In praise of the humble binocular

The joys of observing the night sky with a good set of binos.

Starry night sky over the mountains of the North Caucasus. Binoculars for travelers to observe the stars of the Milky Way. Summer evening twilight time. Image Credit: iStock

The joy for me of this time of year in the evenings is that we still have a good part of the higher summer sky delights over in the west, whilst over in the east we find winter’s delights beginning to tempt us.


That means the Milky Way stretches across the heavens, inviting us to explore star clusters, star clouds, dark patches that are usually great clouds of interstellar dust obscuring light from stars beyond: the list goes on.

But what shall I use, wonders I, gazing up at a clear sky…

Well believe it or not, despite the large range of telescopes available to me, sometimes all I want to do is explore the night sky with a pair of humble binoculars!

Simple, effective, giving relatively wide fields of view; a good pair of binoculars can be your faithful companion for life as you explore the cosmos above you.

Many a time I have looked at the sky and reached for either my 10×50 or 15×70 binoculars instead of the 10-inch, 80mm apo or even today (shame on me) the half metre scope at my disposal.

One thing many of us learn early on is that there is an instrument for all occasions and sometimes sky conditions do not warrant getting the larger scopes out.

Helios Stellar II 16x80 binoculars. Image Credit:
Helios Stellar II 16×80 binoculars. Image Credit:

But the joy of sweeping along the rich star-filled Milky Way and chancing upon a forgotten cluster is something everyone should experience at one point or another.