Do you lack knowledge of the night sky but think you might like to try binocular astronomy? If you have a smartphone, then you're in luck. Now that we're in the age of star gazing apps, navigating the night sky with your smart phone has never been easier. But this new accessory helps you go a little bit deeper: The Orion Smartphone Holder for Binoculars is a nifty, inexpensive bracket that connects your smartphone to your binoculars so that you can look from the stars, to your smartphone screen, and back again without losing your place.
Telescopes are often equipped with expensive location systems on-board, which help the telescope operator aim-and, until now, binocular users haven't been so lucky. Just like the fancy programs used by a GoTo telescope, your smartphone can be equipped with Orion's StarSeek app or a similar dynamic star chart program. These intuitive, easy-to-use programs use GPS to hook into the user's position and then provide a real-time display of the night sky, including objects to look at. Many of these apps even offer a red light night mode to keep your eyes adjusted to the dark.
But, you'd need three hands to make it work, right? Wrong.
While using an app to guide you through the constellations and objects in the night sky is fascinating on its own, adding a pair of binoculars to the equation takes the experience to a whole new level. You'll be able to see objects with more clarity. The best part is that this accessory is adjustable, so that any smartphone (including those in a protective case) can be mounted right to your binoculars. Almost all binoculars have a 1/4"-20 mounting socket on their barrel hinge, and adding almost any size smartphone to them is as easy as using an attachment knob to mount the bracket. Once connected, the phone is then positioned in an easy location to simply glance up at as you scan the skies and home in on the object you're looking for.
For freestyle use, the Orion Smartphone Holder for Binoculars is best for smaller models, such as 10X50's or less. If your hands are a little shaky or you're thinking of using larger binoculars, then consider getting the edition which includes an L-bracket for mounting on a tripod. It's a money-saving way to steady your binoculars and enhance your viewing experience. The L-bracket is equally simple to use and connects easily to even the most common photo tripod.
While aiming systems for telescopes and binoculars can run into hundreds of dollars, and often require some pretty complicated set-up procedures, the smartphone option is an economical and very effective approach. Even a free astronomy app can work wonders in helping you navigate the sky, and pairing a real-time map of the sky with a pair of binoculars adds a whole new dimension to the beginner's star gazing experience.
Do you enjoy binocular astronomy? What are your favorite objects to look at through binoculars? Tell us in the comments!
Tammy Plotner is a professional astronomy author, President Emeritus of Warren Rupp Observatory and retired Astronomical League Executive Secretary. She's received a vast number of astronomy achievement and observing awards, including the Great Lakes Astronomy Achievement Award, RG Wright Service Award and the first woman astronomer to achieve Comet Hunter's Gold Status. Tammy Plotner has been a compensated contributor to the Orion Community since November 2012. Orion's product review policy is to post reviews regardless of the writer's positive or negative feedback of the product.