As northern summer nights grow longer in August and September, the big constellation Cygnus lies nearly overhead before midnight and offers dozens of colorful nebulae and star clusters for visual observers and astrophotographers. The newly discovered Radcliffe Wave begins here. So does the dark and dusty Great Rift that splits the band of Milky Way in two. Cygnus also contains the brightest section of the northern Milky Way in the grand Cygnus Star Cloud, the most prominent star cloud north of the celestial equator. With a pair of low-power binoculars or with just your dark-adapted eyes, this billowing collection of millions of stars along an arm of our galaxy offers as beautiful a sight as any earthly work of art or nature [Read more…] about The Cygnus Star CloudShare 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.
A big star exploded as a supernova in the lovely face-on spiral M101 in Ursa Major this month. At a distance of 20 million light years, this is the closest supernova in five years and the first in this galaxy since 2011. The new supernova isn’t close enough to see with the unaided eye, alas, but it lies within reach of a 5” or larger telescope for visual observers (as of the end of May 2023) and it offers an easy target for imagers. [Read more…] about An Exploding Star in Messier 101Share This:
The handle of the Dipper offers a convenient guide two stately face-on spiral galaxies that are visible, at least to some degree, in a small telescope. In dark skies, these two nearby galaxies display clear hints of a striking and ubiquitous pinwheel shape that reveals itself in the clouds of a hurricane or the seed arrangement in a sunflower, a reminder that many of nature’s patterns appear at a wide range of scales [Read more…] about Two Fine Spiral Galaxies Near the Dipper’s HandleShare This:
In the months from late November through early March, in both the northern and southern hemispheres, the famous Pleiades star cluster grabs the attention of experienced and untutored stargazers alike. The little dipper-shaped cluster, which is about the width of your little finger held at arm’s length, presents a spectacular sight in binoculars or small telescope where it transforms from a tiny cluster of half a dozen members to an arresting array of couple of hundred of blue-white stars. The cluster itself is a snap to observe, but at its heart lies a far more challenging object, an ethereal reflection nebula created by starlight reflected by fine grains of stardust in an interstellar cloud that the cluster is passing through. [Read more…] about The Merope NebulaShare This:
In early 2020, a team of astronomers announced the discovery of the Radcliffe Wave, an astonishing undulating structure in our part of the galaxy. Spanning nearly 9,000 light years, this structure extends halfway across the sky from Cygnus to Orion and rises about 500 light years above and below the plane of the Milky Way. While it mostly consists of a series of interconnected clouds of dark gas and dust, a few glowing stellar nurseries have emerged along the Radcliffe Wave, many within reach of visual observers and astrophotographers with a small telescope. In my latest article at Sky & Telescope (the cover article of the January 2023 edition), I tour the highlights of the Radcliffe Wave from one end to the other. This is the best time of year to see the entire wave, so grab your telescope and make a plan to head outside to follow the length of this immense interconnected structure. Read a PDF of the article at this link. You can also listen to an interview I did with the good folks at the Actual Astronomy podcast about the Radcliffe Wave at this link.Share This: