20 July 2014

Binocular Astronomy

From an urban setting such as my home in San Francisco, I have a reasonable view of the night sky, knowing that from my own backyard I can see a good number of stars if I have clear skies and I am patient, allowing my eyes to dark adapt. In a city setting you are limited in the depth of the night sky you can experience by the ambient light in your exact setting, and the light pollution dispersed into the sky. But you can overcome these factors somewhat, by using binoculars.

Every time I am at a star party or astronomy gathering, in addition to a telescope I bring my binoculars. These are the fastest way to enhance your viewing whether you are in a dark sky or city setting. No matter what conditions you have, you will see deeper and will experience more richness in the night sky with binoculars. They are intuitive and require no special technical knowledge to use. You just point at a part of the sky and enjoy. Gary Seronik of Sky & Telescope publishes regular articles focused on binocular viewing and has an excellent resource book (I have a copy, of course) just for binocular viewing, Binocular Highlights. I highly recommend it.

Summer Milky Way in binoculars
During the summer months, point east and above to experience the richness of the Milky Way through binoculars. Even in city settings where the true outline of the Milky Way is not visible, binoculars will reveal some of that richness, exposing clusters and nebulae in the depths of the galaxy. I am particularly fond of the charts from the Great Smoky Mountain Astronomical Association for highlights in the summer galactic zone.

My old Celestron 10x50 binoculars have served me well for years and I carry them with me virtually everywhere I go. You should consider the same.

Image courtesy garyseronik.com.

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