Assuming clear night skies
I'm pretty sure you could see the bigger moons of Jupiter, after all Galileo managed to see them with a primitive telescope which was probably less powerful than modern binoculars.
Saturn, hmm, I guess you might be able to see the biggest moons with top of the range binoculars, not sure.
I've seen them all with binoculars. Jupiter's 4 moons aren't only visible, but fairly obvious. Titan, you'll have to search for, but it's possible to see it.
Assuming good binoculars ;)
You can definitely see Jupiter's moons with a modest pair of binoculars (7X35). However, what you see is a BRIGHT star with 2-4 tiny low magnitude stars aligned with the Bright star (Jupiter). If you watch this from night to night, you will see the tiny moons move into different positions (orbit Jupiter). Galileo recognized this after several days (or weeks) of viewing as this was a revolutionary discovery.
Saturn is 2X further away and you MIGHT possibly see one moon. The rings themselves may even appear as two separate points of light, but that depends upon their orientation to us ie edge on, you will see nothing, even with a big telescope.
They key to seeing these objects with binoculars is holding the binoculars steady. A decent pair of binoculars has more than enough optical power to see Jupiter's moons, but it is hard to see them well if the image is dancing around because you can't hold them steady. A tripod mount for the binoculars helps a great deal.
What about looking at Mars' moons with binoculars?
No, you will not see anything. Even a moderate sized telescope will not resolve either of Mars's moons. They are small.
Not a chance, those things are tiny.
I think the only celestial objects that look like anything through binoculars would be: Mercury, Venus, The Moon, Mars, Jupiter w/ 4 moons, Saturn w/ Titan, and maybe the Andromeda Galaxy and Orion Nebula.
and a host of other bright deep space objects
many open cluster, a good number of the brighter globular clusters, many nebulae other than the Orion Nebula
M8 = Lagoon Nebula, M20 = Trifid Nebula, M13 globular cluster, Omega Centauri globular cluster = brightest in the sky
( also naked eye visible), just to name a few
Andromeda galaxy is naked eye visible from a dark site, and much better in bino's
a reasonable pair of bino's ... 7 x 35, 7x50 ( my choice) will give you years of fun exploring the night sky
The ones I have are 8x40 (Olympus). I tried this evening but it was too wobbly. I need a tripod. Are 8x40 binoculars powerful enough to spot some Jupiter moons?
They should be OK ( I personally, not that I can remember, have used a pair of 8x40) ... pure handheld, yes, difficult
lean them up against something ... eg. a fence, a power pole, the corner of the house
Almost any binoculars will be able to spot Jupiter's moons. They are nearly naked eye visible.
Thanks for all the very helpful responses. Just one more question. How do I know which moon is which? Is there a website that shows their current positions around Jupiter? Also, I assume not all 4 moons are always visible as some may be on the back side of Jupiter and blocked from view. Last night I could only see 1 to the right of Jupiter. I'll try to stabilize the binoculars tonight.
There are several sites. Here's one:
Just a note: Magnification is only important in the sense that you need enough to separate the moons from Jupiter itself. Past that, magnification is of little use and just makes it harder to steady the view in the binoculars. If you buy another pair, don't go for the highest magnification. Keep it modest. For binoculars, 8x40 means that they have 8x magnification and a 40 mm aperture. I don't personally use binoculars, but I think that once you get to 10x your binoculars become essentially impossible to use without a mount or a stand since the field of view bounces around so much in your hands.
See this article for more info: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-equipment/binoculars-for-astronomy/
I use a pair of 15 x70 Skymaster binoculars by Celestron in an almost dark sky area. I can usually see 2 moons of Jupiter and about 15 galaxies. I really enjoy using these binoculars over my telescope because I can do so much more in 20-30 minutes.
My wife & I were driving west on US70 near the state line of Colorado / Kansas. We stopped for a rest and it was an incredibly dark sky. With our binoculars we could see several moons around Jupiter. The moons were tiny dots around Jupiter.
With a large (>10") telescope and a dark, clear night, you will be able to see many of Saturn's moons, including Titan, Enceladus, Dione, Tethys, and Hyperion. When I was an undergraduate at Valdosta State, one of my seminar assignments was to estimate the density of Saturn by watching the moons go around, measuring their distances from Saturn's center, as well as the radius of Saturn, in angular units with a filar micrometer.
From Kepler's third law as Newton wrote it:
P² = 4π²a³/(GM)
And from the formula for the average density of a spherical mass:
ρ = 3M/(4πR³)
You can get:
ρ = 3π(a/R)³/(P²G)
Notice that the mass of Saturn, M, cancels out. (Approximately, that is. We neglected the mass of the satellite when finding its orbital period.) Also, notice that the units cancel out on the distances. All you need are the ratios, corrected for the tilt of the ring plane and for the azimuth of the satellite with respect to Saturn within that plane.
But yes, you can see Saturn's moons too, with a good amateur telescope.
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