PENTAX DCF CS 8x42
A nice pair of binoculars can reveal the wonders of the universe to seasoned stargazers and beginners alike.
Binoculars can provide a wide field of view and the ability to explore cosmic objects both relatively near and far from Earth. While telescopes are great for viewing distant objects, they usually require additional setup and instruction. Binoculars are portable and easy to use, plus, they give observers a stereo view of the universe instead of only being able to view with one eye closed as with a telescope, Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre, astrophotographers from Massachusetts, said.
"Binoculars are good for observing the moon, comets, double stars, star clusters and the rich star clouds of the Milky Way," Joson and Aguirre told Space.com via email. "Jupiter and its satellites are also visible through a pair of quality binoculars. Even deep-sky objects such as the Orion Nebula, the M13 globular cluster in Hercules, and the Andromeda Galaxy are easy to spot with binoculars from dark, rural sites."
The two numbers that usually follow the name of a set of binoculars help an observer in the market for a new set tell what it is they're getting. The first number stands for the magnification power of the set, while the second number tells a buyer the diameter of the front lenses.
Binoculars that are usually used for stargazing are on the higher end of both of those numbers. They might be heavier, but binoculars with magnifications of 7x, 8x or 10x will give most observers the power to see some interesting astronomical sights, Joson and Aguirre said.
Space.com's sister site Top Ten Reviews does extensive, in-depth reviews. Here are the site's top five binocular recommendations:
1) PENTAX DCF CS 8x42
The PENTAX DCF CS 8x42 binoculars are durable and have a large field of view. A skywatcher can also be about 21 millimeters away from the eyepiece and still see the full field of view, a plus for people with glasses. Top Ten Reviews awarded this set of binoculars the top spot because of its large field of view. At 1,000 meters, the linear field of view is 131 meters, giving stargazers a lot of extra space. The binoculars are also durable, lightweight and strong, and the lenses are coated with a silver, anti-reflective coating. The relatively lightweight binoculars — about 22.6 ounces (640 grams) — also come with a neck strap that could make them easier to carry long distances.
One of the main qualities skywatchers look for in binoculars is weight. Although a heavier pair might provide more magnification, they will also be more difficult to carry and hold when looking skyward, veteran stargazer Geoff Gaherty said.
Some amateur astronomers like using a monopod or tripod to keep binoculars steady and focused on a particular object. The stands are good for observing objects that are low in the sky, and they're also helpful if an observer wants to keep the binoculars trained on a particular celestial sight, experts say. The main problem with tripods and monopods is that they are somewhat awkward if an observer wants to see something high in the night sky, Joson and Aguirre said.
"A better option is a dedicated binocular mount based on the parallelogram design," they said. "This setup, which attaches to a regular tripod, allows you to scan the skies easily and comfortably and provides solid, steady views."
Help/Support: PENTAX provides email and phone support for the binoculars. Top Ten Reviews writes that the email team is responsive, replying to questions within one business day. The main problem with this pair of binoculars is the warranty. Instead of offering at 10-year or lifetime warranty, these binoculars come with a one-year warranty.
2) Leupold Northfork 8.5x45mm
Stargazers in the market for a little more magnification might consider this pair of binoculars. The Leupold Northfork 8.5x45mm binoculars are rugged and come with fully multicoated lenses, allowing more light through, a great quality in binoculars. Letting more light through the lenses increases contrast and color of what a skywatcher can see through the binoculars. These binoculars do have their drawbacks, however. The higher magnification with the lens diameter actually inhibits the binoculars' field of view. They are a bit on the heavy side, at 27 ounces (765 grams).
Help/Support: The binoculars are covered by a limited lifetime warranty, which ensures against any factory defects, but doesn't cover accidental damage, Top Ten Reviews wrote.
3) Bushnell Elite 8x42
One of the best parts about these binoculars is the lens coating. These Bushnell Elite 8x42 binoculars have 60 layers of coatings on each prism for better light transmission, boosting image clarity. The coating also gets rid of almost all aberrations that could obscure views in low light conditions. This set of binoculars has a somewhat narrow field of view, about 33 to 98 feet (10 to 30 meters) less than others. They are also lighter than the Leupold Northfork pair, at 25.7 ounces (726 grams).
Help/Support: Both an email form and phone numbers are available through the Bushnell website, and the binoculars come with a lifetime limited warranty.
4) Bushnell Excursion EX 8x42
Bushnell's second set of binoculars on the list is a "perfect example of an average high-end pair of binoculars," according to Top Ten Reviews. One of the only problems with these binoculars is its eye relief. At 17.2 millimeters, the Excursion's eye relief is about 2 or 3 millimeters less than other binoculars on the list, but that could be a problem for people who wear glasses to stargaze. This set of Bushnells is pretty light, weighing in at 22.1 ounces (625 grams), and they have a nice, wide linear field of view at 453 feet (138 meters).
Help/Support: Bushnell provides both an email form and phone numbers for support. The company's Excursion EX 8x42 also comes with a lifetime limited warranty.
5) Nikon Monarch ATB 8x42
These binoculars are good, but they could be better, according to Top Ten Reviews. The Monarch ATB 8x42 binocular's lenses aren't fully coated, but they do have dielectric coatings on the prisms, which can provide more than 99 percent reflectivity if the entire lens is coated. It is the lightest of the binoculars on the list at 21.5 ounces (609.5 grams), but it has a small field of view at 100 linear meters.
Help/Support: Nikon provides both a phone number and email form for questions.