full Schedule
g
g Astronomy Site

BellaOnline's Astronomy Editor

g

Start Observing - with Binoculars


Want to start observing the night sky? You might be dreaming about getting a telescope, but there is a simpler and cheaper way to start - binoculars. They don't have the high magnifications of telescopes, but binoculars are portable and let you scan large areas of sky at a time.

In 1610 Galileo discovered wonders such as the craters on the Moon, the satellites of Jupiter and the phases of Venus. He did all this with a telescope that was optically inferior to even the cheapest binoculars you can buy today. So there is more you can do with binoculars than you might at first realize. Better still, you might even have a pair of binoculars in the house already, for sports or leisure viewing. These work just as well for astronomy!

Binoculars are like two little telescopes joined together. They have prisms in them to fold the light beam, which makes them shorter than telescopes and accounts for their dog-leg shape.

Look at the top of the binoculars and you will see numbers such as 6 x 30, 8 x 40, or 10 x 50. The first figure is the magnification, and the second is the width of the main lenses, in millimetres. This means that a pair of 8 x 40 binoculars magnifies 8 times and has lenses 40 mm wide (just over one and a half inches).

Larger lenses collect more light so they will show fainter objects. However, the binoculars will be heavier and more awkward to hold. If you are choosing binoculars for a child, 8 x 40 is probably big enough. If you cannot hold the binoculars steadily you will not see much!

Zoom binoculars are available which give a range of magnifications, but these are significantly more expensive. Yet be sure to avoid cheap binoculars with very high magnifications such as 20 times. These give a faint and usually poor-quality image with a very limited field of view.

Adjusting binoculars

To get the most out of your binoculars, you'll need to adjust them to suit your own eyes. The two halves are joined by a bar which can be pivoted until the distance between the eyepieces is the same as your eyes. Most binoculars have a central knob for quick focusing, while one eyepiece can be individually adjusted to compensate for differences between each eye. Binoculars in which each eyepiece has to be adjusted individually are inconvenient to use.

What to see?

What can you see with binoculars? Firstly, they cut through light pollution in urban areas, allowing you to see faint stars, nebulae, and galaxies that are normally beyond view. Sweep along the band of the Milky Way and you will see sparkling masses of stars, just as Galileo did over 400 years ago.

If it's winter, take a look at Orion's sword hanging beneath his belt. Here you will see the misty patch of the Orion Nebula, an area where stars are still being born. In neighbouring Taurus are the star clusters called the Hyades and Pleiades. The V-shaped Hyades marks the face of the bull, while the Pleiades, popularly known as the Seven Sisters, is a sparkling clutch of dozens of new-born stars.

In the constellation Andromeda you will be able to find the ghostly smudge of the Andromeda Galaxy, M31, the nearest large galaxy to us, a staggering 2.5 million light years away.

Closer to home, when you look at the planet Jupiter you will see that it is not a point of light like the stars, but has a small disk. Wedge the binoculars steadily and you will see up to four specks of light either side of it which change position from night to night. These are Jupiter's four main moons, orbiting the planet.

When a new comet sweeps into view, binoculars are the instrument of choice for observing its fuzzy head and flowing tail.

Perhaps the most spectacular views are of the surface of the Moon. Large dark lava plains and jagged craters spring into view. (Click on the link below the article for more information about observing the Moon.)

One very important word of caution, though. While it is safe to look at the Moon at any time, that most emphatically does not apply to the Sun. Never, ever look directly at the Sun with any form of optical equipment, as you will risk burning your eye, causing partial or total blindness. Even staring at the Sun for long periods can damage your sight.

Later on you might get a telescope, but you'll still need binoculars for general viewing. Don't look down on the humble binocular!
Add Start+Observing+%2D+with+Binoculars to Twitter Add Start+Observing+%2D+with+Binoculars to Facebook Add Start+Observing+%2D+with+Binoculars to MySpace Add Start+Observing+%2D+with+Binoculars to Del.icio.us Digg Start+Observing+%2D+with+Binoculars Add Start+Observing+%2D+with+Binoculars to Yahoo My Web Add Start+Observing+%2D+with+Binoculars to Google Bookmarks Add Start+Observing+%2D+with+Binoculars to Stumbleupon Add Start+Observing+%2D+with+Binoculars to Reddit




Absolute Beginners - Moonwatching
Absolute Beginners - Start Observing
Choosing and Using a Telescope
RSS
Related Articles
Editor's Picks Articles
Top Ten Articles
Previous Features
Site Map


For FREE email updates, subscribe to the Astronomy Newsletter


Past Issues


print
Printer Friendly
bookmark
Bookmark
tell friend
Tell a Friend
forum
Forum
email
Email Editor


Content copyright © 2014 by Mona Evans. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Mona Evans. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Mona Evans for details.

g


g features
How the Sun Was Born Facts for Kids

Do Red Dwarfs Live Forever

Lacaille's skies Arts

Archives | Site Map

forum
Forum
email
Contact

Past Issues
memberscenter


vote
Poetry
Daily
Weekly
Monthly
Less than Monthly



BellaOnline on Facebook
g


| About BellaOnline | Privacy Policy | Advertising | Become an Editor |
Website copyright © 2014 Minerva WebWorks LLC. All rights reserved.


BellaOnline Editor