Binocular Observing: Saturn

Named after the Roman god of wealth and agriculture, Saturn’s reputation has varied dramatically across cultures, being associated with extreme abundance and misfortune alike. Fortunately, antiquated notions of astrology have largely been dispensed with, and Saturn now enjoys its place as one of the jewels of the night sky, resplendent with its beautiful expansive ice rings. Features Saturn shines with a beautiful golden colour, and binoculars can highlight this. Its rings can’t be resolved by binoculars with a magnification less than 50x. However, Saturn’s size…Continue Reading “Binocular Observing: Saturn”

Binocular Observing: Jupiter

Aptly named after the Ancient Roman king of the gods, Jupiter dominates the other planets in stature. It is roughly 1,300 times bigger than the Earth. Its staggering size makes it a promising target for binoculars, in spite of its incredible distance from us. Jupiter’s tempestuous surface is composed almost entirely of gas under extreme pressure, agitated by the Sun, orbital motion, and the planet’s own core. Surface features Through binoculars, Jupiter is visible as a prominently large bright circle. Magnifications of 50x and higher…Continue Reading “Binocular Observing: Jupiter”

Binocular Observing: Venus

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Our closest planetary neighbour in orbital proximity and size, Venus, was thought to be Earth’s twin, until probes of its surface exposed a very different reality. Its dense, corrosive atmosphere, a hundred times thicker than our own, conceals a surface shaped by turbulent volcanic eruptions and violent impact craters.

Venus was the first planet to have its path across the sky studied – records of its motions from as early as 2000 B.C. have been found.

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Binocular Observing: Mercury

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Mercury is the smallest planet in the Solar System, and the first planet from the Sun. Its tenuous atmosphere can’t trap the Sun’s heat, so days are fiery at over 400°C, and icy nights drop to nearly -200°C. If you were to stand on the line of shadow separating day and night, you would simultaneously burn and freeze to death.

From our perspective, Mercury is void of any interesting surface details.It’s a tough planet to spot with binoculars, but once you locate it, it’s quite unmistakable.

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Binocular Observing: The Moon

Our old, familiar Moon comes to life through a pair of binoculars – they open up a window into our companion satellite’s past. The Moon’s history is etched on its surface in the form of craters and lava plains. Since the same side of the Moon is locked to the Earth, it looks the same from anywhere we observe it. This makes it an easy, rich, and well-studied target for binocular observing. Phases The Moon cycles through different phases over a month, so it looks…Continue Reading “Binocular Observing: The Moon”