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Mr Q

Easiest, First Deep Space Objects To Try For ?

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   A beginner has recently got his/her first reflector, say with a 4" mirror and with no GoTo options on a Dob mount and a set of LP,MP and HP eyepeices. After exploring the Solar System objects, he/she wants to look at some deep space objects (DSOs) that they have heard so much about. But what to look for first? What type object is easiest to find or see?

   Since the list would be season dependent, note the season for the list.

   In what type object order do you think they should try first, then in what order of difficulty for the rest, from the list below?

   This is my list order, with open clusters being the easiest and brightest objects, with short term variable stars being the hardest to locate and observe throughout their complete cycles. If there is another object type not listed, feel free to add to the list.

Summer

Open clusters

Double stars (telescopic)

Emission nebulae

Star clouds (in the Milky Way)

Globular clusters

Planetary nebulae

Galaxies

Variable stars (short term)

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I'm a newbie and only observed very little, mainly due to our current weather  :clouds1: conditions that we are all suffering with.

I've been observing the Moon, Jupiter, Andromeda Nebula and I did manage to find Andromeda once.

Before I even got my scope Google was being well searched and I did come up with this site http://astronomychecklist.com/

If you hover the mouse just above the top line there are actually hidden titles, the very first column (coloured squares on the left) is the difficulty, click the title difficulty and it sorts them all in order. 1 Click gives all the easiest.

That is probably as a newbie the first thing I would try with some clear skies. You can click on the expand button to do selections by season etc.

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An interesting conundrum - I don't usually think in terms of object class, but in terms of individual objects. But of course, as you identify, what you can see is dependent on the season. Of course with each type of object there is always an example of each which is much easier to see / find - for example I consider galaxies quite tough being a Londoner, but M31 is very easy to observe, even with sky-glow. Objects also vary considerably in interest - my wife is amazed by the Pleiades and the Double Cluster but finds other open clusters less interesting. I personally think that for each season there will be some key objects that are ideal as a first DSO.

In general I'd suggest a beginner follow the following order, from my own experience:

Open Clusters - easy even with LP

Planetary Nebulae - often have high surface brightness

Globular Clusters

Emission Nebulae - Unless it's the winter and you can see M42

Galaxies - Again unless you can see M31

A list of specific objects (Ordered for each class in how easy I'd consider them to find...) would be:

  • Pleiades
  • Praesepe
  • Perseus Double Cluster
  • The Jewel Box (In the Southern Hemisphere)
  • Dumb-bell Nebula
  • Ring Nebula
  • M13
  • M15
  • Omega Centauri (In the Southern Hemisphere)
  • 47 Tucanae (Ditto)
  • Orion Nebula
  • Lagoon Nebula
  • LMC / SMC (In the Southern Hemisphere - not that they're hard to find...)
  • Andromeda Galaxy
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That's a difficult one to answer - much depends on kit, time of year, and location, as you say.

One target that I'd suggest from the UK is M81/82 - They're circumpolar, so available all year, bright for galaxies (I can see them even in town), and fairly easy to find. Not the best target at any time, but a good one for a surprising amount of time.

Though personally I think anyone should view whatever catches their fancy, as the whim takes them...

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I'd say, that given my limited experience, and my 5" Mak, that my order would be as follows: (Easiest first)

Open Clusters (Naked eye - Pleiades, Hyades etc)

Open Clusters (Binocular/telescopic - Perseus double/Messier Open Clusters)

M42 (Naked eye and massive)

Other small asterisms (Coathanger/Kemble's Cascade etc)

Telescopic doubles (Albeiro etc)

Andromeda Galaxy (Just massive, and using star-hopping is easy enough to find)

Other large Galaxies (M81/M82)

Other Nebulae (I've yet to see any)

Globular Clusters (ditto)

Planetary Nebulae (ditto)

I'm sure the order will change with more experience........

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In the winter sky I'd vote for M42 - it's easy to find and definitely provides a wow factor that should inspire anyone to hunt for more. 

Followed by M31.

I'd also agree with AndyWB - M81/M82 are a reasonable all-year round bet.

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Being a complete beginner myself, and gleaning my targets from the learned masses of SGL and Mr Messier, I'd send them out about 8pm with the following list and a pair of binos to help get them to the right spot (late Feb - because that will probably be the next break in the clouds):

Pleiades - M45 Open Cluster

Andromeda Galaxies - M31,32,110

Double Cluster - NGC869&884 Open Clusters

Orion Nebula - M42

Beehive Open Cluster - M44

Leo Triplet - M65,66&N3628 Galaxies

M53 Globular Cluster

Great Cluster in Hercules - M13

This should be a pretty good night or two of viewing. All of them relatively easy to find and progressing nicely across the sky once you leave M31.

If they really like clusters. They can have a play around Jupiter/Auriga M35,36,37,38 Open clusters.

And for the early rising Saturn spotters:

Ring Nebula - M57

Dumbbell Nebula - M27

BTW - How did Mr Messier manage to miss the Double Cluster?? I saw it for the first time on Monday night. Fantastic.

Paul

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   Paul - From what I remember reading about his study, he instantly knew by its double components that it was not a new comet, which he was looking for. There are some other candidates for such "missing" M objects that one would think couldn't be missed even in his "crude" scopes but he was looking for comets and the list was to be used by other comet seekers only as a way to quickly elliminate other objects while comet hunting.

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Paul - From what I remember reading about his study, he instantly knew by its double components that it was not a new comet, which he was looking for. There are some other candidates for such "missing" M objects that one would think couldn't be missed even in his "crude" scopes but he was looking for comets and the list was to be used by other comet seekers only as a way to quickly elliminate other objects while comet hunting.

Good point.

Even with the knowledge that he was comet discounting. I had failed to twig that!!!!

I have fallen into the newbie trap of regarding the Messier list as the definitive "Most Spectacular DSO" list for Northern(ish) observers. I have yet to get into Mr Moore's list which, I believe, was put together to compliment the Messier list and alsocater for the Southern observer.

I, like many others will be concentrating on working throught the M's for a while yet, but don't want to miss out in sights like the Double Cluster. This is why threads like these are great for us less experienced / new guys.

I can feel a "Best Non Messier Targets" thread coming on.

Paul

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   Paul - From what I remember reading about his study, he instantly knew by its double components that it was not a new comet, which he was looking for. There are some other candidates for such "missing" M objects that one would think couldn't be missed even in his "crude" scopes but he was looking for comets and the list was to be used by other comet seekers only as a way to quickly elliminate other objects while comet hunting.

Well … yes, in theory… but M45? I mean, I can see that's not a comet with my own two eyes...

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   Andy - True. A lot of weird events happened while and after the list was made. A good history of the man and his list is an excellent read but off hand I have no link.

   And there are other "mystery" objects he included in his list such as M44 (Beehive cluster in Cancer), another naked eye object.

   Though this thread was meant to help beginners find some easy objects, perhaps they can report some of their easy objects to share?

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1. Milky Way (just find somewhere dark).

2. Pleiades

3. M42

4. Choice of M13, Double Cluster

5. Choice of M57, M81/82, M31

6. Choice of Wild Duck, Coathanger, NGC 457, loads of others....

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Good references and lists. For a comprehensive list and information including margin of difficulty, regarding seasonal objects to get started on, as is so often mentioned on here, beginners should consider investing in a copy of 'Turn Left at Orion' - Amazon. 

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