Scope Basics: Can You Use Spotting Scopes for Astronomy?

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In the world of the great outdoors, there are elements of nature that are better appreciated when they are seen up close. This is the thrill of birdwatching and hunting because outdoor enthusiasts would want to see birds, animals, and scenery from a more up-close angle.

This is why people use spotting scopes. This is a device that is like a smaller version of a telescope but with added optics to be able to present a magnified and optimized view of the subject.

Various activities that involve the outdoors typically use spotting scopes. They are used for hunting as a rifle accessory, birdwatching, ranging, and even surveillance.

The spotting scope has the capacity to gather light. This is determined by the diameter of the objective lens or the lens in front of the scope. The size of an objective lens is between 50 and 80 mm. The size of the lens will also determine the price of the scope.

Behind the objective lens is the refracting objective lens or the prism. This lens helps in portraying erect images in a magnified manner together with the eyepiece.

The eyepiece is interchangeable and can be removed. The prism is usually called Porro prism or roof prism.

There are several types of scopes depending on the intention of the scope. There are scopes that are for rugged design and are resistant to rain and fog.

There are scopes that can be attached to a tripod. Some scopes have knobs for easier handling.

The level of magnification varies and depends on the scope. There are scopes that have less than 20x magnification but these are poor quality scopes. The scopes which are more acceptable in the market are those with more than 20x magnification and can exceed 60x.

A straight-through eyepiece is a type that is positioned on the same axis as the scope. Those eyepieces which are angles are positioned 45 degrees from the scope.

Spotting scopes and their use for astronomy

Spotting scopes are generally used to observe landbound or air-bound subjects but since the scopes have become more powerful, people have found that the scope can be used to observe the stars.

The power of the lens of some scopes has enabled users to see basic astronomy and observe the constellation of stars.

Spotting scopes can be used to view stars and planets like Saturn and Jupiter as well, as their bigger moons. However, this can’t be done with all types of scopes.

The angle of the eyepiece is a major component for viewing stars through a spotting scope. A telescope usually has an eyepiece angle of 90 degrees, while the spotting scope is designed to view subjects on the ground or in a downward direction. Given this difference, certain adjustments must be done to the spotting scope.

Aside from the need for an angled scope, there are other benefits of using an angled scope. One of the benefits is the ability to use a shorter tripod. Shorter tripods are lighter and will be more portable when used outdoors.

The user will also have a more comfortable viewing position if the scope is angled. People with various heights can use the scope without extending the length of the tripod.

One adjustment is to get a very tall tripod. This will enable the viewer to put himself closer to the ground. The spotting scope should have an angled flow rather than a straight-through.

The objective lens of the spotting scope should have a wide diameter. The diameter should not be less than 65mm. This is so that the lens will capture more light which is important, especially when used at night.


If the spotting scope is used at night and will be used for looking at the planets, this would mean that the capability of the scope is challenged to an extreme degree. This would also mean extra expense on the part of the user because he will have to spend more on larger lenses and a higher aperture.

The coating and the quality of the optics should be higher and the glass coating thicker. These features will definitely cause the budget to expand. If the scope is going to be merely used for basic astronomy, using a telescope is more appropriate.

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