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Newbie having trouble actually "viewing" Messier objects.

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#1 lemonade

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Posted 13 August 2019 - 08:53 PM

Hi. First I'd like to say thanks for having such a wonderful community here. I've been lurking for a while on here trying to learn what I can as I have begun observing the night sky recently since a friend gave me an Orion telescope he was just going to toss(5.1" f/7). I've gotten some nice views of stars, double stars, a very distant view of Uranus, and especially Saturn and Jupiter look great through it. But I've had no beginner's luck with any of the Messier catalog it seems.

I went through various forums and articles looking for what might show up the best through my bortle 7-8 skies, but so far no dice. I've looked for m31, m94, m56, m56, m106, and several others. So far, the only ones I have been able to confidently locate were m3 and m57, but those were so faint and colorless that it was like just looking at a smudge on the lens even with ideal magnification. The other night was really clear and the best m57 view I had allowed me to clearly see the silhouette of the nebula but not make out the inner circle or anything else. Am I doing something wrong, or is it just not likely for me to see much more than faint ghosts of objects like this with so much light pollution (and summer humidity is probably a small factor here as well)? It's just kind of hard to tell whether I'm seeing what I should be seeing under these conditions or if there's some kind of user error. Also: How much would a filter such as a UHC or something else help in getting a useful viewings of these objects?

Before you ask: I have checked collimation before each session, the scope generally stays in an enclosed porch with the same humidity and temp. as outside, and I'm usually a couple hours into dark adapted night viewing before I even start looking for Messier objects. 



 


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#2 S.Boerner

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Posted 13 August 2019 - 09:05 PM

Take some time and look at the various objects that make up the Astronomical League's Urban Observing Program:  https://www.astrolea...rban/urban.html  They were chosen as things that could be seen from skies that are too light polluted to see the Milky Way.   The program contains quite a few open clusters.

 

I'm assuming you don't have a goto scope and have to star hop.  It's really hard to star hop when you can't see any marker stars:(  Using 7x35-10x50 binoculars can help you plan your hops.


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#3 vdog

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Posted 13 August 2019 - 09:25 PM

I went through various forums and articles looking for what might show up the best through my bortle 7-8 skies, but so far no dice. I've looked for m31, m94, m56, m56, m106, and several others.

With the exception of M31, that's a pretty challenging list for someone just starting out with a 5" telescope.  There is much lower hanging fruit right now in Sagittarius (e.g., M22, M8, M17) and elsewhere.  That list S.Boerner gave you has these and many other possibilities.


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#4 fcathell

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Posted 13 August 2019 - 09:48 PM

The secret to seeing most DSOs is to go to a very dark sky location with low humidity. Nothing else beats this.

 

Frank

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#5 Sam Danigelis

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Posted 13 August 2019 - 10:00 PM

I agree 100% that a dark site helps. Also, using a camera opens up new worlds invisible to the naked eye. Whatever you do don't give up. There are beautiful sights waiting for you out there, but they don't necessarily yield their fruit without some time and work. It's worth it.

#6 stoest

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Posted 13 August 2019 - 10:51 PM

The single biggest factor in what you'll see as you look at these objects is experience. Things that were just glimpsed or even not seen when they're in the field, will soon look bright and detailed.  When I started out a couple of years ago with my go-to 9.25 SCT I had the scope on M33 and I know it was in the field since other objects I used go-to on were there, but couldn't see it.  This happened to me twice in two observing sessions but a year later I was seeing detail in it using the same scope, the only difference was practice and experience.

 

One of the things I did that I thought helped me was to take the brighter and easier to find nebula, Lagoon and Swan in the summer, Orion in the winter, and really work at seeing the fainter parts.  I'd go back to them every session and try to find detail that I hadn't seen before. I was surprised, I can still go back to those and find more detail almost every time I take some time on them.  Time spent on faint details there will translate to seeing tougher objects.

 

Also I spent, and still do, a lot of time looking at sketches people make to get an understanding of what to expect from an object, the sketching forum here is a treasure trove and you can find sketches from people using similar aperture, just remember most of these sketchers are very experienced observers.  Photos are not very good at showing you what you'll see and may give an unrealistic expectation of what you'll see.

 

Just keep at it and your skill will improve rapidly and soon you'll be thinking how bright the Messier objects are.


Edited by stoest, 13 August 2019 - 10:52 PM.

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#7 SeattleScott

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Posted 13 August 2019 - 10:51 PM

You are using a rather small telescope in heavy light pollution. Pretty much forget galaxies other than M31. For urban observing in light pollution, bright open clusters are your friend. M39, M11, Double Cluster, Owl Cluster maybe. M57 and Dumbell and Swan pretty much round out the best nebulae you can see. You should check out M13. It will look MUCH better but under dark skies, but might still be worth a peek in the city.

You won’t see the central star of M57 without a MUCH bigger telescope under MUCH darker skies.

Double stars are good targets for urban observing. Of course the Moon and planets.

Bottom line is you are using a fairly entry level scope (that someone was about to toss remember) in heavily light pollution. You are going to have limited success. Get that scope to dark skies and you can try some galaxies and see what globular clusters are all about. Still I typically hit 10-12 targets in my short grab and go sessions with a 4” refractor, so some DSO can be worthwhile in the city.

Scott

#8 IMB

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Posted 13 August 2019 - 11:03 PM

Try to observe M13. It's a large globular close to a bright star. It's quite bright and can be easily seen even under light-polluted skies. If you're successful with M13, try M92 nearby. Although M92 is smaller than M13, but it's also bright.

 

It's helpful to scout the area of interest with binoculars before you attempt to locate an object with a telescope.



#9 Sketcher

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Posted 13 August 2019 - 11:05 PM

The problem is twofold -- light pollution and inexperience.

 

Even in the absence of light pollution, an inexperienced observer would describe some objects as "faint" that a more experienced observer would describe as "bright" -- using the same telescope, the same magnification, under the same sky conditions.

 

Another concern:  Dark-adaptation of an observer under a light polluted sky is very likely to be less thorough than the dark-adaptation of an observer under a dark sky.

 

You mentioned seeing M57.  Here's a sketch of M57 -- made under a dark sky, with a 1-inch telescope.  A 5-inch telescope has 25 times the light-grasp of a 1-inch telescope.  A 5-inch telescope is as much better than a 1-inch telescope as a 25-inch telescope is to a 5-inch telescope.  Sky darkness and experience can make a huge difference!

 

M57 1 inch aperture 8 Dec 2018 67x Sketcher   text
 
What does all this mean?  It means that despite the light pollution, as your experience grows, you'll be able to see more.  And of course, once you're able to combine greater experience with a dark sky, you'll be seeing much more!

 

Meanwhile, there are other Messier objects that you can succeed in seeing now.  Try targeting the open clusters in the Messier catalog.  Also, be sure to visit the (non-Messier) Perseus Double Cluster!  Albireo is a beautiful double star -- that will be a pleasant sight to your eyes, with your telescope, from your sky conditions.

 

One "secret" to enjoying this hobby is to concentrate on those things you can see.  Concentrate on seeing all you can see in the objects you look at.  Taking the time to carefully study and sketch those objects will further train your eye-brain system to "see".  You'll end up seeing more when you spend more time looking for "hidden" details.  Sketching helps -- even when the sketcher lacks the most basic abilities to sketch anything!  It may sound ridiculous, but it takes time to learn how to see when observing astronomical objects through a telescope.

 

Notice that I never mentioned / suggested getting a larger telescope.  I have larger telescopes.  Yet, I very rarely use anything larger than a 6-inch, and often I use smaller.  If I had to get rid of all my telescopes excepting one, I would get rid of my 12-inch, my 10-inch, my 6-inch, and keep my 130mm (5.1-inch).  Under a dark sky, a good 5.1-inch telescope is capable of providing a life-time of viewing pleasure!


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#10 IMB

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Posted 13 August 2019 - 11:17 PM

 <...> Also I spent, and still do, a lot of time looking at sketches people make to get an understanding of what to expect from an object, the sketching forum here is a treasure trove and you can find sketches from people using similar aperture, just remember most of these sketchers are very experienced observers.  Photos are not very good at showing you what you'll see and may give an unrealistic expectation of what you'll see. <...>

Excellent advice! When I started the hobby three years ago, I found the sketches in the following book very helpful in planning my observation sessions:

 

Rony de Laet The Casual Sky Observer's Guide.



#11 cookjaiii

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Posted 13 August 2019 - 11:39 PM

A UHC filter can help you see many nebulae better, but don't expect miracles.  For instance, I have skies similar to yours and in a 5" f/5 Newt, I can't see the Owl Nebula without a UHC filter.  It makes it visible, but just barely.  Filters don't do any good for galaxies.

 

Keep at it and hang in there.  Sometimes a smudge is all you see, but under such difficult conditions, there is satisfaction in finding a target at all.



#12 Wouter1981

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Posted 14 August 2019 - 02:58 AM

A 5.1inch scope is already a good size scope to see much, but most messier objects are little grey patches. With light pollution it gets worse and even the brightest are often difficult or impossible to find. Sketches give the best impression of what you can see but a lot of sketches are done by people under good dark skies with big telescopes. But even then, most DSO are only grey patches. Don't expect any color. There are some planetary nebula that will show color but that's about it. Even big telescopes (bigger than 20inch) often show NO color on most objects.

Filters do improve the contrast but it won't make a invisible nebula suddenly bright. Filters make everything dimmer, but they dim the unwanted wavelengths more than the wanted. I had a good UHC filter but sold because I found the dimming of stars and clusters more annoying the the improved contrast on the nebula. And I hate swapping expensive filters in the dark.

And remember, observing is a skill. It's not only about finding a object, but you've got to learn what you are looking at.

When I started with observing again after more than 15years of absence, one of my first goals was the Andromeda galaxy. Big, bright easy to find ... wel it took me more than a hour to find it and could barely see it in my 4inch telescope. Now I find it within minutes with my 9x50 finder scope.
Don't give up with your telescope. For me, observing is not about seeing the most stunning views, it's about being able to see such distant and wonderful objects in the first place.
And I would strongly advice to have a "darkspot" setup. Something small, that you can bring with you whenever you think there is a possibility to have a really dark sky. A small binocular is ideal. I much prefer a 7x50 under a dark sky than a 8inch telescope under bortle 8 skies.

 


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#13 watchplanets

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Posted 14 August 2019 - 05:42 AM

Agree 5.1 inch is a good start but to see dso good they say a 8 inch is recommended or larger.

Next biggest problem is light pollutied skies I dont really know the bortal scale I go by colour chart. But as a guess sounds like a orange sky's maybe red.so its cause your lp u cant see stuff.

If u can get to green skies once and awhile u will see those things. When I started I went camping one weekend once a month. It was only to orange skies from a white zone but was better than nothing. And at that time I dint drive so that was 3 hr go bus drive.

Guess a suggestion

If u cant get away and want to see dso then u really need 8 inch to 12 scope. Maybe a dob or sct maybe a 8 or 10 inch relector?

U could still keep 5 inch more for portability 


Edited by watchplanets, 14 August 2019 - 05:44 AM.


#14 Tony Flanders

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Posted 14 August 2019 - 05:49 AM

You might be interested in my Urban/Suburban Messier Guide. Be aware also that even in ideal conditions, and through a big telescope, most galaxies look like faint smudges. That's the nature of deep-sky observing.


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#15 Eddgie

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Posted 14 August 2019 - 08:35 AM

Everyone here has good advice, but here is my own advice:

 

Adjust your expecatations. 

 

Objects rarely appear as anything even remotely close to even the poorest images you see on the web unless you can get to extremely dark sky locations and even then, seeing any color (with the exception of color stars) is the very rare exception rather than the rule. 

 

For most people under what has become a very bright night sky, the vast majority of objects are so poor as to be difficult to even see (there are over 40,000 objects in some telescope handset computers, and often, the telescope it is connected to will not allow an observer to see more than a few thousand of those objects under typical skies). 

 

Everyone is right, that with experience, you will be able to see more objects or perhaps see more structure in some extended objects (objects that are not stellar in nature such galaxies or nebula), but if you are expecting to see anything with color (other than color doubles), I expect you will be disappointed.

 

And collimation will not stop you from seeing DSOs.  Even with so-so collimation, M57 is easily visible. Where collimation is critical is for planets.  For most DSO work, it will not make that much difference.  I did not say it would not make any difference because that is not completely true, but I am saying that it will only make a difference between being able to see something and not see something one time in a thousand. 


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#16 JohnnyBGood

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Posted 14 August 2019 - 08:52 AM

I've spent a lot of time sitting in the dark with my 130mm scope and there are a lot of things you can see with it. Light pollution is mostly your problem because what you're looking for is a dim gray smudge that's not as bright as the background sky. The trick is to get somewhere darker where the background is darker than what you're trying to see. Increasing magnification can help darken the background some but if you're not pointed in the right spot it's easy to miss your target since it's going to be at the edge of being discernible. Using averted vision sometimes helps, but even then you have to really manage your expectations. As in: "I didn't expect to see anything at all but I can just barely detect that there's *something* there so this is awesome!"

 

My skies are light polluted but probably not as bad as yours. It took me over two years to find M1 (Crab nebula). To begin with I was using a 76mm scope and it just wasn't happening. I eventually figured out I was probably looking in the right place but it was simply invisible. When I upgraded to the 130mm scope I had over a year's experience using the smaller scope but still couldn't find it until the following year. When I finally did find it (using a zoom eyepiece to gradually darken the background) I was ecstatic. And by "find it" I mean "just barely able to tell there was something there but unable to see any detail at all beyond a vague blurry spot in my vision".

 

A couple years later I upgraded to the 8" SCT. This time I knew exactly where to look and what to expect so it *was* a little easier to find this time... but it still looked like a faint, barely visible smudge. Was it better than in the 5.1"? Not much. Would it be better in a 10" or 12"? Probably, but would the improvement be worth the trade off in portability and set up hassle? Maybe for some but not for me and my situation. Armed with my success finding M1 I tried hunting for the Flame Nebula with the 8". Didn't work no matter what tricks I tried. I've just got to get out to darker skies.

 

If I were you I would hang onto the scope you've got for a while. It's a good all-around scope that will allow you to try out a lot of things and get a feel for what kind of observing you like to do. Then if you want to buy another telescope you can buy with confidence knowing you're getting something that suits your needs perfectly. One of your challenges is that most of the things you can see right now are pretty underwhelming in light polluted skies. My favorite observing targets have always been open clusters--largely because they were the only things I could see with my 76mm scope when starting out. There aren't many visible right now but as fall and winter get here there will be a lot more you can track down.


Edited by JohnnyBGood, 14 August 2019 - 08:53 AM.

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#17 r1larry

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Posted 14 August 2019 - 11:46 AM

As a beginner myself, I have found Turn left at Orion a great resource to use.  It not only helps in finding the object, but gives a realistic idea of what you will see in your eyepiece.  Good luck in your hunt, clear skies.


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#18 traksion

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Posted 14 August 2019 - 12:38 PM

So many great replies in this post!  In my Bortle 8/9 skies (white on the color map) the most I've been able to see is M13 and M57, they look like small grey smudges (In a 6"/1200mm dob w/Q70 26mm lens).  It took my a couple of months to finally locate them.  Although the final observations were a little under whelming, it was still search a rewarding feeling to find them.  And I still enjoy finding them again each night I go out.  In my backyard I've learned what to expect to see, I find the enjoyment is in just chilling in the yard, enjoying the piece and quiet (city quiet), practicing star hopping (even with the limited viewable stars), and finding some new objects, typically clusters, double stars, planets, moon etc.  I have my first dark sky night planned for later this month and can't wait to put my new skills to the test. 

 

Also I have the Orion Skyglow filter, it came with my used Q70 lens I purchased, I don't ever use it, it makes the skies darker and harder to see, I'm sure it'll be more effective in darker skies, but I haven't had the chance yet to try.


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#19 sg6

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Posted 14 August 2019 - 12:53 PM

M31 you may have seen but it is big and likely bigger then the view through the eyepiece.

Try M13 and maybe M92.

 

Identify a few Open Clusters, C14 double cluster in Perseus is a good one.

If around late try the 3 open clusters in Auriga, there are a few bits in Auriga actually. One of the clusters is just outside and one of the inside ones is not a prominent cluster. But should be easy to find.

 

A darker sky helps but I presume it is not easy to do so otherwise you likely would have.

 

One thing to do is search out Binocular Objects (Astro League perhaps). They tend to be sort of brighter as binoculars tend to be smaller. Think there may be lists wandering around CN as well.

 

Will say digging out easy to locate objects under light polluted skies can be time consuming. I will have to start doing so for an outreach event. Then once identified and seen you have to work out more that will be dimmer.

 

If you have Stellarium use that, change the settings (F4) to set the magnitute a little lower - actually change the DSO Mag numerical value to less then the default. Yes, lower numbers are more bright, why do we do things the wrong way?

 

Also be aware Magnitude is an odd measurement, a big dim object may be defined as less bright then a small bright object. So the big one is harder to find/see.


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#20 hiMike

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Posted 14 August 2019 - 08:20 PM

Only advice I didn't see here (may have just not seen it):

 

Use the lowest power magnification you have (highest mm eyepiece). It will allow the most light through and give you the biggest field of view to help you find it. Your zoom is equal to (focal length mm) / (eyepiece mm), e.g. 650mm / 24mm = 27x magnification. Even at 27x mag it can be difficult for me to find exactly what I'm looking for. The lower the better.

 

Also SkySafari is a great free cell phone app that you can use to search for objects. It can show you where it is in the sky and you can hold it up in the air and compare what the screen says to what you're seeing in real life. Use that to find some stars to guide you in.


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#21 Tony Flanders

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Posted 15 August 2019 - 06:07 AM

Only advice I didn't see here (may have just not seen it):
 
Use the lowest power magnification you have (highest mm eyepiece). It will allow the most light through and give you the biggest field of view to help you find it. Your zoom is equal to (focal length mm) / (eyepiece mm), e.g. 650mm / 24mm = 27x magnification. Even at 27x mag it can be difficult for me to find exactly what I'm looking for. The lower the better.

That's good advice in general, but there are exceptions. Many objects that are visible at medium or high magnification are flat-out invisible at low magnification. That's especially true for small galaxies. And there are a number of objects that are visible at low magnification, but look exactly like stars unless you magnify them more. For instance, M57 looks almost stellar at 15X or lower, and might even be mistaken for a star at 26X.

My general method goes like this:

  • Put in the lowest magnification eyepiece I can find.
  • Point the telescope to the correct part of the sky by matching up the stars that I see through the eyepiece (or finderscope) with stars that are plotted on my charts (either paper or electronic).
  • Look for the target object near the center of the field of view. If I find it, then try increasing the magnification until I get the most pleasing view.
  • If I can't see the object, increase the magnification until the object becomes visible.
  • If the object is invisible at all magnifications, mark it as "not seen" and move on to the next one.

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#22 lemonade

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Posted 15 August 2019 - 11:50 PM

Thank you for all these replies. It's at least making me feel like I'm not just a complete idiot when it comes to this. Good news is that every viewing night I look for the ring nebula and every time I've looked at it it looks a little bit better than the night before. Tonight I could swear I even saw a reddish tint, but maybe that was just me seeing what I wanted to see. I still do have a lot of fun looking at the planets as well as open clusters (at least I think that's what I've been seeing) and double stars and so on. I'll be going on vacation in late autumn to a location I know to have very dark skies. I'll see what I can see there as well, and maybe it will help me pinpoint objects even from my backyard!



#23 geovermont

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Posted 16 August 2019 - 11:14 AM

You're doing just fine. The light pollution is surely a handicap, but you can still learn the patterns of as many constellations as show up in your sky. Then when you go to that dark site you will be able to find your way around much more efficiently. Get those patterns down cold. You probably don't need to buy a lot of equipment to keep moving forward, but do make sure that you have a very low power eyepiece for the scope as that wide field of view can be a great help in finding objects. Repeat viewing is indeed a great thing to do.


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#24 vertex2100

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Posted 17 August 2019 - 11:09 AM

Get yourself a tent and sleeping bag and go camping as often as you can in a darker area. Take a friend to enjoy the experience with you and, ideally, help keep you warm in the sleeping bag. Use these opportunities to look at dso s . Spend your city time looking at planets, the moon and double or pretty colored ( like carbon) stars. Or, spend thousands of dollars for a night vision image intensifier. Even if you manage to find a dso in the city, it will pale in appearance and be very disappointing compared to the view with your same scope at a dark site. The last camping trip I took, the ring nebula looked like a white glazed doughnut a foot from my face . I probably could have seen it with my sunglasses on. Seriously. I'm going to try it next time as an experiment. Galaxies were filled with incredible detail but just a grey smudge at best in the city.

#25 Roger Corbett

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Posted 17 August 2019 - 03:58 PM

Also endorse the suggestion of Turn Left at Orion book.  Really helps in finding things — using the idea of marker stars.  Pennington's Messier Marathon is another good one.

 

Make sure that there's no moon in the sky.  

 

Make sure that that you are away from any lights and your eyes have dark adapted — takes a half hour.

 

Check out the Clear Sky Clock for your location — nights very dramatically in their transparency, which makes a HUGE difference in seeing deep space objects — especially clusters, nebulae, and galaxies.  Planets and bright double stars are less affected, needing steady skies.

 

A 9x50 right-angle correct image finder helps greatly.  As does a very low power, wide field eyepiece.  A 30-32mm Plossl will provide a wider field of view when hunting and help you locate things more easily,

 

The basic, free Sky Safari will also let you zoom in and match the view through the finder or the eyepiece to star hop.

 

Being patient is important.  If you can't find the object, start over from the key marker star and retrace your steps.




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