First of all, in case you didn’t know, you can use binoculars – any binoculars – to look at the sky: They’re lighter, easier to use, cheaper, and often better quality than entry-level telescopes.
What’s more, you can also use your iPhone, iPad and even GPS units to go stargazing.
Here’s quick look at stargazing beyond the telescope:
You can use pretty much any 7×50 (that’s 7x magnification, 50 mm wide lenses) binoculars for looking into space.
Because of the lower magnification, binoculars let you see more sky at once and – as a result – it’s easier to aim them and keep them aimed.
PLUS, sometimes, binoculars are the only way to get a closer look at really big objects, like the Milky Way or a comet with a particularly long tail.
Devices like the Sky Scout personal planetarium singlehandedly get you past the biggest roadblock to getting into amateur astronomy: Seeing a really amazing sky and not knowing what you’re looking at.
I can’t tell you the number of people at conferences and public talks who come to me and say “We went on this trip and saw the most incredible view of ____…We wish we knew what ___ was!”
With the press of one button, devices like the Sky Scout by Celestron (and the MySky by Meade) display text and audio of what they’re pointed towards.
While augmented reality apps (covered below) have partially eclipsed these GPS devices, they’re vastly more accurate and can be attached to telescopes as information-packed finderscopes, as you can see in a post on this site.
Apps like StarWalk for the iPhone and iPad use the gyroscope in tablets to place a labelled version of the sky in front of you that moves as you move the screen around the real sky.
You can also zoom in and “surf” around different areas of the night sky and click on each for more information.
While GPS-based star finders are better for accurately finding objects in the day or night sky, apps are better for “browsing” around the sky.
Either way, both types of next-gen starfinders are the new “killer app” for exploring the cosmos.