Sky Guide

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[[Category:Stellarium User Guide]]
[[Category:Stellarium User Guide]]

Latest revision as of 05:43, 13 March 2014

Information is actual for version 0.10.6

This section lists some astronomical objects that can be located using Stellarium. All of them can be seen with the naked eye or binoculars. Since many astronomical objects have more than one name (often having a 'proper name', a 'common name' and various catalogue numbers), the table lists the name as it appears in Stellarium — use this name when using Stellarium's search function — and any other commonly used names.

The Location Guide column gives brief instructions for finding each object using nearby bright stars or groups of stars when looking at the real sky — a little time spent learning the major constellations visible from your latitude will pay dividends when it comes to locating fainter (and more interesting!) objects. When trying to locate these objects in the night sky, keep in mind that Stellarium displays many stars that are too faint to be visible without optical aid and even bright stars can be dimmed by poor atmospheric conditions and light pollution.

Stellarium Name Other Name(s) Type Magnitude Location Guide Description
Dubhe and Merak The Pointers Stars 1.83, 2.36 The two 'rightmost' of the seven stars that form the main shape of 'The Plough' (Ursa Major). Northern hemisphere observers are very fortunate to have two stars that point towards Polaris which lie very close to the northern celestial pole). Whatever the time of night or season of the year they are always an immediate clue to the location of the pole star.
M31 Messier 31 The Andromeda Galaxy Spiral Galaxy 3.4 Find the three bright stars that constitute the main part of the constellation of Andromeda. From the middle of these look toward the constellation of Cassiopeia. M31 is the most distant object visible to the naked eye, and among the few nebulae that can be seen without a telescope or powerful binoculars. Under good conditions it appears as a large fuzzy patch of light. It is a galaxy containing billions of stars whose distance is roughly three million light years from Earth.
The Garnet Star Mu Cephei Variable Star 4.25 (Avg.) Cephius lies 'above' the W-shape of Cassiopeia. The Garnet Star lies slightly to one side of a point half way between 5 Cephei and 21 Cephei. A 'supergiant' of spectral class M with a strong red colour. Given it's name by Sir William Herschel in the 18th century, the colour is striking in comparison to it's blue-white neighbours.
4 and 5 Lyrae Epsilon Lyrae Double Star 4.7 Look near to Vega (Alpha Lyrae), one of the brightest stars in the sky. In binoculars epsilon Lyrae is resolved into two separate stars. Remarkably each of these is also a double star (although this will only be seen with a telescope) and all four stars form a physical system.
M13 Hercules Cluster Globular Cluster 5.8 Located approximately of the way along a line from 40 to 44 Herculis. This cluster of hundreds of thousands of mature stars that appears as a circular 'cloud' using the naked eye or binoculars (a large telescope is required to resolve individual stars). Oddly the cluster appears to contain one young star and several areas that are almost devoid of stars.
M45 The Pleiades, The Seven Sisters Open Cluster 1.2 (Avg.) Lies a little under halfway between Aldebaran in Taurus and Almaak in Andromeda. Depending upon conditions, six to 9 of the blueish stars in this famous cluster will be visible to someone with average eyesight and in binoculars it is a glorious sight. The cluster has more than 500 members in total, many of which are shown to be surrounded by nebulous material in long exposure photographs.
Algol The Demon Star, Beta Persei Variable Star 3.0 (Avg.) Halfway between Aldebaran in Taurus and the middle star of the 'W' of Cassiopeia. Once every three days or so Algol's brightness changes from 2.1 to 3.4 and back within a matter of hours. The reason for this change is that Algol has a dimmer giant companion star, with an orbital period of about 2.8 days, that causes a regular partial eclipse. Although Algol's fluctuations in magnitude have been known since at least the 17th century it was the first to be proved to be due to an eclipsing companion - it is therefore the prototype Eclipsing Variable.
Sirius Alpha Canis Majoris Star -1.47 Sirius is easily found by following the line of three stars in Orion's belt southwards. Sirius is a white dwarf star at a comparatively close 8.6 light years. This proximity and it's high innate luminance makes it the brightest star in our sky. Sirius is a double star; it's companion is much dimmer but very hot and is believed to be smaller than the earth.
M44 The Beehive, Praesepe Open Cluster 3.7 Cancer lies about halfway between the twins (Castor & Pollux) in Gemini and Regulus, the brightest star in Leo. The Beehive can be found between Asellus Borealis and Asellus Australis. There are probably 350 or so stars in this cluster although it appears to the naked eye simply as a misty patch. It contains a mixture of stars from red giants to white dwarf and is estimated to be some 700 million years old.
27 Cephei Delta Cephei Variable Star 4.0 (Avg.) Locate the four stars that form the square of Cepheus. One corner of the square has two other bright stars nearby forming a distinctive triangle — delta is at the head of this triangle in the direction of Cassiopeia. Delta Cephei gives it's name to a whole class of variables, all of which are pulsating high-mass stars in the later stages of their evolution. Delta Cephei is also a double star with a companion of magnitude 6.3 visible in binoculars.
M42 Orion Nebula Nebula 4 Almost in the middle of the area bounded by Orion's belt and the stars Saiph and Rigel. The Orion Nebula is the brightest nebula visible in the night sky and lies at about 1,500 light years from earth. It is a truly gigantic gas and dust cloud that extends for several hundred light years, reaching almost halfway across the constellation of Orion. The nebula contains a cluster of hot young stars known as the Trapezium and more stars are believed to be forming within the cloud.
HP 62223 La Superba, Y Canum Venaticorum Star 5.5 (Avg.) Forms a neat triangle with Phad and Alkaid in Ursa Major. La Superba is a 'Carbon Star' — a group of relatively cool gigantic (usually variable) stars that have an outer shell containing high levels of carbon. This shell is very efficient at absorbing short wavelength blue light, giving carbon stars a distinctive red or orange tint.
52 & 53 Bootis Nu Bootis 1 & 2 Double Star 5.02, 5.02 Follow a line from Seginus to Nekkar and then continue for the same distance again to arrive at this double star. This pair are of different spectral type and 52 Bootis, at approximately 800 light years, is twice as far away as 53.
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