Published online by Cambridge University Press: 06 December 2010
Two eyes are better than one. That's been my astronomical gospel ever since I got hooked by this hobby because of a homework assignment to view a total lunar eclipse. I watched the eclipse unfold through a pair of 7×35 binoculars and was transfixed by what I saw.
Those 7×35s helped introduce me to observational astronomy. Although those binoculars are long gone, my enjoyment for binocular astronomy has never waned. The binocular universe is a very personal one to me. I never head out to view through any telescope without a pair of binoculars flung over my shoulder.
What about you? Do you bring a pair of binoculars with you when you head outside for a night under the stars? If not, you really should! You might be surprised how much of the universe they will show you.
As it dutifully circles the north celestial pole, the Great Bear, Ursa Major, offers a picture window into the depths of the universe. Thousands of galaxies lie within its borders, although nearly all are beyond the range of most binoculars. Except for two, that is.
M81 and M82 (Figure 3.1) form one of the most famous pairs of galaxies found anywhere in the sky. The former has already been described in the previous chapter, where it is listed as naked-eye Challenge 1. We return to M81 again here, as seeing it along with companion galaxy M82 is a good test for suburban binocularists.