Time to break out those 'scopes and head into The Backyard... because the return of Spring heralds all of those great galaxies and clusters we've been missing!
Now, let's head out back, and see what we can find...
Are you ready to rock and roll? Then let's go explore...
The constellation of Leo contains many galaxies, but there are two delightful galaxies within the capabilities of the small telescope, the M65 and the M66, located near the hindquarters of the great "Lion", are easy to find by aiming halfway between Chort and Iota Leonis. These two are among my favorites!
The constellation of Cancer is host to two fine star clusters. The M44 "Beehive" cluster, can often be spotted as a naked-eye object under clear, dark skies. The lusterous M67, is also nearby... and will provide hours of enjoyment to the small scope.
Ursa Major is the home of best loved galaxies for amateur telescopes...the M81 and the M82. Easily found by drawing an imaginary line between Phecda and Dubhe, and extending it by the same distance, these bright galaxies will become a "target practice" must! Don't forget while in the area to visit the doubles Mizar and Alcore, and the ever steady, Polaris.
Now, on to the constellation Canes Venatici, and some more spectacular deep sky viewing! Locate the easy colored double... Cor Caroli, and we're on our way! The "Whirlpool" galaxy, M51, can sometimes be a challenge for a small scope, but once you find it (about a third of the way between Alkaid and Cor Caroli) you will return again and again! The compact galaxy, M94, lies slightly to the north of Cor Caroli, and an intense globular, the M3, resides roughly halfway between CC and the orange giant, Arcturus!
Now, on the the constellation of Virgo... and the fascinating realms of galaxy clusters! It is quite possible given the right set of conditions to see many of the galaxies in the Virgo Galaxy Cluster with a small scope. Patience, practice, persistance and dark sky are requirements. Find bright, blue Spica, and it definate that you can find the M104, "Sombrero Galaxy", just a few degrees west of it. This "UFO" shaped, bright galaxy shows the dark dust lane structure, with magnification, and will soon become YOURS!
Now off to the mysterious constellation of Coma Berenices... using averted vision, this star-rich field bears out its' name of "Berenice's Hair"! It is also home to many deep sky objects, but two tried and true favorites are easy for the beginner. The M64, "Blackeye" galaxy, lies a "hop" above the easy to find globular, M53! Simply draw a line between Arcturus and Denebola... at the half-way point you will find the tiny star, Alpha Comae. From there just a bit of "playing" around will bring it into view!
Now... have you had your fill yet? Not me! I never get enough of this beautiful night sky! 'Lest we forget, there are still other equally fascinating targets out there yet, such as Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars! Of course, it is within our capabilities to view Uranus, and Neptune with a small scope, but, trust me... they're boring!)
In the mean time, there will be lots of exciting things to see... like meteor showers and comets! And, of course, there are transits and occultations, as well as asteroids and eclispes to keep us busy in the backyard! But, for now, let us carry on...
OK, let's get out some star charts and pour us another cup of coffee, because it's....
CHALLENGE TIME! And now that I have you here, I don't intend on letting you go...