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Best 6th magnitude chances?


Meneldil
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One of my naked-eye ambitions is to make a definite observation of a mag 6 star (by which I mean one between 5.5 and 6.5, which would be shown by the smallest size of dot on a star map).

I have a comparatively dark urban back garden and can spot 5th mag stars with comparative ease on a clear night. And at this time of year often find myself straining my averted vision at Camelopardalis for possible 6th mag hits.

But It occurred to me tonight that I might be better off looking elsewhere - there might be some well-known 'easiest' 6th mag stars - perhaps ones that are particularly easy to star-hop to, and/or often near the zenith?

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To help find low brightness stars i use a sighting tube (any bit of mid sized tubing will do)  I find it really helps the eye pick out fainter stuff. I have absolutely no idea why it does but for some reason it just works........ :dontknow:

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  • 2 weeks later...

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Hi -- if you're still looking for ideas, how about the little curve of five stars 'above' Castor? Mag 6 is but a distant dream for me but I'd have thought these would make a good naked-eye target. (Magnitudes are per Stellarium -- worth checking Simbad as well.)

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How faint you can see depends on how good your eyes are, and the darkness of the background against which you can see the star. To boost your limit you can blot out the sky with something darker, i.e. use a sight tube, or look at stars through a hole in a dark screen - the American astronomer Curtis did this in 1901 and found he could boost his limit by about 2 magnitudes. The faintest visible stars are ones near the zenith. Be aware that reported magnitudes vary a lot, and depend on the measurement. Usually the quoted figure is V-magnitude, which is close but not exactly the same as visual magnitude. You could have two stars with the same reported V-mag, but one looks fainter to the eye (because it's redder). Scintillation ("twinkling") can brighten faint stars momentarily, allowing a brief glimpse of a star beyond the usual limit. Other tricks are breathing pure oxygen (which is nevertheless bad for the eyes if done tooo much) and viewing through a rapidly oscillating shutter so that stars appear to flicker (the optimal frequency is about 6Hz). I expect there are numerous drugs that could help too - if magnitude limit ever becomes an Olympic Sport then we'll find out more about those. But the best way to see fainter stars is to use a telescope (or binoculars).

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