There are hundreds of astronomical bodies that a pair of binoculars will bring into view for you.


Not only will they let you see many more objects than you can with the naked eye, but the detail and colour in those objects become a lot richer.

With binoculars, the Coathanger asterism in Vulpecula actually looks like a coathanger and the Orion Nebula becomes a fantastically detailed painting of light.

The Coathanger by José J. Chambó, Hoya Redonda, Valencia, Spain. Equipment: GSO 8
The Coathanger by José J. Chambó, Hoya Redonda, Valencia, Spain. Equipment: GSO 8" f/3.8, Canon EOS-100D

The Milky Way is no longer a tenuous glowing band, but a knotted tangle of stars, interspersed with mysterious dark patches.

Albireo goes from being an ordinary-looking star that marks the head of Cygnus to an exquisite binary juxtaposition of gold and sapphire.

And you can easily see galaxies by the light that left them millions of years ago, when our ancestors were thinking about leaving the trees.

Double star Albireo Tony Moss, Downham Market, Norfolk, 8th June 2022 Equipment: Altair 269 C camera, Altair Ritchey-Chretien 8in scope, Celestron AVX mount
Double star Albireo by Tony Moss, Downham Market, Norfolk

Binoculars are still suitable even if you want to do ‘serious’ astronomy.

There are variable star observing programmes specifically for binoculars, and their portability makes them ideal for taking to the narrow track where a lunar graze or asteroid occultation is visible.

Alternatively, you could wrap up warm, lie back on your garden recliner and just enjoy the objects that the binoculars let you find as you cast your gaze among the stars.

Before you even realise it, you have begun to learn the sky and you’ll soon be able to navigate around it better than the entry-level Go-To telescope you nearly bought instead.

Best of all, you can have this complete observing system for two eyes for less than the price of one reasonably good telescope eyepiece.

A pair of binoculars may be all you need to get started in astronomy. Credit: VW Pics / Contributor / Getty Images
A pair of binoculars may be all you need to get started in astronomy. Credit: VW Pics / Contributor / Getty Images

In this guide we'll go through 6 wonderful targets that are visible in the night sky through binoculars.

We'll update the guide every month so you always have something new to observe, and as this archive grows you can scroll back through previous years of the current month and try and find those targets too.

Each binocular tour is made all the easier by downloading our PDF charts, the links for which you can find just at the top of each section below.

The tour charts are black on white, so you can read it under red light and avoid spoiling your night vision.

For more advice, read our guide to stargazing with binoculars, our pick of the best binoculars for astronomy and the best budget binoculars.

6 binocular night-sky targets for June 2023

M5. Manfred Wasshuber / CCD
Globular cluster M5. Credit: Manfred Wasshuber / CCD

1 - M5

Let’s start with a fine globular cluster, M5, immediately north-northeast of mag. +5.0 5 Serpentis. It contains mostly Population II stars, which are among the oldest stars that we can see.

They are thought to be more than 12 billion years old, which suggests that they formed very soon after our Galaxy did. In 10x50 binoculars, you should notice that M5 brightens towards the centre, exactly like a comet does.

2 - Zubenelgenubi

In antiquity, the stars of Libra, the only non-living zodiac constellation, represented the claws of Scorpius, and the common name of mag. +2.7 Alpha (α) Librae, Zubenelgenubi, means ‘southern claw’ (the northern claw is mag. +2.6 Zubenelschamali (Beta (β) Librae).

Zubenelgenubi is a nice easy binocular double star. Binoculars easily reveal the mag. +5.2 companion 3.5 arcminutes away.

3 - Delta Librae

You’ll find the variable (mag. +5.8 to mag. +4.4) Delta (δ) Librae 8° north of Zubenelgenubi. It’s an eclipsing binary star (a pair of stars orbiting their common centre of mass) in which the drop in brightness, which lasts for about six hours, occurs as the dimmer star occults the brighter one.

The orbital period is 2.3 days, so even during short summer nights you’ll have several opportunities to notice the magnitude change.

4 - Xi1/Xi2 and 17/18 Librae

Midway between Delta Librae and Zubenelgenubi lie two optical double stars (not gravitationally bound binaries). Mag. +5.8 Xi11) and mag. +5.4 Xi22) Librae are separated by 0.75°.

Half a degree northeast of Xi2 is the other pair, mag. +6.6 17 Librae and mag. +5.8 18 Librae, which are nearly 10 arcminutes apart. There is about 50 lightyears between 17 and 18, and more than four times that between Xi1 and Xi2.

5 - M4

M4 is nearly 1.5° west of bright orange mag. +1.0 Antares (Alpha (α) Scorpii). It is only 7,000 lightyears away, making it appear rather loose, and is one of the few globular clusters in which you may be able to discern some structure with 15x70 binoculars.

M4 lies on the edge of the Milky Way, within a beautifully rich, colourful star-field that is more pleasing in binoculars than in a scope.

6 - Rho Ophiuchi

If you navigate 3° north from M4, you’ll find mag. +5.0 Rho (ρ) Ophiuchi. It is the bright component of a triple star, whose seventh-magnitude companions are 2.5 arcminutes to the north and west, respectively.

If you have an exceptional southern horizon sky and fancy a challenge, see if averted vision enables you to detect a slight brightening surrounding the star.

6 binocular night-sky targets for May 2023

Markarian's Chain by Bob Franke, Chino Valley, AZ, USA.
Markarian's Chain. Credit: Bob Franke.

