Top 10 Fabulous Night Sky Objects Seen Through Binoculars

The idea of stargazing may invoke sterile images of nerds hunched over telescopes fiddling with focusers and finders, but the joy of a dark night sky is accessible even if the moon is the only object you recognize. Contemplating the heavens is often best and most intimately viewed relaxing horizontally with your naked eyes. That ease and intimacy is maintained while peering even deeper into the sky by using binoculars. They are intuitive to use, cheap to own, easy to carry, and are used in a myriad of ways other than astronomy (you probably can get your hands on a pair right now). Even with small binoculars you can see as much detail as Galileo did using his telescope: the moons of Jupiter, details of the moon, the phases of Venus, spots on the sun (using proper filtration – Galileo eventually went blind doing this), and much, much more.

Nothing you see will resemble the spectacular Hubble images. But stargazing tends to be more of a spiritual and intellectual excursive than an aesthetic one. Just knowing that I am seeing actual photons released 2.5 million years ago from a galaxy far, far away leaves a deeper impact on me than beautiful space photographs. Scanning the Milky Way on a truly dark, clear, moonless night has a beauty deeper than its aesthetic appeal. It’s also a connection to our ancient roots. No matter how much I learn from science, I believe silently contemplating a dark sky evokes feelings similar to those of mankind since the dawn of time. So the next time you’re in a dark sky – or even your light-polluted city – take out your dusty pair of binoculars, stretch out, and look up to see what heavens await.

Note: this is a boreal-centric compilation. My apologies to those in the southern latitudes.

10. Satellites and Meteors


Satellites and meteors can and are seen by the naked eye, but in light polluted skies, many are too dim to see.

Meteors: Only the very brightest of the almost constant supply of meteors are observed. While scanning the sky with your binoculars, you are almost guaranteed to see a small streak of light shooting through your field of vision. Only the light gathering power of binoculars coupled with their large field of view (compared to telescopes) reveal these tiny, random acts of celestial violence. (A list of annual meteor showers can be found here.)

Satellites: Big and bright satellites are easily visible with eyes alone. Lay down and stare up one hour or two after sunset or before sunrise (the low orbit of satellites makes them invisible due to earth’s shadow in the middle of the night). You’ll notice points of light moving slowly across the sky. They seem like airplanes, but the lights won’t blink. Follow them for as long as you can; their altitude and path determine where in the sky they’ll disappear behind the Earth’s shadow. Like meteors, many satellites too dim for eyes alone are revealed through binoculars simply by looking up.

(A fantastic resource for satellites of all types (natural and manmade), is Heavens-Above. Want to know when Hubble, the ISS, or the Space Shuttle will fly over head? Enter your location, and Heavens-Above will tell you exactly when and where to look. It also predicts the very localized occurrence of iridium flares; highly reflective communication satellites that at times are brighter than anything else in the night sky, save the moon. Sometimes bright enough to see in the daylight!)

9. The Moon


A source of wonder, romance, and reflection since man stood up and then looked up. The brightest object in the night sky is easily visible with the naked eye, but with a pair of binoculars, much detail is revealed.

The best time to view details of the moon is not necessarily during a full moon. As Galileo first noticed, the most detail is seen at the moon’s terminator; the shadow line on the moon separating the visible phase from the rest of the disk. Shadows cast along the terminator illuminate detail of the mountains and valleys of the moon. Impact craters untouched by atmosphere and erosion show the violent history of the early solar system. And the moon’s darker seas (mares) reveal the ancient, active geological life of lava flows long since dormant. Lunariffic!

8. Jupiter


Or more precisely, the Galilean moons of Jupiter. Observing the planets is one job where telescopes really come into their own, but binoculars are all you need to see the four largest of Jupiter’s moons. The moons are actually bright enough to see with the naked eye, but are washed-out from Jupiter’s powerful glare. Your binoculars will show them as little stars grouped around the gas giant. Track their nightly waltz around the giant planet. (For viewing tips and a Java tracking utility go here.)

7. The Double Cluster (NGC 884 & NGC 869)


Located in the constellation Peruses, the Double Cluster is actually two different star clusters very close together. A star cluster is a dense grouping of stars. The Double Cluster makes a fantastic binocular target because it’s a comparatively large object in the night sky. It has an apparent (angular) size of 60 minutes (1 degree). A telescope’s field of view is often too narrow to enjoy both clusters at the same time. Binoculars have fields of view as wide as 6 degrees or more, easily spacious enough to fit the entire Double Cluster. (Angular size in the night sky: horizon to zenith is 90 degrees; horizon to horizon – the entire visible sky dome – is 180 degrees.)

