The great amateur astronomer Leslie Peltier once suggested a cure for many of the world’s problems is simply “one gentle dose of starlight to be taken each night just before retiring”. If you feel the need for a little starlight these days, there is no better bang for your buck than looking at galaxies. Northern spring is the perfect time for observing these immense collections of billions of stars, hundreds of which lie within easy reach of a small telescope (thousands if you’re using a camera instead of an eyepiece) [Read more…] about Edge-On Spirals Galaxies in the Northern Spring SkyShare This:
Deep Sky Observing
Articles about how to understand, find, and see celestial objects including stars, galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters with binoculars, telescopes, and the naked eye.
When time is tight and the weather turns cold, I turn to a class of celestial objects that are very forgiving of observing conditions, light pollution, and telescope aperture: double and multiple stars. There are thousands of these objects visible during the year. Many are run-of-the-mill sights. But many more present a lovely appearance in a small telescope, revealing color, brightness contrast, and a jewel-like appearance that appeal to the artistically inclined while also packing plenty of physics and sheer challenge to the observer.
In this instalment of Cosmic Pursuits, I share with you three double and multiple stars in and around the throne of the legendary Ethiopian queen (along with a couple of extraordinary ‘bonus objects’). So grab a small telescope and head out to see them for yourself. The map above shows you where to find these relatively bright star systems and ‘bonus objects’… [Read more…] about Hopping Double Stars in CassiopeiaShare This:
Look to the east of mighty Orion and you’ll see the constellation Monoceros, the Unicorn. While its stars are faint, Monoceros holds a small treasure chest of superb deep-sky sights for backyard stargazers. Perhaps the most striking is the Rosette Nebula, an achingly beautiful blossom of glowing gas and dust where new stars are forming. The Rosette is an immense nebula, some three times larger than the Orion Nebula and three times farther away. As you see in the image above by Terry Hancock, the nebula overlaps the star cluster NGC 2244 which has formed within the nebula and blown a bubble to give us a look inside. While hard to see the Rosette visually, even in large telescopes, the nebula is an excellent photographic target and the cluster is a superb sight [Read more…] about The Rosette NebulaShare This:
I write this in late October. Every night, the sky is four minutes more wintry than it was the night before. For now, the sky is still dominated by the constellations most associated with Autumn, even as the Summer Triangle slides past the meridian and the Pleiades rise in the east.
The constellations of northern autumn, Pegasus and Andromeda, linger well into the winter months and offer many deep sky wonders for observers equipped with a good telescope. One recent autumn evening, as the Pleiades rose in the east, I set about looking for a handful of these sights in my 8-inch Edge HD Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope [Read more…] about Faint Fuzzies in and Around Pegasus and AndromedaShare This:
Let’s follow last week’s sky tour with a pair of objects where low power is so essential that without it, you might miss them entirely. The first is the open cluster IC 4665, which lies a degree or two north of the star Beta Ophiuchi (Cebalrai). The cluster was “discovered” by astronomer after astronomer, but it didn’t make enough of an impression on anyone to stick around in the astronomical consciousness until it was finally added to the Index Catalog in 1908. In my little telescope at 18x I see a very scattered group of twenty or so easily seen stars spreading across a degree or more of sky. Try as I might, I could not imagine a compelling picture in this random assortment of star dots. Surrounding the most nearly crowded part of the cluster are a few more isolated pairs and individual stars that give the impression of being cluster members. This might be a better object for binoculars than for any telescope. [Read more…] about A Low-Power Romp in the Late-Summer SkyShare This: