The Best Binoculars for Stargazing and Astronomy in 2020

If you live in an area with less light pollution or go on a camping trip, a great way to pass the time is by gazing at the stars in the sky. However, it can be a bit difficult to make out some of the constellations or even bodies in our solar system without some optical assistance.

Of course, whenever we traditionally think about stargazing, telescopes are some of the first tools to come to mind. But, telescopes are large, expensive, and require a lot of setup time, which is why astronomy binoculars are a great alternative.

That is why we put together a list of the 10 best binoculars for stargazing and astronomy. We also provide a thorough buyer’s guide, so you can understand what makes one pair better for certain things than another. We covered some of our top options in our overall binocular guide, but this article goes much deeper in astronomy specific option.

Buyer’s Guide

Objective Lens

While this is not always the most important factor to consider for binoculars, it is one of the bigger aspects when gauging binoculars for stargazing. The objective lens is the lens at the end of the binoculars and ultimately determines how much ambient light enters the binoculars.

Because astronomy binoculars are used during the night time, they need all of the ambient light that they can get. Generally, you look for astronomy binoculars with at least 70 mm objective lenses, but ideally stargazing binoculars offer objective lenses that are closer to 100 mm in diameter.

Prism

The prism arrangement generally does not impact the quality of the image, but it does impact the price and form factor of the binoculars.

  • Roof – Roof prisms are the more compact of the two arrangements, using a straight alignment, which makes them good for a smaller form factor. Of course, astronomy binoculars are almost always larger than average, so this can be a bigger deal for this type of binoculars than others. That said, roof prisms are more difficult to make which increases the cost of binoculars using them. On top of that, this kind of prism alignment suffers more from refraction than other the other kind.
  • Porro – Porro is an offset aligned prism arrangement which inherently increases the form factor size of the binoculars. That said, astronomy binoculars are generally larger anyway and best-suited for tripod use, so it does not matter as much. One of the best qualities of Porro prisms is that they cost less than roof prism arrangements. Even better, this kind of prism does not require as many coatings, though they do require better manufacturing for the best performance.

Glass

The quality of the glass determines more about the quality of a pair of binoculars’ image than anything else. While the objective lens, the magnification, and other factors can influence image quality, nothing beats out the quality of the glass for performance impact.

  • BAK4 – While not the best, BaK-4 glass is considered to be one of the better types of glass used. This type of glass uses a finer grain of molecule which reduces the amount of light scattering and leads to superior image quality. That said, it is a bit more expensive than most of the other types as well.
  • SK15 – SK15 glass is a bit interesting in that it refracts more light than the other two major types, but it incurs less light dispersion. This means that binoculars with SK15 glass need better coatings but still provide clear, accurate images. That said, this type of glass is generally combined with one of the other two types rather than used on its own.
  • BK7 – BK7 is the lowest grade of glass used for binoculars and is not great for stargazing. This is because astronomy binoculars already have to deal with difficult conditions from low levels of light in the first place. That said, binoculars with BK7 glass are the least expensive and can work for someone who wants a test-run without commitment.
  • ED/HD – Extra-low-dispersion glass, also called high-definition glass, is one of the best qualities of glass available. ED glass accounts for the different wavelengths of light and accommodates them individually. This type of glass tends to accompany high-end binoculars and costs more than most of the other types, but it also provides some of the best performance.
  • Crystal – There are a couple of different materials that fit into this category with fluorite crystal being the most common. One thing to look out for is “fluorite glass” which is not the same thing as fluorite crystal. Because of its molecular structure, fluorite and other types of crystal can provide the clearest image qualities available and are almost always the most expensive.

Magnification

The magnification is the first number in the pair of numbers associated with binoculars and determines how close you can zoom in to an object. The larger the number the closer you can adjust the zoom to see the object’s details.

For astronomy, magnification is especially important when you want to look at celestial objects within our solar system. Stellar and galactic objects are too far away to be seen in any significant detail by stargazing binoculars.

However, binoculars with high magnification and large objective lenses can make out good detail on other planets and their moons.

FoV

The field of view is how much of the night sky display through the binoculars when unimpeded. The larger the field of view, the wider a portion of the sky you can see at one time which is especially important for looking at constellations.

One thing to keep in mind is that the larger the magnification, generally the smaller the field of view– though there are ways to modestly increase this. If you want astronomy binoculars to look at planets, comets, and moons in our solar system, this is not the most important factor to consider.

Coatings

  • Coated – Coated optics features some kind of anti-reflective coating so that the light that passes through the glass does not get reflected between the prisms, distorting the image. This distortion occurs primarily through a loss of the ambient light reflected through the objective lens.
  • Fully Coated – Fully coated just means that all of the glass surfaces have been coated by one type of anti-reflective coating.
  • Multicoated – A multicoated pair of binoculars feature multiple different types of coatings to prevent the reflection of different wavelengths of light. However, much like with coated glass, standard multi-coated binoculars will not coat all of the glass.
  • Fully Multi-coated – Fully multi-coated binoculars coat all of the different glass surfaces in multiple types of anti-reflective coatings. This is generally considered to be the best type of coating for the price that you pay.
  • Phase Shifted – Phase shifted coating is a particular type of coating that does not prevent the ambient light from reflecting out of the binoculars. Instead, this type of coating accounts for how light entering the binoculars shifts in angular position and otherwise distorts the image. With this type of coating, the binoculars display a clearer, truer image than those without it.

