Jump to content


Small Wonders

Tom T's Small Wonders

Welcome to the Small Wonders Archive.

Small Wonders is an observing column oriented towards the beginning to intermediate observer and designed to be used in the field. It differs from typical observing columns in a number of ways:
  • A range of targets are presented - most articles have something to offer nearly every aperture and observing skill
  • Complete finder charts are displayed with the target list - from widefield to eyepiece
  • DSS images are displayed for every target to help the observer identify the field
  • It's to available readers free of charge
  • Readers are invited (via the various observing and photography forums or e-mail) to contribute their sketches, images and observations. Contribution calls are normally posted 2-4 weeks in advance of each article.
Each article is provided in both HTML and PDF format, feel free to print off any articles that interest you. Please do not redistribute the PDF's electronically, but feel free to refer people to the site, or hand out print copies as you like.

I'd like to take a minute to thank all the people who have contributed to Small Wonders - the sketchers, observers, photographers, and readers who have taken the time to give their input. There have been many, and I thank you for your time. The articles wouldn't be nearly as good without your contributions. A special thanks goes to Allister St. Claire for encouraging the series of articles and for providing feedback to help set the tone, Collin Smith for his editorial assistance, Olivier Biot for his assistance in creating the PDF's, Marcin Siudzinski for the Polish translations, Steed Joy for the Chinese translations, Emre Evren for the Turkish translations, Pierre Henrotay for the French translations, Roman Bakay for the Russian translations, Chris Mariott for creating SkyMap Pro (and graciously allowing me the use of it for creating these articles), and Mike Bieler and the owners of Astronomics for graciously sponsoring CN.

Articles are arranged by their initial publication / posting dates. Please note that after the initial few articles CN moved to a new format - thus some of the older articles may have some formatting issues. If you find any errors, please contact me and I will get them fixed.

Chinese translations by Steed Joy are now available.

Polish translations by Marcin Siudzinski are now available on the 1st ever Polish equipment and astronomy website:Astronoce (en: AstroNights) (you may have to hunt a bit).

Turkish translations by Emre Evren are now available.

French translations by Pierre Henrotay are now available.
Russian translations by Roman Bakay are now available.

Please e-mail me at tomt@cloudynights.com with your questions, comments, observations, photos and sketches. Also feel free to e-mail me if you're interested in translating any or all of the SW series into a different language.

Thank you for visiting.

---Tom Trusock

Small Wonders: Scutum

Jul 22 2007 06:36 AM | Tom T in Small Wonders

Scutum, formerly Scutum Scobiescianum, is an interesting little constellation. With only one star brighter than 4th magnitude, it's something of a cosmic Rorschach test. It's the only political constellation still found in the night sky, and although small in size, it contains a fairly large number of interesting targets.

Read story →    -----

Small Wonders: Canis Major

Feb 17 2007 01:54 PM | Tom T in Small Wonders

Check that thermometer and bundle up tonight, because it's time for the Dog Da... uh... Nights of winter! This month we'll focus on Canis Major, Orion's faithful hound. The big dog shares the sky with at least three other mutts - Canis Minor, Chara and Asterion (Canes Venatici). Those last two are still registered to Bootes - at least they were the last time I looked

Read story →    -----

Small Wonders: Lepus

Jan 23 2007 06:53 AM | Tom T in Small Wonders

Ah Lepus – the galactic rabbit. Overlooked by everybody except perhaps Orions hunting dogs, this little constellation has a few very interesting gems for the dedicated amateur astronomer.

Read story →    -----

SW: Deep Andromeda - Satellite Galaxies, Star Clouds and Globular Clusters of M31

Nov 26 2006 07:17 AM | Tom T in Small Wonders

If you're a long time reader of this series you're probably asking yourself - "Andromeda? Didn't we do that already?" Not like this.

Read story →    *****

Small Wonders: Sagitta and Vulpecula

Sep 18 2006 02:23 PM | Tom T in Small Wonders

This month we've got two tiny constellations to look at: Vulpecula and Sagitta. The fox and the arrow seem to be a match made in heaven, but on investigation we find that while the arrow has been around for thousands of years, the fox is a fairly recent creation.

Read story →    -----

Small Wonders: Aquila

Aug 23 2006 01:35 PM | Tom T in Small Wonders

Aquila occupies some prime summer real estate. Lying astride the Milky Way and bordered Scutum and Sagitta it’s a fantastic area to pull through with a rich field scope or pair of binoculars.

Read story →    -----

Small Wonders: Cassiopeia

Nov 06 2005 05:15 AM | Tom T in Small Wonders

It’s time to pay homage to the Queen. In late fall and early winter we see the annual ascent of Cassiopeia, Queen of Ethiopia, wife of Cepheus and mother of Andromeda. (This is the rise of the big W in the northern sky to those of you less versed in ancient lore, but more familiar with the night sky.) Although Cassiopeia is a late riser when compared to other members of her family, there’s little question – at least to this observer – that she’s the one in charge. Doubt me?

Read story →    -----

Small Wonders: Cepheus

Sep 12 2005 08:49 AM | Tom T in Small Wonders

Photometrically, Cepheus isn’t one of the brighter constellations. It’s brightest star, Alpha (Alderamin) is only mag 2.4. Although it’s not a standout, he is distinctive and stands out between his daughter (Andromeda) and wife (Cassiopeia) as he has a very a distinctive shape, much like a childs drawing of a house. If you prefer to see a king here, think of Cepheus as a bust – the 4 stars that make up the body of the house describe his face, while the houses pointed roof becomes the crown.

Read story →    -----

Small Wonders: Cygnus

Aug 10 2005 12:12 PM | Tom T in Small Wonders

Cygnus is a spectacular summer constellation. For observers at mid-northern latitudes, it passes directly through zenith and thus offers some of the best views of the Milky Way one can see without traveling south. There’s a little of everything in Cygnus and I could spend the next couple of months doing it justice – so instead, I’ve picked out a small representative sample of objects for this month’s Small Wonders.

Read story →    -----

Small Wonders: Ursa Minor

Jul 11 2005 10:58 AM | Tom T in Small Wonders

Ursa Minor is probably one of the best known asterisms in the entire sky. Nearly everyone has heard of the "Little Dipper", but ironically, among non astronomers, it's also probably one of the most misidentified groups of stars in the night sky. While many realize that the front/pointer stars of the Big Dipper (recognized the world over) point towards Polaris, many non astronomers who look up still manage to link the "little dipper" with M45 - the Pleiades. The true little dipper's origins are somewhat shrouded in mystery, but there's evidence that it was handed down to us from the greeks sometime prior to the 3rd century BC. There's also some speculation that it may even be a more recent creation formed from stars that marked the wings of Draco.

Read story →    -----

Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics