The Best Binoculars for Stargazing in 2022

Forget telescopes — binoculars like Canon's 10x42L IS WP are the best option for stargazers on the go.

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Best Binoculars for Stargazing

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When you think of stargazing, it's likely that you'll picture peering through a telescope at the night sky. And while telescopes are fantastic tools for astronomers, binoculars can also be a great option, especially for novice astronomers and travelers. "A common saying among amateur astronomers is, 'Binoculars are the best first telescope.' They can show you so much!" says astronomer Dr. Richard Tresch Fienberg, senior contributing editor of Sky & Telescope and senior advisor to the executive officer of the American Astronomical Society.

Binoculars are typically easier to use than telescopes since they make use of both eyes instead of one. And because they're often smaller, lighter, and more durable than telescopes, they’re much easier to carry around.

As highly technical devices, binoculars can be a bit confusing for shoppers looking to buy their first pair. That's why we're helping narrow down the options based on magnification, objective lens diameter, eye relief, weight, and tripod adaptable — the major components you should consider in a pair of binoculars. Our favorite stargazing binocular is the Canon 10x42L IS WP, which has an image stabilizer to keep your view perfectly crisp, even if your hands are a bit wobbly. However, beginners and more budget-conscious stargazers may prefer one of over less expensive picks.

These are the best stargazing binoculars:

Best Overall: Canon 10x42 L Image Stabilization Waterproof Binoculars

Canon 10x42 L Image Stabilization Waterproof Binoculars

B&H

Why We Love It: They have an optical image stabilizer to keep your view sharper than ever.

What to Consider: They are extremely expensive.

This is the best handheld stargazing binoculars money can buy, and it all comes down to the image stabilizer. It can be hard to hold binoculars still enough to get a good view of celestial objects, but that's not an issue with this pair, since it has gyroscope motion sensors that keep your view nearly completely still.

Specs-wise, the binoculars also have some pretty ideal numbers for stargazing. That 10x magnification is great for viewing the moon, galaxies, and star clusters, while the 42-millimeter objective lens diameter is large enough to let enough light in from dark skies. And though the image stabilizer means you don't technically need a tripod to keep things sturdy, there is a built-in tripod thread, so you can easily mount it if your arms get tired. If that weren't enough, these binoculars are pretty hardy — they're waterproof, too. (Although if it's raining, you probably won't be able to do much stargazing!)

The downside to the image-stabilizing technology is that it's expensive. "Both large binoculars and image-stabilized binoculars can get mighty expensive, but their performance is mighty impressive," says Fienberg. It’s also battery-powered, so you'll always want to keep a set of spares on hand when out in the field.

Magnification: 10x | Objective lens diameter: 42 millimeters | Eye relief: 16 millimeters | Weight: 39.02 ounces | Tripod adaptable: Yes, built-in

Best Budget: Celestron UpClose G2 10x50 Binocular

Celestron UpClose G2 10x50 Binocular

Amazon

Why We Love It: They're compact and lightweight, which is great for on-the-go stargazing.

What to Consider: The shallow eye relief isn't ideal for people who wear glasses.

For the more casual stargazer, this pair will bring you up close and personal with the heavens at a reasonable price. And, to top it all off, they're pretty lightweight, so it's easy to toss them in your bag on a nighttime hike (don't worry, they have a rubber coating to protect against light bumps, and they're water-resistant). That also makes them great multi-purpose binoculars, so you'll get far more use out of them than just stargazing — i.e. more bang for your buck. The only thing to consider is that they have a rather shallow eye relief, so they're best used without glasses.

Magnification: 10x | Objective lens diameter: 50 millimeters | Eye relief: 12 millimeters | Weight: 27 ounces | Tripod adaptable: Yes

Best for Beginners and Kids: Celestron Cometron 7x50 Binoculars

Celestron Cometron 7x50 Binoculars

Amazon

Why We Love It: They're highly affordable and lightweight.

What to Consider: The lenses are made with lower-quality glass, impacting your view.

If you've never tried stargazing with binoculars and you're looking to give it a go without investing in an extremely expensive pair, this is your best option. The 7x magnification is a little on the weaker side, however, the 50-millimeter objective lens diameter means the lenses will be able to take in a lot of light, brightening your view of the cosmos. This is also a great pair for traveling, as it's very lightweight and doesn't require the use of a tripod (though it's tripod-friendly). The tradeoff for the price is that they're made with lower-quality glass than most pairs of binoculars, which means the image quality might not be crystal-clear.

Magnification: 7x | Objective lens diameter: 50 millimeters | Eye relief: 13 millimeters | Weight: 27.3 ounces | Tripod adaptable: Yes

Best Large Format: Celestron SkyMaster 25x100 Binocular

Celestron SkyMaster 25x100 Binocular

Amazon

Why We Love It: They're as powerful as a telescope.

What to Consider: You need to use these with a tripod — but they don't come with one.

