Setting Up for Stargazing with Binoculars

Steadying your binoculars

Once you've chosen a pair of binoculars you'll need to get in a good position to start using them. The most difficult thing about using binoculars for astronomy is the shakiness, so your first task is to figure out how to minimize that.

If your binoculars aren't too heavy and have a very wide field of view, you may be able to just hold them in your hands without any kind of support. You can stand with your feet somewhat spread apart but you may find it easier to sit. Try bracing your elbows against your chest.

You will find it much easier to keep the binoculars steady if you lean against something such as a pillar or wall. I find a pillar is the best commonly-available option. I stand next to it, holding the binoculars so that they are touching the pillar.

There are plenty of other possibilities for support. Get creative. Some people like to use a ball sitting on a table—this gives you some latitude to move around. Even trying different seats or reclining chairs can make a difference.

Remember that you'll want to be able to sustain your viewing positions for some time. A position that might be fine for half a minute might make your arms very tired (and more shaky) very quickly after that.

Using a Tripod

Obviously a good tripod will make it significantly easier to keep the view steady. Most binoculars need an adapter to fit onto a tripod but these adapters are cheap. If you don't have an adapter you can still rest the binoculars on a tripod while holding them—this isn't as good as properly mounting them but it's better than nothing.

In most cases a standard photography tripod will work well enough, but this setup gets tricky when you're looking at things high in the sky. You'll need to adjust the legs and you might find yourself balancing the tripod on two legs to reach the highest things.

You could also try mounting the binoculars backwards. Tripods tend to be designed to be easier to use in one direction, but if you face the binoculars the opposite direction you might find there there is more room to tilt the tripod head upwards. This will depend on the exact design of your tripod.

If you're keen to spend lots of money you can buy specialist astronomy tripods for binoculars, but unless you're using unusually large binoculars this probably isn't necessary.

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