February 28, 2022: Brilliant Morning Star Venus and Mars are in the southeast before sunup. Which binocular should I buy for sky watching?
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:27 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:40 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Morning Star Venus shines from the southeast before sunrise. This morning it rises 144 minutes before sunrise and appears over 15° above the horizon at forty-five minutes before the sun appears. Through a spotting scope or small telescope, the planet displays a morning crescent phase that is 38% illuminated.
Mars is marching eastward in front of the stars of Sagittarius. It is 5.1° to the lower of Venus.
These planets have been in an eastward footrace since Venus stopped retrograding on January 30th. The Red Planet passed Earth’s Twin in a wide conjunction on February 6. Now moving eastward faster than Mars, Venus passes it on March 6.
Take a look each clear morning.
Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury are in transition while in the sun’s glare. Saturn is slowly entering the morning sky. It rises during bright twilight 47 minutes before the sun. Mercury is leaving the morning sky and heading toward the evening sky as the lone bright planet. This morning it rises 53 minutes before sunup. Jupiter is still east of the sun, setting fifteen minutes after sunset. The Jovian Giant passes behind the sun on March 5.
A Binocular for Sky Watching
Frequently in these articles the scene is explained as seen through a binocular. A binocular is a good choice when starting sky watching. They are ultra-portable and if interesting in the subject wanes, the binocular can be used at concerts, sporting events, bird watching and other such endeavors. The are a good compliment to a telescope.
Which type and size should you purchase? There is no one best binocular.
First, what do the numbers mean? The numbers on a binocular like 7×50, 10×70, or 7×20 tell us about the magnification. The designation 7x or 10x indicates the magnification. The second number indicates the diameter of the front lenses such as 20 mm, 50 mm or 70 mm.
The larger the objective lens, the larger the binocular and more weight.
The second item to consider is the design. A roof prism has a straight through design while a poro prism design has a slight zig-zag in the binocular. With this binocular the eyepieces are closer together than the objective lenses, making them bulkier.
Which binocular should one purchase? The 10×50 binocular is the best all-around binocular. For this writer, the 10-power binocular is difficult to hold steady. Any shivers or shakes are magnified 10 times in the eyepiece.
Many binoculars have mount for a tripod adapter, but this somewhat defeats the portability advantage.
The 7×50 binocular is more forgiving when shaking and shivering on winter evenings.
Yet the smaller 7×20 binocular easily fits into a pocket or when strapped around your neck, it can be easily zipped under a coat.
When starting, the smaller binocular 7×20 binocular may be the choice, because of its ultra-portability. It travels well and does not take up much room.
I have a set of 7x20s for quick use and travel, and a set of 7x50s for semi-serious observing. I cannot hold the 10x binoculars steady enough and if I want a tripod, it is time for a telescope.
- 2023, December 26: Cold Moon, Venus, Jupiter, SaturnDecember 26, 2023: The Cold Moon is visible during the nighttime hours. Venus shines before sunrise while Jupiter and Saturn are visible after sundown.
- 2023, December 25: Telescope First Light, Bright PlanetsDecember 25, 2023: For sky watchers with new telescopes, here’s what to look at before dawn or after sunset.
- 2023, December 24: Morning Moon, Pleiades, Antares Heliacal RisingDecember 24, 2023: The moon appears near the Pleiades star cluster during the earlier morning hours. Antares is at its first morning appearance, known as the heliacal rising.
- 2023, December 23: Check out Planet Uranus, Pleiades near MoonDecember 23, 2023: Look for the planet Uranus and the Pleiades star cluster through a binocular during nighttime hours.
- 2023, December 22: Mercury at Inferior Conjunction, Bright Jupiter, Gibbous MoonDecember 22, 2023: Mercury is between Earth and Sun, known as inferior conjunction. Jupiter and the gibbous moon are celestial companions during nighttime hours.