The Double Cluster is in the constellation Perseus is highest in the northern sky on late autumn and early winter evenings.
Clusters Nebulae Galaxies
Frosty November is often called the month of the Pleiades, because it’s at this time that the Pleiades shine from dusk until dawn.
At a distance of 2.3 million light-years, the Andromeda galaxy (Messier 31) is the closest spiral galaxy to our Milky Way. It’s the most distant thing you can see with your eye alone.
The Butterfly Cluster (M6) and Ptolemy’s Cluster (M7) may well be summertime’s finest star clusters. They can be seen with the unaided eye on a dark, moonless night.
On some moonless night, look for the Orion Nebula below Orion’s Belt. Your eye sees it as a tiny, hazy spot. But it’s a vast region of star formation.
The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), which is visible to the unaided human eye, is a familiar sight to observers in Earth’s southern hemisphere. It looks like a detached piece of the Milky Way.
If you could view it with your eye alone – in the sky visible from Earth’s southern hemisphere – you would say it does resemble a luminous cloud. Really, though, it is a nearby dwarf galaxy, orbiting our Milky Way.
Even with the best of viewing conditions, the M5 globular star cluster is barely detectable to the unaided eye as a faint star. In binoculars, it still appears as a fuzzy star. Turn a small telescope in its direction to see it at its best.
The Wild Duck Cluster (Messier 11) is found in the constellation Scutum the Shield, just south of the Eagle’s Tail in the constellation Aquila. Unless you have eagle eyes, don’t expect to see this distant star cluster with the eye alone. Starting from the star Altair, star-hop to M11′s general location. Then find it with binoculars!
Omega Centauri is the largest and brightest star cluster visible from Earth. It’s in the southern sky and climbs into our northern hemisphere skies on spring evenings.
The Trifid Nebula (Messier 20) is one of the many binocular treasures in the summer Milky Way. Its name means “divided into three lobes,” but you’ll probably need a telescope to see why. On a dark, moonless night, you can star-hop upward from the spout of the Teapot in Sagittarius to the Lagoon Nebula (Messier 8). In the same binocular field, look for the smaller and fainter Trifid Nebula as a fuzzy patch above the Lagoon.
The Coma Cluster is a group of galaxies in the faint constellation Coma Berenices, visible in medium to large amateur telescopes. Coma Berenices lies between Leo and Bootes, and as such is most conveniently viewed in the evening sky of spring and summer. The Coma Cluster is one of the richest galaxy clusters known. How many suns and how many worlds might be located in this direction of space?
The Lagoon Nebula is the largest and brightest of a number of nebulosities in and around Sagittarius.
Although long-exposure photographs show the Triangulum galaxy (Messier 33) in a beautiful pinwheel shape, this face-on spiral galaxy looks relatively lackluster in binoculars or even the telescope. The Triangulum galaxy has a low surface brightness that makes this faint object a major challenge, with or without binoculars.
Barely visible to the unaided eye on a dark, moonless night, the Eagle Nebula (Messier 16) and Omega Nebula (Messier 17) are best seen through binoculars, or low power in a telescope. These two closely-knit patches of light readily fit within the same binocular field. Star-hop to them from the Teapot in Sagittarius.
Outside on a dark summer night, looking edgewise into our galaxy’s disk, you’ll notice a long, dark lane dividing the bright starry band of the Milky Way. This is the Great Rift.
Between the star Regulus in Leo and the stars Castor and Pollux in Gemini, you might notice a smudge – really a cluster of stars – called the Beehive.
If you’ve never found a deep-sky object on your own before, M4 is a grand place to start. The M4 star cluster is easy to find, because it’s right next to Antares, the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion. This is not an open star cluster or loose collection of fairly young stars. Instead, it’s a globular star cluster, a symmetrical grouping of some of the galaxy’s oldest stars.
The Great Hercules cluster (Messier 13) is considered to be the finest globular cluster in the northern half of the heavens. It’s found in a star pattern called the Keystone – a lopsided square within the constellation Hercules – between the two brightest stars of summer, Vega and Arcturus.