1 - M53

A degree northeast of mag. +4.3 Diadem (Alpha (α) Comae Berenices), you’ll find a small misty patch which appears to grow in size and brightness if you centre it in the field of view then avert your gaze back to Diadem.

The apparent changes, which are typical of globular clusters, demonstrate the difference between direct and averted vision. Practice this technique; you’ll need it later when we seek out the galaxies in Markarian’s Chain

More like this

2 - FS Comae

Navigate to a point half-way between Diadem and mag. +4.2 Beta (β) Comae Berenices, then another degree to the west to an orange star, FS Comae, shining somewhere around mag. +6.

The magnitude of this semi-regular variable star varies between mag. +6.1 and + 5.3, with a period of 55–58 days. Analysis of the star’s spectrum reveals variations in radial velocity of the star’s surface, which indicates that its variability is due to pulsations in size.

3 - 28 &29 Comae

Head 5° northwest of mag. +2.8 Vindemiatrix (Epsilon (ε) Virginis) to a pair of white stars separated by half a degree and orientated roughly north–south. The southerly one is mag. +6.4 28 Comae, brightest of a little parallelogram of stars.

Mag. + 5.7 29 Comae is the brightest of a triple star group. The brighter (mag. +8.6) companion is 5 arcminutes back towards 28 Comae, and the fainter (mag. +9.9) one is an arcminute closer.

4 - Ceres

Ceres was discovered by Guiseppe Piazzi on the first day of the 19th century and is the only dwarf planet visible in standard binoculars.

It fades from mag. +7.8 to mag. +8.4 during the month, but should be easiest to detect around mid-month when the Moon is out of the way and it is 2.2° east of mag. +2.1 Denebola (Beta (β) Leonis).

5 - M49

Locate mag. +4.9 Rho (ρ) Virginis and place it on the northeast of your field of view. On the opposite side you should find a pair of sixth-magnitude stars, a little more than a degree apart and orientated southeast–northwest.

M49 is the small, slightly oval patch of light between these two. Use averted vision to see how many more galaxies you can detect in this region of sky.

6 - Markarian’s Chain

TTheis chain of galaxies known as Markarian's Chain, which you may already have detected north of M49, lies almost exactly half way between Vindemiatrix and Denebola.

Starting with M84 and M86, you should be able to identify at least the seven brightest galaxies in the chain.

6 binocular night-sky targets for April 2023

NGC869 - Double Cluster by Raoul van Eijndhoven, Faringdon, Oxfordshire, UK. Equipment: 80mm Triplet Refractor, modded Canon 1000D, self modified EQ5 goto mount.
The Double Cluster. Credit: Raoul van Eijndhoven

1 - The Double Cluster

Half way between mag. 2.6 Ruchbah (Delta (δ) Cassiopeiae) and mag. +2.9 Gamma (γ) Cassiopeiae you will find a close pair of open clusters. These are known as the Double Cluster.

In a rural sky, you can see them with your naked eye as a distinctly elongated smudge of light, but binoculars will reveal two little concentrations of stars. Those stars are intrinsically extremely bright: if the Sun was there, it would be too faint for you to see it in binoculars!

2 - Melotte 15

If you imagine that mag. +3.3 Segin (Epsilon (ε) Cassiopeiae) and mag. +4.6 Iota (ι) Cassiopeiae are two corners of an equilateral triangle, Melotte 15 is the third corner.

In 10x50 binoculars, you’ll see a large (20-arcminute) glow with a handful of brighter stars forming a V shape. If you have a UHC filter to hold over an eyepiece, you might see the nebulosity (IC1805, the Heart Nebula) that surrounds, and gave birth to, the cluster.

3 - Markarian 6

Markarian 6 lies slightly less than 1° to the south-southwest of Mel 15. It’s quite easy to miss, so we use larger binoculars. What you should see is an arrow of half a dozen ninth-magnitude stars pointing southwards.

Owing to its faintness compared to Mel 15, you might assume it is much further away, but at 1,600 lightyears it is actually just under a quarter of the distance.

4 - Pazmino’s Cluster

If you pan slightly more than 1.5° due west from mag. +4.3 CS Camelopardalis, you will find an unremarkable little trapezium of seventh and eigth-magnitude stars. This is Stock 23, also known as Pazmino’s Cluster.

Your binoculars should reveal that this is much more than a trapezium and you may be able to resolve about half a dozen stars against a faintly glowing patch of sky about 10 arcminutes in diameter.

5 - Kemble’s Cascade

On spring evenings, Kemble’s Cascade is near-horizontal in the sky, so this line of eighth-magnitude stars, with a brighter fifth-magnitude one in the middle, looks more like a wristwatch or bracelet opened out against the sky than a tumbling cascade.

To find it, extend a line from mag. +2.3 Caph (Beta (β) Cassiopeiae) to Segin the same distance to the central bright star.

6 - Beta Cam

You can see mag. +4.0 Beta (β) Camelopardalis with the naked eye, and its mag. +7.4 companion, which lies 84 arcseconds southwest is easy to distinguish, even in small binoculars.


Beta Cam is a yellow supergiant in transition between being a hot new blue star and a much cooler red supergiant. It sometimes flashes, probably due to the equivalent of huge solar flares.


stephen tonkin binocular astronomy
Stephen TonkinBinocular astronomer

Stephen Tonkin is an experienced binocular astronomer and astronomy communicator.