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Small Telescope Targets for Winter 2018

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These are a few of many good targets for small scopes. To help you find the deep-sky objects, click on the name of the object for a star-hop chart, or get a printer-friendly version. For a longer, searchable list of star hops for deep-sky objects, click here. For a beginner's introduction to the technique of star hopping, click here.

Object

Printable Chart

Type

Magnitude

Distance (approx.)

Notes

Moon     About -3 (crescent) to -12.7 (full) 240,000 miles The Moon is always fascinating, and it changes night by night.  Look for craters, mountains, plains, ridges, etc. The best views are those at the edge between day and night (the “terminator”) where the long shadows show more details.
Venus   Planet -4 150 million miles (varies) Beginning in March and throughout the spring and summer, Venus will be the brightest object in the western sky after sunset.
Jupiter   Planet -2 400 million miles (varies) On winter mornings (around 6am), Jupiter is the brightest object in the eastern sky. It rises in the east around midnight in February and March. A small scope will show cloud bands on Jupiter's surface and its 4 brightest moons.
Achird (Eta Cassiopeiae) pdf Double star 3.4, 7.5 19.4 light years Use high power to see that this is a double star, with contrasting colors. The brighter star of this pair is about the same size and brightness as our Sun.
Almach (Gamma Andromeda) pdf Double star 2.2, 5.0 390 light years Almach, or Gamma Andromedae, is a pretty double star. The brighter of the pair is a yellow star of magnitude 2.2, and the dimmer is a blue star of magnitude 5.0. Use medium to high magnification to clearly separate the two stars.
Messier 45, the Pleiades pdf Open cluster 1.5 430 light years This group is bright enough to see with the naked eye, even in moonlight.  It is called the “seven sisters”, but many more hot blue-white stars can be seen through the telescope.
Messier 42 and 43, the Orion Nebula pdf Diffuse nebula 4 1,350 light years The Orion Nebula is one of the easiest nebulas to find, and it is visible to the naked eye as part of Orion's sword. It is a wonderful sight in binoculars or any telescope. In its center is a tight group of 4 stars, the Trapezium.
NGC 2392, the Eskimo Nebula pdf Planetary nebula 9.2 4,200 light years This is a smal but bright planetary nebula that resembles a human face surrounded by a round hood. It has a distinct blue color.
NGC 869 and 884, the Perseus Double Cluster pdf Open clusters 5.3 6,800 light years These two open clusters, side by side, are among the most impressive in the entire sky. Each contains several hundred blue-white stars, plus a few red giants that can be identified by their red-orange color.
Milky Way all-sky chart Galaxy   20,000 to 80,000 light years Pick any spot of the Milky Way from an all-sky chart, such as the regions around Cassiopeia and Perseus that are high overhead on winter evenings.  Use low magnification for a wide field of view.  Slowly pan through sky and watch thousands of stars glide past.
Messier 31, the Andromeda Galaxy pdf Galaxy 4.2 2.2 million light years From a dark location, M31 can be seen with the naked eye as a fuzzy patch. Through the telescope it appears as an oblong glow, much brighter in the center.  You might be able to see two nearby galaxies (M32 and M110) in the same low-power field.
Messier 81 and 82 pdf Galaxies 6.8, 8.0 12 million light years Visible for much of the year, this is probably the most-frequently viewed pair of galaxies in the sky. Through a telescope, M81 is a fuzzy oval, and M82 has a long rectangular shape that gives it the nickname the Cigar Galaxy.