This month on the tour we will be attempting several of the most difficult objects in the Catalog, a small faint planetary nebula, and a pair of face on spiral galaxies. Also featured this month is a small, but fairly bright galaxy and three open clusters. You will need binoculars and a telescope to fully enjoy the January tour.
M33 - This is a very large (about the size of the full moon) face on spiral galaxy in the constellation Triangulum. The total light from M33 is about magnitude 5.3, but when spread out over its large area it yields a very low surface brightness. The best and easiest views of M33 can be found with a pair of binoculars. Look for a large, round hazy patch of light with little detail at first glance. M33 can be glimpsed with the naked eye in dark clear skies. Finding M33 in a telescope can be a challenge because of its size. Use the widest field eyepiece you have and look for a change in light level to identify the galaxy.
M103 - This is a fairly small, sparse open cluster in Cassiopeia. Look for a tight group of stars in binoculars, being careful not to mistake it for several other clusters in the same area. Through a telescope the cluster is very sparse, four bright stars amidst the slight glow of much fainter companions.
M52 - This rich open cluster in Cassiopeia is fairly easy to see in binoculars as a faint smudge of light. A small to mid-size telescope will begin to resolve this cluster. Look for a triangular patch of light with some stars clearly resolved, but most of the cluster members provide only a hint of graininess.
M76 - Known as the little dumbell, this planetary nebula in Perseus is one of the dimmest objects in the Catalog. Look for a small, faint, oblong patch of light. Not a very obvious object, if you don't see it at first try varying magnifications in an attempt to bring it out. Fortunately M76 is located near a bright star which aids in locating the correct field to search.
M34 - This is a large and bright, but sparse open cluster located in Perseus. Visible as a faint patch of light to the naked eye, it is very obvious and easy to resolve in binoculars. In fact, binoculars provide a better view of this cluster than most telescopes.
M74 - This galaxy in Pisces is a smaller and fainter version of M33, a face on spiral galaxy with low surface brightness. M74 is arguably the most difficult object to find in the Catalog. You will need very dark, clear skies to easily see it, anything less than perfect conditions will make M74 nearly impossible to find. Look for a very faint fuzzy star, which is the bright central condensation, surrounded by a very faint glow. Try all of your tricks on this one; star hop to the correct field, try varying magnification, tap the scope to detect the galaxy through its motion. If all of the above fail, try again another night or seek darker skies.
M77 - This is a small faint galaxy in Cetus. Possible to see in binoculars, but very difficult, look for a faint fuzzy star. Through a telescope look for a fuzzy, oval shaped patch of light, bright in the center, fading towards the edges.
Last Month - M2, M15, M29, M31, M32, M39, M110
Next Month - M1, M35, M36, M37, M38, M42, M43, M45, M78, M79 (Courtesy, A. J. Ceece)
This month highlights 10 Messier objects, most are within reach of binoculars, and over half can be seen with the naked eye.
M1 - The Crab nebula is a supernova remnant in Taurus. It is a hazy patch in small telescopes. Large scopes can resolve some detail. It is difficult but possible to see in binoculars.
M45 - The Pleiades are a large open cluster in Taurus. It's often easy to resolve six stars with the naked eye. Binoculars provide the best view. Large telescopes can show some nebulosity.
M35, M37, M36, M38 - A series of open clusters in the winter Milky Way. M35 is in Gemini while the others are in Auriga. All can be seen with the naked eye as faint fuzzy stars. Binoculars reveal fuzzy patches, but low power telescopes can resolve these rich clusters.
M42, M43 - M42 is the great Orion Nebula. It can be seen as a small fuzzy patch with the naked eye. Binoculars show some detail, and the view is superb in most any scope. M43 is a small region of nebulosity next to M42, and probably requires the use of a telescope to view. Use low to moderate powers for the best view of this pair.
M78 - A small emission nebula in Orion, a tough binocular object. Best viewed in a telescope at moderate powers.
