New Telescope? Make these 10 Astronomical Sightings Your First Targets

New Telescope? Make these 10 Astronomical Sightings Your First Targets

New Telescope? Make these 10 Astronomical Sightings Your First Targets

If you had just recently acquired a new telescope and wished to test it out, you would find assurance in the fact that there are countless of objects in the sky that you can use as a target for viewing.

Stargazing may sound simple enough but the mere presence of a telescope alone does not guarantee a successful viewing experience. In fact, the success of your attempts to observe the cosmos would have to depend on the preparation of the equipment as well as the choice of the first objects you wish to observe.

This article will focus on 10 astronomical objects that would make the best astronomical targets for beginners.

1. The Moon

You don’t even have to look too far when choosing an astronomical target because the moon is just out there waiting to be observed by you. Being our closest neighbor in space, most people may find the moon a bit unimpressive to look at; seeing as it is a constant part of our lives. But that will all change once you’ve viewed the moon under the revealing eyes of a telescope.

What’s great about viewing the moon is that you don’t even need a large telescope to view it because a small and simple telescope would be enough to reveal great detail of the moon’s craters, shadows, rills, and more! In fact, the best time to look at the moon is when it is at a quarter or less and not at full size.

This is because the craters and shadows are more prominent due to the sunlight coming from the side.

Probably the best thing about the moon is that you don’t even have to use a telescope to look for it.

2. Mars

Out of all the planets in our solar system, Mars is definitely the easiest to find. It is quickly identifiable through its distinct red color which makes it less of a hassle for newbie enthusiasts to locate and view. This is the reason why the red planet is one of the most popular targets among beginning astronomers.

Just recently, Mars became the subject of a major cosmic event. Back in July, stargazers were able to witness the red planet at its biggest and brightest. This is because Mars was at its nearest proximity to Earth at the time.

If you weren’t able to witness the event, don’t worry because there are plenty more to occur before the year ends. You only need to watch out for these celestial events.

3. The Superior Planets

We all know Jupiter and Saturn are two of the biggest planets in our solar system. Because of the magnitude of their size, it is always exciting for stargazers to view these planets. The best thing about viewing them is that you don’t even need a fancy telescope to do so. Just a small telescope would suffice.

With a small telescope, you would be able to see the shining glory of Jupiter and four of its 79 known moons. Because of its size and brightness, you’d even be able to see it using binoculars. If you have a great quality telescope you may even be able to see some clouds around Jupiter’s famed great spot.

As for viewing Saturn, however, things may not be as smooth as with that of Jupiter. While Saturn and Jupiter are close in size, the former’s distance from the sun is immensely greater than that of the latter.

This means that Saturn doesn’t get as much light from the sun the way Jupiter does and viewing the planet may require a better quality telescope as well as suitable viewing conditions. If viewing conditions are poor, a magnification of 100 to 150 may suffice.

4. Albireo

The constellation Cygnus has many known stars but one of them is definitely more interesting than the others.

Albireo is not the brightest star in the constellation. In fact, it’s just fifth in terms of brightness. But what makes this star so special is that it’s actually a double star.

With the naked eye, you might see Albireo as a single object in the sky. However, upon closer inspection (with a good telescope), you’ll see that it actually has two stars, one being the color of yellow while the other one is blue.

Gazing upon Albireo would definitely make for a fun experience. It would even be better if you don’t focus on the double star too much because when it is out of focus, the stars appear to be bigger and the colors are more prominent.

5. Mizar & Alcor

The Ursa Major (Great Bear) is definitely one of the most recognizable constellations in the sky. Within that constellation, however, is an even more recognizable asterism – the Big Dipper.

Mizar and Alcor are two of the biggest stars in the Big Dipper asterism and are the most famous double stars in the sky. These two stars are often called “the Horse and the Rider” and of the two, Mizar is the brighter one.

At first glance, Mizar & Alcor would look like twin stars. But if you focus on them using a telescope, you may notice Mizar with another companion star. Besides them, there are other fainter stars that cannot be seen by an ordinary telescope.

All in all, the Mizar-Alcor system has about six stars – four for Mizar and two for Alcor.

These two stars are often seen during spring and winter.

6. Andromeda Galaxy (M31)

Despite its being a different galaxy, the Andromeda Galaxy from the Andromeda constellation can still be seen by the naked eye; the farthest of which that could be seen from the surface of the Earth. With an estimated 1 trillion stars, the galaxy is so large that it may not fit the entire field of view of your telescope unless you are using binoculars.

However, despite its magnitude, the Andromeda Galaxy is nevertheless an amazing sight to behold especially for first-time viewers. The Andromeda could be seen during summer, fall, and winter.

To find the Andromeda Galaxy, try using a star chart to see where the galaxy may appear in the night sky. You can also use the Cassiopeia and Pegasus constellations because somewhere between the two lies the Andromeda Galaxy.

7. Orion Nebula (M42)

Just below Orion’s belt in the Orion constellation lies one of the brightest nebulae known to man. Because of its brightness, it is also visible to the naked eye.

Furthermore, it is the nearest stellar nursery to Earth where stars are being born continuously and rapidly. Because it is located below Orion’s belt, it is often called “Orion’s sword.”

The best thing about the Orion Nebula is that it could be seen even with just a small scope. Moreover, it has an asterism (accidental star alignments) called the Trapezium consisting of four bright stars which could be seen at a magnification of 40x or 50x.

The Orion Nebula could be seen during fall, winter, and spring.

8. Hercules Cluster (M13)

Probably one of the oldest places in the universe, the Hercules Cluster is a globular cluster found within its namesake constellation. With over 300,000 stars, the Hercules Cluster is truly a sight to behold. However, it may also be a bit challenging to find.

You first need to find the four stars that make up “The Keystone” and from there, you would be able to find the cluster somewhere between Eta Herculis and Zeta Herculis. The Hercules Cluster could best be seen during spring, summer, and fall.

9. Double Cluster (NGC 869 & NGC 884)

When it comes to small telescopes, no cluster would be better than the Double Cluster. Consisting of the NGC 869 and the NGC 884, these two clusters are actually 800 light years apart from each other.

However, because of their considerable distance from Earth, it would appear as though they are near each other which make for a great viewing experience for stargazers.

Add to the fact that both clusters consist of stars with exceptional and varying colors, you’ll definitely be in for a nice treat. The Double Cluster belongs to the Perseus constellation and it is often seen during fall, winter, and spring.

10. Dumbbell Nebula (M27)

Out of all the astronomical sights mentioned on this list, the Dumbbell Nebula may be the faintest. Regardless of that fact, however, it is also one of the easiest to find and once you do so, you’ll find a blanket-like nebula that looks like an arrow with feathers consisting of bright and colorful stars.

You’ll find the Dumbbell Nebula within the Vulpecula constellation which is also known as “The Little Fox.” This constellation is just southwest of the Albireo and south of the Sagitta constellation. The Dumbbell Nebula is best seen during fall, winter, and spring.

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