Dave Reneke | A pair of binoculars is all you need

As hobbies go, astronomy has a tough reputation. Too hard and too expensive is what I often hear.

People imagine that the way to start is to buy a telescope. Wrong!

The easiest and best way into astronomy is actually with no telescope at all. Go grab those trusty binoculars. They are, in effect, twin telescopes!

In fact, binoculars offer some clear advantages over the traditional telescope, especially when being used by kids.

Binoculars are lighter and require no assembly. This means it’s easy to take advantage of any clear evening sky.

SUCH A DIFFERENCE: A whole universe opens up using just a humble pair of binoculars. Image: Gary Seronik

SUCH A DIFFERENCE: A whole universe opens up using just a humble pair of binoculars. Image: Gary Seronik

Just throw the binocular strap around your neck and away you go.

“Binoculars have a wider field of view than a telescope, so it’s easier to search the sky, and if you stumble across a comet or star cluster, the wide view makes them easier to see and track,” said Dave Reneke from Australasian Science Magazine.

“For family whale watching or sporting events, your binoculars win out again.

“Trying doing that with a telescope!”

Binoculars are usually labelled with two numbers, such as 7×50.

The first number tells you how much your binoculars will magnify everything, the larger number indicates the lens size in millimetres.

These are perfect for basic astronomy and make for great ‘leave in the car’ telescopes.

“With just the power of binoculars you should be able to spot caters and cracks on the lunar surface and dark grey flat plains known as seas,” Dave said.

For the best view of lunar craters, look along the daylight side of the terminator, the line between the dark side of the moon and the sunlit side.

“Ask any amateur astronomer and they’ll tell you they always have a pair of binoculars handy,” Dave said.

“It probably won’t come as a surprise to you, but I’ve got almost a dozen telescopes – but when I’m outdoors on field nights my trusty 10x50’s are always nearby.

“Here’s a tip. To hold your binoculars still buy a special clamp to attach them to a camera tripod, or simply duct tape them on as a temporary measure like I do when I’m in a hurry.

“Honestly, it make such a difference!” Dave added.

Dave Reneke is an astronomer, teacher, lecturer and senior writer with Australasian Science Magazine