M79 - This is one of the smallest and dimmest globular clusters in the catalog. A tough binocular object in Lepus, best viewed in a telescope at moderate powers.
Last Month - M31, M32, M33, M34, M52, M74, M76, M77, M103, M110
Next Month - M41, M44, M46, M47, M48, M50, M67, M93 (Courtesy, A. J. Ceece)
This month, we will look for 10 objects: 8 open clusters in the southern Milky Way and a pair of galaxies, all within reach of binoculars. The open clusters are easy targets and most are visible with the naked eye. M81 and M82 are difficult binocular targets that offer a stunning telescopic view.
M41 - This cluster in Canis Major is visible as a hazy patch to the naked eye just below Sirius. M41 is resolvable in binoculars and appears fairly loose in telescopes at low power.
M93 - This is a small fuzzy patch of light in Puppis, partially resolvable in binoculars. The hardest part of finding this cluster in binoculars is picking it out of a fairly rich region of the Milky Way. Use low power to examine this cluster and the surrounding richness in a telescope. Medium power provides a nice view of the cluster itself.
M47 - A bright cluster in Puppis, easily visible as a hazy patch to the naked eye. Binoculars will show a large hazy patch with many stars resolvable. Telescopes show a fairly loose cluster with stars of wide variety of magnitudes.
M46 - This cluster is right next to M47 and is also visible to the naked eye. In binoculars M46 appears as a large hazy patch with no stars resolvable, giving a nice contrast to M47. In telescopes at low powers this cluster evenly fills the eyepiece. While you are here, go to medium or high power and look for the planetary nebula NGC2438. It will appear as a faint uneven ring, with a blue/green color.
M50 - An open cluster in Monoceros. This is a small hazy patch in binoculars, partially resolvable. Like M93, the richness of the surrounding field is the only difficulty in finding this object. This is a fairly tight cluster at low power in a telescope.
M48 - Moving on to Hydra, we find another naked eye cluster. M48 is a large fuzzy patch in binoculars, partially resolvable. Use low to medium power in your telescope for a spectacular view.
M67 - In the southeast portion of Cancer is another open cluster, barely visible as a fuzzy patch to the naked eye. Binoculars show M67 as a large, hazy patch of light, similar to M46. Use low power to resolve this large, rich cluster in a telescope.
M44 - Known as the Praesepe or Beehive Cluster, this open cluster is easily visible to the naked eye as a large, fuzzy patch bigger than the moon. Binoculars or rich field telescopes provide the best view of M44.
M81, M82 - This pair of galaxies in Ursa Major are very possible to see in binoculars, looking like a pair of fuzzy stars. Both galaxies will fit into the same low power telescope field. M81 will appear as a large oval gray patch of light. M82 is a pencil like streak of light next to and perpendicular to the long axis of M81.
Last Month - M1, M35, M36, M37, M38, M42, M43, M45, M78, M79
Next Month - M40, M65, M66, M95, M96, M97, M105, M106, M108, M109 (Courtesy, A. J. Ceece)
Springtime is galaxy time. As the winter Milky Way sets into the west we begin to get overhead, clear views outside of our own galaxy. During April we will begin in earnest our search for elusive galaxies. We will be searching for very distant objects, thus in general they will be small and faint.
There are several things to keep in mind to be successful at hunting distant galaxies. The darker the sky the better. Search out dark sky sites, or wait until the desired target is at maximum altitude or passes through relatively darker portions of moderately light polluted skies. Search with low power, once a possible fuzzy is found switch to higher powers for confirmation and to look for more detail.
Nearly all of the objects this month are possible in binoculars, though most need dark skies, averted vision, and a trained eye to see. We will be hunting eight galaxies and two objects from our galaxy, a double star and a planetary nebula.
M40 - This is a pair of faint stars located in Ursa Major. They are a tough find in binoculars, and you will be challenged to split them with binoculars. In telescopes, they appear to be an identical pair of stars and easy to split even at low power.
M108 - This galaxy will appear as a thin streak of light in telescopes, there is a definite brightening towards the middle. M108 is a very tough object for the largest binoculars.
