Novice amateur astronomers, or those considering the challenge, who wish to see more detail in our night skies than can be glimpsed by the naked eye, should consider a good pair of binoculars as their first instrument of choice.
Binoculars, as astronomical instruments, have several advantages over telescopes.
1. They can be relatively inexpensive;
2. They are eminently portable and can be readily available for use at short notice;
3. They provide the user with a wide, rich field of view, and
4. They are, if treated with respect, maintenance free.
There are three important optical features which should be considered when purchasing a pair of binoculars. The first is the aperture of the objective lenses. Up to a point where portability and cost become an issue, the more aperture the better, because the bigger the aperture, the more light collected. The second consideration is the power or magnification of the binoculars, from an astronomical perspective a high magnification renders the instrument difficult to keep steady, they also have a narrower field of view and lower contrast between dark and light areas within the field. Finally, the optical surfaces of modern, good quality instruments are fully coated to enhance light transmission and to reduce internal reflections. The general consensus is that a pair of 7x50 binoculars are ideal, the 7 refers to the magnification, that is the object being viewed is magnified seven times, and the 50 is the diameter of the objective in millimeters.
A good pair of binoculars will enable you to see the moons of Jupiter, to view the mountains and craters of the Moon as well as nebulae and numerous star clusters.