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I'm just starting out with amateur astronomy and decided to buy a 10x50 Celestron Up-close G2 binoculars. I believe that tomorrow is the planet parade (the aligning of 6 planets) and I'd like to catch a glimpse of it. In the bortle 7 location that I'm in, I could only see a handful of stars (that too with the bins, they weren't even visible to the naked eye). So, I've decided to drive about 10 miles to a bortle 4 location at about 5 in the morning.

So, I just wanted to know what I could see with my binoculars? Would the planets be visible? Apart from that I'd love to catch a glimpse of some nebulas and the Andromeda galaxy. Just wondering if they would be visible as well. And since I'm just starting out, do you have any tips for me? Since I didn't see any of the Messier's in my current bortle 7 location, I'm wondering if I might be missing something. Do you have any suggestions for spotting them?

Thanks a lot.

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    $\begingroup$ A lot of the easiest targets (ex: Andromeda) are close to the Sun at the moment. If you haven't, I would strongly recommend getting an application like Stellarium (both on phone and PC) and figuring out what is reasonably viewable (high in the sky) at the time when you might be going out to your dark sky site. Best of luck! Don't get discouraged if you struggle a bit, it takes practice. The good thing about bortle 7 is that you're probably near an astronomy club and it likely does viewing nights that you could attend. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 2 at 22:48
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    $\begingroup$ Be very careful when viewing objects close to the sun. As soon as the sun starts to rise above the horizon (or, better, seconds before) then you should put the binoculars away. Set an alarm one minute before sunrise at the location you're going to. $\endgroup$
    – Aaron F
    Commented Jun 2 at 23:40

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This planet "parade" is over-hyped. There is little to see observationally, since Jupiter and Mercury are less than 5 degrees above the horizon when the Sun rises, Uranus is about 10 degrees altitude, but at about 6th magnitude will likely not be visible in the twilight glare, and Venus trails very close to the partially risen Sun. You do not want risk eye damage while searching for any these with binoculars so close to the Sun. That leaves Mars, E of the Moon just over 20 degress altitude, and Saturn about 36 degrees W along the ecliptic at around 30 degrees altitude. Both about magnitude 1 should be easily visible. Mars at about 5 arcsec diameter will not be resolved in binoculars, so will look like a bright star. At around 17 arcsec, Saturn's disk may just be resolved with a hint of the rings. Neptune is between them, but at about magnitude 8 will not be visible in the glare.

10x50 binoculars are an excellent tool to learn about observing the night sky. Comparing their wide field of view, with a sky chart or phone/tablet app, is a step towards navigating the sky to find objects. The 50 mm objectives collect about 50X the light as the fully open 7 mm size of the eye's pupil. That corresponds to about 4 magnitude increase for visible stars, at least in theory. Poor transparency and light pollution can impose a lower limit.

The usual problem with light pollution in areas like Bortle 7 is that the eye never gets fully dark adapted due to local light sources. Thus the naked eye limit may be poorer than the estimated 4.5-5 magnitude. I see the same problem in my Bortle 6 skies, that often I can barely see 3+ magnitude stars with the naked eye compared to the 5+ estimate. My older eyes with around 5-5.5 mm max pupil opening probably do not help.

I also have both 10x50 and 8x42 binoculars along with a few telescopes. The binos are excellent for wide field views of stars in constellations, asterisms, open star clusters, scanning the Milky Way, and the occasional comet. Many bright objects can be viewed like clusters M44 and M45, galaxies M31, M33, M81, M82, nebulae M42, M8, M20, and globular clusters M13, M3, M4, etc. Most of these are best viewed when at 45 degrees or higher in the sky to avoid the worst sky glow near the horizon.

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  • $\begingroup$ In your excellent answer there is something implied that you didn't spend a lot of time on. It takes time and experience to, as you wrote, learn about observing the night sky. A novice and an experienced observer can look at the exact same sky with the exact same equipment, and the experienced observer can see significantly more. It's important to set reasonable goals with easy, unmistakable targets to get started with and maybe include some stretch goals to shoot for if you have a good night. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 2 at 22:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Jason Patterson Yes, I agree, but the only way to gain experience is to observe. The few relatively bright objects I suggested are all visible in 8x42 binoculars, but not all are in the night sky now and may depend on sky conditions. That is why star charts or planetarium program, mobile app, etc. are necessary to find objects in the sky. Also, there are many good books for introductory astronomy observing. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 3 at 2:15
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    $\begingroup$ @amateurAstro Exactly. My point was that even if OP fails to see things, don't give up, and more importantly, be excited if they find basically anything on early attempts. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 3 at 10:07

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