M97 - This planetary nebula in Ursa Major, also called the Owl nebula, appears as a fairly large, round, hazy patch of light in a telescope. It is in the same field of view as M108 at low to medium powers. Use averted vision to see the faint glow of the Owl nebula through binoculars.
M109 - This spiral galaxy in Ursa Major appears as a small, oval patch of light. It can be found in the same field of view as Gamma U Ma at low to medium power in a telescope. Use large binoculars under good conditions for a chance of seeing this one.
M106 - This galaxy in Canes Venatici appears as an oval patch of light, larger than M109, with a fairly bright core. A tough, but possible binocular target.
M95 - This galaxy in Leo appears as a faint round patch of light with a bright nucleus. Large binoculars and good conditions are a must.
M96 - Look for M96 in the same low power telescope field as M95. Another round patch of light, slightly larger and brighter than M95, it too has a stellar core. Binocular advice for M96 is the same as M95.
M105 - This is a small elliptical galaxy in Leo, and can be found in the same low power field as M96. It looks like a small fuzzy star. M105 has a close companion galaxy, NGC 3384, which is only slightly smaller and fainter than M105. To prevent confusion, M105 is the closer of the pair to M96. Not possible in binoculars, except maybe with averted "imagination".
M65 - A small, but relatively bright galaxy in Leo. It is an elongated oval patch of light with a bright stellar core. A tough, but possible binocular target.
M66 - A close companion galaxy to M65, it can be seen in the same low to medium power field as M65. M66 is another oval patch of light, brighter and slightly wider than M65. Another possible binocular target. While you are here be sure to look for a thin streak of light which is the galaxy NGC 3628. It can be found north of M66 in the same low power telescope field as both M65 and M66.
Last Month - M41, M44, M46, M47, M48, M50, M67, M81, M82, M93
Next Month - M49, M51, M61, M63, M64, M85, M94, M101, M102, M104 (Courtesy, A. J. Ceece)
This month we continue our tour of our nearby neighbors outside the Milky May galaxy. Our observing will take in 10 more galaxies. Be ready to look for very faint and small objects. Most are possible to see in binoculars, but you will need a telescope and dark skies to really enjoy the sights. This is the final warm up to prepare us for next month's challenge, navigating the Virgo Cluster of galaxies. When you are done with these objects and give yourself a treat, skip ahead to the summer globular clusters of M3 or M13. While they are not an official part of this month's tour they should never be missed whenever they are available. Besides, these bright and spectacular objects are a treat to tired eyes after a night of galaxy hunting. Be careful, these are so bright after the other objects that you might want to wear shades.
M51 - The famous Whirlpool galaxy in Canes Venatici is a bright face on spiral with a smaller elliptical companion, NGC 5195. Look for a pair of fuzzy patches of light. The slightly larger and brighter one is M51. Make sure to spend some time here as there is almost always some spiral structure to be seen, on good nights the detail possible is unbelievable. This is a difficult but very possible object in binoculars appearing as a hazy patch of light.
M63 - Another spiral galaxy in Canes Venatici, smaller and fainter than M51, but seen more edge on so the galaxy appears as an elongated patch of light with a bright star at one end. Further inspection will show a faint halo around this patch. This is a difficult object in binoculars.
M94 - Just past M63 is another galaxy in Canes Venatici. Look for a bright fuzzy star to find the core of M94, surrounded by a faint haze. Another tough binocular object.
M101 - I consider this face on spiral galaxy in Ursa Major one of the most difficult Messier objects to find in a telescope. This is a large, faint patch of light, almost as big as the full moon. There are no real condensations, so use low power and look for a brighter part of the sky - more of a change in contrast than an object at first glance - which is the galaxy. Dark skies really help in the search of this one.
M102 - Not an official Messier object in most references, we will look for the galaxy NGC 5866 which is a somewhat standard insertion. Look for a small, faint patch light that looks like a short fuzzy line.
