Astronomy With Binoculars: Andromeda Galaxy, Orion Nebula, and Much More

Did you know that you can see distant galaxies with just binoculars? That’s right, no telescope is needed! In this article, we highlight some of the most spectacular deep-sky objects visible with binoculars (and sometimes even with the naked eye).

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Additionally, we’d like to introduce smart binoculars from our friends at Unistellar — an innovative tool for exploring the night sky. Here’s what you can do with it:

  • Point the binoculars at the sky to learn the names of any objects you encounter, be it stars, constellations, or nebulae. You can also look at the Moon to see the names of its craters, mountains, and maria.
  • If you want to find a specific object (for instance, a galaxy or a comet), request it on Unistellar’s app, and the smart binoculars will guide you right to it!
  • Want to share your discovery? Lock a target and pass the binoculars to your friend — they’ll be able to find the object in the sky via the binoculars’ navigation feature.

Sounds like a must-have for any stargazing enthusiast, don’t you think? Get the binoculars right now and navigate the night sky like a pro!

Unistellar's smart binoculars (ENVISION)

Galaxies visible with binoculars

Andromeda Galaxy

Andromeda Galaxy
  • Alternative names: M31, NGC 224
  • Apparent size: 3° × 1° (6 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 3.4
  • Constellation: Andromeda
  • Where to observe: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: M31 is one of the few galaxies visible to the naked eye — it appears as a faint, diffuse smudge of light. A pair of 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars will allow you to see the galaxy's brighter core and elongated disk. You can quickly locate the Andromeda Galaxy in the sky using smart binoculars from Unistellar.
  • Description: The Andromeda Galaxy is a barred spiral galaxy and the nearest major galaxy to the Milky Way, located approximately 2.5 million light-years away from us. It is expected to merge with our galaxy in about 4.5 billion years.

Bode’s Galaxy

Bode’s Galaxy
  • Alternative names: M81, NGC 3031
  • Apparent size: 26.9' × 14.1' (1 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 6.9
  • Constellation: Ursa Major
  • Where to observe: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: M81 is fairly easy to see with 10x50 binoculars — it appears as a fuzzy, oval-shaped patch of light.
  • Description: Bode’s Galaxy is a grand-design spiral galaxy located approximately 12 million light-years away from us. It is one of the brightest galaxies visible from Earth, often studied due to its well-defined spiral structure and interaction with its neighboring galaxy, M82 (the Cigar Galaxy).

Sculptor Galaxy

Sculptor Galaxy
  • Alternative names: NGC 253, Silver Coin Galaxy, Silver Dollar Galaxy
  • Apparent size: 27.5' × 6.8' (0.7 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 8.0
  • Constellation: Sculptor
  • Where to observe: Southern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: The Sculptor Galaxy is considered one of the most easily observed galaxies in the sky after the Andromeda Galaxy. Through a pair of 10x50 binoculars, it will appear as a bright, large, and elongated patch of light.
  • Description: The Sculptor Galaxy is an intermediate spiral galaxy located approximately 11.4 million light-years away from us. It is one of the brightest galaxies in the sky and is known for its intense star formation.

Cigar Galaxy

Cigar Galaxy
  • Alternative names: M82, NGC 3034
  • Apparent size: 11.2' × 4.3' (0.3 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 8.3
  • Constellation: Ursa Major
  • Where to observe: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: M82 is fainter and harder to spot than its partner M81, so it’s better to use 15x70 binoculars. The galaxy appears as an elongated streak of light. An easy way to find and observe the Cigar Galaxy (together with Bode’s Galaxy) is to use smart binoculars from Unistellar.
  • Description: The Cigar Galaxy is a spiral galaxy located approximately 12 million light-years away from us. M82 is being shaped by gravitational interactions with its larger neighbor, M81, leading to its distinctive, cigar-like shape.