Product Reviews

Celestron 71008 SkyMaster

Celestron is one of the more affordable optics companies with even their high-end models offering extremely competitive prices. However, the Celestron 71008 SkyMaster is our pick for the best budget astronomy binoculars on our list for a couple of reasons.

For one, these binoculars meet the astronomy standards with 70 mm objective lenses but complement those solid lenses with a powerful 25x magnification as well. Even better, the Celestron 71008 SkyMaster uses BaK-4 glass, one of the better types of optics glass, in a Perro arrangement to give you quality at a lower cost.

These binoculars also feature multi-coated glass, so you do not have to worry about distorted images due to ambient light reflection. That said, the Celestron 71008 SkyMaster does have a smaller field of view at 141’ and does provide the truest color fidelity.

Pros

  • Has 70 mm objective lenses
  • Has 25x magnification
  • Has BaK-4 glass
  • Is less expensive

Cons

  • Has poor color fidelity
  • Has a smaller FoV

Orion 51464

Outside of Celestron, Orion probably leads the way in affordable binoculars, though Orion tends to favor the long-range, astronomy niche more than Celestron. As such it should come as little surprise that the Orion 51464 offers great performance at a much less expensive price point than you might expect.

For example, these binoculars have 80 mm objective lenses, though their magnification is a tad on the weak side at only 20x. However, the Orion 51464 binoculars more than make up for this minor flaw with a great field of view of 168’– the second-largest on our list. To complement these solid optic specs, the Orion 51464 uses BaK-4 glass.

Pros

  • Has 80 mm objective lenses
  • Has BaK-4 glass
  • Has a 168’ FoV
  • Is less expensive

Cons

  • Has poor collimation alignment
  • Has a weaker magnification

Celestron 71017 SkyMaster

The Celestron 71017 SkyMaster is the big brother upgrade to the previous Celestron pair of binoculars on our list. This model takes everything that the previous one did and does it better, starting with its optics capabilities.

While the two pairs of binoculars share plenty in common, the Celestron 71017 SkyMaster improves upon the former with larger objective lenses that are 100 mm in diameter– an improvement of 33-percent. On the other hand, this model still offers a solid 25x power magnification, so you can zoom in with ease and effect.

Even better, the Celestron 71017 SkyMaster manages to supersede its little brother in the field of vision with a 156’ FoV. All of this still comes with the solid Bak-4 glass utilizing a Porro lens structure to keep the somewhat higher price lower than its competitors.

Pros

  • Has 100 mm objective lenses
  • Has 25x magnification
  • Has a 156’ FoV
  • Has BaK-4 glass

Cons

  • Is more expensive
  • Has poor collimation alignment

BARSKA Encounter

Out of all the budget-friendly optics companies, Barska tends to rank lower than others, but they also have high-end models that provide plenty of performance. The Barska Encounter is a perfect example of this with a list-leading 100 mm objective lenses which let in more ambient light for better image quality.

As if that were not enough, the Barska Encounter binoculars are also the only models on our list that provide multiple magnification settings. The binoculars accomplish this by providing two sets of eyepieces, one rated at 20x magnification and another rated at 40x magnification– again, another list leading spec.

Though the Barska Encounter is more expensive, they are one of the less expensive options for their class of binoculars. The one real downside of these binoculars is that, regardless of the eyepieces used, they have one of the smallest fields of vision at 131’ to 64’.

Pros

  • Has 100 mm objective lenses
  • Has variable magnification
  • Has BaK-4 glass
  • Has 40x maximum magnification

Cons

  • Is more expensive
  • Has a smaller FoV

Orion 9326 Giant View

Our last option from one of the three major “economical” binocular brands is the Orion 9326 Giant View. That said, this is the company’s flagship model, and it is easily on the pricier side of our list.

Still, you get plenty of value as these binoculars come equipped with 100 mm objective lenses to offer plenty of ambient light. Even better, the Orion 9326 Giant View offers a better-than-average magnification at 25x.

It is worth noting that the Orion 9326 Giant View has a smaller field of view at only 131’, but it uses BaK-4 glass for solid optics. On top of that, these binoculars feature a waterproof construction made out of aluminum for strength and lightweight durability.

Pros

  • Has 100 mm objective lenses
  • Has 25x magnification
  • Has BaK-4 glass
  • Is more durable

Cons

  • Is more expensive
  • Has a smaller FoV

Pentax SP WP

Pentax might be known more for its camera lenses and other photographic equipment, but the company offers plenty of general optics equipment too. In this instance, the Pentax SP WP binoculars are one of their better models of binoculars that also work well as trail astronomy binoculars.