M64 - In a telescope, this galaxy in Coma Berenices is a fairly bright, slightly oval shaped patch of light. Look for the dark lane which gives this galaxy the common name, "Black Eye." The galaxy appears as a faint, fuzzy patch in binoculars.
M85 - This elliptical galaxy lies in Coma Berenices, just north of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies. This appears as a bright, but small, patch of light, with a bright stellar core.
M49 - This is an elliptical galaxy in Virgo just south of the main cluster of galaxies. M49 is round patch of light with bright center, gradually fading to a round halo. M49 looks like a faint fuzzy star in binoculars.
M61 - This is a face on spiral galaxy just south of M49 in Virgo, but much fainter. Look for a faint, round, fuzzy patch of light.
M104 - This is the well-known Sombrero galaxy in Virgo. It is a bright edge on spiral galaxy which looks like a bright, elongated streak. It is very possible to see in binoculars.
Last Month - M40, M65, M66, M95, M96, M97, M105, M106, M108, M109
Next Month - M58, M59, M60, M84, M86, M87, M88, M89, M90, M91, M98, M99, M100 (The Virgo Cluster) (Courtesy, A. J. Ceece)
This month we attack the heart of the Virgo cluster of galaxies. We will be hunting 13 galaxies-all within less than 100 square degrees of sky. The brightest of these galaxies, M87, is only 8.6 in total magnitude so this will be a telescope only month. Plan on searching for small, faint, fuzzies. Dark skies are a must.
Successfully navigating the Virgo cluster is the biggest challenge in the Messier Catalogue, and is affectionately known as "Heartbreak Ridge" to marathoners. What makes the Virgo cluster such a challenge is the closeness of the Messier objects to each other, and the large number of other galaxies
in this region. It is easy to become lost among the galaxies, and not be able to tell which one you are looking at. Here are several tips that can be of use as you navigate your way through the cluster.
- Get a good chart of the region that shows not only the M objects, but also the brighter NGC galaxies. You should also have pictures of the objects in the region to help in confirmation of a sighting.
- Use low power while searching. When you find an object you can switch to higher powers to see more detail.
- Avoid large aperture scopes. Small telescopes, 6"- 8" in size, make finding the M-objects easier. Large scopes will show many of the other faint galaxies and may help you become disoriented. The same is true for sky darkness. Minimal light pollution will also help to "filter out" the dimmer galaxies from the brighter Messier objects. In my moderately light polluted back yard with an 8" scope, I can find the Messier objects easily, but can barely see the other galaxies. Of course, to really enjoy and get the most out of any galaxy, you want the largest scope and darkest skies you can find.
- Plot your paths through the cluster, including a "home base". Your home base should be an easily recognizable M-object or field in the cluster. This will be the starting point for any excursions you plan, and a place to return to, should you become lost. I use M84, M86 as my home base. I can find this pair of galaxies easily by pointing my accurately aligned Telrad on the midpoint of a straight line from Denebola (beta Leonis) to Vindemiatrix (epsilon Virginis). This matched pair of small, fuzzy balls will both be within a low-power field of view every time I do this. I've heard of other people using M87 as their home reference because of its brightness.
The paths I like to use are M84, M86 -> M87 -> M89, M90 -> M91 -> M88
|----> M87 -> M89 -> M58 -> M59, M60
|----> M99 -> M98 -> M100
- As you move from an identified object in search of a new object, keep track of how far you have traveled. At low power, the most you should have to move between objects is 3 or 4 fields of view. If you go much farther than that go back to your last object or all the way back to home.
- Have patience and keep trying. Getting to know this area of sky is very rewarding. Under dark skies and with a large scope, I can easily get seven galaxies into the same field of view; an amazing sight to behold.
- Remember, you are looking for light that left it's source about 70 million years ago. Most of these objects at low power are not much more than dim, fuzzy, out of focus looking stars. Allow your eyes to become fully dark-adapted and take your time looking at each field. When done with this challenge, be sure to swing over to M3 or M13 to let your photon-starved retinas feast on a real meal.
M84, M86 - A pair of small fuzzy balls with bright, almost stellar cores. Both easily fit into the same low power field of view. M86 is slightly brighter and more oval than round M84.
M87 - Another round fuzzy ball with a bright core; slightly brighter than both M84 and M86.
M89, M90 - Both of these galaxies fit into the same low power field of view. M89 is another round fuzzy ball similar to M84, while M90 appears as an oval patch of light larger than M89. M90 has a bright central region.
M91 - A faint, slightly irregular oval hazy patch of light.
M88 - A small, oval shaped fuzzy patch with a bright stellar core, similar in size and shape to M90. It can fit into the same field of view as M91.
M58 - A slightly oval shaped fuzzy patch of light with a bright central region.
M59, M60 - M59 and M60 can both easily fit into the same field of view. M59 is a small, hazy oval patch, not all that easy to see. M60 is another fuzzy, oval patch of light, larger and brighter than M59.
M99 - A bright, round fuzzy patch of light.
M98 - This galaxy appears as a bright, pencil-like streak of light.
M100 - A round, hazy glow of light, bright in the center but gradually fading towards the edge.
Last Month - M49, M51, M61, M63, M64, M85, M94, M101, M102, M104
Next Month - M3, M4, M5, M53, M68, M80, M83 (Courtesy A. J. Ceece)
This will be a light month as we wait for the Milkyway to rise into better view later this summer. Our quarry will consist of six globular clusters and one very bright galaxy. All of these objects are possible with binoculars; and most are down right easy, even with small binoculars.
M3 - This globular cluster in Canes Venatici is one of the brightest objects in the sky. In binoculars, this object is definitely not star like, but more of a bright, small, easy to see snowball. Small telescopes will begin to resolve M3 into individual stars. The hardest part of this object is locating it in a portion of sky that contains few bright landmarks.
M53 - Another globular cluster in Canes Venatici. While not quite as big or bright as M3, it is still an obvious binocular object. Resolvable in small telescopes, it is an easy object to find, sharing the same low power telescope field as fifth magnitude Alpha Coma Berenices.
M5 - A big, bright globular cluster located in Serpens Caput. M5 is as nice as M3 but lies near a fifth magnitude naked eye star (5 Serpentis), making it an easy object to find.
M68 - An eighth magnitude globular cluster in Hydra. M68 is a difficult binocular object for Northern observers. It appears as a faint, fuzzy spot in binoculars, so you may need to use averted vision or larger binoculars to find it. Appearing as a round fuzzy patch in 8" telescopes, you will need a much larger aperture to really resolve it.
M83 - A face on spiral in Hydra. M83 is fairly easy to see in binoculars as a faint, fuzzy patch of light. In a telescope, look for a large patch of light with a bright center.
M4 - A big bright globular in Scorpius, easily located near Antares. This is an easy binocular object, appearing as a round snowball. Partially resolvable in a telescope, the trademark of this globular is a line of bright stars crossing the center.
M80 - This is the smallest and faintest globular cluster this month. Located in Scorpius, M80 is a very tough binocular object, appearing as a faint star with slight fuzziness around the edges. This is confirmed with a telescope. M80 has a bright central condensation in the middle of faint fuzz. It is one of the Messier objects that even through a medium telescope, still looks like a comet.
Last Month - M58, M59, M60, M84, M86, M87, M88, M89, M90, M91, M98, M99, M100
Next Month - M6, M7, M8, M9, M10, M12, M19, M20, M21, M23, M62, M107 (Courtesy, A. J. Ceece)
This is the month that we begin to sneak into the summer Milky Way and the heart of our galaxy as we find 12 more objects. Some are visible to the naked eye; all are possible in binoculars. There are six globular clusters, four open clusters, and two diffuse nebulas. Many of these objects also appear to be in pairs, either in visual appearance or location.