These are extremely high-powered binoculars, so much so that they're more like a double telescope than normal handheld binoculars. In fact, you can't even use them by hand — they're 8.75 pounds, so after a few minutes (or seconds…), your arms would be shaking. Unfortunately, they aren't sold with a tripod, but they are, of course, compatible with them. While these binoculars are not as easy to take on the road as a smaller handheld pair, they do provide exquisite magnification and clarity. They give you a view of the stars that's unmatched by other binoculars, with the advantage over a telescope being the use of both eyes rather than just one.

Magnification: 25x | Objective lens diameter: 100 millimeters | Eye relief: 15 millimeters | Weight: 140 ounces | Tripod adaptable: Yes

Best Wide-angle: Orion 2x54 Ultra Wide-angle Binoculars

Orion 2x54 Ultra Wide-Angle Binoculars

Amazon

Why We Love It: They provide an excellent view of "close" objects like constellations or the Milky Way galaxy.

What to Consider: You won't see much detail with the low magnification.

These may appear to be funny-looking glasses, but they're actually low-magnification binoculars — just 2x magnification, to be precise. You might wonder why anyone would use such a low-power pair of binoculars, and the answer is to see the "big picture." They have a field of view that's 36 degrees, meaning they're ideal for viewing entire constellations or even the Milky Way galaxy. (Regular binoculars have much smaller fields of view, meaning you can only see a very small patch of the sky at a time.) Consider these binoculars a slight enhancement to your own vision, allowing you to see more stars than normal, brighter than normal.

Magnification: 2x | Objective lens diameter: 54 millimeters | Eye relief: 15 millimeters | Weight: 16 ounces | Tripod adaptable: No

Best Lightweight: Opticron Adventurer WP II 10x50 Binoculars

Opticron Adventurer WP II 10x50 Binoculars

Amazon

Why We Love It: The deep eye relief is ideal for people who wear glasses.

What to Consider: Even though they're relatively lightweight, they're still heavier than compact binoculars (which aren't great for stargazing).

Most stargazing binoculars aren't known for being lightweight, since they require such high-powered magnification and large objective lens diameters to be particularly useful (an exception: wide-angle binoculars, like the previous pair on this list). But this pair comes in at a relatively paltry 26.8 ounces, or 1.7 pounds — light enough to use without a tripod. Even with their light weight, they still have 10x magnification and an objective lens diameter of 50 millimeters, which puts them on par with heavier models. We also like that they come in a relatively moderate price point — they're higher quality than budget pairs.

Magnification: 10x | Objective lens diameter: 50 millimeters | Eye relief: 17 millimeters | Weight: 26.8 ounces | Tripod adaptable: Yes

Most Durable: Vortex 10x50 Optics Crossfire HD Binoculars

Vortex 10x50 Optics Crossfire HD Binoculars

Amazon

Why We Love It: They're fully waterproof, not just water-resistant.

What to Consider: They're slightly heavier than other models with the same specs, so you may want to consider using a tripod.

Not all binoculars are designed for heavy-duty use out in the field — they are, after all, fine-tuned optical equipment. Whether you're worried about accidentally dropping your binoculars or you know you'll be headed on a bumpy journey, this pair is specifically designed to handle rugged conditions. For starters, it's actually waterproof, not just water-resistant, so you don't have to fear dropping them in a puddle or a river. (Again, you probably won't be stargazing in the rain!) They also are coated in a thick layer of rubber to provide a little shock-proofing as well as a non-slip grip. And they're designed to be fogproof, too.

Magnification: 10x | Objective lens diameter: 50 millimeters | Eye relief: 17 millimeters | Weight: 30.4 ounces | Tripod adaptable: Yes

Best Bundle With Tripod: Orion 20x80 Astronomical Binocular and XHD Tripod Bundle

Orion 20x80 Astronomical Binocular and XHD Tripod Bundle

Amazon

Why We Love It: These are high-powered binoculars designed specifically for stargazing.

What to Consider: They're not very travel-friendly given their weight.

Despite some of the best stargazing binoculars being so heavy that it's advisable to use them with tripods, they usually don't actually come with tripods. But you can buy this powerful pair of binoculars with a heavy-duty tripod for an all-in-one purchase. It's a big jump up from handheld binoculars in terms of specs — the 20x magnification and 80-millimeter objective lens diameter are specifically for stargazing, even if they're not as powerful as some other binoculars (like our pick for the best large-format binoculars, the Celestron SkyMaster 25x100 Porro). But if you're just starting out in the world of stargazing with large-format binoculars, this is a great entry-level pair, particularly in terms of price.

Magnification: 20x | Objective lens diameter: 80 millimeters | Eye relief: 17 millimeters | Weight: 75.2 ounces | Tripod adaptable: Yes

Tips for Buying Binoculars for Stargazing

Understand the specs

Binoculars are advanced optical instruments, so there are all sorts of technical details involved with each pair. Don't write them off — each one greatly affects the overall viewing experience. The specs can be a bit confusing at first, especially with all the different numbers being thrown around, so here's a quick breakdown of what they all mean.