Whirlpool Galaxy

Whirlpool Galaxy
  • Alternative names: M51, M51a, NGC 5194
  • Apparent size: 11.2' × 6.9' (0.4 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 8.4
  • Constellation: Canes Venatici
  • Where to observe: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: Under dark and clear skies, the Whirlpool Galaxy (together with its companion, NGC 5195) can be seen through 10x50 or larger binoculars — it will appear as a nebulous patch of light. When searching for M51 with binoculars, it helps a lot to know precisely where the galaxy is located. The smart binoculars from Unistellar have a guided navigation mode that will lead you right to the Whirlpool Galaxy or other requested object.
  • Description: M51 is a grand-design spiral galaxy located approximately 23 million light-years away from us. It is famous for its well-defined spiral arms and interaction with its companion galaxy, NGC 5195, making it a popular target for amateur astronomers and astrophotographers.

Want to learn about the best deep-sky objects for beginner stargazers? Check out our infographic!

Best Deep-Sky Objects for Beginners (Northern Hemisphere)
Learn how to see the brightest galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters in the Northern Hemisphere. Perfect for budding astronomers!
See Infographic

Nebulae visible with binoculars

Orion Nebula

Orion Nebula
  • Alternative names: M42, NGC 1976
  • Apparent size: 1.1° × 1° (2 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 4.0
  • Constellation: Orion
  • Where to observe: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: The Orion Nebula is so bright that you can see it with the naked eye as a fuzzy “star” in the Orion’s Sword asterism. Through 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars, it appears as a large and bright cloud of light. Use averted vision to see more details in the nebula.
  • Description: The Orion Nebula is a diffuse nebula located approximately 1,344 light-years away from us. It is one of the brightest nebulae in the sky and a stellar nursery, where new stars are being born.

Omega Nebula

Omega Nebula
  • Alternative names: M17, NGC 6618, Swan Nebula, Checkmark Nebula, Lobster Nebula, Horseshoe Nebula
  • Apparent size: 11' (0.3 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 5.9
  • Constellation: Sagittarius
  • Where to observe: Both hemispheres
  • How to observe: The Omega Nebula is bright enough to be seen with the naked eye on a perfectly dark sky, but has quite a small angular size, so it’s better to use binoculars. Through 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars, the nebula will appear as an elongated patch of light. To make sure that you’re looking at the Omega Nebula and not some other object, use smart binoculars from Unistellar.
  • Description: The Omega Nebula is a star-forming region located approximately 5,000 light-years away from us. It is one of the brightest and most massive stellar nurseries in our galaxy.

Lagoon Nebula

Lagoon Nebula
  • Alternative names: M8, NGC 6523
  • Apparent size: 1.5° x 40' (3 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 6.0
  • Constellation: Sagittarius
  • Where to observe: Both hemispheres
  • How to observe: On a dark, moonless night, you can spot the Lagoon Nebula with the naked eye. It is also easily visible even with small binoculars as a distinct cloud-like patch of light. A pair of 10x50 binoculars will allow you to see the nebula’s oval shape as well as the dark gap (the “lagoon”) dividing the nebula in two. Binoculars will also reveal the open cluster NGC 6530 embedded within the Lagoon Nebula. To quickly find the Lagoon Nebula in the sky, use smart binoculars from Unistellar.
  • Description: The Lagoon Nebula is an emission nebula located approximately 4,100 light-years away from us. It contains an open star cluster and many dark nebulae.

Trifid Nebula

Trifid Nebula
  • Alternative names: M20, NGC 6514
  • Apparent size: 28' (1 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 6.3
  • Constellation: Sagittarius
  • Where to observe: Both hemispheres
  • How to observe: The Trifid Nebula is smaller and fainter than the nearby Lagoon Nebula, but you’ll still be able to see it in 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars — it will appear as a fuzzy circular spot.
  • Description: The Trifid Nebula is a combination of emission, reflection, and dark nebulae located approximately 5,200 light-years away from us. It is divided into three distinct parts by dark dust lanes, hence its name.