M10, M12 - This pair of globular clusters in the middle of Ophiuchus are easily swept up in binoculars, looking like small, blue snow balls. Through an 8" telescop, M12 is well resolved, while M10 is slightly more fuzzy looking. Both become very bright towards the center.
M107 - A small, fairly faint globular cluster in Uphiuchus. It is a tough binocular object, appearing as a very small, faint patch of lightm, possibly requiring averted vision. In a telescope, M107 is a larger and
brighter fuzzy patch of light than what can be seen in binoculars.
M9 - Another small, relatively faint globular cluster in Ophiuchus. M9 is very similar to M107, only slightly brighter. Another tough, but possible binocular object.
M19, M62 - Another pair of globular clusters in Ophiuchus separated by about four degrees. Fairly easy to find in binoculars, they are smaller than M10 and M12 thus not quite as obvious. These clusters are not resolvable through small scopes, and appear as round fuzzy patches, brightening towards the center. M19 is slightly brighter than M62.
M6, M7 - This is a pair of large, bright open clusters in Scorpius, visible to the naked eye. Binoculars provide the best view of these clusters. Both are completely resolvable in 10 x 50 binoculars and can be fit into the same field of view. M7 is the larger and brighter of the pair.
M8 - This is a bright emission nebula in Sagittarius, easily visible to the naked eye. The common name of M8 is the Lagoon nebula. In binoculars, M8 is an oval cloud of light, larger than the full moon, with several bright stars embedded within it. A telescope makes this nebula larger and brighter but does not really improve the view. A nebula filter reveals swirling gas clouds.
M20 - Another diffuse nebula in Sagittarius is only 1.4 degrees northwest of M8 and is called the Trifid nebula. This is easily seen in binoculars, looking like a cloud of smoke around some bright stars. A view through a telescope appears much the same, although try to pick out the three dust lanes that gives M20 its name. This is a somewhat difficult object to see right away. At first glance it looks like the optics are in need of cleaning and are causing the light from the bright stars to "smear".
M21 - This is a small, but bright open cluster in Sagittarius, right next to M20. Binoculars show a very small bright patch, partially resolvable. Small telescopes easily resolve all of the cluster members. M8, M20, and M21 are all within the same binocular field and lie in a very rich region of the Milky Way. This view is one of the finest to be found.
M23 - The last object of the month is a large, open cluster in Sagittarius. Through binoculars, M23 is a large, hazy patch of light, almost the size of the full moon. A telescope at low power easily resolves this cluster among a rich background of other stars.
Last Month - M3, M4, M5, M53, M68, M80, M83
We continue our tour this month with eight more globular clusters, all possible in binoculars, with two of these being the finest globulars visible from northern locations.
Sagittarius is the home of many globular clusters that surround the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Seven of these globulars appear in the Messier catalog. We will be visiting five of them this month. When you complete the search for these objects, be sure to spend some time scanning this region with binoculars or a telescope, and see what other sights you can discover. I guarantee, you will not be disappointed.
M13 - The great globular cluster in Hercules is bright enough to be seen with the naked eye. Binoculars easily show this cluster as a bright, fuzzy ball. M13 is partially resolvable in small aperture telescopes and becomes a fantastic swarm of tightly packed individual stars through large scopes.
M92 - Another globular cluster in Hercules, M92 is easy to find in binoculars, appearing slightly dimmer and smaller than M13. As with M13, it is partially resolvable in small scopes and is a fine sight in larger instruments.
M14 - A small, bright globular cluster in Ophiuchus, it is a difficult binocular object. Look for a small, fuzzy patch of light. Through a telescope, M14 is an even patch of light; the stars not resolvable except through large scopes.
M22 - This is the other great globular in our tour this month. Located just above the teapot asterism in Sagittarius, M22 can be seen with no optical aid. M22 is easy to find in binoculars, and easy to resolve in telescopes, with about the same impressiveness as M13.
M28 - Located near M22 in Sagittarius, this is a small, bright globular. A tough binocular object, look for a small, fuzzy patch. Easily seen in a telescope, but requires large aperture to resolve individual stars.
