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Telescope or Binoculars For Stargazing [How To Decide]

If you are getting intro Astronomy then you probably want to know what is better for stargazing, a telescope or binoculars. This a common question that gets asked, and its one of those that I definitely considered when I was first getting into observing the night sky.

I’ve spent a lot of time researching, discussing topics like this in Astronomy Forums, as well as testing both my telescope and a pair of binoculars in my own backyard and on the go. I’d like to share with you what I have learnt along the way in this article today.

So, what do you need to get, a telescope or binoculars for stargazing? If you want to observe the stars, either a telescope or binoculars can be used. They will both provide you with the increased magnification and clarity that ensure you can isolate and view the stars of the night sky. However, a telescope by default is more powerful and will enable you to view further and with more clarity.

Telescopes will be able to show you finer details of stars, and more distant stars than what a pair of binoculars will be able to show.

Having said that which one is best for you will depend on a few factors, namely, what you are looking to see and observe.

Astronomical Binoculars Vs A Telescope; What Are The Differences?

Ultimately, a pair of astronomical binoculars and telescopes are there to serve the same purpose. They are there to help magnify an object in the distance, and give you the ability to observe it more closely.

However, they do serve some key differences in which you should be aware.

Primarily, the magnification they provide, their costs and prices, and the conditions which they will best serve you differ.

If you are not sure what to purchase, or what will be best for you, I am going to help illustrate the distinctions so you can best decide:

Structure And Framework

The first major distinction between a telescope and a pair of binoculars is the structure and framework.

A telescope uses one lens and one eyepiece. Binoculars on the other hand come with two eyepieces and two lenses.

This difference actually leads to a variance in what you will be able to observe.

With binoculars, the two lenses will provide you with what is known as a wider field of view.

This is essentially how much of the sky you can see at once.

As Telescopes have bigger lenses, this means that they take in more light (meaning you can see better detail of objects in the sky).


The second major distinction between the two is in the magnification. This is distinctly the amount of sizes larger an object will appear when being observed.

With astronomical binoculars, a good pair will have around 20x magnification.

This means when viewing an object through this pair you will see an object 20 x larger than it would appear to look with your naked eye.

The better the binoculars, the better larger the magnification.

As this typically results in larger, heavier framework, a Tripod is often used to help support the weight and steady the image.

Holding a pair of binoculars without the use of a tripod can lead to a distorted image as your hands may start to shake.

With telescopes, the smaller, cheaper ones start at a minimum of 20x magnification.

High-spec scopes, can take magnification a lot further. Some models even boast a magnification of 250x and more!

What Can You See With a Telescope?

Telescopes are primarily used by intermediate to expert Astronomers for a reason. This is because they provide clear images of The Moon, The Planets of the Solar System, and they enable the ability to observe Deep Space Objects, Stars (Including Distant Stars), Nebulas and Galaxies.

Having the ability to view those objects requires a lot of light and also an enhanced magnification.

As light is the primary factor in what you can see, it is the lenses and mirrors that are included in telescopes that increase your visibility.

Stars by default emit their own light, so it is being able to channel that light that you can see them.

Moreover, did you know that Planets do not produce or emit their own light? They simply reflect light from the Sun?

Therefore, in order to be able to view greater detail, like craters and the internal environment of each planet, then you are going to need to be able to obtain as much light as you possibly can.

This is where and why Telescopes dominate in Astronomy, and why they are most effective for observing the finer details of space and the wider universe.

Moreover, Planets and Stars move slowly, or for the former not at all.

This means that using a static a tripod-mounted device is preferable when observing them and does not require you to have to move your device to track them.

Computerized telescopes automatically orient themselves to objects in the sky (that you define).

They have internal tracking systems and programming that enables them to locate and track what you want to see along a set of pre-defined coordinates.

From there, all you need to do is look down your scope once the telescope is locked on and you can view the finer details of that object.

This is great if you are a beginner in astronomy, and have not yet an understanding of where certain planets, stars, galaxies etc are.