6. The Beehive Cluster (M44)


The Beehive, like the Double Cluster, is another open star cluster. Located 577 light years from Earth, the Beehive is found in the constellation Cancer. It was one of the first objects Galileo studied with his telescope, and makes a fantastic binocular target because of its apparent size in the night sky.

5. The Lagoon Nebula (M8)

Lagoon Nebula

Many nebulae are areas of interstellar gas condensing – via gravity – to form new stars and star systems: stellar nurseries. The Lagoon Nebula is considered one of the prettiest sites in the night sky. Find it in the constellation Sagittarius, but only during the summer in mid-northern latitudes.

4. The Orion Nebula (M42)


The Orion Nebula is the smudge on the Hunter’s sword in the Orion constellation. Orion is the most recognizable constellation in the winter sky, and a thing of beauty in its own right. The nebula is a star factory some 1,270 light years away, making it the nearest star nursery to Earth. Its apparent size in the night sky is 1 degree.

3. The Pleiades (M45)


Mentioned three times in the Bible, and a source of inspiration for virtually every ancient culture, the Pleiades may be my favorite binocular target, perhaps because it was my first. In my teens, I got the idea to use some binoculars skyward after I stumbled upon an old, small, cruddy pair stored away in the house. My first target was the Pleiades, and I suppose it was love at first sight.

This small (in star quantity) star cluster is also a birthplace for new stars, although the nebulosity is usually only visible in time exposure photography. It is super easy to find with the naked eye, but dramatically different with binoculars. Its apparent size is much to large to fit into most telescope fields of view, and so again makes a choice binocular target.

2. Andromeda Galaxy (M31)


The best thing about the Andromeda Galaxy? It’s a galaxy! A trillion suns. Over 2.5 million light years distant. Orbited by fourteen dwarf galaxies, at least one of which (M32), and possibly another (M110) can also be seen in your binoculars at the same time. What’s not to love?

Andromeda is the furthest thing you can see with the naked eye (appearing as a faint smudge in the sky). With a total apparent size of about 4 degrees, or more than 8 times the apparent size of the full moon, it makes an outstanding object for binoculars. It’s usually the first thing I locate when I look up at night with a pair of binoculars.

Fun fact: Andromeda and our Milky Way are moving toward each other at a good clip. In about 3 billion years our descendants will likely witness the Andromeda-Milky Way collision. I wonder how the night sky will look with another trillion suns in the mix.

1. The Milky Way


The delicate, silvery cloud stretching across the sky on dark, clear nights is our home galaxy: the Milky Way. Lazily scanning the Milky Way flat on your back on a summer night is an astronomical treat not to be missed. With binoculars, the silver cloud reveals its nature: the stars upon stars that make up our galaxy. No part of the sky is more densely packed with visible stars than the Milky Way, nor more pleasantly addictive to behold with binoculars. Be careful not to get lost in there!

Bonus: Comets (Act Now!)


Binoculars are almost universally acknowledged as the finest instrument for viewing naked eye comets. Comets, and their expansive, ephemeral tails, can have an enormous size in the sky. Bright comets often fill even the large field of wide angle binoculars. A telescope actually hinders comet viewing though its relatively small viewing window. Comets and binoculars were made for one another. Heavens-Above tracks all comets currently magnitude 12 and brighter (Magnitude 12 is extremely dim; way too dim for binoculars.), and will also show you where in the night sky they can be found.

Although comets are often periodical (and thus predictable), the vast majority are too dim to see. The truly spectacular comets often arrive as a surprise. Either a newly discovered comet, or a periodic comet that suddenly becomes much brighter. Such a comet is presently visible in the night sky (November 1, 2007). Periodic comet 17P/Holmes became unexpectedly and inexplicably 1,000,000 times brighter about two weeks ago. A truly rare occurrence. The comet’s tail is currently seen head-on instead of the expansive tail archetype, so it looks like an overgrown, fat, fuzz-ball of a star in your binoculars. (It looks like a fairly bright star with eyes alone.) Keep checking it nightly. Even the experts aren’t certain what will happen. Easily visible comets aren’t in the sky often, so take 5 minutes to go outside and have a look!

Contributor: crubel

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I Got Pejazzled And Lived To Tell About It


Hi, I’m Gavon, the BuzzFeed editor volunteering himself up for the process known as pejazzling. Pejazzling, for those who are unfamiliar, is a portmanteau of “penis” and “bedazzling.” Basically, it’s a beauty treatment where you get your privates waxed and the hair is replaced by sparkly things. It’s the male version of vajazzling (“vagina” and “bedazzling,” made famous by none other than Jennifer Love Hewitt).

I’m going to need that glass of wine.


The waiting room of Face to Face Spa in New York City, scene of the pejazzling. The decor is designed to be as soothing and welcoming as possible, calming the nerves of even the most anxious pejazzlee.


