It is well worth a step outside the next clear, dark night, despite the late autumn chill. Even a few minutes with eyes alone will allow you to sweep across half of the universe all at once - given you are in an open field or out on a lake, or maybe on your rooftop.

It is well worth a step outside the next clear, dark night, despite the late autumn chill. Even a few minutes with eyes alone will allow you to sweep across half of the universe all at once - given you are in an open field or out on a lake, or maybe on your rooftop.

Be sure to allow a few minutes to let your eyes adapt to the darkness; you can do this in the warmth of your home, with the lights off. Be sure your honey isn’t trying to read when you try this.

You also do not need to be out long in the cold to take a few looks with binoculars you likely have around the house. A simple pair of binoculars will catapult your reach, magnifying the view seven or 10 times and seeing thousands of stars not visible to unaided eyes. Common binoculars will allow you to pick out - with the aid of a good star chart - planets Uranus and Neptune and the brighter asteroids. The hazy Milky Way will burst into a myriad tiny stars. An abundance of colorful double stars, star clusters, some galaxies and nebulous wisps will come into view.

Take a look at brilliant planet Jupiter, visible this fall in the east during the evening. If held very steady, your binoculars  can even detect its brightest moons, and start to see that the brilliant point of light of the planet is a little disc and not a star-like point. Then there’s the moon. Binoculars reveal a jumble of craters and mountains, and clearly show the dark plains and bright rays emanating from certain craters. The crescent moon is most spectacular in binoculars, showing the earth-shine filling the dark portion of the moon so much better.

Binoculars are really two small telescopes, connected. They come in many varieties and prices. Like anything else, there are better models. Larger is not necessarily better; it depends on your budget and plans to use them. Small 7x35 binoculars are handy for everyday use and can give good night sky views. The “7” means it magnifies seven times. “35” means each of the front (objective) lenses is 35 millimeters (mm) in diameter. Another popular variety is 10x 50, which gives you added magnification and light gathering ability yet is still not too heavy to hold and use. The larger the front lens, the more light it collects and the fainter the star you can see. If you will primarily use them  for daytime, then 35mm lenses are probably enough and cost less than 50 mm.

The higher the magnification has a disadvantage in that unless you hold the binoculars very steady, the view will shake more noticeably.

Keep them covered in a case or bag when not in use (of course) to keep out dust. Avoid touching the lenses. Keep the strap around your neck - it is all too easy to drop them! Clean them carefully, as you would eyeglasses.

Focusing binoculars so you have a sharp view through both sides is more relaxing then looking through a single telescope with one eye. You don’t have to close the other eye, which creates fatigue. Night time telescope users sometimes use an eye patch - you’ll look like a pirate, but you will have the comfort of keeping your other eye open and free from stray neighbor’s porch or flagpole lights. It is a big advantage to backyard stargazing.

Galileo opened up a whole new understanding of the universe with a telescope in the early 1600’s, much smaller than today’s binoculars.

If you have binoculars, the next clear night step out in the evening hours and look almost overhead in the north. You will see the M-shaped constellation Cassiopeia. To the lower right of the “M” scan for the fabulous “Double Cluster.” You can see this as a double hazy patch with just your eyes.

Above Cassiopeia, you can find M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, an impressive sight in ordinary binoculars.

First-quarter moon is on Wednesday, Nov. 2.

Notes are welcome at news@neagle.com.

Keep looking up!