- Review of a discarded 2003 National Geographic Society 50mm Refractor
- Daystar Filters’ SR-127 ‘QT’ Dedicated Hydrogen Alpha Solar Telescope (Chromo...
- Software Bisque Paramount MyT 10 Year Review
- Unitron Model 114 - a quick look
- Review of the 20” f/3.4 Reginato Supermaser
- Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ
- North Star Equatorial Platform
- OGMA AP26CC Review
- iOptron HAZ-46 Alt Azi Mount Review
- Brandon Vernonscope 94mmF7 APO first impressions.
- A quick review of the iStar Phantom FCL 140-6.5
- Explore Scientific, 16 inch / F 4.5 Truss tube Dobsonian
- Celestron PowerSeeker 70AZ Telescope ($10 Scope)
- Orion EQ-26 Mount Review
- Review of Explore Scientific First Light 8
CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.
If you're like me, you have probably seen Jupiter, Saturn, the Orion Nebula, and all of the sky's showpiece objects more times than you can count. And while they are truly spectacular and well worth revisiting, you may be looking for something new, something challenging to observe.
Hovering above the northeastern horizon at this time of year is the obscure constellation Camelopardalis the Giraffe. Though the human eye alone reveals little more than a void populated by a scattering of 4th-magnitude and fainter stars, binoculars begin to unleash some of the beast's latent wonders. One of the Giraffe's few hidden treasures that is visible through binoculars is NGC 2403, a spectacular spiral galaxy tilted nearly face-on to our perspective.
Deep-sky objects can be challenging for several reasons. Some are especially faint, while others are especially small, and still others are so large that they can't fit into a single eyepiece field. Or the problem might be that a particular target is so close to another, noticeably brighter object that the light from that intruder all but obliterates the quarry. The latter problem plagues planetary nebula Abell 12. It shines at about 14th magnitude, which is not exactly bright, but is also not exceptionally dim for a telescope 10 inches (25 cm) or more in aperture. The problem, however, is that it is located a scant arcminute away from 4th-magnitude Mu (μ) Orionis. That's why it's known by the nickname the Hidden Planetary.
I thought I'd welcome in the new year with a target that is not challenging due to its faintness, but rather due to its southern location far from any bright stars. NGC 1851 is a 7th-magnitude globular cluster in the constellation Columba, the Dove.
Of the dozens of galaxy groups scattered around the autumn sky, the 136-million-light-year-distant NGC 51 group is one of the more difficult bunches to spot. Although they are not listed among Paul Hickson's compact galaxy groups, the six galaxies here are ideally placed near the zenith in early December evenings for observers at mid-northern latitudes. Its high altitude carries the group far enough above any horizon-hugging interferences that might spoil some of our other challenges.
Of the constellations that line the autumn Milky Way, King Cepheus, the king of Aethiopia in Greek mythology, is trod upon by relatively few amateur astronomers. While this is most likely because the constellation's brightest stars are faint compared to his wife, Queen Cassiopeia, the King has many royal deep-sky subjects is his own right that merit a look, including this month's challenge.
Pegasus is one of the best-known autumn constellations. Depicting the winged horse that Perseus used to rescue Princess Andromeda from the clutches of Cetus the Sea Monster, Pegasus flies high in our southern sky during October and November evenings.
Of the more than 80 planetaries listed by George Abell in his 1966 paper "Properties of Some Old Planetary Nebulae," Abell 70 (also known as PK38.1-25.4) is one of the most unique. Actually, the planetary itself is a stereotypical example of a ring nebula, like M57, with a round shell of gas expanding away from the dim progenitor star. But look carefully and there is clearly more here than just that.
The curtain opened on this challenge in September 1916, when a pair of articles written by Edward Emerson Barnard appeared in the journals Nature and The Astronomical Journal. Both recounted Barnard's discovery of a faint star in the constellation Ophiuchus that appeared completely unremarkable except for the fact that its proper motion was faster than any other star ever found.
One of the more interesting, and at the same time, challenging of Herschel's planetaries to view through 3- to 5-inch (7.6- to 12.7-cm) instruments is NGC 6369 in southern Ophiuchus. Nicknamed the "Little Ghost Nebula," NGC 6369 is an example of a ring-type planetary nebula, a faint version of M57. That is, if you can find it.
One of the great challenges facing even the most devoted lunar observers is trying to see the many small craters that dot the lava-covered floor of the walled plain Plato. Plato itself is a prominent impact scar measuring 62 miles across. It takes no more than 10x binoculars to see Plato once the Sun is up in its sky. In general, the best times to view Plato and its environs are about 1.5 days past First Quarter and again near Last Quarter.