The cosmos awaits, and binoculars for astronomy can take you there, whether it’s the paired stars of Alcor and Mizar in Ursa Major, or the elliptical orbit of Phobos around Mars. If the inauguration of the James Webb telescope has you feeling astronomy fever, these excellent binoculars deliver enough magnification to get you a seat at the cosmic theater — right from the comfort of your backyard.
The best binoculars for astronomy deliver powerful magnification in a handheld package that’s portable enough to take along on a backpacking trip and affordable enough to put on a holiday wish list.
— Best Overall: Celestron SkyMaster Pro
— Best Budget: SkyGenius 10x50 Binoculars
— Best Handheld: Canon 12x36 Image Stabilization III Binoculars
— Best for Beginners: Vortex Optics Crossfire
— Best 20X: Opticron Oregon Observation 20x80
— Best 10x50: Nikon 7245 Action EX
— Best Wide Field of View: Celestron Trailseeker
How We Picked the Best Binoculars For Astronomy
The night sky over the canyon, like a sea of stars. In its midst, the Titan’s daughters, the host of Pleiades, and between you and it, two precisely cut prisms. Great binoculars for astronomy bring the cosmos down to you. You don’t need a billion-dollar orbital infrared telescope to begin a relationship with the stars. With that in mind we took a look at the best binoculars for astronomy that are available to the average hobbyist, weighing factors including price, portability, and magnification. Where possible, we tested them in the field.
Magnification: This is ever-important in any astronomical tool. Binoculars with high magnification get you visible details from the moon, and detailed views of constellations and planets. However, most of the binoculars we featured won’t compete with telescopes for extreme magnification, as this type of magnification can be hard to get without a sturdy tripod. We made sure to include a few different levels of magnification on this list, however.
Portability: The ability to move around is the main benefit of binoculars over telescopes. While telescopes usually have far higher magnification, they are generally less portable. The best binoculars for astronomy are small and light enough to pack with you on backpacking and hiking trips, and carry into regions with less light pollution. We factored portability into every pick we made.
Price: This is of course an important factor in any purchase, and will certainly play a role in your choice of binoculars. We prioritized binoculars that are affordable enough for a wide range of users.
Best Binoculars for Astronomy: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Celestron SkyMaster Pro
Why They Made the Cut: With 15x magnification on the base model and huge 70- millimeter objective lenses that are primed for viewing the stars at night, these waterproof binoculars give you brilliant views of the stars for a reasonable asking price.
— Magnification / Objective Lens: 12x36
— Weight: 6.2 pounds
— Prism Type: BAK-4 Porro II
— Fully XLT coated optics
— Wide objective lenses do well in low light conditions
— Waterproof and fog-proofed with nitrogen
— Lens caps remain connected when removed so can’t be lost
— Ships with useful accessories, including carrying case and light blocking eyecups
— Some chromatic aberration
— Heavy for handheld use
The Celestron SkyMaster Pro is a heavy-duty and well honed system. With 70-millimeter objective lenses and 15x magnification, these binoculars are built for distance and low light viewing. They’re also fog-proofed and waterproofed with nitrogen gas, and armored in a shock-resistant rubber.
Celestron finishes this pro binocular with proprietary XLT coated optics. This optical coating system pairs reflectors that use a specifically calibrated mirroring, which makes use of hafnium dioxide for greater reflectivity than titanium, and features high transmission water-white glass in the corrector lens. This system delivers truly crisp views and excellent clarity.
Testing these binoculars, I was immediately struck by the precision they offer for long-distance viewing. On my first walk with them, I easily traced swallows riding thermals high over the park. I was able to focus on the texture-weave of a plastic fabric covering an under-construction building two and a half city blocks away. Looking at the sky, the moon was full of detail, and further celestial bodies were visible with some clarity, though light pollution kept me from being able to examine Jupiter more closely, as I had wished to do.
All in all, we think the SkyMaster Pros are the best pick out there for most people. With their premium XLT optical treatment and huge objective lenses, they provide superior visuals and stellar magnification. Shipping with rubber eyecups that block out interfering light, a case, strap, and laser mount, they’re well-equipped, and their weatherproofing and shock resistance means you won't have to fret about when you pack them with you into the field. You can certainly get more superior optics than the SkyMaster, however at their moderate-to-low price point, they’ve got everything most people need.
Best Budget: SkyGenius 10x50 Binoculars
Why They Made the Cut: With BAK4 Porro prisms, a diopter system to remedy imbalanced vision, and included case, these bright and sharp 10x50s deliver great value.
— Magnification / Objective Lens: 10x50
— Weight: 1.8 pounds
— Prism Type: BAK-4 Porro
— Affordably priced
— Adjust eye imbalances with diopter system
— Clear and sharp image
— Not waterproof
Low price doesn’t necessarily mean low quality. The SkyGenius 10x50 Binoculars are an excellent budget-priced starter pair for new stargazers. While their 10x50 size isn’t as well equipped for astronomy as some binoculars, they’re a solid choice, especially when they’re paired with such clear optics for a good price.
Well aligned, and ready for further customization with a diopter system that allows you to match the binoculars to your eyes, SkyGenius delivers crisp views of the moon and beyond. As 10x50s, these binoculars won’t deliver the clarity of large 20x80s for further celestial bodies, but they will do an acceptable job. For the price, these binoculars have surprisingly good optics, and their main downside is only their fragility. They are neither waterproof nor fog-proof, and their build isn’t as durable or bump-resilient as some of the higher end binoculars on this list. Still, they’re a great buy that are surprisingly powerful for the cheap price.
Best Handheld: Canon 12x36 Image-Stabilization III Binoculars
Why They Made the Cut: With 12x36 magnification that reveals details and long-lasting, battery-powered image stabilization, these binoculars allow you to get great views from almost anywhere.
— Magnification / Objective Lens: 12x36
— Weight: 1.46 pounds
— Prism Type: Porro II
— Powerful image stabilization powered by single AA battery
— Superior magnification
— Water resistant and light enough to pack on hikes
One of the best options around for astronomers are the Canon 12x36 Image Stabilization III Binoculars. They may be more expensive than some of the competition, but this price point is justified by an active image-stabilization system that brings you views of the cosmos in sharp detail.
The Canon Image Stabilization IIIs have a 12x magnification with a 36mm objective lens, which magnifies to 12 times the human eye, taking you to the moon and beyond. Designed with Porro prism, these binoculars deliver crisp images and excellent focus. Plus, these binoculars are water resistant and are rugged enough to bring along into the field. The image stabilization system’s use of one single battery will also appeal to those who like to range with their binoculars, as it’s easy to carry or buy a replacement. With a long battery life that can last for months, the need for batteries should be occasional at most. The combination of active stabilization with an excellent optics system makes for one of the overall best sets of handheld binoculars for stargazing that we’ve seen, especially for those with shaky hands.
Best for Beginners: Vortex Optics Crossfire
Why They Made the Cut: With significant magnification, good shock- and waterproofing, and a mount system, these binoculars are ideals for beginning stargazers.
— Magnification / Objective Lens: 12x50
— Weight: 1.84 pounds
— Prism Type: Roof prism
— Respectable magnification
— Good resistance to impact, fog, and water
— Mounts to tripod
— Somewhat short depth of field
With 12 powers, the Vortex Optics Crossfire is a solid set of binoculars that have everything a beginner could want out of a portable stargazing tool. These binoculars work just as well for spotting birds as they do for tracking comets across the Milky Way.
The Crossfire binoculars are rugged, there’s no doubt about it. With a sealed nitrogen-filled interior, these binoculars are waterproof and fog-resistant; their exterior is also rubberized to make it impact-resistant. The Crossfire binoculars ship with a case and strap, and work easily with a tripod. Their versatility and easy application to many different scenarios — both terrestrial and cosmic — that make it such a great pair of binoculars for beginners. This is a set that’s powerful enough to give you visions of the planets, yet isn’t so expensive that you’ll have to worry when you pack it on your expedition to Iceland to see the Northern lights.
Best 20X: Opticron Oregon Observation 20x80
Why They Made the Cut: These Opticron binoculars focus entirely on one thing: powerful handheld magnification.
— Magnification / Objective Lens: 20x80
— Weight: 7.82 pounds
— Prism Type: BAK-4 Porro
— Extreme magnification with wide lens
— Easily mounts to tripod
When you want to see the Galilean moons orbiting Jupiter, don’t just look at any binocular set; instead, pick the Opticron Oregon Observation 20x80s. This colossus of a set has the same magnification that Galileo used in his observations of Sidereus nuncius, a magnification that at the time was on the cutting-edge of scientific advancement. Today, it comes in a simple, handheld pair of binoculars you can carry in your backpack.
The 20-25x range is about the top level of magnification that’s manageable to use by hand without significant blurring and annoying shakes and tremors. Thankfully, these binoculars come with a capable tripod mount. With solid Opticron build quality, this is a great astronomer’s binocular set. Just be aware of its weight before you buy, because at nearly eight pounds, these binoculars will weigh down your backpack.
Best 10x50: Nikon 7245 Action EX
Why They Made the Cut: Impressive lens clarity and waterproofing combine in this 10x50 binocular set for an all-around exceptional pair of binoculars that are ready for stargazing, wherever you roam.
— Magnification / Objective Lens: 10x50
— Weight: 2.3 pounds
— Prism Type: BAK-4 Porro prism with dielectric high-reflective coating
— Solid water- and fog-proofing
— Light enough to easily carry in a pack
— Clear images of the night sky
— Not enough magnification for close viewing of celestial bodies
If you’re looking for an all-around-great set of binoculars to carry with you into the field — a set that can get wet and resist fog — the Nikon 7245 Action EXs are an excellent choice. Nikon uses a non-slip rubber coating that keeps these binoculars in hand, while protecting them from falls and collisions.
This Porro prism set has exceptional clarity that does a great job with astronomy, while also working well for terrestrial sightings. Spot a camel on the dunes, and then focus on the Milky Way above. This is a great set of binoculars for handheld astronomy, and one of the most packable binocular sets on this list.
Best Wide Field of View: Celestron Trailseeker
Why They Made the Cut: With superior optics, these beautiful binoculars might only be 8x, but their clarity will allow you to see wonders.
— Magnification / Objective Lens: 8x42
— Weight: 1.45 pounds
— Prism Type: Phase and Dielectric-coated BAK4 roof prisms
— Wide 8.1-degree field of view
— Exceptionally clear optics, thanks to fully broadband multi-coating
— Lightweight, rugged, and waterproof
— Well equipped with accessories and carrying case
— Not the highest magnification
The Celestron Trailseeker is a beautiful set of binoculars, with straight-shooting roof prisms, retractable eyecups, and extremely clear optics. With only 8x magnification some astronomers might balk, but it’s hard to deny the visual quality and portability provided by this set.
The Trailseeker might not have the highest magnification on this list, but their clarity and field of view makes up for it, as they sport an 8.1-degree field of view. By comparison, the SkyMasters that topped off this list as best overall offer about half this field of view. The Trailseeker is easy to see through and delivers clear, roomy visuals. As I watched a turtle feed from a field of lily pads in the middle of a large lake, I enjoyed a wide, clear image with very little confusion. Views of the moon are clear and beautiful, with detail. This set may not give you enough detail to get close to more distant planets, but what you do see will look stunning.
What’s more, the Trailseeker set is waterproof and fog-proofed with nitrogen gas, making them rugged enough to take with you on hikes into the wilderness or nighttime walks on the beach. While their magnification won’t compete with a telescope, the Trailseeker’s wide field of view will help you track satellites and spot the targets to zoom in on with your astrophotography rig. In the end, the sturdy build and beautiful optics makes the Trailseeker a great choice.
Things to Consider Before Buying Binoculars for Astronomy
Before you invest in new gear for stargazing, it’s a good idea to be aware of all the options, and strategize exactly what you need.
Since binoculars come with such vastly different degrees of magnification,consider your goals before you buy. While binoculars will never outperform telescopes in terms of stable magnification, some binoculars do enter the magnification range that telescopes readily deliver. 30x was the top level of magnification Galileo’s more refined telescopes were capable of, and while none of the binoculars we featured on this list can quite deliver 30x, some come close. If you’re looking to view the moons of Jupiter, you’ll want a pair of binoculars around 20x. 10x50 binoculars on the other hand will give you a clear picture of lunar craters, and get you a clear view of the Milky Way.
