From: (Robert Grumbine)
Newsgroups: sci.astro.amateur
Subject: Favorite things to view
Date: 2 Mar 1995 08:45:08 -0500
Organization: Under construction
Lines: 375
Message-ID: <3j4i54$>

  I won't be able to maintain this as a faq, but a reminder of some
thoughts that people have had on the subject (and a good start for
someone who _would_ be able to maintain it as a faq.  I can give some
advice on how to do that, having done so for other things before.)

Happy viewing!

Robert Grumbine

from a thread in September (1994):

~From: (Steven J. Crisp)

1. The Moon. Under as high a magnification as the scopes capability will
allow. Some amazing stuff on that piece of rock that the deep-sky boys are
always wanting to bomb out of the sky.

2. Jupiter. Atmosphere and dance of the satellites. A never ending
pattern of change.

3. M42. It is a dream of mine to be able to discern the first appearance
of a new star as it blows off its cocoon and becomes visible for the
first time.

4. Planetary hunt. Try to grab a visual image of all the planets in a
single night. Its real fun when Venus is close to inferior conjunction
after having passed elongation and Mercury is on the other side. Long
night, but worth it. Don't forget Pluto. I've seen it easily in an 8"
before under dark skies and have heard rumors that it is discernible in a
4" under ideal conditions. I'll defer judgement, however.

5. M51. On a clear night with excellent seeing and transparency of 6+. By
far, the most beautiful deep sky object available in an amateur scope.

6. M57. The Ring Nebula. One of these days I *will* see the red visually.
And don't tell me it's impossible. You'll kill the dream.

7. Mars at a very close opposition. Detail is amazing. Have to get it
close, though. Anything else is rather boring.

8. Albereo in Cygnus. Most amazing color contrast of any binary system. I
could literally stare at it for hours.

9. NGC 669/884 - The Double Cluster in Perseus. The twin gems of the
heavens. No better open cluster in the sky.

10. Naked-eye reconstruction of ancient constellations or those of other
civilizations. Get a reproduction of a star map from another culture
(Chinese is best) and redo their constellations. Find *their* patterns.

And, the granddaddy of them all...

11. Get Ganymede naked eye. I've done it. It can be accomplished. What it
takes is crystal clear skies and perfect seeing when Jupiter is at
opposition and Ganymede is at elongation. It's tough, but something you
will never forget.

~From: (Palmer Davis)

Ten easy things to find before midnight tonight:

1) The Moon.  Can't miss it.  Last night was a better Moon night than
tonight will be, and the Moon is starting to be full enough and up long
enough to wash out observations of other objects.  The best place to
look is near the sunrise terminator, where the long shadows of the
early lunar "morning" make features look very three-dimensional.  (When
the Moon is full, there is no terminator, which makes it one of the worst
times to observe the Moon.)  Look for the Sinus Iridum in the north at
the following end of the Oceanus Procellarum (the "man in the moon"'s
left eye); when near the terminator (as it was last night), it's one of
the prettiest sights on the Moon, and should still be close enough to
the terminator tonight to be worth a look.

2) Saturn.  High and bright in the south, in a region otherwise devoid
of bright stars.  This is the sight that gets people who wander in to
star parties hooked.  The rings are starting to close, and will be
completely edge on next May.  Look for Cassini's division in the rings,
the inner "crepe" ring, shadows cast on the planet's surface, and at
least two prominent cloud belts on the planet itself.

3) Jupiter.  Don't miss catching Jupiter before it goes away next month!
The scars left by the impact of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 are still very
dark and prominent in the south, and this is your last chance to see
them while they're still this fresh.  Even without the SL9 impact sites,
Jupiter is still fascinating.  Like any sort of object, it takes a while
to train your eye to see the details that are there to be seen.

4) Venus.  You'll need to catch Venus early, as it sets shortly after dark.
But now is a good time for Venus -- it's large, and in a crescent phase.
Keep looking, and you should eventually notice slightly darker formations
in its clouds.

5) Albireo (Beta Cygni).  This is the star at the point of the Northern
Cross, and is an easy introductory double star with a good color contrast.
Epsilon Lyrae is another good double star to observe in the Summer Triangle

6) Globular cluster M13.  I've put the "deep sky" objects this far down
in the list because they're a bit harder to find, and the Moon is going
to interfere with views of them for the next week or so while full.  And
refractors are better suited to planetary and lunar work, anyway.  Look
at the sky chart in the October issue of Sky and Telescope to find M13
(it's in the "keystone" in Hercules).  This is a good time to look at
globular clusters: in addition to M13, you can see M22 and several others
in Sagittarius, M2 and M15 in the Pegasus-Aquarius region, and M10 and
M12 in Ophiuchus.

7) The Swan Nebula (M17).  The Lagoon Nebula (M8) is the canonical
diffuse nebula to observe in this region, but it's starting to fade
into the murk, and M17 stands out better.  For that matter, most of
the Scutum-Sagittarius region along the coreward Milky Way is interesting
to look at; grab a good star atlas and go hunting.

8) The Ring Nebula (M57).  The Dumbell Nebula (M27) is a more spectacular
example of a planetary nebula, but M57 is easier to find, right between
Beta and Gamma Lyrae.  If you like planetary nebulae, the Helix and
Saturn nebulae are also well-placed now, with the Saturn nebula
coincidentally fairly close to Saturn itself.

9) The Andromeda Galaxy (M31).  Easy to find -- start at the Great
Square, go east for two bright stars, then north for two fainter stars.
On a dark night, you can see M31 with the naked eye if you know where
to look.  You should also be able to find M32 and M110 if you poke around
a little.

10) NGC 869/NGC 884 (The Double Cluster, h and Chi Persei).  This may
be found halfway between the "W" of Cassiopeia and the top of Perseus.
In a low powered eyepiece, you can fit both clusters in the same view.

~From: (Maurice Leonard Clark)

To give a southern perspective to all this, my top ten would be:
1   47 tucanae  The ultimate in globular clusters
2   The Jewel Box cluster   A beautiful cluster in any telescope
3   Alpha Centauri     An excelent double star
4   NGC 253     A large an bright spiral galaxy
5   M83  A large spiral galaxy face-on. With a 10" telescope the spiral
         arms are easy.
6   NGC 2070  The Tarantula Nebula.  Beautiful intricate arms of nebulosity
7   The eta Carina nebula.  Easy to see even with the naked eye.
8   NGC 5128 The "Centaurus A" galaxy. The dark lane is visible in small
9   NGC 3132 A bright ring-type planetary with a bright central star.
10  NGC 1341 A large barred sprial galaxy. The arms are visible in a 10".

~From: (Caroline Strong)

  M46 in Puppis, look close for the planetary in the open cluster of
  faint stars

  M97 the Owl

  M17 the Swan

  M16 the Eagle

  M81 & 82 galaxies in Ursa Major

  NGC7293 the Helix PN in Aquarius


  Veil Nebula in Cygnus (use a filter)

  M51 the Whirlpool

  M76 the "little" dumbbell

~From: (Jay Reynolds Freeman)

Ten good, easy objects, not necessarily in order of "wow":
1  Luna
2  Saturn
3  Jupiter
4  Sirius
5  Mizar and Alcor
6  The Orion Nebula (M42/M43)
7  The Andromeda Galaxy (M31)
8  The Pleiades (M45)
9  Omega Centauri -- with M13 a poor substitute if you live too far north
10 The Ring Nebula (M57)

Ten vastly tougher objects -- several likely beyond a 3.5-inch refractor:

1  The Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy
2  Maffei I (local galaxy almost obscured by the Milky Way)
3  Leo I (an easier dwarf galaxy, but very close to Regulus)
4  3C273 (a quasar)
5  Pluto
6  The Horsehead Nebula
7  The California Nebula
8  Barnard's Loop
9  Sirius B
10 The Counterglow


   Jay Reynolds Freeman -- -- I speak only for myself.

~From: (Wesley Stone)

Open Clusters

1. M11 in Scutum (Summer):  An absolute spray of stars.  Get a
moderate-power eyepiece (80x or so) for the best views.

2. M45 (the Pleiades):  How many can you see with the naked eye?  If it's
9 or more, you've got the stuff for really good observing.

3. M41 in Canis Major (Winter):  This was a favorite of mine on frosty
January evenings; bright with bright, well-separated stars.

4. M37 in Auriga (Winter):  If M11 isn't up, this is the best
approximation.  Try M36 and M38, which are nearby.

5. M35 in Gemini (Winter):  A big, bright cluster, best at low power
(35x) and visible with the naked eye from a good site.

