October 29, 2007

Deep Sky Objects Viewable with Binoculars

For today's deep space object post we'll be checking out a few deep sky objects that are visible this time of year to the amateur using binoculars! That's right, there are a number of deep sky targets that can be seen, albeit not in the vibrant, colorful flare that the best astrophotos exhibit. Below is a list of must-see objects that the amateur can see even before buying their first scope:

Andromeda Galaxy - This vibrant galaxy in the Andromeda constellation is the most well-known galaxy among amateur astronomers. You won't see the full visual prowess of this galaxy, like the dust lanes seen in photos, but you will see the Andromeda Core, the bright center of the galaxy surrounded by some fuzzy nebulosity. Don't expect the full glory of this galaxy and it won't disappoint.

Orion Nebula (M42) - The most famous of all nebula and a favorite among amateur astronomers is Messier's 42nd, the Orion Nebula. Simply aim your binoculars at Orion's "sword" (three visible stars perpendicular to Orion's "belt") and the binoculars will likely show a bit of nebulosity on a dark night (and away from light pollution).

The Pleiades (M45) - The Seven Sisters, or the Pleiades, is an open cluster of stars easily visible to the naked-eye, even under less than optimal conditions. Photographs often show dust clouds surrounding each star, but the binoculars likely won't bring this into view (under normal conditions). What you will see is the fiery blue beauty of a hot, young star "incubator". The view through binoculars, even without the dust clouds visible, is breath-taking.

The Hyades - This open cluster was observed, but never placed in Charles Messier's famous catalog. It has been known since ancient times, and makes a perfect "V" in the sky. This is the closest open cluster to Earth at a mere 151 light years away.

Locating these objects is easy. Visit the Sky View Cafe or Sky Maps and print a map. Or if you like, you can even check Stellarium software to see where it is relative to you real-time.

Look forward to more "Visible with Binoculars" posts in the future. Good luck to you!