Binoculars and monoculars both make use of prisms. Today, two prism types dominate the binocular world: Porro prisms and roof prisms. If you’ve ever held a pair of binoculars and wondered why the eyepiece is offset from the objective lens, you’re holding a Porro prism. Invented in the 1800s by Ignazio Porro, these prisms direct light through a series of 90-degree angles to change the orientation of an image, and are more economical to produce than roof prisms.
Roof prisms on the other hand use a more complex, milled, geometrical shape which looks like a roof. These prisms pass light from one chamber to the next. While more expensive and difficult to produce at quality, roof prisms can be housed in much more compact frames, which are usually straight. In the end, Porro prisms often deliver better magnification for more affordable prices. Whether the compact build of a roof prism is worth the tradeoffs is up to you.
Consider the Alternatives
Before you buy yourself a new set of binoculars for astronomy, consider whether binoculars are actually right for you. Telescopes and monoculars are alternatives to binoculars that may do a better job in some cases. The best telescopes will generally deliver far more powerful magnification than binoculars for the price, however, telescopes are usually much less portable.
Monoculars offer similar magnification to binoculars. Usually a monocular of a specific magnification is directly analogous in power and quality to a similar half of a binocular of the same type. As monoculars are used with only one eye, they do not display depth in the same way that binoculars do, however for stargazing, this is less of an issue than it would be for spotting on the ground. And monoculars are more portable and lightweight than binoculars. Still, binoculars put the subject in front of both your eyes, giving you a view that’s uninterrupted and crisp. Binoculars are versatile, as you can use them for astronomy in addition to bird watching and getting a close-up view of the action in stadiums.
Q: What stars can you see with binoculars?
Whether it’s Pleiades, Andromeda, Hyades, or Mizar and Alcor in the Big Dipper, there’s a lot to see in the night sky. Closer celestial objects include Jupiter and its moons, and possibly Saturn, depending on the strength of your binoculars. The moon is also an ever-popular target, and with the right binoculars, you’ll experience it in high definition.
Q: Can you see Saturn's rings with binoculars?
Saturn’s rings are one of the loveliest sights in our galaxy, however, they’re quite far away. To get a real view of Saturn’s rings, usually it takes a telescope with at least 40x magnification — much more than the binoculars on this list. Still, with 20x magnification you should be able to get a sense of the shape of Saturn and its rings.
Q: Is it better to use a telescope or binoculars to observe space?
While telescopes often deliver drastically more magnification than binoculars, binoculars do have a few advantages. Binoculars offer the advantage of displaying the night sky in three dimensions and give you a sense of depth and scale that’s missing from many telescopes. Binoculars also generally flip the image you see so that it’s intuitively aligned to how your naked eye perceives it, while telescopes often present the image inverted, changing the way you perceive the sky above. Binoculars can also give you a better sense of the whole sky, allowing you to trace the Milky Way visually, and frame different celestial bodies.
Q: What does the objective lens on binoculars do?
The objective lens is the first lens that light hits as it enters the optical system of your binoculars. It’s the most important lens, largely dictating the quality of your binoculars’ image as well as its magnification.
Q: Why do some binoculars have green lenses?
The reason that some binoculars have green lenses is that they are often coated for better performance. These coatings are there as an anti-reflective measure and as a tool to increase contrast, and a faint greenish hue arises from the chemical composition of some of these lens coatings. Sometimes though, binoculars with bright-green or deep-orange colored objective lenses usually employ these colors as something of a gimmick to make them look specialized. Be sure to look for lenses that are clear when looked through.
Final Thoughts on Binoculars for Astronomy
A good set of binoculars can provide a passport to the stars, magnifying the heavens and giving you a wide view of the cosmos. Great binoculars for astronomy are powerful enough to show you the moon in detail, clear enough to take you into the galaxy, and rugged enough to carry into the wild places of the world with clear, unpolluted night skies. Check out the Celestron Trailseeker for one of the best scanning binoculars out there, with a wide field of view, excellent waterproofing, and brilliant optics. If you’re looking for affordable views, the SkyGenius 10x50 Binoculars will take you to the heights without the nosebleeds, delivering solid visuals for a budget price. In the end, the Celestron SkyMaster Pros are our overall favorite binoculars for astronomy for most users, and that’s because of their powerful 15x magnification, wide objective lens, and superior coating.