A couple of years ago, I wrote a series of blogs comparing big binoculars and small telescopes. The subject has continued to fascinate me ever since, and I'm now planning to write an article about it in Sky & Telescope — tentatively slated for the May 2010 issue.
A couple of weeks ago, when two weekday nights near new Moon were forecast to be clear back-to-back, I took a day off from work to observe some more objects from Deep-Sky Wonders columns and to compare the three instruments shown at right: a pair of Fujinon 16x70 binoculars borrowed from Dennis di Cicco, my 70-mm f/6.9 refractor, and the Orion 4.5-inch Starblast.
I'm still working on the fascinating — though ultimately unanswerable — question of what sized telescope is equivalent to any given pair of telescopes. How good is the brain at combining the light seen through two separate eyes?
Pretty good, it would seem. Across the board, the images through the 16x70 binoculars are clearly superior to my 70-mm telescope at 16X. More surprisingly, I've actually found some cases where the binoculars beat the StarBlast running at 18X, using both higher magnification and much more aperture. In particular, the elusive outer loop of the Orion Nebula — the broad, extremely faint circle of light that stretches from Theta through Iota Orionis — is actually easier to see in the binoculars. Stay tuned for more details.