6. The Double Cluster in Perseus:  Two for the price of one.  Look for
colors in the stars and differences in compression between the two
clusters.  Easy naked-eye.

7. M44 in Cancer (Winter/Spring):  A little bit big for ordinary eyepiece
fields, but resolvable in binoculars and easy with the naked eye.

8. NGC 457 in Cassiopeia:  The Owl/ET cluster.  Good for star parties.
Choose the power that frames it best.

9. NGC 7789 in Cassiopeia: Big, with lots of faint stars.  Look for it in
binoculars first.

10. M39 in Cygnus (Summer): Recently, I saw an article maligning this
cluster, which is one of my favorites with the 60mm.  A big scope can be
_too_ big here, but this cluster is easy naked-eye and a treat in binoculars.


1. M22 in Sagittarius (No, I can't see Omega Centauri or 47 Tuc from
where I live):  Even this cluster is pushing the southern summer horizon
for many northern viewers, but from 40 degrees N it is more easily
resolved than M13.  A 3.5 inch should have no trouble with it.

2. M13 in Hercules:  The classic for northern viewers.  It may appear as
just a grayish blob when you first see it, but push the magnification a
bit and stare at the cluster for 30 seconds or so.  Little pinpoints of
stardust will start to pop out at you.  With binoculars or the naked eye,
it is very small but attractive.

3. M5 in Serpens (Spring/Summer):  This object is more compressed than
M13 or M22, so it can be more impressive if the sky conditions aren't too
ideal. The compression compromises attempts at resolution, although you
should get a bit at 3.5".

4. M92 in Hercules:  This cluster is similar to, but not as bright as
M5.  It makes a good contrast with M13 in the same constellation.

5. M55 in Sagittarius:  This is a southern object as well, but one of my
favorites.  It is hard to resolve when it is at a low altitude.

6. M4 in Scorpius:  This cluster is a naked-eye object on the best nights
and is easily resolved.  It suffers badly in light-polluted skies.

7. M12 in Ophiuchus (Summer):  This is another easily resolved cluster,
but not too diffuse.  M10, as bright but a bit tighter, is nearby.

8. M15 in Pegasus (Fall):  Not easily resolved, but a nice cluster.  Some
extensions may be visible, giving it an irregular shape.  Nice grouping
at low power or in binoculars with a couple of stars.

9. M2 in Aquarius (Fall):  A lot like M15, but in a poorer starfield.

10. M71 in Sagitta (Summer): Quite diffuse, but very irregular.  One edge
is brighter than the other and seems to have brighter stars.


1. M31 in Andromeda:  Look.  Feast your eyes.  It will more than cover
your field of view.  A dust lane may be visible near the northern edge
(couldn't get it in the 60mm).  If you have 10x50 binoculars, you're in
for another treat.  M32 is a bit to the south in a row of stars; use high
power to get a good view of it.  M110 is twice as far away on the
opposite side of M31; a dark sky is necessary.

2/3. M82/M81 in Ursa Major:  Cool.  Two galaxies next to each other.
They may be barely visible to you at first, but when you train your eyes
you'll see the bright nucleus of M81.  M82 is everything that you see in
the pictures at 90x.  Light pollution will kill M81 and dim M82, and any
of the other galaxies on this list.

4. M33 in Triangulum:  Notorious for being invisible.  If it isn't easy
in 7x35 binoculars, get a new observing site.  It is tenuous in a 60mm
scope, but large and misty with bright foreground stars.  can you see NGC
604, a huge nebula on the northern edge of M33?

5. NGC 253 in Sculptor (Fall):  Close to the southern horizon for me.  A
long, bright sliver of light; seemingly involved in an acute isosceles
triangle of three field stars.  Averted vision is necessary to appreciate
its full extent.

6. M51 in Canes Venatici:  Don't believe that this galaxy is too faint
for you.  It's actually rather bright, as is its companion NGC 5195.
(Actually, Messier's catalogue shows that he observed both objects and
lumped them as M51).  Look for spiral structure, although misty outer
disks are more likely to be seen.

7. M104 in Virgo:  Bright and elongated, if not a "sombrero".  Haven't
seen the dust lane in a 60mm.

8/9. M66/M65 in Leo (Spring):  M66 appears to hang off a star; M65 just
sits there a half-field over at low power.  M66 is the brighter of the two.