What Can You See With Binoculars?

Binoculars are very similar in the fact that, fundamentally, you can observe the same objects in the night sky. With binoculars you can also expect to see The Moon, The Planets in the Solar System, and they depending on the magnification of the pair used, some Deep Space Objects and Stars (Distant Stars may be identified but will likely be blurred).

However it is important to note that you will not be able to obtain the same level of detail compared to that of a telescope. However, binoculars are considerably cheaper, more versatile piece of equipment than telescopes.

Due to their wider field of view, binoculars are better for seeing more of the night sky at once, and being able to see multiple objects at the same time.

Factors To Consider

If you are looking to purchase a telescope or a pair of astronomical binoculars to observe the night sky, here are the things to consider:

What Would You Like To See?

Are you looking to obtain high quality in depth, crisp and clear images of each individual planet?

Or are you looking to observe multiple objects of the night sky at once and get stunning images of how the sky all comes together?

Telescopes are there for closer, finer inspection opposed to the more general viewing of binoculars.

If you can understand what you are looking to use either piece of equipment for, you’ll be far more likely to make a decision.

Your Budget

Telescopes are considerably more expensive than a pair of binoculars.

The components that make up a telescope, including the lenses, eyepieces and mount, are more costly to the manufacturer and thus, you will have to pay more up front.

Beyond this, you may be required to buy extra components along the way (like further eyepieces etc).

Astronomical Binoculars on the other hand, due to their smaller frames and are not as expensive.

It is important to note that this doesn’t necessarily mean that binoculars are inferior to telescopes in quality.

Ultimately consider your budget, what you can afford and how long you have been into Astronomy.

Binoculars being cheaper and easier to use are a great first option for new astronomers.

As you gain experience, commitment and enjoyment in astronomy, then it may make sense to upgrade to a telescope.

On the other hand if you want to observe with finer detail and have the money available, investing in a high-spec telescope from the outset is recommended.

When And How Will You Use Them?

Do you want to observe the night sky from your home or do you want to view them at various points on the go?

For the former, a telescope would make much more sense for you.

If you have the space, or a spot in mind, you could even set up your telescope and leave it there for future use (if inside your home by a window and not subject to the weather!)

Alternatively, if you want to observe the sky on the go or you want to take equipment with you camping or on a trip, a pair of binoculars is a lot easier to pack, store, carry and use.

You will not have to set up each time you use them and they are considerably lighter.

While it is possible to purchase telescopes that were designed for use on the go, these are primarily smaller and therefore ‘weaker’ spec.

Personal Preferences

Consider what you like and how you want to observe the sky.

Do you like looking through one or or two eyes?

Do you wear glasses?

Consider these questions and your personal preferences, and remember your individual requirements and pain points.

Experience Level

Using a telescope is not just a matter of un-boxing, placing on the mount and then aiming into the sky.

Unfortunately, they do require a bit of manual setup and then there is a learning curve when observing the sky.

They are a more technical piece of equipment and are therefore harder to use for a beginner or a child.

As mentioned earlier you can close this gap by purchasing a computerized telescope, using Planetarium software or Star Charts.

This will help you to identify and isolate the various objects in the sky and show you where and how to point your telescope to get the best views.

Binoculars on the other hand are practically easier to use for a beginner and the wider field of scope means that identifying objects shouldn’t be as difficult.


Telescopes are larger in nature, more bulky, and will require some space to store.

That is of course if you are not looking to leave them mounted by a window in your home.

Binoculars are easy to put away and often come with waterproof and protective cases.


In Summary, a telescope or binoculars for stargazing is a personal choice, what is right for you may not be right for everyone.

If by now you have decided that a telescope is for you, I would recommend that you checkout this in-depth guide: Best Telescope For Viewing Galaxies and Planets.

However, if astronomical binoculars seem more appropriate for now, then this in-depth and detailed article will be of more use: Best 20×80 Binoculars For Astronomy.

Check out my other guides: