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Things To See In The Night Sky With Binoculars

The following is an expansive list of things you can see in the night sky with binoculars. It includes northern and southern sky objects.

Discover the night sky through binoculars

Did you know there are so many things to see in the night sky with binoculars? I didn’t either until I started stargazing and learning about night sky objects from sources such as Dickinson.

Cool things to see in the night sky with binoculars include planets, the Moon, and deep-sky objects, such as galaxies and nebulae.

Of the planets, Saturn and Jupiter are the ones of most interest to view with binoculars.

See also my articles on viewing Saturn and Jupiter through a telescope.

Star charts and online night-sky apps will help you locate the binocular targets listed below. For tips about using these, see my article on how to use sky maps/star charts for beginners.

 You can use a set of 7x 35 binoculars or larger, but the larger they are the more they are a challenge to use simply by holding them.

Using binoculars in astronomy requires a stable hold such as obtained by fitting them to a camera tripod or some other way of supporting your arms to stop the binoculars from moving when you’re trying to focus on an object (see more in that particular article). I cover the best ways to steady them in my article about binoculars for astronomy beginners.

Venus through binoculars

What you’ll see of Venus through binoculars is its phases, which are similar to that of the Moon. You might see it as a thin crescent at times. A 15×70 will pick this up. Don’t expect to see features of Venus through your binoculars, just the phases.

Mars through binoculars

Mars will appear as a reddish disc through binoculars but you’re not likely to see the poles or other features of Mars through binoculars.

Jupiter through binoculars

What kind of binoculars to see Jupiter?

Can you see Jupiter’s moons with binoculars? Yes, with binoculars you can see Jupiters four moons: Ganymede, Europa, Io, and Callisto. They’ll look like tiny dots around Jupiter.

Saturn through binoculars

Can you see Saturn’s rings through binoculars? It may be difficult, but you may see faint rings of Saturn or just an orb shape looking at Saturn through binoculars, depending on how powerful your binoculars are. Saturn’s largest moon, Titan may be an easier object to see.

Can you see neptune with binoculars?

Neptune is a distant planet and you won’t see it with the naked eye. With a pair of binoculars, however, you’ll see it. But, it’ll look like a dim star. To find and track it across the sky, you’re best using an app or a chart that shows its path.

Moon through binoculars

You’ll see dozens of the Moon’s craters and more. Here’s a list of what to find when looking at the Moon through binoculars.

12x40 Binoculars for astronomy, view of moon,
Looking at the moon through binoculars 12×40

Moon features to see through binoculars

Craters

Albategnius
Alphonsus
Alphonsus
Archimedes
Aristarchus
Aristillus
Aristoteles
Arzachel
Arzachel
Autolycus
Catharina
Clavius
Copernicus
Cyrilllus
Eratosthenes
Eudoxus
Fracastorius
Grimaldi
Kepler
Longomontanus
Maginus
Mailius
Maurolycus
Plato
Plinius
Posidonius
Ptolemaeus
Reinhold
Straight Wall
Theophilus
Timocharis
Tycho

Seas

Mare Crisium
Mare Fecunditatis
Mare Frigoris
Mare Humorum
Mare Imbruim
Mare Nectaris
Mare Nubium
Mare Serenitatis
Mare Tranquillitatis
Mare Vaporum

moon feature you can see through binoculars
Mare Imbruim

Bays

Sinus Aestuum
Sinus Iridum
Sinus Medii

Other

Oceanus Procellarum (Ocean of Storms)
Apennine Mountains
Caucasus Mountains

Stars

Stars of the big dipper

There are seven stars seen by the naked eye in what we know as the Big Dipper, also known as The Plough.

You’ll get a better view with binoculars, in particular the stars Mizar and Alcor.

Little dipper

See if you can spot the 7 stars of the Little Dipper within the Big Dipper.

Alpha and Beta Centaurus

These are considered the pointer stars to the Crux (Southern Cross).

Three stars comprise Alpha, it’s actually a star system. One of the stars, Proxima, is the closest star to the Sun.

The following are deep-sky objects to check out with your binoculars…

Star clusters

Pleiades

Pleiades is the brightest star cluster. With good eyesight, seven stars are seen in the Pleiades star cluster with the naked eye. Hence, why this star cluster is also known as the Seven Sisters.

Looking at Pleiades through binoculars you’ll see several dozen stars of the approximately 400 in this star cluster.

November through to March

Alcyone is the brightest star in the Pleiades star cluster.

Hyades star cluster

Hyades (pronounced “HIGH-uh-deez”) a little over from Pleiades is another star cluster you can view with binoculars.

November through to March (ThoughtCo)

Similar to Pleiades, there are about 400 stars in this cluster all up. Of which you might see 6 or 7 with your naked eye.

Beehive cluster

You’ll find the Beehive star cluster at the heart of Cancer.

It is an open cluster visible to the naked eye and one to see with binoculars rather than a telescope.

Melotte 111

Melotte 111 is an open cluster in Coma Berenices that has about 50 stars that can be seen by the naked eye.