Keep in mind, these are not the binoculars you mount on a tripod for the best views on the night time sky, but they are a great pair for walking around. This is because the Pentax SP WP binoculars are lighter and more compact than most of the other options that we reviewed.

That said, with 60 mm objective lenses and 20x magnification, they are some of the least powerful binoculars on our list as well. On the other hand, they are relatively inexpensive binoculars and combine BaK-4 glass with an extremely durable build to provide a great all-around value regardless of your needs.

Pros

  • Are lightweight binoculars
  • Has BaK-4 glass
  • Is more durable
  • Is less expensive

Cons

  • Has less power
  • Has a smaller FoV

APM APM-ED100-Bino45-Ausstell

APM is one of the few companies on our list that specializes in astronomical equipment, though they tend to focus more on telescopes. Still, with a niche focus on stargazing, it comes as no surprise that the APM ED-100 binoculars are some of the best performing we encountered.

First, the optical performance is top-notch with 100 mm objective lenses combined with one of the best magnifications we found at 30.5x. Even better, these binoculars use FK-61 ED glass which is higher quality than even BaK-4 and provides truer clearer images.

As if that were not enough, the APM ED-100 binoculars offer nitrogen-filled waterproofing combined with a magnesium alloy body. The only real issue with these binoculars, outside of the high price tag, is their relatively small field of view at only 147’.

Pros

  • Has FK-61 ED Glass
  • Has 100 mm objective lenses
  • Has 30.5x magnification
  • Is more durable

Cons

  • Is more expensive
  • Has a smaller FoV

Meade Instruments AstroBinocular

Meade Instruments is another company that specializes in astronomy equipment, those this company branches out a bit further than others of its ilk. That said, the Meade Instruments AstroBinoculars still offers one of the better values that we came across.

Unlike other “budget-friendly” companies, Meade Instruments does not suffer from some of the quality control issues leading to subpar collimation alignment creating double images. That said, the optics are a bit hit or miss with solid 70 mm objective lenses but a disappointing magnification power of only 15x– the lowest on our list.

On the other hand, that lower magnification allows you to get the widest view of the sky on our list with a 231’ field of view. To be fair, we had to nitpick to find anything else wrong with these binoculars, though the neck strap could be improved.

Pros

  • Has 70 mm objective lenses
  • Has BaK-4 glass
  • Has a 231’ FoV
  • Is less expensive

Cons

  • Has a subpar neck strap
  • Has a weaker magnification

Levenhuk Bruno Plus

Levenhuk sits at the high-end of the “budget-friendly” niche for binoculars, offering slightly improved performance for a lower price than most other companies. The Levenhuk Bruno Plus exemplify this with decent optics that allow in plenty of ambient light thanks to 80 mm objective lenses.

Though, it is worth noting that the magnification of these binoculars falls a bit below average at only 20x. However, the Levenhuk Bruno Plus makes up for this with a list-leading 168’ field of view.

In fairness, these binoculars are likely worth more than they cost as they do not have any real flaws outside of potentially a subpar neck strap. The use of BaK-4 glass and a 5-element Porro eyepiece, instead of the traditional 4, only cements its place on our list.

Pros

  • Has 80 mm objective lenses
  • Has BaK-4 glass
  • Has a 168’ FoV
  • Is less expensive

Cons

  • Has a subpar neck strap
  • Has a weaker magnification

Kowa Highlander Series

The Kowa Highlander Series might be the last product on our list, but it stands in a class on its own. In fairness, this pair of binoculars does not wow in the traditional sense with a good optical quality of 82 mm objective lenses– just a touch above average.

Likewise, the magnification is fairly good, ranking second on our list, but it does not blow you away at 32x either. Instead, the real selling point of the Kowa Highlander Series is its glass which is made out of fluorite crystal and produces the best image quality that we came across.

Granted, this also means that the Kowa Highlander Series is significantly more expensive than any other option we reviewed, but you get what you pay for. While this pair of binoculars also have a smaller field of view at 115 ½’, it is more durable than most and uses a magnesium alloy body.

Pros

  • Has fluorite crystal “glass”
  • Has 82 mm objective lenses
  • Has 32x magnification
  • Is more durable

Cons

  • Is expensive binoculars
  • Has a smaller FoV

Conclusion

As we can see, some astronomy binoculars work best when set up on a tripod while others are small and light enough to use by holding them. If you want an inexpensive pair, the Celestron 71008 SkyMaster or Meade Instruments AstroBinocular are solid options.

For something a bit more robust and stable, the Kowa Highlander, APM ED-100, or Barska Encounter are perfect tripod models. For something a little bit more manageable, the Pentax SP WP offers a great experience in a compact package.

Finally, the Celestron Skymaster 71017 and Orion 9326 Giant View provide some of the best value to optics ratios that we came across.