Best binoculars for stargazing 2024: Spot stars and galaxies

The best binoculars for stargazing are ideal instruments to observe the cosmos. Much like a telescope, binoculars can take you further into the night sky for a closer glimpse at the heavens, but binoculars have a unique quality that transforms night-time observations even when compared to the best telescope — stereoscopic vision.

By using both eyes, observers are met with more intuitive handling and it's generally better if you find wide-field views enjoyable and would otherwise struggle to get used to the monovision of a telescope.

Ideally, the best binoculars for stargazing will provide a high magnification (above 10x) and have large objective lenses (ideally 50mm+) to drink in all the dim, distant starlight. You can get away with lower specs, but the views won't be too different from what you can see with the naked eye.

One of the biggest advantages of using binoculars is their generalist use and portability over a telescope. You can easily throw them in your bag and take them with you to view wildlife, spot aircraft at air shows or keep an eye on athletes on the field if the view from your seats isn't great.

The best binoculars for stargazing also overlap with some models in our best binoculars guide. Due to their size though, they're not ideal for children or those with poor grip strength, so see our best binoculars for kids guide if you need something a little smaller and lighter.

Best binoculars for stargazing we recommend in 2024

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Best binoculars for stargazing overall

The huge 80mm objective lenses and high-powered 20x magnification make the SkyMaster Pro 20x80 the perfect binocular for stargazing. (Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)
Best overall: Made for stargazing binoculars: waterproof, high powered, and dim light friendly.

Specifications

Magnification: 20x
Objective lens diameter: 80 mm
Angular field of view: 3.2°
Eye relief: 15.5 mm
Waterproof: Yes
Dimensions: 13 x 9.4 x 3.9 inches
Weight: 5 lbs

Reasons to buy

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Exceptionally high powered viewing capability at 20x magnification
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Robust objective lenses can pick up light even in dim light conditions

Reasons to avoid

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Heavier weight makes it harder to hold up for periods of time
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May require additional tripod to help with stabilization

Stargazing binoculars don't come much more perfect than these. The Celestron SkyMaster Pro 20x80 binoculars have huge magnification and massive objective lenses to get you closer to dimmer objects than almost any other binocular in our guide.

These high-powered binoculars also feature fully waterproof housing, interchangeable eyecups, superior wide-angle viewing, and are fogproof to protect against internal fogging in differing ambient temperatures.

What sets these 'Pro' versions apart from their standard 20x80 counterparts down below is that they have Celestron’s proprietary XLT coating technology for clearer views of the cosmos.

They have a built-in standard tripod mount which may be of use for long-term stargazing to accommodate for their heavier weight and size. With 20x magnification and housing filled with dry nitrogen gas, they do not fog up in even the chilliest of foggy nights, damp conditions, or moving between different temperature conditions — even if that is just your backpack to your favorite hilltop stargazing spot! They also have the ability to attach a red dot finder to bring objects into view more quickly.

Best stabilized binoculars for stargazing

The best pair of image stabilized binoculars for stargazing. (Image credit: Canon)

Canon 12x36 IS III

Best for stabilization: High quality image stability so you can skip carrying the tripod.

Specifications

Magnification: 12x
Objective lens diameter: 26 mm
Angular field of view: 5.0°
Eye relief: 14.5 mm
Waterproof: Not specified
Dimensions: 1.1 x 6.9 x 2.8 inches
Weight: 1.46 lbs

Reasons to buy

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Achieves the stabilization power of what top-level Canon cameras can do
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Offers up to 12x magnification ability for crystal clear image capacity

Reasons to avoid

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Expensive to buy and equally costly to repair
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Image stabilization only works with button being held down continuously

Featuring environmentally-friendly materials such as lead-free glass, the Canon 12x36 Image Stabilization III Binoculars (Canon 12x36 IS III) are high in price but also notably high in quality. They will offer the stars crystal clear in viewing at 12x magnification and an image stabilization feature that can help prevent shaky images.

With 12x magnification in a pair of binoculars we'd normally recommend you invest in a good tripod in order to keep views steady but Canon has introduced image stabilization technology here. Up to 12 hours of shake-free operation are up for grabs when viewing the stars at night with these binoculars.

With such long run times, they can last the length of your hike and back (power source is 2 x AA batteries). Due to their bulk and high price point, these binoculars may not be best suited for suitcase travel. They also require a continuous pressing of the anti-shake button which may be of note for those with arthritis or finger joint pain.

Best value binoculars for stargazing

Best value premium binoculars, the TrailSeeker 8x42 binoculars are great for not breaking the bank. (Image credit: Celestron)

Celestron TrailSeeker 8 x 42 Binoculars

Best value for money: From birding to stargazing, the Trailseekers offer exceptional value for money.

