Backyard astronomy with a small scope

winter targets

Barnard’s Loop
Type: Supernova Remnant/Emission Nebula

Constellation: Orion

To see this very subtle target in the Orion molecular cloud complex, use the lowest possible power and an Hβ filter. You may need to nudge your telescope slightly while looking at the area to notice how the cloudiness moves across the field.

Witch Head Nebula (IC 2118)

Type: Reflection Nebula

Constellation: Eridanus

This one is a real challenge. Located just west of Rigel in Orion, you need a dark site and clear skies to see it.

Belt of Orion

Type: Association and emission nebulae

Constellation: Orion

With a 3-inch refractor, you can easily spot the nearby Flame Nebula, as well as hints of the emission nebula IC 434, home to the Horsehead Nebula. The reflection nebula M78 lies just outside the field to the northeast.

NGC 2174 and NGC 2175

Type: emission nebula and open star cluster

Constellation: Orion

Both of these targets are easy to spot without an Oxygen-III (OIII) filter.

Rosetta Nebula

Type: emission nebula

Constellation: Monoceros

This celestial view is also visible without filters, but an OIII filter always improves the view.

spring targets

M48 (NGC 2548)
Type: open star cluster

Constellation: Hydra

From a location in the dark sky, you should be able to see this cluster with the naked eye. It is well resolved in 2.4 and 3 inch refractors.

M81 (NGC 3031) and M82 (NGC 3034)
Type: Cluster of galaxies

Constellation: Big Dipper

Visible in the 2.4 and 3 inch refractors, this view is one of the largest pairings of galaxies in the sky.

Omega Centauri (NGC 5139)
Type: Globular star clusters

Constellation: Centaur

If you live in the lower 48 states or Hawaii, this is one of the most amazing sights in the sky. It’s easy to see with 2.4 and 3 inch telescopes. Additionally, the peculiar galaxy Centaurus A (NGC 5128) is located about 4.5° north and even sports a dark lane.

Hive Cluster (M44, NGC 2632)

Type: open star cluster

Constellation: Cancer

This seasonal treat is easy to spot and fully resolved with the smallest of litters. You can even see it with the naked eye under very dark skies.

M65 (NGC 3623) and M66 (NGC 3627)

Type: Cluster of galaxies

Constellation: Leo

Can you also detect hints of a third nearby galaxy, the Hamburger Galaxy (NGC 3628)?

summer goals

Eagle and Omega Nebulae (M16, M17)

Type: Panorama of emission nebulae

Constellation: Serpents & Sagittarius

The 2 and 3 inch refractors capture the Eagle Nebula and the Omega Nebula (M16 and M17, respectively) in the same field of view. The classic tick mark shape of the Omega Nebula is easily apparent in a 3 inch bezel.

Lagoon & Trifid Nebulae (M8, M20)

Type: Panorama of emission nebulae

Constellation: Sagittarius

As two of the best emission nebulae visible from the Northern Hemisphere, these targets are easily visible in a single field of view with 2-3 inch refractors. Numerous other open and globular clusters dot the same area of ​​the sky.

Ptolemy Cluster (M7 or NGC 6745)

Type: open star cluster

Constellation: Scorpio

The Ptolemy Cluster is a beautiful, fully resolved cluster of stars that can be seen in the 2 and 3 inch refractors. Look for globular cluster NGC 6453 on its northwest edge and dark nebulae B286 and B287 to the south. With a wide enough field of view, you can also catch the Butterfly Cluster (M6), located about 3.5° northwest.

M22 (NGC 6656), M28 (NGC 6626), NGC 6638

Type: panorama of globular star clusters

Constellation: Sagittarius

Look at Lambda (λ) Sagittarii, the star atop the Teapot asterism. In the same field, you will easily find two beautiful globular star clusters, as well as a third more difficult one.

North America Nebula (NGC 7000)

Type: emission nebula

Constellation: Swan

Use your lowest power/widest field of view eyepiece and an OIII filter for the best possible view of NGC 7000. The region is approximately 1° to 2° east-southeast of the star brilliant Deneb.

Fall targets

Barnard’s Galaxy (NGC 6822)

Type: Dwarf galaxy

Constellation: Sagittarius

This goal is another real challenge. I have seen Barnard’s Galaxy in many other scopes, but in a 3 inch refractor it appears as a patch of sky slightly brighter than the background.

Pleiades (M45)

Type: open star cluster

Constellation: Taurus

At almost 2° wide, the Pleiades (or Seven Sisters) fit perfectly into the field of view of 2 and 3 inch telescopes. You should even see reflection nebulae around the brightest stars; I can usually distinguish at least two patches.

NGC 253 and NGC 288

Type: Pair of galactic and globular star clusters

Constellation: Sculptor

Also known as the Silver Dollar Galaxy, spiral NGC 253 falls within the same field of view as globular NGC 288 when viewed through 2-inch and 3-inch refractors.

California Nebula

Type: emission nebula

Constellation: Perseus

At 2.5° in length, you need a wide-field view to capture this cosmic tribute to America’s most populous state. Use an Hβ filter for best results.

The Helix Nebula (NGC 7293)

Type: planetary nebula

Constellation: Aquarius

Wow, that’s an exceptionally large planetary nebula! It’s faint, but easy to see without a narrowband filter; however, an OIII filter makes it (and its weaker central region) more obvious through a 3-inch scope.

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