Our top 10 space sights you can see with just binoculars

Astronomy attracts those who love technology and are fascinated by space. After all, it takes the latest engineering feats to probe the cosmos. It’s great that organisations like NASA and the ESA share wonderful images from telescopes like Hubble so we don’t feel left out. However, there are plenty of incredible sights in the night sky that we can see without billion-dollar space telescopes. All you need is a pair of binoculars.

Amateur astronomers often rush to buy a fancy telescope to begin exploring the sky at night but binoculars are a better place to start. Using a telescope for astronomy is difficult; lots of people buy one in excitement only to lose interest because it’s tough to learn how to read the night sky and learn how to use a complicated piece of equipment.

You can see some spectacular sights with related but much simpler technology: binoculars. They’re easy to use so you only have to worry about learning where to look. If you end up mastering the navigation of the night sky and have the money then maybe a telescope would be a good upgrade. But for beginners, there’s no reason not to start with binoculars as they let you see some of the most amazing sights. Here’s our top 10 things you can see at night with just binoculars (assuming you live in the northern hemisphere).

10. Moon

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Yeah you can see the moon with the naked eye but it appears as a small disc in the sky. Grab a pair of binoculars and it’s easier to see the moon as a real place with its own geography and history. If you’re new to astronomy, the moon is the perfect place to start. It’s easy to find and learning about the moon will make the rest of your observations go smoother. If you’re planning to go looking for something quite difficult, check to see if the moon will be nearby as its brightness can make it harder to see fainter objects.

With binoculars you can clearly make out the white highlands and grey maria (once thought to be oceans) on the lunar surface. The grey maria were likely caused by impacts 3.5 billion years ago that then filled with lava that cooled. With a steady hand you can make out some of the bigger craters including Tycho, as featured in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

How do I find it?

Of all the items on this list, the moon is easiest to find. Just take a look. What’s trickier is knowing the best time to view it in the future. A full moon is actually the worst time as its brightness means you won’t make out as much detail. It’s best to view the moon when it’s new and in twilight. space physics science space science space physics science space science space physics science space science

9. International Space Station and satellites

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People are often surprised to learn you can see the International Space Station with just binoculars but it’s actually visible to the naked eye. When visible it’s the 3rd brightest object in the sky! There are lots of apps and websites to help you figure out where to look in order to spot the ISS and various large satellites.

How do I find it?

The trick is not to go looking at night time as the satellites don’t emit their own light. You need to look a while before sunrise or after sunset. NASA has their own page for spotting the space station but there are plenty more with different features such as ISSTracker or Heavens-Above, which also lets you view the ISS in 3D above its current location. You can also use some of our favourite astronomy apps. space physics science space science space physics science space science space physics science space science

8. Double Cluster

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The Double Cluster is thought of as one sight but it’s a combination of two star clusters: NGC 884 and NGC 869. Star clusters are very dense groups of stars and these two are 800 light years apart and filled with amazing stars of various colours. It’s quite a sight to behold using any technology but binoculars are perfect because you usually can’t see all of both clusters at once in the narrow view through a telescope. To see the whole thing, binoculars are best! Both clusters are very young, at only 3-5 million years of age.

How do I find it?

Now we’re getting to the trickier items on the list. The Double Cluster is inside the Perseus constellation but the easiest way to find it is using the Cassiopeia constellation. If you look up the Navi and Ruchbah stars and the imaginary line between them, you can find the Double Cluster by continuing along the same line beyond Ruchbah and towards the Perseus constellation.

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