Specifications

Magnification: 8x
Objective lens diameter: 42 mm
Angular field of view: 8.1°
Eye relief: 17 mm
Waterproof: Yes
Dimensions: 5 x 1.8 x 4.9 inches
Weight: 1.45 lbs

Reasons to buy

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Lower in price point while still maintaining many Celestron valuable features
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Comes with multiple accessories and is less heavy to carry

Reasons to avoid

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Better suited for close up field viewing, i.e. birdwatching
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Lower magnification power than other Celestron binocular models

Featuring a narrower objective lens diameter than their high-powered astronomy cousin (Celestron SkyMaster 20x80 Pro), the Celestron TrailSeeker model includes a wider eye relief, higher angle of view, and lower price point. 

They feature fully broadband multi-coated lenses, a twist up eyecup, and the same exceptional waterproof and fogproof housing unit found in many Celestron models. For the specs you get, the Trailseekers are very reasonably priced too.

These lightweight binoculars could accompany you on any hike, whether you want to spend a day birdwatching or an evening of night-time star viewing. They are also adaptable to accommodate a tripod and come with multiple accessories including a carrying case, lens cloth, lens cap, neck strap, harness strap, instruction manual, and eyepiece rainguard.

Most reliable binoculars for stargazing

Nikon Monarch 5 20x56 binoculars on a white background

Powerful 20x magnification will zoom observers into smaller celestial objects. (Image credit: Nikon)

Nikon Monarch 5 20x56

Best for reliability: A hefty but powerful set of stargazing binoculars from reputed optics manufacturer Nikon

Specifications

Magnification: 20x
Objective lens diameter: 56 mm
Angular field of view: 3.3°
Eye relief: 16.4 mm
Waterproof: Yes
Dimensions: 3.9 x 5.7 x 2.6 inches
Weight: 2.7 lbs.

Reasons to buy

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High magnification
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Large objective lens for low-light conditions
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Waterproof

Reasons to avoid

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Quite heavy

Nikon is no stranger to high-quality optics having manufactured them (and some of the best cameras) for over 100 years. The Nikon Monarch 5 20x56 sits near the top of their binocular line-up and this roof prism-type binocular weds a powerful 20x magnification to a relatively gargantuan 56mm objective lens to let in plenty of available light. This makes it another key contender for amateur astronomers as long as your budget will stretch. 

Featuring ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass in its construction to improve contrast and reduce chromatic aberration and multi-coated lenses with it, the result is eye-popping image clarity, particularly when examining closer celestial objects such as the Moon. 

Long eye relief offers a degree of comfort when viewing for prolonged periods, while a sturdy, rubber-armored body and non-slip grip help make for a steadier hold. Judder-free viewing is further aided via a provided strap and the option to tripod mount this binocular if desired, making celestial viewing even more of a breeze. Inclement weather isn’t a problem either, as the 20x56 is waterproofed and nitrogen-purged to prevent fogging.

Best mid-range binoculars for stargazing

A pair of Vortex 10 x 50 Crossfire HD Binoculars on a white background

The best all-rounders the Crossfire 10x50s have a good blend between performance and cost. (Image credit: Vortex)

Vortex 10x50 Crossfire HD Binoculars

Best mid-range: A good compromise of lightweight, moderately powerful magnification, and affordability.

Specifications

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens diameter: 50 mm
Angular field of view: 6.1°
Eye relief: 17 mm
Waterproof: Yes
Dimensions: 6.7 x 5.3 inches
Weight: 1.9 lbs

Reasons to buy

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Large objective lenses at affordable price
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Durable casing and compact in size

Reasons to avoid

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Fine focus takes time to work to fullest capacity
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Longer length does not fit well into its carrying case

Offering a generous magnification and objective lens size for a reasonable price, the Vortex 10x50 Crossfire HD Binoculars are a great option. It has a non-slip grip with a rubber casing and O-ring seals to prevent water and fog in the optics. The twist-up eyecups offer 17mm of eye relief which is perfect for eyeglasses wearers.

Hike for long distances or just last longer out and about with them round your neck because they weigh-in at less than two pounds. Users indicate that they perform well in low light conditions and are a great performance product for the price. Coming with a chest harness that can be strapped to them, they also can double as great birding binoculars on daytime hikes or be packed for impromptu night-time stargazing.

Best magnification binoculars on a budget

A pair of Celestron Skymaster 20 x 80 Binoculars

The more affordable of the SkyMaster Pro 20x80 at the top of this guide. (Image credit: Celestron)

Celestron SkyMaster 20x80 Binoculars

Best for magnification on a budget: Perfect mid-range model still offering Celestron quality.

Specifications

Magnification: 20x
Objective lens diameter: 80 mm
Angular field of view: 3.7°
Eye relief: 18 mm
Waterproof: Exterior is water resistant
Dimensions: 9 x 4.7 x 12.8 inches
Weight: 4.7 lbs

Reasons to buy

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Includes easy tripod adapter feature
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Generous objective lens view 

Reasons to avoid

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May not offer fogproof features like other higher priced models
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Some users indicated collimation (duplicate vision) could be a problem

Even though this model was first released way back in 2005, it still contends nicely with its modern Celestron cousins. Coming in at a price point lower than both the Pro version of this same model and the Celestron TrailSeeker version, it offers a happy medium for affordability and astronomy-focused quality.

They are the slightly older, not quite as refined versions of the SkyMaster Pro 20x80 binoculars that sit at the top of this guide. The Pro variant has a few things that push the price up, but the SkyMaster 20x80 variant here still has all the magnification and light-collecting power of its bigger sibling in a much more affordable package.

Key features include the BaK-4 prisms which allow for bright and crisp image quality even in poor, low-light conditions. They come with an integrated tripod attachment for ease of use on long nights of stargazing, a case, lens caps, cleaning cloth, and protective lens covering. Celestron designed this one with more structural reinforcement to the body of the binoculars and the exterior casing is water resistant. Note that some of the fogproof precision found in other higher-priced models may be lost here.

Best build quality

Nikon Prostaff 3s 10 x 42 Binoculars on a white background

A well-made, durable pair of binoculars ideal for stargazing and more generalist observing. (Image credit: Nikon)

Nikon Prostaff 3S 10x42 Binoculars

Best build quality: Lightweight Nikon binoculars model with ample objective lens.

Specifications

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens diameter: 42 mm
Angular field of view: 7.2°
Eye relief: 15.7 mm
Waterproof: Yes
Dimensions: 5.9 x 5.1 x 2 inches
Weight: 1.3 lbs

Reasons to buy

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Advocated by the Audubon Society for its lightweight and compact nature
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Good balance of image clarity with reasonable cost

Reasons to avoid

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Eyecups have been reported to slide down/not stay in place easily
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Users report fogproof and waterproof durability is poor

Released somewhat recently in 2018, these mid-range Nikon binoculars feature lower magnification capabilities but have a generous objective lens diameter and roomier eye relief than other models. We reviewed the Nikon Prostaff P3 8x42 which is very similar to the 3S 10x42 noted here and gave them four out of five stars for their premium-finish and excellent clarity.

It's also noticeably more lightweight and compact than other models which makes it perfect for squeezing into one’s hiking pack or including as part of your camping essentials.

Nikon touts that lead- and arsenic-free glass is used in all the lenses/prisms in the making of the unit, and the body is made from fiberglass and polycarbonate resin. It comes as part of a bundle with a carrying case, lens cap set, carrying strap, lens pen, and keychain light. Other noticeable features include its rubber eyecups which have multi-click adjustments and a turn and slide feature.

Most durable binoculars for stargazing

A pair of Celestron Outland 8 x 42 Binoculars

The Celestron Outland 8x42 binoculars are rugged and are built to last. (Image credit: Celestron)

Celestron Outland X 8x42 Binoculars

Best for durability: Affordable, durable starter binoculars with Celestron quality.

Specifications

Magnification: 8x
Objective lens diameter: 42 mm
Angular field of view: 6.8°
Eye relief: 18 mm
Waterproof: Yes
Dimensions: 7 x 3 x 8 inches
Weight: 1.8 lbs

Reasons to buy

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Affordable, compact, and easy to use 
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Great starter binoculars or for use with kids

Reasons to avoid

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May lack updated styling or perks
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Lower magnification may compromise quality of long range viewing

Featuring a waterproof rubber casing and the nitrogen gas-filled defogging technique that Celestron does so well, the Celestron Outland 8x42 is one of their less shiny offerings compared to their SkyMaster. However, it still boasts reliability and comes in as a more affordable option. It has twist-up eyecups for fast adjustment catering to spectacles wearers with a generous 18mm of eye relief.

Their 8x magnification is best suited to wider field viewing of constellations and asterisms, rather than galaxies or star clusters.

It also includes a tripod adapter for long-term viewing sessions. Perks of this model include its affordability and ease of use; it may be a great starter binocular that still boasts some of the better quality features.

Best stargazing binoculars for beginners

Celestron SkyMaster 12x60 binoculars on a white background.

The more versatile 12x magnification of these binoculars make them bearable for handheld use. (Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)
Best for beginners: An older model that still gives value and offers good viewing range.

