Requiring only a few parts, this simple and effective setup provides stable images for detailed views of the night sky.
“This is the best binocular mount I’ve ever used!”
Those were the first words out of my mouth as I came indoors from testing my just-completed binocular rig. It’s rare that I build something that actually works better than expected, but finally I’d come up with a binocular mount that provides steady views, is easy to use, very portable, and simple to build. It was a good night.
Although the Canon line of image-stabilized binoculars (reviewed here)
is the most comprehensive, there are other manufacturers making similar products. The one that I most often get e-mail requests to evaluate are the Fujinon 14×40 Techno-Stabi binoculars. Little wonder — Fujinon is a highly regarded manufacturer popular with backyard astronomers.
Combining optical excellence with rock-steady views, Canon's image-stabilized binoculars are a stargazer's dream come true. But is one best for you?
For a long time, 7×50 or 10×50 binoculars were considered the best choice for stargazing. Such binos are relatively lightweight, inexpensive, and capable of delivering fine wide-field views of the heavens. But most people find that hand-held 10×50s represents the upper limit of the weight and magnification comfort zone. Models featuring higher magnification or more aperture require a tripod or dedicated binocular mount for steady views. Even 10×50s rarely work near their potential without support. Unfortunately, such devices ensure that an instrument much loved for its portability and convenience becomes encumbered with as much paraphernalia as a small telescope. Enter the image-stabilized binocular.
In the September issue of Sky & Telescope, my Binocular Highlight column describes a trio of Milky Way Messiers: M16, M17, and M18. M16 is also known as the Eagle Nebula while M17 is often referred to as the Swan or Omega Nebula.
In the July Sky & Telescope, my Binocular Highlight column features a real odd couple: M4 and M80 in Scorpius. As the image above suggests, both globular clusters can be located by keying off golden Antares. That’s why I refer to them as “Antares Globulars.” Use the trio of images presented here, along with the chart in the magazine, to hunt them down.
A bewildering assortment of binoculars awaits at your local camera store. But when it comes to stargazing, some binos are better than others.
Binoculars come in a dazzling variety of magnifications and sizes. Many stargazers recommend 10x50s — binoculars that magnify 10x and have 50-millimeter-diameter objective lenses. A trip to your local camera store will likely show you a bewildering array of additional choices. You'll see 15x70s, 8x40s, 7x35s, and so on. But how do we decide which combination of magnification and aperture is best for stargazing?
Do binoculars with small exit pupils really produce dimmer images?
One binocular specification that seems to generate more than its share of contradictory advice is exit-pupil size. I've often seen statements to the effect that you should avoid binoculars with smaller exit pupils because the view is “dimmer” than in models having larger exit pupils. But is this actually true, and more importantly, should it factor into your binocular selection?
Build this simple device for steady binocular views of the night sky.
I love binocular astronomy. At least, that’s my excuse for cluttering the house with a dozen (at last count) of these double-barreled optical wonders. Recently, my collection expanded to include particularly heavy 10×50s and inexpensive 15×70s. For the first time I really felt that I needed some kind of binocular support.
Choosing binoculars is easy once you understand the specs.
Shopping for binoculars at your local camera store or on-line can be a bewildering experience. And if stargazing is your goal, the task becomes even more confusing — there are so many factors to consider and so many (often contradictory) opinions about what matters and what doesn’t. Fortunately, once you understand some of the basic specifications, figuring out whether or not a given binocular is going to suit your needs becomes a lot easier.