Face to Face is owned and operated by aesthetician Enrique Ramirez. He’s the guy wearing clothes on the cover of that magazine sitting next to the rather extensive release form.


This little guy is an unofficial mascot of Face to Face. He clearly has never received any hair removal treatments.


The predetermined pejazzle patterns. It’s not like a tattoo parlor where you can request your own design. Face to Face offers the above four. (Note that they’re all technically for vajazzling. I sense an untapped market!)


This “Enter” sign is their most popular pattern. They only have one left.


Enrique warms the wax in what looks like a tiny crock pot.


Tissues, white wine, lotion and a microdermabrasion machine. Tools of the trade.


Privacy, please, as the pants come off.


In order to provide a blank canvas for the pejazzle, I opt for the item on the waxing menu known as the “marble sac and shaft.” It’s exactly what you think it is.


The purple wax is applied with a tongue depressor and allowed to harden for a few seconds. It’s very warm, but Enrique ensures that it never burns.


Unlike vajazzles, which are typically placed immediately above a woman’s groin (hence the “Enter” sign with an arrow pointing down), pejazzles tend to be on a man’s bikini line.


With one swift motion, the wax is pulled off. It stings momentarily, but is never intolerable. Although it must be said that some areas involved in the “marble sac and shaft” are more sensitive than others.


I am a hairy gentleman. The used wax looks like the world’s grossest Fruit Roll-Up.


The pejazzle is applied much like a temporary tattoo. Unfortunately, since my body is overheated (bright lights to accommodate the photography may have been the culprit – or I was just really nervous and sweating like I had malaria), the adhesive doesn’t take on the first two attempts.


Third time’s the charm!


Fittingly enough for BuzzFeed, the pejazzle that finally took root was a heart. A broken black heart on my right hip would’ve been a killer yang to the red heart’s yin.


Enrique explains pejazzle maintenance. Proper care of your pejazzle includes: 1) Don’t use a loofah or wash cloth for cleaning your pejazzle, as it might prematurely knock off the stones. Your hand and soap will work well enough. 2) Apply Neosporin to the waxed area for two days to prevent infection. 3) Your pejazzle will remain firmly affixed for up to a week, but you can safely pull the stones off with a little bit of effort at any time.


I feel like a new, fancier, textured man. The process wasn’t painful in the least. Okay, it was painful in the least. But nothing a real, pejazzled man can’t handle! Also, and this can’t be emphasized enough, wine really does help.


The finished product. Enrique says that all manner of men get pejazzled, including some grooms who wanted to surprise their wives on their wedding night.


I didn’t surprise any brides, but I did surprise my coworkers with news of the pejazzle.

22. Video Of The Pejazzling, If You Dare (Don’t Worry, It’s Not Graphic)

Photos by Amy Sly.

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Namibia’s Elusive Wildlife Captured In Stunning High-Quality Images

As awesome as wildlife camera traps can be, the images they snapcan (understandably) quite often look like grainy CCTV footage, especially if the pictures are taken at night. However, this newly-released project from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and photographer Will Burrard-Lucas is the wildlife photography equivalent of a high-fashion photoshoot.

With stunning clarity, Burrard-Lucas captured the images using five high-quality DSLR cameras hooked up to motion sensors. The appropriate positions for the camera traps were scouted out by the WWFs Lise Hanssen, who has been studying carnivores and wildlife populations in the region for some years.

The documented area is called the Caprivi Strip, or Zambezi Region, of Namibia. This thin stretch of Namibian land pokes out for 450 kilometers (280 miles) like a tail on the countrys north-east corner, with Botswana to the south and Angola and Zambia to the north. This precarious position has made the strip a source of conflict throughout its colonial and postcolonial past, right up until the late-nineties.

Will Burrard-Lucas/WWF-US

The fog of war has had seventeen years to clear, yet the areas rich and diverse wildlife continues to take a backseat in the eyes of lawmakers and entrepreneurs.At the moment, there are proposals to plonk a 100-kilometer squared (38-mile squared) tobacco plantation across the strip. According to the WWF, Hanssenhopes these images cancapture the publics attention and inspire conservation efforts, on top of serving as a research tool.

In a statement to WWF, sheexplained, People may not understand the importance of this little corner of the world yet Here, we are sitting with wildlife and people living together all around. Animals here are a shared resource, so we need to share our efforts to protect them.

Now that we know whats here, we know what there is to lose. Documenting the wealth of wildlife makes a strong argument for protecting it, and backing up that data with Wills powerful photos might just win the day.

If you want to know about the photographic techniques used to capture these amazingimages, check out this short video with Will Burrard-Lucas on YouTube.

All images:Will Burrard-Lucas/WWF-US

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