10. M101 in Ursa Major:  Faint enough to test your location ability.
Averted vision pays off here; look for knots of structure.


1. M42-43 in Orion:  Another classic, and definitely _the_ best deep
sky object for Northern Hemisphere viewers.  At first, I couldn't match
it to photos and saw merely a fuzzy snowball with some stars in it, but
as my eyes became trained I could resolve the Trapezium and the Fish
Mouth and M43.  A medium-power eyepiece does wonders for this object.
Look for colors:  grays, greens, and blues.

2. M17 in Sagittarius:  A bright bar of nebulosity.  Can you make out the
neck of the Swan?  High surface brightness.

3. M27 in Vulpecula (Summer):  The Dumbbell looks more like an apple
core in a small scope.  It is also easy in binoculars.

4. M57 in Lyra:  The Ring is easy in a small scope or even binoculars,
but it looks like a star at low power.  It took me a long time to realize
this.  Then, i thought one of the stars in a little Y-shaped asterism in
my 35x field looked a bit out of focus.  In went a higher-power eyepiece,
then out popped the Ring.

5. M8 in Sagittarius: The Lagoon suffers in comparison to M42.  It just
isn't that bright.  A faint core-like nebulous blob with a few
surrounding hazy areas and a bright open cluster:  that's all.  Still,
pretty attractive.  M8 and M20 make a pretty pair in binoculars or with
the naked eye.

6. NGC 2392 in Gemini (Winter):  You can see the central star of this
planetary, and the fuzzy disk surrounding it.  Use the highest power you
feel comfortable with, after you locate it with low power.

7. M1 in Taurus (Winter):  The Crab isn't that difficult.  You just need
good skies.  It is elongated and of uniform brightness in a 60mm scope.
Higher power seems to improve the view.

8. M78 in Orion:  This reflection nebula is impressive in the 60mm under
a dark sky, but really sucks in a C-11 when there is light pollution.
Two stars are involved.  Brightness and shape are similar to M1.

9. M97 in Ursa Major:  Don't be fooled by claims of 11th magnitude for
the Owl Nebula.  It certainly looks brighter than that, and has a
well-defined, misty disk.  On the other hand, the "eyes" will probably be

10. M76 in Perseus:  Magnitude 12.2???  I find it pretty easy in my 60mm
at 35x, and have even seen it fairly low in light-polluted skies at this

And now some of my personal favorites (in no particular order), even
though I didn't get on this thread last year (all IMHO of course):

1)  Saturn.  The most three-dimensional looking of all the planets --
try it sometime a couple of months before or after opposition and look for
(a) the rings crossing the planet and (b) the shadow of the planet itself
on the rings.

2)  M42/M43/NGC 1977 etc.  Orion's nebulas don't end with M42.  The entire
M 42 area is littered with nebulosity.

3)  47 Tucanae/Small Magellanic Cloud.  Must see objects for any
southern hemisphere observer or traveler.  47 Tuc is one of the finest
globulars around -- it starts to resolve in binoculars.

4)  Tarantula Nebula/Large Magellanic Cloud.  What 47 Tuc is to the SMC
area, so the Tarantula is to the LMC.  More must-sees.

5)  NGC 7789.  A vastly underappreciated open cluster, one of the richest
and most beautiful I've seen.

6)  Veil Nebula.  Comes into its own once you get a sky or a telescope
that permits filament hunting.

7)  M31/32/110.  Dust lanes, spiral arms, star clusters, and so on...

8)  M51.  Best example of a face-on spiral for small telescopes.

9)  NGC 4565.  Best example of an edge on galaxy for small 'scopes...

10) Whatever globular cluster happens to be up at the time.  OK, this
isn't really fair, but if I had to list individual globulars per se
there wouldn't be much room for anything else on the list.  M2, M3, M5,
M12, M13, M15, M55...

---Dave Nash

Jan Schloerer: Methane in climate
Jan Schloerer: CO2 Rise -- How we know humans were the source
Jan Schloerer: Climate change basics
Jan Schloerer: Readings on climate
Jan Schloerer: Climap
Robert Grumbine: Favorite objects for amateur astronomers to observe
Robert Grumbine: (Old) Schools in meteorology, oceanography, climate, ...
Robert Grumbine: Icebergs compared in size to cities, lakes, states, countries ...

Books home page -- Robert Grumbine
Home Page -- Robert Grumbine