M69, M70, M54 - All of these are small, bright globular clusters laying along the bottom of the teapot in Sagittarius. Very similar in appearance to M28, these are all tough binocular objects requiring dark skies and possibly averted vision to see. M54 is slightly brighter and appears more star-like through binoculars than the other globulars. These are all easily seen in telescopes, though not easily resolvable.
Last Month - M6, M7, M8, M9, M10, M12, M20, M21, M23, M62, M107
Next Month - M11, M16, M17, M18, M24, M25, M26, M55, M75 (Courtesy, A. J. Ceece)
As summer turns to fall we complete our tour of the wonders in Sagittarius. Sixteen Messier objects are found within the constellation of Sagittarius, we will seek the six that remain to be seen on our tour. We will also search for three others just north of Sagittarius in the Milky Way.
Our October tour includes two nebulae and the clusters that power them, four open clusters, a star cloud, and lastly two globular clusters. All of these objects are possible in binoculars, most are easy in even small binoculars. Several of these are also possible naked eye objects.
M24 - This "object" is actually a section of the Milky Way in Sagittarius. It is easily seen with the naked eye as a fuzzy, oval patch about four times the size of the full moon. The best views are through binoculars or rich field telescopes.
M25 - Just east of M24 in Sagittarius we find this open cluster. Visible to the naked eye, M25 lies in the same binocular field as M24. In binoculars it appears as a partially resolved star cluster buried in faint nebulosity. A view through a telescope shows the nebulosity is in fact many faint stars that are not resolved in small instruments.
M18 - This is a small open cluster just north of M24 in Sagittarius. In binoculars M18 is easy to see as a small fuzzy patch of light in the same field of view as M24. Telescopes reveal this cluster for what it is, a small, sparse collection of fairly bright stars.
M17 - Just north of M18 and in the same binocular field as M24 and M18 lies the Omega nebula. Possible to see with the naked eye and easy with binoculars, this nebula appears as a small faint patch of fuzz. A telescope will show the unique V shape nebulosity that gives the cluster its name. The shape reminds me of a swan with two bright stars that power the cluster embedded in the head and neck of the swan.
M16 - Continuing north of M17 we find another nebula in Serpens. To the naked eye and binoculars, this small patch of haze is very similar in appearance to M17 which is in the same binocular field of view. Through a telescope the M16 looks like a sparse open cluster of stars surrounded by faint wisps of smoke.
M26 - Continuing to head north through the Milky Way we find this open cluster in the constellation Scutum. This is a difficult object to find in binoculars, but possible as a faint patch of fuzz. Telescopes partially resolve this cluster and show several stars buried in a faint glow from the unresolved stars.
M11 - Just north of M26 in Scutum lies the Wild Duck Cluster. Possible to see with the naked eye, binoculars show a small faint patch surrounding a bright star. Telescopes resolve many of the stars in this very rich cluster.
M55 - Dipping back into Sagittarius we find two more globular clusters waiting for us. The first is one of the brightest and largest globulars in the catalogue. Possible to see naked eye, it is an easy binocular object appearing as a bright fuzzy ball of light. Telescopes show a round patch of light bright in the center and fading toward the edges. Large aperatures are needed to resolve this globular.
M75 - The last object of the month, and the last object to be visited in Sagittarius. In binoculars, M75 is not too hard to see, look for a small fuzzy star. A telescope will show a small fuzz ball with a bright center.
Last Month - M13, M14, M22, M28, M54, M69, M70, M92
Next Month - M27, M30, M56, M57, M71, M72, M73 (Courtesy, A. J. Ceece)
This month we will search for seven more objects from the Messier Catalog. These include four globular clusters, the largest and the smallest planetary nebulas in the catalog, and a small oddity. Two of the objects are fairly easy in binoculars, while four others will require dark skies, patience, and keen eyes to find.