The Jewel Box

The Jewel Box, proper name Kappa Crucis, is an open cluster located in the southern constellation of Crux. This one is a gem to see for the Southern Hemisphere viewers. It’s visible as a hazy object by the unaided eye but through binoculars, it’s and impressive sight.

To find it, locate the star Beta Crucis. Three members of this cluster are known as the traffic lights as they lie in a line with varying colors.

The traffic lights of the Jewel Box. This image of the Jewel Box was taken with the Wide Field Imager (WFI) on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory. Source: ESO, shared under CC 4.0.

M7

A cluster that can only be described as spectacular and which is best seen with binoculars.

M11

This one is diamond-shaped through binoculars.

This is an open star cluster, also known as the Wild Duck Cluster. It’s in the southern constellation of Scutum. It is quite compact and through binoculars it is a patch that’s diamond-shaped.

M41

Open cluster below Sirius. This is should be easy to find.

M46 & M47

Open clusters. M46 is located in the southern constellation, Puppis. It is easy to find with binoculars as it lies near Sirius, the brightest star in the sky.

M46 through binoculars of the size 10×50 appears fuzzy and somewhat like a nebula. Through larger binoculars, you should see about 50 stars (though dim) in a large open cluster.

M47 lies just west of M46 in the same constellation and you can see both in the binocular’s field of view.

Double cluster in Perseus

This Double Cluster involves two open clusters. It is faint and so seeing it through binoculars is best compared to the naked eye. Look for a 3 or E of the northern constellation, Cassiopeia the Queen. Above this is the Double Cluster, which will appear as a faint hazy patch.

Globular clusters

The M in the names of the following stands for the Messier catalog (M) and the integer/s denote its entry number.

M4

You’ll find the global cluster, M4, just to the west (1.3 degrees) of Antares in the southern constellation, Scorpius. It is elongated vertically.

The Messier Objects site describes how you would see it with 10×50 binoculars: “the core region appears quite bright and is surrounded by a halo of light.”

M13

With a pair of binoculars, you’ll find the M13 in the Hercules constellation. It contains a massive amount of stars, as in over 100,000, and with binoculars, it appears as a fuzzy patch. See if you can discern a clear center.

M22

This M22 is an elliptical shaped globular cluster found in the southern constellation of Sagittarius. From the northern hemisphere it doesn’t really rise high enough for impresssive viewing.

To locate it, find Kaus Borealis, which is the star at the top of the teapot in Sagittarius. Then, look 2.5 degrees to the northeast.

The Hubble telescope found this globular cluster had extra features: two stellar-mass black holes, and six planet-sized objects. Don’t expect to see anything like that with binoculars. What you would see of M22 is a faint patch of light.

M62

At certain times, the globular cluster, M62, is well placed for viewing with a pair of binoculars.

If you are in the tropics or the Southern Hemisphere these times are May, June, and July, but if you are in the Northern Hemisphere temperate latitudes, you’ll find it’s not well placed.

You’ll find M62 in the constellation of Ophiuchus. It’ll be faint and fuzzy, but just so you know, it’s a most irregular shaped globular cluster, according to NASA.

M19

Also in the same constellation of Ophiuchus, the M19 globular cluster sits 4.5 degrees north of the M62 cluster. It’s fainter but much larger than M62.

To locate it, find Antares and then look 8 degrees east.

If you are in the tropics or the Southern Hemisphere you can spot it during May, June, and July, but you are out of luck if you are in the Northern Hemisphere temperate latitudes.

Andromeda galaxy through binoculars

Binoculars are good for this night sky object. That’s because it is a large object and binoculars can take in a wider field of view than most beginner telescopes. For the brightest spiral galaxy, look for Andromeda, also known as M31.

The best time for viewing is to look on a dark night (no or little Moonlight)

Other galaxies

Other galaxies you can see with binoculars…

M81 & M82

A bright pair of galaxies.

Whirlpool

A bright galaxy.

Triangulum Galaxy (M33)

Also known as the Pinwheel Galaxy. The guidepost to this is the Triangulum constellation. Involves about 40 million stars.  

What to expect through binoculars: An fuzzy egg-shaped object with a brighter center formation.

Orion nebula through binoculars

The only one visible to the naked eye, the Orion Nebula is the nearest bright nebula that we can see in the night sky.

While it looks like an out of focused star to the naked eye, through binoculars it appears as a fine hazy patch of light in a cup shape.

Other nebula

Lagoon Nebula

Lagoon Nebula (M8) is the next brightest nebula after Orion.

Dumbbell Nebula

The brightest planetary nebula we can see is is the Dumbbell Nebula, alson known as M27.

Is it possible to see the ISS with binoculars?

ISS through binoculars

You can see ISS through binoculars, and make out its shape as well. You just need to plan for when it will be passing over and be able to track it as quickly moves across the night sky. Thus, it might be challenging.

Info sources

Dickinson, T. NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe.

NASA

Messier Objects Guide

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