  • Magnification: This is the "power" of the binoculars — it refers to how many times larger an object will appear through the lenses as compared to real life. The higher the magnification, the closer objects will appear, but the harder it is to keep the binoculars steady. Most stargazing binoculars range from 2x to 25x magnification, with many falling into the sweet spot of 8x to 10x. If you need help steadying the binoculars, consider buying a pair with image stabilizers or using a tripod.
  • Objective lens diameter: This number refers to the size of the binoculars' lenses (the glass devices on the opposite side from where you put your eyes) in millimeters. The larger the objective lens diameter, the more light is allowed through. Because you're usually looking at faint objects when stargazing, you'll typically want larger lenses. But there's a tradeoff — the larger a lens, the heavier it is.
  • Eye relief: This is the ideal distance, in millimeters, between the optical lens (the part you look through) and the surface of your eyes. If you wear glasses, the binoculars will be set farther from your eyes as you look through them, thus you'll want a deeper eye relief to accommodate that extra distance.
  • Weight: This might be a little obvious, but weight is just what you'd expect — how heavy the binoculars are. More lightweight binoculars are easier to use for longer periods of time. If your binoculars are heavier, you might want to look into using a tripod (which is why you should always find out whether or not your binoculars have the ability to connect to a tripod mount).

Weigh the pros and cons of portability versus power

In an ideal world, the best stargazing binoculars would always be extremely lightweight, making it easy to take them on the go. Sadly, we haven't quite invented the perfect technology yet. "The bigger the scope, the better. This gives you higher resolution and higher light-gathering ability — the two most important aspects of viewing the night sky. But that also increases weight," says Paul Ricketts, director of University of Utah's South Physics Observatory. That means the best stargazing binoculars are typically the heaviest, which makes portability rather difficult.

Consider compatibility with accessories

Many people use binoculars freehand, simply holding the devices to their eyes. But stargazing binoculars are notoriously heavy, so if you don't want your arms getting tired as you stargaze, you'll need to make sure your binoculars can be attached to tripod mounts. And if you're looking to take smartphone photos through your binoculars, you'll want to make sure you can use a smartphone camera adapter on the device.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What are the differences between binoculars and telescopes in terms of stargazing?

    "Binoculars and telescopes share the same basic functions: to gather more light so you can see dim objects better than with your eyes alone, and to magnify the view so you can see more detail than with your eyes alone," says Fienberg. Telescopes, however, are typically more powerful and more expensive than binoculars — they'll allow you to see most celestial objects even more clearly than binoculars.


    But binoculars have their perks too. "Most people find it easier to look through binoculars than through a telescope because binoculars let you use both eyes, whereas when looking through a telescope you use one eye or the other, but not both," says Fienberg. Plus, binoculars are usually smaller and more lightweight than telescopes, allowing you to travel with them more easily.


    Additionally, telescopes can even be too powerful to see some celestial objects. "The Andromeda galaxy is actually so large, it is too large to view fully with a telescope. This is where binoculars are excellent tools to use," explains Ricketts. "One of the best objects to view with binoculars is the Orion Nebula — something that is a faint fuzz with the naked eye, binoculars allow for a whole new view."

  • What are the best times and places to go stargazing with binoculars?

    "Binoculars show you a wide view of the sky. Being under the darkest skies as you can gives them the ability to maximize your experience," says Ricketts. So, the best time to go stargazing with binoculars is at night. And the best place to do so is anywhere that isn't affected by light pollution. (International Dark Sky Places are always a good idea.)

  • What do the numbers in binocular product names mean?

    All binoculars are listed with two numbers in their name, separated by an X. The first is magnification (power) and the second is objective lens diameter (the size).

  • Can I see planets with binoculars?

    Technically you can see planets with the naked eye, so, yes, you'll be able to see them with binoculars. But binoculars are typically too weak to show planets in high-resolution detail. "Planets require high powers to see clearly, but even in binoculars you can sometimes notice the phases of Venus, which shows all the same phases as the Moon, and you can see Jupiter’s four largest moons, though not all are visible at all times since occasionally one or more of them is hidden behind the planet," says Fienberg.


    But binoculars are great for viewing many other things, such as the colors of stars. "Stars of different temperatures shine in different colors, with hot stars more blue and cool stars more orange or red," says Fienberg. "But only the brightest stars show color to our naked eyes, and those colors are rather muted. In binoculars, many more stars show color and more brightly."

    You can also see fainter stars through binoculars than with the naked eye, allowing you to see binary stars like Mizar (the middle star in the Big Dipper's handle) and its counterpart Alcor more clearly. And you can see galaxies, like our neighboring Andromeda Galaxy, as well as star clusters. "If your sky is dark enough to show the Milky Way on a moonless night, scan along it with binoculars," says Fienberg. "You’ll come across numerous star clusters, glowing gas clouds called nebulas, and dark patches of interstellar dust."

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

For this article, Stefanie Waldek spoke to astronomers, read dozens of high-quality consumer reviews, and relied on her own experience as a space-loving travel writer.

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