Can you use a Spotting Scope for Astronomy?




Can you use a Spotting Scope for Astronomy

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You can use a spotting scope for astronomy. While it does not have as much magnification power as a telescope, a spotting scope still has enough power for stargazing. Think of it as being something in between binoculars and telescopes. If you are a beginner stargazer, then a spotter is ideal.

In this article, we will look at some of the features of a spotting scope that make it suitable for astronomy. We will go over frequently asked questions and give you an idea about what to look for when buying a spotting scope.

Spotting Scope for Astronomy?

Yes. This is possible, and as we have already mentioned, they have enough magnification power to be used for stargazing. They are monoculars with high magnification power and most come with tripod stands. They can either be straight or angled.

How Do Spotting Scopes Compare to Telescopes?

Magnification Power

When it comes to magnification power, telescopes are the ultimate winners here. A spotting scope has a magnification power of between 20x and 60x, whereas telescopes can have 200x or 300x.

You can also find telescopes with up to 500x magnification in most scope shops. Super telescopes are way stronger and larger like the Keck, which has 17500x magnification power.

Again, while the spotting scope is no match to the telescope when it comes to magnification power, it still offers enough power to be used for stargazing.

What about Aperture?

The aperture of the scope depends on its lens size. The bigger the lens, the bigger the aperture.

The aperture is used to gather light in astronomy, just like it does when you are taking pictures with a camera or using binoculars. So think of the aperture as being how much light it can focus on an object at once.

A telescope has a bigger lens, and this makes its aperture also larger. They make the telescope apertures bigger because it is often used at night. So it should be bigger to gather more light.

Spotting lenses come with objective lenses of between 45mm to 100mm, whereas telescopes have lenses with a bigger aperture. Some of the largest telescopes have an aperture size of between 60mm to 140mm.


Spotting scopes have variable zoom, which allows them to change the magnification power. Telescopes don’t have variable zoom, but you can change the lenses to adjust the magnification power.

So when it comes to zoom, spotting scope takes the day.

You can adjust the zoom with some models by rotating the eyepiece ring clockwise or counterclockwise. Some come with an adjustable tripod stand that allows you easily change your vision without moving from one spot.

Some spotting scopes come with an adjustable eyepiece as well.

Image Stability

If you don’t have a stable stand or you don’t have a stand at all, you cannot use a telescope. However, you stand a small chance of getting clear images using a spotter without a stand.

Spotting scope comes with tripod stands, and this helps keep them balanced even when not perfectly placed on flat surfaces. But as noted, you can still use them without stands, but the images won’t be as clear.

Image Orientation

A reflector telescope produces images that are always upside down; however, there are ways to fix the telescope image orientation.

Refractor telescopes give you horizontal images. Spotting scopes always give you upright images. So on this factor alone, spotting scopes win.

Size and Weight

One of the biggest differences between spotting scopes and telescopes is size and weight. Spotting scopes are much smaller than their counterparts because they don’t have as many lenses, mirrors, or large objective lenses as those found in telescopes.

This makes spotting scopes smaller, more portable, and easy to carry.

Telescopes, on the other hand, can be very big, bulky, and heavy. This makes them difficult to carry around or move from one place to another quickly.

Close Focus

The minimum distance from the viewer an optic can focus on an object is known as close focus. You’ll find spotting scopes with a close focus of 5 feet.

On the other hand, Telescopes are built to look at far-off things with a lot of power. They will be ineffective for viewing things close by, like insects and birds.

Field of View

When it comes to the field of view, the rule of thumb is always the higher the magnification power of scope, the lower its field of view. So because spotters have a lower magnification power, they have a higher field of view.

There are scope models that hold the same viewing quality and magnification power but vary in their field of view. The maximum size is achieved with spotting scopes since this doesn’t depend on the lenses used to create an image as telescopes do.

Things to Consider When Buying a Spotting Scope

Straight or Angled

You might want to get an angled scope if you are not sure where the object is going to be. Angled scopes also have better magnification levels than straight spotters, so this might sway your purchase decision too.

Angle eyepieces allow for a more comfortable viewing experience because they don’t force you to look at an angle, just like straight spotting lenses do.

Tripod and Case Included

You want to make sure these two items are included when you buy your spotting scope. If not, then factor these into the price of the purchase.

You also want to consider what type of tripod comes with it; is it adjustable or fixed? What material does it consist of?

Sometimes manufacturers use plastic materials on tripods, so they are made cheaper and don’t last long if used a lot.

What about storage bags for transport? Do you get one with this purchase?

It’s always good to have some sort of bag because scopes can be bulky and take up more space in luggage compartments in cars.

Rotating Eyepiece

A rotating eyepiece allows you to move the eyepiece into various positions for more comfortable viewing of objects. It also makes finding the object easier because it doesn’t have to be in a specific position just to look at it through your scope.

Rotating eyepieces are great if you buy spotting scopes with low magnification but a high field of view.

Is it Digiscoping Compatible

Compatibility with digiscoping is becoming more of a factor in spotting scopes because you want to take the scope out into the field and snap pictures or videos with your phone.

Final Thoughts

If you are a beginner stargazer contemplating getting a spotting scope, you can go ahead and purchase one as you can use it for astronomy purposes. While it won’t offer as many features as a telescope, it sure will serve the purpose just right.

If you decide to move up to a regular telescope you should check out our article on Reflector vs. Refractor Telescope Pros and Cons so you can find the one that fits you best.

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