Astronomical projects suitable for binocular observation

Nebula star cluster galaxy

Now, more and more astronomy enthusiasts are keen to observe deep sky objects such as star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies, and regard this as an effective way to exercise their observation skills. Binoculars are more suitable for this task than astronomical telescopes of similar caliber. Among them, the project that most motivates observers to work hard and to experience the joy of observation from time to time is to discover as many Messier objects as possible. Against the background of the dark sky far away from the big city, out of a total of 109 Messier objects, more than 80 can be observed with 7×50 binoculars. Some of them are very dim. You can use them to test your observation skills.

Observation difficulty

Messier number (constellation)

Level 1

M4 (Scorpio), M6 (Scorpio), M7 (Scorpio), M8 (Sagittarius), M13 (Warrior), M15 (Pegasus), M16 (Giant Snake), M17 (Sagittarius), M18 (Sagittarius), M21 ( Sagittarius), M22 (Sagittarius), M24 (Sagittarius), M25 (Sagittarius), M31 (Fairy), M35 (Gemini), M36 (Yufu), M37 (Yufu), M38 (Yufu), M41. (Great), M42 (Orion), M43 (Orion), M45 (Taurus)

level 2

M2 (Aquarius), M3 (Hound), M5 (Giant Snake), M10 (Snake Man), M11 (Shield), M12 (Snake Man), M23 (Sagittarius), M27 (Fox), M34 (English Fairy), M39 (Swan), M44 (Cancer), M46 (Stern), M47 (Stern), M48 (Long Snake), M50 (Kirin), M55 (Sagittarius), M67 (Cancer), M78 (Orion), M92 (Wuxian) ), M93 (stern)

Level 3

M1 (Taurus), M20 (Sagittarius), M28 (Sagittarius), M29 (Swan), M32 (Fairy), M40 (Big bear), M51 (Hound), M54 (Sagittarius), M56 (Sky piano), M57 (Sky piano) ), M65 (Lion), M66 (Lion), M69 (Sagittarius), M71 (Sky Arrow), M77 (Whale), M80 (Scorpio), M101 (Big Bear), M103 (Queen), M110 (Fairy)

level 4

M9 (snake husband), M14 (snake husband), M19 (snake husband), M26 (shield), M30 (Capricorn), M33 (triangle), M49 (virgin), M52 (fairy queen), M53 (back hair) , M58 (virgin), M59 (virgin), M60 (virgin), M61 (virgin), h4 Pang (snake husband), M63 (hound), M64 (back hair), M68 (long snake), M70 (Sagittarius), M72 (Aquarius), M73 (Aquarius), M75 (Sagittarius), M79 (Tian Free), M81 (Big Bear), M82 (Big Bear), M83 (Long Snake), M84 (Virgin), M85 (Back hair), M86 (virgin), M87 (virgin), M88 (back hair), M89 (virgin), M90 (virgin), M94 (hound), M95 (lion), M96 (lion), M99 (back hair), M100 (back hair), M104 (virgin), M105 (lion), M106 (hound), M107 (snake husband)

As the beginning of the entire Messier celestial body observation program, it should start with celestial bodies with a difficulty level of observation. You can easily observe all of them with small 8×30 binoculars. If the sky background is dark enough, you can observe them even with the naked eye. With the experience of observing level 1 celestial bodies, you can observe level 2 celestial bodies. They are still relatively bright, but they are far away from bright stars, and some skill is needed to find them. When the observation environment is good, part of it can be observed with the naked eye. Level 3 celestial bodies can easily find their positions based on nearby bright stars, but these celestial bodies are very dark, and it takes some effort to observe them. Class 4 celestial bodies are a small spot that is difficult to see clearly in the binoculars. Some of them are too small to distinguish from the surrounding stars, and their positions are far away from any bright stars that are easy to find. It is right to look for them. The real test of the binocular observer.

Binary Stars and Variable Stars

Observing star clusters, nebulae and galaxies require not only suitable instruments, but also a clear and dark sky background. Astronomy enthusiasts living in cities rarely observe these celestial bodies due to the effects of light pollution. But that’s okay. There are two other celestial bodies that are much less affected by light pollution during observation. They are binary stars and variable stars.

Observing double stars poses a challenge to the quality of the binoculars and the eyesight of the observer. You may find your own observations. The results are not the same as those described in the star catalog, such as distinguishing binary stars that are thought to be indistinguishable by binoculars, or observing colors not mentioned in the star catalog. In fact, this is not surprising, no two people will describe the same celestial body exactly the same. With the improvement of observation skills, the details of celestial bodies will become more and more obvious. The color of binary stars is a good example. Many binary stars are pure white at first sight. As experience grows, you will find that the two sub-stars have their own different color. A slight defocus will make the color of the double star more obvious. Like bright planets, it is usually best to observe binary stars in foggy weather, because the atmosphere is very stable and the binary stars are the easiest to distinguish.

Every year around the vernal equinox, the sun is in Pisces. At this time, all Messier objects can be observed at the same night, except for the globular star cluster M30 in the constellation of Mercier. Astronomers abroad vividly call this “Messier Marathon”. Match”. With a binocular with a diameter of 80 mm or more, it is possible to observe about 100 Messier objects in one night. Even with a smaller binocular, more than half of the Messier objects can be viewed overnight. It is also very interesting. The observation should be carried out on a clear and moonless night before and after the vernal equinox.

New stars and comets

Looking for new celestial bodies is also a very suitable observation project for binoculars. The new celestial bodies here mainly refer to new stars and comets. This is a very meaningful job. In addition to requiring observers to have suitable instruments, it is more important to have determination and perseverance, plus a little luck. The discovery of each new celestial body is the result of hundreds or thousands of hours of work by observers beside the telescope. To find new stars, you only need to have binoculars with a diameter of 50 mm. The magnification can be slightly higher, but it should not exceed three times the caliber (centimeters). In addition, you also need a good star map. It is better to use a hand-drawn star map to find new stars than a photographic star map, because the variable stars are marked in the hand-drawn star map, so that you can avoid a variable star with maximum brightness. Misunderstood as a new star. The “new celestial bodies” may also be bright asteroids before and after the opposition, or Uranus and Neptune. It is necessary to carefully observe whether it moves relative to the surrounding stars, and check the “Astronomical Almanac” of that year to confirm that it is not a celestial body in the solar system. , And then report this discovery to the astronomical agency. Statistics show that new stars mostly appear on both sides of the galactic plane10. In the range of, especially from Cygnus to Sagittarius, the appearance rate is highest along the Milky Way. To search for new comets, at least binoculars with a diameter of 80 mm or more are required, and the observation site should be far away from cities, factories and mines. Despite these harsh conditions, looking for comets is still the most popular activity for astronomers.

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