M57 - This smallest planetary nebula in the Messier Catalog is the famous Ring nebula in the constellation Lyra. Low power telescope views show a very small blue/green disk, not much bigger than a star. Medium to high power will magnify the size of the nebula while leaving the surrounding stars the same size, confirming you have found it. It can be seen in binoculars as a faint star like point of light.
M56 - Also in the constellation of Lyra we find our first globular cluster of the night. In a telescope look for a small round ball of light, slightly brighter in the center. This is a difficult binocular object which appears as a small fuzzy patch.
M27 - Also known as the Dumbbell nebula, the largest planetary nebula in the Messier Catalog, M27 lies in the constellation Vulpecula. It is fairly easy to see in binoculars as a small hazy patch. In small to medium telescopes, it appears as a rectangular patch of light. With a nebula filter or in large scopes, it may even appear round in shape with a bright rectangular, or dumbbell shaped core.
M71 - Lying in Sagitta, this globular cluster appears as a faint oval hazy patch of light in a telescope. This is a very difficult but possible binocular object, requiring dark skies and trained eyes.
M30 - This globular cluster in Capricornus is tough but very possible to see in binoculars as a faint fuzzy star. Telescopes show a small fuzzy ball of light, bright in the center and fading to the edges.
M72 - This is a small faint globular cluster in Aquarius. Look for a faint oval patch of light, gradually brighter towards the middle. A very difficult binocular object.
M73 - This asterism is located near M72 in Aquarius. In a low power telescope view it looks like a very small fuzzy patch of light at first glance. When stared at it reveals itself as a small collection of stars. Medium to high power shows the view best described by Messier "cluster of three or four stars... containing very little nebulosity".
Last Month - M11, M16, M17, M18, M24, M25, M26, M55, M75
Next Month - M2, M15, M29, M31, M32, M39, M52, M110 (Courtesy, A. J. Cecce)
This will be a fairly easy month on the tour. We will view two small but bright globular clusters, two open star clusters, and the grandest galaxy in the sky, along with its two companions. All of these objects are possible to find in binoculars; most are fairly easy.
M2 - This is a small, bright globular cluster in Aquarius. To find it in binoculars, look for a fuzzy star in a star-poor field. A low power telescope field will show a round fuzzy patch, brighter in the center and fading to the edge, in a field with no other bright objects.
M15 - This globular cluster in Pegasus is very similar to M2 in size and brightness, except it is surrounded by several bright stars. Fairly easy to find in binoculars, but the best view is through a telescope at medium to high power.
M29 - This galactic cluster is a small, sparse group of stars in Cygnus. It appears as a small fuzzy patch amongst a rich star field in binoculars. A telescope will easily resolve the members of this cluster. The shape of the cluster reminds me of the Pleiades as viewed through binoculars.
M39 - Dark skies will allow this large, bright cluster in Cygnus to be seen with the naked eye as a hazy patch of light. Binoculars easily resolve this cluster into it's bright and widely scattered members, and provide a better view than can be seen with most telescopes.
M31 - This is the famous Andomeda Galaxy, our closest galactic neighbor, and the largest, brightest galaxy to be seen in the northern sky. The ability to see M31 with the naked eye provides a good test of the darkness of your skies. M31 is so large that binoculars provide the best view, allowing the entire galaxy to be seen in one field of view. Look for an elongated patch of light, with a bright, round central core.
M32 - This is an elliptical companion galaxy to M31. Through a telescope, look for a slightly oval ball of fuzz in the same low power field as the core of M31. M32 is very possible to find in binoculars as a star like point of light.
M110 - Another elliptical companion galaxy to M31, lying on the opposite side of the core as M32. Through a telescope, look for a large, oval patch of light. Although M110 is as bright as M32, it is much larger and thus has a lower surface brightness, making it a difficult object in light polluted skies. M110 is a very difficult binocular object requiring dark transparent skies and trained eyes to have a chance at finding it.
Last Month - M27, M30, M56, M57, M71, M72, M73
Next Month - M33, M34, M52, M74, M76, M77, M103 (Courtesy, A. J. Ceece)