Dumbbell Nebula

Dumbbell Nebula
  • Alternative names: M27, NGC 6853, Apple Core Nebula
  • Apparent size: 8' × 5.6' (0.2 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 7.4
  • Constellation: Vulpecula
  • Where to observe: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: On a dark sky, away from light pollution, you can spot the Dumbbell Nebula with 10x50 binoculars — it will appear as a small oblong-shaped patch of light. With 15x70 binoculars, it will look much larger and brighter. As the Dumbbell Nebula is very small, it might be hard to find it in the sky. However, it’s a no-brainer with smart binoculars from Unistellar, which will guide you to the object and highlight it in the sky.
  • Description: The Dumbbell Nebula is a planetary nebula located at a distance of about 1,360 light-years from us. It is one of the brightest and most well-known planetary nebulae in the sky and also the first ever discovered. Its shape is reminiscent of a dumbbell or a half-eaten apple, hence its two nicknames.

Star clusters visible with binoculars

Hyades

Hyades
  • Alternative names: Caldwell 41, Cr 50, Mel 25
  • Apparent size: 5°30' (11 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 0.5
  • Constellation: Taurus
  • Where to observe: Both hemispheres
  • How to observe: The Hyades cluster is visible to the naked eye as a V-shaped grouping of stars. Through binoculars, you will see many individual stars, with the bright orange giant Aldebaran (though not a member of the cluster) shining nearby.
  • Description: The Hyades is the closest open star cluster to Earth, located only about 153 light-years away from us. It is named after the five half-sisters of the Pleiades.

Pleiades

Pleiades
  • Alternative names: M45, Seven Sisters
  • Apparent size: 1.8° (3.6 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 1.2
  • Constellation: Taurus
  • Where to observe: Both hemispheres
  • How to observe: The Pleiades are easily visible to the naked eye as a grouping of six stars resembling a small hazy copy of the Big Dipper. Through binoculars, you will see dozens of stars surrounded by a faint, blue nebulosity.
  • Description: The Pleiades is an open star cluster located approximately 440 light-years away from us. It is one of the nearest and most easily recognizable star clusters in the night sky.

Beehive Cluster

Beehive Cluster
  • Alternative names: M44, NGC 2632
  • Apparent size: 1.6° (3.2 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 3.1
  • Constellation: Cancer
  • Where to observe: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: Under dark skies, the Beehive Cluster can be spotted with the naked eye — it will appear as a faint and blurry patch of light. Through 10x50 binoculars, you’ll be able to see dozens of stars, densely packed together like a swarm of bees. To easily find the Beehive Cluster in the sky, use smart binoculars from Unistellar.
  • Description: The Beehive Cluster is an open star cluster located approximately 577 light-years away from us. It is one of the nearest open clusters to Earth that has been known since ancient times.

Double Cluster in Perseus

Double Cluster
  • Alternative names: NGC 869 and NGC 884, Caldwell 14
  • Apparent size: 1° (2 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 3.7
  • Constellation: Perseus
  • Where to observe: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: The Double Cluster is visible to the naked eye as one large hazy patch of light. Through 10x50 binoculars, it splits into two adjacent clusters, each filled with dozens of bright stars.
  • Description: The Double Cluster consists of two open star clusters, NGC 869 and NGC 884, located approximately 7,500 light-years away from us. Both clusters are rich in young, hot stars.

Great Globular Cluster in Hercules

Great Globular Cluster in Hercules
  • Alternative names: M13, NGC 6205
  • Apparent size: 20' (0.7 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 5.8
  • Constellation: Hercules
  • Where to observe: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: With 10x50 or larger binoculars, you can see M13 as a faint grayish smudge (you will unlikely be able to resolve individual stars). It might be hard for a novice observer to find this star cluster. To know exactly where to look, use smart binoculars from Unistellar.
  • Description: M13 is a globular star cluster located approximately 22,200 light-years away from Earth. It is one of the most prominent and well-known globular clusters in the Northern Hemisphere, containing several hundred thousand stars tightly bound by gravity.

Stargazing with binoculars: Bottom line

With just a pair of binoculars, you can marvel at faraway galaxies, beautiful nebulae, and dazzling star clusters. To make your stargazing experience more enjoyable, try Unistellar's smart binoculars, which can guide you to desired objects in the sky, ensuring you never miss a celestial wonder.

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