Were you lucky enough to receive a telescope for Christmas? If so, here are some fantastic things to find in the sky.
A nebula is a huge cloud of gas and dust in space from which stars are formed and they can be beautifully colourful. An easy nebula to spot is the Orion Nebula which can be seen with the naked eye as a faint smudge below Orion’s belt. A telescope reveals the purple colour of this nebula along with some of the stars which have formed there.
A small telescope or binoculars can reveal the beauty of these groups of stars bound together with gravity. M13, the Globular Cluster in the constellation of Hercules is a cluster of hundreds of thousands of stars which looks spectacular through a telescope.
The Pleiades is another cluster, this time visible with the naked eye. Up to 7 stars can be seen without aid but a telescope reveals dozens more and the blue hue of these hot super-giant stars.
In the night sky, several planets in our Solar System can be seen with the naked eye – they look like bright stars which don’t twinkle, you can even make out the red glow of Mars. But a telescope really brings the planets to life.
A small telescope can show the bands of cloud across Jupiter and four of its moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. These are known as the Galilean moons as they were first observed by Galileo; he wrote that it looked like Jupiter had ears!
And last but by no means least, is Saturn. We all know that Saturn has rings made up of thousands of chunks of rock and ice, but seeing them through a telescope with your own eyes is simply wonderful!
If you are just starting out in astronomy, a map of the night sky or ‘planisphere’ is invaluable and there are many free digital maps available to help including some of our learning resources here…
Happy New Year and good luck with all of your astronomical endeavours!