Monday, January 14, 2008

Big Binos

I enjoyed a new astronomy experience last week. Our down the street neighbor, Pierre, brought over some giant binoculars and an innovative mount that held them steady as we looked at the stars. In this picture, Pierre is checking out Comet Tuttle.

Most experienced observers agree that binoculars are a better tool for beginning stargazers than a telescope. They are easy to transport, set up, and use; which translates into getting out under the stars more often.

Pierre used his binoculars for two years, here on Bonaire, before transitioning to a telescope. I spent my first year on Bonaire learning the constellations with my naked eye, and then a whole year observing with 10x50 binoculars, before getting my first telescope.

I think that the new computerized telescopes that find their way around the sky on their own make it less likely that new astronomy buffs will "pay their dues" with binoculars. But I suspect that it is still a good idea to begin with binoculars, because one will never "outgrow" them. You see, even experienced observers still enjoy scanning the sky with a good pair of binocs.

What I saw in Pierre's binoculars the other night was every bit as interesting and enjoyable as anything I've ever seen in a telescope. We're planning to do some more binocular observing as soon as the moon goes away. I can't wait.

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