Specifications

Magnification: 12x
Objective lens diameter: 60 mm
Angular field of view: 5.3°
Eye relief: 17 mm
Waterproof: Moderately/Water resistant
Dimensions: 2.8 x 8.1 x 8.3 inches
Weight: 2.5 lbs

Reasons to buy

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Generous magnification and objective lens diameter for the price
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Great starter pair of binoculars

Reasons to avoid

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Smaller angular field of view at 5.3°
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One of the oldest Celestron models

Coming in as one of the oldest released models (2005), this version offers affordability and a rugged look. Poised in the middle of the SkyMaster range the 12x magnification is strong enough to get in close without necessarily needing a tripod and the 60mm objective lenses work are advantageous in low light conditions.

These binoculars can be used in inclement weather too being both waterproof and fogproof so observers can move from hot and cold climes (like in and out of vehicles and houses) without the need to wait for the glass to warm or cool.

Users share it can still serve as a great pair of binoculars despite its age, but the lack of some of the updated extras and newer fog-proof capabilities may prove frustrating. Consider buying this one or its counterpart, the Celestron Outland, if you are seeking an affordable yet early features model to use as a starter pair or a first pair for a young adult.

Best budget binoculars for stargazing

A pair of SkyGenius 10 x 50 Binoculars on a white background

The SkyGenius 10x50 binoculars are children-friendly and come with a padded carry case. (Image credit: SkyGenius)

SkyGenius 10x50 Binoculars

Best budget binos: Kid-friendly low price binoculars with carrying case.

Specifications

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens diameter: 50 mm
Angular field of view:
Eye relief: 18 mm
Waterproof: No
Dimensions: 7.1 x 2 x 5.1 inches
Weight: 1.8 lbs

Reasons to buy

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Child-friendly, affordable, easy-to-use model
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Comes with padded carrying case

Reasons to avoid

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Can be used at night but not in complete darkness (poor light vision)
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Not waterproof
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Other quality features compromised by low price

Featuring a rubber casing that helps with wear and tear, these binoculars come in at the lower end of the pricing model scale. Because of this, they are not waterproof and sacrifice a lot of the dim light conditions features you will find in pricier, astronomy-focused models. 

Despite that, these binoculars could serve as a great starter pair for a kid or young adult as they come with a padded carrying case and offer ample magnification at 10x and an objective lens diameter of 50 mm. Eyecups are adjustable and twist up or down. Users report some eye relief adjustments weren’t as easy and some quality control issues may not be noticed due to the lower price point.

How we test the best binoculars for stargazing

Live Science tests a vast range of products, from binoculars for stargazing to student laptops. We put products through rigorous tests in test centers as well as in the real world to hold them against their manufacturer's claims. 

Sometimes the opinions of independent experts are called in when needed, and we put products through their paces during our testing process. Factors like their ease of use and performance compared to competitors are all assessed. Price is also a big factor, and we look at a product's value for money, which affects the overall evaluation and rating we give it.

Through this combination of research, expert input, and extensive testing, Live Science is confident that it offers readers honest and authoritative buying advice. 

If you’re seeking the ability to capture photos and videos of the night sky with it, then also check out our recommendations of the best cameras for astrophotography. For those who want to get a little more serious with a higher powered viewing device, do also have a look at our best telescopes for stargazing guide too – many of these also allow for camera attachment in order to enjoy the art of digiscoping.

Meanwhile, with a look through the below hopefully we’ll find a pair of binoculars for stargazing we’re over the moon about.

Binocular questions answered

What is the best binocular for stargazing overall?

We recommend the Celestron SkyMaster Pro 20x80 as the best binocular for stargazing overall due to its powerful magnification and large objective diameters that drink in the dim starlight.

What is the best beginner binocular for stargazing?

We think the Celestron SkyMaster 12x60 Binoculars is the best for those just starting out because they're an older model that still offers a good range of viewing and has generous magnification and light transmission for the price.

What is the best premium binocular?

If you have a little cash to spare we'd recommend the Canon 12x36 IS III because they are image stabilized which means even if you have hand tremors or are particularly shakey your views should remain rock steady.

Which is better for astronomy, telescopes or binoculars?

Telescopes are obviously the instrument of choice when it comes to powerful magnification, optical fidelity and tracking of celestial objects thanks to sophisticated features like motorized or computerized mounts.

However, the versatility and flexibility of binoculars means they have broader appeal, often cost less, and can be used in a variety of environments.

What type of binocular should I buy?

Typically, porro prism binoculars are best for astronomy because of the superior light transmission (depending on the model you purchase). However, roof prism binoculars benefit from being smaller and lighter so are better for those that are traveling or need something lightweight.

Julie Ann Howlett

Julie Ann Howlett is a freelance writer who is an experienced science teacher and nature enthusiast. She’s written for science-tech companies like SAM Labs and holds degrees in science and teaching. She loves admiring the night sky and tracking the comings and goings of the lunar cycle, planets, and all things astronomical. 

With contributions from